Fair Trade, Kind-to-the-Earth Christmas Gifts, and a New Superfood I Invented

Guac with garlic, chick peas, sprouted grains, lime juice, cumin, pink salt, and olive oil, with blue corn chips

I think I invented a new superfood. Yesterday, which was Sunday, I was putting together snacks for the football game, when I found a ripe avocado in the fruit bowl. Guac again? Meh. Guac with garlic, chick peas, sprouted grains, lime juice, and olive oil, with blue corn chips? Yes! Hit it with a little roasted cumin powder and Himalayan pink salt, and we, including the dogs, hogged it.

I collected pollen from the cybister amaryllis before pollinating it to itself (cloning) with remaining pollen. A couple more amaryllis will bloom within two weeks. I’ll use the cybister pollen – which is in the freezer right now - to fertilize those.

Christmas shopping is a task I dread, but I had fun gathering gifts for work colleagues this weekend. I descended on Foodworks, my fav health supplies store, and hooked up everyone with fair trade, non-toxic, kind-to-the-animals-and-earth gifts: a soy candle for one, fair trade ornaments from Kenya for another, very cool Nepal-made mittens, engraved soapstone hearts from India, organic, GMO-free cat treats for friends’ cats, and a very groovy calendar on recycled paper.

I also bought wrapping material made from recycled saris in India. It has an interesting, thick texture and brilliant purple and gold colors. Proceeds go to the women who made it. Grabbed a roll of jute twine, and I’m all set to wrap. Everything is gorgeous, and costs less than if I shopped corporate. Big win.

We also mailed off the Christmas greetings. The blue Buddha post cards looked pretty with their peace stickers, plus we saved a bit of paper and postage, and we sent the message we want to convey.

Saturday, as I made my way to the compost bin on the other side of the property to deposit the week’s waste, I twisted my ankle pretty badly in a pile of leaves adjacent to the bin. The strap on my awesome, vegan wedge sandal snapped.

But my husband came up with the solution: he placed a giant, covered buc
ket with a handle outside, right by the kitchen door. It’s big enough to hold a couple of months’ worth of kitchen scraps, maybe more.

Now, I can just poke my head out the door, unlock the bucket lid, dump the scraps, and lock the lid. When the bucket is full, my husband or I will take it to the compost bin. This also solves the problem of trudging out to the bin in snow, a chore I always hated. Come summer, the bucket retires for the season: I love the walk to the bin in the woods in warm weather.

Speaking of warm weather, the urge for it is creeping up on me a little early. I know that it’s started when a brief thought of summer floods my senses with all the amazing sights, sounds, and smells of a summer day. My stomach flutters for a moment. I think about how we’re going to do the food gardens. I catch the scent of suntan lotion. Yes, it’s happening. It’s too early for this to be respectable. But come mid-January, I’ll be shamelessly drawing up plans for the 2017 gardens.

Peace on Earth.

‘Shadow Trade’ – A Film That’s Hard to Watch, But See it Anyway

Improv lunch; my husband’s leftover Brussel sprouts, a just-ripe avo from the kitchen, and some oranges from a friend.

The best meals always seem to emerge from improvisation. Last night, my husband gave me some of the Brussel sprouts from his dinner. I put them in the fridge for lunch today. An avocado ripened to perfection this morning. A friend was giving away oranges this afternoon. Put them all together, sprinkle with some Himalayan pink salt, and lunch - which I thought was going to be dull - is a chewy, creamy, sweet and salty vegan win.

Today is December 1, and it’s like a very early spring day. If winter keeps doing this, I won’t dislike it as much as I used to. In a month, we’ll be in the new year, and the slow stroll to spring begins.

Now, I’m going to recommend the documentary l saw last night because it’s important, but not because it’s easy to watch.

‘Shadow Trade’ is a grim but critical film about the illegal and thriving dog meat trade in Thailand. Director Richard Elsen withstood some hellish filmmaking to bring this documentary to us. Brave man.

The dog meat trade in Asia is shrouded in secrecy but bustling, and millions of dogs are slaughtered each year for their meat, which some Asians believe imparts sexual vitality and fertility, particularly to men.

The dogs that are killed are acquired from two sources: the poor, battered street dogs of Asia, who are gathered up during the night by butcher trucks; and people’s beloved pet dogs, who are stolen from their homes, yards, and dog houses every day.

Many of the dogs filmed for this story are still wearing the collars their owners bought them. In many cases, desperate owners wander the streets with pictures of their dogs, asking people to help them find the animals they love. But they’re never found.

