Photo:Courtesy
Mother Nature will tell stories at the Omni Center's "World Peace Wetland Prairie Earthday Celebration" Sunday, April 17 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the World Peace Wetland Prairie at 11th and S. Duncan in Fayetteville.My reflection on Earth Day last year wasn’t very rosy.  I’m not sure I have great news now that another one has rolled around.  This year, with the passing of Representative Paul Ryan’s 2012 Republican Budget Plan in the House of Representatives, clearly that side of the aisle is bent on slowing any progress towards addressing the coming calamity of climate change and protecting the environment. The bill includes a huge cut ($1.6 billion) in the Environmental Protection Agency budget and hits the Energy Department hard with harsh cuts to energy efficiency and renewable energy programs and doesn’t touch the approximate $4 billion in subsidies to oil and gas companies – the most profitable companies in the world.  I think this is wrong-headed. 

Rather than wallow in my disappointment thereby contributing to your own consternation that we are still slipping backwards on important environmental issues, I feel it’s more important to share a few positive ideas and actions.

earth_day_WA DCEarth Day Network has a plethora of activities, videos, campaigns and important information throughout the year. 

If you are in New York City, you might want to check out some of the events hosted by New York University during NYUEarthWeek from April 11 through April 28.  This Sunday, the fabulous Vandana Shiva will be featured at a luncheon. 

Kaboose has a wide range of activities for kids to keep them busy and exposed to environmental issues.

If you are a teacher, EdHelper provides a variety of printable Earth Day puzzles and activities.

And, how about a view of Earth courtesy of NASA.

Wherever you are, I hope that you are enjoying the gifts of Mother Earth and paying forward by stewardship.  Happy Earth Day!

 

Samara Botane has embraced a number of changes to lower our carbon footprint and hold to our commitment of stewardship and ecology. You can see the progress we’ve made here, including eco-policies we have put into place in the last several years. 

christmas tree2One of the small things we do personally each year has been to steam distill the twigs/needles from our Christmas tree.  This gives us healthful aromatic products that serve us throughout the coming year, extending the precious benefits of the tree.  How easily Westerners quickly discard their  trees, perhaps with no realization of the years of growth and energy Nature has invested on our behalf.  I hope you will consider exploring the additional uses and benefits, beyond the magical decoration for the holiday season, and save some of those branches to make delightful and healthful products for yourself and your family.  This year, we will again be distilling the gorgeous Noble Fir that blessed our family this season and offering the hydrosol for sale after it has rested for a few weeks and passes scrutiny.  I decided to look for other ideas to share, in order to savor our Christmas trees, long after the season.

Firs, Pines and Spruces are the most preferred Conifers for use in aromatherapy, and in most culinary applications.  In this blogpost, I focus on Fir which includes Abies procera (Noble Fir) pictured,  Abies grandis (Grand Fir),  Abies balsamea (Balsam Fir), and Abies alba (White Fir).  Olfactory attributes as described in perfumery for Firs are: strongly balsamic, slightly fatty-oily reminiscent of a pine forest and fruity-balsamic undertones.  There are subtle olfactory nuances for each species. Chefs, like Rene Redzepi of Copenhagen describe Fir in culinary terms as  having a pungent, citrusy flavor with green-minty backnotes. 

If you do not have distillation equipment, you can make a simple aromatic herbal infusion by simmering the chopped needles (ratio: equal parts fresh water to needles, but make sure needles are covered completely by water)  in a covered pot on the stove for 10-20 minutes, reduce heat and let cool in tightly covered pot to avoid loss of aromatic oils.  Your infusion can be used to make simple herbal syrup of medium thickness (add equal parts of your infusion and organic sugar, bring to a boil stirring frequently, reduce heat and simmer until candy thermometer reaches at least 185 degrees, but no hotter than 220 degrees.  You want to ensure the sugar is completely dissolved, but mixture does not turn to candy.  Allow the syrup to cool gradually and do not refrigerate until entirely cool.

You can glaze a sponge cake for an unusual dessert sure to delight guests, or use this pungent syrup for a tasty fish or mussels dish to top rice.  Native Americans often prepared fish wrapped in Pine needles, cooked over an open fire.  You can grind needles with a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder dedicated to herbs and mix with other savory herbs, salts and peppers for a tasty mixture for soups and stews.  Experiment and share your favorite ideas back with us!

