Archive for the ‘gardening’ Category

Tree Sex and Nature's Womb

The title might be a little over the top, yet there is something so amazing about a year in which nature outdoes herself in productivity.

This winter saw an abundance of snowfall in our region. The old timers say lots of snow is what the fruit trees love. I’m sayin’ lots of snow is what EVERYTHING loves.

Notice I didn’t say Every BODY. Plenty of people got really tired of the stuff this year. But the outcome of enduring that endless parade of snowfalls means we’ve got good things on the way.

There is a small plot of dryland wheat pasture just east of the Wellness Center. That means the farmer plants it, but its only water comes from the rain and snow over the winter. No wells. No irrigation ditches. No center pivot sprinkler system. Not even a strategically placed waterhose.  I’ve watched it for a couple of years now, and this is the first time since we’ve owned property over there that he’s had any success.

And it is GORGEOUS.

That’s my word for the day.


Saturday I heard the whir of something with an engine outside the wellness center windows. I looked out and someone had a swather in his wheat pasture laying out wind rows of freshly cut wheat hay to cure before baling it.

Mother Nature done good this time.

Then I started thinking about all those beautiful blossoms that had been gracing the trees with their GORGEOUS-ness a few weeks ago.

Cherry Blossoms 2

Cherry Blossoms in Bloom at the Farm

Peach Blossoms

Blossoms and pollination are tree sex, in case you didn’t know it.

I decided to inspect the various fruit trees around the farm and wellness center.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Tree sex and a mild mother nature this spring means we have fruit.

Tiny green apricots are hiding behind big floppy leaves. It’s been several years since they survived the late spring freezes.

The old plum tree next to my in-laws house is proving itself to still be worthy of existence.  Not many plums on there, but enough to make a statement about the amazing bounty we are going to experience this summer. This old tree spirit can say the womb still works. For all you non-scientists out there, the fruit is the womb for the seed. That’s such a fun word. Womb.

My grapevines have tiny grapes peeking out. This is their third year in the ground, and I am very proud that they are showing signs of productivity.

Tiny cherries are everywhere on the collection of cherry bushes that are located around the farm and wellness center. I’m betting they will be the obnoxious sour kind, but they’ll get eaten by something. If not us, then the birds will likely feast this summer like never before in recent years.

My two year old peach trees are popping out all over with tiny peaches, while my apple trees are holding off a bit longer, taking their time, just beginning to think about showing their pregnant bellies.

Yes, this year is shaping up to be one of new life and rebirth in ways far exceeding fruit and veggies. Life itself is being reborn for so many.

An incredible and amazing harvest is in the making.

Time to go plant some zucchini!

Simple Changes: Good for You and Good for the Environment

This morning I stumbled on an article by Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Michael Roizen entitled 4 Green Moves That Help You, Too. In the article, the docs identify a great starting point for implementing simple changes that could make a big difference. Hop on over and see what they have to say, then check back here for my thoughts.

I’ll wait………

It’s okay……..

Now would be good………

GO ALREADY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, now that you are back, here’s my take on it.

I agree with them for the most part. They suggest you say no to receipts at the self-serve gas station and ATM. Some are dusted with a substance that is toxic and has been linked to everything from birth defects to diabetes and heart disease. It’s an estrogen mimicking substance called BPA. Nasty stuff. Plus, by nixing the receipt, you save oodles of trees. No argument from me there. If you need a record of your transaction, keep a small notebook in your car. Besides, those receipts just clutter my car. I’m over it.

The second change they mention is skip the red meat. They cite several “ill” effects of red meat both environmental and physical. I would put forth that the “ill” effects can be countered by choosing meat that has been raised in a sustainable way. No one can argue that the mass production model of the feedlot is probably not the way to ensure production of meat that is healthy for both the individual and the environment. But that applies to non-red meats as well. Has anyone toured a commercial chicken facility lately?

Where meat is concerned, I believe the solution is two-part. First, choose pasture raised red (and white) meats. It won’t be the tender, juicy, melt-in-your-mouth steak that you are used to eating, and which entices you to consume large amounts. It will be much more gamey, a bit tougher, and WAY more nutritious. The omega 3 to omega 6 ratio in pasture fed meats is something like 1:6 whereas in grain-fed mass production (feedlot) meat, the ratio is more like 1:24—way out of whack. Prices for pastured meat is a bit more expensive, but not nearly as bad as you may have been led to believe. In our area, there are two good sources for pastured beef: Paidom Meats, and David Horn, both near Nazareth, TX.

