Governor Brown’s Bay Delta Conservation Plan has its Critics

Water has always been a hot topic in California. Historically, California water districts have drained and damned large amounts of water from across the Sierras to support California’s ever-growing population. Governor Brown has devised a plan to send more water to Central and Southern California from the Delta under the Bay Delta Conservation Plant (BDCP).  The BDCP’s website declares it as a “50-year habitat conservation plan with the goals of restoring the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta ecosystem and securing California water supplies.”  According to the BDCP, Californian’s risk a loss of safe and secure drinking water, damage to the statewide economy, and further degradation of natural resources including extinction of local species if no action is taken. Opponents that include California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) and Restore the Delta state that it’s a costly project with severe ecological and environmental consequences from construction and water removal from the Delta, that will ultimately support big agri-business and not the majority of the California public.

Owen's Lake in the background. It was drained of water to supply Los Angeles in the early 1900s.
Owen’s Lake in the background. It was drained of water to supply Los Angeles in the early 1900s.

The most hotly debated topic of the BDCP is the plant to install underground “twin tunnels” that would pump water to Central and Southern California, as far south as San Diego. Along with the Twin Tunnels, the plan includes to restore and protect 150,000 acres of habitat along the delta.  One of the environmental impacts includes the likely killing of endangered species when the state gets an exemption from the Endangered Species Act (ESA). That exemption would allow for the project to kill Endangered Species for the first 50 years. Other impacts include reducing the water quality of the delta not only through sediment but saltwater intrusion and reintroduction of heavy metals such as lead into the food chain.

Proponents of the BDCP say the plan would help species over time and the United States Fish and Wildlife would not authorize a take permit (defined by the ESA as harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect) for a threatened or endangered species if they thought the project would cause an extinction. Backers of the plan also state that the money being spent will improve waterways and breeding grounds for salmon that are currently damaged and in need of repair. In the long run, whether the Delta’s habitat will improve or not is a concern of many, with both sides of the argument having their reasons.

With environmental factors aside, the BDCP will not be an inexpensive project to implement.  Paul Rogers reported at Mercury News that the project may cost as much as 67 billion dollars to implement. Karia Nemeth with the California Natural Resources Agency writes that the state and federal water contractors will only foot part of the bill for included conservation measures and “public funding would pay for the conservation measures or portions thereof that will produce statewide public benefits”. With the state already in a financial predicament, the costs of this project will add to the state’s deficit. Although, sometimes it’s justified for the state to spend money when there is already a substantial amount of debt for the greater good of the California public (i.e. education, healthcare), opponents say there are more efficient and financially sound ways to secure water and protect Delta habitat than the BDCP.

Other options besides the BDCP include water conservation, reinforcing existing levees, recycling water, storm-water capture, and improved irrigation and farming techniques. Water has always been the key to success in California through the gold mining days to the explosive growth of cities like Los Angeles and California’s booming Central Valley agriculture industry. It’s important to look at what happened historically to the watersheds that those cities have drained and the costs that have occurred both financially and environmentally. Reexamining the use and treatment of our current water supply may be a healthier option for our environment and pockets then building more water infrastructure like the “Twin Tunnels.”

The plan is currently open for public comment, to learn more you can visit the official site for the BDCP, and environmental groups like C-WIN, and Restore the Delta.

 

Oats

Reading about Henry David Thoreau, living a life of simplicity near his lake in “Walden” or John Steinbeck, traveling with his dog across America in his truck ‘Rocinante’ in “Travels with Charley:In Search of America”. And my own pursuits of living a more simple and less complex life have brought me to talk about oats. Yes, oats. Oats can be prepared in many ways, it can be grown by oneself, it’s healthy, provides energy, and is not expensive (even the organic oats). A mason jar of oats can prepare breakfast for weeks. Add a few strawberries, maple syrup, maybe dates or raisins, there are so many possibilities. Don’t have access to hot water? If you blend the oats before a trip, you can just add any nut milk and let it sit for four hours or longer then the oats will have absorbed the water and be ready to eat. That is what I call ‘overnight oats’ (view my recipe below).

tea is a great way to consume the health benefits of oats.
tea is a great way to consume the health benefits of oats.

