The 21-Day Vegan Kickstart!

I’m championing one more great cause today, and then I’ll stop. 

For you people wanting to live on a higher plane by going vegan, I looked into this – the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart. It’s a free, online service provided by the excellent Physician’s Committee on Responsible Medicine, a coalition of mindful doctors who advocate the health benefits of a meat and dairy free diet and campaign against animal testing. 

Their website is a fabulous resource. Go there and find yourself a doctor. Sign up for the 21-day kickstart.

Go here:

The Critically Endangered Mediterranean Monk Seal

An awesome cause that I’m into big time these days. Mediterranean monk seals are amazing, and their numbers are shrinking, thanks to human meddling. 

Did you know that I'm part Greek? Marine environment concerns in Greece and everywhere are always on my radar. 

Go here:

Sweet Lemon Blossoms and Khao Niaow Ma Muang

Blossoms are just exploding on our lemon tree

The garden is really showing its age. Last night’s garden walk was a little saddening. The tomatoes are going full bore, but the cucumber and watermelon plants are winding down. Tomatoes will go strong for another couple of weeks, maybe a few, and then start slowing. Today is August 25.

On the bright side, the lemon tree is covered with blossoms. But, as my husband noted over the weekend, there may not be enough time left in summer to get the lemons at their best. True, we may have an extended summer. But no citrus tree should be outdoors when the temperature drops below 50 degrees, not even for one night. So now, we’re in a race against time. If each of the lemon blossoms becomes a lemon, we’re talking dozens of lemons on this tree. The fragrance of the blossoms is intoxicating.

Our lime tree is also putting out all new growth. This is good timing. The lime is growing in strength just about a month or so before we’re going to have to start bringing it in at night. A strong citrus tree has a good chance of surviving winter in a dry, airless house.

Our lemon tree, however – I’m worried about it. Reproduction temporarily weakens a tree. Better to get lemons in spring or early summer, then give the tree the summer to recoup its strength before coming indoors for winter. The lemon tree, with all its fat blossoms, is going into overdrive now, when it’s nearly September. It’s going to be tired and spent when it’s time to come indoors.

Khao Niaow Ma Muang– my four favorite words. Or in English, ‘mango sticky rice’. Over the weekend, I realized that it’s been too long since I’ve had this amazing Thai dessert. So I headed out to the Granby health food store, where I found great organic mangoes. 

Downside is that they’re not yet ripe. So, they’re in the fruit basket until they get soft and sweet, and then it’s time to make rice.

Everyone has their way of making Khao Niaow Ma Muang. My method is to thoroughly cook sticky rice (you can get Thai sticky rice at Asian supply stores) with water and coconut milk (substitute about half the water with coconut milk). 

Slice up a fresh, sweet mango, and top the rice with it. Heat a can of coconut milk with about three tablespoons of brown sugar on the stove, cool, then drizzle the sweet coconut sauce over the rice and mango.

I’ve added Indonesia to Thailand and Vietnam as the places I need to visit soon. Closer to home, however, I have to start packing for Block Island. That’s an easy pack. Sundress, bathing suit, shorts, tank, sandals, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrush, hair brush, suntan lotion. No makeup, closed or fancy shoes, pants, lotions, potions, or jewelry. Slap me silly – I love summer.

Live in peace.

Squash Beetles Have Arrived

Yesterday, a bag of barley grass juice powder arrived. I’ve heard good things about it and its iron and mineral content.

The hungry squash beetle (Anasa Tristis) has come to town. Last night, my husband went to the garden to pick squash and cucumbers. As if overnight, our squash crop had become covered with squash beetles. He broke the bad news to me.

Squash beetles feed by piercing the plant with sharp mouthparts, then sucking up the plant’s innards until it’s dead. They reproduce all summer long, and once they arrive, they’re here to stay unless you’re willing to apply potent pesticides. And even then, they can make a comeback.

So my husband went back outside and tilled the squash crop to the ground, and that’s the end of our squash for the season. Veganic gardeners have no choice. We relinquish crops rather than spray. As painful as it can be, it’s a far, far better and kinder choice than poisoning the plants, soil, water, air, Earth, animals, insects, and ourselves.

And it’s a lesson in non-attachment. The garden reminds me that I have no real control over it, and it doesn’t belong to me. I must share it with wildlife, insects, and Mother Earth. I’ll plant and nurture it and protect it ethically, but I always have to be ready to release it.

