The importance of organic

Not just the importance of organic but just “being green” in general. I wasn’t always concerned about the environment like I currently am. Sure, I recycled but that was about it. When I was younger, I didn’t know what an organic lifestyle even was.

And then my mother and grandmother were both diagnosed with different health issues and it made me think about what would happen to me as I aged. I didn’t want diabetes or macular degeneration. Or anything!

So, over the last decade and a half, I learned. A lot. I’m now very dedicated to the organic industry and being as kind as I can to this overburdened earth. Conventional methods (farming, living, eating, etc) are literally poisoning everything on the planet because they almost always involve toxic chemicals that find their way into our food, air, soil, water and our bodies! We need all of these to be healthy in order TO LIVE. I get that now.

Last week I helped a 72 year old woman organize her severely cluttered walk-in pantry. Every cardboard box, every tin can of expired food, every piece of plastic she was discarding, I took! She kept telling me, “You’re making more work for yourself”.

I kept telling her I wasn’t. Eventually we had ‘the talk’.

After my brother’s recent scolding banning (!!!?!?!?!?!??!) of my recycling in his home, I thought about who I am and why I do the things I do. Simply put, I consider myself to be a steward of this earth. It’s arrogant for us to believe we can abuse this planet while we live upon it. It’s careless to believe we don’t need to consider future generations. It’s that kind of thinking that has us precisely where we are! And yes, I was guilty of it once.

My brother has kids!!!!!! I cannot comprehend the chosen nonchalance because it’s so far removed from who I am today.

When I mentioned to Judy (not her real name, lol) that she had grandchildren and she should safeguard the earth for them, her matter-of-fact response blew me away. “I don’t care. I won’t be here forever”. I know there are people like Judy everywhere (my brother, my mother. . . . ), the state of our environment is proof enough. But it quite fries my brain to actually speak with someone like her. I was speechless after she said that, my mouth was probably hanging open, and I simply had to go back into the pantry 🙂 I wasn’t going to begin an argument with her. It wouldn’t have changed anything.

I’m only 46. I shudder to think of the environmental damages mankind will still do while I’m alive. And Mother Nature is paying us back! Big time! Massive wild fires are raging across Canada already and it’s unusually early in the season. There IS a connection between how we’ve treated this planet and all the ‘natural’ disasters we see every day. It’s the same as not taking care of our own health, we get sick.

Well, this world is sick. Because we haven’t taken care of it.

Why is it easier for so many people to ignore this and live in their little bubbles instead?

Living green isn’t that difficult. Find a starting point and proceed from there. Choose organic whenever possible. Don’t use man-made, beneficial insect-killing chemicals on your lawn or in your garden. Make your own environmentally-friendly house cleaning supplies. Walk when you can, rather than drive. Recycle. Give stuff away instead of tossing it in the garbage!

Use a really good, natural, vegan bar of hand and body soap made with certified organic ingredients. It’s better for you, our waterways, the animals, our entire planet.

And there’s my segue to my new website!

https://simpleorganicsoap.wordpress.com/

It’s currently still being worked upon but is largely complete. Have a look-see if bar soap like I mentioned is something you’re interested in.

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Dandelions

I’ve known for a long time that you could eat dandelion greens and dandelion root. I even have dandelion tea in my cupboard. What I didn’t realize until last night was the flowers are edible too!

I discovered this after doing some Googling because my dog had eaten some dandelion blossoms I’d picked and tossed. In all her 5+ years, she’s had dandelions growing all around her and had no interest in them UNTIL I threw picked ones on the ground. Go figure.

I’ve been heavy into making my own natural and organic bars of soap. It is SO easy and so much fun. Wanting to keep all the ingredients truly opposite of synthetic, I’ve been researching the kinds of things that can be added to soap.

Flower petals are on the list. I have chamomile and red rose petals on order but I began to wonder if I could use dandelions. Goodness knows there are enough of them around here at this time of year! I can make sure they’re not from an area that’s sprayed or well-traveled by dogs 🙂 and go on a harvesting spree.

Dandelion flowers can be used to make tea and infuse oil, for soap making. Infused oils can adopt many of the medicinal properties of the herb. I’m going one step further and drying the flowers as well. I want a dandelion soap that’s really dandelion-y. Flower petals can add an exfoliating aspect and a visual one also.

