Simple Living Archive


The Nourishing Homestead: Practiculture and Principles

Monday, January 19th, 2015

Whether you live on 4 acres, 40 acres, or in a 400-square-foot studio apartment, the lessons you’ll glean from The Nourishing Homestead by Ben Hewitt (with Penny Hewitt) will help anyone hoping to close the gaps that economic separation has created in our health, spirit, and skills. This book offers practical ways to grow nutrient-dense food on a small plot of land, and think about your farm, homestead, or home as an ecosystem.

Ben and Penny (and their two sons) maintain copious gardens, dozens of fruit and nut trees and other perennial plantings, as well as a pick-your-own blueberry patch. In addition to these cultivated food crops, they also forage for wild edibles, process their own meat, make their own butter, and ferment, dry, and can their own vegetables. Their focus is to produce nutrient-dense foods from vibrant, mineralized soils for themselves and their immediate community. They are also committed to sharing the traditional skills that support their family, helping them be self-sufficient and thrive in these uncertain times.

The Hewitts’ story is reminiscent of The Good Life, by Helen and Scott Nearing, and is sure to inspire a new generation of homesteaders, or anyone seeking a simpler way of life and a deeper connection to the world.

Ben Hewitt uses the term “practiculture” to describe his family’s work with the land—a term that encompasses the many practical life skills and philosophies they embody to create a thriving homestead.

What is “practiculture”? Here is how Ben Hewitt describes it:

The term practiculture evolved out of our struggle to find a concise way to describe our work with this land. Of course, no single word or term can fully explain what we do. But in practiculture, I feel as if I have something that is concise but also opens the door to a broader conversation. It’s an intriguing word, and not one that yet enjoys widespread understanding. It also contains elements that are immediately recognizable: Practical. Agriculture. Practiculture. And not just agriculture, but culture, as defined by our work with the land, cultivating its teeming populations of beings and bacteria. The longer I do this work, the less I feel as if we are practicing agriculture so much as we are simply practicing culture.

Practiculture also refers to our belief that growing and processing our food, as well as the other essentials necessary to our good health, should be both affordable and, for lack of a better term, doable. Practical. It should make sense, not according to the flawed logic of the commodity marketplace, which is always trying to convince us that doing for ourselves is impractical, but according to our self-defined logic that grasps the true value of real food to body, mind, spirit, and soil.

Finally, practiculture is about learning practical life skills and the gratification that comes from applying those skills in ways that benefit one’s self and community. This sort of localized, land-based knowledge is rapidly disappearing from first-world countries in large part because the centers of profit and industry would rather we not possess it. They know that its absence makes us increasingly dependent on their offerings.

The Hewitts also live by some touchstone principles, ideals and ideas they return to at times when they are faced with a decision to which there is no obvious answer. We’ve listed a few of them below, but additional principles (and full descriptions) can be found in The Nourishing Homestead, and are worth reflection.

As Ben Hewitt writes, “This is not a literal list, etched into stone or rolled into a yellowed scroll, although years ago we did create a written document to help us determine the direction of our land-based practices. Truthfully, we are not always able to act in harmony with these principles. There are times when circumstances compel us to behave otherwise. But even in these cases, it’s valuable to understand and acknowledge the compromise we’re making.”

Guiding Principles:

  • The way we think, act, and perceive the world is a reflection of the world we wish to inhabit.
  • We will produce the most nourishing food possible.
  • Real nutrition comes only from vital soils that enable plants and animals to express their full potential.
  • The labor to produce nourishing food is itself of value.
  • Do not let the logic of the market dictate the logic of the homestead.
  • Resilience of systems is the outgrowth of diversity, redundancy, simplicity, and, ultimately, resourcefulness.
  • Resourcefulness of body, emotion, spirit, and skills is just as important as resilience of systems.
  • The manner in which you spend your time is, in fact, the manner in which you spend your life. Time is not money; it is life.
  • We are not stewards of the land; the land is the steward of us.
  • Interdependence, not self-sufficiency.
  • Living in alignment. It is important to us that our daily activities comprise as much as possible actions we enjoy and which can be defended ethically and intellectually, not only from the perspective of humanity, but also from that of the natural world.
  • When in doubt, be generous.

Consider adopting a list of your own. If nothing else, it may compel you to think carefully about your guiding principles, and in this regard, become a step toward living life on your own terms.

 

Our Most Popular DIY Projects of 2014

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

If leading a more sustainable life is topping your list of New Year’s resolutions, then check out our most popular do-it-yourself projects of 2014.

These how-to blog posts share a common focus on developing the skills and knowledge needed to create true change—the kind that begins with us in our own backyard. Whether you’re interested in identifying wild edibles, using a wood-fired oven, learning to graft fruit trees, or increasing your garden’s productivity, this list of projects is sure to inspire a greener, more resilient way of living.

For more of 2014′s most popular content countdowns, browse our lists of Top 10 Blog Posts and Top 5 Food & Drink Recipes.

Happy New Year!

#6: How to Use Lambsquarter from Root to Plant to Seed

This excerpt from Katrina Blair focuses on the edible and medicinal uses of lambsquarter, one of the “super weeds” that can be found growing all over the world. Featured in the New York Times gardening roundup, The Wild Wisdom of Weeds is the only book on foraging and edible weeds that focuses on the thirteen plants which together comprise a complete food source and extensive medical pharmacy and first-aid kit.

#5: Build a Wood-Fired Oven in Your Backyard

In this excerpt by bread expert Richard Miscovich, you will find a few general masonry design recommendations to get you thinking about how to turn your dream wood-fired oven into a reality. Check out the rest of From the Wood-Fired Oven for a wide range of useful recipes for home and artisan bakers, as well as oven designs, live-fire roasting techniques, and more.

