Saturday, October 31, 2015

Forging Farmers: Celebrating Women Transforming the Food System

Last week I had the pleasure of participating in this wonderful event hosted by MESA, the Multinational Exchange for Sustainable Agriculture. What a privilege to be part of a panel of such amazing women working diligently to build more resilient food systems around the world. 

The panelists were all so different and accomplished including the fiery Joelci Dannacene, a militant organizer with The Landless Rural Workers Movement of Brazil and Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak, owner of Devil's Gulch Ranch in Marin, founder and director of, Inc and a USAID Farmer to Farmer volunteer in Haiti and El Salvador with Partners of the Americas, Winrock International and HaitiCoffee.  The panel also included Clara Nicholls, a lecturer in the Latin American Studies Program at UC Berkeley, teaching "Perspectives for Sustainable Rural Development in Latin America" and president of the Latin American Scientific Society of Agroecology, as well as, Shu-Chen Cheng, a beginning small-scale farmer from Taiwan who hopes to educate farmers in sustainable methods, and share with her community the importance of supporting local farmers.

Not only was the conversation inspiring and stimulating, the homemade Puerto Rican tapas were off the hook!  Thank you MESA for including me in this uplifting evening, I am honored and excited to collaborate further in the future!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

All About Nettles

Last weekend we ventured out to Marin for our All About Nettles class.  The weather was amazing, a perfect day to experience Lady Nettle in all her glory.  We hiked out to our favorite foraging spot and sat in a circle to discuss identification, how and when to harvest, nutrients, medicinal uses, energetic influences, preserving, recipes, companion plants and cultivation.  Then we visited the many different nettle communities to pay our respects and harvest this nourishing plant ally. Along the way students also gathered young fiddle head ferns to sauté for their evening meal and fresh cleavers to juice as a tonic for allergies and eczema. 
The week of a nettle harvest is always special, filled with fresh sparkling juiced nettles, delicious nettle soup, nettle quiche or frittata, green smoothies, then bundles and bundles of nettle leaves hanging in the kitchen to dry.  This year our preservation method of choice is to dry and powder as many of the leaves as possible and freeze them in small bags to use through out the year as our own local, deep green super food (in place of spirulina and chlorella). 

Herbalist Michael Moore says in his book Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West…"Nettle powder is something  that you can gather yourself in places that you trust, and you can add it to smoothies and salad dressings, put it in your bread, add it to tea, home beer, and so forth.  It is green food your body recognizes, and can help build blood, tissue, and self-empowerment.” 

Definitely our number one go to herb for extra nutrition and nourishment when we are stressed or depleted, an easily absorbable form of iron, vegetable protein, spring cleansing and so much more.  Thank you lovely nettles!
 *pictures taken by Amelia Avila

Friday, February 20, 2015

Fermenting Addiction and Best Ginger Beer Ever!


Our latest fermenting class, Crazy About Kraut, was a success.  And now I am hearing from students who are addicted to kraut, beet kvass and fermenting in general.  It really is so easy and rewarding to make your own homemade ferments.  Our favorite sauerkraut recipe includes green cabbage, fresh burdock root, ginger root, fresh turmeric root, and daikon radish- yum and super good for you!

In our home we have recently been making loads of ginger beer which is a wild fermentation.  Our most current batch is turmeric root beer (an idea I borrowed from a student- thanks Amy!). The end product turns out a hundred times better than any store bought ginger beer and you can experiment with any roots or herbs you might want to add.  Tweaking the recipe each time is the fun part.  I am interested in trying elderberry/ginger beer- for immunity, hawthorn/ginger beer- as a heart tonic, astragalus/schizandra/ginger beer- for adaptogen benefits...the possibilities are as broad as your imagination. 

Basic Ginger Beer

Fresh organic ginger root
Organic sugar
Raw honey
Filtered h2o
(we also add a bit of sarsaparilla root for that root beer taste)

-Per liter: 1/3c organic cane sugar and 1/3c raw local honey.
-Boil grated ginger (2-3" root per liter) with the water and sugar for about 15 minutes or until it has reached desired spiciness.
-Let cool, add the honey and strain into bottles or mason jars and add about 1/4-1/2c of the previous batch as a starter.  If this is your first batch, go here to learn how to make your own ginger bug. 
-Leave them at room temp for 2-3 days until they are very carbonated (check after 24 hours) and then put into smaller bottles and refrigerate.  Enjoy!

*Make sure to check the bottles or jars each day, you may need to open the lids to let out a bit of pressure or you can use an airlock lid.  If you are worried about the bottles exploding (which should not happen if you are checking them!) you can put them aside in a Rubbermaid bin with a lid.

Happy fermenting!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sweet and Steady

"We delight in the beauty of the butterfly but rarely admit the
 changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty."
-Maya Angelou

It's been awhile since I've written, almost six months actually.  Life has been both cruel and kind in it's lessons.  As an open hearted participant I can truly say I am always learning and growing, give thanks for evolution!  Much has transpired here on the farm since the last post in August.  The turkeys matured and went to their new abode in the freezer (weighing in between a whopping 30-40lbs each!).  Our Wild Feast Thanksgiving was amazing.  We successfully cooked our first enormous home grown turkey in the cob oven with an abundance of sage and rosemary.  The bird fed almost thirty people and the chef received many happy compliments. (Thank you beautiful birds for nourishing our family!)  We will definitely be raising turkeys again this year.

