Rancho Gordo Founder Spills the Beans

I love Steve Sando.

Actually, I love his beans.  Sando created, owns and runs Rancho Gordo, which is in my view, the premier vendor of heirloom beans.

Rancho Gordo bean recipes

Heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo

My first brush with Rancho Gordo came through Oprah Winfrey’s magazine, O.  It was a profile on the company, probably almost a decade ago that kicked off my love affair and I have bought Sando’s beans ever since!

In this podcast, Steve Sando shares his background, his path and how he let serendipity into his life and changed it forever.

This is a fabulous interview by Lisa Gansky, a self-acclaimed entrepreneur, social instigator, international speaker, and author, with a man who I admire and whose products I buy for myself, my daughter and my friends.

BTW – Steve Sando doesn’t just sell beans, he share his recipes, expertise and enthusiasm for growing, sourcing and eating heirloom beans!

Enjoy!

Metal Garden Beds! Woo Hoo!!

I know we are in a blizzard. I know only die-hard gardeners are thinking about how they are going to lay out their gardens this spring, what seeds they are going to start, what new crops they might take a chance at growing.

And now, I know what I want for my birthday! I asked for two metal garden beds from CorrBarr incorporated.

They are made from recyclable materials. They don’t rust. They help heat the soil but don’t burn  the roots of your plants!

Okay so the wind is howling, the snow is falling but I can look out my back window and just see the gleam of beautiful, metal garden beds…poking out from the drifts.

Happy Gardening!

Farmer Goes Organic: Shares His Thoughts

This isn’t a small scale farm.  This isn’t a new farmer.  He is 3rd generation and he owns and works 1400 acres of farmland. His name is Klaas Martens. His story is courtesy of EcoWatch.

Why would anyone want to change the only way they had ever known to farm, the way their fathers and grandfathers before them farmed?

Organic family farms

This is the organic family farm across from my house.

After spending an entire day spraying chemicals on his fields and despite his protective suit and mask, Martens lost the use of his right arm and had muscle spasms on his right side.

Eventually, he recovered the use of his arm and body but he just couldn’t bring himself to go back to growing with chemicals. “Going organic was the only decision we could morally make,” he said. “…it just would have been wrong to hire others to do work that I couldn’t do because it made me sick.

After chucking everything he knew about managing the land, Martens had to learn to farm all over again.  Without chemicals and herbicides, he didn’t really know how to grow and protect his crops.

So, how did he learn new methods to handle threats to his crops? The old-fashioned way; he did research.  One day, he read a quote by a German agricultural researcher that changed his way of thinking:

“Cultural practices form the basis of all weed control. Various other means should be regarded as auxiliary only,” wrote Bernard Rademacher, an early researcher in weed management.

Instead of trying to control the weeds, Martens realized he should be looking at why the weeds were there – what practice was he using that made his farm a good habitat for weeds?

Martens’ answer? Don’t fight the weeds; understand them. Completely and fully, within the context of everything else around them.

Converting his farm wasn’t easy for Martens but he and his wife learned a lot in the process and shared a lot in a two part article for Rodale Institute.  Part 2 of the Farms R Us article has a nice list of resources for anyone who would like to take a deeper dive into converting to organic farming.

It was risky and a bit scary to make the switch but the couple has enjoyed growing organically, finding markets for their crops and knowing that they no longer add poisons to the earth or the water.

If a man farming 1400 acres can go organic, every backyard gardener should be able to do the same.  If you are an organic gardener, you already know that weeds can tell you volumes about the health of your soil and your gardening practices.

Take a note from Martens, listen to your weeds. Once you get a handle on why they are happy to grow in your garden, you have two choices:

  1. Find out what organic methods you can use to get your soil back on track and move the weeds to your neighbors’ gardens.
  2. Grow and eat them! Dandelions, purslane and chickweed are free greens and I enjoy them as much as I do my kale, spinach and leaf lettuce!

Going organic isn’t hard; it;s just different.  And the conversion takes a bit of research and a bit of thought.  What better month than January to do both?

International Ag Conference Offers Fertile Topics

I was cruising the Biodynamics Association web site, contemplating attending Pennsylvania’s Sustainable Farming conference the week of January 18th when my imagination was fired by a testimonial and obituary for someone named Devon Strong.

Relationship between humans and animals.

Amazing articles on our relationship to and with animals.

Being curious, I clicked through the link and found an amazing publication by an equally amazing group. Entitled Accompanying Animals with Dignity Into the Future, this was the published report of Agriculture Conference at the Goetheanum (which it describes as the center of a global network of spiritually dedicated people focusing on both art and science).

The conference was held in November of 2015.

