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[ARTICLE] The Promise of Abundance

SeedsofNavdanya

Abstract

She gave me one Seed. “It’s the last of its kind,” she said. “From another time. A time of kindness and warmth. Of joy and abundance,” she told me. “Plant it with care. Plant it where the sun shines, but not too bright. Plant it where the ground is moist, but not wet. Plant it not too shallow, not too deep. Look after it everyday. This seed is full of promises.”

The Seed, it was beautiful. It was just bigger than a grain of sand, but glistened and sparkled like a gem, reflecting the colors of the daylight.  So small, so full of magic, I couldn’t believe she had trusted me with it. I wrapped the Seed in my handkerchief so it wouldn’t get lost in my pocket. As soon as I got home, I began to search my yard for the perfect spot for the Seed. In the corner by the wall? No, too shady. Up on the slope? No, too dry. Just under the oak tree? Yes, yes, just under the oak tree. It’s perfect there. The sun shines there, but not too brightly. The ground is moist, but not wet.  Its close to the house where I can look after it, everyday.

Carefully, I pulled the handkerchief out of my pocket. I laid it down on the ground, opening it slowly so the Seed wouldn’t accidentally fall out. I searched under the oak tree’s leaves and found a stick just the right size; as thick as the Seed. With the stick in my right hand, I poked a hole in the ground. Not too shallow, not too deep. I squeezed the Seed in the palm of my hand and prayed. “Let this Seed grow. Let it grow big and strong. Let me be a good caretaker. Let the seed live long.” And I dropped the seed into the little hole and carefully covered it.

Mom told me to water the Seed every day, so I did. I watered every day, as soon as I woke up. After I watered, I brought my eyes close down to the ground, looking for a sprout. Day after day, I found nothing. I was sure I had killed it, but I kept watering. How long could it take?

On the 10th day, I gave up. The seed wasn’t coming up. Surely, it was dead.

On the 11th day, I woke up and went back to the spot I buried the seed to grieve. I sat on the ground, eyes half shut, never wanting to plant a seed again. That’s when I noticed it. A little speck of green. I put my face to the ground. Was that it? There, among the dried oak leaves, I saw it. Two tiny leaves, tinier than an ant. Tinier than a baby ant, standing on an even tinier stick. That’s it! The Seed wasn’t dead. The Seed had sprouted!

From that day on, I watered the seed every day. When it got bigger, Mom said to water it a little more. When it got to hot outside, I stood in front of it, hands held high to give it some shade. The Seed grew fast, very fast. After two weeks, it was 1 foot tall. The next week it was two feet tall. By the end of the month, the Seed was taller than me, and I took a long time to get this tall. The Seed reached high into the sky, shining a brilliant blue-green, glistening in the sunlight. Its leaves were as big as elephant ears, with blood red veins. Its hefty roots crawled through the surface of the soil. I had never seen anything like it.

When summer time came, the Seed started to make flowers. Big, beautiful flowers. Hundreds of them. With all kinds of colors. Black on the inside, red swirls outside of that. Then yellow, then green, then purple, then blue. The colors danced as the flowers flapped in the wind. And the smell, oh the smell! You could catch it from blocks away. Sweet and spicy, with hints of vanilla, chocolate and cinnamon. It was the smell that brought in the visitors. First it was the neighbors, wondering what the irresistible fragrance was. The mailman couldn’t help but notice too. It was the milkman, however, that called the newspaper. Soon the whole town was dropping by to see & smell the flowers. We cut some for each guest. We decorated our house with them. We gave some to friends. I put some in my hair. They were the most beautiful, wonderful flowers anyone had ever seen.

Then one fall morning I went outside to cut some flowers for the kitchen table, only to find them hunched over like an old man. I looked into their beautiful faces, only to see the dry brown signature of Death. The same signature was on the stem, and the leaves. The Seed was dead. I tried to hold back the tears as they welled up in my eyes, but couldn’t stop the flow. I cried.  And cried and cried.  What had I done wrong? Did I water too little? too much? I watered the Seed everyday, took care of it, loved it. Why did the Seed die?