I’ve experimented with natural colorants and will hope for yellow although I likely won’t achieve it. So far I’ve ended up nowhere near what I was aiming for 🙂 and that’s okay, I’m happy with the earthy results I did get.

  • Rosehips, in 2 forms, liquid and ground, began rust red and ended up very chocolate brown.
  • Turmeric, which yielded a bright, yellow, infused oil, gave me off white. It has poppy seeds in it.
  • Paprika infused oil with ground lemon peel, once wonderfully orange, is now caramel in color.
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All 3 soaps are exfoliating and I must say, having never tried an exfoliating soap before, I HIGHLY recommend it. Aside from making your skin healthier, smoother and softer, it just feels good! The scrubby scratchiness 🙂 I’ll be experimenting with coconut flakes, oatmeal, clay and the aforementioned flower petals soon!

My latest venture is what I’m calling my Peppermin-Tea soap. You guessed it, it has peppermint tea in it. It began rather dark in color and settled on this, I’m not sure what shade of brown it is, but I think it’s pretty.

And the soap that started this whole obsession is very plain, no natural coloring attempts, just olive oil and/or coconut oil, both with amazing lathering qualities.

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For soap that’s free of everything harmful (and conventional soap is loaded with toxins!), buy some natural and organic soap today. And I say organic because even natural soaps made with conventional ingredients are not that fabulous.

 

 

 

False Solomon’s Seal

Before I joined a local Facebook group about edible nature in Northern BC, I’d never heard of False Solomon’s Seal. Recently, many of the members have been posting their pictures of this strange (to me) flowering plant. I’ve long been a fan of fiddleheads but typically can’t find them close to home. So I’ve missed out on them for several years now 😦

But it’s okay! False Solomon’s Seal to the rescue!

I impulsively veered off into the bush yesterday while I was walking my dogs and I found some! There’s a ‘true’ and a ‘false’ version of this plant. I made sure I had the right one before eating it.

The last picture is the easiest way to be sure you have the proper Solomon’s Seal. False will have a flower bud on the end. True will have flowers and berries along the underside.

Let me tell you, False Solomon’s Seal IS delicious! Mild and sweet. Many people say it’s similar to asparagus but I’d disagree. Only because I suppose we all have different taste buds 🙂

Now that I know where I can pick it, and it’s close to home, I’m going for more later today. The only “aggravation” is having 2 dogs on leashes, lol. For some reason, they rarely want to go in the direction I do! Or in the same direction as each other. The rewards though (more False Solomon’s Seal for dinner, fresh air, exercise and being in nature) are well worth it.

If you can find it where you live, I highly recommend it. And here’s a link to a great website that features True and False Solomon’s Seal.

False — and true — Solomon’s seal

Vermicomposting

Shoot! I had 2 drafts going at once and published the wrong one! I don’t know if I can ‘unpublish’ something without actually deleting it, so here it stays. . . . . minus proper editing. Argh. I can’t be bothered now 🙂

Composting with worms. I’ve intended to do this for years. Although I’ve buried plant-based kitchen scraps in my garden for a while now, I’ve neglected to specifically compost with worms. As an organic gardener, I’m very interested in how I can feed and nurture my veggies. Naturally. Synthetic, cancer-causing chemicals are not welcome in my body, in my food or in my home. They can stay away from my yard, and all the critters that reside here, too!

We live in a world full of chemicals used to kill fungus, bacteria, insects, plant diseases, snails, slugs, as well as undesirable plants or “weeds”. Oftentimes, these chemicals kill indiscriminately, much like antibiotics destroy bad bacteria along with the good! It’s why we’re seeing a decline in bees and monarch butterflies, to only name two. We should be protecting and caring for all of the beneficial insects because without them, healthy soil and rain/water, the human race would quite possibly die. Our food supply depends on these three basic things, along with farmers of course.

Since I’m also a vegan, I’ve rejected the standard animal manures many people use. Biosolids? NEV. ER. I’m OKAY with worms though. I’m super vigilant when I’m raking up yard debris like leaves and branches or when I’m moving heavy items such as firewood, rocks or lumber. If I see a worm, I must pick it up! And save it.

