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Emergency Preparedness 2014

March 30th, 2014

In light of the recent earthquakes southern California has experienced over the past few weeks, it’s a good time to review your own emergency preparedness. Are you ready in the event of a natural disaster?

This following list is from the REI website:

Emergency Preparedness


Now is a great time to start—or continue—to plan, collect and organize what you need to survive in case of an emergency.Bonus: Many outdoor gear items you may already own can be quite useful in such instances.

This article discusses the 4 basic concepts of emergency preparedness:

  1. Storage and retrieval of supplies
  2. Survival food and gear
  3. Copies of important documents
  4. Maintenance of your supplies

Note: REI stores occasionally offer free emergency preparedness seminars(conducted with a fun and popular zombie-preparedness theme as Halloween approaches). Check the classes at your local REI store for upcoming dates.

Shop REI’s selection of survival kits.

Storage and Retrieval of Supplies

Natural or human-made disasters can occur with little to no warning. So it’s important to keep everything you need in one place, protected from the elements and easily accessed. Retrieving your supplies should be as easy as grabbing a bin, backpack or other container—a 1-step process that’s crucial when every second counts.

Storage tips:

  • Use plastic bins or similar containers, or use a backpack or duffel bag wrapped in a clean garbage bag.
  • Store the container in your basement, outside in a storage shed, in your garage or even buried in your backyard.
  • Make sure everyone in your household knows where and how to retrieve it.
Hand-crank radio

Survival Food and Gear

FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, offers a detailed website full of useful information: www.ready.gov.

Their website recommends that you should include the following items in a basic emergency kit:

  • Water, 1 gallon of water per person per day for at least 3 days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a 3-day supply of nonperishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and a NOAA weather radio with tone alert and extra batteries
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First-aid kit (see below for details)
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape toshelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cellphone with charger, inverter or solar charger

Next, consider adding the following:

  • Prescription medications and glasses
  • Infant formula and diapers
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet
  • Cash or traveler’s checks and change
  • Emergency reference material such as a first-aid book or free information from the (see the FEMA website’s publications page)
  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person; add more bedding for cold-weather climates
  • Complete change of clothing including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes; more clothing if you live in a cold-weather climate
  • Household chlorine bleach and medicine dropper*
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
  • Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
  • Paper and pencil
  • Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children

* When diluted—9 parts water to 1 part bleach—bleach can be used as a disinfectant. Or in an emergency, you can use it to treat water by using 16 drops of regular household liquid bleach per gallon of water. Do not use bleaches that are scented, color safe or have added cleaners.

First-aid kit

A first-aid kit is a great resource to have handy at home, in the car and at work. The following first-aid items should be stored in an elements-proof container, or in a small backpack/pouch if stored under your desk or in a car.

  • Two pairs of latex or other sterile gloves if you are allergic to latex
  • Sterile dressings to stop bleeding
  • Cleansing agent/soap and antibiotic towelettes
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Burn ointment
  • Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes
  • Eye wash solution to flush the eyes or as general decontaminant
  • Thermometer
  • Prescription medications you take every day such as insulin, heart medicine and asthma inhalers; periodically rotate medicines to account for expiration dates
  • Prescribed medical supplies such as glucose and blood pressure monitoring equipment and supplies

Nonprescription drugs:

  • Aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever
  • Anti-diarrhea medication
  • Antacid
  • Laxative

Other first-aid supplies:

  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricant

Copies of Important Documents

Stash your important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records in a waterproof, portable container. You can use the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK) (PDF - 977Kb) developed by Operation HOPE, FEMA and Citizen Corps to help you organize your information.

Tip: A sealable plastic bag tucked into a wide-mouth water bottle works great. Your important documents are protected and—voila!—you’ve secured an extra water vessel as well.

Maintaining Your Supplies

Every 6 months, check your food and emergency supplies. Refresh your water supply, consume and/or replace foods that will expire within the next 6 months, dispose of expired or damaged food, and add any items that may be needed. An addition to the household or changing medical needs may require different or additional supplies. Refer to the following list as you survey your stash:

  • Keep canned food in a cool, dry place.
  • Store boxed food in tightly closed plastic or metal containers to protect from pests and to extend the shelf life.
  • Throw out any canned good that becomes swollen, dented or corroded.
  • Use foods before they go bad and replace them with fresh supplies.
  • Place new items at the back of the storage area and older ones in the front.
  • Change stored food and water supplies every 6 months; be sure to write the date you store it on all containers.
  • Rethink your needs every year and update your kit as your family’s needs change.



