Tag Archives: organic farming

Kombucha: taste and perspective

If you asked me, here is what I’d tell you about the tastes of kombucha.

Pomegranate white tea brings out a burst of hope from each pomegranate seed involved. It’s a mix of blissed and blessed; straightforward and non-complex. A great one for the card-carrying kombucha naysayers out there. It is sweet and light and uncomplicated as well as non-threatening. It’s humble and doesn’t need to shout out its worth to you or anyone else. It knows its value and doesn’t beg for approval. This is an honest drink ready to make anyone’s glass half full.

Toss in pomegranate seeds for festive fiber and color

Assam has a great depth, a history to it. It’s the finely earned sweat from the sides of a muscled quarter horse pressed against your clenched legs. It then becomes the steam off that same horse. There is a kiln-dried, slight hickory flavor, as soft and soothing as a vapor from your higher self. The lighter side offers a sweetness- akin to an heirloom apple from 1905 Washington state. Lastly, what follows is a reminder of a root cellar somewhere in the Oregon coastal hills, maybe Chitwood- with a dark and fruity taste that comes from the underground and bugs.

A blend of pomegranate and white peony met, due to low tea supplies in the house. The main body of this drink is mystic over intellectual. It is a meeting of bold cheerfulness and wise sage. Combined, the elements of the liquids blend toward a field trip through honesty and freshness. You miss it once it easily slides down the esophagus. It absorbs into the tongue, triggering a sense of mature vision with a hint of playful mischief. It doesn’t incite trouble, it emboldens creative thinking. You just can’t get enough.

Not bad, but a bit much, Lapsang souchung tastes like smoked stable chips washed down with a coastal slew at low tide. It includes a backsplash of fossilized golden soil with a million ancient comments echoing past centuries. It finishes with horse hoof trimmings brushed with a light glaze of organic sugar.

Bad kombucha tastes like:

  • Bubbly brackish pond water
  • Foul fermented moss mold with a fizz
  • Carbonated sour plums that finish with a dirty thud punch
  • Sparkling swirling dervish sledge
  • Barrels of babbling bellicose berries battling good taste
  • Surly swill of swirly saturated sourness
  • Moist mushroom moonshine musty with regrets of the past burping forth from a murky muddy spring.

Set up your own station and make a brew that tastes like the smell of the tender paws of a spaniel that just ran through an heirloom tea shrub field. Or a swig that reminds you of a hot air balloon ride over a sweet and salty ocean on a planet yet to be discovered.

The possibilities are endless.

 

Flowers wave at the traffic going by

I practiced 20 different introductions as I walked toward the Flower Garden of Mystery. This is a large plot of sunflowers and nasturtiums on the corner of Hilyard and E. 25th.

“Hi, my name is Mary Ann and I love your garden and I wondered if I could interview you for my blog, which has very few readers….”

“Hi, I’m Mary Ann, your neighbor, and I write about stuff, and I like your stuff, wanna chat?”

I walked up to the door and knocked twice to no answer. I felt hopeful as I looked at gnomes, a small plastic draft horse, and other fun odds and ends in the flower bed off the porch. As I walked away on the sidewalk, a woman opened the door and called to me. She said she is often hesitant to answer her door, but she saw me and decided to open it. It wasn’t her garden. She said it was her landlady’s plot. “Bonnie just turned 80. She is sort of a legend around here, I think she’d love to talk to you.” I was directed to walk two houses over, to Bonnie’s house.

Turns out, this booming flower garden is entirely volunteer. Nothing was planted. By now, it blooms by habit. It’s 50 years old. “I love the feel of dirt and the fairly amazing concept that a little piece of nothing turns into something magnificent,” said Bonnie Brunken, the one behind the garden. She moved into the neighborhood in 1949. At that time, the land was swampy and cheap; flooding was a regular thing.

Zinnias are her favorite flower. Next, she likes nasturtiums and sunflowers because “they want to live!” My faves too.
Several years ago, I was inspired to have the audacity to plant a huge zinna patch by yet another 80+ year-old neighbor!

Bonnie said she learned to grow things through mentors. “I was mentored by Wilma Crowe, who is in her 90s now.” Wilma and her mother, Mrs. Zahn, taught her about “moon planting and all kinds of things.”

The big patch of flowers cycles like this: tons of mulched leaves from her  Carolina Poplar trees are piled high on the bed in the winter. They are tilled into the soil in the spring. Next, she adds straw as the top layer. With some warmth and water, the soil pops to hundreds of flowers. After they are done, it all begins again.

What I like the most about the flower patch is its sole purpose is to be enjoyed. The flowers aren’t sold or eaten. They’re just there. The profit is in the eyes of those who notice.

Back to moon planting. Mrs. Zahn came by one day and checked in with Bonnie who had planted carrots about two weeks before. Mrs. Zahn gave her more carrot seeds and said, “plant these about 6″ out from yours, in the next row.” Bonnie said, sure, but why? “Because today is the right moon day to plant carrots.” In no time, the moon planted carrots grew stronger, faster, larger and didn’t have as much problems with bugs. Bonnie said, “I was a convert after that.”

Her mentors were organic farmers. She also read Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson in the early 1960s. Carson stands out as one who brought forth awareness about the harm caused by pesticides. She is credited with starting the environmental movement. At 56 and dying of breast cancer, she testified in front of the senate, “our heedless and destructive acts enter the vast cycles of the earth and in time return to bring hazard to ourselves.”

Upon this read, Bonnie said, “o.k, I’m not going to add to the problem.”

