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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Souper Squash Soup

Ingredients
8 – 12 servings

1 large butternut squash
1 small sweet potato
1 small onion
½ head of cauliflower, chopped
8 cups of vegetable stock
1 Tbsp Olive oil
Sea salt – a pinch/ or to taste
Cinnamon – a pinch/ or to taste
Maple syrup – a “swirl” / or to taste

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
2. Peel butternut squash and sweet potato. Cut into 2” slices. (Deseed squash)
3. Place in baking dish with olive oil, salt, and cinnamon.
4. Roast in oven for about 20-25 minutes, turn slices over and continue cooking for about 20 more minutes until soft. (Also a great dish as is)
OR EASY VERSION: Pierce whole sweet potato and butternut squash with fork, so the steam will escape, and bake about 45 minutes or until tender. Scoop out contents, deseed squash and set aside.
5. Sauté onions, cauliflower and sea salt in oil on medium heat until soft.
6. Add chicken or vegetable stock. Bring to a boil.
7. Add cooked butternut squash and sweet potato.
8. Cook at medium heat for 10 minutes, lower heat and continue to simmer for 10 more minutes.
9. Puree soup with an immersion (hand-held stick) blender.
10. Add sea salt, and cinnamon to taste
11. Swirl maple syrup into puree
12. Mix again briefly with an immersion blender.
13. Serve and Enjoy!
14. For fancy serving, top with a swirl of maple syrup and sprinkle of cinnamon into each bowl.

Cooking Italian Senza Gluten

Italian food is the first thing I turn to as my comfort food of choice. One thing that I missed the most when making the gluten free lifestyle change was Italian food! It is my mission to be able to introduce you to healthy substitutions that will help you stay on this new found pathway to a healthier you. This recipe is a fun way to try new things and realize how delicious spaghetti squash is and how having such a versatile substitution for gluten-laced pasta can change your outlook!

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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.

10 Ways to save money and eat healthy organic foods!

1) Go with home-made.  Americans today spend 49% of their food budget on eating out at restaurants.  When you make it yourself, you know what’s in it – and you can save a lot of money, too.

2) Use bulk bins. Buying beans, whole grains, and other non-perishables from bulk bins will save you an average of 56% over buying the same items pre-packaged.

3) Cook in quantity.  Whether you live alone or are part of a big family, making big sauces, pots of soup, casseroles and other meals saves time in the long run.  You can freeze extras for convenient instant meals, or create meal-sharing arrangements with friends or co-workers.

4) Grow food. It takes time, but gardening is the most economical way to enjoy the freshest possible food.  In urban neighborhoods, community gardens are a great way to grow food and build community at the same time.  There are an estimated 18,000 community gardens in the US and Canada.   For resources to help you start one, visit this the American Community Gardening Association.

5) Buy direct from farmers.  When you join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), you enter into a direct win-win partnership with local farmers.  Farmer’s Markets are a fantastic way to support farmers while enjoying fresh food straight from the source.  In the US, the number of farmer’s markets has more than doubled in the last decade.  Click here for more info on Farmer’s Market and CSA opportunities near you.

6) Use what’s in season, economical and nutritious.  Some of the most budget-conscious starches include beans, whole grains, and potatoes.  Some of the most affordable and nutritionally potent vegetables often include cabbage, carrots, and onions.

7) Use – and stick with – shopping lists.  Maintain an ongoing shopping list.  Conduct a quick inventory of your kitchen before you shop to see if you’re missing anything important.  By thinking your shopping through in advance, you’re more likely to get what you actually need, and less likely to waste money on impulse buying that you’ll later regret.

8) Cut down on animal products.  As Dr. John McDougall has pointed out, approximately one-third of the calories consumed by people living in developed nations are from animal sources.  Animal foods — like meat, poultry, fish, milk, and cheese, are usually an expensive source of protein and nutrients.

9) Eat before shopping.  Grocery stores know the power of delectable smells. Everything looks good when our stomachs are screaming, “feed me!”, and that can lead to more impulse buying.

10) Join Green Polka Dot Box.  This is a natural and organic buyers collective that makes healthy ad GMO-free foods available for great prices, delivered straight to your door, anywhere in the United States.  Find out more and sign up here.

Healthy food is a fundamental building block to a healthy life.  It’s an investment worth making.  And in many cases, we can even save money in the process.

And most importantly and always love life, yourself and remember

EAT……HEAL…….LIVE!

