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Do you Love Strawberries?

Uncategorized Jun 16, 2022

Is there anything better than fresh strawberries?

In Alaska we have to wait a bit longer up for them to ripen and it's HARD!!

It’s SUPER tempting to buy the strawberries from the store that come from warmer climates.

But I don’t.

Here’s why.

They are loaded with chemicals.

Strawberries are the number one fruit or vegetable for pesticide residue according to the Environmental Working Group because their thin skins soak them up like a sponge.

Organic strawberries can also be high in pesticides that drift over from the conventional fields next door, plus they are sky high in phthalates from the black plastic mulch the farms use to keep down the weeds.

Then the farms often till the plastic into the soil, creating millions of micro plastics which the plants take up and are ingested by unsuspecting consumers.

These gorgeous gifts from nature are now packets of toxins for your body.

Not to mention they come in plastic containers that will exist forever in the landfill.

No, thank you.

I will wait patiently for my strawberries to ripen slowly in the northern sunshine.

They will taste even sweeter when they get to my mouth. Warm from the sun and highly anticipated.

This is one of the easiest crops to grow yourself. Strawberries take minimal care and produce delicious berries year after year.

PLUS their leaves are edible and medicinal! You can't buy these in the store... 

Strawberry leaves are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and...

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8 Early Greens You Will Never Have to Plant Again

After a long, cold winter of eating from the cold storage and the freezer, nothing tastes better than a fresh salad.  Greens are my tonic, giving me energy and vitality.  I eat salads lunch and dinner and throw greens into quesadillas, soups, eggs, and more.

I always plant an early crop of hearty greens. The beauty is that these greens can withstand freezing so you do not need to wait until the danger of frost has passed.  This year due to the early thaw I planted some greens on the south side of the house in February. The ground was still frozen underneath, but the hearty greens and the lettuce still came up. 

But the older I get, the more I appreciate food that I don’t have to sow.  I have several varieties of perennial greens as well as some self-seeding annuals. These are brilliant because they come up whenever they are ready. You don’t have to stress about planting them at the right time, or at all. They just take care of themselves. You probably already have some of these in your garden, and right now is the perfect time to plant the ones you don’t have.

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  • Orach. Red, purple or green, orach is a relative of spinach and self-seeds readily in the garden. It has a very mild flavor and can be eaten fresh or cooked. The purple variety looks awesome in salads, and the green variety can be used as a straight-up substitute for spinach. 
  • Lamb’s-quarter. Another relative of spinach, you...
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Gardening for Change

Uncategorized Mar 29, 2022

I used to live on a sailboat in the Caribbean. 

It was a dream life... and yet I wasn't content. 

I couldn't just lay there on the deck, mending sail covers while the world and all the people in it are struggling.

I knew that I couldn't just exist... I needed to be an agent of change in this world. 

I've known this since I was in college studying Environmental Science. I could see clearly that the way humans were living on this earth was not sustainable and that there was a better way. 

And I've made it my mission to be that change that I envision. And to help others to see it too. 

I believe we can all be a part of this change. Everyone's path and passion and skills are different. 

How are you being the change in the world? How does your life align with your values? 

I have taken what I've learned and put it into my Green Thumb Course. I call it a gardening course, and we do learn gardening in it... but really it is so much more. 

it is about living a more regenerative life. 

  • growing food
  • regenerating the earth
  • nourishing our bodies
  • using less plastics
  • growing and using herbal medicines
  • cooking and preserving food
  • buying less
  • saving seeds
  • making your own cleaning products
  • recycling "wastes"

It's life changing.

These changes are not easy to make.

But step by step, week by week, I help you. 

And you are supported by a group of people also making these changes in their lives. 

Join us! It's fun, inspiring,...

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Is Gardening a Privilege?

I hear it all the time... "but not everyone can garden!"

As if gardening is a leisure activity that only the wealthy people can afford. 

The reality is that millions of people all over the world garden out of necessity. 

Gardens and small family farms still feed over half of the population of the world. 

Not so long ago, this was the only way to feed all but the very elite. 

I, myself, rely on gardening to feed my kids healthy food. Just a few years ago when I was in the throes of a divorce and rebuilding my business, I took comfort in knowing that at least we wouldn't starve. 