January in Guatemala

January 31st, 2014


I recently spent a lovely week in Guatemala, and Antigua in particular. It’s a charming town and the former capital of colonial Central America. It’s surrounded by forested hills and the tropical jungle is less than an hour away. Most homes have terracotta-tiled roofs, and their thick adobe walls are painted deep ochre, russet or azure. I stayed at the stunning Quinta Maconda, a colonial property that dates back to 1547 and currently a private residence and boutique hotel.











A favorite room, affectionately referred to as the “pagan chapel,” were several memorable meals were enjoyed:




Another glimpse: the wood storage area




Wandering through the giant Farmer’s Market, which was very colorful and bountiful with baskets overflowing with fruits, vegetables, beans, corn, and beautiful spices. I was looking for copal,  a tree resin used as incense that is similar to frankincense. In comes in various shapes and sizes, and contemporary Maya people light it in an incense burner in the morning to start the day. I love the way it smells:




Since I’m always on the lookout for ideas about how to live more sustainably as well as practical alternatives to plastics, I noticed these rattan woven trash bins:



And CFL’s in all the church lamps!


Driving into the jungle for some exploring, many fences  along the roads were made from planting small trees close together, an attractive and resourceful alternative to chain link:


One morning, I saw tiny stingless bees for the first time. They make the most delicious honey:





One of my favorite places in Antigua was La Tienda de Dona Gavi, a very cool shop where you can buy homemade ice creams, natural soaps, herbs and spices:




Other places worth checking out:

Coleccion 21

Casa de los Gigantes

La Casa de las Escudillas


Nim P’ot

Dona Maria Gordillo

Casa de Artes


To find out more about Quinta Maconda

See my Pinterest board about Guatemala

Happy First Year Little Free Library!

January 30th, 2014

One year ago this month, I installed a Little Free Library outside my house. I had no idea how it was going to work out. Was anyone going to use it? Could I manage looking after it? How was my neighborhood going to react to it?

From day one, it’s been a hit. My neighbors discovered it as they walked their dogs, strolled with their children or power-walked in the mornings. Coming home, I’ve often seen clusters of people looking into the library, making me think of a Normal Rockwell moment. It’s little door fell off after six months from over-use, appearing in the arms of a neighbor who brought it to my gate for mending.

I’ve stocked the library with books and art auction catalogs from my own library, and books donated by friends or dropped off by neighbors. The Little Free Library works as a neighborhood lending library, where the community is welcome day or night, to peruse the selection of books, borrow one or more and return them once they have been read or contribute some of their own.  It works on an honor system, where you take a book and return a book.

Sometimes we take for granted the community we live in, and it is true that no one person can solve all the world’s problems, but what is possible is to make that little corner of the world where you live just a little better.

If you would like to install a Little Free Library in your neighborhood:


Holiday Decorations 2013

November 30th, 2013


I love the holiday season and especially beautiful decorations. These are some of the favorites I came across this past year. Naturally, the ones that I really love are made using natural or recycled materials.

painted tangerines197

Use acrylic paints, to first paint a base coat. Let it dry and then paint another color over it. Use a sharpie pen to draw the finer designs.


xmas cards210

I found this in an old Martha Stewart magazine. Nice idea for displaying cards.


xmas branch208

This may be one of my favorite kinds of decorations. All you need is a found branch, some red and white ribbons and any decorations you love. You also need to be able to hang the branch up as well!


paper trees192

Recycle, Reuse, Repurpose bits of white paper into small paper trees. Add a metal stick into a base made from air drying clay, for example. Carefully push the squared bits of paper onto the metal, starting with larger pieces and finishing with the smallest ones. Top it off with a little star!

white paper tree195

This is so charming but I don’t think I’m up to making one.


russian gifts196

Stunning wrapping paper. Inspired by these, I’m going paint my own version, using plain wrapping paper (recycled kraft paper) and acrylic paints.













Wooden cave for reindeer watchers, at the Wild Reindeer Center, Norway. This is an organic hut built in the heartland of Europe’s last surviving wild caribou. This pavilion is open to the public every day of the year and is used to observe reindeer.

joyeux noel198


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

See you in 2014!