We’re off to Block Island in a couple of weeks! I’m looking forward to time on the beach, lunches at our agreed-upon favorite eatery, Dead-Eye Dick’s, buzzing around on scooters, soaking up the sun, looking at all the beautiful people. and poking into shops. I’m psyched.

Totally unrelated: my husband surprised me with new yoga clothes! I was whining last week about the nice pants and camis I was seeing and why don’t my old yoga clothes have some finesse. I was being a brat. I wasn’t being mindful, grateful, or patient. Still, yesterday he brought home two pairs of Gaiam yoga pants (black and blue) and two awesome Gaiam camis (black and green). I think he likes yoga pants. But I’m really happy. You’re amazing, babe. ♥

Yesterday, a bag of organic barley grass juice powder arrived. I’ve heard good things about it and its iron and mineral content. I spooned four heaping teaspoons into this morning’s mango smoothie. It tasted pretty grassy. So tomorrow, I’ll cut the amount in half and see what that does. Sometimes I get overly enthusiastic about a new thing and overdo it. Note to self: patience.

Live in peace.

A Slow, Simple Weekend in a Heat Wave

My husband made me an epic vegan sandwich for lunch yesterday - big slices of fresh garden cucumbers on grainy Tuscan wheat toast with Veganaise, and a touch of pink salt

It has to get insanely hot for me to start complaining about the weather. Well, it was hot this weekend. So hot, the only time I spent in the garden was quickly picking cucumbers, tomatoes, and green beans before fleeing back into the house. The food garden needs a weeding, but when the temperature exceeds 100 degrees, and the humidity is nearly as high, the weeds can wait. I can’t believe I just wrote that.

It was also too hot to plant the autumn greens seeds. This isn’t good. It’s now or never for getting the autumn food going.

My husband made me an epic vegan sandwich for lunch yesterday. I had picked a few garden cucumbers, and he asked if I wanted a cucumber sandwich for lunch. I hesitated. What’s this meat-and-potato man’s version of a cucumber sandwich involve?

The answer was big slices of fresh garden cucumbers on grainy Tuscan wheat toast with Veganaise, and a touch of pink salt. It was an amazing, garden-fresh sandwich. I made Veganaise coleslaw earlier. What a great meal. I munched out and felt grateful for him.

It was decided yesterday that it was too hot to run the oven or stove. But we needed rice. Thankfully, I didn’t give away our old rice steamer. I forgot how perfectly rice is cooked in it. It’s great for making a big batch of rice too, when you want rice for meals for a few days. In a half hour, we had three cups of perfect, tender basmati rice, and the stove got to rest.

Sunday is usually about household chores and making food, but with the weather, we ended up sprawling out on the couches and moving very little. The heat wave gave us both permission to rest all day. I continued reading The World Peace Diet and kissed Lily Dawa’s face for hours. I even got in a nap. My husband watched pre-season football and made awesome sandwiches. We kept it simple and slow. I’m good with this heat wave.

I had an opportunity this weekend to talk with my Mom about a vegan lifestyle. She has tremendous compassion, and suffers greatly when she hears of the suffering of animals. I didn’t have to talk much to reach her. I promised her some awesome homemade vegan meals. We went out to lunch Saturday and had tempeh Reubens and iced coffees. She loved it. She’s the best.

Tonight’s dinner will be another yummy garden-fresh tomato sandwich. I’m eating as many of these now as I can stand. Because a month from now, the garden will be telling us it would like to wind down for the season, and the tomatoes will begin to wane.

Live in peace.

I Am

I watched Tom Shadyac’s documentary, ‘I Am’ a second time last night. I’m getting lucky with films lately, because this is another great one that I wholeheartedly recommend.

Shadyac directed a lot of silly, insanely successful movies like ‘Bruce Almighty’ and the ‘Ace Ventura’ franchise. He was living on the rooftop of the world by our economic and social standards. He flew by private jet, lived in the hills of Beverly, had a glamorous, gorgeous wife. He banked money and bought whatever he wanted. His films won award after award.

But one day, he was involved in a bicycling crash and suffered a devastating concussion. His body was broken. His brain didn’t work reliably for a while. His pain got worse. He went from doctor to surgeon to psychiatrist. He became severely depressed.

This got Shadyac to thinking. The private jet, house in Beverly Hills, trophy wife – none provided the comfort he needed. He thought about death. He isolated himself. His wife left him. The trappings he surrounded himself with left him empty and lonely. They didn’t do what they were supposed to do – keep him safe.

