Growing Turmeric, and Love and Support for Animal Liberation Front

This weekend, I’ll be drinking lots of citrus water. It’s time to start spring cleaning the temple. No fasting this weekend, just moderate, clean eating and citrus water. Now I have two friends who are going to join me on the citrus water one-day fast in a couple of weeks. If I’m feeling good, I’ll go two days. Maybe three. General rule: once you start feeling weak or dizzy, it’s time to stop. I know some fasters say feeling lousy is a good sign that the body is purging toxins. I don’t necessarily find that to be true.

Watched a YouTube vid on growing turmeric this morning, and decided that a large pot of turmeric plants is something I’ll keep near the kitchen door this summer. It’s insanely easy: buy some organic turmeric tubers (Whole Foods always has them), plant about an inch deep in rich soil, and keep in full sun. Then I remembered that I have some turmeric powder that I made from the fresh root last summer, and I poured some into this morning’s green smoothie. Homemade powder blows away anything you can buy.

I decided to plant those broccoli sprouts in a germination tray, let them build some bulk, then plant them out late next month. Good thing we have lots of garden space. I’m pretty much growing everything I can get my hands on lately.

You’ll note that this blog is now a supporter of Animal Liberation Front. ALF is considered radical and criminal by its criticizers. But in case you haven’t noticed, animal abuse is utterly rampant, and laws do little-to-nothing to ease animals’ suffering. Legislation is flaccid. The average citizen is too distracted, self-preoccupied, or numb to care.

Animals are still – STILL – being brutalized in medical and cosmetic experiments, the meat and dairy industries are bigger and badder than ever, and individual stories of humans abusing, torturing, raping, and killing animals for the thrill of it are as present as ever. I’m a pacifist, but I throw my support behind ALF. The time for niceties and negotiation is over.

These courageous people are taking direct action. For the sake of the dear animals, give them your support too.

Live in peace.

Spring Citrus Juice Cleanse

We’ve just sprouted broccoli seeds for fresh sprouts for eating. I’m taking some of these sprouts and planting them in the food garden now, in February, just to see what happens. We’ve never grown broccoli, but I know it’s a cold-weather-loving plant that takes some time to mature. If the ground is not frozen, I’ll pop a row of these sprouts into the garden this weekend.

We’re inching toward spring, and that means spring cleaning. Not the house, but the body. It’s been a long winter punctuated with lots of food, particularly starchy food, and too much plant fat. We’ve spent too many nights curled up on the couch in front of the fireplace, not moving, and grazing. I’m not going to lie and say that I didn’t enjoy every minute of it, but the body doesn’t lie. I feel sluggish and weighed down. It’s time to cleanse.

I found a simple juice fast that I’m going to try, first for one day, and if I like it, I’ll take it further. You Tuber ‘LifeRegenerator’ – a cool dude named Dan who’s living the barefoot life in Kauai – is a self-taught nutritionist with great vibes and great ideas. He promotes raw vegan living and lots of fresh fruit juices. His simple recipe for an effective cleanse looks good. And two friends agreed to do at least the one-day fast with me.

For one serving, juice, in their entirety, one organic grapefruit, one organic orange, and one organic lemon. Pour the juice in a large glass (a quart-sized jar is perfect), and top off with fresh water. Drink as much of this as you can all day. I plan to make the undiluted juice from several grapefruit, oranges, and lemons, store in the fridge, and add it to water all day.
No magic here. Citrus is a potent internal cleanser that cuts mucus and purges toxins. It makes great juice for end-of-winter deep cleansing.

Dan is another You Tuber who lives an epic life. He’s 42, kicking it in Hawaii, devouring books on holistic nutrition, veganism, raw foods, herbalism, and Buddhism, showering outside, swimming in the ocean, growing food, learning, growing, evolving, meditating, practicing peace. He goes everywhere barefoot (I would too if it weren’t for winter), washes his hair with herbs, and fasts regularly. He dropped out of the insanity we call life. Just split. He’s never been happier or healthier.

My husband agrees to Hawaii. We both have obligations here, but once those change, we’re bouncing out of the Northeastern U.S. It’s been a great run, but it’s  time to choose new goals, go easier on our bodies, sell our stuff, simplify everything, stretch out on the sand, and grow papaya. You may call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. It’s going to happen.

Live in peace.

Jhampa the Avo Pit, and Planning Our Asian Food Gardens

We now have three Avoseedos going. This is getting a little crazy, but I’m excited to see how this gadget works.

