News posts from admin's Archive


What is a Plant Guild?

Monday, August 4th, 2014

Technically speaking, a plant guild is “a beneficial grouping of plants that support one another in all their many functions,” and “support animals and humans for all their food, medicine, and utility needs.”

Ok, but…what exactly does that mean and, more importantly, how do you create a guild that is right for your food forest or permaculture project?

Enter three plant experts and permaculture designers, Wayne Weiseman, Daniel Halsey, and Bryce Ruddock, who have it all figured out and are in the mood to share.

“Each niche, yard, lot, or field has a long list of potential plants that will thrive there, and it is our task to define them, and design an ecosystem to support our and nature’s abundance,” write the authors.

Their book, Integrated Forest Gardening: The Complete Guide to Polycultures and Plant Guilds in Permaculture Systems is the first of its kind and will be of immeasurable benefit to permaculturalists of all abilities for years to come. A comprehensive book about plant guilds that answers specific questions like how to actually configure a guild, how to select the plants, what function each plant serves, and more.

Called “a rich feast of nature love” by Peter Bane (publisher, Permaculture Activist), Integrated Forest Gardening benefits readers of any scale.  Whether you are a permaculture designer and professional grower, or backyard gardener completely new to the concept of permaculture, you’ll find a wealth of information along with extensive color photography and design illustrations in this detailed guide to developing what is most basic to any permaculture system—plant guilds. Read Chapter 1 in the excerpt below.

Award-winning author Toby Hemenway believes, “Integrated Forest Gardening fills a major gap in the canon of permaculture books.”

“No longer is this subject mysterious and daunting,” writes Hemenway. “In this book we now have specific instructions for designing and installing multispecies plant groups. Chapter 7, which describes fifteen guilds and their plant members, is a golden nugget worth the price of the book alone.”

The idea of being able to take this book and replicate its principles in one’s own community, whether that be on a rural farm, or in a town or city, is exactly what the authors envisioned when they set out to write it. Their hope for this book is to cause a ripple effect, encouraging more people to embrace the vast potential of our plant world.

“Plant guilds are not limited to a few simple functions. You have ample opportunity to design and develop diverse guilds that focus on specific modalities: animal foods, oils, fibers, medicines, spices, endlessly. You might embed yield functions in a broad services guild, or you can design based on a particular theme that meets basic needs. Experiment, explore, ask yourself, What do I need for my family’s sustenance? Proceed from here.”

For more from the authors, check out their permaculture month where they answered questions submitted by readers. Learn about water harvesting ditches known as swales, the research behind plant guilds, and notes on implementing plant guilds based on differing water requirements:

Are Swales Right for You? – Wayne Weiseman
Plant Guild Research and Development – Bryce Ruddock and Daniel Halsey

Integrated Forest Gardening: Chapter One

One Man, One Wheel, and the Open Road

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Mark Schimmoeller’s Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America is about more than a cross-country trip on a unicycle; it’s a meditation on a way of life that Americans find increasingly rare: one that practices a playful, recalcitrant slowness. Award-winning author Janisse Ray (The Seed Underground) identifies with this pace.

“Schimmoeller’s narrative—of his slow and deliberate journey across the country, of his homesteading off-the-grid life in rural Kentucky, and of his battle to save old-growth forests from the developer’s ax—demonstrates that one’s worth is not defined by how much can be accomplished in five minutes, days, or even years, but by what is done with that time,” writes Ray in her foreword to Slowspoke.

She goes on to impress how important a book like this is for our throw-away society. “I really love Slowspoke. It has made me happier than any book in a long time, because it’s the kind of thinking that humankind needs right now, in that it asks that we claim what we value—what we believe in, what we call precious—and divine how to preserve it.” Read Ray’s full foreword, along with all of chapter 2, in the excerpt below.

Author Bill McKibben echoes Ray’s sentiment, “This is just the kind of epic we need right now—humble, sweet, and very deep indeed. As good a travel story—within and without—as you’ll read anytime soon!”

