How to Give the Gift of Food as Medicine: 5 Things to Make This Holiday Season

I have been driven by the idea that food is medicine since I was a teenager. I had health issues that were difficult to treat using conventional, pharmaceutical-based medicine   It became clear  to me that when we sit down to eat we have a powerful opportunity to nourish and heal ourselves with the foods we choose.  And I have dedicated a significant portion of my life’s work doing that through health coaching, and through our work with Fire Cider. One of my favorite things to do is share the idea of food as medicine with my friends and family especially during this time of giving. Here are my  five go-to make-at-home  ways to share the gift of food as medicine this holiday season.

herb-garden-window

Photo from thriftyniftymommy.com

Start A Window Herb Garden

A small window herb garden is easy to assemble and gives the gift of fresh, green herbs all winter long! Nothing brightens up a meal like a confetti of fresh herbs sprinkled on top or an oil infused with herbs picked nearby. For how-to resources on making a kitchen herb garden to gift, I used the post, “Tips for a Small-Space Kitchen Herb Garden” on thekitchn.com and on WikiHow.com “Start A Window Herb Garden” as resources.

Don’t have a green thumb? You can purchase ready-to-pick, plants at your local greenhouse, farm store or grocer. I like Basil, Parsley, Cilantro and Rosemary but pick what your recipient will use the most. Add handmade tags with simple care  instructions and a couple of your favorite recipes to complete the gift.

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Grinding cardamom for the spice mix.

Make A  Healthy Drink Mix

I love drinking sweet and spicy golden milk, especially in the winter when I can really use the benefits of turmeric. You can read more about “Golden Milk – A Calming Ayurvedic Health Drink” on the FireCider.com blog. This year, I’ll be giving out jam jars filled with my pre-mixed golden milk spice blend, milk not included!

Golden Milk Spice Mix to fill on 8 oz jam jar:

¼ cup dried powdered ginger

½ cup dried powdered turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

¾ teaspoon ground black peppercorns

Put everything in a 1 cup jam jar, seal and shake to combine! Decorate the jar, add an ingredient label and include a short and sweet recipe for Golden Milk:

For every 8 ounces of milk (whole dairy or coconut) use one teaspoon of Golden Milk Spice Mix. Whisk to combine and bring to a simmer for two minutes.

Add raw honey (or stevia/sweetner of your choice) to taste.  

I ordered all of the above organic ingredients from Starwest Botanicals but you can also find them in the bulk section of your local co-op or grocery store.

 

Give a Farm Share or Produce Delivery

Give the gift of nutritious, whole foods week after week! Find a CSA— Community Supported Agriculture or a store that has a weekly delivery service like Berkshire Organics in Dalton, MA.

For a list of CSA’s across the US, LocalHarvest.org is an excellent resurce.

 

Custom Teas for Health

“Tea began as a medicine and grew into a beverage.” —Okakura Kakuzō

custom-tea-blends-marbleandmilkweed-570
Photo by Briar from her Marble and Milkweed Etsy Shop

Winter is the season for tea so why not give the gift of delicious, medicinal tea for winter health? Make your own blends of tea using dried plants from your garden, local farm or bulk organic herbs and spices from Starwest Botanicals. I found a long list of tea recipes on adelightfulhome.com under the post, “52 DIY Herbal Tea Recipes” Package your tea in ball jars and add a tag with the ingredient list and steeping instructions.

Learn Together

Don’t feel crafty? Not sure what to make? Sign yourself and a friend up for a class  and learn how to make something together! The gift of an experience, especially one that’s shared, is sometimes the best gift.  Learn how to make your own bone broth, herbal tinctures, Thai food, etc by checking out classes near you—start with local farms, chefs and herbalists and see what’s happening in your town.