And here’s a fourth, at my desk. Her name is Jhampa.

We now have three Avoseedos going at the house. And while lunatic indoor gardening is a sure sign that this girl is trying to keep sane through winter, even my long-suffering husband rolled his eyes when he saw three Avoseedos floating in a bowl of water near a window.

Hey, it’s February. It’s been coat weather for almost five months. I’ve forgotten what the sun feels like on my face. We haven’t eaten a garden-fresh veggie since September. My tan lines are gone, and my hair is brown again. And there’s more snow in the weather forecast. These avocado pits are my best friends right now.

I also have an Avoseedo on my desk. Her name is Jhampa, as in Jhampa Lahiri, one of my favorite Indian heritage writers. Grow, Jhampa, grow.

The experiment of planting Meyer lemon seeds in a potato didn’t work out. In a week, the potato was fermenting. Since it’s lemon trees and not homemade vodka I’m looking for, I tossed the potato in the compost. Boo.

Our bonsai is doing well. I don’t let it dry out: every other day, it goes in the kitchen sink for a deep watering, then a draining. I rinse the leaves thoroughly to remove dust, and keep water in the pebble tray underneath. The biggest struggle with bonsai indoors is the lack of natural humidity and fresh air. Trees don’t like being dry. And in winter, in the house, they go dry very quickly.

As soon as it looks like we’re past the last frost of winter, it’s going outside, in shade, in a spot where I’ll remember to keep it moist, which will require daily watering. Keeping a real bonsai happy and alive is diligent work. But it’s mindful work, and I enjoy it.

My husband reminded me last night that in two weeks, we’ll be in March. He’s getting as stir crazy as me. While March is usually a cold month in New England, blesséd April is right behind it. In mid- to late-March, the greens gardens can be planted and tucked under poly rows for an early crop of microgreens. It will be then that we’ll start the veggie seeds indoors for May transplant outdoors.

I’m really excited about the Asian gardens. After years of growing traditional American food gardens with maybe a couple of Asian varieties thrown in, we’re committing all the way to full-on cultivation of all Thai, Chinese, and Japanese plant foods. This will be an experiment in how they fare in New England gardens, and our fresh food diet will be much different this summer.

To keep our families happy, we’re saving a small patch of garden space for the traditional veggies, but aside from us, our friends, neighbors, colleagues, and the Granby food bank will be getting baskets of Thai long beans and Japanese akanada this summer, and not heirloom tomatoes and squash.

Last night, Ganesh appeared in my dreams. I saw him standing on a mouse, arms outstretched, fruit and incense at his feet. I have no idea why he visited me in my sleep. Ganesh is, among other things, the fierce protector of children and our homes, so it’s all good. He’s a holy, benevolent, bad-ass elephant god.

Live in peace.

Buddhism and Love


Many people who explore Buddhism are shocked to discover that the teachings have little-to-nothing to say about romantic love. The Buddha himself, although married early in life, at a young age broke the covenant with his wife and son to live alone, seek enlightenment, and teach.

Today, Buddhists are not encouraged to seek romantic love. It’s not forbidden, but romantic love, marriage, and childrearing are recognized as worldly roadblocks on the spiritual path. Even Zen Master and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of love only in its universal applications. He has nothing to say about romance.

But we all want to connect to love. The great opportunity we have as humans is to give and receive love under all circumstances, to all sentient beings. ‘Lovingkindness’ as it’s expressed in Buddhism is called ‘Metta’. Metta is inclusive, not discriminatory, and unconditional. It extends to everyone, everywhere, all the time.

From a Buddhist perspective, love grows continually, and embraces everyone in the cosmos. It is expressed through kindness and compassion. In loving all, your suffering becomes my suffering: your happiness becomes my happiness. There is no frontier between the one who loves and the one who is loved.

Metta plants seeds in the midstream of others, who also want to connect with love. It eases others’ suffering. It is karma that generates more karma. It brings us closer to enlightenment.

Pray the Prayer of the Four Immeasurables every day:

May all sentient beings have happiness
and the cause of happiness;
may all sentient beings be free from suffering 
and the cause of suffering;
may all sentient beings never be separated from
the happiness that knows no suffering;
may all sentient beings live in equanimity,
free from attachment and aversion.