Schimmoeller’s writing style engages you right from the beginning. You feel an intimate connection with him as he guides you seemlessly through his past, present, and even subconscious recollections. “There are books like this that are so nice that, like Holden Caufield, you want to call up the author and tell him (or her) what a great job he (or she) has done,” writes a reviewer from RALPH Mag (The Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy and Humanities).

“This is not only the tale of a man on a unicycle, one who has turned his back on freeways and power plants and supermarkets and television. More, it’s a man who has honed a fine edge to what he has learned: what works, what doesn’t work, what you need, what you don’t need in life; details that end up making Slowspoke a classic.”

Why a unicycle? Why a cross-country trip? Why leave a prominent New York magazine and return to the simple life in Kentucky?

These are all logical questions you might find yourself contemplating when settling in to read Slowspoke. However, as Schimmoeller introduces you to his slow pace and draws you in to his simple world, answers are revealed.

“My parents gave me a unicycle for an Easter present when I was twelve,” Schimmoeller writes. “About the time my classmates began focusing on four wheels, I became obsessed with one. Unicyclists, it occurred to me, experience arrival less often than others. They must become devotees of anticipation. Rushing, I learned under the tutelage of my unicycle—whether down the driveway or toward adulthood—would cause a fall. Instead, after school and on the weekends, my task was to dwell in inefficiency, to wrinkle speed, to arrive somewhere only after much ambling about.”

Written with poise and humor, Slowspoke earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly, who described it as a, “profoundly simple, funny, and sincere memoir.”

Anyone who has gone back to the land or wondered if they could, who has slowed down to experience life at a unicycle’s speed or who longs to do so, who has fallen in love, who has treasured tall trees or mourned their loss, will find a voice in Slowspoke.

Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America is on sale for 35% off until August 7th.

Slowspoke: Foreword and Ch 2

“Marijuana is Safer” Authors Influence The New York Times

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

The New York Times has launched a seven-part editorial campaign urging a repeal of the nation’s prohibition on marijuana, making the case that “marijuana is safer” than alcohol. In fact, the bold quote at the center of their editorial stated even more bluntly: “Marijuana is far less dangerous than alcohol.”

Chelsea Green authors, and nationally recognized marijuana-policy experts Steve Fox, Paul Armentano, and Mason Tvert, wrote the book on the “Marijuana Is Safer” message. Literally. In fact, they were consulted by Times’ editorial writers in the months leading up to the launch of this important call-to-action by one of the world’s most influential media outlets.

First published in 2009, Marijuana is Safer: So Why are We Driving People to Drink? was updated and expanded in late 2013 with a first-hand look at the historic Colorado marijuana legalization campaign and new information about how supporters can model similarly successful efforts in other states. The book also provides updated research that supports the position that marijuana is safer than alcohol. You can read an excerpt from this game-changing book below.

In 2012, voters in Colorado shocked the nation’s political establishment by making the commercial production, personal use, and retail sale of marijuana legal for anyone in the state twenty-one years of age or older.

The New York Times said Washington should take its cue from Colorado and the growing list of states that have also legalized marijuana. In their opening salvo, the paper’s editorial board writes: “It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol. … “There is honest debate among scientists about the health effects of marijuana, but we believe that the evidence is overwhelming that addiction and dependence are relatively minor problems, especially compared with alcohol and tobacco. Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults.”

The board backs legalization for ages 21 and older only, and believes that a national solution is needed rather than left to the whims of a particular occupant in the White House or state-by-state piecemeal approach to what is a national issue. The Times is examining and dispensing with many of the myths related to marijuana use, including public safety and health—key issues explored in Marijuana is Safer.

In Marijuana is Safer—through an objective examination of marijuana and alcohol, and the laws and social practices that steer people toward the latter—the authors pose a simple yet rarely considered question: Why do we punish adults who make the rational, safer choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol?

Marijuana Is Safer introduces readers to the cannabis plant and its effects on the user, debunks some of the government’s most frequently cited marijuana myths, and, most importantly, provides persuasive arguments and talking points for the millions of Americans who want to advance the cause of marijuana policy reform and educate friends, neighbors, family, coworkers, elected officials, and, of course, future voters.

Now, one of the world’s most widely read and influential opinion pages is adding to the growing chorus of voices calling for an end to the nation’s prohibition on marijuana.

