Sunday, June 19, 2016

Wild berries and one berry bush you should plant in your yard

On my morning walks with the puppy, we see big piles of bear poop.  What I find fascinating is not so much the fact that bears walk the same path as I do, but that we also love the same food: Their poop is full of cherry pits.  Sometimes we see a bear up in a cherry tree, breaking limbs as it climbs up and down and stuffing its face with cherries.

The bears and us love this time of year because it's like a giant candy store in the woods.  Cherries, salmonberries, thimbleberries, red and blue huckleberries, wild strawberries and blackberries - they all entice us to slow down our steps and pick them.  And so we do.  

Going for a walk with Eva can't be called walking this time of year.  She takes a few steps, picks berries straight from the bush into her mouth for half a minute, takes some more steps, picks berries for another half minute, and so on and so on.  

It makes me happy to watch my kids and their friends enjoying this wild food so much.  I can't imagine how much good nutrition these berries are packed with!  

It helps that the picking location is so gorgeous: our local forest, filled with giant cedars, wild creeks, wildflowers and yes, bears.

Red Huckleberries

At some point the boys' friend (the pink-haired dude) found a garter snake and held it up in the air, which freaked Eva out.  Her 13-year old brother Kai decided now was a good time to tell her the snake would come chase her, which resulted in loud, panicky wails from Eva and a stern talking-to from me to my eldest son.

He's usually very kind, but he must have felt like showing off in front of his friend.  In our family, I don't tolerate unkindness (even though I understand the role of bigger brothers usually involves some teasing of younger ones), so when Eva and I caught up with the boys ten minutes later, Kai was waiting for her with a hand full of huckleberries that he had picked for her as a peace offering.  Now that's better, dude!

Yep, that's tears.  You know, because snakes are chasing her.

These lessons learned out in the woods are priceless, and observing my children interact with their world warms my heart unless it doesn't when one of them is being a pain.  Most of the time, I feel blissed out when we're out here.  I mean, look at this: we are picking berries and are probably getting one million times the antioxidants and vitamins we need, the scenery is gorgeous, the puppy happily frolics, and I deeply breathe air that smells like moss, ferns and cedars (and bear poop).

By the way, I am not worried about the bears, not at all.  We don't have grizzly bears here but rather shy, more elusive black bears.  They are more scared of us than we of them, and wouldn't you be terrified to hear loud humans shrieking about berries and snakes?

What else are we picking?  Check it out.  Here are my favorites - thimbleberries (Rubus parviflorus). They have such an unique taste, almost like apricots.

Salmon berries!  There are red ones and golden ones, and they are the first berries of the season, so we have to race the birds to get them, since our feathered friends love them as much as we do.

Wild strawberries!  They are tiny but incredibly flavorful.

Here are little native trailing blackberries, which are not black yet but are working on it.  We'll be ready for them.

And here's the thing: we are not only stuffing ourselves with wild berries, but also berries we planted in our garden.  When we first bought our property 14 years ago, we planted several varieties of less common hardy superfood berries.

While many people only plant blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, we wanted to take it a step further and planted Goumiberries (Elaeagnus multiflora), Seaberries or Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides), Honeyberries (Lonicera caerulea), and Aronia berries (Aronia melanocarpa).  

Granted, these berries are not as sweet and delicious as the more common ones, but they are even more superior in nutrition.  For example, Aronia berries have the highest concentration of antioxidants than any other fruit.  Goumi berries have the highest lycopene content of ANY fruit, which means they are a powerhouse and anti-cancer food.

If you can plant only one of these, I would recommend to make it a Goumi!  We eat as many as we can fresh and freeze the rest.

Sometimes, I can't find the kids anywhere, and when I yell their names, they answer me from under the Goumi berry bush, picking and eating berries by the handful.

What's your favorite berry?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Turning 44, and one of the things I've learned

On the same day as the shooting in Orlando, I turned 44.  My husband, kids and I were hiking on a mountain top to an abandoned fire lookout, kayaking on a magical lake, and feeling lots of love and joy.

A day later, when I found out about the tragedy, I started feeling guilty about all the bliss I felt on my birthday.  The guilt lasted exactly 10 seconds, because I realized that the kinds of feelings I experienced on my birthday are exactly what the world needs in the face of insanity, fear, hatred and death.  We need love, joy, community, family.

I am so heartbroken about what happened.  And as always in the face of unspeakable grief I am holding my loved ones close, trying to teach them inclusivity, that we humans are so much more alike than not and thus should treat each other like brothers and sisters.  

Anyway.  I am now 44, rapidly heading towards the half century mark.  I think this would freak me out more if I didn't feel so healthy and strong.  Honestly, I feel more vibrant than I ever have.  

My hair is turning grayer, my wrinkles are deepening, my hands are looking like the appendages of a woman 20 years older than me (I don't wear gloves when gardening or washing dishes), but I feel wiser, deeper, and more seasoned. 

I think ageing has a lot do do with our mindset.  Our culture tells us that we will get aches and pains, that we will get sick, tired and ugly.  Well, I have an issue with that paradigm.  There's nothing that says we can't get healthier and more alive as we age, right?  I jump on that band wagon!  Jump with me!

The hike up the fire lookout was gorgeous.  Wildflowers, sweeping vistas, ferns, gnarled trees...

Don't worry, she didn't kill it. This butterfly was dead, and she was sad and insisted on a proper burial.
On the way down, I lagged behind.  Steve, who knows I like my space, took the kids with their chattering and noisy enthusiasm and led them down the mountain, while I quietly walked alone, blissed out.  The afternoon light was so soft and pretty, bathing everything in golden light.

