Over Easy: Early Spring Garden Adventures

Blossoms
Spring in Texas

So here in TX planting season has begun. It’s interesting to me, as a Northern transplant, to talk with my neighbors about their Southern planting habits at this time of the year. Up north, the only people who are planting right now are people with heated greenhouses or other technologies that allow them to start seeds in grey skies and cold temperatures. I always wanted a greenhouse for this reason, although some more enterprising gardener friends of mine in the north are known to do early planting on the cheap.

Milk jugs are one way to do this. Fill a jug about 3/4 ways with soil. Drop a couple of seeds in, and sprinkle some dirt enough to cover them. Add some water, and germinate indoors where it’s warm. When the seed has sprouted, wrap the jug in straw and put it in the sunniest location outdoors. I’m guessing it’s best if the jug is on an elevated surface like a porch, but I’ve seen this done right on the frozen ground. I can’t personally vouch for this system, but several people I know have had success with it. The jug is cut open at spring thaw and when the ground is warm enough, you put in the plant, now at least a month or two developed. Cheap!

But here in the South, people are putting seeds in the ground, or as in my case, seeds in paper cups in cardboard trays on the porch. Again, I love the notion of a nice greenhouse with elevated trays and peat pots and fitted holders… but I haven’t won the lottery yet so I’m not quite there. In the meantime, I’m doing the Poor Woman’s pot for seedlings: cheap “bathroom” size paper cups, dirt from the property, cardboard boxes and one bag of enriched potting soil.

I went to the grocery and found the Dixie paper cups; 200 for ~$3. I smiled at the store employee cutting short cardboard boxes and putting away stock and asked if I could liberate the used ones on his cart; he said yes. I grabbed some painter’s tape and secured the boxes closed on all sides but one. I dug up a wheelbarrow’s worth of the best soil on the property I will not be growing on; this space will eventually become the hole in which a compost pile will form and it’s in a shaded copse that I cannot cultivate and also that the neighbors won’t complain about as an eyesore. I got a bag of enriched soil from the garden center.

I took a fat nail and punched a big hole in the bottom of the cups, pushing it through stacks of 15 of them at a time. I filled each Dixie cup 2/3 full of filtered ground soil. I used a rototiller to break up the soil and groundcover plants, and as I filled the cups, I separated out all the plant material for later use as mulch and compost. It’s sort of like in cooking, where you separate foodstuffs from stock ingredients out of the unprocessed [whatever].

Now, this is a funky year for me, and so I’ve got a lot of seeds from 2012 as well as “packaged for 2013” seeds to use. It may be foolish, it may be daring; we’ll see what, if anything, comes up from last year’s batch. But I had a mess of unopened packets, and I took good care of them over the course of last season, keeping them in the dark and cool and dry until this week. I’m hoping for a 30% yield of sprouting seeds from the 2012 collection.

Each Dixie cup received at least 2, and sometimes as many as five seeds on top of the soil. Anything from 2012 got at least 3 seeds. If by some miracle it all germinates, I’ll gently split apart the seedlings when it’s time for them to go into the ground. I covered all the seeds more or less according to their individual instructions with the enriched soil. I stuffed them into the cardboard boxes tightly enough so that they support each other upright. I took a soft shower of water and made sure each cup with fully moistened. The holes in the cups provide light drainage, but not so much that the water runs all out at once. I put the boxes in a place on the porch where they will get warm sun during the day, but have a little roof over them at night, to fend off the worst of the chill. If you don’t have a porch, and old blanket or sheet on top of the boxes at night should do the trick.

Now, being a pessimist, I held back 1/2 of my seed totals for direct planting; for all I know this could utterly fail. But I’ve had pretty good luck with this method in the past, using grow lights indoors up north and bringing them out to harden once the snow clears and spring arrives for real. Even though it’s been nice and warm this past week, the weatherpeople are promising 30s at night this weekend, so I’ll be bringing in the whole mess into a covered garage shelter during the weekend nights. In other words, there’s some work involved here, daily. But you don’t have to be a brazen fool like me and put down 400 cups. You can get quite a head start with just two or three cardboard boxes worth, and if you have some of those ubiquitous plastic storage units it seems every American is obliged to buy, those work too. 2 or 3 dozen starts are well on your way to a significant planting, food or flowers or both, as you prefer.

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Over Easy: I’m NOT Procrastinating Edition

Oh, Crap. I just remembered I’m doing Over Easy this Thursday for Ruth, while she’s traveling. No, I don’t procrastinate and I’m not writing this at the Last Minute. Nosiree. That would never happen, I swear to Dog.