Today is Valentine’s Day. Do you want to be surrounded by love? Receive love by engendering it. Cultivate Metta in your life. Extend love to all, even those who want to be your enemies. Return anger with forgiveness, unhappiness with happiness, war with peace, lies with truth, cruelty with compassion, fear with courage, death with life.

This is real love, true love. This is the love of the Buddha.

Live in peace.

Root Curry Recipe and Papaya Trees

Our big Yucca tree and the giant snake plant in the kitchen sink, getting deep feedings and a good drink of water.

The past week has brought some Big Snow this way. We’re buried under about 12 inches, which is an impressive amount for Southern New England.

Since it was a stay-at-home weekend with nothing to do but shovel snow, I got into the kitchen and invented a new vegan recipe. We have a good stock of root veggies, and a spicy curry is always great on a cold day, so I chopped turnip, onion, garlic, carrots, potatoes, cauliflower, and pumpkin, sautéed it in coconut oil, then simmered it for about an hour in coconut milk, diced tomatoes, fresh ginger, scallion, and hot Indian curry. We made a pot of red quinoa to go with it. It was an amazing meal. It filled our tummies and warmed us up before we went outside to move snow around.

Here’s the recipe:

1 large turnip, peeled and chopped
12 large onion, peeled and chopped finely
6 cloves garlic, minced
6 carrots, peeled and sliced
6 white potatoes, peeled and chopped
I head cauliflower, washed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 small pumpkin, washed, peeled, and chopped
½ cup coconut oil
1 cup coconut milk
1 large can diced tomatoes
3 stalks scallions, washed and chopped finely
1 large piece of ginger root, peeled and minced
Indian curry spice
Red quinoa

Saute all the raw veggies in the coconut oil for 5 minutes. Add coconut milk, tomatoes, scallions, ginger, and curry spices, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, cover partly, and cook for 45 minutes to an hour. Season with sea or Himalayan salt as needed. Serve with the cooked red quinoa.

I also kept a pot of homemade chai going all day Sunday. I buy the ground masala spice from a local Indian grocer. This tea was a combination of Tulsi (Holy Basil) tea, black tea, and a lot of masala. It was super spicy and dark. Some hemp milk softened it a little.

I also opened a ripe papaya and ate it, then took the seeds, washed them and removed the husks, then placed them in the fridge to stratify for three weeks. In early March, I’ll remove them, pot them up, and place them under the growl lights to germinate. If they decide to grow, I’ll raise a few in the house and bring a few outside for summer.

I’ve finally learned that fruit trees don’t like going from indoors to out or from outdoors to in. If you’re lucky and live in a tropical climate, then the fruit trees should be outdoors all year. If you live in New England, and want fruit trees in your life, the best bet is to cultivate them indoors in a sunny window and keep them there.

My favorite hang out, Moon Dog Café in Vermont, has a storefront of ceiling-to-floor glass, and behind the glass all year round is a variety of fruit trees that are thriving. The micro environment that the south-facing glass creates is warm and bright all year long.

Our banana trees are doing well. It looks like they may survive just fine until summer, when the cold-hardy basjoos go outside permanently, and the Thailand Black Stems are placed in one large pot in the house where they’ll get as much sun as possible.

Finally, I gave the Yucca tree and the giant snake plant deep feedings and water. The Yucca also got a pruning.

I spent the rest of the weekend looking at photos of gardens on Instagram and Pinterest and drooling. It was a pitiful sight. The good news: only 35 days until spring.

Live in peace.

February Seed Orders

Thai ‘Pink Egg’ Tomato ripens to an amazing magenta color. (Photo from rareseeds.com online catalog.)

Thai Baby Watermelon is harvested when about 3 inches long. Nothing like the mongo watermelons we grow in the U.S. It’s used in Thai stir fries and curries. (Photo from rareseeds.com online catalog.)

Peth Nam Eak is a Chinese kale that tastes like a cross between kale and broccoli. (Photo from rareseeds.com online catalog.)

It’s only February and I’m already insanely psyched for this summer’s food gardens. That’s not good, because we have a way to go until planting time. Patience.

It’s not too early, however, to order seeds. It looks like everything will be grown from seed this year. We’ve settled on Thai and Japanese foods (and a few Chinese greens) for the 2017 gardens. But to keep our families happy, we will dedicate a part of one garden to the traditional heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, and squash, and buy the young seedlings of these veggies instead of starting from seed.

