Coconut Sprout

Here’s our baby coconut palm tree – named Indira - just potted in her new home, which she’ll probably grow out of in a few months.

Why not grow a coconut tree in your house? It’s going to be a long winter, so we might as well keep things interesting.

Sprouting a store-bought coconut is insanely easy. Horticulturalists and YouTubers will have some work-intensive ways to do this, but the reality is that it’s ridiculously simple, and once it sprouts, you have a coconut tree in your living room in winter, and outdoors in summer (in U.S. Zone 8b and below). If you’re lucky and live at or above Zone 9a, you can plant coconut palms outdoors.

To start, you want a healthy (very preferably organic) coconut that is full of water. Shake it and listen. If you hear a lot of sloshing around, this coconut has lots of water inside. The sprout will use this life-giving water like a placenta to begin its journey.

Rinse the coconut, and place it in a bucket of room temperature water (if you only have chlorinated tap water, use spring, well, or distilled water instead). Place something – like a large rock – on top of the coconut so that it stays submerged. Soak it for three days in the warmest part of your house, and keep it in the dark. Cover it with a towel if you need to.

After 3 days, remove the coconut from the water, rinse again, and place it in a gallon-sized Ziplock bag. Add a little fresh water to the bag, and stand the coconut up so that the three holes at the top end are facing upward. Seal the bag. Place the bagged coconut back in the bucket, holes facing up, and place it in the warmest spot in your house.

Give your coconut a name, write it down, and place it somewhere on the bucket. Believe me, it works. Plants are aware.

Now, wait. It takes anywhere from 4 weeks to 6 months to sprout. From time to time, check the bag and replenish the water if necessary. Eventually, you’ll see, emerging from the holes, several tap roots and a young palm sprout.

Now, you can pot up the coconut in a light, sandy soil mixture, in the largest pot possible, and place outdoors in the sun, or indoors in a warm, sunny window. Keep it moist, warm, and bright.

A growing coconut palm is always hungry, so feed it often with a 10-10-10 or other balanced fertilizer. A potted coconut especially will gobble up all the soil’s nutrients in a short time. Don’t let the soil go bone dry: coconuts are tropicals, so their native climate is warm and bright with frequent rain.

For aesthetics, I planted our sprout, named Indira, with the entire nut above soil and the roots below. I think it looks amazing this way. But you can plant the nut below the soil and the tree will grow nicely.

Indira looks healthy and, barring any problems, will likely grow fast. What am I going to do when she starts getting really big? I haven’t thought about that yet. And I can’t think of a better problem to have on my hands than a beautiful, fat, happy coconut tree.

Live in peace.


 The last of our garden tomatoes – Russian Black and Italian plum, both ripe and unripe.

 The last of our rosemary bush – chopped, tied, and hung in the kitchen to dry. Sprigs of rosemary will go into the water I use to humidify the air in the house this winter.

The last of our garden flowers – pink cosmos, and purple butterfly bush.

Yesterday, we picked the last of the tomatoes, and my husband tilled the plants into the soil. I took the last few flowers from the flower bed -a small bouquet of pink cosmos and purple butterfly bush – put them in a vase, and placed it on our indoor shrine. I chopped the rosemary bush to the soil line, tied up bunches of it, and hung the last of our fresh garden rosemary in the kitchen to dry.

These were the last of the garden chores for the season. Everything rests now. It was a blissful and productive summer, punctuated with lots of great, fresh garden food. It was cold this morning, so I filled the bird feeder with black oil sunflower seeds, and made some strong, hot tea.

I’m sad, I’m not going to lie about it. Winter feels like an interminable season. I dislike putting on heavy clothes, socks, and shoes. I miss the scent of the ocean. I worry about animals outdoors when the weather becomes bitterly cold.

Now, the time is here to make pots of tea to sip all day, read great books, make things grow indoors, consider house projects, enjoy football, get deep into Buddhism studies, renew our Sunday delivery of The New York Times, and maybe reconnect with friends.

Come January, the spring gardening catalogs will start to roll in. And we’ll be planning the summer garden.

There is one long, large pot of young arugula off the kitchen door outside. In about a week, I’ll chop it all and make one last big arugula salad, or I’ll plant it in a row in the greens area of the food garden, cover it with a tunnel, and see how long it goes. I’m keeping it simple these days, so it might just be a big salad in October.