#4: The Endless Arugula Bed

What does it take to extend your gardening season? In The Resilient Farm and Homestead, Ben Falk shows how using a simple structure of quick hoops and greenhouse film to overwinter arugula can provide fresh greens as early as mid-March. Try producing your own endless bed of arugula using these instructions, or experiment with another crop from Falk’s book.

#3: How to Graft the Perfect Fruit Tree: 5 Grafting Techniques

Interested in keeping an orchard but intimidated by the prospect of grafting? R.J. Garner’s The Grafter’s Handbook is the classic reference book on plant propagation by grafting. This excerpt, revised and updated from the original 1947 publication, details five key techniques for grafting established trees, such as cleft, oblique, rind, veneer, crown and strap grafting.

#2: Michael Judd’s Blueberry Soil Mix

Michael Judd, permaculture designer and author of Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist, reveals his special recipe for blueberry soil mix. How does it work? Instead of pulling material from distant ecosystems, Judd creates a soil mix that imitates the plant’s natural forest edge habitat.

 #1: The Ultimate Guide to Sheet Mulching

The number one do-it-yourself blog post of the year is a tutorial on how to prepare and install the ultimate, bombproof sheet mulch. Starting new layers of mulch in the fall is ideal for spring plantings. Be sure to check out the rest of Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway for more expert gardening advice on creating your own backyard ecosystem.

 

 

 

 

 

10 Books to Curl Up With This Winter

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

William Wordsworth was right when he said, “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.” Nevertheless, the cold, dark days of winter can still get the best of even Nature’s most tenderhearted admirer. What’s one to do?

We here at Chelsea Green have concocted the perfect cabin fever remedy with our suggested winter reading list. With topics ranging from sustainable meat production to the secret lives of black bears to life lessons from a contrary farmer, and more, these books are sure to lighten up your days and keep your mind active long after the first signs of spring.

So throw another log on the fire, grab a blanket, and tuck in for the long haul with these new and classic favorites from Chelsea Green.

Winter Reading List

An Unlikely Vineyard by Deirdre Heekin
Ranked one of the best wine books of 2014 by The New York Times, An Unlikely Vineyard tells the evolutionary story of Deirdre Heekin’s farm from overgrown fields to a fertile, productive, and beautiful landscape that melds with its natural environment. Accompanied throughout by lush photography, this gentle narrative will appeal to anyone who loves food, farms, and living well.
Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America by Mark Schimmoeller
Slowspoke 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. Schimmoeller intersperses recollections of his journey with vignettes of his present-day, off-the-grid homesteading with his wife in Kentucky and their effort to save an old growth forest. This memoir, deemed “profoundly simple, funny, and sincere” by Publishers Weekly, will help you slow down and appreciate every winter day.
Grass, Soil, Hope by Courtney White
This book tackles an increasingly crucial question: What can we do about the seemingly intractable challenges confronting all of humanity today, including climate change, global hunger, water scarcity, environmental stress, and economic instability? White believes the answer lies in the soil beneath our feet and our efforts to sequester carbon.
In the Company of Bears by Benjamin Kilham
In this book, Kilham unveils his groundbreaking work observing communication and interactions between wild black bears. Diagnosed with dyslexia, Kilham comes to discover that thinking differently is truly his greatest tool for understanding the natural world. You might not master the art of hibernation this winter, but In the Company of Bears will open your mind to the insights the non-human world can offer. Now available as an audio book!
Angels By the River by Gus Speth
In this compelling memoir, you follow Speth’s unlikely path—from a Southern boyhood to his career as an influential mainstream environmentalist to his current system-changing activism. Speth calls for a new environmentalism to confront the complex challenges of today.
Gene Everlasting: A Contrary Farmer’s Thoughts on Living Forever by Gene Logsdon
How do farmers relate to life and death? In this collection of essays, Logsdon reflects on the intimate connection farmers have with the food chain through his experiences as a farmer up to his most recent bout with cancer. Kirkus gives this book a starred review and calls it a “perceptive and understatedly well-written meditation.”
Carbon Shock by Mark Schapiro
It may be cold outside, but things are heating up in the atmosphere. Schapiro’s book is an investigative study into the relationship between climate change and the economy. His in-depth analysis into the cost of carbon in our daily lives will inspire you to not only think deeply about the impact of climate change, but also to put on another sweater.
Defending Beef by Nicolette Hahn Niman
Niman writes from the unique perspective of an environmental lawyer and vegetarian turned cattle rancher. In her latest book, she explains how, contrary to public opinion, cattle are neither inherently bad for the earth nor for our nutritional health. She convincingly shows how, with proper oversight, cattle can play an essential role in maintaining grassland ecosystems and are an irreplaceable part of the world’s food system. According to the LA Times, Niman’s argument for sustainable meat production “skewers the sacred cows of the anti-meat orthodoxy.”
The Seed Underground by Janisse Ray
In this award-winning book, Ray explores the crucial value of saving seeds in the local food movement and shares stories from numerous seed savers, as well as tips on how to save seeds yourself.
Taste, Memory by David Buchanan
In this book, Buchanan examines the relationship between past and present farming through the value of culturally forgotten foods and new varieties. He draws from his experiences as a grower of various heirloom species to show that thoughtful selection is necessary when matching diverse species with the needs of a particular land and climate.

Winter Survival Tips From Mat Stein

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Now that temperatures have started to dip below freezing and most folks living in colder climates have witnessed their first snow flurries of the season, it’s time to get serious about winter preparedness. Make sure you are ready for stormy weather and extreme cold on your next road trip with these winter driving tips from author and survivalist Mat Stein (When Disaster Strikes, When Technology Fails).