A few days later she came. She knocked on our door, and I answered with eyes red from the tears I had wept. “Don’t cry,”  she said, “The Seed is not dead.” She walked me over to the plant. “The Seed is not dead,” she repeated, “You have brought back to life.” What did she mean? The Seed was dead. It was all dead. She cracked a dead flower off the plant and crushed it between her two hands. Dried brown dust fell to the earth as she ground the dead flower, until there was nothing left. She brought her hands in front of my eyes, and opened them slowly.

Her hands were still full of flower dust, but underneath the dust I could see them. They were as beautiful as the one she had given me, shining in the sun. But this time there wasn’t only one. There were hundreds, thousands. I began to cry as she poured the Seeds into my hands. She pulled another dead flower, crushed it, and poured more Seeds into my hands. Then another, and another.

She showed me how to harvest the seed, and  that whole afternoon we picked the dead flowers, crushed them, and poured the Seeds into the bucket, bringing new life from the apparent death.

At the end of the day, we had millions of Seeds. Millions.

And then she left.

—–

The next year, we planted the Seeds in the our yard. We gave handfuls to all the neighbors, who gave them to their friends. We gave some to the newspaper man and the milk man. We sent some to aunts and uncles, grandparents, and friends. Everyone we knew planted at least a few Seeds that year. And the Seeds grew up, tall and strong, just as the year before. And the flowers came, big and beautiful. Hundreds of thousands of them. The whole city decorated with the flowers that year. They put them on their dinner tables and window sills, on their front porches and back porches, even on their dog houses. The perfume filled every home, every street, and every nose in the whole town.

And then the day came. The leaves, stems, and flowers all dried up, and our town was filled with sadness.  But I was not sad, and I did not cry, because I knew. I knew the Seed was not dead. I knew the Seed was more alive than ever.  I knew the Seed was alive because people remembered its beauty and remembered its perfume. I knew the Seed was alive because people were planting it. I knew the Seed was alive because my pockets hung low with their weight. The seed had fulfilled its promise.

Commentary
The author harvesting rice seed in India

The author harvesting rice seed in India

I have always been fascinated by the magic of seeds. The world’s tallest tree, the redwood, grows from a seed the size of an ant. A single lettuce seed can grow to a lettuce plant and then produce thousands of lettuce seeds in 3 months. If a plant produced 1000 seeds in 3 months, then in 4 generations (1 year), each person on earth could have over 100 seeds. Although we often marvel at the wonders of modern technology, we have developed no technology as advanced as the seed.

When I am in the garden, working with seeds is a sacred act. I revel in the time I spend with seeds: harvesting, threshing, winnowing, sowing. Each time I see a plant flourish and send up thousands of seeds, I feel utterly and completely blessed. I feel especially blessed when a seed that has been gifted to me flourishes. To see a handful of seeds multiplied into thousands upon thousands of seeds is a feeling I can neither describe or transcribe. That feeling is only transcended by knowing that I then can be part of that seeds journey, passing it on to more gardeners, who will help it multiply a thousand times over.

The prolific nature of the seed, the fundamental building block of Nature, runs in direct contrast to the modern world of scarcity. Today, billions of people compete for “scarce” resources, gobbling up the world’s values and valuables on a quest for blissful boredom, obesity, and complacency. “Scientific” seed companies take the genetic diversity of the world, the result of a process of billions of years of evolution, and claim to have invented them. Through seed patents and trade laws, they create scarcity where none exists,

In contrast, the cycle of seed teaches us nature’s true abundance. In Nature, resources are limited only by time. Yes, in one year there will only be so many tomatoes or avocados or cherimoyas. But as long as there is seed, the tomatoes will keep coming, year after year, season after season. There is no end to the abundance. Each year, when the rains come, I see the seeds that have made their home in our garden sprout. They come without our asking, and they give generously. The nutrition, beauty, and joy they provide make me wonder about the origins of the world of scarcity we live in.