Today is the anniversary of my dad’s death. And we learned the day before yesterday that our beautiful friend River will be alive for only a few more days. He didn’t beat the cancer.
And the garden sleeps. Change and impermanence. Nothing stays the same, and we’re called upon to accept it all with grace, even gratitude. That’s my work for now.

Live in peace.

Hello, Autumn

The tofu press is the best investment I’ve made in a while. It pressed the tofu for last night’s Thai curry. I grilled the pressed tofu and topped the curry with it. Magic.

It’s the first day of autumn, and as always, a strange time of year. Today, it’s a warm 85 degrees and sunny, but the light is no longer summer light, the days are getting noticeably shorter, and the maple trees are just starting to color. Over our heads, Canada geese are flying south. Even my body is changing course.

I’m not craving the big salads I wanted at the start of summer. For the past two nights, I had hot tea before bed. The house is warm, but I definitely don’t want to turn the air conditioner back on. I’m feeling a little drowsier, a little slower.

The banana trees are definitely rebounding. From the centers of the plants are new, long fronds reaching up. Last night, I pinched the old, spent leaves off the bottom of the Basjoo banana. They’re drinking a lot of water, and are getting a little nitrogen each time they’re watered. But there are many months to go before they go outside for summer, so it’s going to be a long road with lots of possible problems. This is my first time with bananas, so it’s all a learning process.

Last night’s dinner was a light, spicy, red Thai curry with grilled tofu. My best method for tofu preparation so far is to freeze it, drain it, press it, and grill it. It renders a chewy, somewhat dry, super dense tofu that’s loaded with protein.

I’m not nuts about protein intake the way many people are now. There’s protein in all food, except for pure sugar and pure carbs, so I don’t worry about getting enough. I think we’ve been whipped into a frenzy by industrial meat and dairy producers in regards to getting enough protein. I’m pretty certain most of us get enough without even trying. No need to kill animals and eat their flesh or steal their milk or eggs in order to get your protein. That’s just caveman thinking. Get over it.

We are, unbelievably, approaching the last week of September. But as long as these temperatures hold up, I’m good. My body can’t be fooled, but I can dream.

Let’s do some astral projection: it’s July, and we’re on a quiet beach in Kuta, Indonesia. We’ve gathered ripe mangoes from the trees and are drinking water from young coconuts. We just went for a swim, and are lying in the sand, with the sun warming and drying our skin. All around us are banana, papaya, mango, coconut, and citrus trees. We’re starting to doze. Life is good.

Live in peace.

Awesome Yellow Curry, and the Bananas Survived the Journey

Kanokwan is a Thai brand I’d never heard of. I spotted it at the local health food store, and for only a few dollars, though I’d try it. Great impulse buy.

I realized last weekend that I basically travelled through summer with one bag of clothes, which made me think, why do I have drawers full of clothes at home? So now, there’s a growing pile of giveaway clothes in my dressing room. It feels great to give these clothes to people who will use them, rather than hoard them, and it’s going to make my journey a lot lighter, which I love.

Purging clutter is always freeing. House clutter, clothes clutter, mind clutter – it all slows us down, keeps us from moving forward. If you’ve ever done a sweeping clean of something, you know what I mean. It always reminds me of the wisdom of all the greatest minds in history: travel light, keep it simple, we’re just passing through.

I have found THE packaged Thai yellow curry. It’s warm but not hot, clean tasting, and easy to use. Kanokwan is a brand I’d never heard of before. I spotted it at the local health food store, and for only a few dollars, though I’d try it. A great impulse buy. I recommend it.

The two banana plants that arrived a bit travel-worn in the mail last week are looking better. They survived the trip, yay! That's the first hurdle. A little nitrogen and 16-hour days under the grow lights are making a difference. I’m really hoping they’ll be bigger and stronger by next May.

Wouldn’t it be great to have banana trees outdoors and around the house in summer? I’m hoping the Basjoo banana does well so it can take a permanent place outside. The Thai banana seeds are under the lights too, but it could take weeks or even months for them to germinate. And they may not germinate at all. Gardening is full of suspense and awesomeness.

Live in peace.

Thai Red Curry and Sticky Rice for Dinner – For Both of Us!