Besides seeing the results of moon planting, she saw a study done about 25 years ago by the University of Iowa. The final analysis ended up being about 500 pages with the conclusion: we understand a little bit about it; we don’t understand most of it; we just know that it works.

Sometime before this study, Pliny, the Elder, the first-century Roman naturalist stated that the moon “replenishes the earth when she approaches it, she fills all the bodies; while when she recedes, she empties them.”

Moon planting is also referred to as agricultural astrology as it relates to moon phases and astrological signs.

Bonnie has two great dogs: Dandelion, the Parson Russel terrier, and Sage, the very soft beagle. Before I left, she wanted to show me the third pet, who lives in the back yard.

Perched in a patch of dragon lilies, snap dragons, daises, and other grasses and flowers, was a huge metal dragon! Bonnie named it, “Joyful.”

Joyful

For more about organic and biodynamic farming, check out my article featuring draft horses:
http://ezine.takerootmagazine.com/HTML5/Duhn-Associates-TAKE-ROOT-Magazine-Fall-2016?pageNum=18

Sanctuary. Do you have one in your neighborhood?

Sometimes sanctuaries are just sitting there. You have no idea. I found one today, just a few miles from where I live. Cortesia Sanctuary is in the woods of South Eugene. Cortesia comes from Cortese, a 900-year-old French word, which means “quiet.” Just kidding, actually, it means “a deep, noble courtesy and reverence for the sacredness of life.”

Garden entrance from the front meadow
Garden entrance from the front meadow

Once you step out of the car, it is quiet. This is a private home setting of 22 acres. It is surrounded by tall 150-year-old fir trees. It has a personal feel, like you are stopping in to see old friends. We were greeted by Forrest McDowell, one of the owners. He and his wife, Tricia, started living here in 1986.

Forrest emerged smiling and friendly, providing us with a map and background about the property. Soon, we were off, heading down the Fern trail. This passed the labyrinth on the left, then branched to the right with two bench options: St. Francis or Gandhi. These were near the edge of the ridge. Though the trees, you get a lovely view of west Eugene, Fern Ridge reservoir, and Mary’s Peak off in the distance.

My favorite thing- a door on a shed that sits off of the garden
My favorite thing- a door on a shed that sits off of the garden

The garden has many herbs, flowers, and even some opportunities for simple rituals. One such thing is a prayer shrine. You can write down a prayer on a card and then hang it from a small tree. They had several dwarf apples trees.

One of the prayers hanging from the tree
One of the prayers hanging from the tree

This organic garden space grows their vegetables and herbs, which they turn into flower essences, tinctures, and salves. They sell their products locally and on the web. The McDowell’s wrote the book, The Sanctuary Garden, in 1998. It is said to explore the personal, philosophical, spiritual, and practical aspects of creating a natural garden that emits peace and harmony. From walking around on their land, I’d say they walk their talk.

Looks like a Chinese Lantern plant to me
Looks like a Chinese Lantern plant to me

The place has a real sense of peaceful purpose. It even has an 18-year-old healthy and happy cat. Permaculture methods are in place, compost is revolving, nature spirits are dancing. It’s not flashy or pretentious, rather just being here now, as is, rustic.

Back to nature spirits, there are a lot of them. By that, I mean people have been talking about them since the beginning of time. There are dozens, maybe hundreds of them, from every part of the world, with exotic names and colorful personalities. If I had to choose one for this place, it would be: Aranyani, Hindu goddess of the forest, and the animals that dwell there. Just my opinion.

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St. Francis in his moss shawl
St. Francis in his moss shawl

There are cute sheds and yurts on site, and even a “cob grotto.” We spent about an hour onsite. You could certainly stay longer, maybe have a picnic. It is not large enough for long walks, but better suited for a slower and more thoughtful time.

DIY autumn body wash: Inspire; Release!

Grape leaves turning
Grape leaves turning

The following is a fall aromatherapy body wash based on Chinese elemental theory.

The season is: autumn. Time to let go of the old, and take in the new. The direction of this time of year is downward- a quiet movement back into the earth to push nutrients into the soil for next spring.

The physical aspects include: lungs, colon, body hair, and skin. The lungs inspire, the colon purges.

The emotions include: grief, loss. To stay in balance regarding grief, we need to allow for the recognition of it, and the care of how it passes through us. If not, we may not actually grieve, which can cause it to get stuck, unprocessed, and eventually become a heavy burden following us everywhere.

Apples paying it forward
Apples paying it forward

If we unburden ourselves, we can find and connect with new inspiration.

Shed the old, make room for the new

During this season, nature leads us into the cycle of creating and letting go. Trees don’t cling to their leaves because they might need them next year. They let them all drop. If held onto, the decayed leaves can pollute and effectively block the entry of anything new.

When the lungs are healthy, we not only breathe better, we can absorb new experiences, ideas, and be more open to inspiration.

Positive aspects of this season: generosity, integrity, self-respect, and personal value. Focus on and bring about these positive traits during this season. Self-care creates awareness and discernment in what you breathe, both physically and mentally.

It was a good summer!
It was a good summer!

A few essential oils for this season:

Eucalyptus
Rosemary
Geranium
Sage
Mint

These all perk up the lungs.

Lungs inspire literally and figuratively. They bring in air and ideas. In Chinese medical theory, the lung is paired with the large intestine, or colon. The colon purges what is no longer needed.

Together, they have a team approach toward balance. Disperse with the old, welcome the new.

DIY autumn body wash

1 cup Dr. Bronners unscented liquid soap
1 cup water
3 T. coconut oil, fractionated
10-15 drops essential oil

During this season, ask yourself:

What inspires you?

What do you want to let go?