Today, Shadyac is in good health again, still wealthy, but living by choice in a mobile home and on a modest income. His rides his bike to work, works to relive planetary, human, and animal suffering, remains single, reads a lot, and makes no goofy movies.

But he did make ‘I Am’. ‘I Am’ is an unfolding of his understandings since the crash. He speaks with academics and thinkers like John Francis, Noam Chomsky, David Suzuki, Lynne McTaggart, Coleman Barks, Thom Hartman, and my absolute favorite person, the late Howard Zinn. He asks them: “What’s wrong with the world?” “What can we do to make it right?”

The answers roll in.

Our problems include our self-made separation from the natural world; the falsehood of materialism as a path to happiness; the monster we made called the ‘economy’; the ways in which we multiply our wants day after day; our abuse of the planet and its inhabitants; our abuse of other humans.

What can we do to make it right? That’s tough, because this world that we’ve imagined into existence is rotten at the core. Humans are reaching the limits of our growth on this planet. We’re using up every piece of it. It won’t be long before change is forced in order to create a sustainable society that won’t implode.

We live in a world that involves very deep connections: we’re all made of non-local ‘stuff’. There is no separation: only the illusion of separation created by what we see with our eyes. We need to understand that everything, everywhere, is connected at all times.

We took a wrong turn when we localized everything – my country, my land, my money, my spouse, my house, my children, my deity, my success, my failures, my joy, my pain, my experiences, my birth, my suffering, my death – and turned life into a competitive sport of keeping safe what’s ‘mine’. We dig pits to trap others, and we fall in.

Each day, I know more deeply than the day before my complete non-locality, my connection -  body and soul – to the natural world, to all that exists, has existed, and will exist. Every atom of myself is a product of recycling that will be recycled again. And I’ve become more suspicious of the things I want.

I have greater reverence for the garden and feel more intensely my connection to it. It’s born, it grows, it fruits, it ages, and it dies – just like me. It drinks water, breathes air, feels sun, fights for survival, thrives on kindness, and returns to the soil – just like me.

But we’re willingly blind to this. The world we’ve summoned into existence – an anarchy of the strong treading on the weak – has a built-in expiration date. When it expires, we’ll be forced to reinvent. And love-in-action will be a huge part of the redesign.

‘I Am’ articulated what I’ve known, however subconsciously, my whole life. The same things that speak to you speak to me. There’s no division between us, animals, plants, dust, light, countries, cultures, suffering, joy, cars, bikes, trees, young, old, sick, healthy, rich, poor, fat, thin, dark, light, uptown, downtown. There’s only one mass mind. We’re all having this experience of existence together and at once.

Watch this film by yourself, undisturbed, in a quiet room. Give it your complete attention. Watch it more than once.

This is not a utopian dream. It’s a prototype for change that must happen if we’re to survive and be of good use. We all hear the same voice: we all vibrate to the same string. Rumi wrote about interconnectedness. He said, “What was said to the rose to make it open, was also said to me, here in my chest.”

Live in peace.

Cucumber Kimchi, Tomato Sandwiches, Mystic Garlic Festival, and Hmong Vegan Boots

Windfall of garden cucumbers? Not a problem – here they are, sliced paper thin, marinating in rice vinegar, dill, lots of garlic, black pepper, Himalayan salt, fresh ginger, and organic cane sugar

Last night, we reached an impasse as far as our garden cucumbers are concerned. My husband and I stood in the kitchen, jaws slack, surrounded by piles of cucumbers. I had just given away a ton of them that morning, and we were still left with an insane amount of these beauties.

Now, in the fridge in a gigantic glass bowl, are all those cucumbers, peeled and sliced paper thin, marinating in rice vinegar, fresh dill, lots of garlic, black pepper, Himalayan salt, red pepper flakes, ginger, and organic cane sugar. I’ll leave them for a couple of days, then jar them in sterile Ball jars. Looks like a lot of family and friends will be getting free, fresh Korean cucumber kimchi. Win.

Successful food growers have to get creative in August. If you’ve been diligent and cared for your food plants, now is the time to start jarring. Our plum tomatoes are ripening up: very soon, I’ll have jars of fresh, raw sauce. I’m not a fan of freezing fresh food, so it’s a good thing we have a pressure canner. Even with that, I don’t let unopened jars sit for more than one month. Open jars are used right away.