Our new sticky rice cooker took a long time to get here from Thailand, but is totally worth it. We used it to make sticky rice last night to go with yummy tofu red curry.

I thought I was dreaming last night when my meat-and-potatoes husband said he was feeling a little Thai food for dinner. He knows it’s going to be vegan, and yet, he asked for it.

I had our new sticky rice cooker (which took a long time to get here from Thailand!) out and on the stove in a minute. We made some tofu red curry with green pepper, onion, lemongrass, garlic, and mango. It was amazing, and there’s leftovers for lunch today!

I’m really favoring Thai over Indian food lately. It’s lighter and fresher, and there’s lots of lime and mango involved. I adore both. Lemongrass is another favorite of mine, and that appears a lot in Thai food. Don’t get me wrong – I will always love Indian food! But I’m definitely feeling a draw to lighter nourishment.

My husband, who hates Indian food, is warming up to Thai. This would be great: no more making two different meals at dinner. And if he starts enjoying vegan meals, I would call that an enormous win.

My husband’s culture is about meat consumption at every meal. I wasn’t raised that way. My parents were 60’s-era hippie intellectuals, and Dad hated meat and animal products. There were foods he simply wouldn’t allow on the dinner table. But my husband was raised in a different environment, and was taught that each meal should orbit around a serving of meat.

I love that, after almost 5 years of marriage, and without me nagging – or even suggesting - he’s altering his eating habits for the better, if just a little. I’ll never push him, and never make it an issue. But he’s not hard of smelling, and when that glorious Thai food is simmering on the stove, it’s hard to ignore the fragrance.

I’ve been hearing lots about high-quality organic foods appearing at Costco. I never thought I’d buy a membership to Costco, but I did. The cards should come in the mail soon.
Organic gets expensive, we eat enough organic that we could buy in bulk without waste, and California’s droughts have virtually guaranteed a big price hike for fruits and veggies this winter and beyond. Trying to stretch a dollar once the food garden has gone to bed for winter is a challenge. I’ll let you know what we find at Costco.

This month, I return to Buddhist studies at Wesleyan. Very happy and excited for it. I love the fellowship, discussion, meditation, and teachings. The Buddhist Faith Fellowship is wonderful, and we in Connecticut are so lucky to have it here.

My husband and I are talking about our annual trip to Vermont next month. I’m psyched for lunch at the Moon Dog Café, and there’s a sangha in Southern Vermont I’d like to visit. He’s looking for fresh Vermont maple syrup (I’m down with that!) and a few glass-blowing studios to visit. And we’ll need fresh apples for apple pie.

Live in peace.

Readying for Winter

 I made vegan dog treats this weekend. Sweet potato, garlic, wheat flour, agave, garden parsley, carrots, hemp seeds, peanut butter and olive oil combined, kneaded, rolled, cut, and baked for about 20 minutes made yummy puppy treats that our dogs went nuts for.

 The mango trees graduated to larger pots over the weekend. They’re looking good!

 I planted the Thailand Black Stem banana seeds on Sunday. They have a nice, warm spot under the grow lights.

A big bag of plum tomatoes from the garden became a feast of fresh salsa.

It was a busy weekend with preparations for a Connecticut winter.

The summer annual herbs that had pretty much died were composted and the pots stored in the shed. Nearly everything that’s going to overwinter indoors was brought indoors.

The giant grow rack was assembled and placed near the sunniest window in the house. On the top tier are all the citrus, pineapple, and one geranium. We removed the top tier of lights, and will allow the winter sun to warm the top tier, the largest plants.

The second tier is mango trees, Basjoo banana trees, Thai Black Stem banana seeds in germination pots, a pot of Genovese basil seeds for germination, and two avocado pits that started to root outdoors. There’s also a baggie of mango pits wrapped in paper towels that we’re trying to germinate. Those 15 mangoes I bought last week are delicious, and may well be productive.

The third tier will be the last of the geraniums to come inside. They’ll get the Chelsea chop and go under the lights until late spring.

I repotted the mango trees in larger clay pots. But I snapped a root on one when transplanting, so we’ll see what the next few days bring. I hope it’s ok. I also planted those new banana seeds, and gave them a warm spot under the grow lights.

