Archive for June, 2014

Indian Spiced Lamb’s Quarters

Monday, June 30th, 2014

A few nights ago I made my favorite greens recipe using lamb’s quarters, a common weed that grows in disturbed ground. Most gardens in Michigan have plenty of them, and they are more nutritious than a lot of the plants that people plant after removing them.

Here is the link to the recipe for “Aromatic Greens”, just use lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium) in place of kale or spinach. They also cook a bit quicker, so 10 -15 minutes of cooking time is fine.

I served these over baked potatoes. Rice, quinoa (also in the Chenopodium family), or other grains. At the same meal I served marinated tempeh. When I put the potatoes in to bake I put sliced tempeh into a mix of olive oil, vinegar, tamari, water, ginger, and a bit of Sriracha sauce. Once this marinated for 1.2 hour I put them onto a baking sheet lined in parchment paper, and baked with the potatoes until they were all done about 1/2 hour later.

A nice balance of the treat of baked potatoes, the very healthy (and free for the picking) Indian spiced greens, and the protein rich tempeh with a bit of hot.

There are more recipes for cooking greens and weeds in my cookbook, “Spinach and Beyond: Loving Life and Dark Green Leafy Vegetables” available from Amazon or from my web site. Just $12 plus shipping.

My Best Sex Advice – Especially for Teens

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

I taught Sex Ed for eight years at a local private high school. I loved it, mostly. The kids were great, it was the parents who were sometimes challenging and who needed hours of time outside the classroom to feel comfortable. There are many stories to tell, but that will come later.
I did hold back on a lot that I wanted to say. I have some regrets, there are things I would do differently. I would talk more about relationships, more about sexual pleasure, provide more context in addition to the basic factual information on birth control and STI prevention. I would have more conversations, especially, about Sylvia Hacker’s idea of promoting “outer-course”

That is my best sex advice for teens. Do you want to learn how to be the best lover? For that first relationship especially, don’t have intercourse for at least a year or two. Do everything else. Learn about your body, what you like, what turns you on, how you get off, what you don’t like. Learn the same about your partner. No penetrative sex for a very long time. You will become a very skilled, creative, and talented lover. You’ll learn how to pay attention to details – one of the other traits of a great lover.

I used to ask my classes – what do you need to have in place before having sex? The responses included marriage, a loving relationship, good communication, birth control, and other expected answers. One shy young man said “a job”. Everyone laughed, but I asked him to explain his answer. He said if something goes wrong, like an unexpected pregnancy, you would need money to have options so you could make good choices. A very wise 10th grader.
And that is another reason why the advice to stay away from sexual intercourse makes practical sense as well. Most teens want – and need to explore sex. Some feel that need acutely. But the overwhelming nature of sex, the possible consequences of pregnancy and STIs, the disruption it can cause, the moral and ethical decisions it requires, the possible emotional backlash, the likelihood of being in an abusive, coercive or exploitative relationship, are also all real. And are many times more likely to be a problem with penetrative sex.

There is very little said in high school and during sex ed classes about how to become a very good and responsible lover – a process that begins much earlier in life than we might want to admit or feel comfortable with. A teenager – enduring raging hormones and fantasies – is well into that process. We do mostly a dreadful job of teaching and helping them learn about sex. I did an adequate job myself during those eight years. I was profoundly careful and cautious, I felt I had to be with such a controversial topic, with so many opinions about what is right and wrong. It is a profoundly personal topic, and I tried my best to honor that while also teaching what was important. The basics.

Speaking ideally, a better method would be to take each kid aside, and ask them what they want to know, what they are ready to learn. Ensure one on one support for each kid that works for them respecting their maturity, their religious and moral beliefs, their current relationships, their interest in the subject. Match them with someone they feel comfortable talking with. Be available to help them process those first relationships, the first time falling in love, having a broken heart. Support them in making difficult decisions, help them learn what they need to know when they are ready to know it. But that is rarely possible. A few parents step into that role, and do it well. Most teens just can’t have the conversations that meet their needs with their own parents.