The infusion, as well as the ground botanical, can be added to a bath along with sea salts and a few drops of Fir essential oil for a reviving soak.  You can make an aromatic spray for your home or car with the infusion, again adding a few drops of the essential oil for strength.  The dried botanical is also a lovely incense, burned on charcoal. 

herbal syrups 402x229I made a few herbal syrups towards the end of the growing season.  They were great gifts for friends and family.  These include Spearmint, Orange, Lavender and Rugosa Rose.  All but the Orange were from my garden.  Pictured at right, they are made with organic sugar, with no added color, but strengthened with a few drops of the requisite essential oil.  We are offering one of each as a bonus to our Facebook group members – the first four to submit orders of $100 or more with the Coupon Code will receive a 5-oz. bottle, randomly chosen.  You can join the Samara Botane Facebook Group here to get details.   Take a look at other aromatic offerings at our website here.

We will be holding another Treasure Hunt in the coming months, and watch for Rob’s upcoming report on aromaconnection exploring the affects of climate change on aromatic plants and crops.

I and the rest of the staff at Samara Botane welcome the New Year, bracing for its challenges.  We wish you a very good twenty-eleven and remind you to use your aromatics, especially for stress and anxiety, sleeplessness and combating pollen and viral pollution.

Inhale Deeply and Breathe . . . Breathe . . . Peace. 
Marcia 

 

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This morning, while juggling the usual busy-ness of business, I took time see what I could add to the important effort being put forth by the indie personal care products industry to try to avert the potential disaster known as the H.R. 5786 Safe Cosmetics Act 2010, aggressively, if misguidedly, championed by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and others. I read the latest earnest and heartfelt blog posts from my colleagues, knowing that they too could be spending their time more productively and enjoyably than having to deal with this nonsense.  And, it is non-sense in the strictest definition, when you peel the layers to examine in more detail.  To bring you up to date with what my fellow indies are saying, this succinct recap with a sampling of quotes and links to indie opinions on Essential U will be helpful to get you up to speed if you are not already familiar with the Opposition to this flawed bill  that could result in grave unintended consequences for the indie personal care products community.

I was pleased to see that Annie Leonard’s (CFSC’s latest partner in fear mongering) disgraceful  Story of Cosmetics was outstandingly critiqued by Lee Doren, author of How the World Works, a 2009 IPPY award winning book.  How Annie can continue to drink the CFSC Kool-Aid is really amazing after this scathing well researched and factually accurate indictment.

I then girded my loins to  read the latest propaganda on Campaign for Safe Cosmetics itself,  knowing that I would find either delusion or untruth, and most probably both.  I wasn’t disappointed. So filled with vagaries, blatant spin and misstatement, where do I start?  The latest missile on the CFSC website is entitled, The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010: What It Means for Cosmetics Companies. It is, no doubt, their attempt to challenge those of  us opposing the SCA.

Under the sub-header, “How will the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 impact small businesses?”
”The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics strongly supports small businesses and we have always been major advocates for elevating the work and values of the independent businesses that are the driving force of innovation toward health and safety in the personal care products industry.”

Gee, that definition fits my business, as well as many of my colleagues standing up against the SCA, yet why do we feel the CFSC is  working against our interests, and not the “major advocate” they claim to be? Most of us were early signers to the Compact, why do we now distance ourselves?

“We are fully committed to working together with companies in our Compact for Safe Cosmetics community and others to ensure that the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 does not unfairly burden small businesses that are already committed to making the safest products possible.”

Now, this is just flat untrue. CFSC has never “worked with” their company signers in the true sense of the phrase. In my experience as a signer for several years, theirs was a top-down agenda. I was never solicited for advice, comment or approval. There was no “partnership” as implied above. There was never a visible desire for or effort towards consensus from all stakeholders.  Scrutiny from those of us in the indie personal care products industry has revealed that many, if not most, of the signers in the SFSC “community” are very small businesses most likely blissfully unaware of the potential harm that could come to them as a result of passing the Safe Cosmetics Act 2010 and its unintended consequences. Or, because these small company signers have experienced non-responsiveness and non-support from CFSC (with regard to this and other legislative issues, and grossly inaccurate toxicity claims), some companies have requested to have their company name removed and CFSC has not honored their requests. My beloved nerdy husband and partner, Rob, did a short analysis back in 2008 when we requested to be removed.  He found an approximate attrition rate of 33% of the then 733 total Compact signers. A random sampling of those companies removed found 65% of them still in business, indicating that there were voluntary requests for removal by the companies themselves for one reason or another. Hmm, I wonder how robust this list of companies would look now with all who have since requested their names removed or CFSC actual compliance with earlier requests from those companies still listed. Or those with links to nowhere (intimating that the company is probably out of business) removed and the list currently updated. Those of us who have successfully had our company name removed report that it took repeated contact and demand over a long period of time, from 6 months to over a year or more! Does this sound to you like CFSC is “fully committed to working together”? Or are those unsuspecting companies just pawns in a larger agenda?  If you are a signer, please add your personal comments below.

“There is a lot of misinformation circulating about the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 that it will "kill small businesses." This couldn’t be further from the truth and is an unfortunate misrepresentation of the facts.