The family dogs that are kidnapped are especially prized for their meat because they have been loved and well-fed; hence, their bodies are stocky and healthy. Street dogs are less desirable, but their meat is just as available.

I’m going to gloss over the barbaric methods of killing the dogs, who die screaming – actually screaming - as it’s believed that the fear adrenaline in the meat of an animal that’s panicked as it’s dying contains more of the aphrodisiac properties that dog meat eaters seek. So, the more terrified a dog is at the moment of his death, the more potent his meat. The procedure, then, is to drive him to a state of profound terror before administering the fatal blow or cut. Try to imagine that.

I’m also going to spare you the spectacle of the dogs as they wait to be slaughtered. They know what’s happening around them as other dogs are beaten to death and carved up in front of them. There’s not much to say except that they spend their last hours in abject terror, and then are brutally killed.

Look, there’s nothing fun about this film. But this idiocy of killing animals in order to eat their flesh will one day be an embarrassing part of our past. And one way to reach that happy day is by facing the hell on earth that we have created for animals like the dogs of Asia. I promise you, once you see this film, you won’t be able to un-see it. Traveling out of the comfort zone like this doesn’t feel good at all, but do it anyway.

Shadow Trade is available on Netflix. Go to shadowtrade.org for information and ways to help end the dog meat industry.

Live in peace.

And Pomegranates

Thanks to a friend’s urging, I tried my first pomegranate yesterday. How did I live this long without them?

I just love the sweet pop of the seed capsule, then the crunch of the slightly bitter seed. I also like pretty food, and the crimson, glossy seeds are just that. There’s a little work involved in digging out the seeds, but it’s so worth it. Plus, there are reports that pomegranates are anti-oxidant rich, high in punicic acid, and act as an anti-inflammatory.

But they’re also high in sugar, with 24 grams per cup of seed capsules. And yet a cup of capsules – and that’s a lot to eat – has only 144 calories. But the bottom line is that they’re yummy, and now I have to make more room in the kitchen for a bowl of poms. First World problems for sure.

Here and there I get a prayer, invocation, or mantra stuck in my head, like a song, and spend days silently reciting it. I don’t know where these impulses come from, but it can’t be anything but good, so I let my mind do its thing.

Bowing to Shiva – the god of the universe - with love, my mind has been repeating ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ incessantly since yesterday at about this time. Formless and transcendent, Shiva is the protector and transformer of all that exists.

I can’t imagine why this recitation would take hold of my mind for no apparent reason. I know nothing of the future, but maybe I should strengthen myself for something that’s to come. I don’t know and don’t care: this is a state of continuous meditation, and it’s perfect.

Of course, I set aside about 15 of those pomegranate seeds yesterday, wrapped them in warm, wet paper towels, bagged them, and put them in a warm spot. Because you know as well as I that if there’s a chance I can germinate seeds and grow food, I’ll take it. Now that I’m loving pomegranates, I may have to make space in the garden for another fruit-bearing bush. Being a plant geek is work.

Shankara
Shambo Om
Namah Shivaya
Shivaya Namah Om

An Epic Aloe Vera, and Plans for a Succulent Garden

I’ve never had a really robust aloe vera until now. It’s so out of control, and yet completely beautiful in its gnarly, spiky form.

We have this aloe vera that is loving life in our home. Purchased in a little 4-inch pot about 18 months ago, for something like $3, it has outgrown two pots already. Last night, I potted it up again. It seems to like to be root bound, but it was bursting out of its last pot and tipping over, so we had to upgrade again.

Sometimes you just get your hands on an amazing plant. I’ve never had a really burly aloe vera until now. It’s so out of control, and yet completely beautiful in form. It’s making babies all over the place. I love its spiky, gnarly looks.

I’m so happy with this giant succulent. It took both of us to get it out of its old pot and into its new. Here’s hoping that it’s new home will hold it for a couple of years. As I was tidying it up after transplant, I decided that next summer’s front door potted garden, which always stars red geranium and impatiens, will be a succulent garden.

It’s a great idea, if I do say so. There will be no composting the potted garden at end of summer. I hate tossing the annuals at the end of the season. Impatiens always retire to the compost bin, but we usually bring the geraniums in for winter. But the geraniums, after years of summer outside/winter inside, had grown too large to care for indoors all winter. So we reluctantly put them in the compost bin.