In an AlterNet article, Tony Newman summed up why this is such a big deal: “The Times’ editorial has the feel of legendary CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite coming out against the Vietnam War. They dropped a bomb on our country’s disastrous war on marijuana with unprecedented force. Some people think of the Times‘ editorial page as a liberal mouthpiece — but when it comes to marijuana prohibition and the drug war, they’ve been extremely cautious and conservative. In previous decades, the Times did as much as any other media outlet to legitimize drug war hysteria and its disastrous policies.”

Along with its ongoing series, the Times has included a fun graphic illustrating its own editorial evolution in regards to marijuana.

Earlier this year, Pres. Barack Obama told The New Yorker‘s David Remnick that he doesn’t think marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol.

The times they are a changin’.

 

Chapter Two: Pot 101: Understanding Marijuana by Chelsea Green Publishing

DIY: Make Whole Fruit Jam

Monday, July 28th, 2014

The supply of fresh summer fruit is about to be in abundance and before you know it, apples and pumpkins will abound.

If you’re lucky and berries or stone fruits are providing a bountiful array of flavor, try this easy method of preserving them: whole fruit jam.

This recipe relies on the natural sugars in fruit to provide a balanced flavor and sweetness in this complimentary spread.  Preserve the last of your seasonal fruit simply – no added sugar and no freezing.

The following is an excerpt from Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning by the Gardeners and Farmers of Terre Vivante:

Sugar is a practical and economical method of food preservation—so much so that we tend to overindulge, and make jams that contain more sugar than fruit! When we discover that excess sugar is one of the great scourges of the modern diet, we might think it best to renounce jams completely. Besides, replacing white sugar with brown sugar is only a relative improvement. Whole or raw sugar (evaporated juice from sugar cane) would be a better substitute, but its strong flavor often masks the taste of the fruit.

The solution to this problem is twofold: avoid eating too much jam and other sugary foods, and make these foods using far less added sugar, or none at all. Knowing and applying these techniques, we can continue to preserve food properly and successfully. For example, certain jams made with very little sugar must be refrigerated once opened, preferably in small jars, to prevent premature spoilage. For those recipes that require sugar, we will use either brown or whole sugar. Other recipes are “sugar-free,” or use honey instead.

Note that the term “sugar-free jam” in essence is a contradiction in terms, since by definition, sugar is the preservative agent in jams. To be more precise, we should discuss “jams with no added sugar.” In reality, jam already contains sugar: both glucose and fructose, which naturally occur in all fruit.

Jams with no added sugar were not invented by health-food advocates wanting to reduce their sugar consumption. These preserves are an old tradition dating back to a time when sugar was scarce and expensive (or even nonexistent). Three classic examples, and the most commonly known jams of this type, are pommé (apple jelly), poiré (pear jelly), and raisiné (grape jelly). The first two have been made for centuries in certain regions of northern Europe, particularly Belgium and Germany, whereas the raisiné is a tradition of Périgord in southwestern France. Carob “honey” is a similar preserve that is found in the Middle East, Galilee (recipe follows in this chapter). All these preserves share this common feature: They are made from the juice only, and not from the whole fruit. Thus, they are jellies or thick syrups, rather than jams. Their preparation is based on this simple principle: Prolonged cooking evaporates enough water to concentrate enough of the naturally occurring sugars for preservation to take place. Jams from whole fruit can also be prepared by following the same principle. In general, after pouring hot jam or jelly into a jar and sealing it, turn the jar upside down. This will sterilize any air remaining in the jar and ensure preservation. It’s also a good idea to store the jars upside down.

Whole Fruit Jam
Very ripe fruit (any type)
A preserving pan or large saucepan
Canning jars and lids

This method is good for all types of fruit, including grapes, greengage plums, and so on. Use fruit that is very ripe; simply cut and crush it roughly. Bring the fruit to a boil; then cook it over very low heat for a very long time.