We’re in a stretch of excessively hot, humid weather. Temperatures are in the high nineties; it’s so humid that it’s hard to breathe. Fungal infections can take hold of a food garden when the weather is like this. If it was June, I’d be applying natural fungicides. But because the season is beginning to wind down, I’m letting nature do its thing. Less is often more in the garden.

So, in keeping with changing out all my non-vegan shoes and boots for all vegan, and in preparation for autumn and winter (yuck), I just bought a pair of vegan Hmong batik boots from Etsy Seller Siamese Dream.

My first vegan shoes came from Siamese Dream, a woman-operated, fair trade manufacturer in Chiang Mai, Thailand. They make great quality, colorful, comfy, and pretty affordable vegan footwear. Did I ever mention that Chiang Mai is on my bucket list big time?

We’re going to the Mystic Garlic Festival next month. This will be our third year there. My husband likes it – and I love it. Imagine a festival where fresh, local garlic is just everywhere. True, we’ve grown our own garlic this year, but there’s no such thing as too much garlic.

Plus, we get black, fermented garlic each year at this festival. There’s great Buddhist hippy store there, and lemon Italian ice. And we’re right near the ocean. You can’t lose.

This year’s tomatoes, especially our Cherokee Purples, are the most delicious I’ve ever grown. Last night’s dinner was a tomato sandwich with Veganaise, Himalayan salt, and black pepper on multi-grain toast.

Thick, juicy, sweet slices of still-warm-from-the-garden tomatoes. There are no words adequate to describe that sandwich. After I munched it all, I thought, ‘life is good’. And I wanted summer and the summer food garden to never stop. If there’s one thing that makes me forget the Teaching of Aparigaha, it’s the garden. Not good.

Very recently, I’ve noticed a real increase in my body/mind energy. I have little doubt that this is a result of a vegan lifestyle. If I’d known the joy of vegan living before this, I would have transitioned from vegetarian to vegan when I started college. It’s transformative, and insanely easy.

I look at dairy and wonder how it is that humans are the only species on Mother Earth that drink the mother’s milk of another species. Milk that’s designed for the early development and health of a calf. Milk that’s loaded with animal fat, milk that even an adult cow mustn’t drink, let alone an adult human. Lactose intolerance is epidemic now. That makes perfect sense, since we’re not supposed to be drinking bovine breast milk in the first place.

I wonder how the idea ever came to be that taking milk by force from animals so that we could drink it, ferment it, freeze it, cook it, and jam up our arteries with it was a sane thing to do.

For the record: when a calf is born at a dairy facility, it’s immediately taken from its mother before it has a chance to suckle, so that the milk the mother’s body has produced for her calf - who longs for it - can be pumped out by machine, processed, sold, and consumed by people.

I don’t care what the defense is: that’s an act of insanity.

Live in peace.

The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness ~ 2012

“Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”

Check it out:

An Anniversary, a Garden Watermelon for Dinner, and जय जिनेन्द्र

We sliced into a ripe garden watermelon last night. Tossed juicy watermelon cubes with vegan soy feta, balsamic, and chopped garden basil. It was awe-inspiring.

For some reason this morning, I noticed my malas dangling from a mirror at home and thought they were beautiful.

It’s two months ago today that I went full-on vegan, and it’s been amazing. Food keeps tasting better and better. I think now that going vegan is the equivalent of quitting smoking: there’s an initial rough patch of a few days, but then your urge for addictive dairy starts to wane and is replaced by cravings for fresh fruits, veggies, and plant protein, and in the course of time, dairy becomes as unpalatable as meat was when you were vegetarian.

Beyond that, fresh fruits, veggies, grains, and beans taste better than ever. The body is a bit of magic, born of Mother Earth. It adapts and responds. It adjusts itself to new foods and new environments and amplifies the pleasure. It knows what’s best for good health. It rewards you for nourishing it well. And it’s definitely not omnivorous.

Sliced into a ripe garden watermelon last night. Joy! I had a obscenely huge bowl of melon with yummy vegan soy feta. The brand is Sunergia, and I recommend it. I drizzled some balsamic over it all and added some chopped garden basil. This was dinner. It blew my mind. Watermelon is so filling and hydrating. I’m so glad we’ve had success growing it this season.