Stein’s books are comprehensive guides for self-reliance, sustainable living, and emergency planning. For more survival advice, check out his essential packing list for a grab-and-go compact survival kit.

Safe travels!

*****
Car Survival Tips for a Blizzard
By Matthew Stein

Every winter, thousands of people are stranded while driving in the snow. On more than one occasion, I have been overly confident in my abilities to drive in hazardous icy and snow covered roads, forgetting that I may know how to drive in the snow, but that does not mean the other guy does. When driving in winter weather, it is best to heed the old Yankee saying: “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst!”

Prep for Winter Driving:

  • Make sure that your car’s antifreeze and windshield washer fluid can handle the predicted lowest temperatures. It is both frightening and dangerous when you find yourself blinded by a slushy spray that coats your windshield, only to discover that your washer fluid is frozen and worthless. You can pick up an inexpensive plastic meter with different colored balls inside it for measuring to what temperature your car’s antifreeze is good for freeze protection.
  • Carry chains and make sure they really fit your tires and that you know how to install them. It is a good idea to practice putting your chains on in broad daylight on dry pavement. It is much harder to figure these things out in the middle of a blinding snow storm at night when you are cold and wet and lying on your belly in a foot of new snow. The night before I wrote this, I was helping a motorist around the corner who was stuck on a hill with wet snow that had packed to ice. He had a pair of brand new cable chains, but had no clue as to how to install them. That particular style of cable chain was pretty near impossible to properly tighten when installed in the snow, rather than on pavement, so after spending a half hour trying to get the cable chains properly installed, we ended up towing him with a rope and a four-wheel-drive pickup. Some states outlaw tire chains, but in a dicey situation on treacherous roads, I figure it is better to be safe and use the chains than to worry about breaking a rule. If you have a set of traditional tire chains, you should also carry spare chain repair links and at least one set of chain tensioners (not for use with cable chains).
  • Bring along a flashlight. Very useful for flagging down cars, warning people of an accident, and an absolute must
    for installing tire chains in the dark. I personally prefer a waterproof back country style headlamp over a standard flashlight, because it leaves my hands free and shines wherever I point my head. Have you ever tried installing tire chains by yourself while holding your flashlight in your teeth
  • Carry extra food, water, and clothing, including a warm hat, mittens or gloves, and a warm jacket that preferably has a waterproof but breathable outer shell, such as one made from Gore-Tex. Make sure you have boots that are adequate for trudging through miles of snow. Tennis shoes just don’t cut it in the snow, and frozen toes are no fun!
  • Carry a snow scraper for clearing your windshield, a broom for brushing snow off your car, a compact shovel for digging your vehicle out of a snow bank, and sand or a piece of burlap for traction in case your wheels become stuck.
  • Check the weather forecast and updated road conditions.
  • Stash a spare key on your car. Motorists sometimes get locked out of their vehicle while installing tire chains. I like to bring along a water proof poncho, tarp, or rain jacket and rain pants for lying in the slush while installing tire chains.

To Stay in Your Car or Abandon It?

People ask me this question, and I tell them there is no single right answer, though there is an optimal answer for each situation. Assuming you are stuck either in traffic that has come to a stop, or along the side of a road, here are a few thoughts and guidelines:

  • Is your car in a dangerous position where there is a significant chance you may be run into by another car? If so, abandon your car and relocate yourself to some nearby place where you aren’t in danger!
  • How much gasoline do you have in your tank? Do you have enough spare clothing to stay warm inside your car without running the engine? If not, and you may be stuck for a long time, ration your gasoline by turning your car on for a few minutes at a time to warm the heater, then turn it off again. In my part of the country (High Sierras near Lake Tahoe), major freeways over mountain passes can stay closed for days, and I have been stopped in traffic for eight hours while waiting for accidents to clear. At times like these, it is common for motorists to run out of gas while idling to keep their car heaters going.
  • What is your footwear like? Are you equipped to walk for miles in the snow and spend the night outside if necessary?
  • If your clothing is not really adequate for spending long hours outside in the snow, is there enough passing traffic to hitch a ride to a nearby town, or is all traffic stopped and the road shut down? If your chances of hitching a ride are slim, and your car is parked in a safe spot, you are probably better off staying inside your vehicle.
  • In a desperate situation, lacking suitable boots for snow country travel, you could use a knife to slice up your car seat cushions to make strips of thick insulation that could be wrapped around your feet and lower legs to provide the insulation needed to protect your feet from freezing while trudging for miles through the snow. Wires from your car could be twisted until they break to provide cordage for tying the insulation around your feet and legs. If you lacked a knife, a piece of plastic or metal trim could be pried off your car, or perhaps broken from an item like your glove box, to provide a sharp edge for slicing your seat cushions into usable pieces of insulated fabric. Also, the mirrors of your car could be broken to provide a sharp piece of glass, though it would not do any good to break the windows, since they are made from tempered safety glass and would shatter into tiny unusable pieces.

Chelsea Green Publishing Turns 30!

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Explore a slideshow of cover images from some of our most iconic books over the past 30 years. Excerpts from these books and close to 100 others are all part of a new Chelsea Green anthology celebrating our 30th anniversary – The Chelsea Green Reader.

This collection offers readers a glimpse into our wide-ranging list of books and authors and to the important ideas that they express. Interesting and worth reading in their own right, the individual passages when taken as a whole trace the evolution of a highly successful small publisher—something that is almost an oxymoron in these days of corporate buyouts and multinational book groups.

Take a walk down memory lane with us and check out this selection of book covers from 1985 to the present.

