She Brings Me Water

An aeclectic look at the nearby world

Archive for Environment

Beekeeping 101

bee11

Last year’s garden (2014) was a huge success- if you judge it by the 30-foot pumpkin vine that grew there. If you judge it by its fruits and veggies, it was a sad failure. The 30-foot pumpkin vine produced flowers that should have led to pumpkins but the flowers on that vine, and on a lot of other plants in the garden, did not get pollinated. Here’s a clue why: last year, in our big yard and garden, I saw only two honey bees. My husband routinely leaves large areas of our yard, where clover grows wild, unmowed for the bees. Trying not to step on them used to be a problem. But in the past few years, they’ve gotten more and more rare, and last year, as I said, I only saw two.

I like bees and have always wanted to keep them. When I was a child, I used to catch them in jars because I thought if I caught enough of them, they’d build honeycombs and start making honey for me. That didn’t work, of course. More recently, when a nearby neighbor set up hives, we were thrilled- but the bees failed to thrive, probably because of the prevalence of other neighbors rigorously spraying chemicals on their gardens and fruit trees. Other factors played a role as well, but the end result is the same- no pollinators, no fruits, no veggies.

Do you have a desire to keep bees? Or just learn how bees and other pollinators affect our food supply, and what you can do to help? Here’s an opportunity: Buzzy from The Beekeeper’s Guild of Southeast Virginia will be on the island on April 18th, 2015 to answer all your beekeeping questions! Open to all, this event will be held rain or shine and is free (donations for Buzzy’s travel expenses and time are welcome but not required). Refreshments served after the class (your contributions of snacks or drinks also welcome!)

  • Date: Saturday, April 18th, 2015
  • Time: 10:30am
  • Place: 204 Parker Lane, Knotts Island, NC

Call/text me at 252.722.1690 or moonrabbit220 (at) gmail.com if you have questions or need directions. You can join this event on Facebook here. This event is hosted by me, Mari Mann, at my IslandLotus Yoga location. All are welcome to join!

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Earth Day 2012

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

Ah, it’s so easy to be greenie this time of year, here on the coast of North Carolina. From our gardens and yard we’re eating asparagus, collards, cabbage, lettuce, green onions, poke, lemon balm (pesto!), and the wild spinach is coming up all over. The potato eyes we planted are growing luxurious leaves, and last week we acquired some guinea hens to eat the bugs off of them (and the ticks and any other bugs they can find). Our local organic farm market has opened its fields and stand with strawberries, asparagus, peas and cabbage and lettuce.  Soon we’ll be planting our corn, beans and squash garden, and we already have tomato seedlings ready to transplant, along with basil, melons, peppers, tarragon, and leek seedlings. Yes, it’s a good time of year.

But this year’s Earth Day is not a good day for planting, as it is raining steadily and at times hard. The rain is good for the things we’ve planted, though, and for those of us stuck inside, it’s a good day for reading! So here’s my Earth Day reading list, but first, here’s my recipe for lemon balm pesto:

Fresh cut lemon balm

Roasted and salted pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas)

Chopped garlic

Parmesan cheese

Olive oil

Lemon pepper seasoning, or salt and pepper to taste

Place about 1/4 cup of the pumpkin seeds in a food processor, along with the garlic. I’m using approximate measures because I usually don’t measure, I just eyeball the amounts and taste test it. Process the seeds and garlic until coarsely chopped. Now take your lemon balm and fill up the bowl of your food processor with the leaves (I don’t like to use the stems but you can if you want). Pack the bowl full but not too tightly. Once the bowl is pretty well stuffed, add about 1 cup of the Parmesan cheese on top, and some of the seasoning. Process until the leaves are all chopped up and everything has blended together well. With the processor running, add about 1/2 cup of olive oil. Don’t process too much at this point, or the oil will heat up and cook your pesto into a gluey green ball.