Should teens be having sex – full on penetrative possibly baby producing outside of marriage sex? Well, most adults (and with collected data and studies we know they mostly of those same adults were sexually active themselves when they were a teen) say no. Many teens also say no. Most of the teens I taught said no. They aren’t ready. And these teens should be given all the support and all the tools they need to live up to their ideals and beliefs and religious convictions and what they need. They need actual practice in how to say no. How to have that conversation successfully. And, some of the teens I taught were already saying oh, yes.
And for that rest, which can be as many as half the teens in any given class, let’s give them a reason to hold back, explore, learn, even enjoy, and a chance to develop a great and positive sex life that they can put into even more full use later in life.
It will make you a better lover in the long term. Delay penetrative sex. There may be some even better reasons developmentally, practically, morally, emotionally, even financially, and more. But we should certainly be offering this reason as well.

Olla Irrigation

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

Tom’s YouTube video on olla irrigation has gotten over 37,000 views as of today. Meanwhile, we’ve had great success with the system on our 20 raised beds in Chelsea Michigan.
The concept is simple as well as ancient in origin. An unglazed clay pot is buried below the surface, kept filled with water, and slowly releases that water through osmosis to the plants that are growing nearby. Traditionally, the pots were hand filled with water. Tom has devised a whole system that allows for automatic continuous filling using gravity, and simple clay pots found in every gardening store (and many reuse centers!) that can be made into the capsules that hold water.
The system takes some time to set up, but then is nearly maintenance free. Because it is an underground system, the root systems grows deep and towards the water source. The plants are healthier, and they don’t have stress times mid day when the sun can be the hottest. We can plant more in each bed, because of the deep roots and abundant water. There is significantly less waste with an underground system – as much as 50% of the water used in sprinklers and drip irrigation is lost to evaporation or never penetrating as far as the root system. Weed seeds don’t germinate as easily in the beds, since they need surface water to grow.
And we can leave the garden for the week without having to dash back to water if it is a dry hot week. The plants are controlling the water amount – they actually are part of the process of pulling the water from the olla underground capsules. Fertilizer can be added to the bucket to be dispersed through the system. You can also add other organic liquids that benefit the plants, some people water with blood and urine, the olla system could be used for that as well. Adding biohazards to the vegetable garden is controversial (the whole hazard part), I’m just saying it is possible.
We also made up most of the system out there from recycled clay pots. The Kiwanis here in town gets a lot of pot donations, and we benefited from that.
Out at the cabin, the system is hooked up to the well water from a hose. A rain barrel would also work, and I use city water here at home. If I could figure out how to repair my cistern I would use that source – but I haven’t yet figured out exactly how to repair a leak that suddenly developed. Pumping water from the cistern to a large above ground tank that would then gravity feed the bucket with the float valve would be a great system. I could pump it manually – a few minutes a day would work – or set up an electric pump submerged in the cistern. Details to work out once I have found the leak and stopped it!
A fun side benefit of the olla system is the pleasant sound of water dripping into the buckets located in the garden, sort of like having a fountain in the middle of green. A couple people who have helped out in the garden have noted the pleasant sound.
It is all an experiment, and Tom keeps working on refining the system so that it is cheaper, easier, requires less maintenance, and can use more recycled parts. Meanwhile the garden has never been better, the percentage of produce we eat keeps moving towards more homegrown and preserved, and the day to day worry and care gardens need is decreasing every year.
Check out the video and consider trying it out, maybe just one or two garden areas at a time.

Berries – Summer of 2014 in Michigan

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

A local blueberry farm just announced there will not be a blueberry season for them this year. The mulberries are about 1/3 of the size of normal on the trees I’ve checked. The service berries (AKA June berries) had a short and wrinkly season, and we have none in the freezer so far.

Two years ago we had a terrible fruit season due to a late season hard frost. Last year was bountiful and amazing, especially the apple crop. It more than made up for the previous year. We also got a full harvest of service berries. Two year ago the black raspberries were nearly nothing, last year we had nearly as many as we could take the time to pick.

IT is a fickle thing, every year different. I hope that some crops will make up for the others. The blueberries are a new blow, caused by the fiercely cold winter with temperatures below -20 F. The apple crop looks minimal, with few blossoms on the trees.

So I’m beginning to realize that if I want 6-10 gallons of fruit in the freezer every year I need to be open to a variety, changeable year to year. Between the radical changes of fruit and an unknown schedule for picking, who knows what I might end up eating all winter?

I also have had good success with fruit in the deep freeze lasting two years. It isn’t as good, but in a smoothie or cooked into oatmeal it works well.