I’ve had that problem of overdosing on oats. Yeah, there comes a point where the last thing you want to eat is a bowl of oats for breakfast. But, by mixing it up with different additions or doing every other day a bowl of oats, you can reduce the possibility of the dreadful OD on oats.

Not only, are oats great for eating but they are amazing taken as an herbal medicine. They are what you consider a nervine, the properties of oats (Avena sativa) work on the central nervous system to calm and relax the system. I take these when I feel I have frayed ends or under a stressful circumstance. Oats tincture and some deep breathing go a long way! Check out my ‘how to make a make a basic tincture’ post here.

Also, making a tea works just as well if not better than a tincture. Plus, the process of making tea is a natural calming process in itself. It’s important to know that buying oats for medicine is slightly different than buying for food. You’ll want oats that is picked during it’s milky stage which hasn’t quite matured to a viable seed. The milky stage is when you pierce the oat and a milky substance comes out. If you go to a local herb shop, all their herb will be (or should be) harvested at that milky stage. If you’re buying oats for food, well, you can go to local Whole Food’s or Co-op bulk bins.Either go to your local store to buy teas that contain oats or buy oats bulk through your local herbal medicine shop. If you don’t have a local herb store, Mountain Rose Herbs is a great place to buy online.

Recipe Time!
Here is a recipe on a pudding I like to make which involves oats, chia seeds, berries, and banana. It’s a form of overnight oats but thicker.

1 cup of oats
2 cups of nut milk or dairy
a handful of strawberries
1/2 a banana
2-3 dates
a tablespoon of chia seeds
optional-hemp seeds

overnight oat pudding

Blend the oats in the blender. Then add milk, strawberries, banana,dates and chia seeds. Blend those together. Pour into glass jar, sprinkle with hemp seeds and more chia seeds. Let sit for at least four hours.

vermicomposting (composting with worms) diy

Do you juice a lot? Drink coffee? Use a lot of vegetables and fruits? Where does your “waste” go? If you’re in some states, you can throw that stuff in your green (yard waste) bin and save it from going to the landfill. Vermicomposting is a way to use that “waste” which call a resource, at home. This is especially useful in areas with no yard waste bins. I see a lot online about people juicing and lining their pulp trays with plastic bags then throwing it out.

Red wriggler worms (Eisenia fetida) work great at breaking down fruits, vegetables, juice remnants, coffee grounds, and more. These worms are extremely efficient and relatively fast at breaking down these fruit cores and lettuce ends to a very rich nutrient compost for your garden. You can sometimes find  these red wriggler worms at bait shops, online, and soon through me! You can farm these worms at home with a rubbermaid container, a few pieces old wood constructed into a box, a five gallon container, a purchased worm farm kit, etc.. I find the more wide and shallow the structure, the better the environment for the worms. These worms generally live in the top 12″ of the soil while night crawlers can go much deeper into the ground. These bins for the worms must be aerated. At the very least, you want drainage holes on the bottom and a loose fitting lid for the top. Worms need oxygen too!

Here is a list of what you’ll need:

  • Newspaper
  • Sticks
  • A box for your worms
  • Worms!
  • Some soil
  • And some leftover food waste (no meat or oils)

Step 1-
Make sure your box is well ventilated. In my case, I drilled hole on the bottom and sides of the rubbermaid container with a 5/16″ drill bit.

diy worm compost vermicompost bin tub

Step 2-
Layer sticks in a crossing pattern. This will help the bin drain.

aeration worm bin vermicompost sticks twigs

Step 3-
Tear newspaper length wise and lay that over the sticks.

newspaper bedding worm bin compost vermicompost

Step 4-
Put an inch of soil in the box over the newspaper.

Step 5-
Lay worms on top of the soil.

Step 6-
Chop of the food waste into small pieces and lay on top. Tip: Don’t overload the bin with food scraps at first. They take a while to get going and giving them too much food may kill them and make your bin stinky! They generally take a month to get used to their new home.

Step 7-
Shred more newspaper length wise and lay on top.

Step 8-
Moisten the newspaper and attach the lid. You do not want an airtight lid.