Where is the substance in this statement? Do they actually ever cite or reference specific misinformation being promulgated out here to back these vague attacks? Anything with some factual teeth?  No.  We in the indie community have found and have accurately corrected gross misrepresentation of the facts by CFSC, most especially the unsubstantiated scientific facts on which they base their agenda, until we are blue in the face.  However, they continue to ignore our reasonable and factual objections and continue to up the adversarial ante, seemingly incapable of introspection or, most importantly, the desire to ascertain the real facts upon which any effective legislation must be based. Our protests fall on dead ears.  This is how they show “strong support” of and “elevate the work and values of the independent businesses that are the driving force of innovation toward health and safety in the personal care products industry.” If you are new to this issue, please refer back to the synopsis of blog posts here for background, support and veracity of my statements here.

CFSC goes on to present further distortion of the language in the bill.

“ The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 contains specific provisions to protect and help small businesses, including:

  • Fee exemptions for small businesses with less than $1 million in annual sales.
  • Data sharing and transparency: small businesses will benefit by having access to safety assessments conducted by other cosmetics companies and suppliers that are currently kept private, and it will open up the information flow so all companies have easier access to the information that will help them make the best decisions about product safety.
  • "Producer right-to-know" provisions that will enable cosmetics companies to get full information from suppliers about toxicological data and safety information for cosmetic ingredients, including the chemicals in fragrance and preservatives.”

Looks like a Pollyanna picture of goodness and transparency, right?  They don’t tell you that registration fees IS the only burden that small business is possibly exempted from if this bill were to become law. That small business is not exempted from having the burden of reporting relatively useless ingredient minutia (sometimes trace ppm), as well as safety data for that minutia – some of which has already been researched and established by the FDA (or published by other scientific researchers) for the most part.  Data sharing?  Do you honestly believe that Johnson & Johnson or Estee Lauder are going to open their research database to every mom and pop soap company or indie personal care products manufacturer? You can only guess how many lawyers will get richer as a a result of this inclusion, if it actually exists in the final law.  “Producer right-to-know” provisions?  This part of the bill is undoubtedly aimed at the plethora of synthetic chemical producers who concoct “better living through chemistry”, manufacturing some of those long names that Annie Leonard and CFSC scare you with. Frankly, some of them scare me, too, but I am also educated enough to know that not all chemical innovation is bad for you. It is here that the sensible indie movement towards naturals meets the giants of the cosmetic industry on shared opinion.

Here is but one example of possible far-reaching and damaging unintended consequences under this “Producer right-to-know” requirements of the SCA.

We at Samara Botane purchase some essential oils from small cooperative or family distillers around the world. These are small to mid-sized producers, often family owned, who have been growing or wildcrafting aromatic plants for generations for aromatic distillation to obtain essential oils. We were introduced to these small producers in the late 80’s and early 90’s at myriad gatherings during the explosion of new aromatic plant research,  emerging aromatherapy schools and conferences around the globe to share scientific research based on the chemistry of essential oils and to explore the indigenous cultural use more in depth by those of us in the West.  These producers are not always expert at identifying the exact chemical constituents of their products, although many are much more expert now than when we first started importing. They provide the required MSDS, CAS and other legally required information for identification for international commerce, but their expertise is not always in the end “use” of their product. Nor should it be; we look them for their artistry and years of experience in the sustainable management of the crops themselves and the proper distillation for a quality essential oil.  It is up to us, the importers, and aromatherapy experts to ethically test and analyze further research  for the many safe uses. Many of these essential oils are already classed as G.R.A.S. (Generally Regarded as Safe) and are used in the food and flavor industry as well as natural skincare and personal products. You can only come to the reasonable conclusion here that unintended consequences would possibly adversely affect these small producers across the globe.

The very fact that we emerging indies exist and have been researching, developing and providing alternative, safer personal care, as well as more in-depth consumer information is a primary reason that the “biggies” are slowly moving in the direction of more natural ingredients, which we indies believe are safer.  Sure, it’s a behemoth and cumbersome industry, and there is “greenwashing”, but hey, there is also progress towards more safe and sustainable ingredients.  Without the continued good work of the indies who started the “green” revolution in personal care products, will the biggies still feel a need to manufacture better, more natural products if we aren’t there to prod and innovate them, especially if they contain natural ingredients more costly than some of their synthetic chemical counterparts?  Since the primary mission of most big corporations is to make a profit, what do you think?

Our primary business is supplying essential oils – on our retail website, to massage and aromatherapy schools and other professional institutions, hospitals and clinics, and to small personal products manufacturers. All could be adversely affected if the SCA bill becomes law, increasing the domino effect of unintended consequences.