There is also a fairly new addition to the family.  Cinnamon (aka 2G) is our new jersey cow who we bought last August from an organic dairy up north.  We recently did pregnancy tests on both Cinnamon and Ginger and it's looking like both girls are pregnant and due in late spring.  Pretty exciting for us!  The milk has been slowing down as we get ready to dry them off for a break before calving. 

As the weather warms up, the bees are active and buzzing everywhere while the hillside has become lush and green.  The garden is getting more productive with peas, favas, cover crops and perennial kale, collards, chard, lettuce, garlic, onions and artichokes bursting.  Time to plant potatoes and start the summer squash and tomatoes in the greenhouse.   

We have a ton of chayote starts this year and are excited to line all the fences with these versatile squash.  I've also ordered more perennials bushes for the food forest...aronia, seaberry, gooseberry, along with more fruit trees including mulberry, hawthorn, and Asian pear. This time of year it is hard to contain myself from ordering everything, it's like having planting fever.

Classes and tours have also been going extremely well.  We have been blessed with so many wonderful students and great interest in what we are creating here. 

And so as we continually work on externally developing this land we are stewarding and internally developing our character, we experience the sweet and steady; the effort and the rewards.  We look forward in 2015 to implementing many new ideas, creativity, fun, travel, friendship, health and balance.  Many Blessings!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Sharing Knowledge Among Women

"Don't ever take more from a plant than what you need,
they enjoy having life as much as we do."
-Gypsy Wisdom

Sunday we spent our afternoon in class creating the beginnings of an herbal apothecary. The class was full and we celebrated many useful medicinal plants for boosting immunity and supporting the respiratory system.  Fresh locally wildcrafted elderberries stole the show with their juicy blue lusciousness.  

'Tis a special and important thing to have time for women to gather, share age old knowledge, and create holistic remedies for ourselves and our loved ones.  From generation to generation it has always been the women who held this task.  

Together we offer information, support, and community.  Our baskets at the end of class were full of immunity adaptogen tincture, mullein thyme lung tea, elderberry glycerite, herbal vapor rub, and our famous fire cider.  A wonderful collection of remedies to strengthen and encourage fall and winter health.  Definitely a day well spent.  

Sunday, August 3, 2014


Sometimes when life becomes more work than play and the balance is out of whack, we need to escape somewhere beautiful for inspiration.  My recent destination of choice was the Regenerative Design Institute in Bolinas.

A day trip up the coast to visit this 17 acre permaculture farm was a perfect afternoon getaway.  I participated in a three hour tour of the grounds and gardens.  From orchards to medicinal food forest there was much to see. My overall impression - quiet, peaceful, wild, weedy and everywhere I turned I saw an overwhelming abundance of food growing and thriving.

A cottage house tucked away in the garden, artful signs waiting to be hung, comfrey growing EVERYWHERE!  There was the largest comfrey plant I have ever seen-probably eight feet tall.  A straw bale house, an interesting chicken coop set-up, and a beautiful herd of dairy goats roaming the hillside.

I sat on a warm cob bench in the sun by this tranquil pond after the tour to do some journaling and a thoughtful host brought this beautiful cup of tea with fresh borage leaves and lemon.  A perfect ending to a lovely afternoon.  Gratitude and blessings abound.  

What we see and what we don't see
What we know and what we can't know
The mighty and the small, The Father and the Mother
The creatures that prowl the forests
and the growing things in the fields
The young ones that tread the ground
and the old ones that sleep under it
The birthing and the dying
The laughing and the crying and the bearing up
All creation breathes with one breath.
-Johnathon Odell, The Healing

Monday, July 28, 2014

Aquaponics: Take One!

Our plans for fish farming have been in the works for a very long time now.  We've been dreaming, studying and gathering information for a couple of years.  We are really excited to be finally taking steps to bring our visions of this project into action. 

In the four years we have been working this land we have dabbled in all sorts of endeavors; natural beekeeping, goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits, varieties of perennials, drought tolerant edibles, the standard fruit and vegis, and our family cow.  With a little bit of experience behind us, we are refining our efforts to grow specifically what WE love to eat, which happens to include a good amount of fish!

In this set-up we used standard food grade IBC containers which had been functioning on the farm as containers for rainwater catchment. We are also using a large sump tank on the bottom as a water reservoir. There is a ton to be said about researching aquaponics set-ups. In a nutshell, our main source for a "how to" guide was Murray Hallam's Aquaponics Made Easy.   

As of this week the system we've been working on is ready. We just added about fifty fish, some babies and some breeders.  The fish are being fed a combination of what we have on hand; spent grain, garden vegis, insects and mosquito larvae.  

Tilapia are our fish of choice. They are warm water fish which grow to a large size quickly and they are adaptable and tasty.  The babies, called fry, take anywhere from six months to a year to mature.  The breeders are sexually mature and if all goes as planned, should  mate and produce more fry keeping the system functioning in a closed loop.

Adding our own fresh fish to equation feels like it might just make our homegrown diet complete. Exciting and lots of potential!  We will be reporting back to you all with the results including successes and failures, so stay tuned for more about this project.