A horse
Don't eat me, Wilbur. Go Over Easy, instead!

Anyway, let’s talk about our roots. I’m a fourth generation atheist agitator, mixed race like our president, descended from socialists, homosexual product union of actors, prostitutes, and red diaper babies revolutionaries. Sometimes, I think about what would’ve happened to me if I’d been born in Africa, or Mother Russia, or Ireland, where My People Come from. Or could’ve been sent, if we’d been sent to a colony, like Australia.

Malaysian authorities have a possible elephant murder mystery on their hands after three more pygmy elephants reportedly were found dead on the island of Borneo Wednesday (Jan. 30).

The grim discovery brings the death toll to 13 this month, and according to the AP, authorities are investigating suspicions that the diminutive elephants were poisoned.

Well now that sucks. I mean, really? Who wants to hurt an elephant? People who do that are just mean. There’s a long, ugly story for you: the history of humans and elephants. I still remember the old B&W movie with “Tarzan” about that, I watched as a child. It made me cry, when the bad guy shot the elephant so he could follow her as she trundled to her deathbed to the “Elephant Graveyard” for the cache of ivory he would find there.

Speaking of large pieces of meat:

LONDON/DUBLIN (Reuters) – Tesco, the Co-operative Group and Aldi fired a supplier controlled by Ireland’s most powerful beef baron on Wednesday for selling them burgers shown to contain horsemeat.

The three retailers said they would no longer use Irish supplier Silvercrest Foods because of trust issues relating to where products were sourced, following a similar move by Burger King last week.

The world’s No. 3 retailer, Tesco, reeling from a wave of bad publicity after the Irish food safety authority discovered a frozen burger contained 29 percent horse meat, said it would continue to buy Irish beef from other ABP companies.

Tesco Ireland said the contract, worth 15 million euros, was a small part of ABP’s business and the company also promised to use DNA testing equipment to check the content of products on its shelves.

The move is a blow to Ireland’s 2 billion euro (£1.6 billion) beef industry, which had hoped that the discovery the horsemeat came from Poland might limit the fallout.

“We took that decision with regret but the breach of trust is simply too great,” Tesco technical director Tim Smith said in a statement announcing the termination of its contract with Silvercrest, a subsidiary of Larry Goodman’s ABP Foods.

Um, ick? I guess we don’t have to be afraid we’re the only country that, er, experiments with new and exciting recipes. Darnit, I love horses. We don’t need to eat them, OK? Even if they are cheap.

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany’s openly gay foreign minister has told Moscow’s envoy to Berlin a Russian draft law banning “homosexual propaganda” contravenes human rights and could harm the country’s ties with Europe, Spiegel online said on Tuesday.

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Over Easy

Good Morning, Yall!

I’m doing Over Easy today, for a change, and here’s some stuff I’ve got from the Foreign Dept.

Chomsky

”[In] the 1950s and the 1960s, which was the biggest growth period in American history, financial institutions were regulated. The New Deal regulations were in place and there were no financial crisis, none …. Starting in the 1970s it changed pretty radically. There were decisions made – not laws of nature – to reconstruct the economy.”

And decades later, these decisions have resulted in a situation which “really is a catastrophe,” he says.

But Chomsky also feels that “nothing’s ever gone too far. Anything can be reversed; these are human decisions.”

He emphasises: “The more privilege you have, the more opportunity you have. The more opportunity you have, the more responsibility you have.”

And then there’s this:

AIPAC is, like most professional lobbies, highly protective of its role. Its associates and friends, widely quoted in the media as demanding that Hagel not be appointed, would never have been so aggressive without AIPAC’s go-ahead. That is how it works. It always has.Frankly, I am surprised that the president went ahead over the lobby’s opposition. I am well-known for my belief that it could not be beaten, although I have always offered the caveat that it would be if a president fought back hard.

Obama did, and Chuck Hagel will almost surely be the next Secretary of Defence.

That is good news but far less significant than the implications for peace. As Dine told me all those years ago, if a president pushes for a peace agreement that advances US interests while not harming Israel’s, he will prevail.

That means that he can insist on an end to the occupation and the creation of a viable Palestinian state in the lands Israel has occupied since 1967. As long as Israel’s security is not put at risk (and no president would put it at risk), the president will prevail. This is especially the case because an end to the occupation (with security guarantees for Israel and the new state) would advance Israel’s security not damage it.