It is impossible to recommend a precise cooking time, since this depends on the type of fruit used, and its ripeness and water content, both of which vary from one year to the next. In any case, you should allow as much water as possible to evaporate. Stir often, because certain fruits have a tendency to stick during cooking. The jam is ready when it does not run off of the spoons but forms a bead that sticks to the spoon. At this stage pour the jam into scalded screw-top jars. It will keep for at least two years.

Recipe: Ginger Beer

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Ginger is a spice perfect for any time of year. Its fragrance can perk up everything from chai tea to apple pie. This humble root can also add a gentle kick of heat to stir fries or soups.

The natural yeasts in the root can also be used to kick start a bubbly ginger beer. Give it a try!

The following recipe is from Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods, by Sandor Katz.

This Caribbean-style soft drink uses a “ginger bug” to start the fermentation. I got this idea from Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions. The ginger bug is simply water, sugar, and grated ginger, which starts actively fermenting within a couple of days. This easy starter can be used as yeast in any alcohol ferment, or to start a sourdough.

This ginger beer is a soft drink, fermented just enough to create carbonation but not enough to contribute any appreciable level of alcohol. If the ginger is mild, kids love it.

TIMEFRAME: 2 to 3 weeks

INGREDIENTS (for 1 gallon/4 liters):

  • 3 inches/8 centimeters or more fresh gingerroot
  • 2 cups/500 milliliters sugar
  • 2 lemons (or limes)
  • Water

PROCESS:

  1. Start the “ginger bug”: Add 2 teaspoons (10 milliliters) grated ginger (skin and all) and 2 teaspoons (10 milliliters) sugar to 1 cup (250 milliliters) of water. Stir well and leave in a warm spot, covered with cheesecloth to allow free circulation of air while keeping flies out. Add this amount of ginger and sugar every day or two and stir, until the bug starts bubbling, in 2 days to about a week.
  2. Make the ginger beer any time after the bug becomes active. (If you wait more than a couple of days, keep feeding the bug fresh ginger and sugar every 2 days.) Boil 2 quarts (2 liters) of water. Add about 2 inches (5 centimeters) of gingerroot, grated, for a mild ginger flavor (up to 6 inches/15 centimeters for an intense ginger flavor) and 11/2 cups (375 milliliters) sugar. Boil this mixture for about 15 minutes. Cool.
  3. Once the ginger-sugar-water mixture has cooled, strain the ginger out and add the juice of the lemons (or limes) and the strained ginger bug. (If you intend to make this process an ongoing rhythm, reserve a few tablespoons of the active bug as a starter and replenish it with additional water, grated ginger, and sugar.) Add enough water to make 1 gallon (4 liters).
  4. Bottle in sealable bottles: Recycle plastic soda bottles with screw tops; rubber gasket “bail-top” bottles that Grolsch and some other premium beers use; sealable juice jugs; or capped beer bottles, as described in chapter 11. Leave bottles to ferment in a warm spot for about 2 weeks.
  5. Cool before opening. When you open ginger beer, be prepared with a glass, since carbonation can be strong and force liquid rushing out of the bottle.

Do you like us? Join our Online Community

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Are you part of Chelsea Green’s growing online community?

We love sharing inspirational projects that will benefit your home, community and the planet. You can find recipesDIY projectsfood and gardening tips and be the first to learn about exclusive offersgiveawaysnew releases and more!

And now, you can follow us on Pinterest. We’ll share everything from backyard projects to homesteading basics, as well as staff favorites and so much more.

Share and Win with #mychelseagreen
We also have a new way for you to connect and share with our vibrant online community of doers and makers. If you have a project inspired by a Chelsea Green book, share the project, the name of the book(s) and author(s) and use #mychelseagreen on any of our social media channels. Throughout the year we’ll pick random winners using the #mychelseagreen hashtag to receive special gifts from Chelsea Green in honor of our 30th anniversary.

Join the 30,000+ like-minded readers who already “like” us on Facebook, or the 20,000+ who follow us on Twitter, or the close to 75,000 who receive our e-newsletter. You’ll be inspired, learn and be part of a diverse community that is dedicated to living more sustainably and caring for our planet. From your sharing friends at Chelsea Green Publishing.