I am still trying to wrap my head around who or what was behind the conference — most likely the International Biodynamic Association  but the articles coming out of the conference are astonishing in their insight into our relationship to animals, our interactions with them, what we think we know about animals and what we really should know — what animals can teach us.

Curiously accessible for such an august group, the information validates some of my fundamental beliefs in the lives and souls of the animals we share this planet with.  It also shakes up some of my ideas about raising and killing animals for food.  And it confirms the concept that we share this planet Earth with some fascinating and wise spirits.

While the November conference focused on our relationship to animals, the upcoming conference in February (also at the Goetheanum)  focuses on seeing the Earth as a global garden and asks such questions as:

  1. How can we establish a new relationship to nature?
  2. How can farmers, gardeners, foresters, landscape gardeners and horticulturalists transform their “gardening” of the Earth in search a way did physical and spiritual nourishment can be provided for all?
  3. How can farm enterprises and gardens be opened up for the integration of people looking for Therapeutic Support for a meaningful activity or simply places to go, to see ?

I stumbled into this remarkable site but stayed because the information, the articles and the people ring true for me, because these are people who love our planet and respect all life.

Open Apology to Modern Farmer Magazine

Did you ever make a decision, feel pretty righteous about it then realize you were wrong?  Totally wrong??  Could not be more wrong???

Modern Farmer Magazine

Modern Farmer is an amazing magazine!

That’s just what I did when I cancelled my newly acquired subscription to Modern Farmer.

I was feeling churlish; I subscribed weeks earlier but hadn’t received a copy yet.  And it’s just quarterly so, in hindsight, I thought it wasn’t worth the cost.  Wrong, dead wrong, could not be more completely wrong.

I got my first issue – #10 – Winter 2015-2016 and knew just how big a dolt I had been.

This magazine is worth every penny and then some.  I read it from cover to cover in a day and a half, tabbed up some things I wanted to research more and am rereading it right now (well not while I’m typing but rereading, yes).

I am not a farmer but I am an avid organic gardener. I raise all my own fruit (blueberries, blackberries, figs, cherries and the stray pear, apple and pluot). I grow my own vegetables and herbs and am building my own meadow in the back of our 2.3 acres.

So I loved reading the article on Seed Matters – some of the most amazing organic seed breeders and growers — and getting some recipes from their benefit dinner.

And I own a horse – have always loved horses – so I immediately read the cover article on harnessing the power of draft horses.

I enjoyed the article on growing hops and loved meeting “The Modern Farmers” through their profiles of small operations that are making a big difference in their neighborhoods.

So, with huge apologies to Modern Farmer, I went back to its site today and subscribed for 2 years.  (A formal, written letter of apology will be mailed to the Editor, tomorrow.)

I will be sharing this beautifully produced, beautifully written and heartfelt magazine with stunning photography, too, with my niece who has just bought 14 acres in upstate Pennsylvania with her guy. They plan on growing their food, raising animals for meat and sale, raising fish and living on their farm.

This magazine will just be one more tool they can use and enjoy.

BTW-my subscription also gives me access to the web site and all the articles, online.  A bargain….a beautiful bargain.

Pest Control in the Dead of Winter

January is this gardener’s season of doldrums. It’s too early to start seeds indoors. It’s too cold to go out and work the soil and start garden prep. Most of the time, mornings and late afternoons are too dark to do anything outside.

So, when I discovered Eartheasy’s post about where bugs go in winter, I had to

Pests & beneficials sleep through the winter.

Sleeping garden and sleeping bugs!

read it and share it because it gave me some insight into my repeat offenders — Colorado Potato Beetles, Mexican Bean Beetles and Asparagus Beetles to name a few.

All 3 of these marauders are in my dreaded Top Ten most wanted bugs list. I came up with some interesting “weapons of mass destruction” to handle my top 10 (including grandsons and rocks) but I really hadn’t thought about just how many habitats I provided for these green raiders.

All 3 come back every summer to visit along with relatives and friends.  My fault, I fear.  I provide the best winter habitat these renegades can think of.

Eartheasy offers some tips for insect control – I do most of them already.  But it also points out that beneficials overwinter near our gardens, too, so even though it’s 22 degrees out, even though Japanese beetles ate all of my Chinese cabbage,

Japanese Beetles in garden

Japanese beetles turned this cabbage into a skeleton.

green beans, blackberries and apples last summer, I can’t go on a killing spree without killing the good guys too.

All is not lost, though.  There are some helpful and easy tips to encourage the good bugs and discourage the bad, so, on this cold January morning, I give my organic gardening friends something to consider when considering pest control.

Happy New Year!

Grow A Healthy Gut in 2016 – Microbiome Resources For You!

Want to know how easy it will be to get healthy, lose weight, say good-bye to chronic complaints about digestion, headaches and other maladies and have a Happy New Year in 2016?

