Tag Archives: organic

Planting a garden; Our 2013 layout

2 Jun

This spring has come very fast! We are writing this about two weeks after we started to plant all the seeds and work with the soil. When May arrived, the weather shifted to spring, almost instantly! We are currently getting over a frost scare with snow and had to water the entire garden the other night and cover all the young seedlings with bed sheets and towels. The weather has been a little volatile here in Ontario this past two weeks but things are looking up and spending time in the garden has commenced.

As April rolled around, we started to get into planning mode and adapted the garden layout that I made last year to acquire some of the improvements we noted at the end of the season which you can read here. To get organized and prepared for the planting season and have a successful garden again this year, here is our list of steps that helps to get us started:

1. We set up a large seed list of all the seeds we currently had stored (How to properly store your herbs/seeds) and categorized them into medicinal herbs, culinary herbs, vegetables, and ornamental flowers.

This is our list of seeds we had saved for the 2013 growing season!

This is our list of seeds we had saved for the 2013 growing season!

It really helped put into perspective the diversity of our garden when we went to plant. This list is only our saved-seed list and does not include all the perennials and starters we already had in the garden. As you can see, we plan on growing more edible leafy greens this year and a few less medicinals. Also, planting more flowers for the insects and pollinators to eat – We have been working towards a blooming schedule that allows spring, summer, and fall flowers so there is a continual food source for bees and other insects.

2. Design a layout of your garden/yard space with rough dimensions to allow you to plan where you can plant your vegetables or flowers. The help of a ‘companion planting’ books helps out a lot!

This year was a much easier year to design the garden because last was a huge experimentation and educational growing period. We already designed our 2012 garden using the measurements of our backyard and then figured out an aesthetic and practical design that we both agreed on. You can see our garden layout here: Garden Layout 2012, 2013
– After the shape and size of the garden was determined, we started to look up the plants that needed full sun vs. partial shade. I recommend watching the sun’s path during full summer to see the clearance (or lack of) of any buildings or trees around the area. If in spring or fall, the path will be much lower to the south so account for a higher crest during mid-summer.
– We also use a companion planting book for all of our culinary herbs and vegetables to have as diverse a garden as possible! For example, planting garlic or onions around some greens or vegetables helps to deter aphids or other insects that could become a detrimental problem to your garden.

Garden layout 2013

Garden layout 2013

3. Till and supplement your garden soil with hearty, dark compost to nourish your plants!

The first real account of spring, at least for me, is when you can actually put your fingers into sun-warmed soil. This really signifies spring in my mind and is my sense of connection between the planning phase and the planting phase. We first started tilling at the end of April or first week of May, here in Ontario, Canada, and just worked in some high carbon leaf compost mixed with home-made vegetable compost (high in Nitrogen). We tilled and stirred the soil in our beds, mostly around the perennials, while adding a deeper trench of carbon rich leaf compost beneath the vegetable seeds.

tilling the garden bed with a hoe

tilling the garden bed with a hoe

The next step in the garden is the most fun – PLANTING! Once all the planning and organizing is done, we are so happy to be able to plant the seeds and transplant our starters in the earth and watch them grow.

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Tried and True Herbal Cold Busters

9 Mar

This is a little bit of a spontaneous post, but I felt the need to share one of my recent experiences. I caught a cold on Monday and by Thursday I’m feeling a whole lot better, a great deal faster than I anticipated. I always get a sore throat first when I catch a cold, so when I feel that coming on I know that I’m in for a bad time for the next few days. As soon as I knew that my body was starting to become weakened by an infection I reacted with some of the herbs and folk remedies that I have read about. I am going to try to keep this article straight and to the point, although given the fact that my 2 previous articles were quite lengthy, I have my doubts [Editor’s note: those doubts were accurate; I completely and totally failed at making this article short and concise. Oh well!] because I tend to ramble quite a bit. But we’ll see how it goes. Anyhow, listed below are the few herbs and other natural produces that I decided to use to prevent from getting totally sick and had enormous success.

apple cider vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar
: I received a book from my partner entitled “Folk Medicine” which is written by D.C. Jarvis (a physician) and published in 1958. This book is pretty much the bible for honey and apple cider vinegar, illustrating how both can cure a wealth of common ailments and help one to ultimately achieve a healthier and longer life. Even though some of what is stated in the book may be up to debate regarding it’s scientific accuracy, many of the things it tells have proven over and over to work. I usually drink apple cider vinegar, just a gulp or two a day, because it is rich in minerals and nutrients that are preserved by the bacterial culture. I like the taste, and have no problem getting it down although understandably it may be too strong and acidic for everyone’s tastes. Diluting it in juice, water or tea  is a more enjoyable way of enjoying the benefits of cider vinegar.

