Here in the Rocky Mountain foothills, spring pulled a sneak attack.  All sorts of growth erupted from the earth, which means I can get back to foraging for wild edible and medicinal plants.

In December, Morgan gifted me with a trio of useful books:  The Forager's Harvest: Edible Wild Plants, Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants, and a homemade native plant observation journal.  Awww... so sweet.  But I've been waiting all winter for our native plants to revive so I could actually use her gifts!

So, without further ado:  Today's spotlight is on mullein!

Spotlight on Mullein

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) - also called Golden Rod, Shepherd's Staff, Cowboy Toilet Paper (awesome) and about a million other names - is from the Snapdragon family and is best known as a medicinal herb that aids coughs.

Lately, it's been kind of hard for me to fall asleep.  Since I need 8 hours of sleep to be a happy, sane human, actually falling asleep is kind of important...

Time to open the herbal medicine cabinet!  I based this tea recipe on a blend by a wonderful herbal apothecary in my area, and used what I had around the house.  It makes a warm, relaxing sleep aid tea you can drink before bedtime.

~ 2 parts lemon balm leaf
~ 2 parts catnip flower/leaf
~ 2 parts skullcap leaf
~ 1 part lavender flowers
~ 1 part passionflower flower/leaf

+ 2 parts oatstraw (I didn't have any, but if you do use it!)

Sexy bad-ass Lauri Newman, my new inspiration
photo by Hannah Combs
Alright folks, I have a confession:  I stretched the truth on my farm hand job application.

I believe my exact words were, "I know how to lift properly - 50 pounds shouldn't be a problem for me."  Well... lifting 50 pounds shouldn't be a problem for me.  But it is.

In reality, I am a lightweight, petite woman with low upper body strength.  As a dancer, my core strength and flexibility is great, but my upper body is... 'delicately' muscled. 

So, in an effort to be a valuable member of the farm crew, I made a plan:  Farm Girl Bootcamp.

Those are some sexy loaves...
I live approximately 5,760 feet above sea level.  Now, baking bread from scratch is tricky enough, but add all sorts of wacky pressure changes from high altitude?  Yep, we're in trouble.

But never fear!  High altitude baking can be done.  I've been using this homemade bread recipe for months now, and it just keeps getting better.

The recipe yields two loaves of whole-wheat bread that rest between sandwich-grade fluffy and moistly dense.  For those of you at sea-level, I'll include some alternate ingredient measurements.  

Alright.  I don't usually do this.  But I stumbled across this recipe, magically happened to have all the ingredients on hand (how often does that happen?!), so I gave this exotic recipe a shot.

Korean-style steamed eggs.  As in, salty custard-smooth eggs with some garnish on top... also known as 'gyeran jjim'... let's see how it goes!

Today, night and day are in perfect balance. 

Here in the Rocky Mountain foothills, the ground is bursting with bright yellow forsythia, spiky poppy leaves, bold dandelions, shy succulents, hardy arugula and kale, downy mullein, and small tender shoots that I do not recognize.  Spring is finally here!

The spring equinox is a time for flowers, for celebration of fertility and renewal: the Earth's and our own.  Eat and paint eggs (Easter traditions stemmed from the pagan Ostara, the spring celebration), decorate with fresh flowers, take a walk outside & welcome the new life. 

One principle of permaculture design is to cultivate a balanced ecosystem - including as an approach to pest control.  As permaculture founder Bill Mollison said, "You haven't got an excess of slugs, you've got a duck deficiency." 
via SpiralSeed's 'Permaculture, a Beginner's Guide'
Now, my windowsill arugula is a far cry from a permaculture design, but I did use natural predators to control the aphid infestation.  I didn't have an excess of aphids, I had a ladybug deficiency! 

For the last few months I've continually relocated 'ladybugs' (actually, West Asian Beetles) from our south-facing windows onto my arugula, and happily watched them get fat on the little green buggers.  Lately, though, a couple of the ladybugs mated and left these eggs on an arugula leaf!

Call me over-analytical, but I'm pretty conflicted over St. Patty's Day.  I can't bring myself to just shoot Irish Carbombs and call it an excuse to party... there's so much more to St. Patrick's Day's history than that.
My St. Patty's Day conflict:
I find it hard to celebrate a day based on systematic oppression of an Earth-based religion.

St. Patrick drove the 'snakes' out from Ireland... no, not real snakes.  Pagans.  Druids.  Earth worshippers.  Well, as you may know, I'm a tree hugging dirt worshipper and I identify with them.
But I'm Irish!  So incredibly Irish!  And I'm proud of the long line of Irish women for whom I'm named.

My fond memories of St. Patrick's day:  corned beef, soda bread, Whiskey, and my Catholic grandmother's pinches if we wore orange (Protestant colors, you know).

Squash is a winter staple around these parts, but I never quite know what to do with it.  Spaghetti squash, on the other hand, never fails to deliver! 

Introducing spaghetti squash as... what else?  Spaghetti!

Vegan, gluten-free, seasonal spaghetti, that is.  I used all local and gifted ingredients for this squash-ilicious spaghetti.

~ spaghetti squash, local and organic
~ garlic, local and organic
~ yellow onion, local and organic
~ green onion, dehydrated, gifted
~ green onion, fresh, gifted*
~ garlic-infused olive oil, gifted
~ RealSalt, sourced near my home state
~ black pepper, from bulk into a reusable shaker

* You can keep green onions growing for a long time in a jar.  Keep them in sunlight and replace the water frequently.  Trim off the tops and they'll grow back!

  1. Make what you need.  If you run out of lip balm, make your next tube.  If you love yogurt, make some more.  You can make most of the things you would buy. 
  2. Learn to want less.  We need food, water, air, shelter, exercise, meaning, and love.  We want comfort, beauty, entertainment, sensuality, and so much more.  Control your desire to consume and learn that you can live on much less.
  3. Choose your projects based on need and interest.  Do you love eating tempeh?  Make some.  Always wanted to learn to garden indoors?  Do it.  A note on pretty DIY projects:  Yes, we all crave beauty.  Craft a home that reflects the beauty of your spirit, of your dreams and imagination.  Don't just start a project because you're bored and the tutorial online looks pretty.
  4. Use what you have.  Upcycle and re-use, don't buy new materials.  Be resourceful.
  5. Source materials that are used, free (gifted, traded, found, dumpstered), local, and recycled.  If you really need something you don't have, do what you can to avoid buying new and imported.
  6. Choose function and frugality over appearance.  Don't buy fancy fleur-de-lis contact paper to decorate your new plastic wall-hung organizers, no matter how well it matches the curtains.  That's just wasteful.
  7. Learn skills as you go.  Don't let inexperience stop you.  Read, plan, read some more, learn from others, and give it a shot!
  8. Ask others for help.  Other people are so smart!  Ask questions, work together, and build community.
  9. Teach others what you know.  Trade your skills.  Network, barter, organize skillshares - the more everyone knows, the better.
  10. Consume less, produce more.  Radical DIY returns the power of production to your hands; it doesn't lead you to consume more.  

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