We pulled the almost last of the tomatoes from the food garden. With a big bag of Italian plums, I made fresh salsa. The heirlooms are for straight eating, and today’s lunch is a toasted garden tomato sandwich. I realize that this is one of the last toasted tomato sandwiches until next summer. Boo.

But now begins an interesting season for gardening. Winter is when I try new things with germination and hydroponics. I already have an idea of a hydroponic arrangement for a cactus I’d like to try. And the next papaya I buy is going to give me seeds to try for a papaya tree. Last night, I was looking at designs for amazing glass terrariums.

And finally, we hung up the bird feeder Saturday, and by Sunday morning, the birds had found it and there was a crowd. This will be some supplemental food for the little darlings until the spring thaw. And they’re eye candy for our dogs, who will sit by the window on snowy days and watch the birds, squirrels, and chipmunks for hours.

We’re still getting tomatoes, although they’re ripening on the plants very slowly now. My husband is anxious to raze it all to the ground, but I’m holding off. I’m in no rush at all to put the garden to bed for winter. We still have three days left to summer, and I’m holding on tight.

Live in peace.

Starting the Banana Trees!

The Thailand Black Stem banana seeds arrived yesterday! After a quick examination of the 10 small grape-sized, hard-as-steel seeds, I placed them in a bowl of warm spring water to soak for a few days.

The Thailand Black Stem banana seeds arrived yesterday! I was ridiculously excited. After a quick examination of the 10 small grape-sized, hard-as-steel seeds, I placed them in a bowl of warm spring water to soak for a few days.

The instructions say to soak the seeds for 24 hours before planting. I know this won’t be enough. These seeds are very, very thick skinned. On Sunday, I’ll plant them up in a light, well-draining soil, and place them on a heat mat for germination.

It looks like the young banana trees will arrive today. I’m a bit anxious about what kind of shape they’ll be in. I may be deep into damage control for several weeks. Today, I’m visiting the local nursery for some fresh potting soil and pots. Cross your fingers. What an adventure!

Last night, we brought all the citrus into the house for winter. The nights are too cold now for citrus to survive. So I’m bracing myself for the leaf drop that will happen once the citrus realize that summer is over. It looks like the lime tree is free from mealybugs, but I’ll spray it a few more times for good measure. The lemons on the lemon tree might not come to maturity in the house. We may have to take the loss. I just hope they’ll all survive winter in the house.

Today’s lunch is a toasted tomato sandwich using one of the last vine-ripe tomatoes from the food garden. Sad times. There’s several green tomatoes still, but they’ll probably not ripen up on the plants. I’ll likely bring them indoors to ‘ripen’. It’s a poor substitute for still-warm-from-the-sun, vine-ripened tomatoes. I’ll soon be counting down the days until next summer.

My husband’s birthday is this weekend, so we have lots of fun plans. Looking forward to some fellowship with family and friends, time on the boat, good food, and his very special birthday cake.

Live in peace.

‘Superfood’ or Snake Oil?

I’m introducing maca root into my morning superfood smoothies, beginning with a half teaspoon a day for a week. I’ll slowly increase to about a tablespoon a day. With winter coming, morning smoothies will include more cacao powder, PBFit, and coconut oil and butter, and maca root’s nutty taste will work nicely.

I’m slowly introducing maca root into my morning superfood smoothies. Also called Peruvian ginseng, maca is an ancient adaptogenic herb that reportedly naturally balances hormones (by lowering cortisone levels), helps the body deal with different stressors, and boosts energy and sex drive. All great things.

I’m beginning with a half teaspoon a day for a week. I’ll slowly increase to about a tablespoon a day. With winter coming, morning smoothies will include more cacao powder, PBFit, and coconut oil and butter, and maca root’s nutty taste will work nicely.

I’m wary of the hugely popular label ‘superfoods’. It’s the word-of-the-moment in the whole foods movement. It’s a growing part of the economy: a lot of people are making a lot of money from ‘superfoods’.

If you’re smart, anytime something becomes a trend, check it thoroughly before you try it.  My approach is to do search into its processing methods and any reports of allergic reactions, illnesses, or deaths. Is it ethically sourced? What’s the vitamin/mineral content after processing? Is it safe for dogs? (You never know if they’ll get into something or I’ll drop some on the floor.) What’s the cost? Can I get the same benefits for less money?