Here is the list of Thai and Asian seeds that we’ve ordered so far:

Thai ‘Pink Egg’ Tomato – this grape tomato is popular throughout Thailand. It matures into a brilliant magenta-pink color and is rich and sweet.

Peth Nam Eak – a Chinese kale that tastes like a cross between kale and broccoli.

Oros – another Chinese kale, milder than Peth Nam Eak, this one is fast growing and will be an early harvest.

Thai Purple Podded Yard Long Bean – this is a favorite veggie in Thailand. All varieties of long beans are a staple crop in Thailand.

Thai White Podded Yard Long Bean – this is another favorite veggie in Thailand. All varieties of long beans are a staple crop throughout Thailand.

Thai Baby Watermelon – Popular in Thailand in stir fries, curries, and soups. They’re harvested when they’re about 3 inches long. The sweet flesh is orange-pink.

Burapa Pepper – a super-hot, small red pepper that matures late in summer. A native pepper of Thailand, where it’s used for flavoring lots of dishes. I LOOOVE hot peppers.

Thai Long Green Eggplant – A mild, sweet eggplant, very slender and about 12 inches long. An heirloom eggplant in Thailand. I’ve seen this recently on menus at local Asian restaurants, so it’s getting some attention here.

Thai Hairy Lemon Basil – used in a lot of Asian recipes, this is another basil used widely in Thailand.

Kapoor (Thai Sweet Basil) – essential to Thai cooking, this is hugely popular in Thailand. Sweet and spicy.

Pangako Sa’Yo (Holy Kaprao Basil) – this basil is popular in Thai cooking, but it’s most widely used as a religious herb by Hindus and a healing herb by Ayurveda practitioners. I plan to keep large pots of it around the perimeter of the house and a small amount in the food gardens. It has a strong clove scent and taste, so we probably won’t use it much for cooking. I also plan to dry and powder some for use on my skin, as a tea, and as an offering at our indoor shrine, where the beautiful Thai Buddha is seated.

And from Seeds from Italy, I ordered Wild Rucola seeds – an uncultivated Italian arugula that is said to have a sharper flavor than cultivated arugula. I like the spiciest arugula I can get.

This is the time of year where I do a lot of watching the mailbox. With these seed orders and another earlier one on the way, February is more fun, exciting, and full of magic than Christmas ever was.

Live in peace.

Balancing the Doshas with 8.8 Alkaline Water, Asian Food Plants, and ‘Dirt! The Movie’

I’m giving 8.8 alkaline water a try. The Buddhai approves.

In the spirit of trying every health food trend out there, last weekend I bought several gallons of prepared alkaline water.

There’s no magic to alkaline water. It’s simply water with a pH (‘pH’ represents the concentration of hydrogen ions) of over seven (so it’s less acidic than tap or spring water). The water I chose has a pH of 8.8.

There are lots of reported benefits to alkaline water – including improved digestion, increased energy, and a stronger immune system - but my interest is its possible effect on the doshas and its hydrating properties.

The science makes sense, so I’m giving it a try. I live with a cool Kapha-dominant dosha made troublesome by strong elements of the fiery Pitta disposition. Pitta bodies run hot and acidic. Luckily, I have no digestive problems, my energy levels are decent, and my skin is good, but I’m not fond of drinking lots of water. I know many people can drink water all day. I don’t unless it’s hot outside and I’m working in the gardens. My naturopath always tells me to drink more water.

Some days, I get pretty seriously dehydrated before I reach for something to drink. If alkaline water is a more effective hydrator than spring water, then this will be an easy win. I’ll keep you posted.

I’ve started drawing up plans for this summer’s food garden. Crops are going to be planted in order to shelter the greens’ beds throughout summer. Last season, they were getting too much sun and bolting too quickly.

We’re going to be growing, for the first time, two kinds of very cool Thailand beans in addition to regular green beans, so more space is being given to beans. There will be a raised bed exclusively for basils. This year, we’re growing tons of the usual Genovese basil and additionally, two kinds of Thailand basils.

Thailand and Japanese veggies will star in our food gardens this year. I encourage all food gardeners to consider Asian and other global varieties of vegetable seeds. There’s a much bigger world of fresh, delicious veggies beyond the standard tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, squash, and eggplant. Asian vegetables bring in new flavors, amazing textures, and nutritional benefits that you may have never dreamed you could produce in your own food gardens.

For Japanese and other Asian herb and vegetable seeds, check out my faves, Kitazawa Seed Co., and rareseeds.com.