My membership application to JCC (Jain Center of Connecticut) was approved this morning! I was doubtful about it, since a required question is, “What region of India are you from?” I’m from New York City – a long way from India. So I’m now a member of the Brookfield colony. This is going to be a great journey, and full of blessings.

Jai Jinendra.

Many Lemons, Paleo Tea, Homemade Kombucha, and Jainist Ways

The paleo coconut tea I made last night. Coconut butter makes it creamy and coconutty.

A fresh batch of our homemade kombucha was ready last night. I drank that too.

I checked on the lemon tree last night, and found that it’s covered with baby lemons. I mean covered, to the extent that I’m now worried that:

The tree won’t be able to support the weight of the fruit.

This hyper-production will deplete the tree’s energy just before it’s to come indoors for winter. You don’t want a weakened lemon tree trying to bull its way through a winter indoors.

I’ve been over fertilizing it, and this is abnormal growth.

This morning I had the idea that maybe I should remove some of these lemon clusters from the tree. That’s a horrible thought, but it would be more horrible if this excessive reproduction just lays the tree to waste.

The goal is to get the tree as strong as possible before bringing it indoors for winter, where dry air and lack of sun will stress it even more. I still gave it phosphorus last night. What lemons I do leave on the tree will grow fat and juicy if they’re well nourished.

A friend turned me on to coconut butter yesterday. This is not coconut oil, but the entire coconut, minus the shell, ground to a smooth, buttery paste. Last night, I used it to make paleo coconut tea.

Brew a cup of black tea (I used Tazo), add it to the Nutrabullet or blender container, sweeten to taste or not at all, and add a healthy tablespoon of coconut butter. Whir it for about 15 seconds, and it’s done.

The result is a super healthy, vegan, medium chain triglycerides-rich, great for the skin and body, anti-oxidant-rich, delicious, frothy tea latte. I wanted a second mug of it, but there was the kombucha.

The most recent batch of homemade kombucha was ready for drinking last night. Our growing scoby is more than a year old now, and doing great. Over time, the kombucha it produces has become smoother and more mellow. I’ve been flavoring it with fresh orange juice or cranberry juice.

My husband pulled up the kale bed last weekend. Our kale had become completely insect-eaten. When you practice ‘harm none’, veganic gardening, pesticide use is not an option. The best way to discourage insects is to remove what attracts them in great numbers. So you have to relinquish a crop or two each season so the rest of the garden won’t come under attack.

So I’ll be planting kale as one of our autumn crops. The planting happens this weekend. This is about a week later than I’d planned, but I predict an extended summer this year, with germination-type temperatures clear through September. All we need to do is get these cold weather crops started and strong before October, and they’ll do their magic through to Thanksgiving and beyond.

I’m drawn again now to Jainism (see last summer’s posts for my earlier thoughts on Mahavira’s teachings) and this afternoon, plan seek out a Jainist colony or temple in Connecticut with the intention of visiting.

Jainist ways are the absolute embodiment of compassion. There’s no doubt that there are principles of Jainism that are compelling. Incorporating even some Jainist practices would only enhance Buddhist practice.

Both systems unfolded in India, the holiest of holy lands. Mahavira and Siddhartha walked the same path: aparigaha (non-attachment) and no harm. The most righteous ways to be.

Live in peace.

Meyer Lemons!

I was wishing for lemons in our first season with this tree, but didn’t dare expect it. What a beautiful, fertile tree.

Saturday morning garden haul: green and orange peppers, Cherokee Purple tomatoes, summer squash, green beans, and cucumbers.

We passed Race Rock lighthouse on our travels over Long Island Sound Sunday. It’s said that this lighthouse is haunted. Maybe, but it sure is creepy looking.

Post tag sale recovery: my husband and I on the boat Sunday. It was an especially great day for the ocean!

This morning’s breakfast was a mono-meal of fat, sweet, organic cherries.

We had a busy and fun weekend. Our tag sale was a success. We made enough money to meet our goals: to have our Lily Dawa professionally groomed, get a birthday present for my husband, and make a donation to the no-kill animal shelter. A lot of possessions were released, and we’re breathing easier. Unsold things are going to be picked up by a friend’s church for their annual raffle. Total win.

Yesterday, we went out on the boat for the whole day. We’re both sunburned again. My skin will be happy when summer is over (but I won’t). Then, I made an amazing, fresh-from-the-garden vegan dinner.

