In the fall of 2014, I started planning to grow my own food. I knew that I couldn’t do it on my own, if I wanted to learn effectively in a short period of time, rather than through trial and error. I hired the expert edible gardeners at Victory Gardens in Vancouver for some one-on-one instruction. Now, it is May 2015 and I am already benefitting from their tutelage. I have been harvesting beautiful greens for eating. It is incredibly exciting to watch tiny organic seeds germinate into food producing sources of nourishment – all in my own backyard! The only challenge to date has been our raccoon family, who we adore and happily share our hedges. Some days the entire raccoon family can be seen sunbathing and napping on top of the hedge. Other times they pass through the garden in a cautious, delayed single file. The raccoons have not eaten any of my produce. Though they did spend the winter digging up a portion of our lawn for grubs. I thought it was wonderful; they were aerating our lawn. My husband wasn’t amused and tried to discourage them with a wire mesh ground cover (no plastic allowed) and a motion detecting sprinkler, which mostly sprayed us – forgetful that it was on. Since the hunt for grubs has been over for a few months, the raccoons have now turned their attention to the gorgeous earth worm laden soil where I’ve planted my brussels sprouts and kohlrabi seeds. For the last four days, each morning I would be disappointed to find that garden bed completely upended. I put up a little wire fence to deter them. Hopeful. But it didn’t work. And the few little sprouts that were making their way to the surface were disturbed. I set everything right and planted a few more seeds. My husband, who is often in conversation with our seasoned and successful gardener-neighbour told me that he uses cayenne pepper. From my spice rack I pulled out the organic cayenne pepper and sprinkled some on the garden soil where the raccoons have been visiting. The next morning? Everything was left untouched and the little sprouts are happily growing. Here is a link to an article describing some natural options for deterring pests in the garden. It’s a delicate balance because what deters the harmful insects and pests can also harm the beneficial.
Tag Archives: Organic
Meet Joel Salatin from Polyface Farms: “Beyond Organic” farmer. The following quotes are taken from an article written in 2006 by Michael Pollan for Mother Jones. “We ask for too much salvation by legislation.”
“Don’t you find it odd that people will put more work into choosing their mechanic or house contractor than they will into choosing the person who grows their food?”
“Greetings from the non-bar code people…”
“…whenever I hear people say clean food is expensive, I tell them it’s actually the cheapest food you can buy. That always gets their attention. Then I explain that, with our food, all of the costs are figured into the price. Society is not bearing the cost of water pollution, of antibiotic resistance, of food-borne illnesses, of crop subsidies, of subsidized oil and water—of all the hidden costs to the environment and the taxpayer that make cheap food seem cheap. No thinking person will tell you they don’t care about all that. I tell them the choice is simple: You can buy honestly priced food or you can buy irresponsibly priced food.”
“When someone drives up to the farm in a BMW and asks me why our eggs cost more, well, first I try not to get mad,” said Joel. “Frankly, any city person who doesn’t think I deserve a white-collar salary as a farmer doesn’t deserve my special food. Let them eat E. coli. But I don’t say that. Instead I take him outside and point at his car. ‘Sir, you clearly understand quality and are willing to pay for it. Well, food is no different: You get what you pay for.’
No Sugar Added Banana Muffins
Today while shopping at Whole Foods Market, in the bulk section (using my reusable cotton bulk food bags) I happened across Diane Sanfilippo’s book: 21-Day Sugar Detox. I don’t really think of myself as someone who needs a detox because I practice eating very naturally. But as I started flipping through her book I found it incredibly informative and came across concepts that I had not included in my understanding of nutrition. I decided that I would introduce this 21-Day Sugar Detox philosophy to my family. Even though I rarely, if ever eat sugar anymore, my kids still do, mind you in lesser quantities, since I have been learning more on the subject.