The lobby will not be able to block a president determined to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on terms fair to both sides. It is like the father of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl, said: “If you will it, it is no dream.”

How fun is it that Al-J has entered the Amurkin media market? I want to see the mess that people are cleaning up since that, given all the wingnut haids that have assploded since that development.
Africa. What do you know about what is happening there? Drop your stuff here.

Iraq. You know, that place which is a libertarian paradise, because they have gunz and freedum and school children there are armed?

Mali. Have you heard about what’s going on there?

For me, it’s always a bit of a test. Call me a snob, but I find it fascinating. When I meet a new person, I’ll occasionally talk about international issues. I find myself thinking about a person on the basis of what they say about the rest of the world. Which is 7+B large, and growing. But I find the ignorance of that fact interesting, when I think of my countrymen.

i may be a little lax today in my hostnpost’n. I’m taking care of Ruth, who is mourning. Stuff is Ruff, as it were. I know yall will understand. And gosh darnit, this formatting is really cheesing me off. I swear, I’m proficient in HTML. /mumbles and grouses about silly blogs.

Photo by daydayxvi under Creative Commons license

Pull Up a Chair: Raw, Baby!

Raw Food Nachos at Crudessence, Montreal

So the nice folks here asked me to pen a Pull Up a Chair post for today, and I said sure. It’s been a while since I’ve posted here but I’m very glad to have the time to spend in the company of such excellent folk. I thought I’d tell a story, and see what you all think of my conclusion. The story is about weight loss, food and a lifestyle change on my part.

So a while back I picked up a client who is a wonderfully sweet man living with ALS, or “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” As you probably know, it’s a horrible curse to suffer, and something like 90% of people diagnosed with it die within 5 years. After the diagnosed suffer a torturous reduction in bodily function and weakening of the immune system that eventually leads to little or no motor control/functionality. My former client is spoken of by his friends as a “Little Bodhisattva” because unlike most people with the disease, he faces every day with a smile and looks forward to continuing his non-profit work educating people about his passions, one of them being: raw food.

The really amazing part of his story is that he actually had deteriorated so much at one point after his diagnosis that he was placed in hospice. As he told me, “they asked me to name the song I wanted to hear as I passed on” and put him on a breathing machine because it was so difficult for him to draw breath. But through a combination of will and his deep faith, he was able to recover enough that they “kicked him out,” as he’ll joke, and regain a degree of control over his body that allows him to live a rich life, despite the fact that he cannot walk on his own. With assistance, he lifts weights three times a week, and spends 10-12 hours a day on his computer, sharing information about all manner of “alternative” or holistic medical therapies and diets. You can read more about him here: www.healingwithdrcraig.com

Anyway, when I started working with him, he was just developing a redesigned site and gathering up a whole mess of “integrative/non-traditional” medical professionals for his advisory board, which include a number of television personalities and bestselling authors. I was in a poor space personally; my father had recently died and I was depressed enough that I’d let myself put on 15 pounds I really didn’t need.  I know, you’re thinking, Finally! She’s getting to the food part! :-)

I was intrigued by a guy who was such a hardworking individual despite his disease and really enjoyed getting to know him. I asked him about his remarkable life, and what he thought was responsible for his constant energy and enthusiasm despite such a depressing condition. Among other things including his faith and the support of many friends and family, he credited his remarkable persistence for life (he’s lived with ALS for 18 years) to his diet, which he had developed over a period of years to include the most nutrient dense, high energy, raw organic ingredients. I said to myself, “well, this guy is proof there’s got to be something to it, I’ll give it a try.”

It’s really quite simple, and not really a “diet” so much as a lifestyle change that anyone can easily make. And before you go shouting “it’s too expensive for poor people to buy high quality organics!” I will point out that Dr. Craig is not a wealthy man and receives food aid as the primary purse buying his ingredients. You really can do this on SNAP.

But the bottom line is: just don’t cook it. Now, obviously there are exceptions, certain ingredients that make life worth living are going to be cooked or processed. But my rule is this: 85% raw, 15% not. Try to make every meal according to that formula and you will be so happy with the results. I sure was; within a month I had shed most of the excess flab I had gained, I was sleeping better, and feeling happier. My skin, always acne prone, began to clear up, and my hair felt softer and had more shine. Not that a dyke wants them, but my nails also started growing in faster and stronger.