But a succulent garden appeals to me in lots of ways: it can be moved indoors in winter, and once indoors, requires minimal attention; it appeals to my latest penchant for strong but spindly forms in the garden; it’s low maintenance all summer long (I can forget to water them and they won’t get grumpy right away); and it’s something new to work with.

Synchronicity: I was flipping through the latest course catalog from Esalen (an educational center in Big Sur, California) this weekend, and came across photos of their gorgeous raised succulent gardens. It being California, the plants live outdoors all year, thriving and growing huge. I positively drooled over the photos. One of my deepest desires has always been to live in a climate where winters never get so cold that the garden must either sleep, die, or move indoors.

For now, the plan is to create a potted, portable succulent garden at the entrance to the house this summer. This winter will involve planning, and this spring, implementing.

Live in peace.

Beautiful Cybister Hippeastrum, and a Film Called ‘The Herd’

The beautiful red and lime green cybister hippeastrum that we planted nearly three weeks ago is beginning to bloom.

One of the cybister hippeastrum bulbs has started to bloom. I love its spare, spindly appearance. The lush blooms of ordinary hippeastrum are fat and decadent: this variety is gorgeous in its long-limbed, svelte profile. I’m eager for it to develop pollen so I can take and store some for cross pollinating this season.

The nursery that shipped me the dead banana trees has agreed to replace them at no cost, or issue a refund. I opted for the refund. It’s getting too cold now for young banana trees to travel across the country. I’ll order them again in spring.

I’m going to experiment with the ones I received. Although they appear completely dead, tonight, I’m going to chop them to the soil line and give them plenty of warmth and light, and a little nitrogen. If the root systems are intact, they may go into survival mode and send out shoots. It’s a long shot, but worth trying. It’s just too sad a thing to throw them away if there’s any spark of life still left.

My husband hung our large, illuminated Moravian star at our front door last night. When I arrived home, there it was, glowing soft amber in the dark. There’s not much about Christmas that I love, but simple, beautiful displays like the Moravian star, seen often in Germany this time of year, always warm my heart. When winter sets in and the nights and long and cold, the warm glow of a pretty luminary is just right.

At a friend’s behest, I watched a short film last night called ‘The Herd’. It’s a 21-minute-long vegan/feminist look at the dairy production industry. It’s not like any film you’ve seen before.
This film does a lot of things well, but one thing it does very effectively is take an honest look at the abject horrors of living and dying as a dairy cow. It’s pretty tough to see, but it’s truth from stem to stern, so go and watch it.

I don’t care much what your take is on animal sensibility: I think we can all agree that no creature on earth should live so wretchedly and die so miserably. I don’t want to be a spoiler, so I’ll just recommend that you go and watch it and figure it out for yourself. ‘The Herd’ is available for free on YouTube.

Last night, I dreamed I was at a beach. That’s all.

Live in peace.

Vegan Haul, and a Sad Little Lemon Tree

We just stocked up for a short week; organic pineapple, starfruit, mangos, limes, avos, oranges, and bananas.

Woke up to light snow this morning. Daytime high temperatures will be in the 40s for the ascertainable future. I think winter is biting at our heels now.

The banana plants were delivered Friday, and sadly, they were dead on arrival. The stem snapped on one, and the other was just gone. I emailed the company, but haven’t heard back yet. I hope this doesn’t get complicated.

Meanwhile, the Thai Black Stem banana plants are growing steadily. This variety doesn’t grow as quickly as the Basjoo, but the young plants are healthy. If they survive to maturity, they’ll be permanently potted bananas; inside in winter, out in the glorious sun in summer.

The Meyer lemon tree is not happy now. Whatever leaves it still has have shriveled up. The lime tree is fairing a lot better. It looks like the lime may make it until spring. Bringing citrus indoors for winter is perilous. They don’t like it. They want fresh air, warm breezes, lots of sun, and rain. No matter how much love you give them indoors, sometimes it’s not enough. I’m not giving up on the lemon tree. But it’s a sad-looking tree lately.

Both clivias are in the garage for winter. I let them go dry before placing them in a dark corner of the bay. If the temperatures drop any lower, though, they’ll be moved to my husband’s unheated work room, adjacent to the garage. They need to be cold and dry to go dormant, but freezing will kill them fast. By February, they’ll be done with their long rest.

We’ve already started cleaning house for the Christmas party. This weekend, I took down all the drapes and curtains throughout the house and washed them. I love having the curtains off the windows: the house is light and bright. The sun pours in, and the rooms warm up. The plants throughout the house perk up. My dream home would be largely glass, with no window treatments - like a big, beautiful greenhouse. Yes, I can see myself living in a greenhouse.