A sure sign of tip-top soil is the presence of worms. And let me tell you, I have worms! It thrills me to no end, when I turn my shovel, and see their wonderful, squiggly bodies. Weird perhaps, lol, but I can handle that category. I think I covered it last year when I wrote about my toads 🙂

And speaking of toads, I found my first one yesterday! I was wondering if they were out yet and now I have my answer. He (or she, I can’t tell, nor do I care) was under an old board in my main garden bed. I was looking for worms, not expecting a toad. I took a QUICK pic and left it be. Toads in the garden is a good thing! Although now I have to be careful walking around my yard at night, when I let the dogs out to do their business.

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I did some preliminary research 2 nights ago, and much more yesterday morning, because I’m anxious to finally get at it! This business of vermicomposting. I learned very quickly there are two main types of worms; earthworms (commonly called night crawlers) and redworms.

They’re each valuable but have different tasks in our garden.

earfhwormsEarthworms, aptly named, are responsible for ‘moving earth’. They do a lot of mixing and aerating, traveling deeper than redworms, taking organic material with them. They’re not suited for composting as they need to burrow through soil to eat and survive.

 

redwormsRedworms, however, are designed for consuming kitchen scraps and yard waste. They have voracious appetites and will make short work of the food you provide them. They migrate upwards, towards food placed above them.

In return, they’ll multiply and give you lots of poop! The more civilized term would be castings 🙂

Worm castings improve soil texture and provide high nutrient levels your plants will thrive on. This valuable “waste” is significantly more beneficial than regular compost and highly admired by serious gardeners..

To be honest, I resist the idea of having to buy worms. I try to use what I already have these days. It fits well with my anti-buying mentality. I’m an eco-friendly person and want to tread as lightly as possible upon this planet. I KNOW. Buying worms would not be a huge deal considering what I’d be doing with them. But still. I’m stubborn.

During my perusal of the many different websites offering advice on how to layer a worm bin, I discovered the plethora of materials used. Broken bricks, pebbles, leaves, shredded newspaper, grass clippings, cardboard. All of these, and more, can have a function in your worm bin. Personally, because I’m an organics freak, I dislike the notion of cardboard and newspaper, which can and do have ink on them. I wouldn’t eat a piece of newspaper, so I’m not going to feed it to my worms either. I use organic sugar when I make hummingbird food and organic nuts and seeds when I make suet for my chickadees and woodpeckers. It would be otherwise hypocritical to me. I don’t want to harm myself with conventional foods but will potentially endanger the teeny, tiny bodies of the birds with it? No way, José. It’s why my dogs eat well also 🙂

In regards to this worm bin, I decided I was going to employ creativity instead. I have the space and the time to adapt and conjure up my own version. For those of you who are confined to utilizing an actual, store-bought contraption, you’ll obviously require a purchase of worms.

Me, I’m making an open worm bin, from wood. NO plastic for this plastic-hater! I’ll designate an area in my yard and measure off a 3′ x 4′ section. I’ll dig down a full 6-12 inches and then begin constructing the sides. I believe 3′ will be deep enough, with the option to go higher if necessary. OR I’ll make an off-the-ground bin with a tray below. It’s an as-I-go project. And I’m known to change my mind.

I’ll do layers like I’m supposed to but ONLY with organic materials gathered from around my yard. Leaves, dead grass, broken up pieces of bark, etc. I also have organic eggshells and organic coffee grounds. I think I’ll be pretty pleased with the outcome.

In the meantime, because I couldn’t wait, I concocted a smaller model directly in my main garden bed. Maybe it’ll work, maybe it won’t. It didn’t cost me anything and the worms are free to wander, if they so choose. It’s an experiment.

I had an old, wooden drawer missing the bottom. I nestled it snugly in a corner of my garden bed. I layered dead grass, dead leaves, an organic potting soil blend with includes peat moss and dirt. I put in some worms, not a huge amount, just what I could readily find. More dirt. Leaves only this time and then my (previously frozen) kitchen scraps (celery, spinach, carrots mostly) and some crushed eggshells. I have SO MANY saved from when I wasn’t a vegan. Now I can put them to use. More dirt and leaves on top of the food and more worms! Covered by more dirt and then finally some large, super thick pieces of bark.

