Living and thriving through regenerative practices and a sustainable worldview.

DIY

The Nitty Gritty Guide

Check out a new project from Alli and Carlo Manzella, called “The Nitty Gritty Guide – Our Guide To The Good Life“.

The Nitty Gritty Guide

The Nitty Gritty Guide

An excerpt from their site states: “We are a growing number of individuals from various different backgrounds who have come together to share and learn time honored skills, traditional art forms and revive the knowledge that kept our ancestors alive and thriving without the dependency on modern conveniences, imports, petroleum based products, the commercial agricultural system and conventional food.”

These two are interviewing people who are doing work in the areas mentioned above within their local community, in order to spread the word and educate folks about what they’re doing.

Check out their latest interviews here!


Making Gumweed (Grindelia) Tincture

Last year I planted some Grindelia, and they never grew. I tried not to be disappointed, as I know sometimes that’s just the luck of the germination draw.

But, like so many of my perennials, they popped up this year as a pleasant surprise in my garden (yay!).
So, what was Grindelia supposed to be good for again? As it turns out I think I’ll be using its gifts mostly in the autumn and winter. It seems that it’s good for a dry, unproductive, sticky cough, which happens sometimes when the air gets colder.

Gumweed (Grindelia) ready for harvest

Gumweed (Grindelia) ready for harvest

Gumweed is a stimulating expectorant and antispasmodic, which will help “unclog” anything rolling around in the lungs and  promptly escort it out the door, and also keep a spastic cough from becoming a drain. I don’t know about you, but I just hate those coughs that make your ribs sore and your lungs raw from all the hacking.
I’ve also heard from folks that this is a great remedy specifically for a dry cough associated with dust inhalation, or the cough that lingers after a cold.

Grindelia is also a urinary tract disinfectant, so if you have issues with that, you might want to add a few drops of gumweed tincture to your cranberry juice.

So, on to the HOW:

I waited until the Gumweed buds were JUST about to bloom. It’s ok if some are already in bloom,  but the buds are full of gum and have not opened up to allow the gum to dry out yet, so they’re the best.

I chopped the buds off  into a jar, and then rinsed off all the critters and debris and strained them. Then I cut the buds in half, and the flowers into quarters with a scissors and mushed them up a little.

Next, I filled up a small mason jar about a third of the way with buds, and the rest of the way with grain alcohol and a little vodka (I was getting low on grain, and both alcohols have alcohol-to-water ratios that are suitable for tincturing).

Gumweed (Grindelia) Tincture

Gumweed (Grindelia) Tincture

Then the usual tincturing practices – shake it up, put it in a dark cabinet, shake it once every two days or so, and leave in there for about 6 weeks.

Once 6 weeks are up, strain the tincture and bottle it in dark glass or put it in a mason jar and store in the dark (this keeps the sun from breaking it down faster).

There is little info on tincture dosage, but I never take more than half a dropperful (MAX!) of anything when first testing out.

Ryan Drum has experimented quite a bit with Grindelia, and suggests using ”5 drops tincture under the tongue or in strong hot steeped yarrow tea.”
So, I would start off with 5 drops and see how that works for you.


Spring Wild Edibles – Chickweed pesto!

It’s May and there are a lot of wild edibles and medicinals to be found!So far I’ve found violets, trout lily, nettles, fiddleheads, daylilies, oxalis(sourgrass), and mayapple (not edible until later in the summer).
Also… I helped clean out someone’s yard and scored more chickweed than I could have ever imagined!

I quickly made up a jar of tincture, and the rest became a beautiful green pesto.Here, I slathered a huge spoonful of pesto onto a hemp & greens burger.

I’m not a food porn type of person, as I think it’s a rather gluttonous fad, but damn, that pesto made the meal when paired with some sweet potato fries and a dollop of spicy dipping mustard. Mmmm!