‘Dirt! The Movie’ is one of my favorite documentaries. Last night, we watched it for probably the fiftieth time. This 2009 award-winning film by Gene Roscow and Bill Benenson explores our relationship with soil – the precious, life-giving skin of Mother Earth.

We are steadily rubbing away the thin and fragile soil skin of the planet through practices like monocropping, deforestation, and urbanization. On a global scale, corporate agriculture – with its gargantuan appetite for money - is laying our dirt to waste without a thought to consequences. 

On a small and personal scale, we can replenish our garden soil through composting, which is an easy and effective way to turn waste into living dirt while powering up our soil and hence, our food. No kitchen scrap should ever enter the waste stream when it can become soil for growing food or trees. Don’t forget to check out this important film.

Feeling a little bit of a sore throat today, like I may have a bug. If so, it’s my first of winter. Not good. I’m not great at physical suffering. My husband said that if I were to find myself stranded on an island with no hummus, banana sushi, or cozy chindis, I would die a terrible death within the first five minutes. That sounds about right.

Live in peace.

Fermenting Our Way Through Winter

Started another batch of homemade sauerkraut this weekend. In the background is Friday’s fruit haul.

Made a batch of cashew milk kefir this weekend. I went off kefir after going vegan last June, then realized that nut milk will work just as well with the kefir grains. Added a little maple syrup and banana to it.

A new gardening gadget: the AvoSeedo. The avocado pit floats in the device, half submerged in water. This eliminates toothpicks and chopsticks, and it’s just cool. We’ll see how it works.

We have two young, healthy avocado seedlings under the grow lights, but I don’t trust avocado pits. Just when it’s looking like we’re on our way to a new avocado tree, the pit molds and rots or just stops growing. Or the young tree suddenly fails. I was surfing the net last week, and found the AvoSeedo. It’s a small gadget that holds the pit, suspended in water, and does away with the need for toothpicks or chopsticks, which can damage the pit. It arrived Friday, and there’s already a fat Haas avocado pit in it.

You know it’s been winter too long when I start trying to germinate every seed, pit, spore, and rhizome that lands in our kitchen. This weekend, I planted two more mango pits, another pot of Meyer lemon seeds, another pot of wisteria seeds, two more avocados in dirt, the AvoSeedo, another avocado pit in water on my desk, one more on the stove, and finally, a potato cutting. I was chopping potatoes when I found one that had a tiny eye, so I cut the potato in half and suspended it over a glass of water.

Anything for a sign of life – the tendrils of a graceful root system floating in water, or the first peek of a seedling from the surface of the soil. My soul is starved. But it gets pretty hilarious now, when the house is filled with glasses, bowls, and pots of planted fruit and veggie seeds and pits. My husband learned to quit complaining about this a few years ago. There’s no point. I’m not going to stop until I can get my hands in the dirt and my bare feet on the Earth again.

You’ll also know that winter has been hanging around too long when our fermented and other food production goes into overdrive. This weekend we started raw sauerkraut, made a pot of cashew milk/banana/maple kefir, rolled our own tortillas, baked cookies, brewed insane amounts of hot tea, and had homemade waffles for breakfast. I’m certain a psychiatrist would call this displacement behavior – the nurturing and creativity that goes into the gardens in spring and summer is redirected to the kitchen in winter.

I’m still looking for an online academic source for studying Tibetan medicine. I found one, but it’s very expensive. The experience can’t have a price placed on it, and if I had it I would pay it, but we don’t have lots of surplus money. And this is nothing you study independently. Online studies are not my thing – I like personal and real time discussion and learning - but there’s no way my husband is letting me live and study in a medical school in Dharamsala for the next seven years.

I grieve the dearth of Tibetan culture and studies in this part of Connecticut. There’s the Tibetan community on the shoreline, and there’s David Brown’s farm and stupa in Old Saybrook, and there’s Chenrezig and Wesleyan University in Middletown. But up here, in the very topmost part of the state, there’s virtually nothing I’ve found.

41 days until spring. Less than 6 weeks. I can feel the ground beginning to stir.

Live in peace.

The Mūlādhāra Chakra

Otherwise known as the Root Chakra, the Mūlādhāra Chakra, a Realized Master told me many years ago, is my most stable and potent chakra.

There’s no question that someone who lives for growing things, digging in dirt, cultivating plants, walking barefoot on bare Earth, and who is in awe of Mother Earth and all her purposes, would find her strongest life force resting at the base of her spine.