Seva and Inner Quest Intensive Cancelled After 30 Years at Kripalu Yoga Center

Last week a friend and former Kripalu volunteer informed me that the Volunteer Program at Kripalu, called Seva, had been eliminated. A search turned up nothing more than this grammatically incorrect sentence on the Kripalu website: “We recognize and honor, respect, and thank all of those who devoted their time in selfless service to Kripalu and its mission over the last 30 years.” Above which it states they are no longer accepting applications. Then I learned that the Inner Quest Intensive, Kripalu’s longest running, signature program, was also canceled. There are many reasons why I feel this change as a huge loss, not just personally, but for our community as well. Most importantly, without the opportunity to volunteer, Kripalu is now unwelcoming to those who can’t a afford a $100 day pass, let alone a program. This cuts Kripalu off from part of its community and makes it seem like just another exclusive yoga resort. I implore the Kripalu Board of Trustees to reconsider this decision.

I love Kripalu. I have referred to the place as my spiritual home and count myself lucky to live so close that I can pop over for dinner on a Wednesday with my BKC membership! Years ago I received a scholarship to attend the Inner Quest Intensive (IQI), which is, as the name suggests, really intense. It was the most challenging and useful program of self-development I have ever taken and holy wow did it change my life. Until recently, it was the longest running, most significant program Kripalu has offered. To many of us former volunteers and co-workers, ending all volunteer opportunities and the IQI as well, looks like the last of what began as an ashram has been discarded and the transformation is complete: The Kripalu campus has become a world-class yoga retreat for those who can afford such luxuries. Without Seva, which is the counterpoint to luxury, there’s no longer a community in residence dedicated to walking the talk and living the yoga. One sentiment echoed by many: Kripalu has no prana left. Shakti has left the sanctuary. This is a profound and palpable loss. I am writing this to ask the board of directors to bring these foundational programs back! And, if not, then what will they do in place of these programs, to keep Kripalu accessible to everyone?

The Volunteer Program is what made Kripalu, a non-profit, and its community unique. Seva means service. For the past 30 years anyone could apply to this free exchange program, acceptance was based on merit. Every volunteer made a commitment of time and service to Kripalu and in return received room and board and a place in the yoga centered Seva program. Seva is what made Kripalu yoga open to everyone. Folks came from all over the globe, including right here in Berkshire county, to experience the reciprocal gift of living yoga and serving their community.

So why would Kripalu end two of its longest running programs? Programs that had an incredibly profound effect on those who participated in them. Here’s what I learned when I talked with some former volunteers and Kripalu employees, past and present, about Seva: in the past few years there has been a suicide, a sexual assault and too many calls to the cops. There have been too many people joining the Seva program looking for a free ride or a way to escape. I was shocked and saddened by this. What a shame. And what place would want death, assault and the local cops associated with it?

Seva is a privilege and it seems like too many folks signed up to take advantage. Too many people came with the attitude of what can Kripalu do for me, instead of how can I serve? This kind of abuse is clearly unacceptable. Seva volunteers should be setting an example for the rest of community. There must be a way to change what wasn’t working in order to preserve the heart of this program for the rest of us. Why not invest in turning Seva into an optimal version of itself, something to be proud of again? There was a time, in the not too distant past, when the Seva program was in balance and making a contribution to the entire Kripalu community.

What kind of message does it send to eliminate something because it’s not working like it used to? Isn’t Seva the kind of program an institution like Kripalu needs to remain grounded and connected to its mission, its roots and its community? Seva is for everyone! Service is an integral part of yoga, as any student will tell you. Bring the volunteer program back so that Kripalu can continue to be a space for so many people to have life changing experiences doing Seva. Please don’t let a few troubled participants and a few poor decisions take Seva away from everyone. Kripalu has so much to offer– how can we keep it that way?

It seems the recent past has not been a bright one for the Volunteer Program. Perhaps now is the time to share our stories about how Seva and/or the Inner Quest Intensive has had a profound positive effect on our lives. Let’s share our love of these two core Kripalu programs with the members of the Kripalu Board of Trustees, asking them to reconsider. In the very least, I think the community needs an explanation of what must have been a very difficult decision. Even if we can not convince the Kripalu Board members to reinstate the Volunteer Program, at least we can give it the commemorative ending it deserves.