Michigan has an abundance of fruit that can be foraged. Pears, plums, apricots, crab apples, peaches, apples, black raspberries, elderberries, cherries, gooseberries, black raspberries, red raspberries, black berries, service berries, mulberries. We can eat our way through the summer and into the fall.

I’m concerned about climate change and what affect it will have on the wild foods, especially fruit. I’m concerned about the loss of pollinators and the affect that will have on these flowering producers. Immediately, and personally, being flexible and taking advantage of each opportunity I have will matter. Globally and looking at the long term, it is pretty much unknown. There is certainly less certainty.

The Explanation of my Name

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

When I was a kid it was somehow considered a weakness or a problem if people knew your middle name. It was as though the person with that knowledge would have special control or a claim over you. It didn’t make sense, but middle names were power.
My middle name is Diane. It always has been, and now everyone can know.
My mom named me Linda. i found out rather recently that it wasn’t what she and my dad had agreed to, she just filled out the birth certificate when he wasn’t around.
My last name is Feldt, a Swedish name that was given to a relative long ago when the Swedish Government was trying to phase out the “Carlson” “Anderson” etc. way of naming. Because so many people had the last name. Feldt is relatively popular in Sweden

In 1987 I was apprenticing with Susun Weed in Woodstock. It involved many trips there, she came to Ann Arbor a few times, and we also corresponded. One night I had spent time with a number of the women who were also working with Susun. A couple were changing their names to powerful goddesses and figures of myth. I wanted to acknowledge that I was changing and becoming more of who I am. I considered what I might call myself if I had a choice. I liked my name. I had been initiated into a religious group and was “Vidyshwari” – the omniscient Goddess. But I never considered making that public or being called that. And I was no longer with that group, anyway.

I was about to walk back inside Susun’s home, it was about 10 pm and the sky was so deeply dark, yet with the stars abundant, and a small crescent moon. I was in the Catskill mountains. I suddenly thought that the approximate transliteration of my name, the name I had always had, was “Beautiful Moon Field”. That was like a secret that had suddenly unfolded. It was a moment of feeling very powerful – newly discovered. If I used my middle name, I would be bringing out the moon, the emotional part of me. I would be sharing my secret middle name, and my emotional secrets as well. That seemed like a good thing.

Practically speaking, I needed a new name. There was someone else in Ann Arbor, Linda Feldt, who had a business selling replacement windows. It would be better if people didn’t mix us up. Linda was also the most popular girl’s name when I was in elementary school. But Linda Diane? I had never met anyone with that name.

When people started calling me that, it felt very different than being Linda. It felt more whole, almost like being stroked, being full. It was right.

My mother loved the idea. “I named you the right name!” She took all the credit, which she did deserve. It is a good, powerful, balanced (every part has five letters) name.

Later, I named my publishing company “Moon Field Press”. Because it is me.

I certainly don’t mind people calling me Linda, it just feels incomplete. I feel a physical “yes!” when I hear Linda Diane. And I also get a kick out of friends who abbreviate it to “LD”. I always wanted a nickname, and once again it was there all along.

My name is my work. It helps to have something a little unique. I have that. I have all along.

Solstice

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

It is finally summer. It was cold enough last night that I lit a fire in the wood stove at my cabin. And I did not swim today as the water was not inviting me in. But the garden produced a few meals, i saw the Great Blue heron fly low across the river, we heard a Sandhill Crane with its odd dinosaur-like cry, and the dogs enjoyed the sun but not the mosquitoes. Meals were eaten outside, and the lawn needs to be mowed yet again.

Please go slowly now, seasons. My recovery from the brutal winter needs many more weeks of summer and then fall. Time is weird. We just passed the second anniversary of my brother’s death. And I’m approaching the 30th year anniversary of having bought my home. I’m settled into aging yet feel young and fresh, I’m trading in experience and loving it, but also am in awe fo things I’ve done so many times before.

Next year is closer than last year was at this time. Mysteries.

Good solstice to everyone. And a great harvest as well.