All spiritual energy (Shakti) has its roots in the Mūlādhāra Chakra, just as all plants depend upon their roots, hidden deep in the Earth, for their sustenance. The karmas of our past lives rest in the Mūlādhāra Chakra. Every act we commit and have committed plants a seed (forgive me, another gardening metaphor) in the Mūlādhāra Chakra, which will eventually, like a plant, rise into the light. We are not only responsible for what we do, but also for what we do not do.

It’s no coincidence that I’ve always been drawn to elephants, and was once told that the elephant is my spirit animal. The main symbol of the Mūlādhāra Chakra is an elephant with seven trunks, representing the seven basic body materials and the seven levels of consciousness – unconsciousness, sub consciousness, dream consciousness, waking consciousness, astral consciousness, supreme consciousness, and cosmic consciousness.

I’ve been doing a lot of Chakra meditation lately. When I do, I chant the Būe Mantra (Seed Mantra) of the Mūlādhāra Chakra. The sound is ‘LAMMMMMMM’ - the voice of spiritual awakening. The Mūlādhāra Chakra sits deep in the psyche, and the goal of my meditation practice is to release and remove blockages in this deep-seated Chakra and activate its spiritual energy.

The divine being of the Mūlādhāra Chakra is Shiva, in the form of the Lord of the Animal World. My husband and I have icons of Shiva (in the form of Pashupati Mahādeva) throughout our home. We have images of sacred elephants in our living space. 

Not surprisingly, the Earth element (Tattva) is assigned to the Mūlādhāra Chakra. Those with a dominant Mūlādhāra Chakra possess love for nature and all living beings. We have sympathy for animals and reverence for the Earth. We are strongly maternal and are protectors of the Earth. We live in conflict with the Earth’s destroyers and so have a duty to care for our Mother Earth.

Life is consciousness, and consciousness strives for evolution. We all strive for evolution. I encourage everyone to find a spiritual master and take refuge, and discover, among other things, their dominant Chakra, and then begin the work of evolving spiritually. It’s never too late, there’s enough time in our schedules, and we don’t need anyone’s approval.

Work at some job if you must, pay taxes, and care for your family, but make your spiritual development of the most importance. Be ridiculously kind to everything that lives, relinquish your rights to control the opinions of others, forgive your persecutors immediately, give benevolently, be a voice for the voiceless, safeguard our planet, be a protector of animals, and discover and embrace your dominant Chakra. That’s a good blueprint for living.

Live in peace.

First Seeds of Spring, Hawaiian Mochi, and Food and Thought Evolution

The Big News: the very first seed order for the 2017 growing season arrived Saturday, yassss! All imported from Italy - kale, parsley, arugula, and chard. And all for the spring cool-weather greens garden.

Homemade Hawaiian mochi, made entirely vegan, turned out rich and coconutty. Sweet rice flour gives it its slightly gooey texture. It’s one of those ‘I can’t stop eating this’ foods.

Vegan Caesar salad? Yes! Substitute Veganaise for mayo, hold the egg and fish. I sprinkled ours with some ground flaxseed and cheesy nutritional yeast.

Roasted Brussels sprouts and carrots. A little agave nectar on the sprouts before baking, and coconut aminos over all after it’s out of the oven.

Think again if you think that vegans don’t enjoy UH-mazing food. Prior to going vegan last June, I too believed that a plant-based diet was going to be boring at best. It’s a good thing I have no problem admitting when I’m wrong.

And I was dead wrong.

Maybe because it’s February, with nothing to do outdoors near our home, and it’s winter all around us and we have cabin fever, but my husband and I were all about making and eating good vegan food this weekend. We made vegan Caesar salads, roasted root vegetables, baked Szechuan tofu wraps, Hawaiian coconut mochi (sooooo good!), arugula pasta, chai from scratch, hot chaga to warm the doshas, and cold lemonade to cool the doshas. We pretty much hogged our way through the weekend.

But the Big News is that the very first order of Franchi seeds for the 2017 growing season arrived Saturday! This is always a landmark day in winter. Four large packages of Italian kale, parsley, chard, and arugula arrived from seedsofitaly.com, and they will be the first to be germinated for the spring greens garden.

In March, they’ll be sown directly in the ground and covered with a poly tunnel for heat retention. I’ve decided that this year, I’m going to double the space for greens. My husband, who before we met rarely ate anything green, is now including in his diet not only green food, but a lot of bananas and oranges. He still eats meat and processed food, but whole food is slowly making its way into the picture.