It’s a few days until Thanksgiving. My husband and I plan a peaceful day at home with the dogs, dinner, love, and football. And we have a 4-day weekend, yay! Really looking forward to it. And if time is on my side, I plan a weekend trip to Ballek’s to soak up some horticulture and check out their selection of clivias.

Live in peace.

Earthing, and the Newest Vegan Automobiles from Tesla

So this morning, without even wondering why, I plugged in to my earthing wristband for the first time since last spring.

The notion to do so did not come from my linear, thinking left hemisphere. I simply saw the orange wristband and put it on. Hours later, I realized why: it’s November 18, and I haven’t stood barefoot on Mother Earth in months.

The body doesn’t lie. The earthing band that has been sitting at the same spot for 6 months, unused and unnoticed by me, suddenly catches my eye. I slip it on. The intuitive right brain told me what I needed to do. Love that brain.

Today, two more baby Basjoo banana trees are scheduled to be delivered to the house. It’s been decided that we’ll plant a tight cluster of them in June, and hopefully, enjoy a thick bank of these beauties all summer long.

I just read that electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors is offering an all-vegan car. Don’t laugh. I love the idea. An efficient and economical SUV-type vehicle that’s green, that I can charge free at their super charger stations, with 100 percent vegan, agribusiness-hostile, non-leather interiors, that are simple in design, with no bells and whistles. The best sustainable transport option available now, and the designs are always improving. I’m in.

My gas-powered car is a 13-year-old Toyota, and it’s still running nicely. I have no interest in getting a new car if the one I own gets me where I need to go. There is absolutely no part of my ego attached to my ride. I don’t care how it looks or sounds. The plan is to drive it until it gives up the ghost absolutely. When that day comes, I’ll be checking out the Tesla line.

Our one and only planet approves.

Live in peace.

Tillandsia and Terrariums

The box of 6 epiphytes tillandsias (air plants) arrived yesterday. Here they are just after unpacking. These little perennials are super low maintenance and make a great indoor gardening project. And they’re super cute.

Let’s get the taxonomy out of the way. You may have heard the term ‘tillandsia’ before, but it’s unlikely you’ve heard, unless you’re a horticulturalist or botanist, terms like aerophyte, epiphyte, trichome, or bromeliaceae. In laymen’s terms, we’re talking about air plants, of which tillandsia is a genus of more than 700 species of perennials native to Guatemala specifically, Central and South America broadly, some parts of the West Indies, and even the deep south of the U.S.

These amazing plants thrive without a bedrock of soil. In their natural habitat, they often attach themselves to trees and fallen wood, are hydrated by dew and occasional rain, and grab nutrients from decaying organic matter like leaves, insects, and tree limbs.

They’re starkly beautiful (Avatar-ish), and very hardy. Some grow fat limbed and juicy inside, like a succulent, and require virtually no attention. Others have delicate limbs like spider legs and need a little upkeep.

I love their simple, spindly appearance, and the fact that they don’t require a lot of work. Yesterday, I received delivery of six Guatemalan tillandsia, with wispy limbs and a delicate green color. They arrived in good health, and I want to keep them that way.

They went into the glass and wood terrarium that I bought last month. I had originally put soil and succulents in there, but fungus gnats quickly took hold (this is a brutal winter for gnats), so I removed the succulents, dumped the soil, and cleaned and sterilized the terrarium. Then I ordered the tillandsia.

Since tillandsia needs no soil, but fungus gnats do, I don’t have to worry about gnats. I scattered in a few pebbles that I had just cleaned and dried, and spread the tillandsia over them. In five minutes, I had a gorgeous tillandsia terrarium that even my husband saw and said, “Wow, that’s cool”.

Because these are the delicate variety of tillandsia, they’ll need misting with fresh water weekly.

Contrary to what some believe about plant geeks like myself, we don’t want to take on tons of extra work in our indoor and outdoor gardens. The name of the game is to shepherd plants kindly and effectively so that they’ll thrive and have happy lives, and keep the maintenance down to a minimum.

That doesn’t mean that geeks don’t like puttering around plants, talking to them, plucking off dead foliage, administering water and nutrients, pruning for size and shape, repotting, and cleaning up. We do. We like it. A lot.

What we don’t like is a steady diet of hard labor when it comes to gardening. So, we build irrigation systems on timers and lay weed shields under our veggie plants, and instead of battling fungus gnats in a soil terrarium, replace the soil with stones and plant carefree tillandsia instead.