To save seed is to take part in the creative process that is life. Each time I harvest seed, I wonder about the people who saved the same seed before me. Where did the seed come from?  Where has this seed traveled and who has it been shaped by? Each year a seed grows in our garden, I know that it is slowly changing, becoming more comfortable in our soil, with our weather, and with us as caretakers and watchmen. Our garden will now be part of that seeds story, as it passes from garden to garden, gardener to gardener. I can only hope that as the movement for local foods, home gardens, and connection to the Earth grows, that more and more people will experience the joy and pleasure that it is to save seeds.

 

Practical – Creating Wild Seed
The Wild garden

Wild seeds lead to a Natural Garden, where the only work for people is to distribute seed and harvest.

You are viewing an abbreviated version of this article. The full article is available to members of The Growing Club, and includes practical information on how to translate the ideas presented in the article into a garden.

Saving seeds the proper way can sometimes be time-consuming and laborious. Many times, I simply revert to what I refer to as “wild seed saving.” The idea behind wild seed saving is not to save seed from the largest plant or the best tasting plant. The idea is to adapt the seed to the soil, the weather, and the water of your garden so that the seed can become “wild.” A wild seed is a seed that requires no care more than what nature provides: it germinates in the rain, is resistant to pests, has a strong immune system, and is able to reproduce without human assistance.

Seeds that are easy to turn wild tend to be annual plants, and sometimes biennials. In our garden, we have successfully wild-ed a number of plants, including cilantro, parsley, calendula, mustard, radish, burdock, carrots, fennel and many others. These plants evolve quickly since they reproduce every year, and their seeds have a tendency to float around and find unoccupied corners of a garden.

To start turning seeds wild, plant an annual plant just as you would normally. It helps to start with multiple of the same plant, lets say a dozen parsley plants. Harvest the plants a little less than you normally would (or possibly not at all), letting them store up plenty of energy to produce a mass of seed. When the plants bolt (grow tall and start producing flowers), let the flowers bloom and be pollinated by insects and wildlife. Soon the flowers will turn into seeds, and the whole plant will start to dry up. When the plant is completely dead and dry, the seeds are mature and ready to be “harvested.”

At this point, instead of collecting the seed and storing them for next year, cut all of the plants at the ground level. Walk around your garden and scatter the seeds in areas where there is no irrigation set up.  This is an important step because you want the seeds to become accustomed to your local rain cycle, and not the cycle of your irrigation system. You can cover the seeds with some compost to give them an extra boost, or just leave them unattended to truly toughen them up. Make sure to spread the seeds of all of the plants you have, from the weakest and smallest to the biggest and strongest. The seeds that did well in this year’s weather, may not be the ones that do well in next year’s weather. In trying to re-wild seeds, we must let nature do the selection, and not us.

Now,  just wait for the rains. If all goes well, some of the seeds you spread should start to germinate and sprout. Most of the seeds will not come up. The ones that do come up, will be better adapted to your soil and your microclimate. When those plants  flower and seed in the next year, repeat the process. After about 7 seasons, the seed will be exactly adapted to your garden.

[ARTICLE] Life and Death: A Celebration

forest_to_suburbs

Abstract

ster·ile /ˈsterəl/  adjective
1. not able to produce children or young. (of land or soil) too poor in quality to produce crops.
2. free from life

It is a common misconception that Death is the opposite of Life. Out of this belief, modern society takes great pain to reduce, hide, and otherwise eliminate death from its view. We go out to rake up the dead leaves, hiding the seasonal slumber of fall. We paint our faces, wrinkled with age, experience, and wisdom, choosing instead to appear young and far from Death. We preserve our food with petrochemicals, hiding its inner decay and rot to please our eyes and feign freshness. Death, however, is not the opposite of Life. As every good gardener, composter, hiker, and lover of this Earth knows, Death is Life and Life is Death. From every death springs many lives, and every life leads to many deaths. The dying tree plays host to a myriad of insects, fungi, and birds. From the dying animal, other animals and bacteria find sustenance. The opposite of life, then, is the lack of life: the Sterile. In our continuous conquest for a life free of Death, we have instead bred the Sterile everywhere we look. The apple that is free of parasites and free of nutrition. The house that is free of cracks and free of warmth. The person that is free of pain and free of soul.  The aseptic mindset of modern society has glorified the bland, the acceptable, the average, and in its wake a has damaged our opportunities to create true health in our bodies, our communities, and our ecosystems.  When we can again look to nature for her wisdom we will find that only by accepting and celebrating both Life and Death that we will once again restore vitality and vibrancy to our society.