Chickweed pesto
My Chickweed Pesto “recipe”:

  • Throw some chickweed into a food processor with a little bit of olive oil and pulse until it starts to blend into a kind of “paste”.
  • Add some pine nuts, or in my case, all I had on hand were some raw pumpkin seeds, aka “pepitos” and some sunflower seeds. Add more olive oil and maybe a little water to get the right consistency.
  • Pulse again.
  • Add a clove or two of garlic, depending on your penchant for garlic. (mine is fierce)
  • Taste, and add salt and little lemon juice to taste.
  • If it’s too thick, add a little more water and oil until it reaches the proper consistency. If it’s too watery, add some more nuts or seeds (you may have to add more of other ingredients to even out the flavor).

YUM!!

Trout lily

Trout lily

Chickweed ID

Chickweed ID – see that little one line of hairs on the stem?


Grow your own caffeine!!!!

Grow your own caffeine!

To make this planter, go here: http://lisapace.com/2011/04/coffee-cup-planter/

With SO many folks dependent on caffeine for their morning wake-up call, it’s a little unnerving to think what might happen if coffee and chocolate imports suddenly stopped flowing. Can you imagine morning rush hour? I’m picturing lots of people on the roads half-asleep and really cranky. A scene ripe for some sloppy, half-hearted, road rage with zombie-like motorists. Not pretty.

While I do not personally choose to partake of things that get my heart-rate speeding,  I do appreciate the occasional shot of caffeine for things like migraines and other health-related nuisances.  So, in order to avoid being left out in the cold if there should be a great coffee or cocoa bean famine, I wondered what can be grown here in North America, that can caffeinate folks and keep ‘em easy to get along with in the early hours.

I found the following crops, with links to more info:

Black tea (C. sinensis) - http://www.vegetablegardener.com/item/6466/grow-black-tea-in-your-garden

Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria) is native to the Southeastern states. This holly features short leaves, about ½-inch long, bright-red berries, dark evergreen leaves and grey bark with white patches. The Youpon holly contains caffeine and it was a popular drink among Native Americans in the area. In fact, it is named “Ilex vomitoria” because people would drink it until full and vomit it up – the plant does not actually cause vomiting. Yaupon holly grows best in USDA zones 7 to 9.
More info also found here:  http://people.duke.edu/~cwcook/trees/ilvo.html

Yerba Mate  (Ilex paraguariensis): Another type of holly that can be grown in Zone 10 and higher outdoors, or indoors in a greenhouse environment.
http://www.ehow.com/info_8348882_can-grow-own-yerba-mate.html
http://www.logees.com/Yerba-Mate-Ilex-paraguariensis/productinfo/H8095-2/

A nice table of caffeine-producing plants: http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/webprojects2001/tilling/sources.htm


Make your own stove from a catfood can!

Andrew Skurka has a great tutorial on how to make your own stove from a catfood can over here.

All you really need is one clean cat/dog food can, a hole punch, and some denatured alcohol to fill it with. Sit your pot on top, and viola!

  

For more info on how best to use it, check out this link.


Lessons from Hurricane Sandy: infrastructure and resilience

I’ve been thinking a bit about this whole hurricane thing, and as is often the case, it has turned to more permaculture-related thoughts.

When my grandfather was a boy, he had a little kerosene lamp to light his way to bed every night. You see, they didn’t have electricity yet. During Hurricane Sandy, my mother used this very same lamp to read by and navigate through a darkened house.
I find it amazing that in around just one generation’s time, we’ve gone from having no electricity, to being so UTTERLY dependent upon it.

I recognize that this is largely due to the fact that electricity has been built into our infrastructure. Generally, we don’t put wood-burning stoves in new homes or apartment buildings. We think of fire as a potential hazard, even if we cherish the warmth of a fireplace enough to make electric versions of them.

All of this brings me back to my grandfather. In his childhood, they had a lot less “infrastructure”, but stronger social relationships. I’ve had a lot of discussions about alternative infrastructure, how to strengthen it, getting off the grid “in order to be self-sufficient”, etc.
But none of those are really the same as talking about the idea of infrastructure ITSELF as being a crutch or a potential obstacle to resilience.