If you feel inclined to share your experience, please mail a separate copy to one or all of the following people at the address below:

  • David Lipsius, Chief Executive Officer
  • Denise Barack, Director of Program Development
  • Erin Peck, Senior Vice President of People, Culture, and Programs
  • Members of the Board of Trustees

c/o Kripalu Center
PO Box 309
Stockbridge, MA 01262

And share here as well!

 

Setting S.M.A.R.T. Goals

It’s that time of year again when everyone is talking about setting goals or making new resolutions. If you are like so many people who set goals in the New Year only to find them somehow impossible to follow though with, this guide is for you!  So many times in my life I have tried changing a bunch of things at once, only to fail at everything.

Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals is a way to set yourself up for success because how you go about setting goals can make all the difference. When I was working as a health coach one of the most important things I would tell my clients is to set just one goal at a time and use the acronym S.M.A.R.T. Goals as a guide.

When you set one goal and focus all of your energy on it, you are much more likely to succeed.  This guide is great for small goals and can also help you break down big goals into smaller, more manageable steps.  You don’t get to the mountain top in one leap, it takes many small steps to add up to big accomplishments.  So what does S.M.A.R.T. stand for?

SMART-Goals

 

S is for Specific.  Let’s say you want to get more exercise on a regular basis.  That’s a great goal but it’s pretty vague. A more specific goal would be: I want to get a minimum of 20 minutes of exercise 5 days a week.  Even more specific: I want to run or do yoga at home for a minimum of 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week, Monday through Friday.  I will schedule this into my weeks calendar to make sure I have the time.  Now that’s specific!

M stands for Measurable.  A successful goal is one that can be easily measured and answers the questions How much? How many?  Using my specific goal above, I can measure both the frequency and the duration of my workouts. This is how I will know I am hitting my goal or if I need to make some adjustments so that I can hit my goal.

A is for Achievable.  Is your goal something that you can, with a little stretching, actually reach?  You want to aim for something in between too easy and too challenging.  Experiment and see, sometimes a more challenging goal is also more motivating!

R stands for Realistic or Relevant.  If you don’t exercise at all, setting a goal of five workouts a week is really not realistic.  Scale things back until you can realistically, with some stretching and commitment, reach your goal.  Start with 1-2 workouts per week.  Once you reach that level of fitness, try for 3-4 per week and so on until you hit your big goal.  A relevant goal is one that matters to you that you are both willing and able to work towards achieving it! Beware of setting goals based on “I should…”  We can all list 100 things we ‘should’ be doing, things that usually have more to do with others than with our true desires.  Make sure your goal is for you, think “I want, I need or I desire” as ways to state your goal.

T is for Timely or Time-Bound.  With my exercise goal I would want to set a date at which I will be regularly hitting my goal.  Let’s say I pick a deadline of February 1st, giving me a month to sort out all the details and get into this new workout routine.  An end date for your goal gives you something to work towards.  It gives urgency to your work and a clear deadline for completion.  Then you can celebrate your success and set up a new goal!

Each goal you set and achieve will set you up for your next goal.  Each one a small step towards a bigger picture: a more fully realized version of who you really are.  Think of how quickly each little change you make will add up into major positive changes over the course of a few months or a year.

One last thing, be sure to share your goal and your deadline with people who support you in making positive changes.  Knowing your friends are rooting for you, and will be asking you how things are going, can be a huge motivator!