The Thing About Wheat

Friday, June 20th, 2014

There is a lot of bad information circulating about gluten and the need to be gluten free. Jimmy Fallon did a great spoof on that. There are some great gluten free products and new awareness which can be especially helpful for people with Celiac Disease. But for most people, we may be focusing on the wrong thing.
We consume a lot of wheat. Why wheat? Because it is easy to grow, and most importantly to machine harvest. White flour – adulterated to remove the wheat germ and the bran, leaving just the inner endosperm is by far the most popular form. Most of the nutritional value is in the removed bran and germ.
Whole wheat – that retains all three parts of the wheat berry – is more nutritious. It makes sense nutritionally to focus on whole wheat, and to fade white flour into the background. Well, sort of.
What happens next also matters. The heat and air sensitive parts of the wheat berry are usually used ground into flour. Except these days true grinding isn’t as quick and easy as hammer or roller milling. The result? Conventional hammer milling creates a dusty somewhat tasteless powder. This is then left to sit for months or even years before being made into a baked product.
IF you use a stone mill, and grind the wheat berries more slowly to reduce heat, the result is a courser flour that still retains a nutty oily taste. The preservation of the natural oils from the cooler milling reduces the breakdown and subsequent rancidity. A courser grind reduces oxygenation. The taste is profoundly different, although it does deteriorate over time as oxygen breaks down the beneficial fats and oils that have been preserved in the milling process.
So we have moved from our traditional method of stone grinding to the easier hammer mill. That changes the nature of thewheat. Heat has been introduced into the process. That changes the flour. Time and exposure to oxygen makes things worse for the sensitive oils that are natural to wheat. Stone ground flour is different from conventional milling.
Any time you have a product containing oil, freshness matters. Most of the flour we consume was not fresh when the product was made.

So the best wheat product uses all parts of the whole grain, is ground at a low temperature, produces a course grain, and is used in its fresh state.

Then there is the question of how a conventional loaf of bread is made. An absolutely consistent yeast is what is normally used. So that every loaf is the same, no matter where or when it is baked. Using sourdough starter will incorporate other wild yeasts and “beasties” that may be present in your kitchen. There is variety, there is a unique loaf every time. This change and variety may be important for our gut health, which requires a variety of microorganisms for good health.
While using the flour rather quickly is a good thing, letting the bread and the gluten develop slowly is a great thing. Most bread – even in a whole grain bakery – is set to rise and bake within a few hours. Traditional baking methods, especially using sourdough as the leavening, would take 24 hours or more to develop before baking. The gluten is consumed in the process and is far different than bread that hasn’t been given time to rise or is rushed in the process.

It makes sense that sensitivity to whole grains – and gluten – would develop when we’ve changed the recipe so drastically over the last couple hundred years. Because the final point is that we also eat so much more wheat exclusively and in so many of our foods.
The bread that I make – a sourdough bread from freshly stone ground organic whole grains – is appreciated and enjoyed by many people who have gluten sensitivity.
For the vast majority of people, the problem is not in the gluten. It just isn’t that simple. We can gain great insight by looking at traditional methods and ponder how we have changed things so dramatically, mostly to do it faster cheaper and easier. But at what true cost?

The final conclusions:
Use whole organic grains
Mill the grain with a stone ground mill
Use fresh flour, within a few hours of milling
Use traditional sourdough starter
Give the bread time to develop, 24 hours or more
Enjoy real bread!

Pickled Radishes

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

We have an abundance of radishes, and I was looking for ways to preserve them.
These pickles are a start:
In a small saucepan combine 1/2 cup each white vinegar, sweet white wine, water with garlic leaves scapes or minced gloves, pepper, thyme, bee balm or whatever herbs you prefer. Add about 2 teaspoons salt, and 2 teaspoons sugar. Cook that to a simmer for about 5 minutes. Let cool.
Meanwhile, slice chop or chunk enough radish to almost fill a pint jar loosely – about a dozen radishes.
Pour cooled brine over radishes, refrigerate, taste until ready (about 3 days) and I’m told this will keep for about a month.

The sweet taste of the radish combined with the brine is a lovely start, and then you get the hot radish taste to follow. These are full of changing flavors and the brine turns a lovely pink as well.

I won’t be going back to Sears

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

I just wanted a new mattress. I had discovered that two long twins equal a king. It was touch and go getting the used king mattress upstairs to my bedroom a few years ago, it tested the new relationship I was in but with his ingenuity and some pure combined muscle strength we did it. But the bed was bad to begin with and it only got worse over time.

That relationship was over sooner than the bed. My current love has flourished even with a bad bed, and two dogs, but we deserved something new.