The body of nature is perpetual transformation.   — Masanobu Fukuoka

The suburbs are the ultimate manifestation of the Sterile. The suburban landscape is neither abundantly beautiful nor immediately displeasing. Perfectly symmetrical homes dot the landscape with their faux-shuttered windows, their square hedges, and bland color schemes. The suburb is anywhere and everywhere. Driving out from your suburban home in California, Texas, or Virginia and you will be greeted with the “comforting” sight of Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, and Kohls.

The suburban world is cared after, but not cared for.

The landscapes of the suburban world reflect the ambiguity and generality of the homes they decorate. The grass, seemingly lush, is kept alive by a potent mix of poisons and drugs, hiding the lifeless, sterile soil beneath it. The blades of grass stand straight and tall, chopped at the top like a well tamed military unit.  Rainwater, wild and unruly, neatly leaves the garden through a series of gutters and drains, swept into the ocean and disappeared within minutes. Water is instead provided by evenly spaced sprinklers, turned on daily by electronic ghosts. The suburban garden is not to be used, touched, walked on, stepped in, or smelled (except by Illegal Aliens). The suburban garden, like the rest of the suburban world, is cared after, but not cared for.

The surburb bears no relation to the land it is placed in and the ecosystem is replaces.The natural world is erased from the suburb because its diversity and energy is upsetting to the Sterile. Full of life, death, fragrance, stink, beauty, horror, pleasure, and pain, Nature is a myriad of connected contrasts. The disgusting aphid giving life to the beautiful ladybug, The dried and dead leaves feeding the bountiful and generous fruit tree, the aging grandmother caring for the newborn grandchild. Death and life are connected in a virtuous cycle. In attempting to control and inhibit death, humans unknowingly limit and dampen life.

The most beautiful, abundant creations of life are built upon a foundation of death, decay, and destruction. A healthy garden, full of fruits fragrances, and fertility, is built upon the dead and decaying bodies of previous plants, animals, fungi, insects, and microbes. Compost, the perennial life giver, is embodiment of nature’s life-death principle. Compost is death is expressed as life. Made of the unwanted, the unused, and the feared, compost brings vitality and health to the soil and plant worlds. Compost validates the virtue of death. Death can not be escaped, can not be refused, but can be celebrated as the beautiful alchemy that it is.

Mushrooms are the alchemists of the forest. They transform death into life.

Many cultures today still celebrate the life and death they are immersed in every day.  Modern society, in its futile journey to escape death, has instead diminished the quantity and dulled the quality of life in favor of the safe, acceptable Sterile . Though many of us now live with great material comfort, the spirit and spice of life has receded as we have accepted the forward march of the Lysol ideal. As the Earth convulses with the spread of the Sterile, we must draw upon the healing powers of death to restore our ecosystems and communities to balance. We must, like compost, chew up and transform the structures and ideas which are the foundation of the Sterile and use them as energy to create the healthful and fulfilling lives to we deserve. We must allow our landscapes and our bodies to sing the songs of death, so that our communities and our Earth can once again resound with the rhythms of life: the morning songs of the birds, the afternoon buzzing of the bees, and the evening chatter of friends. And we must accept our own true role within the cycle of life, not as all-powerful gods controlling and directing, but as humble participants accepting and flowing.