If you purchase personal care products, or supplies from small, independent personal product companies and ingredients suppliers, please heed our voices of reason.  Read the Oppose SCA petition here and , please sign.  You will see that I am not alone, we are now approaching 2,140 signatures as I prepare to launch this missile into cyberspace.  We need many more of you to speak up on our mutual behalf.

Rant_girl_350x241l Thanks for listening and thanks for your support.

Marcia (Rant Girl)

 

by Kayla Fioravanti, reprinted with permission.

With every stand that you take there are those that will stand with you, those that will digest the information and think about it and others who will take a stand against you.  I know that is a risk that I took when I chose to publicly stand against the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and their Skin Deep Database.

Cash

I debated posting what I found after I followed the money trail, since just my mention on social media that I was doing the research lost me a customer.  I’d prefer to remain neutral, but I fear that neutrality would result in continued damage to small businesses around the country by an organization that sadly lacks the science to back up their claims.  Being outspoken against the EWG may continue to cost me some customers, but I believe education is the key to fact based decisions and safe cosmetics.

In the past few months I have been terribly disturbed to see the Environmental Working Group send repeated emails requesting just another $10 donation.  Each letter sounds more dire than the next as if the world would literally end if the EWG didn’t meet their budget. 

This inspired me to do a little digging to see just what Mr. Cook himself makes annually since he was making the earth shattering pleas for donations.  The only 990 I could get a hold of for the EWG was 2008

According to BA Carrington with Empowerment Enterprises, LTD, "They (EWG) have not filed a tax return on the 501 c 3 since 2008, according to the 990 database Exempt World, which is a subscription service to track 990’s.  Even though EWG is categorized as a charitable organization, it is still required to file a return under IRS codes and submit their “list of activities” to the IRS on an annual basis, even if they file an extension."  It could be that they have filed an extension and the deadline for the information has not yet passed based on their calendar fiscal year.  For more details on this possibility click here

The EWG has stepped up it’s fundraising to now include promoting the purchase of the very same sunscreens that they claim are bad for you through Amazon to raise money for the EWG.  Read more about that topic click here.

According to 2008 IRS Tax Filings

In 2008 Ken Cook was paid $219.401.00 plus another $21,295.00 estimated amount of other compensation from organization and related organizations. 

Richard Wiles $179,218.00 plus $20,998.00 estimated amount of other compensation from the organization and related organizations. 

Jane Houlihan $150,226.00 plus $19,448.00 estimated amount of other compensation from the organization and related organizations. 

William Walker made $136,448.00 plus 19,743.00 estimated amount of other compensation from the organization and related organizations.

Susan Comfort $115,752.00 plus $7932.00 estimated amount of other compensation from the organization and related organizations.

Sandra Schubert $127,229.00 plus $4884.00 estimated amount of other compensation from the organization and related organizations.

Alexander Formuzis $120.592.00 plus $10,920.00.  Christopher Campbell $136,909.00 plus $11,988.00 estimated amount of other compensation from the organization and related organizations.

Breaking it all Down

In case you got sick of reading the pay that is a total of $1,185,775.00 being paid to the top 8 employees of the Environmental Working Group just in 2008.  The total estimated amount of other compensation from the organization or related organizations for the top 8 at EWG was $117,248.00.  The total reported 2008 salaries for EWG was $3,203,747.00 in 2008.  The 2008 total revenue at EWG was $6,242,570.00.  Over half of their total revenue went into paying the employees of EWG. 

I am not opposed to making a profit.  I believe in Capitalism.  I also appreciate that it takes time, money and resources to pursue any public policy position. But still, more than half of the operating budget is a lot.  I am troubled when a non-profit that asks for $10 via email and $5 most of the time you click on their Skin Deep website as if they are on the verge of going out of business is spending so much of your money on their executives. 

In 2006 Ken Cook was reported to have been paid $192,000.00.  If Ken Cook continued at the same rate of pay increase over the past two years as he did from 2006 to 2008 he may be making as much as $245,000.00 (only an estimate based on the pay rate of increase from 2006 to 2008).

No wonder I get so many requests for another $5 or $10 donation from the EWG. At 2008 pay rates they need at least 118,578 people to donate $10 just to cover their top 8 executives pay…who knows how much is needed to cover it in 2009 and 2010?!

You have to wonder if the EWG is really hurting for money or if they just like to keep their budget at a certain number.  In 2008 the net assets or fund balances were $5,171,374.00 at the end of the year.  They were given gifts, grants, contributions and memberships fees in 2004 of $4,975,899.00, 2005 of $3,539,214.00, 2006 of $3,478,044.00, 2007 of $4,004,846.00 and 2008 another $5,963,800.00. 

A very revealing, carefully documented and thoroughly research of the history of and who is behind the EWG can be found on the Personal Care Truth website (click here to read.)