There’s superfood, and there’s snake oil. My dad used to say that there’s a sucker born every minute, and two to take him. This applies in earnest to the health/superfood movement, to veganism, vegetarianism, yoga, fair trade products, organics, spiritualism, and everything else that has become popular and generally accepted.

Wherever there’s money being made, keep your eyes and ears open. My approach is to do the research, and then if it seems to make some sense, try it for myself. If I don’t see positive effects, it’s not the food for me.

So we’ll see about the popular superfood called maca. So far, it hasn’t caused any digestive woes, and that’s the first hurdle. I was into Alaska- and Maine-sourced chaga in a big way for a long time, but eventually, it was causing tummy problems, and I stopped drinking it. I do miss it a lot, but when my tummy speaks, I listen.

I’ve also been incorporating pink dragon fruit into morning smoothies, mainly because I love anything tropical in flavor, and it offers decent amounts of vitamins A and C. It’s also way pink. But dragon fruit, too, is being touted as the latest miracle superfood. In my humble opinion, it’s not. It’s always better to eat fruit over candy, meat, dairy, or oil, but it’s not ‘superfood’. It’s just good food.

I’ve definitely been duped into buying snake oil. I think it’s inevitable when you’re curious and live with a restrictive lifestyle (although there’s nothing at all about veganism that feels restrictive). So I don’t get angry or berate myself when I’ve bought into a superfood trend that turns out to be flawed.

Right now, the morning smoothie usually includes coconut water, a little agave, banana, mango, spirulina, powdered greens, a scoop of protein/greens powder, and maca. Seven of those eight elements are proven good for my body: the maca remains to be seen.

I’ve just seen two great documentaries. ‘Fed Up’ is a look at the corporate food industry’s success in duping us into believing a lot of things about food and health that are not only not true, but are in fact lies that are killing us in the name of corporate profit. The film examines childhood obesity, which has become utterly rampant. It looks at the fallacies of calorie restriction, extreme diets, and supermarket ‘health’ foods. I really recommend this one.

The other film is ‘Holy Hell’, a look at a longtime spiritual cult once based in California called ‘Buddhafield’. It’s a not-unfamiliar story that follows the cult from inception to its breakdown after its guru was exposed as a pathological narcissist who preached simplicity and celibacy but who was living extravagantly and having a lot of sex with a lot of his male ‘disciples’.

I liked the film, and as sad a story as it is, there’s redemption at the end of it. I might get into this in another post here, but I too was a member of such a spiritual cult, for a long time – no less than 10 years. There was no sexual abuse involved in my experience with the cult, but it had its novel beliefs and practices.

And in the course of time, our leader’s actions were brought to light, an uproar ensued, and the group dissolved. In many ways, though, I had some of the most interesting experiences of my life, I learned many things, and met the most amazing, curious, intelligent, vulnerable, beautiful people - many of whom are my friends today. All radiant souls who, like me, were just looking for something to light the way.

Live in peace.

Sleeping with Rumi, and Mealy Bugs on the Lime Tree

Coleman Barks is THE Rumi scholar, and his translations of this wonderful poetry are, in my humble opinion, the very best.

Last night was the first night that I could sense autumn’s approach. The sun set too early. The peepers and crickets had quieted down. When I went outside in a tank top, my skin felt cold. I smelled someone’s wood stove burning nearby. I knew it would get close to 50 degrees by morning, so I carried in all but one of the citrus trees.

Then I made hot tea, and pulled out my copy of The Essential Rumi. It felt like a Rumi night. While my husband watched football commentaries, I pored over Coleman Barks’ translations of the works of this mystical Persian poet.

The first cool nights always put me in the mood for Rumi. It’s funny how seasons always trigger in me a deep need to read one author or another. In June, I need Katherine Mansfield. In September, Rumi. November, Truman Capote.

December and January, James Joyce (and Joyce again in March). I’m also drawn to E.E. Cummings in winter. Spring is Marge Piercy and James Merrill. In summer, I always read authors and genres I’ve never or rarely read before, a lot of metaphysics, cosmology, and biography. And I always renew my subscription to the Sunday New York Times in October (ending it in spring).

Autumn, I won’t lie, is not my favorite season. But it is wonderful to cozy up under a soft blankie with a book of great poetry, some mind-changing non-fiction, or an engaging piece of fiction, and a bowl of hot tea.