Garden tomatoes are coming in like crazy now, so I boiled some fettucine, and after it was cooked, tossed in chopped tomatoes, our own garden spinach, garlic, arugula, basil, and parsley, then added some fresh dill and olive oil. The tomatoes rendered a yummy pink sauce. Everyone, including the dogs, hogged it all.

But the big news – ERMAHGERD! -  is that a cluster of lemons has appeared on our Meyer lemon tree! This is awesome. I had wished for lemons in our first season, but didn’t dare expect it.

Keeping it well-nourished and giving it plenty of hot summer sun has done good things for this beautiful tree. Phosphorus is what’s needed to encourage flower and fruit production, so I’m going to ease back on the nitrogen, and give it a diet of phosphorus for the rest of the season.

Funny thing at the tag sale. We had lots of books for sale, almost exclusively gardening books and cookbooks. The number of gardening books prompted buyers to ask who the gardener in the house is. That led to a lot of gardening talk all day, with me giving advice for this person’s diseased cabbage patch and onions, that person’s flowerless morning glories, and someone else’s withering Brussels sprouts. I think I talked about the magic of neem oil for an hour straight. It was great.

Lots of visitors loved our gardens and wanted to visit them. Gardens are a magnet for people. I wish we could recall that enchantment every day, recognize it as our oneness with the natural world, and apply that reverence to our relationship with Mother Earth. Imagine how things would be.

Live in peace.

The Cost of Fashion, Overfed Peach Trees, and the Last Basil Planting

Just saw a great documentary called The True Cost. It’s peaked my awareness of where my clothes come from, the conditions under which they’re made, the human price of fashion, shoes, and purses, the role of corporate killer Monsanto in pesticide-laden cotton-growing and clothing manufacturing, the impact of consumer capitalism on people (women laborers in particular), the mind of the hyper-consumer, corporate-driven spending rituals like Black Friday and Christmas, and all the resulting damage to the Earth and its inhabitants.

It’s something I’ve given only superficial thought to in the past. I recommend this film. Let’s learn about, then act upon, the true cost of a $5 t-shirt from Bangladesh or China, or consider the environmental havoc that results from the noxious, chemical-crazy, cancer-causing, horrifically cruel-to-people-and-animals process of leather production. Why in the world are we still wearing the skins of animals anyway? Why are we still living like cavemen? It’s positively absurd.

Tomorrow, my husband and I are doing a sweeping purge of possessions. We’ve put the whole day aside for this. It’s been a long time coming. What’s not sold will be donated and given to friends. The objective is to lighten our load big time, and clear our minds.

Contrary to what modern economics would have us believe, accumulation is detrimental to happiness. Ask yourself if the things you’ve collected but rarely or never use are doing anything at all to bring you joy. I already know the answer. So do you.

I discovered the probable cause of our peachless peach trees. We applied a very high nitrogen fertilizer early in the season. Too much, it seems. It pushed a tremendous growth spurt in the trees, which have become wonderfully tall, thick, and leafy. But it was at the expense of fruit production. When a fruit tree is heaving all its energy into green growth and fattening up, there isn’t much fuel left for reproduction. No fruit. So next year, no fertilizer on the peaches at all.

The last basil planting has been done, and we have seedlings: about 20 plants. These will be our September basils. I gave them magnesium last night to boost growth and greenness. Basil is summer’s calling card. I’d like to make it last as long as possible.

So tonight, I go through the house and make the last sweep before tomorrow’s sale. This will be the big letting go: the things I’ve been coveting until now. They may be nice, they may be pretty, they may have use ‘someday’, but that’s all nonsense. If it doesn’t have a regular function in the here and now, if it doesn’t bring joy every day, then it needs a new home. And we need room to exhale.

Live in peace.

My First Vegan Shoes, Peach Problems, and a Garden in Middle Age

My new fair trade, cruelty-free, vegan shoes arrived from Thailand yesterday

Took delivery of my first pair of vegan shoes yesterday, woot! I didn’t know that when something is sent to the U.S. from Chiang Mai, U.S. customs opens the parcel and pokes around. Then closes it back up very sloppily. Ah, well.

I love them. So comfy (I bought 2 sizes up, per the seller, who said they run very small). They fit perfectly and are insanely colorful. And no animals were harmed in the making of them. Awesome. The seller even tucked in a free, fair-trade coin purse.

I’m changing out all my leather and suede shoes, sandals, and boots for vegan. It’s a time-intensive and costly project (vegan shoes, because they’re trendy now, come with big price tags). But it’s mandatory. 

