Living and thriving through regenerative practices and a sustainable worldview.

Plants

“The Hidden Life of Soils” card game!

There’s a new card game that shows the connections between Macrofauna, Microfauna, Megafauna, Mesofauna, Plants and Soil, and it looks like a LOT of fun!

fungi

Fungi

Silt

Silt

Ok, so the macrofauna can be a little… “icky”, but I don’t think kids will care as much as most adults will. (Remember the sand worms from the movie Beetlejuice? Yeah.)
Beetle Larvae

Beetle Larvae

And if you’ve ever seen a tardigrade, you know they kinda look like little eye-less manatees with a “truncated” trunk. (oh look, a pun!)

Tardigrade

Awww… he’s actually kinda cute.

It also brings in heavy hitters from the scientific community, including The Microscope, The Auger, Charles Darwin and Peter E. Muller.

It’s like a reunion concert without the drama or high ticket prices.

They’re free, so print the PDF now! Hidden Life of Soils card game.

And while you’re at it, go check out the http://www.globalsoilbiodiversity.org website- it’s full of great information!

Have fun!


Light pollution shown to affect plant growth and food webs

Passing this article along from: http://phys.org/news/2015-03-pollution-shown-affect-growth-food.html

Light pollution shown to affect plant growth and food webs

Researchers from the University of Exeter simulated the effects of street lighting on artificial grassland plots containing a community of invertebrates at night, exposing them to two different types of light treatment – a ‘white’ light similar to newer commercial LED street lighting systems and an ‘amber’ light simulating the type of sodium street lamp still found in much of the UK. The experiments investigated both top-down (driven by predators) and bottom-up (food or resource limited) effects of the lights on the population density of a species of pea aphid, and in the presence and absence of predators including ladybirds Credit: Jon Bennie/University of Exeter

Artificial night time light from sources such as street lamps affects the growth and flowering of plants and even the number of insects that depend on those plants for food, a study published today confirms.
The research shows that pollution can impact the natural environment in complex ways that may be hard to predict. Due to the global extent of artificial light at night, there are concerns that these ecological impacts may be widespread.

Researchers from the University of Exeter simulated the effects of on artificial grassland plots containing a community of invertebrates at night, exposing them to two different types of light treatment – a ‘white’ light similar to newer commercial LED street lighting systems and an ‘amber’ light simulating the type of sodium street lamp still found in much of the UK.

The experiments investigated both top-down (driven by predators) and bottom-up (food or resource limited) effects of the lights on the population density of a species of pea aphid, and in the presence and absence of predators including ladybirds.

The low intensity amber light was shown to inhibit, rather than induce, flowering in greater bird’s foot trefoil, a wild relative of peas and beans that is a key source of food for the in grasslands and road verges. In mid summer aphids feed on the flowering shoots; the number of aphids was significantly suppressed under the light treatment in mid-August due to the limited amount of food available.
Professor Kevin Gaston, Director of the Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) said: “These are the first findings from major long-term experiments being funded by the European Research Council, and already reveal how profound the impacts of artificial night time lighting can be on even simple communities of organisms.”

Dr Jonathan Bennie of the ESI added: “Our results suggest that by lighting up our night time environment we trigger complex effects on natural webs. While we are all aware that street lights often attract insects at night, we show that they may have more permanent, widespread impacts on wildlife and ecosystems.”

Explore further: Researchers find LEDs attract more flying invertebrates than conventional lighting

More information: ‘Cascading effects of artificial light at night: resource-mediated control of herbivores in a grassland ecosystem’ by Jonathan Bennie, Thomas W. Davies, David Cruse, Richard Inger and Kevin J. Gaston is published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

Journal reference: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B search and more info


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


The New 2013 Herbal Roots Calendar

Do you have kids who love learning about plants, herbs, or foraging?
Are you a kid at heart yourself? (I certainly am!)

Then you might just dig the new 2013 Herbal Roots Calendar, from the kids’ magazine “Herbal Roots”.
You can purchase a pre-made calendar HERE, or print it out for free HERE.

(The ‘zine is pretty cool too, check it out!)

Herbal Roots Calendar 2013

Herbal Roots Calendar 2013

From Mountain Rose Herbs:
“This delightful and educational calendar, beautifully illustrated by Herbal Roots zine creator Kristine Brown, is not only visually stunning, but is also a treasure trove of herbal education. Each month, you’ll enjoy an intricate illustration of a different herb, such as blackberry, vanilla, milk thistle, and more. Each illustration is accompanied by general information for the botanical including Latin name and common uses.”

I am personally a sucker for the occasional dose of *~*whimsy*~*,  but my practical side often wins. Lucky for me, this calendar has both! Check out some sample illustrations:


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


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…


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!


Plants communicate with each other by using clicking sounds

Source: http://io9.com/5919973/plants-communicate-with-each-other-by-using-clicking-sounds

Exeter University scientist Monica Gagliano,  along with fellow researchers Stefano Mancuso and Daniel Robert, used powerful acoustic instrumentation which allowed them to hear clicking sounds coming from the roots of corn saplings. They also found that when they suspended the young roots in water and played a continuous noise at 200 Hz – a similar frequency to the clicks – the plants grew towards the source of the sound.

Gagliano and her team concluded that plants are indeed communicating with each other by making clicking sounds that travel easily through soil. It’s thought that, like the methyl jasmonate, these signals are warning of incoming threats…

Read more!

Plants communicate with each other by using clicking sounds