Teachers have favorites. I hate to break it to you, but we do. For me, it’s usually the nature-loving, part wild child, book-loving child that finds a space in my heart. Sophie was that child for me eleven years ago. She arrived on the first day of Kindergarten with a whole lot of spirit and spunk. I loved her right away. As I soon found out, Sophie had many passions. Her mother told me that at 4 years old that she announced that she would be a vegetarian. No one else in her family was a vegetarian so there were lots of changes in the household, as you can imagine. But the parents honored her decision and from then on she was a vegetarian.
Children this age often choose to be vegetarians because when they learn where they food comes from (a long lashed soft-eyed cow, a clever chicken that can outfox a fox, a cute pink pig like Wilbur or Babe) they become very upset and decide right then and there they will be stewards of animals. We often chatted about Sophie’s vegetarianism at morning circle because some of the other children in my class didn’t understand what being a vegetarian meant. Sophie was kind and patient when she explained that she didn’t want to eat animals because she loved them. There was no judgement, just a simple and clear explanation. My heart swelled. I found a few picture books on being a vegetarian – I have no control when it comes to an opportunity to acquire more books – and this one was our class favorite.
You may have thought that some of the other children would’ve decided to become vegetarians, but they didn’t. They simply accepted that Sophie’s lunch was just lunch and they ate up the Herb the Vegetarian book.
Sophie came to kindergarten with another passion: Indigo Buntings. Sophie had seen one in North Carolina and that’s when her passion for the Indigo Bunting began. So yes, at four years old, she had a passion for all things Indigo Bunting.
She drew them.
She talked about them.
She asked me at least once a week, usually on a Monday, if I’d seen one that weekend. Sadly, I always said no.
Sophie wanted (aka slightly demanded) to know more about them. Yay! Me too! I brought in my Audubon bird identification book and provided her with books and many Montessori lessons on birds, and since she learned how to read with me that year she began independently reading about them during D.E.A.R (drop everything and read) time. I presented lessons on the external parts of a bird and then she made her own bird book (she colored her bird blue), lessons on the internal parts of birds (and she made a diagram), lessons on geography (we researched North America and where the Indigo Buntings live), lessons on migration (we researched Central America), lessons on how birds reproduce, what they eat, and what their nests look like. I spent the whole year integrating Indigo Buntings into the curriculum areas for her and on every field trip the whole class was on the lookout for them. Everyone grew to love and appreciate the Indigo Bunting, and Sophie sealed her place in my heart.
I had never seen an Indigo Bunting live and in person
Here’s what the Mister and I saw at 6:20 a.m. this morning!
Here’s a little bit about Indigo Buntings.
They have a conical beak that give you an idea of what they eat: small seeds, berries, and insects. They will come to your thistle feeders and will really like your live mealworm feeder.
They are native to North America.
They are roughly the size of sparrows; small and stocky birds.
They frequent areas where the woods meet the fields.
Their nests are made of grasses, sticks, leaves, and wrapped in spider silk.
They lay a clutch of 3-4 eggs and can have up to 3 broods a season. Their eggs are white with some brown spots.
I haven’t been making much time to write up recipes and posts, but I have been cooking up a storm. We’ve had over 100″ (yes, that’s right) of snow here and on snowy days all I want to do is hole up in my house and cook! I’ll be posting some new recipes soon.
Here’s what I’ve been up to …
I’ve been driving. My commute from the burbs to the city is now 2 hours in and 1.5 hours out. After working a full work-week I’m too tired to write long posts. Essentially, I’m “working” 60 hours a week. sigh.
I’ve been shoveling and maintaining paths to our chicken coop and front door. The plow guy can only do so much. The walkways and front porch is our job and for a month it was quite a job. On a positive note, the chickens have been consistently laying eggs all winter! I wasn’t expecting that at all. The eggs are such a gift. My girls turn a year old on April 9th and I plan to give them some special treats from us on that day. They love strawberries, tomatoes, oatmeal, and cabbage. Maybe a special salad?