Fresh Fig Pecan Bread for the Holidays

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Sure to be a hit at any holiday gathering, master bread baker Richard Miscovich describes this Fig Pecan Bread as slightly sweet, delicious, nutritious, and soothing. Here is the full recipe from his latest book, From the Wood-Fired Oven.

*****

Fig Pecan Bread
By Richard Miscovich

One of my favorite baking books—and one that gives me a lot of inspiration to develop new breads—is The Book of Bread by Jérôme Assire. It’s a beautiful book with great photos of breads from around the world. I was ready to put a dried fruit and nut bread into production when I saw a collection of Swiss breads that included Sauserbrot made with wheat and spelt flours and including chestnut and grape must—unfermented freshly squeezed juice. I dropped the juice and whole wheat flour but added a higher ratio of spelt flour and included walnuts, dried figs, and oats. I immediately recognized it as a slightly sweet bread that was also delicious, nutritious, and soothing. Have it at breakfast, at teatime, or as a bedtime snack.

Be sure to use old-fashioned oats or the thicker, chewy kind you might be able to get through your local miller. “Quick” oats don’t give the bread the same texture and don’t look as pretty on the outside of the loaf. Whole wheat flour can be substituted for the spelt flour, but the taste won’t be quite so distinctive. Whole-grain spelt flour and the addition of a high percentage of pecans and figs will make a denser dough. Be aware that the dough will be delicate and that spelt has a shorter proofing tolerance than hard red winter wheat.

It took me several years to realize I should replace the walnuts in this formula with pecans, partly because a pecan tree grows right next to my ovenhouse. In the fall, local pecans are available at roadside stands and people stock their freezers with bags of the rich nut meats, more milky, tender, and fresh than those available in most stores. Enjoy fresh, local nuts if you are lucky enough to have access to them.

We’re also grateful when somebody drops off a load of pecan wood. The logs split nicely, and the branches can be cut into manageable lengths with a pair of heavy-duty loppers and a reciprocating saw. Pecan wood provides fewer BTUs than oak, which means it is less dense. This is an advantage when a fire is just starting and needs heat to accumulate so that the hot firebox will support a more complete combustion. Oak requires a hot environment to get started, so it’s best to add pecan early on and save the oak for later. The pecan also combusts efficiently—little ash is left over after a load of pecan is burned.

We inherited three fig trees when we bought this property. Mid- to late July is when the figs start to ripen. I like to harvest twice a day, once in the morning and again in the late afternoon when the sun warms the sweet and sensual fruit. I so appreciate these two local trees, pecan and fig, that give us beauty, shade, oxygen, fresh nuts, bountiful bowls of figs, and fuel.

Yield: 3 medium loaves
Prefermented flour: 20%
Wood-fired oven temperature window: 425°F to 450°F (218–232°C)
Home oven: Preheat the oven to 450°F (232°C).

Levain Ingredient Weight (g) Volume Baker’s %
Bread flour 120 1 cup 100
Water 120 1/2 cup 100
Liquid sourdough starter 14 1 1/2 tbsp 12
Total 254

Combine the flour, water, and starter. Mix until smooth. Cover and allow to ferment at 77°F (25°C) for 8 to 10 hours.

Final Dough Ingredient Weight (g) Volume Baker’s %
Pecans, halves 150 1 3/4 cup 26
Figs, dried, chopped 230 1 1/2 cup 40
Water 345 1 1/2 cup 80
Levain 240 *
Bread flour 335 2 3/4 cup 79
Whole spelt flour 123 1 1/4 cup 21
Oats 57 2/3 cup 10
Instant active yeast 2.3 1/2 tsp 0.4
Salt 12 1 tbsp 2.1
Total 1,494.3
Extra oats to roll loaf as needed as needed

* Best measured by weight; volume varies with ripeness.

Desired dough temperature: Adjust the water temperature so the dough is 77°F (25°C) at the end
of mixing.
Lightly toast the pecans, chop them, and let them cool. (Be sure they are completely cool before adding them to the dough so they don’t affect the dough temperature.)
Before measuring the figs, remove any tough stems, chop the figs, and set them aside.

Autolyse: Remove 14g of starter from the levain. Pour the water around the edge of the levain to help release all of the preferment. Add the water and levain to the mixing bowl. Add the flours and oats, but hold back all the other ingredients. Mix by hand or a mixer until thoroughly incorporated and homogeneous, but you needn’t develop the dough at this point. It’s okay if the dough is still shaggy. Cover to prevent a skin from forming and autolyse for 20 to 30 minutes.

Mixing:
By hand: After the autolyse, add the yeast and salt. Mix the dough with your hand and a plastic dough scraper for a minute to incorporate the ingredients.
Turn the dough out of the bowl and knead by hand using the techniques described in chapter 6. Hand mixing will take about 8 to 10 minutes. The dough is going to seem wet, but you’ll see the pecans and figs transform the consistency when you add them at this time.
By mixer: After the autolyse, add the yeast and salt and mix on slow speed for 3 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes. Stop occasionally while mixing to scrape the dough off the hook. Reduce the mixer speed to slow, add the pecans and figs, and mix until incorporated.
When complete, the dough will be smooth and slightly tacky; it’ll pull back when tugged. Remember, the dough will develop considerably during fermenting and folding.

Primary fermentation: Place the dough in a covered container and let it ferment for 2 hours, folding once after 60 minutes.

Dividing/preshaping: Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into three pieces. Preshape each piece into a loose round ball, and place bottom up on a lightly floured surface. Cover the loaves and let them rest for about 20 minutes.

Shaping: Shape the loaves into bâtards. Roll each onto a damp cloth and then into a tray of oats. Place the loaves seam side up on a non-floured couche. Allow to proof for 1 to 11⁄2 hours.