Stop Inviting Bears to Dinner

Monday, July 21st, 2014

As conflicts between humans and black bears continue, it seems the message “Don’t feed the bears” bears repeating.

Just this month, a man in Montgomery, VT was charged by the Fish & Wildlife Department for allegedly feeding bears. It was the first time that a person has been charged under a new law in Vermont that makes feeding bears illegal. Listen to the full story on NPR here.

Ben Kilham, author of In the Company of Bears: What Black Bears Have Taught Me About Intelligence and Intuition, knows a thing or two about dealing with bears both at home and in the wild. He recently told the Concord Monitor that he’s seen an increase in the number of abandoned cubs delivered to his bear rehabilitation facility due to mothers being shot and killed after getting into backyard chicken coops. “That has had the biggest impact on us, without any questions,” Kilham said. “Unprotected chicken coops are crazy – we live in bear country. An electric fence can solve that problem.”

In this excerpt from In the Company of Bears, Kilham provides more insights on best practices when it comes to keeping bears from feeding at your back door, and offers his tried-and-true tips on what to do if you encounter a bear in the wild.

*****

Up to 900,000 black bears live in North America, and in many regions, like my own, they live in close proximity to humans. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that in many regions humans live in close proximity to bears—and that we are moving deeper and deeper into their habitat all the time. So, it’s not surprising that bears and people meet up unexpectedly, and frequently. But of the millions of interactions between bears and people every year, very few result in human deaths.

Bears, on the other hand, have not been so lucky. Many are shot, either as a fear-based first resort or after other techniques have failed to deter what we’ve come to call “nuisance” bears. These are the bears that wander into backyards, campgrounds, landfills, or other places where food is often lying around. People can and sometimes do get injured by these nuisance bears, but even these incidents could be mitigated by understanding how to read and understand bear behavior. Not only would this knowledge help officials deal more effectively and humanely with nuisance bears, but it would also help individuals who find themselves in bear–human encounters.

In short, the solution to the nuisance bear problem is not so much about managing bears; it’s about managing people.

Stop inviting bears to dinner 

First, the best way to end what we consider the nuisance–bear behavior is to just stop inviting bears to dinner. If the food sources in problem residential areas are reduced to a minimum, these areas will no longer be worth the risk to the bear and the problems will cease. How to do this?

    • Remove bird feeders, and any other food placed outside to attract wildlife.
    • Don’t feed pets outside.
    • Keep any livestock feed indoors.
    • Don’t put kitchen scraps in your garbage can. Composting your kitchen scraps in a smell-proof way is as good for the environment as it is for avoiding bear encounters. Try a bear-proof composting container, or an indoor vermiculture bin (in which worms help digest the waste). Or, if you’re using an open compost pit outside, layer fresh waste underneath material that is already decomposed, or add a layer of lime, wood ash, or sawdust to mask the odor that can draw a bear’s interest.
    • If you cannot compost, then secure your garbage can in an indoor area, such as a garage, or freeze your garbage until it’s time for disposal.
    • Use bear-resistant food containers while camping, never keep food of any kind in your tent, and follow local guidelines for cooking or disposing of anything that smells of food, even the water you’ve used to wash your pots, pans, and dishes.
    • Clean outdoor grills, barbeque pits, and coolers after use to remove odors.
    • Remember, the secret to controlling bears is controlling smell.

It’s no surprise, then, that when people do start feeding bears, it ends badly. They get into a situation that they can’t stop by themselves. There are, though, nonlethal measures that can be used to resolve the issue.

With bears and people encountering each other more and more frequently, it is essential to understand how to properly handle an unintended meeting in the backyard or on a hiking trail. The vast majority of all bear aggression toward people is protective, not predacious, and it is entirely possible for people to manage these protective encounters without injury. A key to doing so is to understand how bears communicate.

The most important thing to understand is that when a bear wants to intimidate you, keep you at a safe distance, or otherwise modify your behavior, it will square off its lips—drawing them forward so that they appear square and the face looks long. Then it will perform any of the following behaviors in varying degrees of intensity: chomping its teeth or lips, snorting or woofing (blowing air through the nose or mouth), huffing (inhaling and exhaling air rapidly), swatting, or false charging. These are actions that bears take to help reduce the chance of attack whenever two unfamiliar individuals come together. However, this behavior does not reflect the bear’s true mood. Bears are able to turn this behavior on and off like a light switch. They are simply trying to delay confrontation long enough for communication to take place.