 

 

Super Important GMO links

This is from the Institute for Responsible Technology – the most comprehensive source of GMO health risk information on the web. Please share and realize how important your purchasing power truly is.Image

Links

GMO Awareness – GMO Awareness is uniting everyone in the United States who cares about food quality. We have a unique strategy in place that will empower you to take simple and effective action. “Everyone who cares taking the most effective action”—that’s the winning formula that will bring about labeling.

Organic Consumers Association – A grassroots non-profit public interest organization which deals with crucial issues of food safety, industrial agriculture, genetic engineering, corporate accountability, and environmental sustainability.

True Food Network – A resource that you can come to for information and, most importantly, a place you can come to take action regarding GE foods.

GE Food Alert – A coalition of seven organizations united in their commitment to testing and labeling genetically engineered food.

Genetic Engineering Action Network – A diverse network of grassroots activists, national and community non-governmental organizations (NGOs), farmer and farm advocacy groups, academics and scientists who have come together to work on the myriad of issues surrounding biotechnology.

Say No to GMOs! – This site offers extensive information on the complex and controversial issue of genetic engineering.

Organic Trade Association – The membership-based business association for the organic industry in North America. OTA’s mission is to encourage global sustainability through promoting and protecting the growth of diverse organic trade.

Cooperative Research – A searchable database of events concerning the seed industry, farmers’ rights, GM crops, and other related issues

Greenpeace – Say No to Genetic Engineering

Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (cban)

 

Farmers on GM crops
The following list of resources was compiled by South African activist Andrew Taynton.

Farmer to Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering (USA)
http://www.nffc.net/Issues/Farmer%20to%20Farmer/page-farmertofarmer.htm

Network of Concerned Farmers (Australia)
http://www.non-gm-farmers.com

Indian farmers burn GM cotton seeds – picture
http://www.krrsbtcottonsetafire.8m.com/

Canadian farmers call for moratorium
http://www.nfu.ca/gmfood-ban.htm

Argentina’s GM woes
http://www.i-sis.org.uk/AGMW.php

Will GM crops deliver benefits to farmers? http://www.nlpwessex.org/docs/gmagric.htm

The Organic & Non-GMO Report provides information and resources to help farmers and food manufacturers respond to the challenges of genetically modified foods. The Non-GMO Sourcebook is the world’s only “farm to fork” directory of suppliers of non-GMO seed, grains, food ingredients, and foods.

Friends of the Earth– is the U.S. voice of an influential, international network of grassroots groups in 70 countries. Friends of the Earth has for decades been at the forefront of high-profile efforts to create a more healthy, just world. (search on genetic engineering)

Healthy Schools
(NOTE: Unless indicated, these organizations have not yet taken a position against GM foods.)

Model School Wellness Policies – A sample set of model wellness policies for local school districts affected by the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004, which states that all school districts with a federally funded school meals program develop and implement wellness policies that address, among other things, nutrition and nutrition education by the start of the 2006-07 school year. Developed by a work group convened by the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity.

Community Food Security Coalition – Information on Farm to School programs.

Action for Healthy Kids – A public-private partnership of more than 40 national organizations and government agencies set up to address the “epidemic of overweight, sedentary, and undernourished youth” by focusing on changes in schools.

Center for Science in the Public Interest’s School Foods Tool Kit

Making a smoothie to jumpstart your day!

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I have made smoothies most of my adult life and it wasn’t until this past year that I made a few changes that have had a BIG difference in my energy and concentration. First and most improved is the BlendTec blender which is the best blender I have ever had and secondly are the ingredient I incorporate from my garden.

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I go out each morning and pick 3 – 4 big heirloom kale leaves and look for other dark greenery that could be used such as beet greens, broccoli leaves and sometimes lettuce although I would rather use that for my salad.

Once back in the kitchen I do a quick rinse and hold the stalk in one hand and slide my other thumb and pointer finger down the stalk to remove the greenery. When the stalk breaks I feel that means the rest of the leaf and stalk are tender enough to go in the blender. I use everything I pick and feel that each smoothie is packed full of great alive energy from those greens. I also put in a heaping teaspoon of Spirulina and another heaping teaspoon on Maca two ingredients that I had been intimidated to use, I’m still not sure why!

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Then my base is a banana, frozen organic blueberries sometimes frozen strawberries and whatever else is in the fruit bowl that needs to be used. My liquid of choice is organic unsweetened almond milk and then I blend that puppy until smooth. If you need it colder add some ice, I like mine medium temp and take my vitamins with it.

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The thing with smoothies that I really appreciate is that there is no waste, you ingest all the fiber of each ingredient and you get more brave as you realize this greenish thick drink tastes amazing and gives you a wonderful foundation to start your day.