 

 

 

 

 

You Need This: Bee’s Wrap

I am always looking for ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. At home and at work, I know how important it is to shop responsibly. When it comes to the kitchen and our home environment in general, there are a lot of ways to save money and reduce our impact on the earth. Fact: I have not bought or used plastic wrap in YEARS! Same with paper towels and plastic bags. Yes, you can live without those throw away products. And yes, there are alternatives that are healthier for you and for the environment all while saving you money, check it out:

Let’s say you pay $2.49 for a 100 foot roll of SaranWrap. So if you use 8 rolls a year, that costs you $19.92. You will use all the plastic wrap, a few feet at a time, slowly throwing away the entire roll. Yes, you just paid for garbage that will now spend decades not rotting in a landfill. Same goes for those sandwich bags, zip lock bags, paper towels, you get the idea. It’s all garbage, it’s all going to end up in a landfill polluting the earth that we rely on for food, clean water, clean air, you know, life as we know it.

Now consider a 3 pack of Bee’s Wrap for $18 which will last for a full year and when it’s done keeping your groceries fresh, you can compost it and it will become part of next years garden. Or use it as a fire starter in your wood stove. It’s a little less money and zero waste. Bee’s Wrap is made from organic cotton infused with bee’s wax, jojoba oil and tree resin. Plus you get to feel really good about yourself by supporting a sustainable, earth friendly business instead of a mega corporation that produces trash. Everyone wins!

Paper towels and paper napkins are an even easier fix, instead of buying and throwing away toxic bleached paper products that are stripping our land of oxygen producing plants, you can buy some washable kitchen towels and napkins and turn your clothes that are too far gone into rags for messier projects. And when you absolutely need to you can use bamboo towels that can be washed and reused as well. Bambooee is the brand that I recommend. On their site they state this: Trees are being cut down at an unsustainable rate and 3,000 tons of paper towel waste are produced per day. (According to the US Environmental Protection Agency).

Here are my rules for shopping- is this healthy for me, is it made by a company that is in alignment with my values, is it earth friendly ie is the product and it’s packaging biodegradable, recyclable or reusable? If the answers are all yes, then buy it! There are 313.9 million people in this country, if we each do a little, it will add up to a lot more resources for us all to enjoy for many generations to come. So make the switch, save money and our planet, how’s that for multitasking?!

A Perfect Meal: Bo Ssam

Bo Ssam is a traditional Korean meal of slow cooked pork shoulder that you eat in lettuce cups topped with ginger scallion sauce and ssam sauce made from oil, vinegar and fermented black beans.   Since this meal is made by slow roasting meat on the bone it is one of the best ways to get the most nutrition from cooked meat.  The ginger scallion sauce compliments the savory, fatty meat and is also a digestive aid and immune booster.  The ssam sauce is made from fermented beans, which means they are easy to digest and full of microbes for your internal rain forest.  The lettuce cups provide some green and make this meal more like a salad you eat with your hands.  To top it all off this is meal is a group dinning experience Bo Ssam is food for your mind, body and soul, in other words, a perfect meal!

I went to my local butcher shop, Red Apple Butchers, to get a pork shoulder from Climbing Tree Farm for the Bo Ssam.   I love this shop; Jazu did a little extra work on the shoulder he cut for me by removing a few smaller bones, which means he ended up charging me a bit less, and he also cross-hatched the skin so the whole thing was oven ready when I got home.  I paid about $10 per pound, which seems very reasonable to me, considering what I am getting for my money.  So, before we get to the recipe, let’s talk about why I think everyone, no matter how big or small your food budget,  should ALWAYS buy locally raised versus cheaper conventional animal foods.

Ready for 6-7 hours in the oven, thank you Jazu!

Ready for 6-7 hours in the oven, thank you Jazu!

Conventional/factory farm meat:  please note that the word ‘natural’ on the package means nothing, as in, there is nothing natural about this meat!   Factory farmed animal foods are cheap and you get what you pay for: very little actual nutrition and a lot shit you don’t want.  Conventional meat is raised using antibiotics that cause the animal to gain a lot of weight quickly.  You are eating these antibiotics, so you too can gain weight more quickly!  Along with antibiotics that are harmful to your body, you consume everything else the animal was exposed to: torturous inhumane conditions, genetically modified foods full of lethal to animals (you are an animal too!) herbicides, pesticides and hormone disruptors.  Factory farming is incredibly destructive to our environment and is making us sick to the major financial benefit of a handful of CEO’s.   In summary, cheap meat buys you tortured sick animals devoid of any real nutrition aka empty calories that will help you pack on pounds while making you sick and hurting the environment.  And you’re paying for it!  Now is the time for you to do something about it!