The EWG, Skin Deep and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics have made many claims that cosmetic companies are financially driven to claim that ingredients are safe, I am simply wondering if EWG has a financial interest in saying that they are not safe.  I don’t know many small business cosmetic owners who are making as much money as the top 8 at EWG. 

I’m just saying…in this economy do they really need your $10?  What do you think?  Does knowing the money trail color your impression of the EWG as a non-profit?

Kayla Fioravanti and her husband Dennis own and operate Essential Wholesale

Ed. note: After reading Kayla’s excellent report and the comprehensive history at Personal Care Truth, as well as examination of available information  on the EWG website and other sources, several red flags wave.  These include, but may not be limited to, proportional ratio of administrative salaries vs. actual program funding; lack of transparency of donors as well as staffing and operations; unclear financial and staffing relationship between EWG and EWG Action Fund.  In 2002 an IRS complaint was filed against EWG asking for an investigation and revocation of their nonprofit status.  Further research is needed to establish the determination of that action.

 

I don’t know about you, but this year’s Earth Day leaves me bereft,  feeling somewhathot-earth225x225 frustrated and depressed that I am not doing enough and that we, collectively, are still in denial about the human impact on climate change and resultant planet degradation. Those of us not still in denial who live in the so-called “developed” countries appear to be apathetically slow to make meaningful ecological choices, and we are too easily influenced by “pseudo-greening” or “green-washing” that is meant to deceive the actual reality of continuing to practice a destructive status quo. Based on evidence, it appears that we continue to create problems, not solve them, in spite of all those good intentions we project (or lie about, in some cases). Let’s look at a few facts that confront us. 

According to IPCC, farmers who practice rain-fed agriculture could see a 50 percent reduction in yield in the coming decade. This has led to coining the term, “food insecurity”, which itself seems too gentle a term for the reality of mass starvation.  Rain-fed agriculture is a major source of food and fiber. About 60% of world staple food production relies on rain-fed agriculture. Rainfall is also responsible for meat production through grazing and for wood from the forest. In Tanzania and other Sub-Saharan African countries where irrigation is very limited, almost all food and most cash crops such as cotton, tobacco and wood depend on rainfall (Rockström, 2000). It is a fact that the talks at Copenhagen failed miserably and that the powerful shut out the voices of the not-so-powerful. The rich technocrats (Bill Gates, Richard Branson, etc.) would have us believe that climate engineering is a simple solution to solve the problem, in spite of the many reluctant scientists and engineers who cautiously report in any one of the 209,000 papers found here on the Google.

These statistics alone should be alarming enough to spur us to action for a reversal of harmful practices like CO2 emissions, but layers of other negative influences complicate our possible actions.  Influences that many of us feel powerless to stop.

man_eating_earth226x211 The concept of (self regulated) corporate social responsibility that emerged in the 70’s, with no actual watchdog over emerging multi-national corporations is widely debated, with proponents advocating that corporations benefit in multiple ways by operating with a perspective broader and longer than their own immediate, short-term profits. Critics argue that CSR distracts from the fundamental economic role of businesses; others argue that it is nothing more than superficial window-dressing; others yet argue that it is an attempt to pre-empt the role of governments as a watchdog over powerful multinational corporations (Wikipedia).  The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OCED) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises are the only corporate responsibility instrument formally adopted by state governments. This critical analysis from 2008 gives us more detail about the limitations of developing countries to monitor or regulate foreign corporations, and  there has been little conclusive evidence that these corporate investments do promote growth and employment in developing countries. Human rights are neglected or abused, ecosystems are disrupted, completely wiping out indigenous people’s livelihood in some instances.

This week, Senators John Kerry, Joseph Lieberman and Lindsey Graham plan to introduce a climate bill that will eliminate the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.  “First of all, one of the conditions of the bill we’re hearing is that it will eliminate the EPA authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, which is a slap in the face to everything that Earth Day stands for . . . Secondly, it will include cap-and-trade provisions between utilities, so you could have a nuclear power company trading with a coal power company, but if it’s too expensive for them to meet their emissions targets, they could buy offsets . . . and, unanimously, all of the statements that are coming out of the different working groups here at the Bolivian Climate Conference are condemning carbon markets.”, Activist Daphne Wysham, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, DC, and co-director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network reported today.

The interconnected complexity of all this seems overwhelming.  Can I, and others like me,    Healing_Mother revive and cultivate optimism and actually take meaningful action, especially when our government and major corporations seem to be dragging their feet or acting against our greater interests in this regard?  In spite of the powerful country-corporate refusal to listen, there are thoughts and ideas coming out of Bolivia this week for us to contemplate. 

A key initiative to come out of the Bolivia Climate Conference is a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth. The key points here encourage me and hopeful that after this long discourse intended to move you to gather more information to support alternative solutions, you still have the time and inclination to contemplate them yourself.