Shoveling out the beehives hasn’t been fun either. Walking to the hives in four foot deep snow isn’t easy, but the hives are dug out and on a warm day the girls can take some cleansing flights easily enough.
I’ve been making bone broth every weekend to sip during the week. Bone broth is easy, rich in protein, minerals, soothing to the gut, and great for the skin. We sip it in place of tea. If you have GERD, Leaky Gut, or an upset tummy drink bone broth every day. You can make it from slow cooking or using a pressure cooker. I roast a chicken or brown some beef bones and then put them in the pot with water, an onion, a few carrots, celery, and a garlic clove or two. If you use a slow cooker or stove-top you can plan to let it simmer for 12-24 hours. In a pressure cooker it will be ready in 1-2 hours. The longer you cook the bones the more minerals you will pull from the bones. Adding a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar will help leach the minerals quicker, too.
I’ve been creating new tinctures for my GingerSage Botanicals herbal business. I have a new Rose Elixir, Damiana-Rose Tincture, and a Hawaiian Awa (kava kava) Tincture. I have more items for sale so pop over and check it out. I sell a lot out of my home, but I do ship. Click on the link to shop: www.etsy.com/shop/GingerSageBotanicals
I’ve been planning out a French potager garden. I want to expand our perennial beds to include more vegetables, interspersing them with the perennial flowering plants is a great way to create an edible garden. It will be beautiful and practical.
I’ve been reading and studying nature religions, specifically the Cabot Tradition of Witchcraft. I am honored to have studied under Laurie Cabot, the Official Witch of Salem and I look forward to deepening my studies in the future. You can learn more about it here: www. lauriecabot.com.
See Laurie on YouTube.
Well, that’s all for now! The bone broth needs straining and containing. The banana bread must come out of the oven, and the fire stoked. I know spring is coming, but for now it’s still winter.
Until next time …
Make your own tea. I mix equal parts organic chamomile flowers, organic rose petals, and organic lemon balm. This blend is fragrant and helps ease stress and anxiety. Sip during the day and before bed to help you sleep well. Combine the herbs in equal parts in a sealed jar and store out of sunlight. To make a cup, use one rounded teaspoon for 8 ounces of water. Steep for 3-5 minutes. Strain and add sweetener of choice, preferably raw, local honey.
From 2011 when I first became a beekeeper, reposted here and taken from my previous blog on iWeb. BEFORE I LOST MY TWO HIVES FROM MOSQUITO SPRAYING IN MY TOWN. See addendum at bottom.
I had been thinking about keeping honey bees for some time now, and this winter I decided to go for it. What was I waiting for? (I’m not good at waiting anyway) Because of CCD, Colony Collapse Disorder, mosquito spraying, and increased consumer pesticide use the honey bees need our help. Since 2006, honey bees have been mysteriously disappearing. There are many theories out there, mostly related to heavy pesticide use on big, monoculture farms but no one is completely sure what the cause is. However, scientists agree that something has to be done to save the honey bee. One-third of the food we eat is pollinated by the honey bee. One-third! It’s very alarming to think what would happen to our food supply if we didn’t have the honey bee. I also learned that almond growers in California utilize migratory beekeepers to pollinate, using 1.3 million colonies of bees (HALF of all honey bees in the US) that are shipped there every year.
“If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.” ~ Albert Einstein
I recently watched a new documentary, narrated by Ellen Page, titled Vanishing of The Bees. I highly recommend you get your hands on this or find a local screening and see what is happening all over the world. It’s heartbreaking. And scary! One hopeful part of the movie is learning that Germany and France banned the use of the pesticide Clothianidin (a neonicotinoid) and within a year the honeybee colonies began to come back. Not so in the United States.