Locally sourced, small farm animal foods: You and your community get way more value per dollar by investing in farm raised foods.  Ever noticed how you feel more full on less than usual when you eat a pork chop from a healthy, local pig?  Try it if you haven’t already!  It’s because the meat is full of all the good things the animal ate and came into contact with: sunlight, rain and healthy soil combine to produce superior, pure foods that the animal consumes and turns into highly concentrated, nutrient dense, health food that directly supports the health of the farm, the farmers and the community it will feed.  A farm that operates in harmony with nature is an awesome place to work and contributes to a healthy environment for everyone.   In short, food produced in nature sustainably nurtures everything around it, including your personal health!

When shopping for animal protein you have two choices that couldn’t be farther apart.  Even on a very limited budget you can eat less meat of higher quality and it will actually help to build up your health over the long-term.  You will get the most value for your food dollars by shopping locally and your community benefits with you!

And now for the recipe, you’ll need to start the meat the day before you want to serve it.  Allow at least 6 hours cooking time.

Momofuko Bo Ssam Recipe

From the NY Times Magazine by Sam Sifton

Pork Butt

1 whole bone-in pork butt or picnic ham (8 to 10 pounds)

1 cup white sugar

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt

7 tablespoons brown sugar

note: eliminate all sugar for Candida diet, or do what I did: 1/3 cup sugar mixed with 3/4 cup salt.  Then, I used about 1 Tablespoon salt and 2 teaspoons sugar for the glaze at the end.

Left over Bo Ssam over salad greens with ginger scallion and ssam sauce.

Left over Bo Ssam over salad greens with ginger scallion and ssam sauce.

The shoulder I cooked was 10.5 pounds and fed 7 people the first night.  Dana and I ate Bo Ssam Salad with the leftover sauces for days afterwards.

Ginger-Scallion Sauce

2½ cups thinly sliced scallions, both green and white parts

½ cup peeled, minced fresh ginger

¼ cup neutral oil (like grapeseed)

1½ teaspoons light soy sauce

1 scant teaspoon sherry vinegar

½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

Ssam Sauce

2 tablespoons fermented bean-and- chili paste (ssamjang, available in many Asian markets, and online)

1 tablespoon chili paste (kochujang, available in many Asian markets, and online)

½ cup sherry vinegar

½ cup neutral oil (like grapeseed)

Accompaniments

2 cups plain white rice, cooked (eliminate for Candida diet, you really don’t need it!)

3 heads bibb lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried

1 dozen or more fresh oysters (optional)

Kimchi (available in many Asian markets, and from Hosta Hill).

1. Place the pork in a large, shallow bowl. Mix the white sugar and 1 cup of the salt together in another bowl, then rub the mixture all over the meat. Cover it with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

2. When you’re ready to cook, heat oven to 300. Remove pork from refrigerator and discard any juices. Place the pork in a roasting pan and set in the oven and cook for approximately 6 hours, or until it collapses, yielding easily to the tines of a fork. (After the first hour, baste hourly with pan juices.) At this point, you may remove the meat from the oven and allow it to rest for up to an hour.  Make sure to save the pan juices, they will turn into a layer of delicious pork fat atop a layer of thick pork stock jelly, so good for your joints.  You can cook anything in the pan juices and it will taste amazing!

Finished and ready to be devoured!

Finished and ready to be devoured!

3. Meanwhile, make the ginger-scallion sauce. In a large bowl, combine the scallions with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and taste, adding salt if needed.