The backlit flowers seemed to call out to me to stop and admire them.  I reflected on how much I've learned from flowers.  Mostly it's about how to be fully present, to exist in a grounded way and letting their light and beauty shine unapologetically.

What I love about flowers (and everything in nature, really) is that they just ARE.  They live fully in the moment without judging.  Lupins don't look at a daisies and say "Gosh, I wish they weren't so different from me!".  A rose doesn't lament that one of her petals is a different size than another one of her petals, wishing she looked different.  She just keeps on blooming her butt off, spreading her gorgeous fragrance.  One flower doesn't judge another: "Look at that bitch!  Who does she think she is for showing off like that with her vibrant colours?  I wish she kept it down a little."

I totally wanna live like that.

That night, we slept in our friend's tiny cabin and went bicycling (me) and eating cinnamon rolls (the rest of my family), and then headed to Pearrygin Lake to kayak.  Steve gave me a kayak for my birthday (!!!), so we naturally had to test it.  The lake's surface was like glass and took my breath away with its beauty.

My son Luke must have rolled his eyes at me because I kept exclaiming how gorgeous it was.  By the way, you know what the kids' present was for me?  They cleaned out the fridge after I hinted how much this would mean to me.  Have I told you how much I love these kids?  

What are you holding near and dear these days?

PS: I am giving away a spot in my self-paced, start-and-end-whenever-you-like fermentation course at the Woolly Moss Roots blog.  Head on over there and leave a comment to win it.  Even if you don't win, you can claim 10 percent off.  Get the coupon code at Woolly Moss Roots.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

My life has changed

I've hesitated writing a blog post about this because I wanted to make sure it works, because it could be controversial, and because I don't want to come across as preachy.  But it has been four months, it has changed my life and continues to do so, and so I want you to know about it.

Although I've always considered myself very healthy, fit and strong, I began experiencing strange symptoms after the birth of my third child six years ago.  Twice a month, I would get what I came to call "energy drains", where my energy literally drained out of me, I got a headache, felt nauseated and had to lie down in a dark room and sleep.  It felt like symptoms of a migraine although I didn't experience the pounding that other people describe.

You can imagine that with raising three young children and running a farm, these energy drains were very inconvenient, since I literally couldn't function.  Over time, they were not only inconvenient, but very, very scary.  I didn't know what was wrong with me, and after working with naturopaths and accupuncturists for a couple of years, even getting rid of my beloved goats for a while to reduce my work load, things didn't improve.  In fact, they got worse.

I started feeling terrorized by these energy drains because they could strike at any time.  When I scheduled to teach a cheesemaking course at our farm, or planning a getaway, or attending events, I never knew if I could function that day.

For a type A german overachiever and control freak someone who likes things her way, this started getting me seriously down.  Nobody could help me. 

At a local Mardis Gras parade in February, I ran into one of my friends who has suffered from migraines all her life.  She and I are similar: very conscious of eating healthy, organic food, homeschooling our kids, homesteaders.  I respect her opinion.  She told me about a bestselling book she had read, written by a man who apparently has helped thousands of people with their illnesses, and after applying some of his advice, my friend saw vast improvements with her migraines and health. 

At first, I didn't want to listen to her and yet another book about health, because I felt like I was doing everything right, and that I knew this stuff already.  Also, the way author got his information sounded strange to me.  Still, something made me buy the book, and I read it in two days.  It resonated deeply with me.

I won't go into much detail here, but I want to tell you this: I put some of the things he advises into practice immediately - very easy things like drinking a quart of warm water with lemon first thing in the morning, or taking Spirulina and Barley grass juice extract to detox heavy metals from the body.

And here's the miracle:

I have not had a single energy drain for four months, ever since I started implementing some of the stuff the author talks about.

This is why I want you do know about it.  If you have any mystery illnesses or ailments that doctors haven't been able to resolve, or if you want to feel healthy and vibrant, please read this book.  If you have read my blog for a while, you know I don't like to be preachy, but in this case, I think everyone should read the book.  Everyone.  I included a link below, which is an affiliate link, by the way, so I do get a few cents if you do order it though my link, but that's not what I'm after.  I want you to be healthy and vibrant, and this book has changed my life.  

I want you to be open to it, even if you read the first paragraph of the description.  Give it a chance.

Now that I have that off my chest, let me tell you about last week.

It has been HOT, and we are eternally grateful that our neighbors have a pond we can use.  We could go to the creek, but the water there is very cold and not great for swimming in for hours.  And who wants to walk to the creek when it's 102 degrees out, if you can just walk the few steps to the pond?

The boys jump off the dock, Eva paddles around with her life vest on, I watch them and knit socks.  The puppy just learned to swim and spends her whole time at the pond swimming back and forth, tail wagging while she doggy paddles, scooping up tadpoles with her mouth, snapping at water striders.  She's the happiest dog I've ever seen.

Although our life seems leisurely, we've been working hard.  I'm creating an online course on how to raise chickens, so I've been writing and writing, filming how to build a chicken tractor, and editing the movie.  It's a lot of work, but fun, and it will be an awesome course.

In between filming, we try to pay attention to our youngest, poor, neglected child who has to entertain herself for yours while we work.  (The older boys have each other).  It's nice to snuggle up with her on a lawn chair in the shade, take a breather, and feel grateful for our lives.

Her best friend spent a couple of days with us, and the girls foraged for salmon berries.  Lots of them.

Everything's great on the animal and garden front.  The fridge in the goat barn broke, so the piggies got to drink a lot of milk.  They put their whole bodies in the feeding bowl, with their butts sticking up in the air while they happily slurp.

We are eating our first peas from the garden.  Oh, yeah!

And you?  What's happening in your life?

PS: Order the book.  Just do it.