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Monthly Archives: March 2014

This blog is a Kitsap Sun reader blog. The Kitsap Sun neither edits nor previews reader blog posts. Their content is the sole creation and responsibility of the readers who produce them. Reader bloggers are asked to adhere to our reader blog agreement. If you have a concern or would like to start a reader blog of your own, please contact sunnews@kitsapsun.com.

Dandelions for the Downtrodden

Who knew they were superheroes?
Who knew they were superheroes?

So the cold going around Kitsap finally got me. After tra-la-laing to my boyfriend for a year and a half about how I never get sick, I now can cry in my coffee that I was sick on the first sunny days of spring.

Waaah.

I’m not one to sit around crying in my coffee, though. Instead, I started putting dandelion greens in tea and smoothies, which I swear helped me from getting the worst of the nastiness going around.

I woke up with a little bit of a sore throat on Sunday, and by that afternoon I was a blob of jello on the couch. The blobbiness may have partly been due to leading 18 people on my Birding Kayak Tour, but this was not my normal after-tour fatigue!

As I lay on the couch feeling sorry for myself as the first spring sunshine poured in the window, I remembered how dandelions are supposed to be super-duper healthy, especially the new growth in the spring. I decided to delve into it a little more.

I learned that the nutritional content of dandelion roots and leaves make them a living multivitamin! Middle Eastern physicians first wrote about using dandelions for healing in the 10th century, and they’re still being studied today by doctors around the world.

Here’s a fun fact you can wow someone with: dandelion is from the French origin: dent de lion, meaning “tooth of the lion,” likely because of the deep “teeth” on the leaves.

The vitamins packed in these greens completely changed my view of these little buggers. Rather than yank them all out, I’m now going around plucking their leaves and looking forward to them growing so I can dry their roots for tea!

Some of the vitamins dandelions contain:

  • High vitamin A: good for the skin, mucus membranes and vision
  • High fiber: helps your body get rid of waste
  • High vitamins C: natural antihistamine, boosts the immune system & many other benefits…even touted as helping asthmatics and possibly preventing cancer, cataracts and heart disease!
  • High in vitamin B6: important for proper metabolism and immune function
  • Iron: generates red blood cells
  • Potassium: helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure
  • They also contain Thiamin, Riboflavin, Calcium and Manganese

OK, sold. I went straight outside, picked some greens and made myself some dandelion tea. I’m kind of an herb fiend, so I added a few things to my tea to make it even more healing and tasty.

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I kid you not, my sore throat was soothed by the time I went to bed, and by the next night it was completely gone. I had two more cups throughout the next day, just to make sure.

Tuesday I was ridiculously tired, but no more sore throat. I still drank tea throughout the day.

Wednesday I was a little tired, but was raring to go to kick off Spring Cleaning (my new business, I’ll tell more later!) and I helped a friend get his house all sparkly and organized for four hours.

That night I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. Back to the tea. Thursday I fought off a cough all day – lots of rest and more tea!

Here’s Spring’s Magical Tea Blend – if you don’t have the ingredients, mix and match with what you have, or just make pure dandelion tea…

  1. Small handful of dandelion leaves – new growth is best and make sure to rinse them
  2. Few sprigs of lemon thyme – any thyme will do – they’re throat soothing expectorants
  3. Few lemon verbena leaves
  4. Few peppermint and/or spearmint leaves – tear and crush them to release the flavor
  5. Few rosemary leaves – tear and crush with the mint

Then:

  1. Put all in a tea strainer (see my tea post for the one I think releases the most flavor)
  2. Pour boiling water over them
  3. Let sit for at least three minutes
  4. Add honey and fresh lemon juice for added healing and flavor
  5. Sip
  6. Take a nap

🙂

I actually started just throwing all the herbs and leaves into my tea pot and letting them sit, then I’d use that water for tea and in my water glass. I kind of love my teapot. Yep, Goodwill score, and it fits perfectly in my house in the woods…how do you like it?