I did all of this while it was cloudy. Worms can dry out very fast when the sun is shining. It’s also why I dig in the garden, preparing it for planting, when it’s overcast. A light, rainy day is even better!

I watered each level as I went, not too much but enough I hope! And as mentioned, if the worms don’t like it, they can leave. MY EPD was near by as usual, with her EPB. (that would be my Ever Present Dog with her Ever Present Ball, lol). I also call her Charlotte.

I figured, half way through the process, it made sense to have worms above the kitchen scraps, as opposed to below when using redworms. If earthworms travel down, they’ll encounter the food, and hopefully stay to eat. And then they can go elsewhere, they’re not trapped in a plastic bin. The most difficult thing for me will be leaving it alone! I already want to see WHERE the worms are. Are they eating? Are they gone? What are they doing?!

There are several key things one should know when composting with worms:

  • Type needed – redworms, not earthworms found in your yard.
  • Moisture – too much slows down their activity, not enough, they’ll dry out and die.
  • Food – mainly plant-based but also ground eggshells. NO fish, meat, cheese, dairy or oily, greasy stuff. Coffee grounds – limited because they’re acidic
  • Shade – they prefer it, please don’t leave the bin in the blazing sun
  • Ventilation – is a must
  • Sand and soil mixed in the bedding will provide grit for digestion
  • When they’re happy, they can double their numbers every 90 days 🙂

I’ll keep you posted on the success, or failure, of my worm composting adventures. And if it’s something you’re keen to try, it’s easy enough to Google ‘how to compost with worms’.

You gotta love the internet. AND worms!

http://www.homecompostingmadeeasy.com/wormcomposting.html

Okay, I did include one link, the information on this particular site was exceptional. Like any subject I’ve researched, I’ve learned how scattered important details can be. It’s not often I find one written piece that covers a lot of ground.

 

 

Organic? Yes!

I was thinking last night, because I do that sometimes 🙂 and a question occurred to me. One that I’d ask people who don’t purchase, or grow, organic food. Whenever I’m grocery shopping, I often look in the buggies of other shoppers. I see zero, some or all organics and I’m curious as to what their reasons are. A huge thumbs up to fellow supporters of organics!

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I suppose there are 4 categories of people who don’t buy organics; those that simply never consider it and are completely neutral, those that feel it’s unnecessary, those that dismiss it due only to cost and those that downright disagree with it. As with most any subject, there will always be individuals who vehemently deny the value of something.

But here’s a question (or two). Would they spray Windex (I only thought of this because it’s blue and noticeable, imagine another cleaner if you want) on their food and then eat it? Would you? Of course not! Why then is it okay for food to be sprayed, although out of sight, with toxic fertilizers (biosolids aka sewage sludge!), pesticides and such?

This is how most conventional food is grown. Never mind the typically genetically modified, pre-treated seeds and nutrient depleted soil. I despair especially for babies and children who consume conventional food, their bodies are so small and definitely more susceptible to harm.images (53)

Now, I will never claim organic is perfect. Every industry has flaws. However, you’re far better off purchasing organic as much as you can. So is the planet and every living creature upon it (bees, for example, are dying because of pesticides). At least begin with the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen.

Home gardening is also another wonderful option and can be as basic as window boxes if that’s all you can manage. Indoor sprouting is great too for those micro greens. Using a neighbor’s back yard. Containers. So many ways. And then you can control what gets sprayed, or not, on your produce.

Although easy enough to Google yourself, here are some quick links to the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen. If you’re just starting the journey to becoming organic, this is a good place to begin. I also recommend doing the research. I’ve done mine over the years and it’s why I’m 100% confident in advocating an organic lifestyle. There was a time when I didn’t have a clue! I’m so glad I now do 🙂

http://www.fullyraw.com/dirty-dozen-clean-15/

http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/clean_fifteen_list.php

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/queen-of-green/faqs/food/what-are-the-dirty-dozen-and-the-clean-fifteen/

http://www.sustainablebabysteps.com/dirty-dozen.html