Part 2 will probably take care of itself once you commit to eating pastured rather than commercial meats. Eat less. In this part of the country, beef is so pervasive in our diets that in some families, hardly a meal goes by that doesn’t include beef. The tougher texture of pastured meats will go a long ways toward reducing the amount you WANT to eat. But keep in mind, that texture can be overcome with a good marinade and/or a killer crockpot. You’ve not had a brisket unless you’ve had a slow cooked slab of meat with some Claude’s brisket marinade on it. Marinades break down the fibrous tissue and leave a tender, juicy treat.

And if the chewiness doesn’t reduce your consumption, your budget might. Prices are slightly higher, but still very reasonable from the two local sources mentioned above, however, a trip up the road to the health food store will reveal a price tag that will slow your consumption of any meat to a crawl.

That’s all I have to say ’bout that.

Idea #3 suggested get outside more. I heartily agree. We’ve been told for decades that we need to cover up to hide every bit of flesh from any sun exposure and slather on sunscreen every 30 minutes. Quite frankly it’s easier to stay inside that go to that much trouble. And yet as sunscreen use has increased and people have received less sun, the related heath problems associated with sun have continued to increase. Studies now indicate that some of those sunscreen chemicals are in fact carcinogens (cancer causers instead of cancer preventers) and avoiding the sun deprives us of crucial vitamin D which is in fact a cancer preventer and a preventer of lots of other illnesses. Plus being outside just does something on an emotional level that boosts your positive outlook, nourishes and oxygenates your cells, and gives you a glow that lasts for days. No, I don’t mean the sunburn. No one says you have to stay outside in the direct sun. Find a shade tree, grab a glass of iced green tea with a spoonful of  honey mixed in, and take in the negative ions of nature. It rocks!

Finally, these guys said to start an organic garden. To that I say, DUH!!!

ABSOLUTELY!!! There’s not a person within 50 miles who can’t grow something. No one says it has to be a five acre spread. You’ll hate it if you do that. Start simply. Get a kiddie swimming pool. Poke some drain holes in the bottom. Go get you some good dirt if you don’t already have a supply, then plant something. You’ll be surprised by what you can get from one tomato plant, one pepper plant, one or two squash plants, maybe a few herbs….whatever makes you happy. Just take some action toward controlling your food supply. And be careful what products you choose as your soil. Some of the stuff you get at the discount store is nothing more than a chemical factory, which will be absorbed by your veggies and thus your body. Good dirt is just that…good dirt….good animal poo….good mulchy stuff…..mixed together and cooked up by Mother Nature herself until it’s just right for your plants and your body.

Once things start rocking for you and production starts overloading you, consider taking your excess to a local farmers’ market and swapping out some of your bounty. You’ll be glad you did.

Simple baby steps to wellness. That’s what I’m talkin’ about.  Let’s get to it and make a difference.

Bookstores, Health Food Stores, & Greenhouses

Everyone has at least one. I happen to have three of which I am aware. It’s my power place. Okay, in my case, PLACES.

It’s that place you can go where the world seems perfect, no harm can come, and time is irrelevant. It is a place that has a Zen-like serenity that nourishes your soul. It’s a place you may enjoy sharing with others. Me? Nah. If I’m going there, I’d rather go alone and just get lost….forever.

It’s that place where, if money were no object in your life, you would either work there for free, or just buy the whole organization. Yesterday, I had the privilege of experiencing all three of my power places.

I would have to say that my all-time favorite power place is a greenhouse in springtime. It’s the closest thing to a tropical rain forest I will likely experience in these parts. I love the foliage, the colors, the smell of jasmine and honeysuckle, and the protected environment that allows in the warming rays of the sun without the annoyance of our infamous winds.

I stopped by Lowe’s to check on a cabinet for the Wellness Center. As if drawn like a moth to a flame, the garden center beckoned me. Apparently they have snubbed their corporate noses at Mother Nature, because it was like an ocean of life, color, and fragrance. Beauty was everywhere. I just strolled along looking at it all, as if time had suddenly decided to extend my lunch break. There are other greenhouses that I like better, yet this one certainly filled the gap since I was already there for other things.