Here’s a little closeup in case you didn’t fully appreciate it the first time…

How can tea NOT be good when brewed in this guy?!
How can tea NOT be good when brewed in this guy?!

According to Mercola.com, dandelions are: “proven as an antioxidant that also lowers blood sugar, but it may also be useful in treating jaundice, cirrhosis, edema, gout, eczema, and acne. There’s even evidence that dandelion greens might prove helpful in treating AIDS and herpes. Highly nutritious as an ingredient in salads, its roots show ever-increasing possibilities in the fight against cancer.”

I take all scientific studies with a grain of salt, but I still think dandelions are A.MA.ZING. All those health benefits helped convince me to put them in my smoothies, in salads, and in anything I can think of, really.

I’m off to make some tea now!

What do you do to ward off and fight colds? 

Toddler Adventure at Valley Nursery

Sustainable_Spring_Coco_Rooster_2014Tuesdays are wonderful days in Springland because I get to spend all day with my best two-year old friend, Coco Parker.

After dance class in the morning we have some free time before lunch, so I like to do something fun, unusual and educational.

Last week we went to a park and walked in the woods, where she learned about Red Alder catkins and we marveled together at a Rufuos Hummingbird that hovered above our heads.

This week the sky threatened rain and I needed potting soil, so I thought I’d take a chance and see if we could make Valley Nursery a playground since it was on our way home. I spent my first ten years growing up on a plant nursery, so I secretly hoped she would love it, but I was dubious.

Little did I know, we were in for a treat!

First of all, the garden art near the parking lot was a playground in and of itself, with roosters and butterflies and all kinds of colorful things.

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When a staff person saw how infatuated she was with the metal rooster, she said, “Did you know we have a REAL rooster and some chickens?”

Coco and I looked at each other, grinned, took each others’ hands, and ran in the direction she had pointed.

photo 1

We spent the next fifteen minutes hanging out with the chickens and the rooster, cockadoodle-doing and talking about who’s a boy and who’s a girl.

Then we found the koi pond and the little gnome home next to it – a beautiful site for any age.

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photo 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

It started to sprinkle, so we headed into the greenhouse, where we smelled all kinds of herbs and talked about what a greenhouse does. Peppermint proved to be the winning smell in the herb department.

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The inside of the store proved to be almost too much stimulation, so I paid for my soil, we said, “Goodbye Rooster!” while a Valley employee loaded the soil for me, and off we went for nap time.

It was a perfectly fun activity, though Cricket was a little jealous of the little human that takes her place on adventures sometimes. All the activity made for a sleepy ride home!

What are your favorite free, environmental-ish activities for kids?

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Happy Adventuring!

Spring

Valley Nursery on Facebook.

Find me on Facebook.

It’s National Wildlife Week!

eagleI was pretty excited to learn that March 17-23 is National Wildlife Week, as declared by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF). The focus this year is Wildlife and Water because, as the NWF says, “One thing that all wildlife need, whatever they are and wherever they live, is WATER.”

It seems meant to be that I would lead my first ever Birding Kayak Tour with the birding superhero George Gerdst is during this week. You’d think I’d planned it this way, but I just got lucky.

When I delved into the meaning of “National Wildlife Week,” I learned that it is the National Wildlife Federation’s “longest-running education program designed around teaching and connecting kids to the awesome wonders of wildlife. Each year, we pick a theme and provide fun and informative educational materials, curriculum and activities for educators and caregivers to use with kids.”

seals
I took this photo on a trip with George Gerdst yesterday – he does an annual circumnavigation of Bainbridge Island, where he hires a ferry and talks about the local birds and wildlife for three hours. 

If I’ve learned anything as an outdoor guide, it’s that adults are big kids who want to get out and play, so it’s never too late to get outside and get connected. Today seems like a good day to go out, get away from the hustle and bustle and noise, put away the cell phone and laptop, and just listen to the birds, pet the Sea Cucumbers at the Poulsbo Marine Science Center, or walk some docks and marvel at the sea anenomes growing just under the water.