Over the last year and a half, my kids and I have been following an elimination diet based on the results from our individual ALCAT blood tests, from which, my son was advised to avoid ALL sugars and gluten for an entire year – a tall order for anyone, but imagine how that would feel for an eleven year old. He surprised us all by accepting the challenge. When his friends were “enjoying” treats, he declined. When teachers handed out candies as rewards, he declined. When school-mates’ parents brought birthday cupcakes and donuts to school, he declined. He stuck to the plan and his health changed dramatically. He also learned a lot about himself in the process. He learned to practice self-discipline, something not many people practice. However, once the 12 months of being strict came to an end, he anxiously started to add in those toxic treats from time to time. What we noticed? His behaviour changed, and he admitted to feeling lousy each and every time he indulged. He learned a lot about himself going through that yearlong experiment and especially what happens to himself when he reintroduces those unhealthy ingredients. He is learning to control what he chooses to eat, backed up with knowledge.
The way I see it, our entire life is an experiment and my job as a parent is to help my children (and myself along the way) to continue to become educated on how to truly nourish ourselves as opposed to just fuelling up and dashing off to the next activity.
My kids often have sugar and grain cravings, and there are times when I do too. There is a reason why most us do experience cravings, it is partly due to to the fact that none of us really understands how to feed ourselves.
Because I had some ripe banana’s on the counter, making a batch of muffins was on todays’ agenda. However, what I learned from my quick glance through Diane’s book is that eating the overly ripe banana’s isn’t the best choice! In any case, I had already committed to using them. But because of what I learned from Diane’s book, I made some changes to the recipe I usually use. (Note: I only made muffins a few times this past year – they are not a staple). Next time I will make more changes based on Diane’s advice for eliminating more grains.
The way we feed ourselves is a vicious nonsensical cycle! We think we are making the right food choices but are actually contributing to these biological hunger games.
“If what you are doing isn’t working, doing more of it won’t work any better.”
– Alan Cohen
Nowadays, I generally add very little or no sweeteners to foods that I prepare, and it has been a long road of trying to reprogram my brain to accept that all refined sugars affect the body in very similar ways. Be it cane sugar to agave syrup, from HFCS to honey. The truth is we really don’t need any of these sweeteners.
“Removing added sugars and very sweet foods retrains your taste buds to perceive sweetness, and you’ll find that foods you once thought weren’t sweet at all become quite sweet as the days pass [when following the 21 Day Sugar Detox].”
– Diane Sanfilippo
This is true for me. I enjoy all vegetables (which are carbohydrates) with such pleasure because I can detect the pure subtle sweetness. We have cut back considerably on the amount of grains we consume in our household, and I can see from picking up Diane’s book today that I will be cutting back on them even more. The key is to understand why we eat the foods we do and to learn how to prepare meals that are nourishing.
We do allow for some organic grains in our diet but as we become more comfortable with these changes, we are more accepting of continuing to learn what else we can eliminate to thrive better.
I designed this muffin recipe specifically for my daughter after receiving the results from our ALCAT test, but now I realize that going forward, it is going to get a whole new makeover, in fact this may be the last time I ever make it.
This is today’s version…
- 2 Cups Fine Organic Spelt Flour (Anita’s from bulk)
- ½ Cup Organic Oat Flour (gluten-free)
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 TBSP organic ground cinnamon
- 3 Large Eggs, beaten
- 2 Cups mashed very ripe bananas
- 1/2 Cup (-less 1 TBSP) melted Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
- 1 TBSP melted Organic unsalted Butter
- 1 tsp organic vanilla
- 1/4 Cup finely mashed organic walnuts into paste, used mortar & pestle
- 1 TBSP unsweetened cocao nibs, ground into walnut paste with mortar & pestle
- 3/4 Cup finely grated organic carrot
- Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.
- Prepare muffin tins (lightly greased with butter).
- Melt coconut oil and butter. Remove from heat.
- “Bloom” cinnamon by adding cinnamon to melted oil/butter. Stir well and set aside to cool.
- Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
- Mash ripe bananas in a small bowl.
- In a separate medium bowl, whisk eggs, then add mashed banana and remaining wet ingredients. Whisk together.
- Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and incorporate. Not too much – stir approximately 10 times. Don’t over mix.
- Fold in additions if using. Careful not to stir the mixture too much.
- Fill muffin tins 3/4 full or to your liking.
- Bake for 20 minutes depending on your oven. Check for doneness using method of choice.
- Remove from oven and let stand for a few minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool.
Yield: 12 mini muffins +1 mini loaf (I have a mini loaf pan & mini bundt pan that I use when I have some leftover batter).