12 ways I save water at home

September 30th, 2013

Water is essential to our quality of life. We can’t thrive without it. In California, we are in water crisis. For the first time in the state’s history, the water supply and delivery system may not be able to meet our growing needs.

There are several ways I have learned to reduce the amount of water my household uses by saving good water that is usually wasted, which in turn, also saves money by reducing my water bill. I’ve gone beyond turning the tap off when brushing my teeth, the 3 minute shower and turning the dishwasher on when it’s full.

Following are the other 9 ways I save water in my home:

In the back of the toilets, I’ve hung Toilet Tank Banks, which saves 0.8 gallons of water with every flush:


Available from Amazon.

In the shower, I keep a Rubber Bucket, to collect the freezing cold water because I don’t want to get in until it warms up! After my shower, I empty the bucket in my garden on my non-edible plants, such the hedge:



Available from Amazon

The bathtub is used primarily for soaking and not for bubble baths, so I can easily use a Sump Pump to pump the water out through the window and into another part of the garden that doesn’t include edibles. Occasionally, I’ll fill up the water barrel outside my bathroom window and use that water when the garden needs it:



Available from Amazon


Water Barrel: http://astore.amazon.com/priscillawool-20/detail/B003BE2BV8

In the kitchen, I keep a Recycled Plastic Kettle near my sink, which I pour unfinished glasses of water into. When the Kettle is full, I pour that water into my orchids or other non-edible plants:


Available from: http://www.amazon.com/African-Plastic-Kettle-Yellow-Grey/dp/B00ENT8M7M/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1380562560&sr=8-1&keywords=priscilla+woolworth+plastic+kettle

In my kitchen sink, I use my largest stainless steel bowl when rinsing fruits or vegetables under running water. I pour that water into one of my raised vegetable beds:


Available from: http://astore.amazon.com/priscillawool-20/detail/B0007XYSVW

In my kitchen, I also use a Salad Spinner to wash my greens such as lettuce, kale, spinach, dandelion, parsley, herbs, etc. That water gets added to the raised vegetable beds or any other plants that need water in the garden:


Available from: http://astore.amazon.com/priscillawool-20?node=1&page=8

In my garden, I have another Water Barrel to collect water coming down from one of my gutters when it rains. That water is used to irrigate the non-edible garden beds:


Available from: http://astore.amazon.com/priscillawool-20/detail/B004ZMTSS4

In my garden, I’ve been switching to drip irrigation, which saves water from evaporation, which occurs when using a hose or conventional sprinklers:


I also have a water purification system by Lifesource, which takes care of the needs of my whole house, filtering out chlorine and retaining natural and beneficial minerals such as calcium and magnesium. To find out more, contact dale@lifesourcewater.com.


Dr.Ian Player

September 29th, 2013


Wilderness and the Human Soul

Ian Player

Founder, World Wilderness Congress

(This presentation by Dr Ian Player, founder of the World Wilderness Congress and
The WILD Foundation, was presented in October, 2005, in Anchorage, Alaska, to the
assembled international delegates and media at the 8th World Wilderness Congress.
Herewith re-printed with permission of Dr Player and The WILD Foundation,
www.wild.org, from Wilderness Wildlands and People - The 8th World Wilderness
Congress, Fulcrum Publishing, in press, 2007)