Moods, on the other hand, come and go very slowly. It is therefore necessary to analyze the bear’s mood when it is not displaying these behaviors, its intentions when it is, and then to apply both to the context of the situation. This may be a tough concept to apply in the field, but a necessary and important one to understand. Being faced with a bear that false charges or bluffs is actually a good thing as it means you have time to analyze the bear’s intentions and modify its displeasure or fear.

How do you know the bear is false-charging and not attacking?

The false-charge is done in combination with other bluff displays, like chomping, huffing, and snorting. Depending upon the situation, this usually reflects the bear’s desire to delay or avoid direct confrontation.

However, if you find yourself in such a situation and act in a reckless manner while the bear is within critical distance—as when a bear holds its ground and displays rather than flees—you can escalate this kind of situation into an attack. Reckless behavior would include breaking sticks, yelling or screaming, making yourself big by raising or waiving one’s arms, or basically doing anything in which you could not anticipate a correct response. A safe response would be to de-escalate the situation by standing erect and speaking softly to the bear, thus signaling to the bear that you are dominant but not a threat.

When you have an encounter with a bear, it is always important to try to put yourself in the bear’s shoes.Does the bear have any reason to harm you? Have you provoked the bear intentionally or unintentionally? Is the bear already nervous about other bears in the area? Remember that bears, like all other animals, including humans, have four major drives: hunger, love, fight, and flight. These drives are usually in conflict with each other.

How Close Are You?

It is also important to assess just how close you are to the bear. While it’s always important not to take any action that leaves you unable to predict the reaction of the bear, it is particularly important if you and the bear are in close proximity (normally less than twenty-five feet) and the bear appears reluctant to leave. This twenty-five foot distance is known as the “critical distance” outside of which bears and many other animals are likely to flee. Within this distance, they are hesitant and uncertain as to whether they should act in self-defense or flee.

A conflicted bear in this situation will act as described above. My advice is to stand erect with eyes toward the bear. Do not attempt to stare the bear down but rather maintain a normal facial expression and speak softly. Standing erect and keeping eyes toward the bear will keep him or her honest. Bears, like dogs and humans, may choose to enforce dominance when the opportunity arises. If you show weakness (by lowering your eyes, turning your back to them, lying down on the ground, or showing fear), it increases the chance that they will take advantage and advance on you.

My advice to keep your eyes on the bear conflicts with almost every other message given about what to do when you are in close proximity to a bear. I look at the bear to remain dominant while I decrease the threat level with my voice. Others will argue that you should avert your stare because a direct stare is aggressive and may provoke an attack. My experience tells me that this is not the case with bears. Animals that live in group-social environments often have hard, top-down hierarchies. A stare at an alpha chimpanzee or wolf may be perceived as a challenge to its position of authority. Bears are different; they interact and cooperate with strangers on a regular basis and are used to negotiating with unfamiliar individuals.

Baby Bears

The bear that gets too close is usually a sow with cubs. Her concern is the threat you present. She is perfectly capable of assessing that threat. Give her a chance, and she will walk away from you, sometimes even leaving her cubs up a tree nearby. I have been inside that critical distance with more than thirty wild sows with cubs, been false-charged and circled (bears circle to check scent, to see who you are), and have then gone on to peacefully spend up to two and a half hours with them. Every female will exhibit a different level of aggressiveness. Most of the wild sows and cubs I have encountered ran, hid nearby, and waited for me to leave. There are many myths about sows with cubs—the prevailing one being that if you get between a sow and its cub you are toast. The reality is that sows with cubs have been responsible for only 3 percent of the fatal attacks on humans in the last 109 years. Their cubs are usually safely up a tree when close encounters occur. Having preconceived ideas in your head at these times will only make it more difficult to control the situation.

