Monday, July 28, 2014

"I" becomes "we" : recognizing our symbiosis with the microbiome in our gut

"Viewed from this perspective, the foods in the markets appear in a new light, and I began to see how you might begin to shop and cook with the microbiome in mind, the better to feed the fermentation in our guts. The less a food is processed, the more of it that gets safely through the gastrointestinal tract and into the eager clutches of the microbiota. Al dente pasta, for example, feeds the bugs better than soft pasta does; steel-cut oats better than rolled; raw or lightly cooked vegetables offer the bugs more to chomp on than overcooked, etc. This is at once a very old and a very new way of thinking about food: it suggests that all calories are not created equal and that the structure of a food and how it is prepared may matter as much as its nutrient composition.
It is a striking idea that one of the keys to good health may turn out to involve managing our internal fermentation. Having recently learned to manage several external fermentations — of bread and kimchi and beer — I know a little about the vagaries of that process. You depend on the microbes, and you do your best to align their interests with yours, mainly by feeding them the kinds of things they like to eat — good “substrate.” But absolute control of the process is too much to hope for. It’s a lot more like gardening than governing.
The successful gardener has always known you don’t need to master the science of the soil, which is yet another hotbed of microbial fermentation, in order to nourish and nurture it. You just need to know what it likes to eat — basically, organic matter — and how, in a general way, to align your interests with the interests of the microbes and the plants. The gardener also discovers that, when pathogens or pests appear, chemical interventions “work,” that is, solve the immediate problem, but at a cost to the long-term health of the soil and the whole garden. The drive for absolute control leads to unanticipated forms of disorder.
This, it seems to me, is pretty much where we stand today with respect to our microbiomes — our teeming, quasi-wilderness. We don’t know a lot, but we probably know enough to begin taking better care of it. We have a pretty good idea of what it likes to eat, and what strong chemicals do to it. We know all we need to know, in other words, to begin, with modesty, to tend the unruly garden within." - Michael Pollan

Read the whole article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/19/magazine/say-hello-to-the-100-trillion-bacteria-that-make-up-your-microbiome.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Friday, May 9, 2014

Seeds!


I started seeds WAY late this year.  For various reasons, I wasn't sure that I'd have the time to dig in new garden beds this spring, and then...  well.  Then I knew I would.  But by then, the optimal seed starting time had passed.  And I might have procrastinated another week.... waited until I was REALLY itching to garden.  And so on Tuesday, I started seeds!


Cabbage seeds.  Parsley seeds.  Calendula seeds.  Summer squash seeds.  Zuccini seeds.

Less a planned composition than the happenstance of left overs combined with gifts from a friend.


I've others I will direct-seed in the ground...  into those beds I still need to make.... Parsnips, peas, green beans (because why not?  I have a bazillion of them!)

And another friend has promised many many eggplant starts from her own over abundance, and tomatoes to join the basil on the upstairs porch.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Making Dirt : Compost



I'm starting at the ground, literally, with this homesteading endeavor.  Making dirt.  Compost is the lifeblood of a garden.  That and manure, which I will be picking up a load of today, and one year soon I'll have the livestock to produce it ourselves.  

I remember, growing up in a Civil War era farmhouse in Maine with a giant garden out back, we had an equally giant compost pile out back, and in the later years we were there (the ones I remember most clearly) I don't believe we ever bought soil amendments.  And now, when I'm looking at a quarter inch of soil over a hillside of glacial silt and clay...  I long for that giant fertile pile of rich dark loam.  But this is how it starts: one step at a time, one pail of scraps, one armful of leaves.  Directing the decomposition...


The current compost heap...  I hope to be able to harvest a good deal of dirt out of it before the end of the summer.  My way of making dirt is a bit of an improvisation.  I pay very little (if any) attention to the proper balance of green and brown composting material.  Instead, I empty the pail of collected kitchen scraps, occasionally throw on some dried leaves or a bucket of sawdust, add congealed chicken's blood when I have it after a slaughter (cross my fingers no wild predators stalk the compost for chicken's blood) ...  and call it good.  It all eventually decomposes.

But since I was making a new pile, I figured I might as well be a little conscientious about it:


I laid down cardboard and newspaper to help block the grass and fireweed and rosebushes from simply growing through it.  I plan, very soon, to make a container for it, log cabin-style, of stacked fallen trees, so the pile can more easily grow up than out. 


And I bedded it down with a wheelbarrow of leaves from the forest driveway, before I ever tossed the first pail of kitchen scraps.  One day it will be dirt :)

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Epistolarians

A dear friend and I are writing an improvisational epistolary romance novel* and blogging it at www.epistolarians.wordpress.com.  Take a look and tell me what you think!





Here, you see my muse and writing companion.  