A recent flight from South Africa took me over the Drakensberg Mountains,
Ukuhlamba of the Zulu people. I looked down and pondered; saw the red grass
glowing luminously in the afternoon sun. These mountains were the last refuge of the
San or Bushmen people who painted their exquisite art on cave walls and recorded the
history of our country, the coming of the Nguni people, the Boers on their horses and
English soldiers and the vast array of wild animals. By 1870 there were no San
people left they were shot and killed without mercy and with then went vast tomes of
wisdom and knowledge.
A man named Richard Nelson said: “The abandonment of ethically and spiritually
based relationship with nature by our western ancestors was one of the greatest and
perilous transformations of the western mind” Today nearly all of modern man’s ills
spring from this abandonment and this is way wilderness has become so important
because it reconnects us to that ancient world .
We South Africans can be proud that our country was the first in Africa to proclaim a
game reserve and the first wilderness area. Imfolozi Game Reserve in KwaZulu-
Natal has that double distinction.
The World Wilderness Congress has come a long way on torturous paths and having
to overcome what at times seemed insuperable odds. It has now become a critically
important forum which provides a platform for many divergent views. It is important
I believe that we look at the history of The World Wilderness Congress. Vance
Martin, President of The WILD Foundation, tells me it has now become the longest
running, public, international environmental forum. This Congress was born in South
Africa in 1976 in the small wilderness area of Imfolozi Game Reserve in KwaZulu. It 
was a suggestion of my great friend and mentor Magqubu Ntombela who had lead
many treks into the wilderness with me. He said that we needed a big Indaba to bring
together everyone who had trekked so that we could share experiences. He was a man
who could neither read nor write, but he was the wisest, most gracious and bravest
man I have ever known. The African people have a word for it: ubuntu.
It is fitting too that The World Wilderness Congress began in Africa. It is the cradle
of mankind. All of us here have our origin from that mighty continent, as DNA has
proved. C G Jung said, “We do not come into the world tabula rasa.” Three million
years of Africa is imprinted on the human psyche. I know from taking many
hundreds of people in small groups from all over the world on foot treks into the
wilderness of Imfolozi and Lake St Lucia how they are gripped by the spirit of Africa
and at night as they sleep on the red earth, dream their dreams, and hear the animals
and birds. There is a connection that is evoked from the depths of the collective
unconscious: the rasping cough of the leopard, the howl of hyena and the scream of
the elephant. It is an experience that has awakened thousands of people to the value
of the African wilderness, and the understanding that this was once their home, and
this inspires them to protect it. As Shakespeare says in Othello, “It is the cause, it is
the cause my soul.” And so it has become for many of us, world wide.
In 1977 South Africa was a Pariah nation, and organising that first Congress in
Johannesburg in October of that year was a nightmare, but the congress was an
undeniable success where for the first time a black field ranger—Magqubu
Ntombela—took his rightful place amongst leading international scientists,
politicians, writers and artists Bushmen - Kalahari.
It established the importance of wilderness in breaking down racial barriers in South
Africa, and the wilderness trails in Imfolozi Game Reserve were a leading example.
Magqubu used to tell the mixed groups as we sat around the fire at night, “If we are
charged by rhino or lion and blood flows, it will be the same colour blood for
everyone, even though our skins may be a different colour.”
The Congresses that followed in Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and
Norway were also beset with political problems because the Congress had originated
in South Africa, and because I am a South African. I will always be grateful to those
American and international conservationists who stood by us, and ensured that the
Congresses became a forum for everything associated with wilderness. Vance Martin
knows this, because he was at the coal face from 1983.
Today, thanks to Nelson Mandela and the peaceful elections on 1994, South Africa is
the brightest light on the continent of Africa and stands poised to be a wilderness and
conservation example for all of emerging Africa. But we in the world wilderness
movement are under no illusions about the difficulties that lie ahead. The struggle for
political freedom is over in South Africa, but not in all the African states. The new
struggle is an environmental one for all our people to make wise use of the natural
In 2001 the World Wilderness Congress returned to South Africa, to a transformed
country, and thanks to Adrian Gardiner, Andrew Muir and the Eastern Cape
government, it was a phenomenal success. South Africa has proved what can be
The same is not true for other parts of Africa. I do not want to enlarge on a litany of
woes facing conservation in Africa, but the problems range from the desperate
situation of the last remaining Northern White Rhino in the Democratic Republic of
the Congo to some Parks where the game scouts do not have boots.