You are reading an abridged version of this article. The full article, which contains information on how the ideas presented can be practically put to use in a garden, is available for Growing Club Members only. Sign up for a membership here.
Practical

Allowing the cycles of life and death to return to your life is easy when you have a garden. Death bring health to all parts of a garden, as the materials of life break down to feed others. A few easy changes in a gardeners daily practices and attitudes can re-establish the earth’s natural rhythms.

Let Plants to Mature, Seed, and Die
Most gardeners cut down or remove plants as soon as they start to get past their prime production. For example, when lettuce plants begin to grow upward and put out flowers, they are no longer good for harvesting leaves. Instead of removing these plants, choose the largest, healthiest looking plants and allow them to flower, develop seeds, and die completely.  The dead plant will look like a dried up Christmas tree. Leave it around for awhile and let bugs and fungi eat its dead leaves.  The bugs manure is great for you soil. The seed produced by that plant can be harvested for use next year. When you need the space again, cut the dead plant down and chop it up for use as mulch.

Let the Leaves Lie
In the fall, deciduous trees drop their leaves and go into hibernation. They draw their energy our of their leaves, and store it in their roots. Most people will rake of the fallen leaves and throw them away. These dead leaves are actually a vital part of the trees yearly cycle. They store nutrients over the winter, and release it back to the trees roots as it comes out of hibernation. Next fall, don’t pickup the leaves from underneath your trees. Not only do they feed your tree, they provide vital habitat for beneficial insects, fungi, and worms. They also shade the soil and prevent evaporation.

Repurpose Tree Trimmings
Every winter, many trees need to be pruned to open them up for light and maintain their height. Instead of throwing these trimmings into the green bin, repurpose the dead branches into trellising for vining plants. Long branches can be stuck directly into the ground to support climbing beans, peas, or even tomatoes.  Smaller branches can be joined together with screws or nails (see example below). After a few months, you may begin to find small holes have been drilled into the branches. Congratulations! Small bees have made a home in your branches.

Old and dead branches can support the lives of vining plants

Old and dead branches can support the lives of vining plants

Become a Green Waste Station
Many people in urban and suburban areas don’t know the value of the dead plant matter they throw away every week.Make your host a Green Waste Processing Station by calling local Tree Trimmers and allowing them to dump their wood chips in your garden (they normally pay to throw it in the landfill).  Wood chips are excellent for making beautiful pathways, and will eventually decompose and enrich your soil.

[ARTICLE] I am Lettuce: Being Grateful, and Being Nature

RishiEqualsLettuce

def: advaita  \ ad-vite \adjective;
1. A sanskrit word implying union. Literally “ad” meaning not, and vait meaning “two”. Not two, but not one.

I am lettuce. I am tomato. I am chicken, and I am broccoli. And no I am not crazy, but I am Nature.

This month, our theme at The Growing Club is Thanking the Earth. I have been thinking the whole month about this idea, gratitude to the Earth. Sitting in the garden, there is so much to be grateful for: the ground I stand on, the soil that provides me with all I am,  the beauty and wisdom that surrounds me. The more I thought about gratitude, the more I realized how important it is for people to understand our role in nature and our relationship to her.

My relationship with nature has been changing progressively ever since I began to garden. One big mistake people make when they try to create a garden is that they try to grow plants. Trying to grow plants is a good recipe for killing plants. Plants, like children, cats, and dogs, cannot be grown. Plant DO grow and humans CAN create healthy gardens where plants can grow well, but humans do not grow plants. When I first realized this, it changed my whole conception of what it meant to be a gardener. A gardener does not spend her time trying to grow healthy plants, a gardener cultivates the Earth to create the conditions for healthy plants to happen. A gardener provides healthy food for the soil, a gardener harvests the rain from the sky, and a gardener assembles the pieces of life into a beautiful and harmonious symphony.

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Ants farming aphids.

 

One morning in the garden, I sat watching the ants carrying the aphids on to Sister Kale. The ants dutifully carried aphid after aphid up the plant, depositing them on the underside of her leaves. Other ants collected the aphid dew (aka aphid poo), taking it home to the nest. Sitting there, watching this magical world unfold in front of me, I was suddenly hit by the Truth: Ants are Farmers! Ants Farm!