This pesto is great in a salad, on pasta or toasted bread, in scrambled eggs, as a crudite dip- or just eat it out of the jar with a fork. I store the finished pesto in glass jars with tight lids (like canning jars), they keep for months in the freezer and weeks in the refrigerator. Seriously good stuff.

Now here’s my reading list for a rainy Earth Day:

Of course, anything by Michael Pollan: The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, Food Rules.

Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals.

That’s enough to get started on, so slice up some French bread, toast it a little, drizzle a little olive oil on it and then slather with your lemon balm pesto. Happy reading, happy eating, happy Earth Day.

Meatless Monday

The Meatless Monday movement is growing and while I have issues with it (see below), everybody’s gotta start somewhere and so here’s a recipe for today:

 

Rutabaga Ramen Stir-fry

2 pkgs Ramen noodles

Ginger, chopped

Onion, chopped

Garlic, chopped

Grated rutabaga

Greens

Tofu, cubed (optional)

Soy sauce

Stock

Peanut oil

Garlic pepper

Sesame oil

Grate rutabaga. Marinate cubed tofu in soy sauce. Brown ginger in peanut oil, then add rutabaga, onions and garlic. Add stock, steam until tender. Steam greens. When done, set aside and cook noodles in the hot water from the greens. When noodles are done, add greens, tofu, and rutabaga mix, season with flavor packets, garlic pepper, sesame oil, and soy sauce to taste.

I made this recipe up because I was given two huge rutabagas and two equally huge turnips awhile back and was searching for ways to use them. I’ve made this recipe 3-4 times now using either grated rutabaga or grated turnip, with and without the tofu (get organic tofu that’s been made from non-GMO soybeans), and using different greens (collards, spinach, kale, etc).

Now here’s my problem with Meatless Mondays: have we really become so spoiled that we have to have meat every day, at every meal, so much so that there has to be a movement just to get us to consider not eating meat for one day a week? Yes, spoiled, because previous generations of Americans didn’t have meat every day, because they couldn’t afford it, for one thing, and because it wasn’t so easily available as it is today. A family might consider themselves lucky to have a meal with meat once a week. A President was even elected partly because he promised everyone “a chicken in every pot”. That sounded good to a lot of Americans in 1928.

But it’s not 1928 anymore and not only do we have chickens in every pot, we have chickens and cows and pigs and fish on every street corner and every other place in between. They’ve been raised for us (in mostly horrible conditions) and killed for us (oh excuse me, I mean “harvested”) and either packaged for us to take home and cook for ourselves or prepared for us and handed out the window at the drive-thru. Cheap, easy, and quick.

And unsustainable, unhealthy, and all too often cruel. These reasons and others are why we, my husband and I, eat meatless most days of the week. Once or twice a week we eat small, sustainable fishies, like sardines. But like I said, everyone’s gotta start somewhere, so if you’re a Meatatarian and just want to dip your toe into going a little meatless, try the recipe above. Not only is it cheap, easy and quick, it’s sustainable, healthy and cruelty-free. Oh, and it tastes good too.

 

 

Blog Action Day

She Brings Me Water, my husband says, is my Native American name. Years ago, at the beginning of our relationship, I brought water to our first “dates”- we ate lunch together in one of our cars in the parking lot at school. I bring glasses of water to him while he’s working outside, and keep bottles of water filled at the tap ready for trips to the store or to work. It would be easy for us to buy bottled water, but we don’t. We are fortunate to have a well, we filter the water as it comes into the house (it has a lot of iron in it) and it is good as it comes from the tap. It’s a little more work to refill empty glass bottles and then carry them around, but it is nothing compared to what others have to do around the world to acquire water. And in some places it’s nearly impossible to get decent water to drink. Why water says:

“In Africa alone, people spend 40 billion hours every year just walking for water. Women and children usually bear the burden of water collection, walking miles to the nearest source, which is unprotected and likely to make them sick.”