At the recent G8 Summit in Britain there was a focus on Africa. One can only hope
that the environment will receive proper attention because in previous aid to Africa it
did not. The G8 now has a chance to rectify it.
Whereas it is correct that the birth of the World Wilderness Congress was in Africa,
the honour for the establishment of National Parks and wilderness areas belongs to the
United States of America. It was Americans who articulated the wilderness concept
and set aside wilderness areas against what at times seemed overwhelming odds. But
the spirit of one of the greatest American Presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, was always
with them. Not for nothing did he say, “The greatest sport the world affords is
aggressive fighting for the right”. Yet we must remember that Frederick Courtney
Selous, the great Nimrod, was his guide in Uganda, and the African wilderness made
a deep impression on Theodore Roosevelt, and it affected his thinking.
In my library is a book with the prosaic title of S.1176 Hearings before the Committee
on Interior and Insular Affairs of the United States Senate. The pages are worn thin
and underlined everywhere. The cover is tattered from constant use. It has been in
my possession since 1958. A most treasured book sent to me by Howard Zahniser,
the then Secretary of the Wilderness Society. In it I have written, “This has been the
bible of the wilderness movement in South Africa.” The Americans showed us the
way. It is a phenomenal story of the past, the present and the future.
One of the witnesses quoted in S.1176 was Sigurd Olsen. He said:
“In days to come, the wilderness concept must be clear and shining enough to
capture imaginations. It must take its place as a cultural force with all
expressions of man’s deepest yearnings and his noblest achievements in the
realm of the mind. It must be powerful enough to withstand everywhere in the
world, the coming and enormous pressures of industry and population.”
Talk about intimations of the future: this is it.
In S.1176 is the gripping story of the blood and guts fight for the conservation soul of
America. You realize too, that what it is expressing is the depth of the impact that the
Native Americans made on the psyche of Anglo-America. Constantly there are
echoes, and one senses their spirit in the extraordinarily eloquent pleas from some of
the most eminent Americans of their day.
I first came to America in 1964 as a guest of Metro Goldwyn Meyer, and through Ira
Gabrielson. I met Stuart Udall, Secretary of the Interior, and a man proud of his
Native American blood; he became a speaker at the first World Wilderness Congress.
Ten minutes in his company gave me a deep and emotionally moving insight into the
soul of American conservation. He reiterated that America had to be an example to
the world.
The men and women who testified for wilderness in S.1176 were heroic people, many
times going against the grain and knowing that they were up against it. They warned
against roads, lodges, hotels, restaurants in the National Parks. They knew they were
setting an example for the world and it had to be the right one. They were unafraid to
talk, determined that the Wilderness Leadership School I initiated in 1957 would
emphasize that the wilderness experience was a spiritual journey. Another witness,
Edwin Way Teale said that wilderness areas are “storehouses of wildness, and
wildness will become an ever-increasing spiritual need in the crowded tomorrow”.
We are now in the crowded tomorrow, with a vengeance. Try a Los Angeles Freeway
on what they call a quiet day.
I love America. It has always been good and inspirational for me. But I have to tell
you that an article in the New York Times of August the 29th, 2005 has caused me
much stress. It is entitled Destroying the National Parks. It refers to a document that
calls for the rewriting of National Park rules by one of the Assistant Secretaries,
which has been met with profound dismay in professional National Park circles. This
must be stopped.
Many millions of people regard national parks, forestry and wilderness areas as
sacrosanct, what difference is government to nature and human desires fit
accordingly. The Unites States started the National Park movement, and became a
leader in ethics, policy and action. It must remain so.
The wilderness work America articulated and the rest of the world has followed is
practical, political, philosophical, psychological and scientific, but at the deepest
levels there are still too few people who understand it is the work of the soul. The
lines of the psalm say it best: “Be still and know that I am God.” And it is in the
wilderness that the stillness can be found.
We have to face the fact that rampant materialism is creating havoc in our world and
wilderness areas are under threat everywhere. This has not been helped by Judaeo-
Christianity; Edward Whitmont puts it succinctly: “For several centuries traditional
theology has tended to create an absolute gulf between man and nature.” Yet the
world seems to continue as though there were no tomorrow. We have forgotten those
wonderful images in the gospels that describe John the Baptist coming out of the
wilderness “clothed with camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate
locusts and wild honey”.
For too long there has been a cataclysmic clash between western and indigenous
cultures, with the latter being the bigger loser. Sense of place and spirit of place have
been destroyed.
There is terrible potential destruction to birds, landscapes and silence in the Highlands
of Scotland and other wild country in Britain with the proposed wind farms. The
Wilderness Foundation United Kingdom is vigorously fighting this danger. As C.G.
Jung said, “We have lost a world that once breathed with our breath and pulsed with
our blood. Did the wind use to cry and the hills shout forth praise?” A cry of
helplessness from indigenous people as a once known world is swept away.
Marie – Louise von Franz, a great depth psychologist, said:

“Western civilisation is in danger of building a wall of rationality in its
society, which feeling cannot penetrate. Everything has to be rational and
emotion is frowned upon.”
This makes the poets critically important to our cause. Wilfred Owen, a First World
War poet, said that all a poet can do is to warn, and that is why true poets must be
truthful. Poets warn us and they inspire us. Think of W. H. Auden’s words as a
reflection of ecological doomsday:
“The stars are not wanted now, put out every one.
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun. Pour away the ocean and
sweep up the wood. For nothing now can ever come to any good”.
Compare this to the inspiration of Herman Hesse:
“Sometimes, when a bird cries out,
Or when the wind sweeps through a tree
Or a dog howls in a far off farm
I hold still and listen a long time.
My soul turns and goes back to the place
Where, a thousand forgotten years ago,
The bird and the blowing wind
Were like me, and were my brothers”.
Fraser Darling the great Scottish biologist, said:
“To deprive the world of physical wilderness, would be to inflict a grievous
wound on our own kind”.
My great friend the late John Aspinall, the most famous gambler in Britain who
became a conservationist and who, even when devastated by cancer of the jaw,
continued to campaign and poured millions into the saving of the gorilla and other
conservation causes, said:

“I believe that wilderness is the earth’s greatest treasure. Wilderness is the
bank on which all cheques are drawn. I believe our debt to nature is total. I
believe that unless we recognise this debt and re-negotiate it—we write our
own epitaph. I believe that there is an outside chance to save the earth—and
most of its tenants. This outside chance must be grasped with gamblers’
hands. I believe that terrible risks must be taken and terrible passions roused
before these ends can be accomplished.”
We are all engaged in a momentous struggle and we owe it to the early pioneers to
honour their vision and their achievements.
This is our task in the 21st century. We need something that will stir our psychic
depths and touch the images of the soul. It has to surpass creeds and instantly be
recognised. We must learn a new language to convey the feelings of beauty, hope,
inspiration and sacredness for humanity and all other life. We need to remember the
first principle of ecology: that “everything is connected to everything else.” 
And the wilderness experience is the spiritual spark that ignites the understanding.

-Dr.Ian Player




September 23rd, 2013

Surprisingly, there are many fruits, vegetables and herbs you can grow in containers. I’ve had success with tomatoes, blueberries, strawberries, figs, oranges, lemons. tangerines, lettuces, basil, kale, arugula and aloe vera. The make wonderful gifts: I’ve given friends of mine small fig trees and aloe plants I have grown from either a cutting or a seedling I have found in my garden.

Since produce loses at least 40% of its nutrients when being transported, we should try and grown as much as we can ourselves.

All these 66 fruits, vegetables and herbs need is:

*Plenty of sun

*Plenty of room to stretch and grow their roots in their pot

*Occasional fertilizing ( sometimes monthly)

*Regular watering since plants in pots dry out faster than those planted in the ground.


Tree fruits

1. Apples

2. Kumquats

3. Avocados

4. Blackberries

5. Blueberries

6. Pomegranate

7. Cherries

8. Figs

9. Pears



Citrus fruits

10. Dwarf oranges

11. Grapefruit

12. Tangerines

13. Meyer lemons

14. Limes


Tropical fruits

Tropical fruits can also be surprisingly easy to grow indoors, even in non-tropical climates. Such as…

15. Bananas

16. Pineapple

17. Papaya

18. Guavas


The Good Stuff

19. Hops

20. Aloe Vera

21. Strawberries

22. Tea (well, herbal tea)

23. Quinoa


The obvious

24. Tomatoes

25. Summer squash

26. Other squashes, like acorn and pumpkin

27. Hot Peppers

28. Sweet peppers

29. Cucumbers



30. Small cantaloupe

31. Jenny Lind melon

32. Golden Midget Watermelon



33. Basil

34. Oregano

35. Parsley

36. Rosemary

37. Chives

38. Catnip

39. Thyme

40. Sage

41. Parsley


Leafy Greens

42. Kale

43. Mesclun greens

44. Spinach

45. Swiss chard

46. Lettuces

47. Mustard greens

48. Collard greens

49. Arugula


Root Vegetables

50. Carrots

51. Beets

52. Potatoes


Other healthy stuff

53. Sprouts

54. mung bean and lentil sprouts

55. Wheatgrass

56. Kohlrabi

57. Turnips

58. Rutabagas

59. Celeriac

60. Parsnips

61. Jerusalem Artichoke

62. Sugar snap peas

63. Rhubarb

64. Mushrooms

65. Pole Beans

66. Asparagus

This list comes from the fabulous blog: http://blog.seattlepi.com/naturalmedicine/



August 30th, 2013


I recently took a culinary workshop at The Getty Center in Los Angeles called “From Garden to Table: Dining in the Renaissance.” It was fascinating to learn how gardens and food evolved during that period!