Tips:

  • The worms don’t want to be soaking wet but they despise being dry. Think of a wrung out sponge!
  • You can replace the newspaper with leaves too. Make sure not to use conifer (redwood, pine, etc.) leaves because worms do not digest those. Those leaves and needles require fungi to break them down.
  • Do you juice a lot? That pulp is excellent worm food, you’ve done have the work for them by grinding it up like that.

I will be selling worms in about two months, ready for spring time!

how to sprout seeds for eating (simple and easy)

Sprouts, so healthy, so good. That sprout needs a lot of energy to start growing, so, mother nature packed seeds full of nutrients. When you sprout a seed, you increase the bioavailability of those nutrients. That’s where you come in. You get to chow down on these delicious little buggers. They are tasty on their own, but they also make a great addition to many meals. Here’s a quick, simple, easy to follow guide to sprouting your own seeds. Today, I will be using alfalfa seeds as an example but this method can be applied to all seeds that are edible such as broccoli, sunflower, mung, and adsuki beans.

alfalfa sprouts diy

Step 1…Cut a hole in the box! Just kidding, I regress.

You can get started with any glass jar but I choose to use canning jars. The wide mouth version of canning jars are able to fit a variety of sprouting lids. The lids can be purchased online, or at local hardware stores and some groovy garden centers such as Harmony Farm Supply. If you don’t want to use a lid, start with a rubber band and some mesh or cheesecloth.

Step 2….Obtain the seeds, preferably organic (you don’t know what yucky chemicals the conventional ones have been sprayed with). Some conventionally grown seeds are treated with fungicides, definitely avoid those! Put a couple tablespoons at the bottom of the jar.

Step 3…Fill with water and let sit overnight.

DSC_0016

Step 4… Empty jar of water then rinse seeds and leave jar upside down at angle to drain.

Step..5 Repeat step 4 every morning and night until the seeds have sprouted and are a good size. Overtime, you’ll get better at determining when the best time is to stop rinsing and eat.

Step 6 (optional)… Put sprouts in a bowl of water and scrape the hulls of the seeds off the top of the water. This is easy to do with bigger seeds like mung beans.

Step 7 (not optional)… Eat those sprouts and store the leftovers in an airtight jar in the fridge. The canning jars are great because you can throw a canning lid on and be done with it.

DSC_0009

P.S. I will soon be starting a youtube channel and will be posting a video of this process! Thanks for reading.

what the heck is kombucha? (an overly simplified version on how to make it)

Kombucha is a slightly alcoholic (>1%) fermented probiotic drink that is said to increase good gut bacteria and flora. Many sites online, go more in-depth about the benefits of kombucha. Some people say that kombucha is not what it’s worked up to be.  At the very least, it’s not harmful to your body and it taste damn good.

How to make it:

First, make some tea
Second, add a few tablespoons of sugar
Third, pour raw kombucha (preferably unflavored) into the sweetened tea.
I use a mason jar to hold it all.
Then, put a coffee filter on the top and screw on the metal ring.
Store in a warm dark place for a couple weeks.
The scoby (thin film-like blob) will start to form over the couple weeks.
When about a 1/4″ thick, transfer 3/4 of the liquid into an airtight jar.
Add your favorite fruit juice to the transferred liquid if desired.
If adding fruit juice, allow it to sit in a dark place with a coffee filter over the lid for a week. If not adding juice, put in refrigerator and drink when chilled.
Transfer the rest of the liquid and the scoby into a new batch of sweetened tea.
Repeat.

Image

making an infused oil

infused oils small shot

My last post was about making a basic tincture. This post will address how to make an infused oil. When I make an infused oil, I use the folk method. I don’t measure anything. All I do is dry the plant material and cover with whatever oil I choose. You can weigh your herbs to be more precise about how much herb is in solution with the oil. When weighing the herb, I usually do a 1:3 ratio. 1 part plant material, 3 parts oil.

Different oils are better for products that will be applied to the face like almond and sunflower oil (lighter oils). Use these lighter oils especially when dealing with eczema or acne.  If applying to your lips or on other body parts, organic extra virgin olive oil works great and is not very expensive. You can use the oil directly or you can add beeswax to make a salve. The oil can also be used to make a cream which I will cover in a later post.