Scoring and baking: Just before baking, turn the loaves onto a lightly floured peel. Score with three angled cuts across the loaf. The oat coating makes scoring a bit difficult. Be sure to use a new blade and score assertively. Bake in a steamed 450°F (232°C) oven.
Or place in a heated combo cooker, score, cover, and place in the oven. Bake for approximately 40 minutes.

How to Use Lambsquarter from Root to Plant to Seed

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Some people might take one look at a patch of lambsquarter and yank it out of the ground to rid their garden or yard of an undesirable weed. Not wild-foods advocate and author Katrina Blair. At her home in Durango, CO, she tends to her lambsquarter and a number of other so-called weeds with the utmost care.

Why, you ask? Because according to Blair’s extensive research weeds are entirely misunderstood plants. In her new book, The Wild Wisdom of Weeds, she focuses on the thirteen plants which together comprise a complete food source and extensive medical pharmacy and first-aid kit.

Blair’s philosophy is sobering, realistic, and ultimately optimistic. If we can open our eyes to see the wisdom found in these weeds right under our feet, instead of trying to eradicate an “invasive,” we could potentially achieve true food security and optimal health.

Lambsquarter is one of Blair’s 13 “super weeds.” You can blend its leaves into a green juice, sprout its quinoa-like seeds and use them in a salad, mash its roots into a cleansing soap, and more. In the following excerpt, learn all about the edible and medicinal uses of lambsquarter and find recipes for a variety of lambsquarter-based foods and products.

Happy foraging!

*****

Edible Uses of Lambsquarter

Lambsquarter is exceptionally nutritious. Our bodies can produce fourteen of the essential amino acids, but eight of them need to be found in external sources. Lambsquarter is one of those valuable sources.

The whitish dust present on each leaf is made up of mineral salts from the soil and is an indication of its mineral-rich value. Often the lambsquarter leaves will taste salty and therefore make quite a nutritious salt replacement or addition to dishes! Lambsquarter seasoning is made easily by drying the leaves and mixing them with other spices.

Lambsquarter is packed with essential vitamins and minerals. For example, 3.5 ounces of raw lambsquarter, which is about 1 cup of greens, contains 73 percent vitamin A and 96 percent vitamin C of your recommended daily allowances suggested by the USDA. It is also a fantastic source of the B vitamins complex including thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin.

Use Like Spinach

Wild lambsquarter vary in their tastes. The flavor is related not only to different species, but also to the stages of growth and to the soil conditions. In general, however, all lambsquarter leaves are edible. The wild greens can be used just like spinach. They can be eaten fresh in salads, juiced, and added to any recipes that call for greens. They are best eaten when younger, however; when the leaves mature with age, the flavor can change due to a greater potency of oxalic acids. I find that when lambsquarter has built up too many oxalic acids, I experience a slight burning sensation in the back of my throat. This is why I recommend tasting the leaves by themselves before harvesting any quantity of them. This is especially important when making green juices or smoothies. When downing a liquid in several gulps, your body does not have the time to tell you to stop.

Harvest Seeds in the Fall

The seeds make a highly nutritious food staple for multiple uses in recipes. They can be harvested in the fall and ground into cereal or used as flour for bread. Similar to quinoa, lambsquarter seeds can be easily sprouted in one to two days. Add the sprouts to any meal to benefit from the rich nutrients.  Lambsquarter seeds also make great microgreens. They start out small and frail looking but given time grow into healthy plants with delicious flavor.

All lambsquarter seeds are edible; however, some are easier to use for a food staple than others. The wild versions have varying natures of seed production. Some varieties are easy to harvest and separate the chaff, while others are quite difficult. When possible, separate the seed from the outer layer and always taste the wild grains alone before adding any seasoning or salt, to get the true taste of the food. This practice will protect you from overeating something that your body would normally tell you to stop eating.

Wild grains are more potent than domesticated grains and a small amount is often enough to sustain your energy. Another way to increase the seeds’ resources is not to cook them, but instead to sprout them. Sprouting the seeds is a natural way to let the outer layer fall off on its own. Using lambsquarter sprouts is a way to increase seed benefits and sustain your winter storage to last even longer! If wild plants are potent already and go a long way, sprouted wild grains are even more concentrated in nutritional value and truly go the extra mile for supporting your optimal health.

Medicinal Uses of Lambsquarter

Lambsquarter is an important source of food that can be considered a key staple, while at the same time it is also an extremely valuable medicine. When the leaves are chewed into a green paste and applied to the body, it makes a great poultice for insect bites, minor scrapes, injuries, inflammation, and sunburn. The greens are beneficial for soothing arthritic joint pain when chewed into a mash and placed directly on the sensitive areas.

The leaves support the decrease of pain by reducing inflammation and bringing about an increase of circulation.

A tea of the leaves is beneficial for diarrhea, internal inflammation, stomach aches, and loss of appetite. The tea can also be used as a wash to heal skin irritations and other external complaints. Soaking the body in bathwater with lambsquarter tea added will support skin health by toning and tightening the tissues.

The green leaves when eaten in their fresh raw state are particularly beneficial for supporting the healing of anemic blood conditions. The leaves are exceptionally rich in iron and help to increase blood cell count and overall vitality of the circulatory system. The greens and seeds are very high in protein and phenolic content, and also have significant antioxidant capacity for eliminating unwanted free radicals in the body.

The roots contain a significant amount of saponin, which creates a natural soapy quality when mashed or beaten. In addition to the roots being extremely useful in making a cleansing soap, the composition of saponin also creates a cleansing and laxative effect in the body when drunk as a tea. Lambsquarter root tea is helpful for removing excesses from the body by the way of assisting elimination.