Being vegan is not about what we eat and nothing else. It embraces every part of our lives. ‘Fast fashion’ clothes manufactured in sweatshops, shoes and purses made from terrified animals who have been tortured, killed, and skinned (many while alive), housewares made through child labor - all of it is no longer an option. There’s nothing perfect about the process, but every day, we’re moving closer to a kinder lifestyle and a smaller footprint.

There’s no sign of peaches on our trees. My husband and I discussed it last night. We were really looking forward to peaches. We see pollinating bees in the garden. Maybe there are not enough? Are we seeing the effect of the bee die off? The trees are healthy and getting big; lots of leaves with no sign of disease. I’m nonplussed and am going to research it today.

The food garden is starting to show its age. It’s August 4, after all. It’s past its peak and is entering late middle age. Summer squash is producing less. Cucumber plants are getting that telltale yellowing of the leaves. It’s not game over, but in a month, things will noticeably change. It’s always surprising how quickly the season passes.

This month, we’ll be clearing out any plants that are clearly ready to retire. A benefit of this is that it opens up space in the garden, letting in more air and sun. Things have gotten pretty hairy in there. And it’s time to plant the autumn greens, the seeds of which arrived a few days ago. Everything in its time.

I didn’t mention the morning glories. We have a large garden arbor that supports two blooming purple clematis, one on each side. I had banked seeds from last summer’s crimson morning glories, and decided to plant them at the foot of the arbor, next to the clematis. Those seeds really took off, and now, there are gorgeous magenta morning glories weaving their way through the purple clematis vines.

It’s a spectacular show. Seed banking is the best. Free flowers from year to year! Bank all the seeds you can. It always amazes me that the flowers in the garden today are making seeds that will produce flowers in next year’s garden. It’s so much more satisfying than buying a packet of seeds each season. The circle of life, right before my eyes. Miracle.

Live in peace.

Cucumber Craziness

One of the easiest ways to use the windfall of garden cucumbers is to make cucumber water every day. Here’s my bottle for today.

This avalanche of garden cucumbers has been wonderful, and challenging. We’ve been giving away lots, but would like to enjoy them ourselves. But cucumber salads are getting a little old. Last night, my husband, who waits all year for the garden cucumbers, said ‘no’ to another salad.

So I tried a vegan, no-cook, cold cucumber soup recipe that has helped solve the problem. It’s refreshing and light, and includes the best summer flavors of dill and mint. I would definitely take a chilled thermos of this with me if I was traveling on a hot day.

Vegan, No-Cook, Cold Cucumber Soup
2 large cucumbers or 4 small, peeled, seeded, and diced
1-1/3 cups nut milk
1-1/3 cups plain coconut milk yogurt
1 cup veggie broth
1 clove garlic, minced, ½ cup chopped fresh mint
½ cup chopped fresh dill

Combine everything in a blender at high speed until completely smooth. Chill for 2 hours before serving. Serving this in a bread bowl makes it a meal.

One of the easiest ways to use the windfall of garden cucumbers is to make cucumber water every day. I’ve found that you have to make it fresh daily. Cukes that sit in refrigerated water for more than about 18 hours start getting filmy and gross. I’d love to keep a jug of water with cucumber slices in the fridge, but it doesn’t work, unless you infuse the water for a few hours and then remove the cukes. Even then, it’s advisable to drink it up within a couple of days.

My husband is looking at houses in warmer climes. I’m totally behind the idea. Last night he showed me a bunch of houses he thought we’d like. Two of them really grabbed me. The first thing that grabbed me was the palm trees. God, I’d love to live with palm trees. One house in particular has a uniquely beautiful stone deck that looks out over the land. Just green all the way to the sky.

“You could do yoga there every morning,” he said. “You could take your coffee, do your yoga there, and look at that view instead of fooling around on the computer.”

I looked at the deck, and placed myself there in sun salutation. He was so right; that would be a much better way to spend mornings. So today, I’m thinking about that view. I’m thinking about mornings in quietude, touching the sky. And I’m thinking about the lush beauty of tropical gardens, which are so easy to maintain and so productive. I’m thinking of those palm trees.

We’ve both had a good run in New England, and we’re both ready for new scenery. And we agree that we want to go where snow never falls, where fruit trees never sleep, where clothing is light, and where the views are clear.