If you want ideas, curriculum and other information about this wonderful week (which I hope we’ll stretch to fill our whole lives), e-mail nationalwildlifeweek@nwf.org or visit their website at www.nwf.org/national-wildlife-week.aspx.

Watch for my group of 19 today – we’ll be the ones paddling around Poulsbo’s Liberty Bay in brightly colored kayaks with binoculars glued to our eyes.

It should be a great day to get out and play!

What are you going to do to celebrate and honor Wildlife and Water? 

birding

Sowing Seeds on the First Day of Spring

Happy day after the first day of spring!

I love all the signs with my name on them during this time of year – Subaru has an annual “Love Spring Event,” a furniture store in Silverdale has “SPRING FLING” written in fancy letters, but my brother posted my favorite sign on his Facebook page:

Sustainable_Spring_Sign

To celebrate the changing of the seasons, I ate the last bit of my homemade pesto from last summer (it tasted like sunshine!), then I planted seeds.

The pesto recipe will come later, today I want to talk about seed sowing…

Some people skip the seeds and just buy plant starts, but after I saw two long rows of plants pop their heads up from a two dollar bag of seeds, I was hooked.

This year I did some seed swaps, where friends and I shared seeds since so many come in each package. I love trading!

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I learned from my plant guru brother that, while Jiffy peat pots and their plastic containers are nice, they aren’t necessary for growing plants from seed. I keep small containers, including the plastic six packs, from plants I’ve bought in the past and my boyfriend gave me a stack of his small containers. I’ve also read about people using toilet paper tubes and other household items – the container doesn’t matter, it’s what’s inside that counts!

Everything I need for sowing seeds
Everything I need for sowing seeds

I will sow my carrots, lettuce, spinach and peas directly into the garden next week as they don’t mind colder weather, but squash, peppers, zucchini and other seeds that like warmer weather can get a head start by being started indoors. I’m also starting nasturtiums (did you know they’re edible?), parsley, eggplant and cucumbers indoors.

Here’s how I sow my seeds for edibles when I’m not putting them directly into the ground:

1. Pour potting soil into a large tub (I use Organic Gardener’s Gold that I bought from Poulsbo’s Valley Nursery).

2.  I mix in a little compost from my garden, but this isn’t necessary. I like to give my plant babies an extra boost. I used about 10 parts potting soil to 1 part compost this year. You can also build your own soil.

3. Scoop soil into containers until it’s about half an inch from the top.

4. Set the containers in a tray of some kind so you can move bunches of them easily.

5. Water the soil until damp all the way through but not soaking wet.

6. Poke a little hole in the middle of the soil in each container, about 1/2 inch deep.

Holes poked in the top of wet soil
Can you see the holes poked in the top of the wet soil?

7. Put 1-2 seeds in each hole.

8. Cover lightly with 1/4 to 1/2 inch of damp soil.

9. Mark the containers before moving on to the next kind of plant before you forget what is planted where! I’m lucky and have plant-lover parents, so I had some very old plastic tags around, but you can use old twisty ties or popsicle sticks.

10-11. When you’re finished, take the seeds inside and put them in the warmest, sunniest spot and cover with plastic. (When I come across large plastic bags used for packaging I keep them around for things like this).

Sustainable_Spring_Courtright6

Last year I put my plastic wrapped containers in sunny windowsills and within two weeks almost every single container had little green heads poking up. Unfortunately I damaged the wood in one windowsill, so this year I’m trying a new window…with tile flooring in front of it.

🙂

There are about a zillion different techniques for planting seeds, with all kinds of expensive gadgets you can buy, but if you want to keep it simple, inexpensive and (almost) waste-free, try my method and let me know how it goes!

What did you do on your first day of spring? If you sow your own seeds, what techniques do you use?

love sprint

Local Food Restaurant is Returning to Kingston

Besides a good score at Goodwill, not many things excite me as much as finding food grown in my own community. OK, I’m easily excitable, but not everything makes me squeal with joy the way I did when I learned that the Food Shed ladies plan to open a new restaurant near the Kingston ferry.