I always thought I needed acreage and farmland to keep bees, but I was wrong. There are many backyard and city beekeepers. Most are self-proclaimed “closet” beekeepers. And since lifting the ban on beekeeping, New York now has a high, and growing, number of roof-top beehives. At a recent Essex County Beekeepers Association (ECBA for short) meeting I was told that there were 1,000 new beekeepers last year in Massachusetts. Impressive and hopeful numbers for sure. You probably have beekeepers in your neighborhood and don’t know it. Beekeepers usually don’t advertise their hives because neighbors are misinformed and can get anxious. But there’s no need to be anxious. Be thankful. We need the bees. Your trees, flowers, and vegetable garden need them. They selflessly work themselves to death tending to the needs of the colony. And aren’t we lucky to get our plants and trees pollinated and receive health-giving honey and beeswax in return?
Honey bees are often lumped into the same category as wasps and hornets. Yellowjackets, Bald-faced hornets, and other species of bees do not have barbs on their stingers and can, and will, sting you repeatedly if you get too close to them or their nest. My husband was a target of nasty Bald-face hornets last year when he accidentally disturbed their basketball-sized paper nest in one of our bushes. Wasps and hornets are more aggressive than honey bees and they are omnivores, too. Wasps and hornets are the unwanted visitors that join your backyard barbecue and eat your grilled food and sip your sweet tea. A honey bee will NOT do that. They’re too busy finding nectar.
“That which we experience within ourselves only at a time when our hearts develop love is actually the very same thing that is present as a substance in the entire beehive. The whole beehive is permeated with life based on love. In many ways the bees renounce love, and thereby this love develops within the entire beehive.” ~ Rudolph Steiner
Some interesting and little-known facts about honeybees:
A honey bee will only sting to defend the hive or itself.
A honey bee will die after stinging because their stinger has barbs. Their insides will come out as they try to fly away because the barbed stinger is stuck in your skin.
Only the worker bee (a daughter of the queen) will sting. Queens don’t leave the hive to defend it. Drones don’t have stingers.
A hive consists of a Queen, female worker bees, and a few drones.
Drones don’t work, they have to be fed by the worker bees, and their only job in life is to mate with a Queen (if they’re lucky enough to find one). If a drone does mates he quickly dies because his mating parts get stuck in the Queen.
A swarm of honey bees is docile. They are surrounding and protecting the queen while the scout bees look for a good home.
The temperature inside a hive, around the cluster, is a constant 93°.
On a hot day, worker bees will position themselves just inside and right outside the entrance and fan their wings to create airflow, much like a fan.
Honey bees come out of the hive about 8-10′ and then they fly up, up, up over an area of up to 5 miles to find the best nectar and pollen sources.
Honey bees return home in the evening.
Honey bees have species fidelity – they find one type of flower and will stick with it. Other types of wasps and bumblebees will fly from flower to flower no matter what the source.
A worker honey bee produced a few droplets of honey in her short six-week lifetime.
A Queen honey bee can live up to 5 years and lays about 1,500 eggs a day during the warmer months.
People have been collecting honey for 10,000 years. Cave paintings from Spain depict ancient beekeepers climbing to get to the hive.
The word “honeymoon” comes from medieval Europe when a traditional gift of honey mead, enough to last one moon cycle (a month), was given as a gift to newly married couples. It literally was a moon of honey.
Honey was once used as currency.
Honey is used on burns for its healing qualities.
Honey is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and full of antioxidants. Honey contains enzymes, minerals, and vitamins.
Diabetics can enjoy honey.
Honey is hygroscopic. It attracts moisture, making it great for your skin.
The Backyard Beekeeper – Revised and Updated: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden, by Kim Flottum
The Backyard Beekeeper’s Honey Handbook, by Kim Flottum
Honey Bee Hobbyist, by Norman Gary, Ph.D.
The Beekeeper’s Handbook, by Diana Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile
Beekeeping for Dummies, 2nd Edition, by Howland Blackiston
Bees, by Rudolph Steiner
Wisdom of the Bees, by Erik Berrevoets (biodynamic beekeeping)
Addendum – 2014
** Watch Harvard Professor Dr. Lu discuss CCD and pesticide use in MA with Essex County Beekeepers HERE, courtesy of Marty Jessel, Essex County beekeeper. PS: Essex County has the highest level of neonicotinoids, the systemic and cumulative pesticides that are known to kill honey bees and other pollinators.