In fact, in many ways it was the gardening that got me through. When I was filled with anxiety about the future, or grief for my loss, the only thing that would bring me back was some weeding. A trip to the raspberry patch gave me strength to keep on. 

Which is why I believe that gardening should be a right. We should all have access to a piece of land to grow something on. 

Everywhere I have traveled outside of the US, I have seen people growing food in gardens.

In Cuba I saw vegetable gardens everywhere. Over 90% of fruits and vegetables consumed come from food gardens on just 3.4% of urban land. Havana alone has over 25,000 allotments, which produce food year-round using no chemical fertilizers or pesticides. 

During my studies in Russia I passed miles and miles of dachas riding the trains out of St. Petersburg. Russians grow over 50% of...

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Why we need more garden teachers!

Uncategorized Jan 28, 2022

Next week I have two amazing gardeners starting my Garden Teacher Apprenticeship Program.

These ladies have already been in my program for a year, and now they are going to spend the next year stepping into the role of the teacher and building their own business teaching gardeners.

Wait, what? You mean you are training your competition? 

Yup! 

And I couldn't be more excited about it! 

You see... in the 14 years I've been teaching, I've seen a huge need for garden teachers. This is a skill that most people just don't have.

Most people don't understand soil, how it's made, and how it feeds our plants. 

Most people don't know when and how to start seeds, or the best way to plant them in the garden. 

And many people who DID learn to garden from their parents or grandparents, are using outdated, inefficient, and backbreaking techniques. 

It's no wonder that gardening has a reputation for being tiresome and strenuous.

But it doesn't have to be. 

Gardening also has a reputation for being expensive. Building raised beds, buying soil and plants can be, but you don't have to do it that way. In fact, it's better if you don't. 

More and more people are realizing that if you want good quality, clean food, you have to grow it yourself. 

People want a greater connection with their food and the earth. It is a hunger that is only growing stronger the more chaotic life seems to get. 

I know that there is no way I can teach everyone who...

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Do THIS before the new year to have your best year yet!

Uncategorized Dec 27, 2021

One of my favorite things about Permaculture is that it can be applied to any area of our life, including life in general. 

When I took my Permaculture Design Course in 2004, I didn't have any property to design, so I set about applying it to my life.

And what a difference it's made. 

Although my goals have shifted over time, permaculture has helped me to live my life with intention, passion, and purpose. 

My year-end process has been so valuable to me that I wanted to share it with you, so that you may also benefit from it! 

Prepare: 

  1. Clear out some time for this process. If you only have 30 minutes, take it. But if you can give it a whole afternoon, even better. 
  2. Gather any planners, journals, calendars, photos, or other records of your past year. 
  3. Have a notebook, journal, or computer ready to capture your thoughts. 
  4. Get a cup of tea or water bottle. Put on some lovely music. Light a candle if you want. 

Year Review:

  1. Review your year month-by-month, noting your accomplishments, wins, and general feelings. Was this time colored by joy and peace or stress? 
  2. What is your daily and weekly rhythm? Does it feel balanced? On what things do you spend the majority of your time? How does it feel?
  3. What are your favorite parts of your day/ week/ month? The things that are working well that you really want to celebrate and preserve?
  4. What are the challenges that come up regularly? Maybe it's a certain time of day...
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Garden Growing Wild

inspiration patterns Nov 11, 2021

Deep down we all know when our surroundings feel "right." When our house or our landscape or our town feels peaceful and coherent or discordant. 

We know when we walk through nature it feels calming, and all too often man-made things are unsettling. 

In his book A Pattern Language, Christopher Alexander lays out over 200 hundred patterns that can help us make things that are more peaceful, functional, and aesthetically pleasing.

One pattern jumped out at me straight away when I picked up this book at my Permaculture Design Course 18 years ago. 

Garden Growing Wild. 

In this pattern, Alexander lays out a vision for a different kind of garden than we are used to. A garden which uses natural principles to grow and maintain itself. A permaculture garden. 

A garden which grows true to its own laws has a life and a magic of its own. It does not need constant tending, but is arranged so that the natural processes support what is growing there instead of threaten it.