Reality finally kicked in, and I returned to my afternoon obligation, followed by my next power place. I had some time between the end of my workshop and the beginning of my yoga class (a power place in its own right), so I stopped in at the health food store. Yes, it’s another place in which I could stay for hours, spend a fortune, and stay some more. I think it’s the intention of such a place and what it represents that draws me in and keeps ahold of me. Energy is an amazing thing, and there’s just something special about the energy of a health food store.

Yoga class came and went. It was a nice experience: difficult, yet not; relaxing, yet requiring concentration. Since my brain has yet to figure out the concept of “shut up”, even in yoga class, I made plans to visit power place #3 to acquire a book on yoga basics. I am still feeling a bit lost and confused about the concepts, even though I work my way through the moves fairly well. Yep, a book on yoga was definitely needed. Oh darn! <sarcasm> That meant a trip to the bookstore and another dose of calm, peaceful energy. It was simply fabulous, and three great books plus a beautiful magazine found their way into my possession.

Just before heading home, I decided there were a couple more items I wanted to pick up from the grocery store. Hmmm….wally world or that other health food store down the street. Duh! No brainer! For the second time in one day, I cruised the aisles of a health food store. I actually like this place even better. The energy is just a little more flowing. It’s light and spacious, no crowds and very few “people of Walmart“, plus the selection is incredible for our area. Just an all-around nice place to be.

Yesterday really made me think about my life purpose and my potential new career. The recognition of which environments support me and allow me the space to experience peace and joy is a very cool thing. I thought about places I would love to work in each of these fields.

These three remain: bookstores, health food stores, and greenhouses. But the greatest of these is greenhouses. Now how do I roll them into one incredible career? Can we put a bookstore, yoga center, and a health food store here and pay me to hang out? I think I would be very happy with that arrangement.

Locally Grown On the Panhandle-South Plains

A few years ago, I made a serious effort to find high-quality food to put into my body. I read a book call The Maker’s Diet by Jordan Rubin, and decided to adopt the ways of eating he prescribes. Most people take one look at the book and and toss it aside as an impossible way to eat and live. Maybe it was my farming heritage, or maybe it was simply stubborn willful determination, but I committed to feed my body as he suggested, in spite of the challenges.

At first, it was no easy task. The book calls for eating REAL food, not things that come from a box, a package, or a can. It also calls for eating organic as much as possible. AND it calls for foods that I had no idea where to find. It declared that pastured-this, free-range that, and raw everything were far superior foods. Such would have been simple enough if this were still 1978 and farming/ranching were a part of my life. The only beef I ever ate back then was raised on pasture, and while WE didn’t raise chickens (the only thing we didn’t raise at some point), I knew plenty of people who had them roaming their barnyards. It certainly wasn’t a foreign concept.

Thirty years had past and something was lost along the way. I had to find the good stuff–real food–but where to look? The search was on. Being a techie, I scoured the internet. There were plenty of places where I could order pastured, free range, and organic food, but who wants to pay THAT much money. We’ve been conditioned to feed ourselves as cheaply as possible. It was painful to see what eating this way might cost.

Gradually I began to find local sources for these super foods. First came the eggs. Divine coincidence led me to a small family farm west of town where chickens roamed freely wherever they pleased. Later, I found out this family and another just up the road raised pastured beef to sell through local outlets. The prices are a little higher than grocery store products, but not so much that I had to leave my children unclothed and unshod.

Over the years, busy-ness has caused me to abandon my Maker’s Diet for the most part. Even so, I have continued to consume whatever I can find locally and healthfully grown. A few things I believe are worth having shipped to me. Here are some of the resources I have discovered in my search for quality food:

David and Debbie Horn, Nazareth, Texas–Free range eggs, pastured beef

Paidom Meats, Nazareth, Texas–Pastured meats of all kinds

Apple Country Orchards, Idalou, Texas–’nuff said

Tule Creek Apiary, Tulia,  Texas–Raw Honey, not specifically local, but a product of the central plains states. The raw honey price is VERY reasonable when compared to raw honey products in stores.

Soil Mender Products, Tulia, Texas–Organic soil conditioners, potting soil, fertilizers for wannabe gardeners.

Angie Cox (that’s me!), Tulia, Texas–Free range eggs, seasonal produce

One imported item I can’t live without:

Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil–I haven’t seen many coconut trees growing in these parts, so this is something I order off the internet. There are health food  stores that carry virgin coconut oil, but none that I have found have the taste, texture, and buying options available through Tropical Traditions. If you are using store bought canola oil thinking you are doing something great for your heart, you have been shammed. Do some research on the topic (somewhere other than the canola oil industry, of course), and I think you will agree that coconut oil is a healthier option.