Back in the day, my grandfather’s community, in a town next to where I still live, had a very important discussion. These people were very hard-working folks who believed very much in the church as center of community, and in helping your fellow person out. These people also invented the very first insurance company in the U.S., and the idea of “insurance”, and this was almost a scandal inside the church.

Why? Because they recognized that it had the potential to “relieve” folks of the moral responsibility of helping their fellow community members, since insurance would step in and do what had traditionally been done by people: re-build houses after a fire, loan resources, etc. In the end, it was decided that they would only make “insurance” available to “heathens outside of the church”, in order to not make their own people complacent and apathetic. Obviously, the idea grew past those boundaries, and we now have a nationwide epidemic of insurance fraud and a litigious court system. Our good natures are now actually HAMPERED by insurance liability in many cases. Which is exactly the kind of thing that they were worried about. Oops.

My point is this: is infrastructure that is not based in social relationships, but rather, in contracts, actually an impediment to resilience, both physically and morally?


Halloween Necromancy!

It’s that time of year again when the moon visits longer, the morning comes slowly, and the wind brings a chill to the earth.
The time when certain folks possessing knowledge of the old ways, gather together the remnants of the dead in order to slowly transform them into new life through ancient alchemical practice.

No, I’m not talking about All Hallow’s Eve or some sinister ritual…  I’m talking about fall composting!

I ran across a great article on eartheasy.com that gives a nice bunch of autumn composting tips and figured I’d share.

For those who don’t have a yard, or access to leaves, fear not!
You can still compost, as long as you have enough heat to keep some tiny helpers happy.  I’m talking worm composting, also known as vermicompost.

What the heck is worm composting? Check out this great link that gives a nice run-down on the “ins and outs” of the whole shebang.

 

For those of you who just aren’t into the idea of sharing your home with some creepy crawlies, there’s also bokashi composting.
Although to be truthful, bokashi is more of a fermentation process than composting.

Bokashi

It’s got a tiny space footprint, which makes it great for apartment dwellers, and has been used extensively in Japan for some time.  Bokashi uses “effective micro-organisms” to break down organic material, including a lot of things you CAN’T put in a worm bin or compost heap.  It’s fast, odorless,  and convenient.

Here’s some more information on bokashi.

Keep in mind that there are a LOT of bokashi products out there, from bins to EMs, but you can make any of them at home yourself.

Here’s a good link on making your own bokashi “EM” powder mix.
And here’s a link to Make Your Own Bokashi Bucket


Word of the day: "Balanoculture"

So, what the heck is “Balanoculture“, you ask? Apparently it’s just a fancy-schmancy word for the process and practice of eating acorns.

It’s already made the rounds a LONG time ago in Greece, Arcadia and even North America when Native Americans were still able to live according to their indigenous cultural practices. And now, once again, as America is jumping on the trendy foody/self-sufficiency bandwagon by casually slinging around the term “Balanoculture” in certain circles.

But lucky for you, I’m on the blunt edge of such fancy-schmancy-ness, and have found a great tutorial on how to make your own acorn flour.

Here it is!

Acorn

Acorn


Think you have no place to grow? Think again!

I just LOVE when people get creative with growing food!


Seed Bombs!

This weekend I’m making seed bombs, or “seedballs” at a children’s festival.
Everyone has been so awesome, both kids AND adults.  I think I’m having as much fun as the kids, if not more!

Seed Balls

But first…  “What are seed bombs?”

Well, basically, they consist of a variety of different seeds rolled within a ball of clay and compost.
The clay keeps the seeds safe from animals and wind, and binds the ball together. Once placed outside, the rain washes the clay slowly away and waters the seeds. (You can also place the ball on top of a pot of soil an water it.)

The compost inside the ball provides nutrients for the seeds to grow.

Many people like throwing the balls over fences into vacant lots to grow flowers. I know someone who throws them up a hill onto railroad tracks where they grow into tall stalks of corn that they have seen others come along and harvest. Whatever YOU do with them is up to you, but I”m sure you’ll have fun!