So how does cider vinegar help when you’re sick? I found it to be the absolute best cure for a sore throat. Just sipping the vinegar brings relief which lasts for a good long while. My guess is that the vinegar creates an environment in your throat so acidic that it damages the virus/bacteria that are causing the discomfort. Or perhaps the answer lies in the bacterial culture in the vinegar somehow affecting the invading infection? Just some thoughts. But how ever it works, It works big time. Sore throats are my least favorite common health problem. Thoroughly unenjoyable. Pro tip: Organic apple cider vinegar can be found in the natural product section of most grocery stores, as well as at natural health food shops or the occasional pharmacy.

For the do-it-yourself-er: If you buy good quality cider vinegar you will notice that it contains the ‘mother’, which is a long chain of bacteria that appears as a dark, cloudy mass somewhere in your bottle or jug. By preserving the mother, apple cider vinegar can be endlessly propagated by simply adding apple cider (the drinking, sweet flavored kind) to a remaining amount of cider vinegar which contains the mother. After waiting a certain amount of time (look it up), the mother will convert the regular apple cider into more vinegar. So theoretically, you only have to buy it once if you are creative!

Honey: You are definitely going to want to invest in raw honey. Even better if it’s organic. The best quality product provides the best support you are giving to your body. I encourage you to try to buy local honey as well, since our local bees could really use some love and support. Unpasteurized honey has more enzymes, protein and other delicate nutrients that are often eliminated when the honey is pasteurized  When ever I remembered, which turned out to be 3 or 4 times a day, I would take a big spoonful (or 2) of honey. It coats your throat and is anti-bacterial, and really helps to sooth a sore throat. Honey is a valuable, nutrient and vitamin dense super-food that is loaded with natural sugars and I find just helps for the infection to weaken faster and with less lingering complications. I also added it to my tea, smoothies and anything else that I ate or drank that would be appropriate.

Capsicum annuum

Capsicum annuum

Cayenne Pepper: Chances are, from what I have experienced, you have this in your house. It’s a common spice, made from the cured, dried and ground-up fruits of hot pepper plants, which are cultivars of the species Capsicum annuum, a native of southern North America and northern South America. Fun Fact: This same species is also the ancestor of the sweet green and colored bell peppers. Cayenne peppers contain a compound called capsaicin which is responsible for the hot, burning and numbing sensation that is produces in the mouth and throat. It is a very valuable medicinal plant and can be used to treat cardiovascular disease, topical skin infections, relieve pain, and much more.

What’s important when you have a cold is cayenne’s antibacterial, analgesic (pain-relieving) and decongestant properties. The powder when dissolved in warm water (the spicier the better!) really helps to loosen the mucus in your sinuses so that it can be expelled from the body, as well as sooth and eliminate sore throats. I drank this twice in the evening, on Tuesday and Wednesday night, mixing a heaping teaspoon of powered cayenne with 250ml (standard measuring cup) of freshly boiled water. I had to sir quite a bit to keep the powder evenly suspended, but it’s not a big deal. The heat that you feel after swallowing the cayenne also encourages perspiration; the skin is porous and has the capacity to flush toxins from the blood by dissolving it in the water that your body releases as sweat. Of course, incorporating generous amounts of cayenne to your food does not need an explanation and is another excellent way to enjoy it’s benefits. Cayenne is invaluable if you have any sort of sinus/respiratory problem, and would be absolutely one of my top 10 easiest to find and most useful herbal remedies.

peppermint

Peppermint: This is certainly an herbal product that you don’t have to look very hard to find, it is so common that most grocery stores carry it at pretty cheap prices. However, I would go for peppermint that is sold at bulk herb stores or other establishments that sell natural food and healing products. Even better would be to grow your own mint or harvest it (sustainably of course) from wild species. If you live in southern or central Ontario you can find field mint, Methna arvensis, and water mint, Mentha aquatica. Both species are usually only locally abundant, but when found are quite prolific. They like to hang around in damp meadows and along sunny stream edges.