Happy Earth Day,
Marcia

P.S. I have to give great thanks to Amy Goodman and Democracy Now, who I share my breakfast with every weekday morning for at least a decade now.  I also weep with sadness for us all that the great Bill Moyers Journal, another great source for my social, environmental and economic chops, will be leaving PBS. I am encouraged to know that Bill Moyers Blog will continue to be carried online by PBS, at least for now.  Nobody is saying the reasons for his retirement out loud, but I suspect the more conservative Board at PBS is a factor, especially when we see no progressive replacement. 

 

Pot_w_grasses_250 I want to continue exploring gardening ideas that will address climate disruption and help each of us in our local environments.  I certainly have noticed drastic changes in our state that can only be attributed to either increased warming, or, conversely, increased rainfall and ice/snow.

As an example, trees in old growth forests are dying in increasing numbers and most scientists conclude that longer, hotter summers are the primary cause.  This trend is affecting both young and old trees, in crowded and sparse stands and at different elevations.  The reason is warmer average temperatures across the West, says Nathan Stephenson of the USGS Western Ecological Research Center, which creates greater stress on trees from lack of water, leaving them vulnerable to disease and insects.   The rising death rate could produce a cascading decline that leads to less habitat for fish and wildlife, an increased risk of wildfires and vulnerability to sudden forest die-offs.  The study examined data between 1955 and 2007 in 76 research plots in BC, Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho and Arizona, and has no predictable conclusions and is challenged by some who resist the idea of climate change or disruption altogether.

In my own garden, I have seen a couple of plants mysteriously die, some well established trees (native and non-native) just giving up the ghost abruptly.   For the past several years, I notice that cool weather crops (lettuce, leaf vegetables) simply cannot sustain into late summer and bolt even with good mulch and shade cloth.   Here are some thoughts that might help you avoid frustration in the garden while learning more about the changing climate in your area.  Investing in a little research with your county extension agent might also save you cash otherwise invested into a disappointing garden that’s not designed to stand up to a changing climate.

Plant Selection  I’ve finally outgrown the habit of choosing non-native, non-local and hybridized species which sometimes don’t do well under the best conditions and are certain to fail to thrive with the challenges that come with global warming.  Look for heritage varieties that you can save seeds or take cuttings from.  When purchasing plant starts, make sure you ascertain that they are from a local greenhouse and are grown specifically for your area.  If you live in an area where rainfall is predicted to drop, check out regions close by with less rainfall and choose native plantings (especially large trees and shrubs) that thrive in a more arid climate.  Here in Puget Sound, we are trending to more rainfall, more snow, longer and colder winters, so I will adjust accordingly.

Lawns   I have never been a fan of mowing grass (and I doubt you are, either) so I’m slowly turning the golf-course sized lawn the previous owner put in into other planting areas that more suit my lifestyle.   In one part, I am letting the grass give way to the native moss and turning it back to a natural forested area.  This will serve as a privacy barrier as well as eventually reverting back to a self-sustaining ecosystem.  I covered good ideas for maintaining healthy lawns in the blog on May 5.

Mulch, Mulch, Mulch  Adding layers of biodegradable organic matter to the soil surface of your vegetable and flower beds serves as both a protective barrier and nutrient source.  This will make a huge difference to water retention and help with weed control.   An investment into a good composting system and worm bed will pay you back in spades.   I’ve learned over the years that maintaining good soil is the primary chore for a healthy garden.

Animals and Insects  Beneficial critters will need to adapt to the inevitable changes in the plants they rely on, either directly or indirectly.  The timing of natural events in relation to breeding that has been fine tuned over millennia is being thrown into disarray.  We can help by planting species that are beneficial and provide food sources for insects, birds and other animals that help our gardening efforts.  The recent concern in the decline of butterflies and bees is a concern and providing habitats such as Mason bee blocks and planting butterfly attractors will be a great boon to your success.    

This will give you some ideas to start with and we’ll revisit this in later blogs.

image Special (through Tuesday, May 26):  In addition to your 5% online discount ,take an extra 10% off all hydrosols.   Good time to stock up on lavender,  helichrysum and Healthy Skin blend for the harsh effects of summer sun, wind and being outdoors.  Many others to choose from.  Orders over $35 will also receive a free decorative tea light holder (pictured at left).    Enter “Earth Day #4” (no quotes) in promotional code on checkout page.
http://www.wingedseed.com

 