If you’d like to make your own seed bombs, here’s the recipe I’m using, adapted from the “Heavy Pedal” website:
(Click on image to launch PDF)

Ingredients:

5 parts dry red clay (non-toxic)
3 parts dry organic compost
1 part seed
1 – 2 parts water

Directions:
Step one: Measure three parts of dry compost. This provides a growing medium for your seeds.

Step two: Measure five parts of dry powdered clay. Once mixed with water, the clay will hold the seed balls together.

Step three: Add one part seed.

Step four: Add one to two parts water, and combine.  You want the mixture to be moist,
but not really wet. Add water as you go.

Step five: Roll the seed ball mix into balls 1-2 in. in diameter. Be prepared to get messy!

Step six: Set aside on newspaper for a few days to dry.

Throw your seed balls over fences or into vacant lots. Plant them in containers. Use them anywhere!
(The best time for them to grow is in early spring.)


Resilient Existence has seed packets!

After my last post, I got super-inspired to make my own seed packets!

I’ve always loved the beautiful early American illustrations/lithographs/etchings of nature from places like the Audobon Society, etc. I think it captures the primal nature of something more “wild” than ourselves, and yet highlights the elegance of nature’s design in flora and fauna.

Anywho, I made up some seed packets with art from Charles Livingston Bull, from the Library of Congress’ copyright-free image collection.

Enjoy!

(Right Click and “Save As”)


Make Your Own Seed Packets!

I recently came across a plethora of make-your-own seed envelope posts, and I’ll post several of them here.  However, my favorite is the first one, as any kind of paper can be used and I often need tiny little envelopes for a small amount of seeds that I refuse to throw away.

Origami Seed Packet Instructions
Origami Seed envelope

Here are some printer templates for fancier seed packets for gifting, or just getting a dose of “Happy” whenever you reach for your seeds!

Basic, no frills template for multiple packets (saves paper)
Another basic template, but for a single, MUCH larger envelope!  
Template for multiple packets with space for more detailed instructions  
Another classicly simple envelope design (2 packets per page) - Try printing on brown paper for a “Williams Sonoma” look
A stash of beautiful seed packet templates from “Just Something I Made” – for those of us who like pretty things.  
Some more B&W templates to print on colored paper  
BUSINESS CARD seed packets template for reuse of brown paper shopping bags – AWESOME!

My designer’s note: Most inkjet printers do NOT have “white” ink. So, I’m not sure how these were printed with the “white grass”. Also, lighter colors are usually created by using less ink against a white paper. In this case, since the paper is brown, your results will be different. Experiment first before you burn through your ink cartridges!

 
Gorgeous, artsy seed packets – I freakin’ LOVE these! C’mon! A griffin guarding my seeds? Hell yes!  

These are so awesome, that I’ll probably be inspired to create my own. Who am I kidding? I’m already designing them in my head, and seeing as I’m home sick, there will probably be another post later today. Stay tuned…


Rainwater Catchment

Came across this most EXCELLENT resource over at www.grownyc.org.
I think it might be the most complete little PDF of rainwater harvesting I’ve ever seen. It literally has pictures of the individual components used in their systems, along with pipe measurements, filtration systems, treatment, tanks, etc.

Rainwater Harvesting 101:
http://www.grownyc.org/files/osg/RWH.how.to.pdf

Rainwater Harvesting

Rainwater Harvesting

 


Make Your Own Korean "Honey Tea"

Found this interesting blog post from Catherine Boley on how to make Korean “Honey Tea”.
It looks delicious and I’m sure going to try it! But I’ll be adding ginger too, per the comments on her post. Mmmmmm.

http://catherineboley.blogspot.com/2009/08/preparing-for-winter.html

 


Homemade Drawing Charcoal (vine charcoal)

I came across this article from 1984 that I though I’d share for those of you who are on the artsy side…

Make your own drawing charcoal:
http://www.motherearthnews.com/modern-homesteading/drawing-charcoal.aspx


Dehydrating/drying food…

While I’m talking about food, here are a bunch of links on drying food.