4. Make the ssam sauce. In a medium bowl, combine the chili pastes with the vinegar and oil, and mix well.

5. Prepare rice, wash lettuce and, if using, shuck the oysters. Put kimchi and sauces into serving bowls.

6. When your accompaniments are prepared and you are ready to serve the food, turn oven to 500. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining tablespoon of salt with the brown sugar. Rub this mixture all over the cooked pork. Place in oven for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, or until a dark caramel crust has developed on the meat. Serve hot, with the accompaniments.

Serves 6 to 10. Adapted from “Momofuku,” by David Chang and Peter Meehan.

Non Dairy Milk Alternatives

Don’t get me wrong, I love cow’s milk in its many forms: cheese, creme fraiche, Ayelada!  And I’d say that when you consume cultured whole milk dairy, from cows, goats or sheep, that have been raised humanly on an organic diet optimal for each breed, dairy counts as health food, in proper amounts, of course!  Unfortunately, like many of us, I don’t have the necessary enzymes to digest lactose, or milk sugars, present in raw dairy.  I’m ok with cultured cream or cheese but plain milk, no way!

Raw cow's milk in glass bottles from Cricket Creek Farm in Williamstown, MA

Raw cow’s milk in glass bottles from Cricket Creek Farm in Williamstown, MA

So, what should you drink in place of dairy milk?  I used almond milk for a long time since I’m allergic to soy due to years of eating highly processed vegetarian soy products, consider yourself warned, those are not health foods!  Almond milk comes in conventional and organic varieties, in these cardboard boxes, some refrigerated, some shelf stable, all of them with too many questionable ingredients.  And those containers are not recycle-able everywhere the way glass and metal are.  The same goes for the processed coconut milks and other nuts or seed based dairy alternatives.

The packaging is not awesome, the fillers and ingredients are weird and you are paying for water, with flavor.  Anyone can make flavored water!

The packaging is not awesome, the fillers and ingredients are weird and you are paying for water, with flavor. Anyone can make flavored water!

I have made my own almond milk, there’s one good solution.  Way less packaging, especially if you buy almonds in bulk, which you kind of need to in order to make homemade almond milk (or other nut/seed milk) affordable.  And almond prices are going way up since this years crop was a disaster.  My issue with making almond milk myself isn’t just the time, it’s putting the leftover almond pulp to good use.   Even though I have a great almond cracker recipe, totally worth making, it is time-consuming and I don’t really want to eat that many almond crackers each week.  The amount of milk I want to drink far exceeds the amount of leftover pulp I want to eat. And that’s why I haven’t ever gotten into the habit of making my own and my guess is most folks don’t either for many of the same reasons.  But I also no longer want to buy almond flavored water with junk in it!

The answer to the milk alternative issue is so simple I’m wondering how I could have overlooked it for so long: Canned, organic coconut milk and filtered water combine to make…coconut milk.  A non dairy milk that is organic, has minimal recyclable packaging, is nutritious AND it’s fast and easy to make, perfect!  When you make your own coconut based milk there are no weird ingredients or thickeners, and you are paying for some actual nutrition, not flavored water!

Coconut milk has a lot of health benefits to offer!

Coconut milk has a lot of health benefits to offer!

Coconut milk is nutritious?  Isn’t it high in fat?  Yes, and yes, one of the best fats you should consume regularly!  “Coconuts are highly nutritious and rich in fiber, vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5 and B6 and minerals including iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous.

Coconuts contain significant amounts of fat, but unlike other nuts, they provide fat that is mostly in the form of medium chain saturated fatty acids (MCFAs) in particular, one called lauric acid. Lauric acid is converted in the body into a highly beneficial compound called monolaurin, an antiviral and antibacterial that destroys a wide variety of disease causing organisms. It is therefore now thought that consumption of coconut milk may help protect the body from infections and viruses.

MCFAs are rapidly metabolized into energy in the liver. It is thought that unlike other saturated fats, MCFAs are used up more quickly by the body and are less likely to be stored as fat.”  -excerpt from Jo Lewin, Nutrtional Therapist on the  Good Food Blog

Two cans of coconut milk will make up to two 64 oz Mason jars.