Food-Shed-Leslie-Pam

Pam Buitenveld and Leslee Pate founded The Food Shed in 2010 with the goal of “promoting conscious consumption by advocating local and sustainable food systems.” They’re also big fans of demonstrating and spreading the concept of “edible democracy.”

How cool is that idea? I definitely want to be a part of this goodness.

Until 2013 they ran a cafe on a farm in Kingston where they also taught classes on traditions such as humane animal processing, fermenting, preserving, and curing.

food shed
Mmm, free range chicken…sorry buddies, but you taste pretty darn good!

In the cafe they served hand made pastries and other food made from locally sourced ingredients, all of which I’ve heard was incredibly delicious. I’ve been so sad that I learned about them only after they had closed!

BUT, if all goes well, I’ll get another chance to partake in their bounty…

They plan to open a new Food Shed restaurant soon in Kingston, but to do so they need some financial support. Anyone who supports the local, organic food movement can pitch in with loans in $50 increments. It’s a cool fundraising campaign as you’ll get paid back in 24-48 months. I don’t have much money, but I had to pitch in for this one! It’s super easy on the Community Sourced Capital website.

I believe in voting with my dollar, and this is the kind of vote I love to cast.

AND, I just learned they’re entering lenders (called square holders) into a drawing for a dinner for the lender and five friends! If you win, can I be your friend?

🙂

The fundraiser ends March 31, so no dilly-dallying if you’d like to jump on board.

I hope you’ll join me at their event on Friday, March 21 to meet the founders, see the new location, learn more about their work, try out some appetizers and signature cocktails and have a good time with others interested in this kind of thing.

Click here to see the event information on their Facebook page.

Time: 6:30-9:30 pm

Location: 26185 Ohio Ave NE, Kingston, Washington 98346.

Please check it out, pitch in if you can, and pass it on. I hope to see you at their restaurant and classes!

Click here to learn more about their fundraiser.

Check out The Food Shed YouTube video

Here is The Food Shed Facebook page

Happy Sustainable Eating!

xo,

Spring

Food-Shed-Community-Sourced-Capital-Pam-Leslee

Which Plastics are Best and Worst?

recycle-logos-1-eartheasyrecycle-logos-1-eartheasy.com_2recycle-logos-1-eartheasy.com_2_2

We all use plastics every day, and we’ve heard how some are bad, some are good, some are recyclable, some aren’t. How do we keep it all straight? There is a lot of information out there, but this this guide from Earth Easy is especially helpful in helping to decide which plastics to avoid.

If you’ve ever wondered what’s in your plastic and what it’s putting in you, I definitely recommend spending a few minutes reading through the information on that link.

Basically, this link says that if you’re going to use plastic, look for these numbers somewhere on the packaging: 2, 4 and 5.

OK: #2, #4, #5

BAD: #1, #3, #6, #7

The potential chemicals that may leach from the bad ones into your body and/or into a landfill make me wonder how its legal to make these products, but since I’m not the president I don’t get to make these decisions.

🙂

I honestly am sad that plastics were ever invented. Yes, I’ve made a living from paddling big hunks of colored plastic called kayaks, and yes, I’ve used my share of Nalgene water bottles while on my countless outdoor adventures.

I would take back all those incredible adventures if I could erase all the environmental disasters plastic has created since it was first created.

Huge plastic garbage patches in the ocean? Check.

garbage patch

Nasty chemicals that may cause cancer and early puberty? Check.

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 baby

Animals dying in all kinds of horrendous ways? Check.

bird plastic
Photo by Seattle’s own Chris Jordan

Wars being fought for oil to make the materials? Check.

I mean, can it get any nastier?

My apologies for the rant, but this is one of the topics that really gets me going, if you haven’t noticed…

However, the cover and screen on my laptop are plastic, the travel water bottle I wrote about last weekend is plastic, my toothbrush-backpack clips-yogurt container-milk container lid are all plastic.