Preserving Food: Drying Fruits and Vegetables (almost everything you’d need to know, including re-hydrating and how to build a homemade solar dryer.

I’m also pulling a few links out of the Toolbox (right menu), as they’re classics:

How to Build A Solar Dehydrator For Nearly Free!
How to Make a Solar Food Dehydrater From Beer Cans
Backpacking Chef – How to dehydrate food, and tons of recipes!  Before this website, I had never thought to dehydrate pumpkin pie filling.

*drool*

 


Canning!!!


I’ve been experimenting with canning more and more every year, and it’s really becoming a fun thing to look forward to. I still don’t have a pressure-canner, and it might be a good thing for my social life that I don’t!I found a few resources that are great, and I thought I’d share them here.

Ball has some great stuff in PDF format:

Harvesting and Fresh Preserving Guide (what’s in season, when, and where)
Weights & Measures Conversion Chart (how many pints in a quart, etc.)
Pectin Calculator

Also, some other stuff I ran across that’s helpful:
How to use honey in place of sugar in recipes
Recipe Conversion Calculator (to scale down/up your quantity from a recipe)
This year, the Pick Your Own.org website has been invaluable for recipes that use honey or white grape juice instead of processed sugar (which I won’t use!).

I’ve also learned that you can make straight pectin from tart under-ripe apples or crab apples. Here is a link to a recipes from the Oregon State University Extension Service, but I’ll admit that I have not used it myself yet.
Homemade pectin

Yum!


Food Co-ops Toolkit

A simple guide to setting up food co-ops. :)

http://www.sustainweb.org/foodcoopstoolkit/


9 Simple Steps to Sheet Mulching

Source: http://www.chelseagreen.com/content/9-simple-steps-to-sheet-mulching/

Excerpt:

Nine Simple Steps to Sheet Mulching

  1. Mow or cut your lawn, weeds, or other vegetation right down to the ground.
  2. Plant any crops that will require a large planting hole (including woody plants, perennials in large pots, and large transplants).
  3. Add soil amendments (as determined by your soil test).
  4. Water the whole area thoroughly. You are going to be putting a layer of cardboard or newspaper over it, and rain and irrigation won’t soak through very well until that weed barrier breaks down. Water also helps the decomposition process get going.
  5. If you have compost materials that may contain weed seeds (like fresh manure, leaves, or hay), spread them in layers on the ground. Put a dry, carbonaceous layer of hay or shredded leaves below any manure layer. Avoid thick layers, and make sure to get a good carbon-to-nitrogen ratio just as if you were building a compost pile (see Start with the Soil or other gardening books for details). Water this layer well.
  6. Lay down a weed barrier. I prefer to use large sheets of cardboard from appliance stores, because these last longer and are quicker to lie down. You can use layers of wet newspaper too. Make sure to have a 4- to 6-inch overlap where sheets meet so buried weeds can’t find a route to the surface. If you have already planted crops, or have other preexisting plants, don’t mulch over them. Cut holes in the cardboard to make some breathing space for each plant (or leave some room around each plant when laying newspaper).
  7. Now you can add your weed-free organic materials. I like to keep it simple, and just add a nice layer of compost. You can also do some sheet composting here, alternating layers of nitrogen-rich materials like fresh grass clippings with carbonaceous materials like weed-free straw.
  8. Now you add your final top mulch layer, at least 3 inches thick. Water the whole bed thoroughly once again. Your sheet mulch bed is complete.
  9. You can plant right into your bed if you like. To plant tubers or potted plants, just pull back the top layers until you get to the weed barrier. Cut an X in the cardboard or newspaper. If you are transplanting a large plant, peel back the corners of the X. Throw a double handful of compost in the planting hole and then put in the plant. Pull the layers and top mulch back around the plant, water well, and you’re all set. Planting seeds is easy too. Just pull back the top mulch to the compost layer and plant your seeds. You may want to cut through the weed barrier below first, depending on weed pressure below the barrier. If you are planting seeds, be sure to water regularly, as compost on top of cardboard can dry out quickly.