Note: Spelt Flour is NOT gluten-free.
Diane Sanfilippo has great recipes in her 21 Day Sugar Detox book which is an accompaniment to her cookbook. This Fall, my kids and I will be learning and experimenting from this approach.
Let's live without single-use plastic! Better for our health and that of our planet. Stop the Recycle cycle. In this order: AVOID - REDUCE - REUSE - RECYCLE
What to expect when using Natural Shampoo Bars
Since using natural solid shampoo bars over the last four months, my hair dries much faster and is nearly completely dry after washing, needing only two minutes under the dryer; unprecedented for my nearly waist-long hair! I used to spend a very long time drying my hair. The same effect has occurred for my daughter’s hair, which is well beyond waist length.
A few questions surfaced as I started to explore making changes to my hair washing routine. If this is your first time visiting you may be wondering what Shampoo has to do with a food blog? Click here to read part 1.
- Why didn’t my hair feel smooth and silky when I rinsed out the shampoo?
- What about conditioner?
- How do I control those unruly hairs?
- What happens when I go to the hair salon? Do I bring my own shampoo bar?
When I first started using natural shampoo bars…
Initially my hair would feel squeaky clean upon rinsing out the lather. You know, that kind of soap clean feeling, which makes it difficult to run fingers through? I would wring out the excess water and notice that my hair actually felt nearly dry! That was interesting, because with all the professional salon shampoos I had used in the past, my hair would remain soaking wet and would actually take very long to dry, even with a handheld hair dryer. Summer months excluded; my hair wouldn’t take as long to dry in the summer but regardless of the season, I had never experienced such a low water content remaining on my hair. I consider this a good thing. I spend less time damaging my hair further with the hot air from a hair dryer thus spending less overall time on my hair grooming routine! However I see now that it may have more to do with the dehydrated state of my hair. Everyone’s hair will respond differently to shampoo bars and to different shampoo bar formulas: self-discovery required.
As my personal experiment continued, I noticed that my hair started to adapt nicely to the shampoo bars and that my hair became softer and bouncier. I also noticed that my hair appeared cleaner longer, therefore not requiring as frequent washings, now that I wasn’t loading my follicles up with styling aids.
Professional salon or drug store varieties use additives to synthetically coat the hair strands, which gives hair that ‘artificial’ shine. It all comes down to what you want. Do you want to spend a lot of money on products to turn your hair into something it isn’t thus becoming chained to the products or would you rather work with nature and enhance the untapped natural unique beauty your hair actually is? Which is what I think all of these synthetic products are claiming to do…hmmm.
What about conditioner?
When I was going through my transition phase, I kept wondering about conditioners. Aquarian Bath didn’t sell any conditioning bars at the time (but said she was working on a formula because customers new to shampoo bars had been asking for one). I have gone through the last four months not using any conditioner or any leave in hair product for styling, just to see how my hair would react. I like the results. But admittedly, I like change – I like experimenting and I really like the idea of using fewer products especially the ones that come in plastic with too many unrecognizable ingredients (toxic for me and the environment).
I have done some research on various sites and have found that for people (with any hair type), who are transitioning to ‘natural’ shampooing, generally pre-condition hair once per week, prior to shampooing. Pre-conditioning would consist of applying an oil, such as coconut oil or olive oil to either just the ends of the hair or the entire head and letting it rest for half an hour (or overnight) before shampooing.
The biggest lesson I have learned is to start spending time experimenting with my own hair. And that a grooming routine should be a flexible guideline that changes based on the fluctuating factors that come with simply being alive. Much like how I view food and exercise, each of us is an experiment of one.
How do I control those unruly hairs?