*That means a make-it-up-as-we-go novel about finding true love, that is conducted entirely through letters.

Quilt Square


A friend of mine is pregnant, and her mother asked we all make a 12x12 quilt square.  She will put them all together into a baby blanket, and next month at the Blessingway, we'll bless it as well as mom and baby.  Last weekend I had some ladies over and threw open my stash of fabric, and we all made or started quilt squares.  I just dropped mine off with her today.  As you can see, its a lotus, with a music heart hovering overhead.  I'm pretty pleased with it, though I need to practice a bit more on applique.  The zigzagging made little gathers in the fabric...

In other news, it is officially summer time, despite the snow still on the ground.
In many places the snow is melted and we see the lovely ugliness of winter's accumulation of dirt and gravel.  The pussywillows are budding.  And last night, at 10:16 pm, I took this photo out the kitchen window:


That much light at 10 pm means summertime to me!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Danelion root Chai and Chia Oatmeal

Hello!  Long time no blog!  My love and life and passion and word energy have been all wrapped up in launching my Reiki Healing pratice, teaching yoga, dreaming workshops, and studying healing....  you can check it out on my other blog.  But as the snow melts and the sun warms, my mind is wandering back to the homestead as more than a place to lay my head, to food as more than something to fill my belly after a long long day.  AND.  I have a brand new niece that has me buying yarn and knitting needles on my lunch break and oogling patterns for wee vests and sweaters and tunics and things.  oh me oh my, let the needles fly!

Raif and I did an Ayurvedic kitchari fast recently, which isn't really a fast in the traditional sense of not-eating, since you are still eating hearty fare all day long.  It brought to the forefront for me just how frequently I go to food for comfort, when I'm bored or uninspired at work, when I'm actually thirsty, or tired.  It was a challenging mindfulness exercise to be sure!

Kitchari is, at its most basic, a mix of mung beans (easily digestible) and basmati rice (whose nutritional index is different than that of regular rice, I found out.  Also, did you know that short grain and long grain rice's nutrition are different from each other?  Oh the things you learn when you research other things!), boiled into a mash with hing (aka asafetida) - an ayurvedic herb known as "effective in a thousand ways" and turmeric, the "golden goddess" - an AMAZING tonic herb.  I also used ginger and coriander.  Then we broke the fast with probiotic kefir and buttermilk sweetened with maple syrup.

Coming out of the fast, I made us each a quart of Chai tea with dandelion root.  Dandelion root supports detox and has an overall tonifying effect on the liver.  The chai was really good.  I'll have to experiment a bit more before I can say this authoritatively, but I think that the presence of the slightly bitter root added a depth to the chai that I've felt to be lacking in the last few batches I made.  It may also have been the dried orange peel.  At any rate it was really really good.  
-Take a sauce pot of water on high heat.  Add a stick of cinnamon, some cardamom seeds (generously), some whole coriander (stingily), black peppercorns, whole cloves, dandelion root (broken into peices), dried orange peel.  Let boil for 10-15 minutes?  Or so.  Take off the heat, and add a tablespoon of black tea.  Mix it together and let it begin to cool.  5 minutes.  Strain into mason jars and mix with honey.  Enjoy throughout the day.

For the next few breakfasts, I had soaked oatmeal made with chia seeds.  I dismissed chia seeds as #hypefood for a very long time.  But I've jumped on the bandwagon.  They're great.  There's research into the antioxidants they give, but they won me over when I had a chia seed smoothie before a long night of teaching and healing sessions and it kept me going from after work at 5 pm until 10 pm when I had dinner.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Food Traditions



The holy-days of midwinter festivals revolve around food.  Always.  We gather for the meal, gather round the table, basking in the warmth of fire, friends, family, and love-made-edible.  
Gnocchi and Salad

Gnocchi for Solstice this year.  I remember having salmon for solstice in Maine, but since we have salmon all the time now, and the sister is vegetarian....  we decided to experiment.  We're still learning gnocchi technique :)
Solstice Dinner

This gallette was beautiful and delicious.  The grad student made it her first day back in the arctic, cause there's nothing more like a "welcome home" than spending time in the kitchen. 
Saged sweet potato and chevre gallette


We started what I hope are new traditions this year...  I don't quite feel they can be called traditions until they are done at least twice?  Homemade Thai food on christmas eve: courtesy of my sister, who simmered lemongrass and galangal lime leaves and fresh ginger in the coconut milk she then went on to use to make the curry!

Hoppin' John : Food for good luck


And as always and ever since I was a very little girl.  I ate Hoppin' John on New Years' Day for good luck and abundance.  This year I swapped out the collards from some kale from the freezer from this summer's CSA...  Kale is the arctic Collard, right?