Today is wet, cold and blustery here in the Cascade foothills, but we are braving it and continuing to get the garden ready to plant Poppies_Parking_Strip_300 this week in the hopes that we don’t have another freeze.  The picture at left is meant to give you one of many creative ideas if you are bored with grass in your parking strip in the city.  This is across the entire 60’ double lot in front of our Seattle (Queen Anne hill) house in the mid 90’s, a veritable field of Flanders’ poppies.  As one neighbor commented back then, “It appears we aren’t in Kansas anymore, Marcia!”  Annual wildflower mixes are inexpensive and can be directly sowed in spring for easy-care color and scent and will last well into late summer.  The key is to prepare good soil by tilling peat moss, leaf mold and additives (and hand turn to aerate well), smoothing surface before sowing the seed.  We made extra concrete walkways to allow crossing through without walking in the bed itself, although we did have the occasional “urban deer” as I called those moving too fast (joggers, kids on skateboards) to avoid tromping through. As you can see, little damage occurred and most walkers in our neighborhood went out of their way to pass by and enjoy the display.

TOO MUCH RAIN TO MOW?  If the lawn is wet because you’re getting more rain than you are used to, try spraying your mower blades with vegetable oil to help keep cut grass from sticking.  This will allow you to cut when grass is still slightly wet.  Keeping your grass at least 3”-4” tall will keep most weeds at bay by preventing them from getting sunlight to sprout.  Use a mulching mower and leave grass clippings to break down and provide healthy nitrogen (this provides about half what your lawn needs) as it breaks down.  Healthy grass should be aerated and fed (composted lightly) twice a year; not doing this will promote more weeds.  Remember: healthy soil/healthy plants/fewer weeds.   Talk to an expert to find the best grass seed combination for your climate and soil.  Reseeding should be done in the fall when you expect at least six weeks of 50-70 degree weather, the optimum temperature for grass seeds to sprout.

YOUNG FRONDS OF FIDDLEHEAD FERNS (also known as ostrich ferns) can be a delicious food.  The new fronds will be lighter in color than the rest of the plant, about 2” long and 1 1/2” in diameter.  Fiddleheads are safe to eat if cooked, they taste like a cross between asparagus and green beans.  They can be stir-fried or steamed, but they should never be eaten raw.  Cook no longer than 5 minutes for best flavor and texture.

THE MOST NUTRITIOUS GREENS to grow in your garden (or choose from your organic green grocer) are:
Arugula has a slightly peppery flavor; used in salads.
Beet – young leaves are best. Delicious lightly steamed.  When
     cooking the beet itself, add the leaves to the pot for extra taste
     and nutrition.
Dandelion – young leaves not exposed to pesticides are best.       
     Their bitter taste is excellent for digestive health.
Endive – a type of chicory that grows in a small, cone-shaped     
     head.  Has pale leaves and is slightly bitter for salads. 
Kale – My favorite garden green; choose thin stems/frilly leaves.
     Stir fry, steam, add to soups and pastas . . . many uses in
     cooking.
Romaine lettuce – full of vitamins and minerals.
Spinach – Very high in nutrition; can be eaten raw or cooked.

Tealight_Candle_Blue_150 Special this week only (through Sunday, May 9):  Take an extra 10% off all Samara Synergies.   Good time to stock up on First Defense  for the family’s flu artillery or Calma for aiding sleep.  Many others to choose from.  Orders over $35 will also receive a free decorative tea light holder (pictured at left).    Enter “Earth Day#4” (no quotes) in promotional code on checkout page.
http://www.wingedseed.com

 

As we continue to look at simple ways to be kinder to the Earth in our every day lives, I become acutely aware of our climactic Caleb_Tree_Farm_250 changes and challenges.  Here in the Cascade foothills in Snohomish county, WA, we are noticing a trend of colder winters and more often several feet of snow when we used to rarely get inches if any at all.  Early Spring is wetter and floods now happen earlier in the year and longer in duration and intensity.  Wind storms are more prevalent and there are more downed trees to deal with.  And, it’s hotter in the summer months, making it imperative to pay closer attention to the garden plants to insure they are well watered, mulched/composted and sometimes shaded from the sun’s intensity.   We continue the discussion with more ideas to create the optimum circumstances for success in the garden.

A COMMUNITY GARDEN is a wonderful way for urbanites to grow a flower and vegetable garden when you don’t have the space or want to interact with others in the community to create a more green urban environment.  This is also a fabulous way to introduce young people to the joys of growing their own food.  Here’s a few resources in larger cities.
Houston TX:  http://www.urbanharvest.org/
Buffalo NY: http://www.urbanroots.org/
Denver CO: http://www.dug.org/home.asp
Rutgers University has a community garden self help guide: http://tinyurl.com/c83fvu
If you start a community garden, make sure that the soil is tested to insure there are no contaminants like lead or other hazardous chemicals that might permeate the crops grown.  Some communities are starting gardens for the poor to help supplement the diminishing budgets of our older citizens and those who make do with less.   All of these endeavors are rewarding, and again, a good place to introduce children to a sense of ‘community’ while connecting them with Nature.