** Hear Dr. Lu on The Neonicotinoid View: Harvard’s Dr Lu Discusses Pesticide Exposure & Health Risk HERE.
** GARDENER’S BEWARE! Friends of the Earth sampled plants from box stores. Your bee-friendly garden may not be so friendly after all. Please watch HERE!
** HERE is a list from the Center For Food Safety of common products that consumers can purchase that contain bee-killing neonicotinoids. You may not even be aware that what you’re putting on your trees, roses, lawn or garden is creating a toxic wasteland for pollinators.
There is growing group of beekeepers and concerned citizens working for change at the city, state, and country level. Things will change if we work together. If you are interested and willing to join in efforts to protect pollinators, please contact me.
This is the CALL-TO-ARMS for our coming meeting tomorrow.
We need beekeepers and people that are concerned about the decline of the honey bee population!
The purpose of a meeting tomorrow, July 16th is for attorney to discuss and explore options with us. Ideally, we will need several dozen Massachusetts beekeepers that have suffered complete or partial losses as well as other concerned citizens who recognize that the environmental damage of pesticides is far too great and the expected results far too inconsequential. We are in the early, but extremely important, stage of discovery. We need to gather as large a group as possible of those that have been affected by the use of pesticides or are concerned citizens and we need you to help spread the word. There is power in numbers and NOW is the time to act!
If the attorneys feel there is a case, they will make a proposal for a class action suit. The attorneys will work on a contingency basis and absorb all the costs. To be clear, there will be no financial obligation of anyone who decides to become part of this class action suit and anyone can withdraw from the suit at any time. The attorneys get paid only if we succeed in court or if there is a Settlement. They will work for and take direction from those who are willing and able to become members of the class action. The attorneys are simply asking that you come to the meeting, share your stories, share your concerns, and express your passion so that they can assess whether a class action suit is viable.
I know many of my blow and Twitter followers share my passion for the honey bee colonies and for the environment as a whole. We can now do something to save the bees, but only with your help. We have been working diligently on this and other initiatives and this meeting could be a turning point in the fight.
Please forward this email to your connections! They could be beekeepers, organic farmers, garden clubs – anyone that wants to support and protect the honey bees and other beneficial pollinators from pesticides!
Here is a link to the public Facebook Event. Please check it out and share this important meeting with your Facebook friends.
We need your help! We need supporters to generate action!
This is our big opportunity and it may come only once.
MA Beekeepers Against Pesticides
I decided to make an Echinacea tincture as my first herbal project for Herbal Academy of New England. I’m enrolled in their Intermediate Herbal Course and one of my assignments was to make an herbal recipe and write about it. It’s not chance that I chose Echinacea. We are smack-dab in the middle of cold and flu season, and many of my Kindergarten students are presently fighting off colds. Echinacea tincture is the perfect and practical choice. I purchased one pound of organic Echinacea purpurea root and two large bottles of brandy. I chose brandy over vodka because brandy seems more soothing when you have a cold. Who wouldn’t like a brandy (or whiskey with lemon) by the fire when they’re feeling under the weather?
After a bit of searching the basement shelves, I found my large two-gallon jar. I cleaned it and dried it thoroughly. I put the dried Echinacea purpurea root in the jar and then covered it with the brandy in stages, stirring in between pours to make sure that all the herb was covered by the brandy. I put it in one of my kitchen cabinets to “rest.” Every so often I gave the giant jar a hearty shake. After a few days, I could see that the echinacea root was absorbing the brandy and the liquid wasn’t fully covering the herb anymore (and it should be) so I added additional brandy. After waiting almost four weeks (tinctures can “rest” three to six weeks) , I got impatient. Using a fine mesh strainer, I strained the tincture into sixteen amber glass 4 oz. bottles.
Just as I feared, two days ago, I started to feel sick: sore throat, brain fogginess, sinus pressure, and headache. I have been using the tincture for two days. To take the medicine, I squeeze the dropper and draw the tincture into the glass tube and drop it into my mouth. I do this twice. I prefer to take it this way rather than mixing it with water. Admittedly, it takes a little getting used to the earthy taste. I can happily say that the tincture is helping me fight the virus.
