A Garden for the Bees

I use to be so afraid of getting a bee sting since I have a pretty adverse reaction. My Mom carries an epi-pen since she has an even worse reaction, so I learned to fear these little bugs early on. Needless to say I would swing and bat at the bees when I would garden.

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Three bees are in this flower!

Flash forward to now many years later and in the middle of our bee crisis (thank you Monsanto) I have developed a much different relationship with these creatures. It began with sitting at my pond and watching my turtles and fish. I guess because I was in observer mode I wasn’t fearful of being stung and I watched just how many bees came to drink from our pond. Hundreds of them come at the end of the day and if can be scary if you let yourself go there. We made our pond for turtles from the pound and its very natural, murky, full of plants and logs and things turtles like. The plants make it safe for the bees to land and drink. They actually drink the water from the roots of the plants that are above the water level. They are not interested in people, they are bees and have a mission and usually it does not involve you!

At about 6:00 if you are lucky enough to be sitting at the pond you can watch the bees one and two at a time fly off in the same direction home. Within 30 minutes hundreds of bees fly home and they are all from the same hive. I totally understand the meaning of bee line, until I witnessed this I never really knew what that expression meant! These bees have become dependent on my pond and since I know that without bees we would starve to death I have changed how I garden and plant many extra bee-liscious things to keep them near by.

This year purely from my compost I have begun to grow pumpkins I think. I composted so many different kinds of squash, pumpkins and gourds that I’m now sure yet just what is growing but I tell you what the bees love these! I am fascinated and more in awe each day and have pretty much lost my fear of getting stung.

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Down under the leaves its cool and there are so many bees flying from flower to flower

 

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Home Grown Organic Food Made Simple while saving water!

I have been an avid organic gardener for over 10 years and before that would dabble with various plants and veggies. I love the taste of freshly harvested lettuce and kale and feel super charged that it came from my land.

ImageThis year my garden was a true disaster. I planted from heirloom organic seeds, replenished my dirt with my own compost which is usually amazing and I have had the worst yield. My crab and devil grasses are at an all time high, my chickens figured out how to get in my garden and destroy any new baby lettuces that actually had a chance. And then there were those seeds, I mean entire rows, that never sprouted not even one! UGH I was frustrated and saddened.

Then one day I saw an interview on 60 minutes that was about aeroponic tower gardens. It had the skeptic in me saying that is not a way to garden, hydroponics/aeroponics is for growing medical marijuana, not food. So I halfway listened to the story. A few weeks later a colleague of mine told me about her tower garden and how much fun she has had with her boys teaching them to grow food.

When the same topic comes into my life from completely different sources a little light inside me says WAKE UP JEN! This is something your life needs to learn about. So I set up a phone meeting with my friend and she walked me through the benefits of the tower garden system. Before I hung up she helped me order my first tower garden!  Within a week it arrived in boxes and it was like Christmas in June!

ImageI love jigsaw puzzles and dove into all the boxes to set out on assembling my tower garden in my kitchen! As my husband sat at the kitchen table working on his computer I quickly covered every inch of counter top and floor space with all the parts and pieces.The large green reservoir holds approximately 20 gallons of water which is pumped up the tower on the inside and recycled continuously. Its a truly brilliant system. I also got a steel dolly to be able to rotate my garden and move it around easily and an extension kit to have 8 more holes to grow food.

ImageI will say there were not too many parts, the size of the parts on the other hand were a bit cumbersome for my tiny little space but I was determined to assemble my tower on this beautiful Sunday morning and have it ready to use by days end!

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With only one glitch, which was assembling the additional two towers, my tower garden was up and ready to be moved outside within an hour. I really had no idea that it would be so tall! I was thrilled to be ready to take it to the next step and plant my veggies.

ImageThe only thing I did not foresee was the timing of growing my own seedlings to fill the tower garden. So if you are planing on growing the seeds that come with your tower garden kit there is no need to assemble your tower garden (unless you are like me and cannot wait to see it up) until your seeds are ready to be planted in your tower. I skipped this step and went to my local garden center and purchased 6 packs of organic romaine, heirloom kale, some dill and strawberries. I rolled the plants in my hands to remove most of the dirt from the root-balls to fit them properly into the baskets provided that snap into the hole you see in the tower. I also found the smallest plants at the nursery knowing their root-balls wouldn’t be as developed and would be less traumatized by removing their dirt.

ImageThe planting took about 30 minutes and I enjoyed every moment as my tower became filled with possibility! I tested my PH to make sure I was starting with a balanced level, adjusted it until the reading was correct, put in the required amount of organic mineral blend and plugged it in. I had a small snafu with the timer but figured it out by day 2. When you test your system to ensure that the pump works just make sure you flip the timer switch to on that way your timer starts working immediately. Sounds basic and simple, but I however was overly enthusiastic that my assembly worked on the first go and since I had programmed the timer once it started I thought that was all there was to it.

The placement of your tower is paramount to its success and also to its’ water requirements. How much daily sun exposure you get, whether its morning to early afternoon or afternoon till evening will help you to balance the amount of aeroponic flushes per hour your plants need.

So two days later I hopped on a plane and took off for Italy.

When I returned home to my great surprise this is what my garden looked like!