The young greens, especially when tender in the spring, can be juiced for their calcium and vitamins A, C, and B complex in addition to vital enzymes, chlorophyll, and trace minerals. The juice has a gentle detoxifying nature. Lambsquarter is an important green in this day and age of accumulated pollution. The greens are valuable for purifying the body of unwanted toxins due to their exceptionally high chlorophyll content. The chlorophyll binds with or chelates toxins that may be stored in fat cells and removes them in the urine. Our body is wise and tends to isolate toxins away from our vital organs by storing them in fat cells. When the toxins are released into the bloodstream it is key to have a source of chlorophyll to bind up the toxins until they are discharged from the body. We want to assure that they are not redeposited in the body while in the bloodstream. Fasting is a beneficial way to detoxify the body; however, because of the concentrations of petrochemicals found in our daily environment, it is wise to avoid fasting on water alone. It is best to have the support of wild greens in the form of dilute juices to protect our cleansing bodies from the potential side effects of environmental toxins causing harm on their way out.

The young lambsquarter green juice is delicious, but when the leaves get older, make sure to taste them first to know if the flavor is agreeable to you. The gentle astringent properties of lambsquarter make it healthy for tightening internal organs as well as externally for skin. The juice makes a beautifying and cleansing body wash. It is also a useful mouthwash for tightening the gums and eliminating bad breath.

The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: Lambsquarter Recipes

Chelsea Green Celebrates 30 Years of Craft and Cutting Edge Books

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

We here at Chelsea Green have always had a nose for authors and books that are years ahead of the cultural curve. That knack is clearly on display in a new anthology that we’re making available to celebrate our first thirty years in publishing.

More than one hundred books are represented in this collection and reflect the many distinct areas in which we have published—from literature and memoirs to progressive politics, to highly practical books on green building, organic gardening and farming, food and health, and related subjects—all of which reflect our underlying philosophy: “The politics and practice of sustainable living.”

The Chelsea Green Reader offers a glimpse into our wide-ranging list of books and authors and to the important ideas that they express. Interesting and worth reading in their own right, the individual passages when taken as a whole trace the evolution of a highly successful small publisher—something that is almost an oxymoron in these days of corporate buyouts and multinational book groups.

“I like to think of these brief excerpts as individual stones in a cairn. A cairn is a landmark, a pile of rocks built by hikers high above tree line in the mountains. It grows larger and larger over the years as new hikers passing by contribute a new stone, or replace one that might have fallen. A cairn is there to confirm, even on a foggy day, that we are on the right path, and it indicates the way forward, to the summit,” writes Senior Editor Ben Watson in the book’s preface.

“Every book is a stone, or a brick in the wall, of an edifice that is always being constructed, constantly evolving, and never quite finished. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that a publishing company is colloquially referred to as a ‘house,’” Watson adds. “At Chelsea Green we continue to build, with our authors and their ideas, a great house, one that represents our deeply held values and beliefs, our hopes and our dreams.”CGP_grasshopper_olive green

From the beginning, Chelsea Green’s books were nationally recognized, garnering positive reviews, accolades, and awards. We’ve published four New York Times bestsellers, and our books have set the standard for in-depth, how-to books that remain relevant years—often decades—beyond their original publication date. Books in this volume range from ones that appeared in our very first catalog in 1985 (and remain in print today) to ones that have long since gone out of print, but not forgotten as important touchstones for us as a publisher.

“Chelsea Green was born from a single seed: the beauty of craft. Craft in writing and editing, in a story well told, or a thesis superbly expressed,” writes cofounder and publisher emeritus Ian Baldwin in the book’s Foreword.

This attention to craft has even informed our business model: In 2012, Chelsea Green became an employee-owned company as a way to “practice what we publish” and lay the groundwork to ensure that the founders’ legacy remained intact in the decades to follow.

The move made Chelsea Green unique among book publishers in an industry dominated by investor-driven, multinational corporations. Only a handful of independent book publishers can claim employee-ownership status, and of those Chelsea Green will be near the top in terms of the percentage controlled by employees.

With the rise of the Internet, new media platforms, and a constantly shifting bookselling landscape, the future of publishing is anything but predictable. But if Chelsea Green’s books prove anything, it is that, despite these challenges, there remains a hunger for new and important ideas and authors, and for the permanence and craftsmanship of the printed word. Today our ongoing mission is stronger than ever, as we launch into our next thirty years of publishing excellence.

“People are moved by what they read,” adds Baldwin in his Foreword. “That pertains whether they read an ebook or a printed one, and they want to connect with the writers who make their lives richer. Part of the publisher’s role is to help make this vitalizing connection. This nexus among author, publisher, and reader is, I believe, unlikely to wither anytime soon.”

The Ultimate Guide to Sheet Mulching

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

A fresh bed of sheet mulch isn’t as productive as one that’s six months old, so fall is the perfect time of year to start a new layer of mulch for your spring plantings. The layers of mulch and organic matter also help to protect the soil during the long winter months making it ready for your plantings come spring.

In the following excerpt from Gaia’s Garden, author and gardening expert Toby Hemenway presents a step-by-step tutorial on how to prepare and install the ultimate, bombproof sheet mulch.

For more tips on building soil fertility, conserving water, enhancing pollinator habitats, and creating your own backyard ecosystem, check out Gaia’s Garden, Second Edition: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture.

***

The Ultimate, Bombproof Sheet Mulch
By Toby Hemenway

Sheet mulching can be as simple as putting down layers of newspapers topped by eight to twelve inches of nearly any mulch material. But if you want to build the perfect sheet mulch, here’s how.

