Book Reviews: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver

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This book, title and authors in Post Title, is absolutely amazing. It’s about a family spending one year deciding to eat nothing but local food, whether from the farmer’s market or from the farm land on the farm they move to. It includes miles of information on currant environmental issues, information about the food we do and can eat and where it comes from, helpful hints and handy information on gardening/farming and raising livestock, and best of all it also includes recipes. The diversity of the information provided, coupled with humor as well, is what I love about this book. It’s not just informational, like a textbook, but ties it into a real story.

Description from the inside jackets of the book and copy and pasted from Goodreads.com.

“Bestselling author Barbara Kingsolver returns with her first nonfiction narrative that will open your eyes in a hundred new ways to an old truth: You are what you eat.

“As the U.S. population made an unprecedented mad dash for the Sun Belt, one carload of us paddled against the tide, heading for the Promised Land where water falls from the sky and green stuff grows all around. We were about to begin the adventure of realigning our lives with our food chain.

“Naturally, our first stop was to buy junk food and fossil fuel. . . .”

Hang on for the ride: With characteristic poetry and pluck, Barbara Kingsolver and her family sweep readers along on their journey away from the industrial-food pipeline to a rural life in which they vow to buy only food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it. Their good-humored search yields surprising discoveries about turkey sex life and overly zealous zucchini plants, en route to a food culture that’s better for the neighborhood and also better on the table. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle makes a passionate case for putting the kitchen back at the center of family life and diversified farms at the center of the American diet.

“This is the story of a year in which we made every attempt to feed ourselves animals and vegetables whose provenance we really knew . . . and of how our family was changed by our first year of deliberately eating food produced from the same place where we worked, went to school, loved our neighbors, drank the water, and breathed the air.”

A librarian reccomended it to me and I now reccomend it to you. I thuroughly hope you enjoy and love this book as much as I did and reccomend it to your friends too!

Roses: Squash Plant Clippings

So, there is thing garden plot outside my front door that used to be maintained by a woman a few doors down. She planted flowers and other plants (not vegetables or food plants) in there for years, ever since I can remember. It was last year or the year before that the people who run the neighborhood had the people who cut the grass and other stuff dig everything up out of the garden plot and dig up the plants in some people’s yards. We don’t know and there really isn’t any reasonable explanation for why they did it. They put in a few common and cheap flowers in there but mostly mulch.

This year though, this vine like plant with huge leaves came up (early in the spring). It grew fast and soon we noticed these orange flowers after awhile. My mom called them squash blossoms and sure enough, somehow, it was a squash plant. No one in the neighborhood grew it, heck, you’d be lucky if half the people in my neighborhood recognized a zucchini if they saw one. It grew and grew and grew and at one point, the mailman was scared of it, having the idea that maybe one day when he went to put the mail in the mailbox that it would grab him, pull him into the thickest part, and eat him. We kept seeing flowers, but no squash. No bees on the flowers either. One day, my mom had the idea to fertilize the flowers with each other so my dad brought a couple of the flowers together, shaking the pollen into each other. Voila, not a whole lot later, maybe a couple weeks, we noticed that squashes had started to grow! So, I decided to snap a few pieces of the vine and me and my dad put them in containers of water so they would sprout and we could have our own squash plant. My parents think it’s pumpkin but I’m going more for acorn squash. Anyway, it must have been a bird that started this all (having eaten a seed and pooped it or dropped it in the garden plot). My aunt says a tomato plant mysteriously started growing one year in her backyard thinking it was most likely a bird too. Yay for birds!

Food: Fresh From the Garden Tomatoes, Zucchini, and Peppers

These are all freshly picked from my Grandpa’s garden today! The tomatoes had to be picked while they were still yellow and green because of the bad Stink Bug problems here in Maryland. My grandpop’s picked some early too and they seem to be doing just fine maturing in his house so our tomatoes should do fine finishing ripening up on the kitchen table by the window. We got Bell peppers, Habanero Chili’s, and Jalapeno Chili Peppers. I can’t wait to eat some of those. As you can see, we also got a TON of Zucchini. It’s a good thing I love it. Just thought I would share the cool pictures.