October 15th is Blog Action Day. From their website:

“Blog Action Day is an annual event held every October 15 that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day with the aim of sparking a global discussion and driving collective action. This year’s topic is water.”

I don’t know what it is like to have to walk miles to get my water. A few years ago, our well pump began failing and while it was being fixed, we had to get water from our neighbor’s hose. We would put gallon jugs in my little red wagon, pull it over there, fill them up, and then pull the wagon back over to our house. This went on for maybe four days. It is hard for me to imagine having to do this, or having to go to even greater lengths, every day, year after year, for all my life.

There have been times, during our growing season, when there is not enough rain for our garden, but our well has always been able to supply water for it. I do not know what it is like to lose crops through lack of water. I do not know what it is like to lose crops through drought that may be the only food available for my family to eat. Therefore I do not know what it is like to lose family members because they starved, or to be hungry myself because there was no water to grow my food. I do not know what it is like to be thirsty and for there to not be good water for me to drink. Or any water at all.

I do know that I take for granted my easy access to water. We have always tried to be mindful of our water usage, and not be wasteful, but I know that the amount of water I use every day would be shocking to many who don’t have the abundance I enjoy. There are many people around the world who do know what lack of water is like. I can’t bring them water, despite my Native American name, but I can bring my awareness, and maybe the awareness of others, to this lack. And I can be more grateful and more thankful to She Who Brings Us Water, our Mother Earth and Father Sky. Namaste.

What else is there to eat?

The title of this post is a response that Michael Pollan says he gets when he advocates: “Eat Food. Mostly plants. Not too much.” Well of course, Michael, we are eating food- what else is there? “Edible foodlike substances”, that’s what, Michael replies. I feel that I can call  Michael by his first name because I have read his three food-related books, have admired them, learned from them, quoted from them and been throughly grossed out by them. Michael was the guest on Tom Ashbrook’s On Point radio program this morning (Jan.19th, 2010) and when I turned on the radio, they were discussing the latest nasty-ness found in food- pink slime. Don’t know what pink slime is? I’ll tell you. In meat-processing plants, when they’ve finished cutting up Bessie, all the really nasty bits left on the floor, that they used to sweep up and put into cat and dog food, is now put into people food. See, they found a way to kill the pathogens in this “meat”, like E.coli and salmonella, and supposedly make it safe for human consumption. How? By lacing it with ammonia. Yum!  Burgers, anyone?

You wouldn’t feed this stuff to your dog, right? Guess what? If you have a child in school and they are eating the burgers and meatloaf and whatever else they are making with hamburger there, they may well be  eating this pink slime. Why? Because schools use it to “cut” the meat, sort of like hamburger helper only nastier, to make feeding your kids cheaper. Want to read more? The New York Times published this article on pink slime: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/31/us/31meat.html?_r=1

But I digress. Michael was on Tom Ashbrook’s show to promote his new book, Food Rules, which I just read a few days ago. Subtitled “An Eater’s Manual”, it’s a distillation of rules, actually more like helpful guidelines, from his two previous books: The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food. I recommend reading both of these books for a more in-depth look at our food supply, how it got the way it is and our government’s role in it, and how we have all become so confused about the supposedly simple act of eating. Which brings us back to the title of this post and the response to it- a lot of people today aren’t even aware that the “food’ they are putting in their mouths, and their children’s mouths, is not really “real” food. It may be food in the sense that you can put it in your mouth, chew it (or in the case of pink slime, let it slide down your throat) and it will keep you alive, but as Michael says, it’s not food that deserves to be called food:

“I call them ‘edible foodlike substances’. They’re highly processed concoctions designed by food scientists, consisting mostly of ingredients derived from corn and soy that no normal person keeps in the pantry, and they contain chemical additives with which the human body has not been long acquainted. Today much of the challenge of eating well comes down to choosing real food and avoiding these industrial novelties.”