Here’s some of the plants I’ve used in oils: Calendula flowers, plantain leaf, comfrey root/leaves, cayenne, arnica, horse-chestnut, st. johns wort.

Basic steps to making an infused oil:

  1. Dry plant material (because if you don’t, the water will most likely spoil the oil)

  2. Put plant material in an airtight jar and cover with the oil of your choice.

  3. Either use a double broiler and heat the oil for a few hours. For most plants, I choose to keep in a warm place, out of direct sunlight. Sometimes when using the double broiler, you can cook the herbs causing a not so pleasant smell and the medicinal properties are diminished. You can also put the jar out in the sun but make sure to cover with a brown paper bag.

  4. After two weeks, strain the oil. I use a metal strainer instead of muslin because less oil is lost.  I do end up with some plant debris but that doesn’t bother me. The finer the strainer, the less plant material you’ll have in the oil.

basic tincture using holy basil

Holy Basil aka Tulsi (Ocimium sanctum) is an easy to grow summer annual here in Northern California. Start by seeding the a few plants in the spring. Then by mid summer there will be plenty to harvest. I love the tea made from Tulsi but sometimes I find it nice to have it in a ‘ready to use’ form where tea isn’t an option. That’s where tinctures come into the picture.holybasilgarden

When making a fresh plant tincture, you want to use as close to 100% alcohol as possible to prevent the final product from spoiling. Fresh plant contains a lot of moisture and if the their isn’t enough alcohol (roughly 25%) in the final product, the medicine will not last. If you don’t have access to that high strength of alcohol, dry the plant and use any vodka (40% alcohol) to cover the herbs. How much alcohol do you add? With fresh plant, it’s what herbalist call a 1:2 (1 part plant material, 2 parts alcohol). With dry plant material, I would recommend a 1:4 or 1:5. The alcohol and plant material should be packed into an airtight jar and put in a dark place for two weeks. Remember to shake the jar once a day. At the end of the two weeks, strain through muslin and store in either a jar or dropper bottles.

FYI: Methow Valley Herbs has a great page about the properties, history, and use of this plant. You can view their website here.

Preparing medicinal mushroom extracts (a basic guide)

Turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) growing on a dead log.
Turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) growing on a dead log.

Mushrooms are not only a delicious food but have also been used for centuries for medicine. Reishi (Ganoderma l.), Turkey Tail (Trametes v.), and Cordcyceps are some of the most commonly used mushrooms for medicinal purposes. Most of the mushrooms used have anti-cancer, anti-tumor, and immune boosting properties. There is still a lot of research that needs to be done about the use of mushrooms for medicine. Although, there is some solid research being done, a lot of the information until now has been anecdotal.

One of the main molecules to have medicinal properties are polysaccharides. These polysaccharides must be extracted through hot water. Another molecule group that is beneficial are triterpenes and these must be extracted through alcohol. This means that polysaccharides are water-soluble (able to be extracted by water) and the triterpenes are alcohol-soluble (able to be extracted by alcohol).

When preparing the extract, please make sure to work in a clean environment and use clean supplies. The extract at the end of the procedure should not contain less than 20% alcohol and no more than 40%.

Ingredients:

Any medicinal mushroom

Water

Alcohol

Muslin

Airtight Jar

For the hot water extraction:

Break apart mushrooms if possible.

Cover mushrooms with water.

Bring water to a light simmer.

Simmer for 2-3 hours. (You can also use a crock pot set on low overnight).

Strain mushrooms, set water aside and transfer the mushrooms into a separate bowl.

For alcohol extraction:

Take strained mushrooms and add them to at least 40% alcohol.

For every 1 part of mushrooms, add 4-5 parts alcohol.

Keep this concoction in an airtight container in a dark cool place for at least two weeks.

Remember to shake the solution everyday.

After two weeks, strain the mixture through muslin or cheesecloth.

Combine this liquid with your hot water concoction.

If using 40% alcohol, add equal amounts of the water extraction and alcohol (1 part water to 1 part alcohol).

This will make the final tincture contain 20% alcohol.

Dosage

Three dropper fulls (2-3x a day)

If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment or email me.

Related links:

Research paper on medicinal mushrooms

NAMA (North American Mycological Association) article on medicinal mushrooms