See that itty-bitty yard space out front?

BAM!! Awesomeness!

Please go visit http://www.chelseagreen.com/content/9-simple-steps-to-sheet-mulching/ for more!


Make your own yogurt in a crock pot!

Source: http://www.thankfullythrifty.com/2012/03/you-can-make-yogurt-in-your-crock-pot/

Minimal effort plus 13-17 hours of waiting time= yogurt awesomeness!

Check it out here!

Make Yer Own Yogurt!


Portable Poly Pipe High Tunnel Hoop House Construction Plans‏

The Noble Foundation poly pipe hoop house was developed in response to the needs of growers for a low cost, portable structure. It is the product of three years of research and development conducted at the Foundation’s Headquarters Farm.

Download plans here in pdf format:
http://www.noble.org/global/ag/horticulture/poly-pipe-hh-plans/nf-ho-12-01.pdf


Re-using plastic bottles for sailing…

           


DIY Herb Dryer

Old window screen attached to picture frames and some chain.
Brilliant!I think you could also use old stockings instead of window screen, as long as the weave was large enough to let air through.

Here’s a tutorial!

 


Support 'Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act' to help decentralize food system

http://www.naturalnews.com/035214_local_food_farms_jobs.html#ixzz1op3dOqMu

Sunday, March 11, 2012 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Federal food policies that distribute billions of taxpayer dollars every year to subsidize the growth of commodity crops like genetically-modified (GM) corn and soy are largely responsible for the dismal state of food quality and health in our nation today. But Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Oh.) have introduced a new bill known as the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act that would help decentralize the food system and promote diversified, small-scale farming operations capable of meeting the growing demand for clean, fresh, local foods.

At least $12 billion a year is currently allocated to subsidize industrial-scale agriculture systems like pesticide-ridden GM crop mega-farms, and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) that hold tens of thousands of animals in filth. Meanwhile, only about $100 million a year is allocated to support local food programs that grow and distribute fresh, clean food.

But all this can change with the passage of the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act, which will provision more money from the Farm Bill for small-scale, organic farmers, and help bring more clean, local food into public school lunchrooms. And since hearings on the 2012 Farm Bill, which will establish federal food policy for the next five years, are already taking place, now is the time to contact your congressmen and urge support for the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act.

"American consumers want access to healthy, fresh foods and farmers should be able to sell it to them," said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Oh.) about the bill. "Local and regional food systems help the communities where farmers and consumers live growing the economy and creating jobs while improving public health and nutrition."

You can read the entire Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act by visiting:
http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:S.1773:

Investing in local food systems will help reverse the obesity, chronic disease epidemic in America
Obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are among the top chronic conditions that afflict millions of Americans today, many of whom consume a steady diet of corn- and soy-laden processed foods that are artificially inexpensive because of federal food subsidies. And while more and more people are learning the truth about processed foods and seeking out healthy alternatives, federal policies make it difficult for small-scale farmers to earn a living and provide healthy food for their communities.

“For too long, funding provided by the United States’ most far-reaching food and farm legislation has primarily benefited agri-business and large scale industrial-scale commodity farms that aren’t growing food,” writes Kari Hamerschlag on the EWG blog. “Instead, they’re growing ingredients for animal feed, fuel and highly processed food — at a high cost to our nation’s health, environment and rural communities.”

The federal government has no place interfering in agriculture in the first place, but if it is going to redistribute taxpayers’ money into the food system, it needs to promote the systems that lead to improved nutrition and better health — small-scale, diversified farms.

To learn more, visit:
http://www.ewg.org/local-farms-food-and-jobs-act

To contact your congressmen and urge support for the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act, visit:
http://action.ewg.org

Sources for this article include:

http://www.ewg.org/local-farms-food-and-jobs-act

http://www.ewg.org

http://www.farmbillfacts.org/agenda-2012/farm-bill-timeline