Two cans of coconut milk will make up to two 64 oz Mason jars.

Organic, canned coconut milk costs me about $1.80 per can from the buying club at my co-op.  I use 1 can to make about 1/2 gallon mason jar of coconut milk, much cheaper than any of the pre-made non dairy milks, organic or otherwise that you can buy in the store.

To make: open one or two cans of organic coconut milk, add one can per 64 oz wide mouth mason jar.  Fill at least halfway with filtered water and blend using an immersion blender.  Add more water to desired consistency.  You can also add: vanilla or another extract and stevia or honey to sweetened things up if that’s your style.  Non dairy milk that’s affordable, organic, easy to make and delicious- let’s drink to your health!

It’s Garden Time!

We did It!!

We did It!!

Now is the time to start planning and planting you summer and fall harvest and your medicine cabinet for the year.  Yep, that’s right, you can plant a lot of the medicinal foods that will help keep you healthy year round, how’s that for a health plan?!

Last weekend Dana and I recruited my sister Elise and her boyfriend Dan to help us prepare the garden for the growing season.  Jen and Jeff at Green Meads Farm in Richmond, MA have once again generously loaned us some of their prime farmland.  Last year we accidentally killed our whole garden by using contaminated mulch.  It was free mulch, so at least we didn’t pay to ruin our garden, but still, I really missed having a garden last year.  So I was really excited to get out in the sunshine last Saturday with the horses in the paddock and everyone in the garden, including three dogs and at least one field mouse!

We started by ripping up all the weeds, by the roots, there were quite a few burdock plants and a lot of invasive comfrey too.  Comfrey is an awesome medicinal plant so plant it in a pot or somewhere it can safely take over if you want to grow some.  Once the whole area was cleared, Jeff used his tractor to bring in manure which we raked out evenly from edge to edge.  Dana used the rototiller to turn over the top layer of soil and the rest of us broke down all the cardboard boxes we’d saved up.  Cardboard is a great ground cover to keep weeds at bay, it biodegrades after a year or so,  it’s free and minimally processed.  Make sure to remove any staples and tape from the cardboard, and don’t use anything with lots of printing on it.

We laid the cardboard out in one big layer and then covered it with a lot of hay.  Once that was done, we gave everything a good soak with the hose to make sure the cardboard would start to break down and the wet hay was heavy enough that it wasn’t going to blow away in the wind.  Then of course it was time to relax and enjoy the afternoon sunshine!

Dana and I will be back on Sunday to plant some starts, we’ll pick up a bunch from Jaeschke’s in Pittsfield.  For more exciting heirloom varieties we get seeds from Johnny’s Seeds in Maine.  Here’s the short list of what we are going to plant:

Cabbages: easy to grow, easy to care for and you can turn your harvest into sauerkraut, which you can enjoy all winter long!

Lettuce and spinach: nothing like picking salad greens straight from the garden!  Plant spinach again once the warmest months have passed and enjoy another harvest.

Winterbor Kale:  as the name suggests this kale will keep on producing long into the colder months and sometimes through the winter!  Fresh garden greens in November?  Sign me up!

Herbs:  fresh basil is so delicious but you can also turn it into pesto which freezes well so you can enjoy it, you guessed it, all winter long!  We usually grow a few varieties of basil including Tulsi or Holy Basil which can be dried and used for tea.  Tulsi is an adaptogen that supports digestion, respiratory health and is very soothing when you feel stressed out.  I also love to grow lots of parsley and rosemary.  Herbs grow easily in pots and are perfect for your sunny porch.

Flowers:  sunflowers are easy to grow in all sizes and colors and you can harvest the seeds to eat or hang the heads to dry for an instant bird feeder.  Grow what you love and encourage the bees to visit and pollinate your garden.

Happy planting everyone!

 

 

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