Here’s one of Michael’s food rules to help us identify real food: “#14- Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature. Read the ingredients on a package of Twinkies or Pringles and imagine what those ingredients actually look like raw or in the places where they grow: You can’t do it. This rule will also keep all sorts of chemicals and foodlike substances out of your diet.”  Here’s another: “#20: It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car”. And another: “#30- Eat well-grown food from healthy soil.” Which brings us to discussing gardens.

According to Michael, many more people, whether for health reasons or economical reasons or whatever, are growing their own gardens this year than before. He says that some seed catalogs are even running out of seeds (so order now!) I’m paraphrasing here, but on the radio show, Michael said: If you are growing your own garden, you’ll be getting local, fresh, organic low-priced food right in your own backyard. I take issue with this because I have heard from people (co-workers and neighbors) that have gardens that they use Roundup to clear their gardens of weeds and chemical sprays to get rid of bugs. So, for any new gardeners out there, here’s my simple rule: If you wouldn’t spray it directly into your mouth, don’t spray it (or shake it or pour it or whatever) into your garden. Because it will eventually end up in your mouth, not to  mention other living being’s mouths (wildlife, your cat or dog) and the earth and the water and the environment. You might as well eat pink slime.

Blog Action Day 2009

Blog Action Day 2009

Blog Action Day 2009

‘Blog Action Day is an annual event that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day on their own blogs with the aim of sparking discussion around an issue of global importance. Blog Action Day 2009 will be the largest-ever social change event on the web. One day. One issue. Thousands of voices.’

Sunflower

Sunflower

This year’s topic for is climate change.  Whether you believe that these changes are occuring through a natural process, or that human beings with large carbon footprints are to blame, the fact is that there are changes happening worldwide.  Some places are getting colder, some hotter, some are experiencing drought, some floods and rising sea levels.  Mankind is fairly adaptable; we evolved and survived in and out of Africa, through ice ages and receding glacial periods, in all types of climates. We’ll probably manage to adapt ourselves during these changes as well.

Castor Bean

Castor Bean

But other members of our global family are not so adaptable.  Animals are mobile and unless their environment is highly specialized (like polar bears in Alaska), they can move and adapt themselves to a new area.  Domestic animals can be moved by their caretakers to areas that are more conducive to their existence.  I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t worry about the animals if the climate keeps changing, they are not nearly so “moveable” and adaptable as humans, and many species will be lost.  Plants and trees and other flora can also move themselves, there is already evidence that some species are in the process of doing so.  But they are much slower movers, they require generations to move and to adapt themselves, therefore many are in a race against time.  So the real losers in the climate change game may be the flora, the plant life of the Earth.  And if they lose, then it won’t matter how mobile or how adaptable or even how smart we humans are, we’ll lose too.  Because as our food supply goes, so go the animals and the homo saps that depend on it.

Flying Fauna

Flying Fauna

Over our agricultural history, farmers have increasingly focused on a lesser and lesser number and variety of plants, resulting in mono-culture crops.  This means vast fields of soybeans, corn, etc., that are specifically bred to an area and genetically modified in ways that vitually insure that the plant cannot adapt itself to a changing climate.  Some can’t even reproduce themselves.  Many older plant species have already been lost, partly because of the focus on mono-crops, and so we don’t have access to seeds or cultivars that may have been more suitable for the world we will find ourselves living in, in the not too distant future

Poona Kheera cucumber

Poona Kheera cucumber

What can we do?  Reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and reduce our carbon footprints.  Learn to live with less, to be happy with enough.  Plant gardens, grow food, stop using chemicals on the land, in our homes and on our bodies.  Honor our Mother Earth and all her children, human, flora and fauna.  You’ll find many ideas, suggestions and guidelines all over the web today, on Blog Action Day.