There are nine species in the genus Echinacea. Echinacea is a perennial. You may have some of these beautiful plants in your gardens already. I have the Purple Coneflower, aka Echincacea Purpurea, in my gardens. The pollinators love them. In fact, that’s the reason why I planted them last year. They feed my honey bees and many beautiful butterflies, and when the season is over the center cone provides food for the birds. The flowers, leaves, and roots can’t be harvested until the plant is at least three years old. Harvesting is done in the fall after the first frost when the leaves and flowers have browned.
Echinacea works as immune stimulant. If it is taken at the onset of cold, it can shorten and lessen the severity of illness. It should not be taken on a regular basis longer than six to eight weeks. If you take it to help you get through cold season it is best take it for a couple weeks, then take a week off, then resume. Always consult your health professional before taking Echinacea with other prescribed medications. As with any medication, drug interactions can occur.
After a very fun and exciting trip to Alta Ski Area for a family Christmas vacation, I am back renewed and ready to focus on what 2014 has in store. In 2014, my husband Todd and I will turn 47. He’ll have you know that yes, I. am. older. On June 10, we will celebrate our 25th anniversary. The blessings and love of our lives, our daughters, will turn 24 and 23. What?? Sadly, our Retrievers will continue to age quicker than we will. Mischievous and sneaky Ginger will turn 14 and needy, loyal Sage will turn 7. In 2014, I’ll have lived through 30 New England hurricanes and about 7 big blizzards. But, if you didn’t live through the Blizzard of ’78 you don’t know what a blizzard really is. In 2014, I’ll have worked at paying jobs for 32 years. In 2014, my grandmother Margaret will turn 91 and her sister, my great-aunt Mary, will turn 101. Sometimes it seems that time stands still, but thankfully it moves ever onward and old hurts and worries leave. And so … this June, I’ll have marked 4 years post-accident; in 2010, we experienced our daughter Kelsey nearly die of a car accident and survive, not just survive and be OK, but survive and THRIVE. Miracles do happen. In 2014 and beyond, our daughter Kate will be reminiscing about her month-long Grand Canyon rafting trip with our Three Rivers Whitewater family and inspiring us to live fully in 2014.
Cheers to more friends, more family, more food, and more fun!
So maybe it’s the vegetarian diet I decided to try mid-December (it’s sticking … so far), or the juicing I’ve been doing the past twelve days, but I am feeling energized, focused, and excited for what 2014 holds. Did I say vegetarian? eek. I hesitated, slightly, to write that I’m living a vegetarian lifestyle. It’s a big step and HUGE change for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love the taste of meat. I know how to cook it well, and I know how to celebrate with it. Over the past 25 years I centered many meals around it. And friends and family know that I’m passionate about pasture-raised, organic, and sustainable farming practices. What I struggle with, always struggled with, is the ethical dilemma of eating dead animals.
The take away?
I’m trying to live out my beliefs.
At times, I may fail. I may crave a Big Green Egg grilled grass-finished burger or a piece of my crispy, fried chicken and decide to eat meat. I will do so with gratitude.
I am a vegetarian one day at a time (it’s been 30 days), and for now that’s OK.
I feel great.
What’s inspiring me these days?
If you haven’t already watched the documentary “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” with Joe Cross I urge you to do it. It’s a moving documentary of Joe’s road to health through juicing. It got me to buy a juicer and commit to a 15-day reboot. I’m on day 12 and may go longer than 15 days.