Now for the bad news: last night, I spotted the worst thing you could spot on a citrus tree. There were three, big, dead, female mealybugs still clinging to the branches. Mealybugs are no strangers to me. They invade and kill house and outdoor plants quickly and ruthlessly. They move in great numbers, and kill by piercing the plant with razor sharp mouth parts and then latching on, slowly draining the plant of fluids and innards. They are insidious, ugly, and cruel.

That I found three dead females makes it all the worse. Female mealybugs die immediately after laying all their eggs on the undersides of leaves. Shortly after, the eggs hatch, and thousands of young, hungry mealybugs latch on to the plant and slowly destroy it.

A female mealybug will lay thousands of eggs before dying. Three dead females on this young tree means that there are many thousands of tiny eggs present. Sure enough, I spotted the egg sacs under the leaves.

Mealybugs are hard to beat. They have to be killed. If you take no action, the plant is doomed. And they will invade all nearby plants. So last night, I soaked the plant in neem oil. This morning, I soaked the plant twice with an insecticidal soap I make. 

Combine, in a clean spray bottle, a quart of spring or distilled water with a tablespoon of pure castile soap (I use Bronners), and a teaspoon of olive oil. Shake, and spray the entire plant, tops and bottoms of leaves, all stems, and the soil, until it’s saturated. The castile soap breaks down the mealybugs’ skin, and basically kill them by dehydrating them. It’s nasty, ugly work. It involves killing. It sucks. But either the plant dies or the mealybugs die.

There’s no guarantee that the spray will work. Mealybugs are tenacious. And the soap could kill the tree. These are known risks when battling mealybugs. But if you don’t treat the plant, the odds are 100 percent that it will die of the infestation. It’s just bad luck to find yourself battling mealybugs.

So, let’s hope for a win for the tree. I’ve been cherishing these citrus trees all summer, and would really hate to lose the lime. But if I do, it’s another lesson in impermanence. Those lessons keep coming and coming.

Live in peace.

Thai and Japanese Banana Plants, and an Amazing Vegan Haul

 I found this bottled organic mango puree at Foodworks last weekend: it looked so good, I bought two. It’s great.

 Found a Thai brand of coconut water that’s more affordable than the insane $5 and $6 a quart coconut water that’s out there.

 The tofu press is amazing. So grateful to finally have one.

I also scored an awesome, fair trade lunch bag for just a few dollars.

 I’ve settled on the Thailand Black Stem Banana for the winter’s tropical indoor ‘grown-from-seed’ project, and the seeds are ordered and on their way. I’m going for a big banana plant. Might as well have a 20-foot banana tree in the house.

But as always, I’ve gone a little crazy with this new adventure. As it turns out, mail-order banana trees in 4-inch pots are available for less than $10 each. Guess who ordered two last night.

I know mail order plants are a risk. But I’m gambling the $20 on a banana win. Arriving in a week are a winter-hardy Basjoo banana (a Japanese variety), and a dwarf Cavendish musa. I’ve seen, about three times here in Connecticut, banana trees, in the ground, all year round, getting bigger by the year. This Basjoo reportedly tolerates sub-freezing temperatures without becoming unstable. Our house could be the next banana tree house.

So my work this winter will be to get this small Basjoo into the best shape possible, then plant it outdoors in a permanent location next summer. How amazing would it be to have an outdoor banana tree? Pretty amazing. Let’s see what happens.

The Cavendish tops off at between two and four feet tall. It functions mainly as an ornamental that produces tiny bananas. I see it enjoying its life in the sunny window in our kitchen. But it all rests on what condition plants arrive and what I can make happen indoors all winter.

I’ve done the research and it looks like the route to germination of large, hard banana seeds is surface abrasion with a metal file to soften the seed husk, a 4-day soak in distilled water, and planting up in individual pots in well-drained potting soil. I already have a heat mat for germination, and that’s also highly recommended.

If it succeeds, this is going to be a fun winter. Cultivating Thai, Japanese, and dwarf banana trees in the house is one of my horticulture fantasies.

Banana trees eat and drink a lot. A mature indoor dwarf banana tree can reportedly drink up to two gallons of water a day. A high-nitrogen fertilizer applied frequently will help produce those sexy, glossy, strappy banana leaves.