Roses: Mazus reptan, Creeping Mazus

Baltimore Sun Piece “Plant of the Week” for Sunday July 8th:

Mazus reptans

Mazus reptans is a low growing ground cover only 1 to 3 inches high, suitable for filling small areas, such as between stepping stones or in rock gardens. Its bright green foliage persists into the fall, staying semi-evergreen in the winter. An added bonus is its purplish-blue or white flowers appearing in June and July. Mazus grows in full sun to partial shade and prefers moist conditions. Being an herbaceous perennial, it can spread fast by its creeping stems which root at the nodes forming a thick mat. Mazus will take some foot traffic, has no disease or insect problems, and is deer resistant. –Bob Orazi

I’ve also seen that it does have problems with snails and slugs, so be on the watch for that. Also, the hardiness zones are 5, 6, 7, and 8.

As for magickal or mystickal properties, I didn’t find any, but since it’s a fast grower, I would say it would make a good flower to use for fertility rituals and in fertility spells. Fertility as in also meaning creativity as well as other definitions of fertility. Since the greens of Mazus are evergreens, I would say it would work in rituals and spells for longevity, endurance, and health. It being a groundcover, you could also use it for workings involving the search for something because it could be used as a way to mark the path to whatever you want to find, symbolically speaking (simply speaking it can be used in a spell to ask the gods to give you a sign or lead you on the right direction as if following a path of mazus to what you’re looking for/what you need).

As for medicinal uses, I didn’t find any on Mazus reptans but did find some for Mazus pumilus, other wise known as Mazus japonicus or Japanese Mazus.

Uses: Aperient (a mild laxative), Emmenagogue (Promotes or increases the menstrual flow. In early stages of pregnancy it can induce an abortion), Febrifuge (reduces fever), and as a tonic (Improves general health. Slower acting than a stimulant, it brings steady improvement).

It is hardy to zone 0. It is in flower from May to October, and the seeds ripen from May to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires moist soil.

“Mazus pumilus – (N. L. Burman) Steenis (author)

Botanical references: 58, 266

Family: Scrophulariaceae

Known Hazards: None Known

Range: East Asia – Himalayas from Kashmir to China, Japan, Korea and Eastern Russia

Habitat: Wet Grassland, along streams, trailsides, waste fields, wet places and the edges of forests, grasslands on mountain slopes at elevations of 1200 – 3800 mets in China

Physical Characteristics: It is hardy to zone 0. It is in flower from May to October, and the seeds ripen from May to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires moist soil.

Habitats: Cultivated Beds

Edible Parts: Leaves. Young leaves – cooked.”*

Picture #3: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/mazus-pumilus

Picture #2 Source: http://gardeningontherocks.com/welcome/dsc_0185/

Picture #1 Source: http://gardening.about.com/od/gardendesign/ig/Plants-to-Walk-On/Mazus-reptans–Purple-.–k3.htm

Baltimore Sun piece source: http://www.baltimoresun.com/features/home-garden/bs-hm-extension-0708-20120703,0,3714788.story

Information Source for Mazus pumilus/japonicus (*): http://server9.web-mania.com/users/pfafardea/database/plants.php?Mazus+pumilus

Roses: Companion Planting

“Companion planting.

“Plants have best friends just like people do. Marigolds help tomatoes and roses grow better. Nasturtiums keep bugs away from squash and broccoli. Petunias protect beans from beetles and oregano chases them away from cucumbers. Geraniums keep Japanese beetles away from roses and corn. Chives make carrots sweeter, and basil makes tomatoes even tastier.” ”

For more information on companion planting visit: http://www.ghorganics.com/page2.html

Source: http://www.facebook.com/pages/natural-living-forum/65950834522

Picture Source: http://www.tripleoaks.com/article_display.php?id=148

Roses: Lavender

Lavender, Lavandula species, (also known as Elf Leaf, Nard, Nardus, and Spike) is a well known herb and I just felt like refreshing some people’s memories and learn a bit myself.

Magickal Properties (alphabetical order): Cleansing, Exorcism, Happiness, Harmony, Healing, Love, Peace, and Purification. (According to Celtic Magic by D.J. Conway)

Magickal Uses: I will not write about the love spell uses because I believe them to test the boundaries (strongly and even break them in some cases) of manipulating another’s free will.

Lavender can be used in many ways, including in protection amulets against your spouse, in purification through smudging and baths and in purification rituals, in healing rituals and amulets and sachets, to promote peace and love and joy in, to induce sleep whether in  tea or incense or sachets, as an aphrodisiac for men, alleviate stress, bless ones home, and as a mood lifter (even said to lift depression though I have no testimonial myself).

Medicinal and other Benefits: “LAVENDER TEA ON ICEThe beneficial constituents of lavender include flavonoids, tannins, courmarines, and essential oil containing camphor, geraniol and linalool.