Another documentary worth finding is “Vegucated”. From their website: “Part sociological experiment and part adventure comedy, Vegucated follows three meat- and cheese-loving New Yorkers who agree to adopt a vegan diet for six weeks. Lured by tales of weight lost and health regained, they begin to uncover the hidden sides of animal agriculture that make them wonder whether solutions offered in films like “Food, Inc.“ go far enough.”
and yet another documentary. “Hungry For Change,” is about the food and diet industry and how it’s keeping us fat – overfed and undernourished to be exact.
the NOFA Conference I attended January 11. NOFA stands for Northeast Organic Farming Association. I’ve wanted to go to one of their conferences for years. This year, I decided to go. I went to a class on backyard chickens and kitchen medicine. Being an avid user of herbal remedies, homeopathic medicine, and aromatherapy, I thought the kitchen medicine class would be great and it was. In just two hours I saw all my thoughts about food as medicine, eating with the seasons, and using herbs put together into an informative course.
herbal medicine. I’ve been using herbal remedies for 25 years. Did you know that herbs have been used as medicine since the time of our paleolithic ancestors? Paleo humans ate a mostly herbivore diet that was occasionally interspersed with the meat of a hunted animal. There are cave paintings depicting, what most scholars believe to be, a shaman with antlers. Herbalism is ancient. When I think of herbalism, I think of a shaman, a wise woman, an Ayurvedic practitioner, a Chinese medicine doctor, and Hippocrates (he was an herbalist).
Some common herbal remedies or teas you may already know and use are: ginseng (energy), gingko (brain health and circulation), echinacea (immune support), chamomile (eases aches and pains, promotes relaxation), lavender (antibacterial, aphrodisiac, ease headaches), and St. John’s Wort (eases aches, pains, and depression). Herbalism is a skill that is passed down through generations, but since I don’t come from a long line of shamans I will be getting my education from Herbal Academy of New England in Bedford, Massachusetts. They have a team of experts (including clinical herbalists and doctors) ready to support and encourage new students.
Check them out! In addition to information on herbal medicine they have culinary and herbal recipes, wellness articles, and DIY projects. I’ll be guest blogging for them, too. I’m very excited to be part of their organization.
Interested in modern herbalism?
Sign up for their Online Intermediate Herbal Course and join me!
So… you made it all the way through my post. Thank you! And here’s a recipe for you on a cold, winter day when your body and soul needs some warming.
Butternut Squash Soup
Makes a giant stockpot
1 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped into large chunks
4 large carrots, chopped
2 fennel bulbs, sliced or chopped into small pieces
1 large yellow onion, sliced or chopped into small pieces
64 oz. low sodium vegetable broth or homemade stock
3T EVOO or coconut oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1T coarse sea salt
1″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1t whole peppercorns
2-3t hot curry powder
6 shakes of cayenne pepper
fresh cilantro for sprinkling on top
Directions: In a large stockpot, sauté the onion, garlic, and fennel for 10 minutes. Do not let it brown. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low boil, cover, and cook for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
Add the butternut squash, carrots, peppercorns, sea salt, curry, and cayenne pepper to the stockpot. Using a Microplane grater, grate the fresh ginger directly over the pot. Give it all a stir. If the squash in not covered by the stock, add enough water to cover, but not float. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low boil and cover. Gently boil for 15 minutes or until the carrots and squash are soft.
Using a blender, scoop out the soup and blend in batches to the desired consistency. Return to a different stockpot and keep warm. Note: Using a stick blender works great for this soup and is easier to clean than your blender.
Salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with cilantro and enjoy.
Kitchen Medicine or WHY this soup so good for you:
butternut squash – fiber, potassium, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, beta-carotene that converts to Vitamin A to protect the heart and eyes
carrots – LOADED with beta-carotone that converts to Vitamin A to protect the heart and eyes. From WebMD: “Carrots were first grown as medicine, not food, for a variety of ailments. Carrots can be traced back about 5,000 years through historical documents and paintings.”
fennel – relieves flatulence and colic, stimulates the digestion and appetite.
onions and garlic – antioxidant, stimulate immune responses, reduce inflammation
ginger – aids digestion, antimicrobial, anti-oxidant, promotes circulation, diaphoretic
peppercorns – aids digestion, diaphoretic, diuretic, anti-oxidant, antibacterial
cayenne – stimulates blood flow, rheumatic pains, strengthens the heart and arteries
cilantro – anti-oxidant, lowers blood sugar, in large doses it can aid in heavy metal chelation
sea salt – 84 trace minerals and elements such as iodine, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and zinc.