And there’s no compromise with tillandsia. They are absolutely gorgeous, and with simple care, many genus of tillandsia will bloom. The blooms may be small and short-lived, but they’re beautiful.

Live in peace.

Animal ‘Foods’, the Emotional Matrix of the Flesh, Carnism, and What We Eat Becomes Us. Literally.


It’s time to pot up the banana trees. They’re root bound already, and I’d like to give them plenty of foot room in order to grow as large as possible during winter. The next question is where to put them. They’ve outgrown the light cart and the windowsill. And I fear that if I try to squeeze them in to the kitchen window, my husband will have me committed.

Saw another good documentary last night called ‘Food Choices’. Nothing really new in this 2016 film, but it’s still good. It speaks of the health, moral, and ecological reasons for adopting a plant-based diet. It reinforces what most of us now know: that animals are not food; that we’ve been conditioned to believe they are; that this conditioning is bizarre and grotesque; that the cost to us all is moral ruin; that animal food products cause a staggering amount of disease, suffering, and death in humans; and that corporate-driven ‘animal agriculture’ is laying the Earth to waste.

What this film also underscores are the psychological effects of eating animal foods. We have been so thoroughly conditioned to feel nothing when we carve into a steak and eat it. We know this was a living being that was killed in a state of terror and against his will. But we’ve been conditioned to have no emotional response to what’s in front of our faces, which is strange and unnatural.

And when we take that animal’s flesh into our mouths, chew it, and swallow it, we take his or her misery, suffering, terror, and death into our bodies and minds. This is not a metaphor. We literally assimilate into our flesh the fear adrenaline in the animal’s flesh, and if you are a believer in such a thing, we also integrate the emotional matrix of the animal’s flesh.

This film observes that mental diseases like clinical depression and anxiety can be and have been cured through plant-based diets. And why not? What we take into our bodies becomes us. Sounds strange? It’s not.

What is strange is that we can bite into the flesh of a cow or pig and grind it up in our mouths and feel pleasure, not disgust, but the idea of grinding in our mouths the flesh of a dog or cat repels us. So, we have edible and inedible animals. We love some animals, and eat others.

It’s schizophrenic, and taught to us from birth. We put pig flesh and dairy into our children’s’ mouths and tell them that it’s good. Then we teach them to be kind to animals. We compartmentalize our thinking so that it feels acceptable to eat a cow but give our dogs birthday parties and Christmas presents. It’s crazy-making.

This film gives this behavior a name: carnism. It’s the mythology that swirls around our killing and eating of some animals and the loving devotion of others. Those animals don’t feel fear and pain, we reason, so we kill and eat them. But those other animals do, so we protect them, buy them birthday presents, and let them sleep in our beds.

What?

It’s a balmy 60 degrees today. It’s been like this for a week, and I’m loving it. It looks like we’re about to get a taste of winter in a few days, though. But hey, it’s November 16, and we haven’t yet seen any significant snow. It may be a bearable winter. The banana trees hope so.

Live in peace.

Sweatshop Christmas Trees and a Mega Fruit and Veggie Haul

Organic haul! Organic mangos, bananas, limes, papayas, avocados, oranges, sweet potatoes, carrots, Brussels sprouts, ginger root, and star fruit.

We made a mega fruit and veggie haul Saturday. A small, family-owned market a couple of towns away was having a sale on organic produce, and my husband and I, out on errands, happened to drive by and spot the sign. Coincidentally, we were on our way to the area “super”market to stock up on fruits and veggies. I had two-and-a-half bananas and a star fruit for breakfast this morning (the dogs shared the half banana): I hope my husband took a few oranges with him to work. There’s going to be at least a few fruit mono meals on the menu this week. Win!

We’re discussing the Christmas tree situation. Since we host the annual Christmas party at our house, and his family are real traditionalists, we feel obliged to hang some lights and bows here and there. But his mother has asked for a family photo around ‘the Christmas tree’. The thing is, we don’t have a Christmas tree, and neither my husband nor I have ever wanted one. So yesterday, the convo started about what to do.

He suggested an artificial tree, thinking it would be easiest and best ecologically. A real tree, he argued, would die in vain for the sake of a stupid family photo. I love that he was thinking in those terms, but I wonder if a small, potted arborvitae, kept outdoors until party day, then brought in, strung with lights, then returned to a sheltered spot outdoors until spring, would be even better. Come spring, we could plant it in the ground, where it will live and grow and be habitat for wildlife. No one dies, my mother-in-law gets a family photo: everyone wins.