You’re probably wondering how in the hell a person can live off of mostly uncooked vegetables and fish. The answer is: really well! Cheaply, too! You may have come across some of my gardening posts or seen me post a flower pic and know that I’m a bigtime organic, heirloom seed grower. That is an important step I recommend for everyone, one that will make transitioning to this lifestyle much easier, not to mention better for the environment and energy consumption. But if you can (and pot gardens work fine for most of the foods I’m talking about) start a garden in your living space today. If you have to wait for outdoor growing, OK, but seriously consider growing some of the superfoods indoors if you can. Make your food an intimate part of your life by being personally responsible for as much of it as you have time to grow.

This is something BigAgra and BigPharma don’t want you to know, an open secret they spend billions every year to disguise: the nutrient content of uncooked food, especially green foods, is incredibly high and will keep you in health without drugs or expensive palliatives for a long lifetime. It is, indeed, what you as a mammal and primate evolved to eat. Although there is disagreement in the scientific community about exactly what is “natural” for the human body’s nutritional needs, there is no disagreement that superfoods with a high nutrient and vitamin content are better for you and help control disease. The real wonder of a raw food diet, and you really have to try it yourself to understand what I’m talking about, is that when you eat this way, you are less hungry, more frequently, and get by on much less food matter. Dr. Craig jokes that there are days when he has to ‘force himself to eat breakfast’ because his meals are so nourishing and nutrient rich, and he has no appetite.

So what are “superfoods?” Mostly, they are green vegetables, some root crops, rich fishes, nuts and a selection of fruits. Spinach, broccoli, kale, collards, onion, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, grapefruit, parsley, cilantro, all the “Italian” herbs like oregano and basil, chives, almonds (which some cultures believe can prevent cancers if eaten regularly), raw honey, bananas, apricots, apples, oranges, many varieties of lettuce, bok choi, cabbage, carrots, avocado (Boo-yah!), “fatty” tuna, sesame seeds, leeks… the list goes on an on and those are only a few that people like Dr. Craig and I manage to work into our diets. Google will provide you with an even longer list, I’m sure.

OK, you’re probably thinking, “but what am I gonna do with all that? I don’t want to eat salad all day every day.” What you’ll find after about a week on this program is that you really do, and variations make eating a pleasure. Here are a couple of things I really like to do:

mix up in a juicer (a slow juicer is best) a handful of spinach, a red pepper, a little kale, a cucumber, an apple and a kiwi. have that for breakfast. eat a couple handfuls of almonds if you’re really hungry.

chop up some “exotic” lettuces, take a hunk of tuna, brush it with sesame oil and coat it with sesame seeds and flash-sear or grill it at a very high temperature, leaving the majority of the meat uncooked but with a tasty char on the outside. Slice up an avocado and some chives and toss all them together, serve with a miso or ginger dressing.

fry a chopped white onion in BBQ sauce and a little butter. Get your favorite flat wrap or pita (whole grain) and stuff it with finely chopped carrots, broccoli, yellow peppers, spinach, garlic cloves, pear and if you’re feeling meaty, a little grilled-to-rare, organic, grass fed buffalo or beef. Stuff the wrap with the mix of all of the above while the onions and meat are still warm and the veggies still cool from the fridge. MMM!

Make a “garbage salad” with as many raw ingredients, fruit and veggie, as you can stuff into a bowl. For accent, toss in some of those designer olives and maybe a little chopped pan fried in garlic EVOO eggplant or hard boiled egg. Raspberries + olives + tomato are a surprisingly good combo, especially in a  garbage salad served with hand made white balsamic vinegar dressing with EVOO, chopped fresh herbs, cumin and freshly ground pepper, which if you want to thicken is great with a blended-in avocado.

make a cold soup. There are so many good ones! Gazpacho, or my personal favorite, which satisfies my occasional need for dairy: avocado, buttermilk, vegetable stock (onions, garlic, celery, carrots, fresh squeezed lemon juice, chopped fresh herbs boiled for  around 5-12hrs, remove liquid & save mashed vegetables for gravy thickeners), cumin, celery seeds, sea salt and pepper to taste, chilled.  There also this awesome apricot soup; I’m sorry I can’t remember it as I lost that recipe book a while back.

– a glacé of blueberry, raspberry, pear, apple, kiwi (or a citrus one of oranges, lemon, lime, strawberry and kiwi) after those fruits that have been blended, and strained if you prefer no pulp, frozen into little cups and perhaps topped with a stevia-sweetened heavy creme whip. Also: you can grow stevia, it’s easy. 1000x more sweet than its weight in sugar, none of the evil side effects.