I have unruly hairs. Do you? I seem to have wavy, straight and kinky hair all over the place with no symmetry. Every hair is doing her own thing. On top of that, many of my hairs are now turning silver and those ones seem to want attention; they tend to be the short, kinky extra coarse ones that shoot straight up…there was no controlling my hair unless I wanted to douse my head with chemicals and only then is the control temporary! Lately, I have started applying about six drops of organic jojoba oil (bought in bulk from The Soap Dispensary in my own reusable blue glass bottle with dropper). This seems to do the trick. But I don’t use it every single time I wash my hair. But what I have noticed is that my hair is retaining moisture much better and my kinky hairs are becoming smoother. I think that my hair has been so chronically dehydrated, even though I had been diligent over the years -to no avail – with using ‘professional salon’ products to correct the problem. So far, the underside of my hair which always held more moisture is now looking so much healthier and my natural waves and curls are starting to emerge with some kind of unity – as if to say “We knew you’d figure it out sooner or later”. I am very curious to see what the texture of my hair will be after a few more months of this experiment.
Well, it’s only taken me twenty years to listen to my hair, as opposed to listening to the experts who keep pushing new and improved formulas. My favourite quote from Alan Cohen rings true:
“If what you are doing isn’t working, doing more of it won’t work any better.”
I have a feeling that the more I embrace the quirkiness of my hair and explore what it naturally wants to do…the best years are yet to come.
What happens when I go to the hair salon? Do I bring my own shampoo bar?
I did that once. I took my own shampoo bar. My stylist, who I have been going to for thirteen years, was not amused. Partly because I didn’t tell him that I had asked his assistant to wash my hair with my own shampoo bar. I was curious to see if he would notice the difference. He could tell the difference. Because my hair used to become so dry after washing he was not accustomed to the texture and his comb could not get through. His fist reaction was “What have you done to your hair? It feels stripped!” The particular shampoo bar that I took to the hair salon that day was made by a different local company than Aquarian Bath. Controlling the bubbling chuckles brewing inside of me, I told him the shampoo bar was called Dreads…he was aghast! He graciously put up with my experiment but had to keep spraying my hair to keep it wet. We got through the appointment and we now know how to prepare the hair for the next cut. We talked about the possibility of him carrying a line of natural shampoo bars though I’m not sure he is ready for that (especially with what I put him through that day) but he is happy to hear about my results. 🙂
What I have learned about shampoo bars
Shampoo bars are not all created equally. Each formula will react differently for each individual. What might result in a smooth finish for one person may not have the same effect for someone else. I notice this all the time between me and my daughter. Over the last four months I have amassed a nice collection of Shampoo bars for experimenting until we find which bars work best for our individual hair types. But I keep an open mind and am always willing to retry a bar I didn’t particularly like at first, because now that I have started to truly re-hydrate and eliminate synthetic additive from my hair, these shampoo bars are working even better.
If you google Shampoo Bars you will notice many on the market. Look for small batch makers with a business philosophy like Aquarian Bath. Avoid bars that contain:
- SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate)
- SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulfate)
- DMDM Hydantoin, Diazolidinyl Urea, Imidazolidinyl Urea, Methenamine, Quarternium-15
- Cyclomethicone, Siloxanes
- DEA, MEA, TEA, PEG
- BHA, BHT
- Dibutyl Phthalate
How we use solid shampoo bars in the shower:
- Wet hair.
- Wet shampoo bar and rub bar directly onto hair to lather. (A little goes a long way).
- Keep shampoo bar away from water when not in use as it dissolves quickly.
- Turn off water allowing shampoo to rest in hair. (And conserving water in the process).
- Lather body with shampoo bar or body bar.
- Turn water back on rinsing hair and body.
- If repeating shampoo, do it now.
- Rinse and squeeze excess water from hair.
- Place shampoo bar in a dry place. Allow shampoo bar to air dry.
- Dry and style hair as usual.
How to Pre-Condition Hair
I have started to experiment with pre-conditioning my hair with Raw Coconut Oil, because that is what I already have handy from making my own solid lotion bars.
Once per week I take about one Tablespoon of Coconut Oil and massage it into my hair, starting at the ends working my way up to my scalp. Because I have a lot of unruly new growth silver hairs I found that applying the oil at my roots helps to soften the coarseness of those hairs. I have left it in anywhere from 5 minutes to 30 minutes before washing my hair with a shampoo bar. Then style as usual without the need for any additional products.
Next Post: Q & A with La Coco Bella
Sustainable Shopper’s Guide to a Dirty Dozen Ingredients to Avoid in your Cosmetics. by David Suzuki Foundation
How to give your hair a fresh start or transitioning to shampoo bars by Cory Trusy