I’ve poked around at the artificial trees that are offered for sale at Christmas, and hate what I see. They’re a nasty cocktail of petrochemicals and lead that are not just poisonous to us and our dogs, but they’re also butt ugly. They smell weird, look fake, cost a lot, are made in China sweatshops, and once they’ve outlived their welcome, get hauled to the landfill.

Things that are manufactured in sweatshops have a palpable bad vibe to them. And I solemnly believe that when we bring them into our homes, they bring in their misery with them. Call it an emotional footprint, negative energy, or shade. It was created from unhappiness, by women (largely) who are trapped, neglected, overworked, and miserably underpaid.

If you can’t feel it while strolling through a God-awful place like Wal Mart, try turning up your radar. It’s tangible. I don’t care to bring this into our home.

And finally, real trees that are cut down and propped in our living rooms may be better for Mother Earth, but killing a tree for any reason – especially for something as impractical as a Christmas prop - turns me off completely.

In accordance with Feng Shui, I suggested to my husband that we bring a water feature – like a large indoor fountain – into the house at the building’s center point, and decorate it for the holiday. He speculated on what his mom’s reaction that would be. We both cringed at the thought. I really dislike the pressures that Christmas brings.

For more on balancing your home’s energies and living in harmony with nature, check out the principles of Feng Shui. Some call it pseudoscience, but I’m not one of them. What and who we surround ourselves with becomes a part of us.

I’m pretty obsessed right now with Good Earth organic blue corn chips, and we picked up three bags Saturday. Corn chippies are one of my favorite vegan junk snacks. They’re high calorie and loaded with salt (unless you get the unsalted), and they don’t offer much nutrition at all. But I’ve been seriously craving them with salsa or guac. This will pass, but I’ll admit that I even had a few for breakfast today. Not good. But yummy.

Live in peace.

Citrus in Survival Mode and Insane Banana Trees

It looks as if the citrus trees have reached their indoors-for-winter-survival-mode plateau; about one third of foliage remains, there is no new growth, but they are alive. They’re waiting now, and holding on. All the tiny lemons that appeared in July have died and fallen off. They’re not pretty, and they don’t care. Keeping the franchise going is the only concern now. June will be here in time.

My amazing husband bought me a Sago palm tree. Sago palms are easy keepers with some nice tropical style. This is especially appreciated as winter closes in. It’s temporarily in the kitchen window, but soon, I’ll pot it up and give it some presence.

The basjoo banana trees are completely crazy. There’s no doubt that before Christmas I’ll have to pot them up into 3-gallon or larger pots. These were 4-inch-tall nubbins when we got them September 16. They’re absolutely crazy.

And I just learned that when planting outdoors in June, banana trees should be at least 5 feet tall. That will be no problem. It’s a good thing, and good luck, that I bought them when I did. They will be plenty big when the time comes to go in the ground.

I’ve switched over to adding a little magnesium-rich Epsom salt to the watering can for the indoor plants. Plants in pots quickly consume all the soil’s nutrients. Magnesium is great nutrition. The sulfur in Epsom salt is also a boost. But I’m holding off on any general fertilizing so the plants can do their resting. I’m also afraid that if I feed these insane banana trees, they will break through the ceiling and rule the planet.

We’re fighting a pretty beastly battle with fungus gnats right now. These little buggers lay their eggs in a plant’s soil, where they hatch, feed off the soil’s nutrients, then make more fungus gnats. It’s a very common problem with winter houseplants, but we hate it.

Being a veganic gardener is easy in summer, but in winter, not so. When these little brats show up, they must be removed before the house is swarming with them. My solution is small bowls of apple cider vinegar - infused with some sugar for extra fermentation, and some dish soap to break the liquid’s tension - placed around the plants.

The adult gnats are attracted to the smell of fermentation, get too close to the vinegar, and drown. Each week, I empty bowls of vinegar and dead gnats into the toilet, clean the bowls, and refill them with the vinegar mixture. It’s not a nice job.

I hate to kill anything at all, even the most seemingly-insignificant thing - even a fungus gnat. But they multiply at such breakneck speed, the house would be infested otherwise. I have a husband and dogs to look after. So, that’s not going to happen.

I’ve been craving bananas like a mad dog lately. I eat bananas everyday anyway, but in the past two weeks, I’ve been eating more than usual. My husband is complaining about running out of kitchen counter space. It looks like a banana farm in there. But the body wants what it wants. If my trillions of cells are calling for bananas, then bananas they will get. I’m a good mother.