Read one book.  Make some changes to what you eat and start on the path to good health. That’s how easy it is.

2016 New Year of Health

Get healthy in 2016. It’s easy.

I sincerely wish I had found the book about 15 years ago when bladder cancer became out ticket to travel down the rabbit hole of so-called “health care.”

Surgeries (12), hospitalizations (52) and BCG therapy (5 courses of a form of bacterial Russian roulette that was supposed to kill the cancer cells) and up until just 3 months ago, my husband was just as unhealthy as he had been when the ride started.

For years, we had heard from his medical team that Pat’s problem was “leaky gut,” a diagnosis often delivered with a shrug and not one idea on how to change it.

So, what does our tale of woe have to do with getting healthy in 2016?
Everything.

In October, I bought Dr. David Perlmutter’s most recent book, Brain Maker, and I finally got a clear understanding of what leaky gut is and means and why it was critical to Pat’s health.

What I learned from a book (which was not, once mentioned by the cadre of specialists who have seen, treated and billed my poor husband) is that the intestinal lining – the largest mucosal surface in the body and the barrier between “the inside and outside” is exactly one single cell thick!

Bad news? If you have leaky gut it means your cell wall is permeable and you have a very serious health issue. Good news?  Leaky gut is manageable, dare one say reversible?

Not one of the idiots who had Pat in their care knew, mentioned or even touched on the criticality of this condition or the way to help fix it.  They just kept prescribing antibiotics – life-saving but also life-threatening – and sending him home.

After reading Dr. Perlmutter’s book, Brain Maker, I learned about the good bacteria that should be in the gut and those that can cause problems if they overtake the good bacteria.  I got a broad but enlightening introduction to the “second brain” and the fact that the gut often sends messages to the brain to make it act – not the other way around.

Everything I read influenced our next round of dietary changes. Dr. Perlmutter’s recipes made it easy to make the needed changes.  And suddenly things started improving for my husband.

Once I read Dr. Perlmutter’s book and implemented changes (see NOTE ON DINING below), I started doing some research on the microbiome.  This is a growing field and there is a tremendous amount of research going on under the covers on the second brain.

It appears that the world of medicine is about to change, radically and for the better. If you want more information here are some resources I recommend:

This TED talk lays a solid foundation for how our gut bacteria work and how they affect our health . Rob Knight opens the door in this TED talk then helps us walk right in by talking about how gut bacteria might be implicated in a raft of chronic health issues like Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Celiac disease, obesity, allergies, and asthma.

If you want to know what’s going on in your microbiome – a snapshot if you will – here is the place to go. Visit this crowdsourced research project and get your gut bacteria analyzed for less than $100.

It’s all there, available for anyone who wants to get their health back.

After reading, listening and changing a few more things in our lives, for the first time in 15 years, Pat and I are able to manage his infections, lower his blood sugar and give him back his life.

One book, one person changed our lives forever and for the better!

Borrow it from the library, download it from Amazon, buy it.  Sign up for Dr. Perlmutter’s regular posts, videos and information and get healthy in 2016!

Happy New Year, everyone.  Here’s to your health.

NOTE ON DINING:  As I said earlier in this novella, what the book/doctors are saying on how to correct your microbiome may seem a bit draconian if you are just getting started.  Take it one bite at a time and you will get your health back.

By the time I read this book, we had already totally cut out ALL processed foods.  We ONLY eat organic, non-GMO foods – including meat, poultry and wild-harvested fish – and fruit and veggies I either raise or get at the local organic food exchange.  That has helped both of us lose over 50 pounds and really feel physically better but it didn’t move his blood sugars a whole lot nor did it cut down on his regular trips to the hospital.

Now, he and I both eat freshly made sauerkraut (I am on my 3rd batch and enjoy making it).  Also, instead of spending $7.50 for a pint at the local farmer’s market, I make a gallon + a pint for about $1.50! It’s cabbage with salt!!  Amazing and amazingly good.

We both drink kombucha which I make and bottle and are loving it!  Again, buy it in the health food store and pay $5.00 for 12 ounces.  Make it at home and it’s about 50 cents a glass.  We recently added duck eggs to our diets – 16% more protein and said to be better at creating a gut environment that is less conducive to the growth of cancer cells.

Simple changes to our diet and a bit of knowledge about how the gut works and how critical it is to overall health could have changed our lives and saved us emotional currency, time and thousands and thousands of dollars over the last decade and a half.

I urge you to explore the concept of microbiome and gut bacteria.  Just Google it and see how many diseases are actually being studied and in some cases reversed by getting good gut bacteria to outweigh the bad – autism, ALS, ADHD, Alzheimer’s and that’s just the A’s!