One of the art forms to undergo a big transformation during the renaissance (circa 1400-1600) was garden design. The renaissance garden was designed to be a place of beauty and relaxation and promote physical health. Studies of ancient botanical, and medical writings underscored the importance of diet to a person’s well being, so the culinary arts were suddenly deemed worthy of examination and reinterpretation. A food revolution was happening in Italy, and simply prepared dishes of local, fresh and seasonal ingredients were gaining popularity over the heavily spiced meals so common elsewhere in Europe.


Four o’Clock, Brown Hairstreak, Herb Robert, and Chanterelle-1591-by Joris Hoefnagel


Great teachers of that time were monks who lived in monasteries, where they tended to their gardens daily and planted them with medicinal herbs used in the healing of illnesses. Over time, they became so educated in medicinal herbs that the first medics studied under them. In Padua, Italy, in the 16th century, a University Medical School was established to study plants, and a large medicinal plant garden was created, enclosed by a large wall, to prevent thieves from getting in and stealing the precious herbs.

Italian cooks started sharing their recipes in books, and the first cookbooks came out of Italy during the renaissance period, and became very popular in Europe, where people were learning about eating salad and vegetables.


Speckled Wood, Talewort, Garden Pea, and Lantern Plant-1591-ny Joris Hoefnagel


Following is an authentic recipe dating to that period from Maestro Martino:


Asparagus Frittata


Asparagus have been a delicacy throughout the Mediterranean area since ancient times, where they were a sign of elegance and had been recognized for their medicinal properties, for being ” cleansing and healing.”




1 bunch of green asparagus

1 small bunch of Italian parsley

1 small bunch of marjoram

1 small bunch of mint

2 tablespoons of olive oil

6 eggs beaten

½ cup of milk

¼ cup of Parmesan

salt & pepper to taste




1-Trim the tough ends of the asparagus so that each spear is 4″ long. Blanch the asparagus by boiling them in salted water for a few minutes, until barely soft; then plunge them into ice water and dry on an absorbent towel.

2-Finely chop the parsley, marjoram and mint. Mix the eggs with milk, Parmesan cheese in a large bowel and add the chopped herbs.

3-Heat the olive oil in a wide frying pan until quite hot, making sure the oil is spread out over the entire surface. Pour the egg mixture evenly into the pan. Arrange the asparagus spears on top of the frittata like spokes of a wheel with the delicate tips facing the outer edge of the pan and the ends touching in the center.

4-Set the heat to medium/low. Cover the pan to allow the eggs to cook completely through. Check often to make sure it’s not burning or sticking.

5-When set, slide the frittata onto a large round serving platter and cut into wedges, one asparagus spear per slice.


Serves 6.



The second recipe is from physician and botanist Costanzo Felici:

Insalata Mista Di Erbe E Fiori (Herb and Flower salad)


The Italian word insalata literally translates as “salted” and refers to “every raw green or mixture of raw greens or something else dressed with oil and salt,” as proudly defined by Costanzo Felici. Northern Europeans were wary of raw vegetables and fruit, warning those who traveled south to take care to avoid these potentially dangerous foods. The English Boke of Kervynge of 1500 even advised court chefs to “beware of green salletts and raw fruytes for they wyll make your soverayne seke.” But Italian botanical and medical research was insisting otherwise, and the inclusion of such simple, earthy dishes in Renaissance banquets is proof. They also learned to wash all salads, vegetables and fruit before eating them, to wash off any bacteria, just as we still do now.




1 head of romaine lettuce

1 head of radicchio

¼ pound of fresh spinach

¼ pound arugula leaves

¼ cup each chopped herbs: parsley, mint, marjoram, thyme)

½ cup of rose petals

1 cup of mixed edible flowers (violets, marigolds, nasturtiums, calendula)

¾ cup of olive oil

¼ cup of wine vinegar

salt & pepper to taste



1-Wash the romaine, radicchio, spinach and arugula leaves well, and dry in a salad spinner. Cut into bite sized pieces and place in a large salad bowl.

