Black Spruce, Latin name Picea mariana, is my new BFF. I’ve never met a Black Spruce in person, but I’ve been spending my mornings with its essential oil and I think it’s making me a better person.
Native to North America, Black Spruce is a coniferous evergreen and slow-growing tree that grows up to 25m tall. The needles (and sometimes the twigs) of the tree are used to make its essential oil. Essential oils are concentrated liquids extracted from plants. Black Spruce oil has an uplifting, clearing and purifying fragrance that seems to wake me up and calm me down at the same time. I learned about Black Spruce essential oil at an Aromatherapy seminar that I recently attended in San Rafael, California taught by Kurt Schnaubelt and Monika Haas of the Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy (PIA).
The seminar was a fragrance lovers’ dream. Oils would be introduced, pictures of the plant would be shown and then, for the pièce de résistance, smell strips would be passed out and enjoyed. (Mostly enjoyed, a few of the oils weren’t as pleasant to smell.) We learned and talked about over 50 oils, including some I’d never heard of in my long decades of using these amazing plant extracts including Cape Chamomile, which smells like Spring and Hyssop decumbens, so light and friendly an oil, that I now count it as a favorite. Continue reading
Rainwater harvesting guru Brad Lancaster has a lot to say about water. In his books Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands, Volumes 1 and 2 Lancaster writes about the importance of “planting the rain” and shares with readers the many benefits they receive when they learn how to keep their rainwater on site.
In urban environments most rainwater falls onto impervious surfaces. The water runs off quickly, carrying litter and pollutants with it as it flows directly into creeks, rivers and oceans. Why not use this free resource to water your garden or lawn?
The benefits of harvesting rain are many. Rainwater falls from the sky for free. Rainwater doesn’t contain salt and is a natural fertilizer that’s great for plants. When you harvest rain, you help reduce flooding and surface runoff. Keeping your rain in your garden or yard can reduce your water bill. If you live in an area with little rain, don’t despair. Lancaster harvests over 100,000 gallons yearly (379,000 liters) of rain and runoff in the soil of his 1/8-acre home in Tuscon, AZ. (12″ or 305 mm of average annual rainfall per year.)
Click here to listen to a Sustainable World Radio interview with Brad.
To learn more, watch this short video with Brad Lancaster on Rainwater Harvesting Basics.
Soil is alive. It’s a complex web of macro (that which we can see with our eyes), and micro (those we mostly cannot see) organisms. One tablespoon of soil contains over six billion bacteria and countless other species that contribute to a medium teeming with life. We depend on this life to sustain us. In soil, we grow the plants that provide us with oxygen, food, clothing and shelter. In soil, the water cycle is regulated and water purified. In this soil universe, sometimes disparagingly called “dirt,” live the creatures that decompose all dead organic matter on Earth; turning waste into value. Soil is the meeting place of atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere. Like most places where “edges” of different worlds meet, the soil is a dynamic interface. Fertile soil is alive with the biodiversity of a thriving forest; complex ecosystems connecting, growing, living, co-existing, dying.
Soil is Alive
In many places of the world topsoil, (where most soil life is found), is being lost at an unprecedented rate. Our lives depend on saving, cultivating, and regenerating soil life. Increasing soil fertility has a positive domino effect and the act of making soil more alive holds answers to some of the most vexing environmental challenges that we face today; including water quality, eco-system and human health issues, and global climate change. Continue reading
It was raining when I met the nurdle. I was out taking a walk. Everyone else must have been inside, staying dry. The rain fell in a silent, steady drizzle, tapering off from its previous downpour. As I walked, I saw a lot of debris washing down the sides of the street. The stream of litter seemed endless. Leaves, candy wrappers, cigarette butts, pieces of dirty Styrofoam, all bobbed its way toward the storm drain. Once inside, it would be washed to a creek and then to the ocean.
It was quiet. I enjoyed the silence of the usually busy city. Then, I heard its voice, the voice that would change my life.
After reading the small (and beautiful) book, Slow Money by Woody Tasch, I believe that Blankfein and other heavyweights in the “Too Big to Fail” financial sector might be well-advised to carefully observe, take note of, and even hang out with some earthworms. Continue reading
“Tell me what you eat, I’ll tell you who you are.” ~French Gourmand Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
Hail to Kale!
I’ve always liked kale, liked it a lot, but, since September, my feelings for this non-heading leafy green cabbage have blossomed into love and it’s all because of a recipe I read in Edible Santa Barbara Magazine for ‘Kale Chips’.
My relationship with kale started in my first garden 13 years ago, when the Red Russian Kale that I grew never stopped growing, The seed packet claimed that kale was a biennial, but the seeds that I planted didn’t know that. They grew from one season to the next, faithfully producing an endless supply of luscious leafy greens. Sautéed, steamed, baked in casseroles; when I ate kale, I knew that I was getting Vitamin C and K, folic acid, beta carotene, and calcium. For years, I appreciated kale, but now, thanks to the recipe below, I’m crazy about it. Continue reading