One other recommended food item that can be purchased locally is raw milk. Unfortunately acquiring raw milk for human consumption is a bit tricky. Once a source is found, a person should respect the producer’s generosity by keeping that information quiet. It seems most state agencies frown on the sale of raw milk. Keep in mind, too, that consuming raw milk has its risks, which you must weigh and accept responsibility for. In other words, don’t blame me if you get sick and decide it was the milk. It’s probably healthiest to avoid milk completely, but if you are a milk drinking family, you might want to investigate the research related to consuming raw milk and then make your own decision. Personally, I feel guilty giving my family the store-bought stuff knowing what I know.

Keep checking back as the options for locally grown foods are expanding. Plans are underway for a Local Foods Day in June and subsequent Farmer’s Market. Would you like to be a part of the local foods move? Get a large flower pot and some Soil Mender products and plant something, even if it is nothing more than herbs in your kitchen window sill. Your body and your taste buds will thank you.

Do you know of any other sources for locally grown foods? Post them here!

My Wellness Garden Plans

Lately I have been looking at ways to make the wellness business work as a full time gig. It is something I  have always wanted to do, yet fear and security issues have kept me stuck in the safety of the employment of an organization. I am beginning to see through those issues and realize that I have the talents, knowledge, skills, and abilities to make my own way in this world, and do it quite nicely.

Freedom is one of the qualities I am seeking through this process–the freedom to choose when I work and for how long, the freedom to take off and go visit some place awesome, or take a class without having to ask the permission of upper management, freedom to chase my kids without a pang of guilt, and the freedom of figuring out how my income will find me.

I am trusting that the freedom I seek will also result in finding time to feed my family nutritious, healthy meals. From time to time over the years, I have been able to do this, and yet, it seems busy-ness always gets the best of those good habits. I see this transition as an opportunity to reignite that homefire.

There’s no time like the present to kick start a new habit, so I have begun to again attempt a menu and shopping list to help with the budget and the implementation of cooking from scratch with REAL food. I intend to blog on that topic as a means of accountability. I am also beginning to look at what I can raise myself, so I am setting some goals for our spring/summer/fall garden and farm this year.

I have a fairly unlimited supply of fresh free-range eggs, since we have our own chickens, so that expense is for the most part negated. We seem to consume lots of tomatoes, which could have something to do with the Italian blood that runs through my husbands side of the family. What I am reading about commercially canned tomatoes is quite disturbing, due to the effect of metal cans leaching unwanted things into the tomatoes. I guess I will be adding those to my home processing list for summer. I have never canned (or in this case “jarred”) tomatoes, but I have put up some other things over the years and I think I can get it figured out.

Other options will include fresh spinach. I’ve never really tried to grow spinach, but I am loving it for salad fixin’s and as an omelet add-in. I’ve attempted carrots a few times with minimal success, but I’m going to go at it again this year, along with beets. Maybe I’ll invest in a fancy juicer/blender thing to mush it all up together and hopefully make it taste fabulous.

I have been freezing my greenbeans the last few years, but I may go back to the canning method. The fam seems to prefer the mushy version over the almost fresh freezer style. Maybe I’ll do some of both. Black eyed peas are another good one, but picking beans and peas happens to be my LEAST favorite thing to do in the garden. It rates right up there with weeding.

Some other possibilities include potatoes, cucumbers (great for making relish with no HFCS), and of course watermelon and cantalope. There is nothing sweeter than a beyond organically-grown, left-on-the-vine-to-fully-ripen melon. My mouth waters thinking about them. Home-grown potatoes are important because of the chemicals they absorb from the soil in commercial agriculture. I discovered a couple of years ago that they aren’t that difficult to raise, and they are absolutely delicious straight from the ground to the cooking pot.

We planted several fruit trees last year, and I expect to put a few more in the ground this year. It will be a while before those help us out, and yet, I am quite excited about that possibility.

With all these plans, I will need the time flexibility of setting my own schedule. I will also need an outlet such as the local farmer’s market that is being planned. What garden crops are you planning? Do you have an interest in bringing your excess to a local farmer’s market? Share your plans with us and let’s see if we can make a difference in the health of our community.

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