Live in peace.

Election Day 2016

It’s Election Day! Taking post-poll selfies has become obligatory. Go Johnson/Weld!

This has been one hairy presidential race. This morning, at the polls, after voting, I mentioned that I was glad that it’s nearly over. Someone nearby responded that it’s just begun. I have an idea of what he meant, but I hope he’s wrong.

One of the Lima Lapaz cybister amaryllis I had delivered last week sprouted two scapes overnight, before I had a chance to plant it. I hate it when that happens. So I potted it up last night. Let’s hope it hasn’t been compromised. I really want this beauty to go for years.

Think I’m coming down with a cold. The achiness, headache, and weakness that precede my colds beset me yesterday, and today, my throat is also a bit sore. I don’t do colds well. I generally whine a lot and feel sorry for myself. This is what happens as soon as the sun stands down for winter. We need that solar Vitamin D, y’all.

Get to the polls, people. And don’t let anyone convince you that a third-party vote is a wasted vote. That’s pure rubbish.

Live in peace.

Burly Banana Trees, and Saving an Imperiled Planet

The banana trees, which arrived on September 16 at just 4 inches tall and a tad anemic, are now almost 3 feet tall and robust. Wish I’d know years ago how much fun growing bananas is!

A ‘Christmas Gift’ white amaryllis was potted up this weekend. Most of the bulbs planted lately are starting to show signs of life.

Remember that bit I wrote about not buying any more amaryllis bulbs this season? Scratch that. I happened upon some nice white ‘Christmas Gift’ bulbs over the weekend and bought two. Three. I bought three.

This is not as bad as it sounds. I gave a potted bulb to my mother-in-law, another to a colleague, one is germinating for my mother, and I plan to give another colleague one. There’s no fun in keeping them to yourself.

The banana trees are growing like crazy. I was tending our family of indoor plants and trees Sunday when I took an honest look at the banana trees. Their trunks are getting very fat, their leaves are as big as Frisbees, and they’re nearly three feet tall. They were four inches tall when we got them on September 16, less than seven weeks ago.

I wish I’d known, years ago, how easy and fun growing banana trees is. I gave them an Epsom salt treatment yesterday (they’ll need the magnesium to keep growing at the rate they’re growing) and pruned off the old dead leaves from the bottom of their trunks.

I’m wondering if we’re going to have enough ceiling height in the house for them by the time June arrives. One of these trees is destined to stay in the house, and may have to be pruned regularly to keep it from reaching the ceiling and bending. These are the kinds of problems I love to have.

We have a row of Italian parsley in the garden that’s still going strong, and we used lots of it over the weekend. Fresh parsley is a great diuretic. It has many other nutritional benefits, but the best use I’ve had for it is as a weapon against monthly bloat. In summer, I’ll just stand in the garden and munch on handsful of raw parsley. And it’s during summer that my health is always at its best.

Tomorrow is election day. This political race has been like a bad Melvillian drama. We are being led by the least among us; the least noble, the least visionary, and the least intelligent. Now, we have an imperiled planet on our hands. We must clean up the mess. And beloveds, we can’t wait until the last moment of the last hour to do it.

Live in peace.

Life Without Fresh Garden Veggies, and Christmas Plans

The orange Shima Fu clivia miniata arrived yesterday. It will be pollinated to the yellow New Hope clivia we already have.

When the two cybister amaryllis arrived Monday, I had a moment of ‘I think I’ve bought enough of these for the year.” I always go a bit over the top with amaryllis bulbs in autumn. But they are so beautiful and I have great memories attached to them, so in my enthusiasm, I end up with bulbs taking over the house.

Yesterday, however, the orange clivia arrived after its long journey. That’s very cool. So now I have a yellow New Hope and a variegated orange Shima Fu Miniata. Both are going into the garage for two months of dormancy to galvanize new growth and late winter blooming They’ll be cross pollinated, and I’ll cultivate the seeds and see what we get.

It’s 70 degrees outside today, aw yeah. But I’m sorely missing the food garden. Last night, as I prepared some basil/parsley pasta for dinner, I realized that my feasts of fresh veggies have vanished since late September, when we took down the vegetable gardens. We still have some sauce left, but that’s it for our homegrown food. Winter is going to be tough.

Two decision have been made about Christmas. Let me preface this by stating my creed about this holiday. Prepare yourself for a short tirade.