PLANTING SIMILAR SPECIES of vegetables, like broccoli with cabbage or Brussels sprouts should be avoided as they will compete for nutrients.  Companion planting is aesthetically delightful and helps improve soil while keeping pests at bay.  Here’s a great companion planting guide: http://www.ghorganics.com/page2.html

DIG DEEP when preparing soil for planting.  Digging adds air pockets which help repel root-dwelling insects and oxygenate the soil.  This helps plants put down healthy roots.  This is perhaps the single most important thing you can do to condition the soil.  All organic gardeners I know prefer to turn soil by hand after using a garden tiller.

Special this week only (through Sunday, May 3) take 10% additional in addition to your 5% web discount off all aroma jewelry and natural perfumes.  Enter “Earth Day#3” (no quotes) in promotional code on checkout page.
http://www.wingedseed.com

 

Last week, we talked about ways to be more gentle with the Earth Garden planted 2003_300 in our everyday lives.  It’s warm and sunny here in the Cascade foothills, so I thought I’d continue with ideas for your lawn and garden, thinking this might be where your attention is joyfully focused at this time.

GROW HERBS IN YOUR GARDEN; they are easy to grow and help encourage birds and butterflies, as well as other useful insects.  They are a great choice for planting between other flowers and vegetables to increase diversity.  Planting basil, oregano, cilantro, sage and tarragon alongside vegetables will remind you to use them together.  Having herbs in your garden is one more thing you can take off your shopping list.

LARGE PLASTIC BOTTLES can be used as mini-greenhouses, an excellent protective covering for seedlings.  Cut off the ends and there you go.

RAIN BARRELS are probably going to be a necessity in the future to help conserve water resources.  They now come in a range of sizes, shapes and colors.  Try a decorative one on the deck with a rain chain for melodic ambience and drain it under the deck into the deck-side plantings.   You’ll be surprised at the savings on your water bill and your plants will love you.

SOAKER HOSES AND DRIP IRRIGATION can reduce water waste by as much as 70 percent because their delivery system sends water directly to the roots, unlike sprinklers, which waste water through evaporation.

TRADITIONAL HEIRLOOM SEEDS are a better choice than hybridized newer varieties.  ORGANIC NATURAL FERTILIZERS like fish emulsion, bone meal and seaweed-based products are far better than synthetic alternatives. 

Special this week only (through Sunday, April 26) take 10% additional in addition to your 5% web discount off all hydrosols.  Enter “Earth Day#1” (no quotes) in promotional code on website
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The time has come to take our responsibility for stewardship of our bountiful planet more seriously.  Focusing our attention only one day a year to img 050_250honor the Earth isn’t going to solve the myriad problems we are creating.   These problems will grow to overwhelm our children and grandchildren as we continue to ignore the realities of global warming and chemical pollution.  The signs of collapsing ecosystems,  endangered and disappearing species are all around.  In our busy lives, we sometimes procrastinate necessary changes.  We need to learn better ecological habits to reverse a destructive trend before it is too late.   This is the beginning of a series of short articles that will contain simple, yet effective ways to replace harsh chemicals that pollute the environment with safe, gentle natural alternatives and make our lives more in tune with the natural world.  We hope you join us in making these sensible choices.

HOUSEPLANTS act as natural air filters, through photosynthesis, using carbon dioxide and water and releasing oxygen as a waste material.  How symbiotic is that!  You can find delightful houseplants that require little care for every room of the house and never have to purchase synthetic chemical air fresheners again.  These commercial products only mask smells and coat nasal passages with chemicals that diminish your sense of smell.  Samara Botane has a lovely variety of natural environmental aromatic products to keep your home environment, car or camper fresh and clean.  Made with antiseptic and antiviral essential oils, they also limit germs and exposure to viral pathogens.  These come in synergies to use in a diffuser and aromatic room misters.  You can also make your own antiseptic spray by simply adding a few drops of essential oil to a spritzer bottle filled with water.  Try tea tree and lavender, sweet orange and cedarwood, rose geranium and lemon.

HOMEMADE WASHER SOAP can be made by mixing 1 cup baking soda with 10 drops each of lavender and grapefruit essential oils, adding drop by drop and mixing thoroughly.  Add 1 cup of borax and 1 cup of powdered castile soap.  Mix well and store in an airtight container.  Add 1/2 cup to each load of wash.   For really tough stains, dissolve 1/2 cup borax, allow to cool completely.  Add 1 cup distilled white vinegar and 6 drops eucalyptus essential oil.  Soak soiled clothes in this blend for 2 hours before laundering.

Special this week only (through Sunday, April 19) take 20% off all essential oils.  Enter “Earth Day#1” (no quotes) in promotional code on website
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