Now the story gets worse and worse.
Sears appeared to have a good selection to choose from. I did my internet due diligence, and went to the local store. I also tried Art Van but was very distressed by the high pressure slaes tactics and the guarantee that every mattress there would fit up a narrow winding staircase. The two sales people at Sears seemed sincere, no hard sell, and steered me to a bed I liked.
I went back the next day and bought the two twins, arranged for delivery the next week, and the female sales person said she would always remember me because I was her first sale made with the Ipad.
I paid the delivery fee, I think $60, and an additional $15 to take away the old mattress.

I was texted, emailed, and finally called to confirm the delivery date. Noon on Wednesday. At 10 am on Wednesday I got a call from Sears and all I heard was there was a problem, and we were disconnected. No one called back. So I called the number and they said the bed wasn’t ready and would be delivered on Friday. I had already disassembled my bed and couldn’t get it back together on my own. I was promised an email coupon for 10% of the purchase price for the inconvenience.That never came.
But then a little before noon a truck appeared in the parking lot across the street, and I got a call asking where my house was. GPS sent them to the wrong place. But I wasn’t expecting them, since the delivery had been cancelled. They dashed upstairs with the two mattresses, glanced at the old one and said they wouldn’t take it. It had to be stain free. What? What old mattress is stain free and why would that matter and no one said anything about that. So I had three mattresses piled in my bedroom.

I called the nice salespeople at the local sears and they said oh yes, that is true. We can return your $15. But I have nowhere to sleep and can’t get into my bedroom hardly. No response. They couldn’t figure out how to return my money,as I paid with a debit card. I suggested a check and they said okay, and about ten minutes later they had a manager authorizing that return. I said I would like to complain about being misinformed and now having no way to set up my bed and she was only going to focus on getting me $15.

I had to pay a friend to come and move the old mattress so that I could at least set up my new bed and have a place to sleep.

i got a call from another manager later, who said of course they would pick up my mattress and the whole thing was a mistake. Someone would arrange for my old mattress to be picked up ASAP. I again tried to register a complaint, and she said it would be taken care of. I got a number to make the new arrangements.

That was set up for Friday, and on Thursday I got texts emails confirming my delivery. So I went on line and confirmed – the thought they were to deliver two more mattresses. So I called, spent some time on hold, and the person on the phone said yes we are delivering a foundation. Which was never part of the arrangement. So I clarified there was no delivery, only a pick up. She said oh yes, we had you down for two mattresses. She canceled that.

The guys in the truck came two hours before their scheduled time on Friday, I wasn’t fully ready, and they also parked in the wrong place, missing my street entirely. But they had the mattress down stairs and gone in record time.

Each time I went on line to check and then to follow up I was asked how Sears did. Each time I rated the service as very poor. Each time – five times total – I asked for a follow up email and gave my contact info. In the next week I got a couple dozen emails from Sears about sales and coupons and it took almost two weeks to get unsubscribed from everything. Five complaints filed on line asking for follow up and twice on the phone, there was no follow up. I asked for reimbursement of the $25 I had to pay to get someone to help me at the last minute move the mattress that I thought I was now stuck with.

It was a stressful week. It was three days of upheaval and uncertainty. It was time spent waiting but all at the wrong time and for the wrong thing.

The check for $15 came the next week. That was to reimburse me for the mattress removal fee.

I counted about 12 errors in the simple delivery of two mattresses. And no corporate response, no acknowledgement, no one taking responsibility. A major breakdown in communications within the company and then with the customer. This is a company gone rogue, and apparently no idea that things have fallen apart. With such great blindness there can be no trust, no accountability, nothing you can rely on. That sort of blundering has reverberations throughout the entire corporation.

I do not want to ever buy anything from Sears again. I will avoid their store even if it was to be convenient our cost saving to shop there. It shouldn’t be possible to screw up so badly and not even notice. It shouldn’t be allowed to file 7 total complaints and not get one acknowledgement or a single response from any level. They do not deserve my business, I was warned that they are irresponsible and I didn’t listen. I let people know through facebook and now through blogging that this is not a good company to do business with, and they are entirely unreliable in customre service. I hope you will take my advice.

Meanwhile, the bed has turned out very well. It only took about two weeks to not feel stressed for a bit each night, thinking about the error of making the purchase from Sears. There is a hidden cost shopping from Sears in stress, time, and aggravation. Don’t pay it. Shop somewhere else. That’s my advice.