I used Mentha arvensis that I collected this past summer when it was just coming into bloom. The taste is more pungent than spear or peppermint, but I find it more penetrating and medicinally potent. I find it quite earthy and comforting, ah yes! All true mints (Mentha species) can be used interchangeably for the purposes of treating a cold, and are applicable because they contain anti-spasmodic (muscle contraction or spasm reducing) and antibacterial properties and help the body to clear phlegm and mucus from the sinuses and lungs. Coughs and sore throats are also relieved by mint, if fact they have a significant capacity to heal the respiratory system. Indigestion, acid reflux, an even ulcers can be prevented and cured using this incredible group of aromatic plants.

Matricaria chamomilla

Chamomile: This low growing, whispy and fragrant herb, Matricaria chamomilla, has been used for countless centuries to relax and sedate the central nervous and digestive system, but aso has an important role to play involved with fighting respiratory illness. It is pain-relieving and anti-spasmodic like mint, but is also a potent anti-inflammatory that reduces the swelling and irritation in your sinuses and throat. Chamomile (occasionally spelled Camomile by a few eccentric individuals and distributors) is another widely available natural remedy that you could pick up in a variety of locations, although growing your own or sourcing from a reliable and trust-worthy source is always best! Chamomile’s time-honored calming affects also help someone with a cold to be able to sleep, which is extremely important when your body is using up energy fighting off an infection.

Garlic

Garlic: The potent chemicals found in this plant are completely undesirable to most bacteria, fungi and viruses and so can be used to disinfect the body internally as well as externally. Definitely throw in some extra garlic with whatever you are cooking for yourself when you are sick (which should include lots of easily digested and nutrient rich fresh fruit and vegetables. It also helps to eliminate dairy from your diet when you are sick, because it can enhance the production of mucus and may affect the immune system). I like to add borderline-insane amounts of garlic so that I can really feel it; certainly the more potent the better. Garlic also helps you to digest your food after it has passed through your throat to numb and heal inflamed throat tissue and relieve sinus congestion. I have found that eating a whole glove of garlic makes my stomach do somersaults, but if you can stomach eating raw garlic then all the power to you.

So that’s pretty much it; organic Apple cider vinegar, unpasteurized raw honey, powdered cayenne pepper, wild harvested mint, chamomile and garlic was all that my body needed to assist in expelling all of the symptoms, as well as the infection itself. All of these things are more or less very easy to come by and are extremely reliable. I couldn’t have hoped for being sick for a shorter period of time and now I know exactly how to treat myself using natural, safe and straight-forward ingredients. I encourage you to give it a shot, and to also explore other herbs and natural remedies that might work better for you. Everyone is different, and the only way to figure out what fits your needs best is to be creative, diversify and experimental!

Our 2012 Medicinal and Vegetable Gardens summary Part 1

6 Jan

NewspaperThis past summer of 2012 was one of the most awakening and deeply enjoyable garden experiences of our lives. Between the two of us, we both spent extensive time digging, sweating, planning, planting, watering, weeding, and exploring our new backyard organic garden.

The entire project began with a rich yearning to till the soil in the backyard’s green grass monoculture. We are both expanding in our knowledge and experience with gardening and being self-sufficient so growing our own food and medicinals was a clear next-step for personal growth. Actually, in my opinion, the best thing to do if you are not confident or not sure when/where to plant a garden, would be to just start with a small garden plot, pick out the plants you want to use, do basic research (even just on the back of the seed packs about which month to plant or how much sun/water), plant them in the spring, and watch them grow until they are ready to harvest! It is as simple as that. I cannot guarantee you will be successful with what you try to grow, but at least you observed, learned, and can take that knowledge to improve and  build upon the mistakes you just made.DSC02846

In our case, we both had some farming and gardening experience so we were not really starting at the bottom but after planting 60+ species of plants and not knowing exactly what grew best where, or which needed extra care or sunlight, as well as the quality of our soil… it all became a little wrenching to see if ANYTHING would grow. This was our best lesson; almost everything that germinated did amazing and we had tons of success with things like Butternut squash, which grew 17′ vines that crawled the length of our garden beds and produced seven 5+ pound squashes! The only major problem we had was with cucumber beetles and tomato blight- it was a very bad summer for that indeed.