So, imagine that you meet a sow with cubs on a trail. You are torn between running and standing your ground. She is torn between running and defending her cubs. She would like to run, but her cubs are up a tree. She chooses to display aggressively in an effort to prevent you from attacking. You would like to run, but you know that she can run faster. You try to relax, knowing that fearful behavior could be seen as a threat. You speak softly to her as a gesture of appeasement. She acknowledges your gesture by reducing the intensity of her displays. Be patient. Eventually, she will stop displaying altogether and her true mood will be revealed with a relaxed facial expression. Slowly, she will walk off. For obvious reasons, the drive to escape is generally stronger than the drive to fight. She knows a fight could leave her wounded or dead. Yelling and screaming to drive away a female bear away, on the other hand, may inadvertently frighten her cubs and escalate the situation.

If you meet a male bear, the situation may go somewhat differently, but the same advice about handling the encounter applies. Male bears are much more likely to run off than be caught inside the critical distance. If you see a bear coming in your direction, it is a good idea to let it know that you are there. Bears read scent in the wind, but sometimes the wind is coming from the wrong direction and a bear may be completely unaware of your presence. Let the bear know that you are there by moving, talking to it, or making other noise; it will run off.

But there are situations where attacks are more likely. A bear that is surprised while eating–or while its senses are otherwise compromised—may strike out without warning. For instance, a bear feeding on a carcass is highly concerned that other bears may be attracted to the carcass by smell and is preconditioned to attack. A person who suddenly appears in this situation may trigger that preconditioned attack.

Bears are highly tolerant of humans

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bear encounters every year where humans do everything wrong without any negative response from the bear. It’s important to remember, though, that in the vast majority of cases, black bears are dangerous only if you make them so. The situation is in your control; they tend to signal their intentions, and you can modify your own behavior to influence theirs.

Putting Grasslands to Work

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

This year’s annual international conference of the Savory Institute will be held in London the first week of August, and will feature two Chelsea Green authors – Courtney White (Grass, Soil, Hope) and Judith Schwartz (Cows Save the Planet) along with Joel Salatin whose books Chelsea Green distributes.

The conference theme — “Putting Grasslands to Work” — will focus on ways in which holistic management can improve soils, increase nutrient density, sequester carbon, and reverse desertification. In other words, have grasslands do the work of healing the planet.

“The age of Holistic Management is upon us. There is an undeniable need for humans to honor the complexity of the natural world,” notes the conference website. “We’ve seen a new awakening among people to embrace living in harmony with their environment.The movement has reached critical mass and is exploding all around the globe.”

White and Schwartz will take part in a two-part panel discussion about the untapped potential of soil. As both authors point out in their respective books, soil can be seen as a way to solve some of our most intractable environmental problems.

“I don’t mean to come across as naive, or to suggest that we can throw some cattle and compost on the ground and go on wasting and polluting as before. But neither am I willing to be paralyzed by despair, nor take refuge behind that barricade of indifference, no matter how tempting at times. I know how bad things are. But we’ve got to start somewhere. Soil restoration can be done anywhere: one watershed, one community, one abandoned field. At whatever scale, attend to the needs of the soil, and the ecological cycles will begin to get back in sync.,” writes Schwartz in the introduction to her book.

As White notes in the prologue to his book, “Here’s the really exciting part: if land that is bare, degraded, tilled, or monocropped can be restored to a healthy condition, with properly functioning carbon, water, mineral, and nutrient cycles, and covered year-round with a diversity of green plants with deep roots, then the added amount of atmospheric CO2 that can be stored in the soil is potentially high. … soils contain about three times the amount of carbon that’s stored in vegetation and twice the amount stored in the atmosphere. Since two-thirds of the earth’s land mass is grassland, additional CO2 storage in the soil via better management practices, even on a small scale, could have a huge impact. Grasslands are also home to two billion people who depend on livestock—an important source of food and wealth (and culture) to much of the earth’s human population. Both these animals and their human stewards could be mobilized for carbon action.”

And mobilize for action is what the Savory Institute conference is about. Check out their website, and if you’re in London the first week of August, be sure to stop by for information and inspiration.

