The trouble with my grandmother …

“Never eat what your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”

It’s a pretty ubiquitous caveat today. Somehow that one sentence is supposed to conjure up a homey, heart-tendering scene of all of our grandmothers, and the wisdom she brought to the kitchen. If it doesn’t for you, don’t worry. You’re not alone.

Because in America, we still have a very outdated vision of what that looks like. Continue reading “The trouble with my grandmother …”

7 ways your garden can save your life

 

Gardening is not just for flower lovers, and is moving out of people’s window boxes and into their backyards. In the past few years, food gardening has increasingly become an activity done to facilitate better physical fitness, healthier eating and well-being.

And science backs this up. Gardening helps you:

Continue reading “7 ways your garden can save your life”

Mercury Rising! Keep your cool during dog days of summer

high-temperature-98824_640Summertime in the desert can be brutal if you aren’t prepared for it. The hot sun and relentless heat can sneak up on you, and cause harmful effects – even fatal ones.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, though, the population most at-risk for emergency room visits and fatalities are the elderly population. Between 2000-2012, one out of every two Arizona residents who either died or showed up in emergency rooms for heat illnesses were older than 54 years.

But children are also very vulnerable to heat illness, especially when car travel is involved. According to the Safe Kids Worldwide Organization, heatstroke is the leading cause of non-crash, vehicle-related deaths for children under the age of four. On average, every 10 days a child dies from heatstroke in a vehicle, or about 40 children a year.

Here are some good rules of thumb to follow to keep you and your family safe from the sun this season.

Continue reading “Mercury Rising! Keep your cool during dog days of summer”

From scraps to scrumptious: Regrow your groceries!

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Mother nature always shows that when there is a will, there’s a way.

I never realized until I started gardening just how easy it is to grow food. Because life, in any form, is engineered to grow, live, and flourish. It’s just the design. And any living thing in nature is also endowed with a healthy sense of self-preservation, so that even in the most adverse conditions life persists.

And this lettuce pictured above is a good example. Now that summer is setting in, my partner and I are eating many more raw greens and a LOT of salads. While we throw a lot of the leftovers of our inedible green remnants into the compost bin, my partner and I decided to try and follow a Facebook picture post we saw recently about growing food from scraps. So we spared two romaine lettuce butts this week, and dipped them in the smallest coffee cups we own.

Even though the head of romaine was lobbed from its roots weeks ago and its greenery denatured for our benefit – simply putting its root stub in water is inspiring the circle of life to start all over again. See those teeny tiny green stalks coming out of the center of this head? That’s new life. And a new food source.

We are officially growing lettuce in our kitchen. And I guess we can officially say that we’re growing using the hydroponic method!

So give that a try next time you have have a spent lettuce, green onions, bok choy, carrots, potatoes, basil, ginger, garlic…try placing its roots in some water and place it in a window and let it do its thing.

You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to foster life!

Composting Lessons: Be wary of the seed

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Well, now I know why they tell you not to put anything with seeds into the compost.

We laid down some of our homemade compost in with our fresh dirt for our two new raised beds back in March. For over a month, we’ve had fast-growing, gargantuan rogue plants popping up everywhere before a single seed we had planted breached the surface. And I mean everywhere! Both beds were constantly coughing up these succulent, determined little shoots.

While I am all for upholding the old adage of “live and let live,” not knowing what this alien, uninvited greenery could be made my partner and me leery. We’ve left this one grouping (pictured above) to continue to grow, but pulled every other one (at least 30 in count) for fear they would choke out the seedlings. And we still have no idea what these mystery plants could possibly be. I can’t remember anything we’ve eaten with seeds that were THAT much in number. All I know is that there is more compost where that came from… so there’s plenty more of these rogue food seeds ready to sprout when we build more beds next year and lay down another layer of compost.

Maybe come May or June, this plant’s fruit will solve our mystery. And maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised. Or maybe not!

But until then, a word of warning to you: When making a compost, be sure to avoid putting anything with a seed. Because goodness knows what will sprout in your garden!

Have you hugged your weeds today?

 

In my HOA, if you have a weed in your yard, you are an irresponsible homeowner (what???). I say that weeds are relative. There is a saying, that “A weed is just a plant you haven’t found a use for yet.” Where I come from in Rhode Island, a dandelion is one of the most prevalent “weeds” out there. It’s a popular “flower” that little girls pick all of the time to hand to loved ones. Because they’re certainly not a rose, and no one cares if you pick a “weed.” Saves someone else the trouble.

But believe it or not, you can use almost every part of a dandelion plant for herbal healing. Leaves, roots, even the flowers are edible! And dandelion parts do wonderful things in tea, pill, or other forms:

  • Assist other herbal extracts in preventing urinary tract infections (UTIs).
  • Help increase appetite
  • Soothes upset stomach, improves digestion
  • Helps to balance blood sugar
  • Helps lessen intestinal gas (flatulence)
  • Relieves constipation
  • Lessens arthritis-like pain
  • Works as a great detoxifying agent for your body

Makes you think twice about calling copious plant life “weeds” with disdain in your voice and an upturned lip. Do you know what is growing in your yard? Maybe you can try to identify some of your weeds this week. You may see them in a whole new light. A weed by any other name…

Happy Weed Appreciation Day, everyone!

 

Desert gardening: Miracles do happen!

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As I had mentioned in an earlier post, my partner and I have taken to gardening out here in Arizona. It took eight days and a night for these little beauties to emerge. *chokes back verklempt sigh of pride.*  They began reaching for the sky right after a substantial rainfall this past weekend, that is actually our first for 2014. So far, according to our garden map, we’ve got spinach, thyme, and rosemary racing out of the growing gate this spring.

I’m not surprised at their appearance, though; it’s just the keeping them alive and happy that has been a challenge in my experience.

Although the weather is beautiful and springlike in the desert, our concern lies in the hotter, summer scorching days to come. Currently, we are hand watering by hose (and rain!). But during the triple-digit temperature days, it is almost impossible to go without irrigation, which we’ve yet to set up. But what we have done to help combat the coming sunny onslaught is:

A) Set up the boxes where the sun only passes over it in the morning and early afternoon. Since that side of the yard is always so choked with weeds, we decided to listen to the plants. They tell us it’s a good place.

B) We have bought some thick sun screening that we can drape over the plants beds, which cut down the sun’s intensity by 30-40 percent, and a few degrees. It’s amazing what that little relief can do for any living thing out here.

C) We plan to water only at night. It’s basically useless to do it during the day, because it would evaporate too quickly for the dirt to get a good soak. Plus any watering when the sun is out could burn leaves, and hurt the plant.

And that’s our plan! Keep posted, as we learn together what works – and what doesn’t.