Our indoor garden we made last winter and blogged about, started off the 2012 season. Many of our herbs were started inside and that allowed the roots to flourish and get a head start. We then hardened them off in the early spring as we began the immense and tiring task of plotting out our future garden and tilling the soil all by hand! We mapped out a space a little under 1300 sq. ft and removed the sod, and tilled about 12″ deep to loosen up the topsoil once the ground had dried from the receding frost. You can also see the full layout of the 2012 Garden here. We had only started our compost the fall before which forced us to purchase a half pick-up truck load of leaf and mushroom compost to use for adding nutrients to the dry topsoil. Instantly, the soil went from a light grey to a dark black earth, with much greater moisture holding abilities.

DSC02849

 Once May rolled around, and all the partially-raised beds were constructed, we converted two more 5 gal barrels into rain barrels and started collecting rain water and cheaply made a 50′ clothes line to help lower our electricity consumption for the summer (we also love the smell of clothes that had been drying outside on a

 warm, sunny summer day). We dug a large trench around the perimeter of our compost and shaded garden because in the past the rain load emitted by the garage roof swamped out the garlic and spinach planted near our path. After digging the trench and filling it with large crushed gravel, heavy spring rains washed into the deep trench and by-passed the beds and flowed into the corner of our property. One other project we completed before the season began was the digging of a small toad pond near the interior of the middle garden. We found 3 very small toads while doing maintenance gardening for a customer, and brought them home to live for the summer in case they got hit by her lawnmower. We only saw them from time-to-time but it was the hornets that we observed making frequent visits to the pond to collect water to drink, or to take to their hives. Another friend of the garden was the giant fuzzy bumble bees, burrowing their nest in the soil next to our potato mounds. In the early morning as we toured the gardens before work, we would pass the potatoes and witness a scurry of 5-10 big bear-like bees buzzing past; off to collect nectar.

IMG_0622

It was amazing the number of insects a large garden can bring – from thirsty hornets, to hover flies, honey bees to hawk moths, even lace wings and horned worms. This diversity was our goal in producing this years garden as the aid of specific flowers and native plants, like yarrow, that brought in beneficial insects was part of why our garden thrived and created balance. Overall, we had a great time, learned more than we could have hoped for and had so much fun being able to enter the garden at will and eat ripe and local food we watched grow from seeds! Growing your own food is a very liberating act 🙂

Check out part two of this blog (hopefully in the next day or two) to hear about our planting, harvesting, and finally putting the garden to sleep last fall!

Thanks for reading,
– A

raw macaroon recipe

19 Dec

These dont taste like traditional baked macaroons but are super yummy and awesome to have on hand. dry ingredients are somewhat approximate as you can adjust to taste and consistency, everything just needs to stick together in a nice ball.
Raw Macaroon Energy Balls
Ingredients
1/2 cup pitted medjool dates (not baking dates)
2 Tbs raw agave nectar
1/2 cup ground raw almonds
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1-2 Tbs roughly ground raw cacao nibs (optional)
Directions
ground raw almonds first in blender or food processor and set aside in a large bowl with the coconut. blend raw agave and dates until they form a sticky paste, you might have to stop and scrape towards the blade a few times to get all the date pieces. when done, transfer the paste to the bowl of dry ingredients and mix (we found using your hands is efficient in working everything together since it is sticky) this is also when you can add the roughly ground cacao if choosing to, it gives it a subtle chocolatey-espresso flavour. roll into balls once mixed, if the dough is not holding together well, you can add more agave sparingly until able to form- the same applies if too gooey, just add more ground almonds or coconut. eat! we like to make them a little smaller, stick in the freezer for a harder consistency and pull out to munch as a sweet, energizing snack. mmmmm!

full moon

11 Nov


Yesterday was one of those days where someone close to you is saying something and you add to it but end up reading their mind and oddly finishing their sentence, over and over. maybe it’s a sign you hangout with them too much haha.. or that it was a full moon- and we’re bottling our brew.. how fitting. yesterday we got the ingenious idea to use beer bottles for our kombucha and found a bunch here at home along with an antique bottle sealer. we bought a bunch of crown beer caps from the local brewery and have been sanitizing the hell out of everything. after much taste testing and stickiness, voila! let us introduce you to our organic ‘Cosmic Tea’- the clear bottles have added pieces of ginger and the amber are original,

what is amazing is that our first starter tea that lives on through each batch originated from British Columbia! we bought a wine bottle of wormwood kombucha at BASSCOAST festival in Squamish from a camp neighbour, and brought it home with us across the country.

we’re going to call the college tomorrow and see if we can sneak into the market next week- maybe we will finally be able to share our first finished creation. we’ll post about the amazing health benefits of this delicious fermented tea very soon.

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