2-Coarsely chop the parsley, mint, marjoram and thyme; add this to the salad bowl.

3-Add the rose petals and edible flowers

4-Add the olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper to taste. Toss well to mix all the flavors and serve at once.

Serves 6-8



* I shared from notes I took during my culinary workshop, and also from from a helpful and very informative handout that was given, which included the recipes as well. Many thanks to the wonderful instructor Robin Trento.


To find out about other culinary workshops: The Getty Center Culinary workshops: http://www.getty.edu/museum/programs/courses/studio.html#culinary

Straw Bale Vegetable Garden

August 27th, 2013





Hay Bale by Jamie Wyeth


When I was little, and spending my summers in Maine, I used to play hide and seek amongst the bales of hay in the hayloft in a big old barn on my family’s farm.

I’ve since learned that Straw bales can be turned into wonderful vegetable beds for anyone who has a concrete yard, patio or deck. It’s inexpensive and works very well for growing all sorts of vegetables and herbs like tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, or basil, and annuals like pretty, colorful and edible nasturtiums.

Use a Straw Bale instead of a Hay bale, as Hay has too many grass seeds, though the heat may kill the grass seeds so you could be fine. I used a Straw Bale, and put it down in a spot that gets plenty of sun.



Water the bale the first day, giving it a good soak. On the second day, sprinkle the surface with ½ a box of Blood Meal, which is an organic nitrogen, and soak it again, allowing the blood meal to seep into the straw bale, creating the ideal growing environment for what you plant. Repeat the following day, until the box is empty and blood meal is soaked all the way into the bale.

Every day, over the next 10 days, water the top so the straw will soften up.



On the 10th day, using a serrated knife cut 4 – 4″ x 4″ holes, along the middle and sprinkle each hole with a little organic potting soil. I planted tomato plants and made a simple growing frame out of bamboo poles.



Since I started my plants late in the season, they have just started producing the sweetest tomatoes.

The straw bale will start to naturally biodegrade and once the tomato plants are done, I’ll spread the straw throughout my vegetable garden and add a bit as well to my Valentina composter. Nothing will get wasted.






Armand and Augustine-The Tale of Two Swallow Tail Butterfly Caterpillars

May 31st, 2013


Every May, The Natural History Museum in Los Angeles hosts an Insect Fair. This year, I came home with 2 Swallowtail caterpillars, which I named Armand (the larger one) and Augustine.




Back at home, I gently placed them on anise (fennel) from my garden, which stayed fresh in a small vase of water that I placed on my windowsill, out of direct sunlight. Caterpillars have powerful jaws that are ideal for biting through tough plant material. Armand and Augustine fed nonstop and put on weight quickly.




They ate their way through the anise until Augustine had enough and bound herself to a plant stem with silk that she produced. She shed her skin and spun a cocoon, another step towards her final transformation into an adult butterfly, which can take up to two weeks. Augustine is going through her transformation in a large netted bag suspended in the shade outside my kitchen. She is expected to emerge from her cocoon around June 7th. As soon as she does, I will release her.













While Augustine’s was busy making her cocoon, Armand went missing. I searched the entire area where he was last seen and I couldn’t find him. Then, 2 days later, he was spotted:



Armand had decided that he didn’t want to spin a cocoon on the anise like Augustine but preferred a wood shelf from Ikea instead. Armand has suspended himself among my Moroccan tagines dishes and wood bowls. As soon as he is ready to emerge, I will keep all the doors and windows open so he can safely fly out into my garden to look for Augustine.




Armand and Augustine will have to make the most of their time together as it will be a brief 3-4 weeks, during which they will have to mate and Augustine will lay her single sphere shaped egg, hopefully on the anise in the garden.

To attract butterflies to your garden, plant their favorite flowers:

Lantana (Lantana camara and hybrids), Butterfly bushes (Buddleia’s), Marigolds (tagetes species), Zinnias (Zinnia elegans), Cape Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata), Wild Buckwheats (Eriogonum species), Milkweeds (Asclepias series), Glossy Abelia (Abelia grandiflora) and Anise (Fennel).

Next month, I hope to share photos of Armand and Augustine! Stay tuned.