He and I grew up in much different families. My dad, who was a lifeguard and active and fit, was conscious of his food choices, and taught his family the same. I had the blessing of parents who asked questions about the food they put on the table. Meat was not allowed. Nor was salt or butter. Dad’s word was law, and the law was that you thought about it before you ate it.

My husband didn’t have that kind of parenting. He hails from an little town in Connecticut called Enfield, a community where it’s the norm to attend the local, academically substandard public schools, pass on college studies or travel, marry young, work at lackluster 9 to 5 industrial or office jobs, have children, and eventually, divorce. It’s a sea of strip malls, fast food joints, car dealerships, public buildings, hair salons, tattoo parlors, big box retailers, Chinese buffets, chain restaurants, abandoned stores, community colleges, walk-in medical clinics, pawn shops, movie theaters, arcades, and lots of traffic, anger, impatience, and disappointment. 

Shame on Enfield’s local government (and all other towns like it), who over the years has waved in far too many retailers and chain restaurants, ignored infrastructure aesthetics, failed its children by hemorrhaging taxpayers’ money into a mediocre and worsening public school system, and didn’t concern itself with the quality of its residents’ lives. There is too much asphalt, light pollution, and chemicals in its water. It really bugs me to see what ignorance and greed can do to a community. You see a lot of addiction, obesity, physical sickness, mental illness (clinical depression is a big one), underachievement, financial struggle, and petty crime there. And I solemnly believe that most, if not all those problems – including crime - can be traced back to food choices. We are in fact what we eat.

Location is everything. Give me a shoe box off-the-grid to live in, and if it’s a shoe box in an enlightened, progressive community of seekers, I’ll be very happy. I also believe that whatever you’ve learned by the time you’re 18 years old is the bedrock of your habits for the rest of your life.

So now, my husband lives in a home where there is always fresh fruit and veggies quietly on hand. We’ve been married five years, and he is just now noticeably changing his diet – and his thinking. He eats at least one piece of fresh fruit a day. He loves bananas. He eats meat still, but will make an accompanying vegetable as well. Last night, instead of drinking his mandatory soda, he was sipping water. We’re sharing some of our meals together. He’s willing to try food he’s never had before – like recently, kale chips. Baby steps.

Am I actually trying to say that food choices have the potential to make our lives happy or unhappy? I am. Ask anyone who has transitioned to a vegan diet. Before long, you think with greater clarity. Your body feels less like an encumbrance and more like your tool to move about in this world. You start craving healthful, animal-free foods. Small aches and pains disappear. You heal a lot faster and sleep a lot better. You become happier.

You may not lose weight, you may not become an athlete, and you probably won’t live longer, but that’s not the point. The point is compassion and respect for all sentients, living lightly on Mother Earth, rejecting corporate agribusiness and corporate bullying, embracing minimalism, feeling at home in your body, and improving your health so that you may get up, get out, and do good for the world.

So, those Franchi seeds are calling my name. Patience. February may be a beast, and maybe March will be wintery too. But the seeds are right here, ready when I’m ready. A few more months, loves, and we’ll be on our way. Let’s get this party started.

Live in peace.

Compassion Teaching

I’m guessing that by now, many of us have heard His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings on compassion. This morning, I found one I hadn’t heard before, a 1993 public talk in the UK, with Geshe Thupten Jinpa on stage as translator. Compassion is a profound topic and yet one that not everyone delves into and defines. 

It’s clear that we all should study and live compassion first and foremost – before culture, nationality, religion, doctrine, or identity. Listen to the teachings of Venerable Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu for insights on compassion without attachment. His Holiness the Dalai Lama wrote ‘Ethics for a New Millennium’, (a New York Times bestseller), a great book and one I recommend on the subject of compassion. You don’t have to be Buddhist to benefit from these teachings.

Live in peace.

The First Seed Order of 2017, and #Van Life

It’s January 25th, and I’ve just placed the first Franchi (seedsfromitaly.com) seed order of the growing season. Yes, it’s time to start gathering seeds for the early spring greens. Depending on how long winter hangs on, we could be planting rows of kale, lettuce, and arugula seeds in two months. Woot!