We can choose plants and place boundaries in such a was that the growth of things regulates itself. This takes a bit of forethought and design.

A garden growing wild is more stable and healthier, requiring less time and chemicals. It also creates a more profound experience for the gardener, who becomes an occasional participant rather than enslaved by the garden. 

This pattern was my inspiration for my garden at the Williams Street Farmhouse, my urban homestead in...

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Is trick-or-treating just about the candy?

Uncategorized Nov 01, 2021

I know I'm not the only mom who struggles with all the candy my kids get from trick-or-treating. And yet we do it anyway because it's so much fun. 

I also know a lot of people who don't hand out candy because they know it's not good for the kids. But they are also missing out.

So how can we make trick-or-treating less about the candy, and more of a fun experience for both kids and adults?

 

Here's the thing... trick-or-treating is an opportunity for neighbors to connect over something fun and lighthearted. Across political and social divides. In a time that is more divisive than ever. 

It's an opportunity for people to be creative with their costumes and decorations. It's a time for people to try on a new persona. It's an opportunity for people to be silly, fun, or mysterious. 

For kids, it is an opportunity to get creative with their costumes. To me, it is super important that I don't just buy them the ready-made costume or make one for them. They need a chance to put something together themselves with their imagination. They might need help with supplies or execution, but the idea comes from them. 

It's an opportunity for kids to be out after dark, running around the streets having fun. It's exciting to see what costumes other kids came up with and to see their friends all dressed up. 

It's an opportunity for kids to go up to their neighbor's houses, who they may or may not know. To meet them and see a glimpse of what their house and...

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Getting fired up about goals for the garden and life!

I wrote out my big, overarching holistic goals for my life this morning and I'm on fire! 

I am currently walking my students through the process of Goal Articulation in my Green Thumb Course. 

Articulating your goals on paper helps you to create more deliberately. It helps inspire you, motivate you through the hard work, and gives you purpose in your garden. It gives you direction for the decisions you need to make. 

I like to revisit my goals often, to keep me focused, and also to re-evaluate. Is this still important to me? What is true for me right now? 

So yesterday I sat down in front of the wood stove with a pad of paper and a pen and got to work. I even got the boys' input on what is important to them (friends and experiments, as it turns out.) 

As I worked it, I got more and more excited. Can I really provide for 75% of my needs?? What does that mean? What are my needs? It sounds thrilling and challenging. 

When I finished and read over what I wrote, I got a little tingle up my spine. My whole body said, YES! This is what I want! 

Here's my big, overarching holistic goal: 

Our home is a beautiful gathering space filled with love, light, and laughter. It is surrounded by gardens which provide abundant food, medicine and beauty which we share with others. We grow, forage, and barter for 75% of our needs. 

We tend the land we are on as if it were our own, and for future generations who may live here. Within the fenced garden...

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Tips and Tricks for Growing Tomatoes in Cool Climates

Uncategorized May 20, 2021

Growing Tomatoes in Cool Climates

Everyone wants to grow tomatoes, right? There is just something about homegrown tomatoes that is so.... delicious! Then why is it so difficult here! People spend more time and money trying to get tomatoes than any other crop, but they still don't always do very well! 

Tomatoes are finicky. They prefer temperatures between 70-85° during the day and 59-68° at night. Temperatures outside of this range can prevent blossoms from setting fruit, and can cause deformities in the fruit. Green tomatoes will not turn red unless they get enough daytime heat. The plant itself can survive in temperatures as low as 33°, but starts to show signs of stress below 50°.

The average high temperature in South-central Alaska in the summer is 65°. The average low temperature is about 49°. Some tomatoes are more adapted to cool weather and will set fruit in lower temperatures. Stupiče, Oregon Spring, Glacier, and Gold Nugget are a few examples of cool-climate tomatoes that can be grown outside in a warm microclimate. I have had great luck growing tomatoes on the south side of our house. 

If you have a greenhouse or tunnel, you might have temperatures too hot when the weather is at its best. Use a thermometer that registers minimum and maximum temperatures so you can make sure you are within the desired range. You may need to increase ventilation during the day and find some way to retain heat for the night.  

The easiest way to...

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