DIY Dilly Beans: Voted “Best Snack Ever”

Monday, July 14th, 2014

For those who love fermented foods, I now welcome you into the world of the dilly bean. If you already make your own, this recipe is killer. If you’ve yet to try it…and you’re like me, a vinegar obsessed freak on the verge of collapse every time a pickle is near, then brace yourself for the best snack ever. Voted on by me, and by the folks at Chelsea Green.

There’s nothing like a dilly bean. A jar full of ‘em in the fridge, next to a plate of cheese and crackers, on a sandwich, or straight from the jar in the middle of winter when you’re sick of potatoes and pasta. Dilly beans! I’m picking all my beans this weekend and dilly-ing them. And you can do it too, even if you have to buy beans at the farmer’s market or wherever you shop. (They also make great gifts, and housewarming presents, and things to bring your hostess…just grab a jar from storage, and bam.)

The following is an excerpt from Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods by Sandor Katz. It has been adapted for the Web.

Dilly Beans

Pickling food in vinegar is not a fermentation process. In brine pickling, vegetables are preserved by lactic acid, which is produced by the action of microorganisms on the vegetables. Vinegar pickling makes use of a fermented product, vinegar, but the acidity of the vinegar prevents microorganism action. Vinegar pickles contain no live cultures. According to Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning, a book by Terre Vivante, a French eco-education center focused on organic gardening and preservation of Old World food-preservation techniques, “Pickles were always lacto-fermented in times past, and then transferred to vinegar solely to stabilize them for commercial purposes.” Indeed, the great advantage that vinegar pickling has over lacto-fermentation pickling is that vinegar pickles will last forever (well, almost), while brined pickles will last for weeks or months, but rarely for years, and definitely not forever. Cookbooks are full of vinegar pickling recipes, so I will offer just one: the dilly beans my father makes from his garden every summer and serves to his family and friends all year long.

TIMEFRAME: 6 weeks

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT:

  • Sealable canning jars: 1 1⁄2 pint/750 milliliter size is best, as its height perfectly accommodates the length of string beans

INGREDIENTS:

  • String beans
  • Garlic
  • Salt (my dad swears by coarse kosher salt, but sea salt is fine, too)
  • Whole dried chili peppers
  • Celery seed
  • Fresh dill (flowering tops best, or leaves)
  • White distilled vinegar
  • Water

PROCESS:

  1. Guesstimate how many jars you’ll fill with the string beans you have. Thoroughly clean jars and line them up.
  2. Into each jar, place 1 clove of garlic, 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) of salt, 1 whole red chili pepper, 1/4 teaspoon (1.5 milliliters) of celery seed, and a flowering dill top or small bunch of dill leaves. Then fill the jar with beans standing on end, stuffing them as tightly as you can into the jar.
  3. For each jar you have filled, measure 1 cup (250 milliliters) of vinegar and 1 cup (250 milliliters) of water. Boil the vinegar-water mixture, then pour it into the jars over the beans and spices, to ½ inch (1 centimeter) from the top of the jar.
  4. Seal the jars and place them in a large pot of boiling water for a 10-minute heat processing.

Leave the dilly beans for at least 6 weeks for the flavors to meld, then open jars as desired and enjoy. My father serves these dilly beans as an hors d’oeuvre. Heat-processed pickles can be stored for years without refrigeration.

RECIPE: Summer Cherry Cornmeal Cobbler

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

It’s that time of year again…outdoor barbecues are a weekend staple, trips to the beach or pool are becoming more frequent, and cherries are ripe for the picking!

Take this seasonal cue and enjoy the fresh fruit while you can with this recipe for summer cherry cornmeal cobbler from Cooking Close to Home.

Authors Diane Imrie and Richard Jarmusz believe no matter where you live, you should be able to cook locally throughout the four seasons. Their book, Cooking Close to Home, is a seasonal guide with more than 150 recipes that will inspire you to create delicious and nutritious meals using ingredients produced in your own community.

So visit your local farmers’ market or find a “pick your own” cherry orchard near you and stock up—this sweet homestyle cobbler awaits!

Cooking Close to Home: A Year of Seasonal Recipes is on sale now for 35% off until July 15.

Summer Cherry Cornmeal Cobbler by Chelsea Green Publishing


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