You can get fresh lavender from your local health food store like Whole Foods and even better can order tea from: http://www.harney.com/Details.cfm?ProdID=3962&category=38&secondary

Let the tea steep for about 7 to 10 minutes. Then strain, try adding a sweeter, lemon then pour over ice and just enjoy!

Tips!
Lavender tea may help ease insomnia.

Lavender tea may help calm nervousness and anxiety. It may also be used to alleviate stress and uplift flagging spirits.

Lavender tea may help treat an upset stomach, as well as flatulence and colic. It may also be used to treat stomach and bowel infections.

Lavender tea may help alleviate depressive and migraine headaches.

Lavender tea, when applied topically, may help alleviate colds, cough, asthma, bronchitis and similar problems in the respiratory system.

Lavender tea may help induce sweating and consequently reduce the body temperature during fever.” *

Gardening Notes: “It’s low maintenance and drought-tolerant, once established. It attracts bees and butterflies but is deer- and rabbit-resistant. It can be used in cosmetics, medicine, and cuisine. … Enjoy the fragrance of lavender year-round by drying this beloved herb. To preserve, hang small bunches upside down in a dark, dry room until the moisture has evaporated. … It thrives in hot, sunny locations with well-drained, alkaline soil.” To extend the season, combine several varieties. Hardy Lavandula angustifolia, or English lavender, blooms early and is adaptable to cooler, more humid areas. Hybrid varieties, such as ‘England’ and ‘Silver Frost’, enjoy a longer blooming season, as do Intermedia French hybrids, including L. x intermedia’Grosso’ and ‘Provence’, which also flower late and are especially treasured for their perfume. … Lavender needs well-drained soil to flourish. If your soil is heavy, amend it by adding one part sand and gravel to one part native soil, and plant in berms to further help with drainage. … When cutting lavender, clip where the foliage begins. In mid-spring, prune winter damage and cut back about a third of it to keep it from getting leggy. … Lavender does well in pots. Choose a well-draining potting soil recommended for containers. Fertilize organically every other week.

“The ideal time to harvest lavender is when one-third to one-half of the spike is in bloom.” —David Salman (http://www.highcountrygardens.com/)

COMPANION PLANTS

When planning what to grow with lavender, David recommends choosing plants with similar growing requirements. Some of his favorites include: Gaura: Pink and white cultivars of Gaura lindheimeri have wispy flowers that bloom throughout the summer. Penstemon: There are close to 300 species of penstemons. Choose some of the many colors available. ” **

Picture #1 Source and Source for Gardening Notes (**) : http://www.countryliving.com/outdoor/gardening/lavender-0908#slide-1

Picture #2 and Source for Medicinal and Other Benefits (*): http://www.facebook.com/pages/natural-living-forum/65950834522

For more Gardening Information: http://gardening.about.com/od/perennials/a/Lavender.htm

For more information in general on Lavender: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavandula

Roses: Gardening

The first picture is of my little growing garden of wildflowers. I have no successful attempts at indoor pot gardening though the Ivy did last the longest. I planted the wildflowers earlier this spring in maybe April or March. So far, they’re just little green sprouts, but little green sprouts that fill me with joy.If they turn out well, how I could mess up wildflowers I don’t know, I want to move on to either outdoor box gardening next year or renting out a plot in the community garden nearby.

Gardening is a great way to get in touch with Mother Nature and for a million other things associated with Wicca and spirituality. It can help you really get in touch with the growing cycles and thus the cycles of the year and even more so, the Wicca calendar. Many of the Wiccan holidays are focused around the growing season. Gardening and Farming are rich in symbolism with prosperity, fertility, and growth whether in the mind, body, or spirit. Also, you can grow foods to eat and/or herbs whether to season with, turn into essential oils, add into candles, dry for incense, decorate, or a million other things. Gardening takes time and patience but so much can be gained from it.

I don’t have much room to grow anything, mostly because my mom’s irises take up most of the back yard and my neighborhood cut down our last garden in the front yard so it would be a waste of time doing anything there, and as I said, growing anything indoors has never succeeded. I highly encourage anyone who isn’t already gardening because of space or a black thumb record to try, step by step, to get into gardening. Indoor pots might work for you or you might need to set up a heat lamp maybe. If you have a backyard, boxes might work for you or starting small like me by planting wildflowers which might just be a fancy word for pretty weeds. Check to see if there are community gardens near you. Try though, because the reepings can easily out weigh the sowing.

To find a Community Garden near you visit: http://www.communitygarden.org/index.php

Second Picture Source: http://b-ek.tumblr.com/post/24322911014/want-more-like-this-click-here