If this is your first sheet mulch, start small. Sheet mulch gobbles up a tremendous amount of organic matter—the roughly two cubic yards held by a full-sized pickup truck will cover about fifty square feet. But don’t scrimp. It’s much better to blanket a small area thoroughly than to spread the mulch too thin to smother weeds or feed the soil properly. Choose a site that’s not more than 200 square feet, in the proper location for the intended plants, and preferably near the house. Remember your zones: Deeply mulched beds will soon be covered with a riot of plant life, and you want these awesomely productive areas right outside your door, to easily tend or to admire the many avian and insect visitors.

What You’ll Need:

1. A two- to three-foot stack of newspaper, minus any glossy sections, whose inks may contain metal pigments (the black and colored inks on standard newsprint are soy-based and nontoxic), or about 300 square feet of corrugated box cardboard without staples or plastic tape. You can also use cloth, old clothing, or wool carpet, provided they contain no synthetic fabric, but these take far longer to decay than paper.

2. Soil amendments, depending on your soil’s needs: lime, rock phosphate, bonemeal, rock dust, kelp meal, blood meal, and so on.

3. Bulk organic matter: straw, spoiled hay, yard waste, leaves, seaweed, finely ground bark, stable sweepings, wood shavings, or any mixture of these, ideally resulting in an overall C:N ratio between 100:1 and 30:1. Grass clippings are also good, but only when mixed with other “brown” mulches—otherwise their high nitrogen content causes anaerobic—and hence smelly, slimy—decomposition. You will need about four to eight cubic yards of loosely piled mulch for 100 to 200 square feet, or six to ten two-string bales of hay or straw.

4. Compost, about a quarter to half a cubic yard (six to twelve cubic feet).

5. Manure: a quarter to one cubic yard, depending on the concentration and amount of bedding mixed in. About six cubic feet of composted steer manure or other bagged product will be plenty.

6. A top layer of seed-free material, such as straw, leaves, wood shavings, bark, sawdust, pine needles, grain hulls, nut husks, or seagrass. You will need roughly one cubic yard or two to four two-string bales.

If you can’t find every item, don’t worry. Sheet mulching is very forgiving. As long as you have enough newspaper or cardboard, plus organic matter of almost any kind, you’ll end up with great soil. Store your supplies near the chosen site so you won’t have to move them too far on sheet-mulch day. Keep them dry, too.

What To Do:

The day before you mulch, water the site well unless the ground is already moist from rain. The organisms that will be turning your mulch into rich earth can’t work without water, and, once the mulch is in place, it takes a lot of water to moisten the bottom layers. Conversely, it takes a long time for the layers to dry out—you’ve got lots of water storage.

After the water has soaked in overnight, slash down any vegetation. Don’t pull up weeds—leave all the native organic matter right there, including the roots. Just clip, mow, scythe, or weed-whack everything down in place. It’s great worm food, and the nitrogen-rich greens and roots will be a tasty starter for the decomposers. Remove any stumps or big woody pieces.

Next, add any soil amendments. If your soil is acid, sprinkle on some lime. For alkaline soil, a little gypsum or sulfur will help. A dusting of rock phosphate or bonemeal will supply phosphorus. Greensand, kelp meal, or rock dust will add trace minerals. Use a soil test or your own understanding of your soil’s fertility to guide the type and quantity of soil amendments.

If your native earth is clayey or compacted, now is a good time to open it up a bit. Just push a spading fork into the ground, rock it a little, and pull it out. Do this across the entire mulch site. Don’t turn the earth, just poke some holes into it and crack it open to allow better moisture and root penetration and soil-critter movement.

Then add a thin layer of high-nitrogen material. This can be manure, blood or cottonseed meal, fresh grass clippings or other lush greens, or cast-off produce from restaurants or markets. For concentrated matter such as rabbit manure or blood meal, sprinkle down enough material to just cover the soil. Grass clippings or bedding-rich manure should go down about an inch thick. While this layer isn’t essential, it attracts worms and burrowing beetles, which will aerate and loosen the soil.

Now the fun begins: putting the sheet in sheet mulch. Lay down newspapers and/or cardboard to create a continuous light-blocking layer that will smother existing plants. Cardboard is very satisfying to use since those big sheets, especially boxes from appliances and bicycles, cover the ground fast. Overlap the sheets by six inches or so to keep weeds from sneaking between them. Newspaper should be laid down one-eighth to one-half inch thick.

As you spread out the sheets, wet them thoroughly. Do this frequently if a breeze comes up—watching your sheet mulch flap away is pretty demoralizing. Soak the sheets several times to make sure the water seeps through. If you’re sheet mulching with a group, this is when hose-fights usually erupt, tugging any well-orchestrated work-party toward mayhem.

Try not to walk on the paper, especially after it’s wet, as this pulls the sheets apart and creates gaps. Pretend you’re painting a floor: Start at the far side and work toward the access or materials pile so you won’t walk on your work.

Next, toss down another thin layer of nitrogen-rich manure, meal, or fresh green clippings. This will entice the worms up through the soon-to-be rotting sheets and coax plant roots downward.

On top of this, pour on the bulk mulch, about eight to twelve inches of loose straw, hay, or other substances listed above. Weed seeds in this layer aren’t a big concern, as a thick, seed-free stratum will lie atop this one. Weed seeds seem to rot rather than germinate in the slowly composting mass.

Bales of hay or straw don’t have to be fluffed up to their original grassy bulk. Just break the bales into thin “flakes” about one to two inches thick and lay down about three thicknesses of these. Broken into several layers and moistened, the dense flakes will expand and compost perfectly well.