This truth hit me with such a force because it shattered an idea that I had grown up with and had been instilled into me since I was a child. Humans, I was told, are special. We are not part of nature. We destroy nature, and the more we do, the more we destroy. Human activity, therefore, must be limited. We must drive less, use less water, eat less meat, and watch less TV. Since humans are not part of nature, we must seclude and isolate nature in parks, in “national monuments,” in outdoor museums. Even how we grow food is not “natural.” Farming is a constant war with nature, where she tries to destroy our food, and we try to destroy her.

The farming ants popped all those thought bubbles. Like humans, ants farm livestock. Aphids are their cows. Like humans, ants build homes. Theirs underground with a variety of caves and levels, and ours above ground with a variety of caves and levels. Ants are always busy working, gathering food, collecting water, and mating. Ants are just like humans. Or humans are just like ants. In fact, humans are just like all other life, like all other nature. We are nature. Yes, we can be a little more obnoxious and arrogant than butterflies, but we can also cultivate immense beauty. We can assemble beautiful gardens, we can tend forests, we can love and care for animals and we can care for each other. When we understand our role in nature, as nature, our creativity can outweigh our destructivity. When we step into this role, we are stripped of our arrogance and “specialness.” We become humble again, and sit at our place at the table of life. We can look around that table and be grateful to everyone sitting there, and the ground that we are sitting on.

And just a reminder…

You do not grow lettuce, you are lettuce. You do not grow tomatoes, you are tomatoes. You do not grow chickens, You are chicken. And no, I am not crazy, but I am grateful.

Don’t forget to join us this Saturday, Nov. 22nd for our Monthly Potluck! You can register at this link.

[ARTICLE] The Whole Holistic Garden

IMG_2550

The Growing Home, our living example of Wholeness in practice.

Om 
Purnamadah Purnamidam
Purnat Purnamudachyate
Purnasya Purnamadaya
Purnameva Vashishyate
Om shanti, shanti, shanti

Om. 
That is the whole, this is the whole; 
From the whole, another whole becomes; 
Take away the whole from the whole, 
The whole remains.
Om. Peace! Peace! Peace!

– Isha Upanishad
written in 500 BC

Ancient cultures, like those of India, inherently understood the importance of the Holistic perspective.  In today’s world, modern science has taught us that to understand complexity, we must break it down into smaller and smaller fragments, and that by understanding those fragments we will have a better understanding of the Whole.  Sadly, although modern science has a produced many amazing technological feats, the greater understanding of fragments has not led to a greater understanding of Wholes.  The science of agriculture is a great example of this dichotomy of rising knowledge with failure of understanding.

Agriculture is increasingly complex.  A quick look at the areas of study at any agricultural university will bring up terms such as plant morphology, molecular biology, plant genetics, pomology, and many more.  Yet it has become abundantly clear that modern agriculture has failed to live up to its promises of ample, healthy food for all.  Sadly, the current state of the world is that somewhere near 1.5 billion people are overweight, while another 1 billion people do not have enough to eat.

1.5 billion people worldwide are overweight. Another 1 billion don’t have enough to eat.

How did we get to this point? Of course, the answer is complex, but a lack of Holistic thinking and an inability to understand and comprehend Wholeness is definitely a major part.  It is true that industrial agriculture has produced more calories worldwide than ever before, but do calories lead to healthy, happy people? (Side Note: Is GDP actually a measure of economic health?) The answer, of course, is a resounding NO. When we begin to look at the world through a Holistic lens, we reach significantly different solutions to the problems of the modern world.  Instead of searching for the latest fertilizer and pesticide to increase our yield of nutritionally useless corn, we look to home gardens, urban farms, soil health, watershed management, and local economies to create an abundance of health, wealth, creativity and friendship in our communities.  We understand that though the problems of the world may be large and complex, the problems of a community are understandable and manageable.

holistic-circle

Holistic Thinking and Holistic Action are keys to Health

However, a switch to holistic thought is not very easy.  It requires going against the training and education most of us have received for our entire lives.  It requires an openness and willingness to accept ideas that we have thought to be absurd or impossible.  More importantly, it requires a fundamental shift in our ways of living and being.  Luckily, the garden is a great way to understand these ideas in a concrete and easily understandable way.