So of course, last night, I dreamed of this house with the palm trees outside and the view of the sky. When I woke, I realized that it’s truly what we need: a new canvas on which to create our lives.

In the meantime, cucumbers. This weekend, I’m going to make those easy pickled cukes. Cucumber soup, cucumber water, cucumber salads, pickled cucumbers, and even a vegan tzatziki.

Live in peace.

Watermelon Harvest!

Our first Crimson Red watermelons of the season are ready for picking

Overnight, watermelons appeared everywhere. I had no clue they were there until last night, when my husband came in from picking cucumbers from the garden and said, “You better go out there and see the watermelons. Bring the scissors”.

Hiding behind and underneath the carpet of watermelon vines were many watermelons in varying sizes, from one really big one to lots of almost ready ones to apple-sized ones, to tiny baby melons. I grabbed the biggest one: in a few days, about three more will be ready to pick, and behind those are lots more.

Success with the watermelons, yay! Trailing the vines up trellises has worked, and I didn’t even tie on the stockings for fruit support. The big melon I plucked yesterday was just hanging there, suspended by its own delicate-looking but strong-as-steel vine.

That first melon is in the fridge now. I love watermelon cold. Tonight with dinner will be a garden fresh, cold watermelon. I can’t wait. This is what it’s all about.

We gave away about 20 giant cucumbers today. The cucumber production is insane. The kitchen counter is piled with them. Good thing someone just gave me a recipe for easy pickled cucumbers, a yummy vegan way to put up some of these gorgeous cukes.

Live in peace.

Tahitian Lime Tree, and Red Curry at Jiā Mei

The new Tahitian lime tree (left) is keeping our Meyer lemon tree company now

Beautiful Cherokee Purple tomatoes we pulled from the garden this weekend!

A fragrant gardenia in the courtyard at Van Wilgens

I realize it’s odd that I welcome the arrival of a new plant in the way others welcome the birth of children. Let’s just roll with it.

I acquired a Tahitian lime tree this weekend! It’s a beauty, very healthy, lots of new growth, no sign of disease. It’s a young tree, only about 2 feet tall. Tahitian lime is also called Persian lime, or the Bearss lime. The limes are about 3 inches wide that start green and lighten to a bright lime hue as they ripen on the tree.

I potted it in good, loose soil with some extra ammonium sulfate added and placed it next to the Meyer lemon tree. It has about a month and a half, maybe two, in the outdoors before I have to begin acclimating both trees to the indoors for winter.

Today is August 1. Summer is whizzing by. In spite of every effort to keep the food garden neat and controlled, it has spread its wings and taken over. We’re having a tough time finding food under all the growth.

This week, I have to just get on my hands and knees with a flashlight and go veggie hunting. The watermelon vines are taking over land beyond the garden. I think it is this insane fish emulsion I applied in early summer coupled with the consistently hot, sunny weather. Still waiting for those watermelons, though.

I visited my second-favorite garden center in Connecticut this weekend: Van Wilgens in North Branford. There, I stood in the courtyard of blooming gardenia and just breathed deeply. There is nothing like the fragrance of gardenia.

I’ve never had success with growing gardenia. I’ve tried many, many times. The plants always yellow and die. I supplement with iron, and they still yellow and die. I keep the room humid, and they still die. From the moment I bring them home, they start to die.

As much as I would sacrifice my ultimate dream of being a mermaid in order to keep a healthy gardenia, I faced facts years ago. I will never keep a gardenia alive. It’s the tragedy of my life. But at least I have the courtyard to visit.

Found a fabulous new Thai restaurant this weekend too. Jiā Mei in Madison, Connecticut, makes a yummy Vegan Thai red curry with rice. Generous portion, fresh, crunchy veggies, spicy-hot curry with creamy coconut milk, perfectly steamed rice, and a reasonable price for upscale Madison. Their veggie spring rolls are the best I’ve had in Connecticut. And they have take-out. My Mom and I hogged it all.

The World Peace Diet has been a slow read for the simple reason that I don’t want to rush this book. There is so much good on every little page, I’m giving myself time to absorb it all and take notes along the way. The whole book is just one long, life-changing thought on compassionate eating. The writing is a little lofty but clear; the chapters are short and precise.

My husband and I spent a great day together yesterday, but about an hour before bedtime, I excused myself and escaped into the bedroom to read. He knows that I’ve found a book that I need to be alone with. This one has become very dear to me.

Live in peace.