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Zero maintenance, all this needed was a turn every few days and I’m not even sure it got that while I was away and the reservoir of water was down only 2″!!!  Now each day I harvest a head of my own organic lettuce, some kale and I’m thrilled I don’t have to fight the weeds or pick off the pincher bugs.

This has changed my perspective on growing my own produce. In three and a half weeks these delicious veggies grew without any input from me other than running an extension cord to the pump! I did not have to add water, which is something I would have had to do daily to keep my lettuces alive normally. I am already starting to get ready for my second planting and feel that even on my farm in sunny southern California this is a system that makes the most sense for me to grow my lettuces, kale and herbs. In fact I can see how I could easily use two towers all year round to keep my family’s need for fresh organic salad materials available every day. I will still use my normal in ground garden for tomatoes, things that climb like cucumbers and peas and for crops that would be altogether to large for this type of environment such as squash and eggplant but I have a new found appreciation in the aeroponic tower garden.

The system includes:

  • Tower Garden vertical aeroponic garden
  • Seeds for growing gourmet lettuce, cherry tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, basil, and cucumber
  • Seed starter enviro-dome
  • 20 rock wool seed starter cubes and net pots
  • Pump, timer and drain tube
  • Tower Tonic Mineral Blend plant food
  • pH test kit and 1 bottle each of pH+ and pH-
  • Measuring cup

If you are interested in ordering your own tower garden click on the photo above or this link and it will take you to the tower garden website. If you are like me you may find this is not only an amazing way to grow healthy food for you and your family, you may find this could be a wonderful business adventure to become involved in. You have the power to create what you want in your life, my advise is to eat, heal, live and love your live!

Feel free to email me with any questions you have regarding growing your own food. If I can help you create your own small island of sustainability, then I feel we are making the change that is so needed in our world.

Your VOTE matters, your HEALTH matters

I have never had a post come up as unauthorized so this means something new to me. Does Monsanto now control what we can publish in our blogs? And my last post simply disappeared.

Fellow Californians I am writing to you to encourage you to vote YES on Proposition 37 this November 6th.  I believe this is the most important item on our ballot and understanding what you are eating is your right. This whole issue about raising your food prices is absurd, all that will be changing is showing the ingredients on the label and that foods that contain GMO ingredients will no longer be able to sell them as “Natural”.

It makes sense to me and should to you too because if you had a choice between chemically laden foods or truly natural foods I’m guessing you would probably choose the natural option for you and your family.

So take a moment at the polls and please vote YES on prop 37!!!!!

Delish Cashew Cheese for Organic Kale Chips

3 bunches kale ( I prefer to mix the different types)
4 cups raw cashews soaked overnight
2 cups chopped red pepper
1 Cup Nutritional Yeast or more to your taste
1 tsp. Sea Salt or more if needed
1 tsp + to taste Black Pepper
Juice of 2 lemons
Cayenne pepper to taste
Water around a 1/4 cup – enough to make it a nice creamy cheese

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Cut stalks from 3 bunches of kale and set aside
Put all of the remaining ingredients in a food processor and blend to a cheese consistency – 4 – 5 minutes. I add the water last and adjust until I think its the right consistency to schmeer on the kale. I taste as I go to determine the final amount of spices needed. If it tastes bland add more nutritional  yeast, salt, pepper or cayenne.  (I also add turmeric) It should be a nice nutty rich thick cheesy sauce and will fill the whole food processor!

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In a separate bowl place 1/4 of the kale halves and add 1/4 of the cheese mixture. To mix this is not a dainty job you must really mix and squeeze the kale and cheese mixture. You want to thickly coat the kale with a good layer of the mix. The more you squeeze it together the better your chips will be. Don’t worry you will not damage the kale!
Spread fully loaded kale gently on your dehydrator sheets and repeat the processes 3 more times until all your kale is used and your dehydrator shelves are full. I fill all 5 shelves with the chips. I put it on medium heat for about 6 hours and check on their crispiness. Then turn it down on low for a few more hours to ensure they are truly dried.Image
Then I proceed to pig out and enjoy the bags of goodness. Make sure not to close them in a baggie until they have cooled.

Quick Gluten-Free Vegan Pizza

This is a quick and easy way to make use of what you have in your garden or your fridge. Pizzas are the most forgiving thing because most things taste great heated together with a bit of cheese (Diaya not dairy) and bread! When I’m in a pinch and do not feel like making everything from scratch I use Almond Glory pizza crust. They are in the frozen gluten-free section at my local whole foods. What I like most about these crusts they can handle some serious weight and you cook them in the little black plates they come in so clean up is very easy.

On this pizza I put a bit of organic marinara sauce and then two flavors of Diaya Cheese (Mozzarella and Pepper-jack shreds) Then from my garden I cut up a sweet onion and a hippy looking heirloom roma tomato that is green and red and from my fridge some crimini mushrooms. That’s all! Prep time 5 minutes 10 if you have to pick your veggies from out back.

Toss this little baby in the oven at 425 for 20 – 30 minutes depending how crispy you like your crust and viola gluten-free vegan goodness! While in the oven you have time to whip up a little salad and dinner is delish, healthy and no animals products were used!As with all things in life go easy on yourself, the planet and don’t forget my mantra

Eat, Heal, Live!