The modern American Christmas is a retail orgy and nothing else. It has implicit in it the assumption that spending lots of money will bring joy. It’s an idiot cycle of consuming, year after year. It makes impossible demands on everyone involved and disappoints every time. It’s oversold, and under-delivers. If there’s anything good about it, it completely escapes me.

I approached my husband last week and suggested that we don’t exchange gifts this Christmas. There’s no joy in it for either of us, I said; only the pressure of obligation. No fun at all.

I think my husband was taken back by the suggestion. He counter-suggested that we exchange gift cards of equal amounts. I compromised and agreed. I wanted a complete moratorium on gifts, and permanently, but at least we’re sparing ourselves the bother of figuring out what the other would want as a gift, finding it, buying it, wrapping it, and hiding it. I’m so utterly done with that.

Next Christmas, if we’re both still alive, I’m going to again suggest no gifts at all, or ever again. By then, he will have had a year to get used to the idea. I think we’re closing in on a change for the better.

The second decision involves Christmas cards. I dislike the obligatory card sending, but we both have elderly relatives who cherish the tradition, so the obligation is there. But this year, we’re cutting back on waste and expense, and making season’s greetings beneficial at least to someone other than ourselves.

I bought Buddhist-style postcards for 88 cents each. Proceeds benefit the Sirimangelo monks. Simple cards with an image of Shakyamuni and a message of peace. No envelopes. No sappy sayings or pseudo-poetry. And postcard stamp mailing rate.

We’re streamlining our list of recipients to just a few of the old-school family members who will rise up on their hind legs and howl if they don’t find cards in their mailboxes.

I do wish that Christmas was different. But Wall Street led the charge toward this madness a long time ago, and we happily joined in. Now, it’s an absolute mess.

My dream Christmas would be to spend December 25 skiing in Åre, Sweden, or Aspen, with my husband. Or maybe on a beach in a paradise like Maui. Or how about at home, free of clamor and clutter, door busters and Black Fridays; the fireplace fed, our dogs with us happy and safe and loved, some acoustic guitar playing softly, kisses, a great book, and a pot of tea.

Just imagine sailing through Christmas free of all this pandering and performance. An intimate day of peace, plants, compassion, kindness, joy, dogs, love, and a little good food. A Christmas free from consumer intensity, Wall Street and Wal Mart. I could live with that.

Live in peace

Baby Papaya Trees, Lemongrass, Amaryllis, Clivia, and a Warm Start to November

Two new amaryllis bulbs planted up: Elvas is a double petal pink and white, and Black Pearl is the deepest single petal red.

The lemongrass stalks have rooted nicely, and were potted up this weekend.

A Martha Washington geranium that my mom was going to compost is now living in a sunny window in our house. Here it is getting a drink in the sink.

Two cybister amaryllis are scheduled to arrive today from California. That will be it for new amaryllis bulbs this season. I always buy a few too many. I just get so stoked about amaryllis. I’ve potted up an amaryllis for my mom, and one for my mother-in-law. This is an annual tradition. They both enjoy watching the bulbs sprout and eventually bloom.

I’ve also planted two very large amaryllis together in a basket. Elvas is a double petal pink and white, and Black Pearl is the deepest single petal red. I hope they grow simultaneously and bloom near or at the same time. I plan to pollinate them to each other and collect the seeds.

The New Hope Clivia went into the garage this weekend to go dormant. It will get no water, warmth, or light now. In eight weeks, I’ll pull it out, place it in a bright, warm window, and give it a deep watering and a feeding of a balanced fertilizer. A scape should emerge, and this beauty should bloom. An orange clivia is coming from Ohio soon. I’m so glad to be back cultivating clivia. Why did I stay away for so long?

The lemongrass stalks rooted nicely in water, and I planted them up in small pots. And a gorgeous pink Martha Washington geranium that my mom was going to toss away is now in a sunny window in our home. It was in full bloom and very healthy when she said it was time to compost it. I wasted no time in taking it in.

Interestingly, some of the papaya seeds have germinated. I just tossed them in some soil and placed the pot under the grow lights. I really didn’t expect anything, then yesterday, I found two seedlings had popped up.

My husband noticed yesterday that the Meyer lemon tree is looking pretty sad. I’m going to fight to the death to keep it viable until next summer. I absolutely don’t want to lose this beautiful tree. My mom gave it to me and that makes it even more special to my heart. I’m doing all the right things, but it’s still petering out.

We have a couple of 70-degree days in the forecast this week! Tomorrow is November 1. I’ll take Indian summer all November. Or all winter if you please.

Live in peace.