A healthy garden is whole.  A garden is not simply a collection of plants. but a living, changing, adapting, responsive, emotive, creative expression of life through plants, soil, water, insects, animals, and humans.  Although pieces of a garden may die, the garden lives as long as its wholeness remains.  While a garden is made up of different living organisms, through a holistic view, we may began to view the garden itself as an organism.  In this view, an excess of weeds, a lack of fertility, or an abundance of pest insects is viewed as an imbalance (or sickness) in the organism, rather than an isolated problems. A small story:

nasturtium1

Nasturtiums taught us one of our early lessons on Wholeness in the garden.

When we first began to establish the gardens here at The Growing Home, we were often plagued by many of the problems that are common to gardeners everywhere: bug outbreaks, fungal outbreaks, stressed or weak plants, etc. One spring, a beautiful swath of Nasturtium grew underneath our Fuji Apple and Jujube trees.  The nasturtiums, however, were soon attacked by aphids, which within one week had completely covered the undersides of all the leaves of the plants.  During tours of our garden, many guests said that we should definitely spray the nasturtiums with a pesticide so that the aphids would not spread to our other plants.  We, however, operating from the holistic perspective, viewed the aphids as a momentary disruption caused by an imbalance in the garden and we refrained from killing them.  By week two, we began to notice a few ladybugs on the nasturtiums, chomping away at the aphids. What we were surprised by was that by week 3, our first few ladybug friends seemed to have called in all their other friends: there were hundreds of them. What’s more, the ladybugs had decided our garden was a safe place to mate as well, and the nasturtiums were soon covered with ladybug eggs and larvae (who were also chomping away happily on the aphids).  Although the nasturtiums died soon after, they had not a single aphid left on them. Ladybugs have been in abundance in our garden ever since, and we have yet to see a large outbreak of aphids ever since.

In the six years we have been gardening at The Growing Home, we have seen an abundance of such examples. In that time our trust in the Garden as a living Whole has only grown stronger.  When problems arise, we always look to the source of the imbalance rather than trying to address the symptoms of a problem.  Had we killed the aphids (the symptom), we would have never understand the true imbalance (a lack of ladybugs).  With each successive season in the garden, we see the wholeness of our garden becoming more and more complete.  As the soil becomes richer, softer, and more fragrant, our minds and understanding become richer and more complete. We ourselves become more whole.  We hope you will join us on our journey of understanding, and invite you to grow with us as part of The Growing Club.

Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

-Rishi

Living Health: The 3/4 Rule

the 3/4 rule

This is the third post in a series entitled “Living Healthy”.  Each week we’re bringing you some tips that we’ve gathered over the years on how to stay healthy naturally.  For many years, our family has followed a few guidelines that have kept us away from MDs and allopathic medicines (AKA drugs).   People often ask us how we could go 20 years without ever going to the doctor for some disease or the other (the last time I went was for a physical to be on the swim team in high school).  This blog series is our chance to share that with you.

When it comes to eating, most of us eat with our eyes and not with our stomachs. What do I mean you say? Well, what I mean is that portionwise, we tend to eat according to how good the food looks and not how hungry we are. Although this fact might not seem like a huge problem, especially for those of us who are at least conscious of what we eat, it can actually have pretty big impacts on our long term health. In Ayurveda (Indian traditional medicine), it is said that the digestive system is where all disease begins. This system is where we take in the bulk of the nutrition for our body. When one overeats, the digestive system becomes overburdened, and has to try to process all that food quickly. The result is that although we might be eating highly nutritious food, we are not digesting all of that food properly.

When the digestive system is overburdened like this constantly, the body becomes sluggist, weak, and prone to disease, especially if it leads to constipation. To counter act this problem, many of us resort to digestive aids, laxatives, etc., which can actually make the problem worse (especially if you are using chemical laxatives like ex-lax).