To create an easily compostable sheet mulch, pay attention to the carbon:nitrogen ratio in the bulk mulch layer. If you’re using high-carbon materials such as straw or, especially, wood shavings, sprinkle on nitrogen in the form of blood meal or other nitrogen-rich source, or “dilute” the carbonaceous mulch with perhaps one part clover hay, seaweed, grass clippings, or other high-nitrogen mulch for every four of high-carbon matter (see Table 4-1 for a list of mulch materials and their C:N ratios). A mulch that is extremely low in nitrogen, such as wood shavings, will be slow to rot down and may cause anemic plant growth. You don’t need a perfect C:N balance—just make sure there’s some nitrogen in the mix to feed the compost critters.

As you build this layer, spray on water every few inches. This layer should be damp but not wet; you’re looking for that wrung-out sponge state. This can require a surprisingly large volume of water. It may take a couple of minutes of soaking every few inches to achieve the damp-but-not-wet state.

Atop the bulk mulch, add an inch or two of compost. If this is in short supply, add compost plus whatever soil is on hand to reach the final thickness. Or, if the pile will have a few months to compost before planting, you can substitute manure or several inches of easily compostable material for this layer. But if you plan to plant the sheet mulch within a few weeks, a layer of compost will be necessary to act as a seedbed.

The final layer is two inches of weed- and seed-free organic matter, such as straw, fine bark, wood shavings, or any of the others listed above. Besides smothering weeds, this layer gives the project, in landscaper jargon, “that finished look,” which will endear you to your more fastidious neighbors. For planting seeds and starts, push this layer aside to reach the compost/soil layer right below, just as you would with any mulch.

The 13 Weeds Essential for Human Survival

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Did you know there are 13 plants you can find, whether at home or traveling, that can help you maintain a state of optimal health with minimal cost and effort?

In The Wild Wisdom of Weeds, author Katrina Blair introduces these 13 global “survival plants”—dandelion, mallow, purslane, plantain, thistle, amaranth, dock, mustard, grass, chickweed, clover, lambsquarter, and knotweed—that both regenerate the earth and support human survival. They grow everywhere where people live, from the hottest deserts to the Arctic Circle, and provide important forage for the bees and other wild pollinators especially today as human development is encroaching on wild habitat. They help regenerate the soil and bring fertility back to land that has been disturbed or overgrazed. The wild weeds are exceptionally nutritious as protein rich food sources.  The weeds typically have more nutrition than anything we can buy from the store. These 13 weeds each have powerful medicinal qualities and through utilizing them on a regular basis not only can they help cure illnesses but also prevent them from occurring.  The weeds often grow in abundance so overharvesting is not a concern.  The weeds are generally free and widely available to most humans living on the planet as an important survival resource.

With more than 100 unique recipes, Blair teaches us how to prepare these wild plants from root to seed, including information on growing “wild” microgreens, sprouting, fermenting, making wild green powders, and gleaning weeds from local lawns as a principled stance against pesticide use.

Introducing the 13 Weeds

Purslane (Portulaca) seeds are one of the best sources of omega 3 fatty acids. The leaves and stems are juicy, succulent and taste lemony.

Mallow (Malva) has a pleasant mellow flavor and is delicious in salads and juices while gently drawing out congestion from the body.  The whole plant blended and strained also makes a great base for homemade lotions and shampoos.

Plantain (Plantago) is not only a great food, but also acts as the perfect first aid kit in a myriad of ways.  The leaves chewed into a mash draw out snake venom, spider bites, infection, and assist rapid healing of any injury.

Clover (Trifolium) replenishes the soil with nitrogen and re-mineralizes our bodies with a full spectrum rainbow of trace minerals that support the integrity of long-term health.

Curly dock (Rumex) leaves are used for lettuce when young and the seeds ground fine make great flour for adding to breads.  The root works as a fantastic natural antibiotic and immune builder.

Lambsquarter (Chenopodium) has far greater nutritional value than spinach and its seeds turn into the highly nutritious grain, quinoa.

Amaranth (Amaranthus) also known as pigweed is a wild food of choice.  The greens are delicious raw and for making into green chips and the little black seeds and leaves are packed with protein.

Grass (Poaceae) grows everywhere and is a true blessing because all wild grasses are edible. It makes a fantastic survival food because it contains all 8 essential amino acids making it a complete protein.  Chew the blades for the juice and spit out the pulp if it is too tough to break down.

Chickweed (Stellaria) is a delicate plant with five white flower petals that uses the support of other plants to grow higher.  It tastes mild, like fresh green springtime.  It can be used in salads, green juices, and salves.  It supports our ability to let go of excess and increases our bodies efficiency.

Thistle (Carduus) greens make a fantastic juice.  Harvest the greens carefully from the back stem or use gloves.  Place them in the blender with plenty of water, an apple, and a lemon.  Blend and strain the pulp out.  Drink this delicious thistle lemonade and experience a good energy that comes from shifting your body towards an alkaline healing state.

Knotweed (Polygonom) grows low to the ground and is often overlooked. It is a wild buckwheat that is highly nutritious and delicious. It is a first succession pioneer species and helps regenerate the soil.

Dandelion (Taraxacum) reminds us how to survive in style.  The whole plant is edible and highly beneficial for good living.  The roots are eaten raw or prepared like a wild potato, the greens are delicious with a slightly bitter flavor, the flowers taste like honey, and the stems make great musical flutes.

Wild mustards (Brasica) are spicy edibles and encourage good circulation in the body.  They each have four flower petals that come in different colors of the rainbow.  The greens make a flavorful addition to dishes and the yellow seeds create great condiments and add local variety to your spice rack.

The Wild Wisdom of Weeds is about empowering ourselves to maintain a state of optimal health with minimal cost and effort, and offers a tangible way to connect with our sense of place by incorporating wild edible and medicinal plants into our daily practices.

Save 35% off your purchase of The Wild Wisdom of Weeds when you buy it direct from us before October 13.


Follow us
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By WPFruits.com