In food news, the tofu press arrived Friday. I pressed a block of tofu overnight, and made super-spicy Thai yellow tofu curry. Amazing. This was a great investment. It’s really well made - in the U.S.A. - and is easy to use.

I forgot to mention in my last post that I had an epic visit at Foodworks, my favorite organic, fair trade, vegan supplies store, last weekend. Among the pantry staples of rice, bean thread, spices, tea, mangoes, limes, yerba mate, agave, nut milk, bananas, Mrs. Meyers cleaners, and Bronners soap, I scooped up some bottled organic mango puree.

My instincts told me this was a good thing, so I bought two bottles. It’s amazing. So far, it’s been added to curry tofu and morning smoothies. Don’t know how I’ve lived without it. I also scored an awesome, fair trade, Deadhead lunch bag for just a few dollars.

I also found affordable Thai coconut water. The brand is Zola. Have you checked out the price of coconut water lately? Five dollars and six dollars a quart! Coconut water is not rare, but food producers have figured out that lots of people like it, so the price has grown accordingly. I dislike the food industry’s ethics.

I’m looking around me now and everywhere are pumpkins, mums, and pumpkin spice lattes. The rush into the next season gets more frantic each year. It’s September 13, sunny, and 83 degrees outside. Sunflowers are blooming, and tomatoes are on the vines. I’m still walking barefoot everywhere. Because it’ still summer.

I understand perfectly why retailers sell the seasonal hype: profit. But I always wonder why plain people want to leave a season like summer behind.

What part of summer do people want to escape? The warm, soothing sun on our skin? Birdsong and wildlife? Flowers blooming, food growing in our gardens? Days at the beach, the scent of the ocean, bleached hair, tanned skin? Light, comfy clothing and bare feet on the Earth? Gorgeous summer thunderstorms? Garden herbs and fresh greens with our meals? Sun tea, lemonade, watermelon, lemon ices, fresh Pico de Gallo, corn on the cob, June strawberries, cookouts, vacations, bonfires, boating, swimming, running, playing, festivals?

The change of seasons is a regular reminder of the impermanence of everything, and I accept it. Everything comes and goes, including us, and change is inevitable and necessary. Winter always comes, and I always look for the beauty in it. But if I could make magic, it would be blesséd summer 12 months a year.

Live in peace.

Our Pineapple Plant, Mango Haul, and Winter Banana Trees

Navah, our beautiful pineapple plant, is expecting!

 I found the mother lode of mangoes this weekend at Foodworks. So I bought 15 of them.

Our pretty little air plant is doing great in the kitchen

Just want to share pics of Navah, our beautiful pineapple plant. She’s expecting! Yesterday, I gave her a deep feeding and removed one yellowed leaf. Never throw away the top of a good, organic pineapple. Plant it, and grow your own pineapple.

I found the mother lode of mangoes this weekend at Foodworks. So I bought 15 of them. Mangoes are a gamble (unless you’re in a tropical clime eating them off trees), so we’ll see how tasty they are. If they’re a good group of mangoes, I’m going to be enjoying some mango mono meals for next couple of weeks.

I ate mangoes off the trees in Jamaica years ago. Never before and not since have I tasted mangoes like that. If you’re a mango fanatic like me, make your next vacation to the tropics and eat the local fruit. There’s nothing, even in the best organic stores here, that come close. I dream of the day I eat bowls of fresh mangoes in Thailand.

Today is September 12, and the nights are getting cooler. Tonight, I’m going to set up the temporary indoor holding station for the tropical plants that have been outdoors all summer but that have to start coming in at night now. Hauling them in and out every night and morning is a hassle, but soon, they’ll be indoors for winter.

As autumn approaches, indoor gardening takes on a whole new novelty. I can play with things that I’m too busy to play with when we’re busy with summer food gardening. So this winter, I’m starting bananas. I’ve ordered Cavendish dwarf banana seeds from Vesey’s Seeds. Right now, I’m studying up on the best way to germinate banana seeds, which are large and very hard-shelled. I’ll keep you posted.

And our air plant is liking life in the kitchen. I love the air plant’s lightness and grace. Now that summer is drawing down, I am, as I always do, turning to indoor cultivation to keep my spirits high until next summer.

Live in peace.

The Definition of Pain (Mango Sticky Rice Cravings)

That 5-pound bag of Thai sticky rice was delivered yesterday. Mango sticky rice, here we come. I hope.