Today I ordered one pack of each:
·       Cultivated rucola (arugula)
·       ‘Bolloso Napoletano’ basil
·       ‘Galega de Folhas Lisas’ kale
·       ‘Gigante de Italia’ parsley

Franchi seed packs are large. One pack of arugula and one of kale will bring in our first and even second crops. The basil and parsley packs will probably feed us for the summer.

I’ve been buying Franchi seeds for a long time – close to 15 years now. I’ve never found organic seeds with such a winning germination rate (nearly 100 percent). A typical packet of organic Franchi herb or veggie seeds is about $4. Top quality seeds, imported from Italy, and big packs of them. I recommend.

I’ve been viewing a lot of vlogs on the van life movement. You’ve probably seen the hashtag #vanlife a few times. I always get a thrill when I hear about people selling their homes, quitting their jobs, and leaving it all to go live on the road. They speak of the burden of home ownership and full-time jobs and the desire to find a new way to live.

And just when I thought that van life was the domain of millennials and trustafarians. I find lots of stories about people at 30, 40, 50, and even 60 who have relinquished the rat race for free lives. There are the fantasy vlogs, and there are the reality vlogs. Fantasy is sunsets on the beach or hiking a mountain at sunrise. Reality is using and cleaning a compost toilet and running out of gas in a desert.

The fantasy is nice, but the reality is a better picture of life in a van. It sounds challenging, a little scary, sometimes really difficult, and completely freeing. So much so that yesterday, I started surfing online for a used VW van. Turns out that a lot of other people are having the same fantasy as me, used vans are becoming rare, and the prices are formidable.

Well, I might not last very long in a van anyway. But it would be fun to rent an RV and cross the country with the dogs. This idea appeals to my husband too. There are two places on my bucket list: anywhere in Wyoming and Portland, Oregon. My husband wants to see Montana. And despite the odds against it, I’m going to keep the van life dream alive. I’m picturing an impossibly cool yellow or orange VW with solar panels that runs like a boss.

Live in peace.

Mind Clutter is Not Our Natural Habitat

My cap from Sea Shepherd arrived yesterday, and I completed and submitted the on-shore work application. Psyched!  #seashepherd #marinelife #savethewhales

I should just never turn on the TV. Last night, it appeared that a rogue ice storm was moving in, so my husband and I turned on the television to watch the weather report. No ice storm, just garden variety January rain and sleet. Meteorologists love to cry wolf.

But it wasn’t the weather report that got me: it was the general evening news. There were four lead ‘stories’ in a row, and here they are:

1. There’s speculation that a meteor is going to roundhouse Earth in 2019
2. Children are probably not safe on school buses
3. Deadly skin cancer is on the rise
4. North Korea is threatening a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the U.S.

In fewer than five minutes, our minds had been completely assaulted by a stream of things that we can do nothing about, don’t really care about, and generally don’t need to know about. It took us hours to decompress afterward. And of course, it got me thinking.

Keeping us all in a very distracted and worried state all the time is a very effective way to promote frightened compliance among the masses. Keeping us worried or obsessed about things that we have no control over leaves little time for us to think about anything else. Stoking our anxiety about what could go wrong is a way to keep our minds off what is in fact going wrong.

Who orchestrates these distractions? Anyone who can profit from it – retailers, government, the wealthy. Rich and predatory people. The last thing they want is a population that has the mental bandwidth to start thinking about how it’s being screwed. So, they give us meteors and melanoma to vex us.
This is why I dislike television and avoid it. Screeching commercials punctuated by apocalyptic reports of threats on our lives is not the nourishment the mind needs to thrive. 

After only five minutes last night, my brain hurt and my blood pressure was up. And all I wanted to know was if a storm was coming our way. Next time, if I want to know if one is coming, I’ll just go outside and look around.

Last night’s goodness: my cap from Sea Shepherd arrived, and I completed and submitted the on-shore application. I’m really feeling this next adventure. And while I’m a little sad that I didn’t take the opportunity to go to sea with Sea Shepherd before I married, I believe that I can do lots of good for ocean life from dry land. I’m excited. Looking forward to hearing from them soon.

I planted another pot of those amazing wisteria seeds last night. I’m thrilled with how quickly the seeds germinate and shoot up. The first pot of plants is already putting out tendrils, looking for something to climb. I’m going to have to figure something out before they get any taller.

I also planted another avocado pit, this time using the plastic bag tent method. We have one really nice pit that’s germinated and is already a foot tall, but I’m hedging my bets. I’d like to have a healthy young avocado tree ready for outdoor life come June.

Live in peace.