I don’t see myself going 100% plastic free any time soon, no matter how much I wish I could. But all the information out there tells me to keep working towards eliminating plastic from my life.

Don’t just go by what I say, check out these resources, then let me know what you think and what you’re doing to lessen the amount of plastic in your life.

Scientific American: learn how the scientific studies contradict the Food and Drug Administration regarding safe plastics.

EarthEasy.com: see the article I mentioned above regarding which plastics are better than others.

Center for Biological Diversity: learn how ocean animals are affected by plastic (did you know turtles often mistake floating plastic bags for jellyfish, one of their food sources?! Yu-uck).

How Stuff Works: learn how different plastics are made (and so many other things!).

United States Energy Information Administration: learn how much oil goes into plastics each year in the U.S.

Midway: AMAZING movie coming out this summer, made by a Seattleite!

Life Without Plastic

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Travel Trip Tip #1: Water and Coffee

My traveling necessities
My traveling necessities

My friends, family and profession provide me with a nearly endless stream of adventure opportunities, and so I’m often on the go, whether on a snowshoe trip to Hurricane Ridge or teaching kayaking in Malaysia.

I absolutely love to travel, but being sustainably minded on trips is challenging.

This weekend I’m in Joshua Tree, California. While home is shrouded in clouds and awaiting a snow storm, I awoke to sunshine and ravens, rabbits and quail outside my window! A friend bought me a ticket to join her on this trip to Los Angeles, and her friend drove us up to get some sunshine here in the desert. I know, I’m spoiled J

While I’ve had to forego organic and free range, there are three things I do on trips to keep my sustainability sanity:

1. Refill water bottles at airports

I’m vehement about not using one-use plastic water bottles. The number of water bottles in landfills, in the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch and lining beaches around the world is appalling. The petroleum and chemicals that go into those bottles are an environmental hazard both as they’re being made and as they slooowly degrade.

So I carry a reusable water bottle with me absolutely everywhere. On road trips I prefer glass – I like the taste better and I don’t have to worry about the chemicals leaching from the plastic or metal. Since companies don’t state what chemicals are used inside metal water bottles, I stay away from those. If you find for sure that they’re harmless, let me know!

On trips where I’m going to fly, bike, hike or kayak I take a smallish plastic water bottle so I don’t have to worry about the glass breaking or being too heavy.

water

When flying, I take my purse that this little water bottle can fit in. I also often take my rolling suitcase that has a pocket on the side where I can put a larger water bottle.

I drink water all the way to the airport and make sure my bottle is empty before I get to security. After going through security I find a drinking fountain and fill up the bottle again. I often drink that while I’m waiting, then refill one last time before boarding.

This way I don’t have to use the water from the plastic bottles the airlines use and I’m not so dehydrated when I land at my destination.

2. Refill water bottles at gas stations or fast food restaurants

Amidst the candy bars and endless energy drinks, gas stations have a secret little sustainable option.

There is a little tab on almost every soda machine where you can get cold, delicious water…for free!

If the gas station soda fountain doesn’t have a tab, a nearby fast food restaurant certainly will. I have refilled my water bottles thousands of times this way and not once have I had a clerk complain.

If a clerk looks grumpy or suspicious as I walk in, I hold up my water bottle, put on a smile and say, “just filling my water bottle, ok?” They always nod their heads and often will point me in the right direction.

3. Take a reusable coffee cup

A reusable coffee mug is a staple on my travel list. I take a dilapidated one because I’m prone to losing things, though the one I have now has been with me for quite some time.

mug
It may be ugly, but it does it’s job!

Rather than get coffee or tea in paper, plastic or styrofoam cups with plastic lids that get thrown away after one use, I put hot drinks in my own cup…and often get a little discount for doing so.

OK, I’m off to fill my water bottle and coffee cup, then to enjoy the sunshine. I’ll try to bring some home with me!

What do you do to “be green” while traveling? I’ll periodically post travel tips and I always love to learn more.

Happy Travels,

Spring