I’m still waiting to make that mango sticky rice. Yesterday, the 5-pound bag of Thai sticky rice was delivered. The Thai sticky rice cooker was not, although they were ordered as a pair. This is the definition of anguish. Waiting to eat mango sticky rice, and a single order delivered in separate packages.

I’m being dumb. This is not a hardship. But those mangoes ripened up to near-perfection this week, and they are ready to be dinner. Or dessert.

Did I mention that my husband, who had never heard of a mango, and when he did (through me), made a poopy face and swore he’d never try one? Well, last week, he asked if there was any sorbet in the house. There was – mango sorbet. So I gave him a bowl of it. He loved and hogged it, thinking it was orange. Then I told him it was mango. He now loves mango, and wants to know when we’re having mango sticky rice.

Wish I could explain this all to Federal Express.

Live in peace.

Ahimsa Veganism

Today’s lunch is a still-warm garden tomato sammich on homemade rosemary olive oil wild yeast bread I made Sunday. Hit it with a little Himalayan pink salt and some Veganaise. UH-mazing.

Sometimes Wikipedia sums things up pretty well:

‘Ahimsa is one of the cardinal virtues and an important tenet of 3 major religions (Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism). Ahimsa is a multidimensional concept. Inspired by the premise that all living beings have the spark of the divine spiritual energy; therefore, to hurt another being is to hurt oneself.’

Everyone has their reason for going vegan. For some, it’s a concern for health: a whole food, plant-based diet is THE way to go to achieve optimal balance. There’s nothing good in animal products, and many, many medical studies have concluded that animal products are linked directly to certain cancers, diabetes, liver disease, dementia, osteoporosis, and heart disease.

Contemporary Ahimsa veganism comes from the view that our industrialized food system is a matter of brutal horror. From birth to the slaughterhouse, animals know nothing but misery and suffering their entire lives. I was wondering the other day what it must be like to never, ever have known love, compassion, or comfort, and then in the end, to be put to death. It must be a nightmarish, otherworldly existence.

Ahimsa is ‘harm none’. Even if somehow, we could raise and slaughter animals without this all-encompassing system of suffering, they would surely anguish at their deaths just by the act of being killed. Everything that lives, wants to live. Should you threaten the life of a human animal or a non-human animal, the response is always the same: I’m afraid - I don’t want to die.

So eating animal flesh and their milk and eggs impugns Ahimsa. And when you realize that millions of people have and do live well without consuming any animal products at all, you know that this ongoing nightmare is all completely unnecessary. And when you know that, the decision has been made for you.

I’ve been full-on vegan lifestyle for over three months now. No, I haven’t lost weight or become noticeably more fit. But it was, hands-down, the best choice I’ve made, above all others, in my life.

My spirit is brighter, lighter. I have more energy, and it’s positive, productive energy. My mind has a new clarity. My relationships are more joyful than ever. My connection with our dogs is deeper, purer. My clothes closet is evolving into a simpler, more beautiful cross section of no-sweatshop, no leather, no fur/wool/silk clothing, shoes, and accessories. Food tastes better. Sleep is more sound. Everyone and everything, as Rumi wrote, has become the beloved.

I can’t find words for the experience. As a vegetarian, I maintained a deeper relationship with all living things by not participating in the blood sport of animal slaughter for meat. But going vegan has elevated that to not just a refusal of all animal products, but an all-encompassing practice that’s changed every little bit of my life.

I dislike proselytizing. But I do understand now why many vegans make a lot of noise about veganism. It’s like any other amazing thing you discover – you want to shout it out to everyone within earshot. Get ahold of some of this, friend: it’s wonderful.

Tomorrow, a package is coming. I finally bought a top-of-the-line tofu press. I’ve been doing the tofu block between two dinner plates weighed down with a pile of books thing all my life. As a vegan, tofu, tempeh, and seitan are playing a much bigger role in my diet. It was time to streamline the process of pressing tofu.

I decided to go ahead and make the investment. This contraption is not cheap, but it’s brilliant in its design. I’m really looking forward to chewy, firm, coconut tofu curry!

Rain today, but temperatures in the 80s. Love. We have a couple of more weeks left of summer, and I plan to embrace every blessed moment of it.

Live in peace.