– pretty much all Mexican food will conform easily to this program. Cook your skirt steak or beans or whatever, but pile on the fresh tomato, avocado, onion, cilantro, raw shrimp, corn (which is friggin outstanding raw), sweet and/or hot peppers, tomatillos, and a little organic cheese or sour creme. There are also many South Asian dishes which work well with these guidelines; I am not an expert cooking that style so I’ll leave suggestions to those who know better. But: Gado Gado rocks, is all I’m sayin.

The Raw Food “movement” is a growing one, and there are lots of websites out there these days where you can find more information, other perspectives, and better recipes than I can come up with. But I know a lot of you out there are like I was, dissatisfied with your weight, depressed, feeling low energy, struggling with skin issues, needing to save money, wanting to make a more healthful change, etc. This practice will help you, I swear.

And you can probably see what I did there. A pita here, a cooked vegetable there, heated meats with raw centers, a little dairy and some oil/butter. That’s the 15% part of “85% raw 15% not.”  So don’t beat yourself up! If the lover of your choice wants to take you out on the first of every month for a well done steak and potatoes and totally overcooked string beans at Outback, go ahead! I am not a food nun, I am not trying to convert you to utter purity of consumption. Add a little feta cheese to your salad if you like, have some  free range chicken in your pita now and again, grab that holiday slice of cheesecake your MIL made from scratch and enjoy it.

But I will say, and my sister, who recently got with this program agrees: after you’ve done this for a little while, if you eat crap food, you’ll pay the price. She’s a busy mom, and after “cooking” her family’s meals according to these principles for a month, she had to break down one day between ferrying the kids all over town and eat some fast food. She told me, “man, it was like I had a stomach hangover the next day. Not doing that again.” Love your body, give it the pure food it was meant to consume.  But remember that it feels good to feel good.

Give this plan a week. That’s all I ask. If you don’t feel better after that, less hungry more often, well, you’re an alien. Just kidding. Still, I promise you, you really will.

It’s also a great program if you’re trying to do something hard, like quit smoking or drinking or give up some pill BigPharma has you on. The cleansing effects of raw, organic foods are powerful and noticeable almost instantly.

Eeek, was this too long? Sorry, when I rant I rant Olympic. Bon appetite! (more…)

Friday Night Goddess Blogging

IshtarEvening, Pups. So in my previous post, I mentioned that I’d done a little Hard Time in Divinity School. Tonight, I’d like to talk a bit about religions that aren’t so well known or popular these days, but some of which are making a comeback.

Forgive me if this is a tad sloppy, this is “niece and nephew” weekend for me, and as they are both under three, they are rather insistent that I continue to play “flying tractor pirates” with them as I attempt to write this post.

Anyway, I love to discuss individual journeys down the path of religious and spiritual belief. It’s true: I’m an atheist, but that doesn’t mean I hate spirituality or religion. My “faith” is in the human spirit; I don’t find this inconsistent with atheism, as I define the human “spirit” as something that science will one day be able to quantify, and once understood, will eventually replace the need for belief in the human-created mythological superbeing-substitute. Simply put, to me what people call “god” today is actually the limitless potential of the human intellect and creative ability.

Also, I believe that the universe is filled with unending wonder, more than enough to inspire (more…)

Friday Late Nite in the Haus: Sex, Drugs and Rock-n-Roll with ChiDy

 sudsy

Greetings and Salutations, PyroPups! The wonderful folks here at FDL have generously asked me to hostess tonight's revelries, and I am grateful and honored for the opportunity. Troy McClure voice Hello! I'm Chicago Dyke, and you may know me from such posts as Live at AEI! and Good Times are for Hanging…

Tonight I'm all yours, and my good buddy TRex says Fridays at the Lake are all about fun and relaxation, two things my mother will tell you my chronically underemployed ass knows far too much about. cues soft lights So here goes the neighborhood.

Music…what are you all tuning into? This album is one of the greatest live electronica sets you'll ever hear, and I'm listening to it right now. Friday nights in my world rarely start until 10pm, mainly because you'll get molasses to move more quickly than a passel of gay men getting ready for the clubs. I thank the Goddess daily that there are blogs, because at least I can talk with intelligent people while I wait, and cool my desire to strangle a certain Boi who can never decide which undersized tee-shirt looks sluttier. I also burn incense in honor of Al Capone, (more…)