To prevent overeating, I use what I call the 3/4 rule. Its pretty simple: only eat until you’re stomach is about 3/4’s full. What does that mean? Well, I’m sure you know what it feels like to be overstuffed. If you’re overstuffed, you have trouble taking deep breaths, feel like you can’t move, and you immediately start feeling a bit tired. Being full is basically the same thing, but to a lesser degree. But 3/4 full is very different. At 3/4 full, you are satisfied, but not hungry. You don’t feel like running, but you’re definitely okay with a brisk walk. And you are comfortable taking deep breaths. That’s 3/4 full.

To help you get to this goal, I’ve outlined a few steps to follow:

Chewing slowly and thoroughly is an imperative to good digestion. When you chew slowly, your food starts to break down even before it gets to your stomach. It also gets broken down into smaller pieces which your stomach can break down easily. Lastly, it helps you with the next step of this process which is to

Pay attention to your stomach. Periodically stop when you’re eating and take a look at how your stomach is feeling. If you’re no longer hungry, and feel satisfied with what you ate, its time to stop.

Finish chewing and swallowing till you pick up the next spoon. This will help you eat more slowly, and give you time to follow step #2.

The last step is the one I have the most trouble convincing people of:

Its better it gets wasted in the compost than wasted in your stomach. If you’re full, you’re full. There’s no point in “finishing it off” and “not letting it go to waste” if its just going to end up rotting in your stomach. Besides, you’re going to compost it anyways (right?).

So that’s it, 4 easy steps for keeping your body (and your mind) running smoothly, at least when it comes to mealtime. Hope you found this post helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comment section below, and I’ll be sure to get back to you.

 

[ARTICLE] How to Build Drying Racks and Seed Cleaning Screens

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Over the last few days we’ve been making a few drying racks and seed cleaning screens.  These are extremely useful, since we always have seeds that we’re harvesting, which then need to be cleaned and dried before we put them away for storage.  We usually also have lots more greens than we can eat, so we can dry them on these racks to eat later.  Dried greens are great for soups, curries, or even smoothies.  Drying (when done properly) maintains most of the nutrition of fresh greens, and you can store them for months.

Here are the instructions if you want to make some for youself:

What you’ll need:
– 2″x2″x8′ lumber (we used FSC-certified redwood so they’ll last long outdoors)
– 3″ wood screws
– Screening material (either window screening, 1/2″ hardware cloth, or 1/4″ hardware cloth)
– 3/16″ drill bit
– Power drill
– Staple gun

Directions:
– Cut the 2″x2″x8′ wood down to the length you want it.  Good sizes are 2’x’4 (for drying), 2’x2′ (drying and cleaning seeds), 1’x1′ (drying and cleaning seeds)
– Place your cut lumber down so it forms a square
– Drill guide holes with your drill bit in each corner
– Drill a 3″ screw through each guide hole
– Cut your screening material to fit over your wooden frame
– Use the staple gun to staple the screening material onto your frame

Here’s what you should get in the end:

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[ARTICLE] How to Make Seed Balls

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We made up this little recipe sheet for the class Sunday on Seed Balling, so we thought we’d post it up online for everyone.  It’s not as good as seeing it yourself, but hopefully its helpful to everyone.  If you have any questions, ask away in the comments and we’ll do our best to get back to you.

Link below.  Just download and print.  Enjoy!

Growing Home Seedball Recipe

[ARTICLE] How to Save Cilantro Seeds

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Just thought I’d share this tip for saving cilantro seeds, which can be used as a spice if they’re ground (that makes it coriander), or can just be saved for growing more plants.

Once the plants have dried out pretty well,  use a pair of shears to cut the bottom half of the plant off.  Bunch up the remaining top half, and tie the base with some twine or a rubber band.  Hang that bunch upside down, then tie a paper bag to sit under it.  Leave the whole thing hanging until all the seeds drop from the dried plant.  It should look something like the picture above.