Mid-Summer, Litha or the Summer Solstice

Whatever you choose to call it, now is the time to celebrate the shortest night of the year, and the longest days, and the burgeoning fields and gardens.  There are many, though, that at this time will not be celebrating, because of the destruction of their fields and gardens and homes through floods, drought, or some other catastrophe exacerbated by global warming, mono-culture agriculture, destruction of wetlands and flood plains, or Mother Nature just fighting back.  So we might also take this time of year to reflect on our lives in relation to the world around us and what we can do about the problems we see.

Treehugger has posted a few suggestions for observing this time of year; which you can read about here.   They also have suggestions on greening your life, as well as environmental news; I recommend them as well as Grist for great reads on being green.  Mother Earth News, the “original guide for living wisely”, has a post here on how to help the Midwestern flood victims.  At all of these and many other places online, not only can you learn about greening your life (and possibly life as we know it), you can also glean tips for saving money, becoming healthier, reducing waste and chemicals, and maybe score some great recipes into the bargain.

As I’ve talked about before, one of the major ways you can achieve all of the above-mentioned goodies is by cutting meat out of your diet, in particular red meat, or at least reducing it substantially.  We have also cut out chicken and have changed our fish-eating habits based on evidence that some types of fish have been drastically over-fished and that the “farm-raised” ones are as full of chemicals and hormones as feedlot cows (salmon is an example of both of these categories; natural populations are dwindling and the farm-raised ones, just like feedlot cows, are being fed corn which is not their natural diet and so they must be fed antibiotics and hormones to help them stay alive until they are big enough to kill). 

This brings us back to the celebration of the Summer Solstice, or Litha, the festival of enjoying the summer sun and warmth, and sharing the abundance of the fruits (and vegetables!) of our labors.  So for my part, I’ll share with you a few meatless ways to partake of your garden’s produce (or your local farmer’s market, or even your grocery stores’)…

For Father’s Day, we were going to my dad’s for a covered dish/ barbeque and I decided to bring something based on what was available in our garden on the day of the gathering.  The day before, I dug some red potatoes from the four hills we have of them, and cut a zucchini squash and a yellow squash.  We have bunches of lemon balm pretty much all over the yard, so with all this mind (and in hand), I made a garden potato salad:  first, I cut the potatoes into chunks and steamed them until just tender, then I cut the squash into chunks and steamed them till just tender along with some chopped onions.  All of these I rinsed in cold water to stop them from cooking after they were done steaming.  Then I combined them all together along with handfuls of chopped lemon balm, some lemon pepper seasoning, some chopped garlic and sour cream, and put it into the refirgerator to let the flavors “marry”.  Later my husband added dry mustard, garlic powder and paprika.  If we had been having this at home as a meal, I probably would have added some steamed greens as the “side” dish, and that would have been our entire meal.

Later in the week, I took more zucchini and yellow squash, steamed them and combined them with couscous, chopped roasted red peppers, some leftover alfredo sauce and parmesan cheese in a casserole, seasoned to taste with lemon pepper, garlic and coarse salt.  This morning, our burgeoning basil plants needed cutting, so I cut a large basket full and made three batches of pesto (pine nuts, garlic, basil leaves, parmesan cheese, lemon pepper season and garlic powder) and tied two handfuls together to hang and dry.  I don’t add olive oil to my pesto while I’m making it because it tends to “cook” in the food processor as you are whirring the ingredients around, and I think it keeps longer without it.  I put my pesto into tight-lidded jars, label and date them, and keep them in the freezer till I’m ready to use them, except for one jar I keep in the fridge for quick access.  I add the olive oil when I use the pesto; for example, when I put some on my salad, I pour a little olive oil over it and stir it around in my salad.  Same with pasta: cook your pasta, drizzle olive oil on it, then sprinkle on the pesto.  This is particularly good when making a primavera (spring) pasta: another chance to pick and choose whatever veggies you want in your dish, steam them separately or cook them right in with your pasta, drain, season with pesto and parmesan cheese and there’s a complete meal.

Now get out there and enjoy the Mid-Summer Litha and/or Solstice, whatever you choose to call it and however you choose to celebrate it.