Scenes of the fall

 L's new pet

Greyledge Farm, foxhunting jumper's gate

Sharon Audobon Society


Really comfortable leather shoes

You know how sometimes you try something on in the store and it feels great, just to get home and be worn for a few hours and feel horrible? This happens to me mostly with shoes and bras. Sometimes other things, but these are the main culprits. Bras I have figured out that if I just stick to a couple brands that I know feel good, that helps tremendously. And shoes? Well, I am pretty careful now about buying expensive shoes -- I walk around the store in them for as long as I can get away with, and after 35 years I seem  to finally know which styles bring me the most joy. But still, sometimes I fail. Recently I bought a pair of beauitful Liz Claiborne shoes. Usually her shoes fit so nicely, and these felt great in the store, but now I realize they are uncomfortable in a few places.Luckily, they are leather, and I have a few tried a true tricks to stretch them out.

First, I tried walking in them with thicker socks to stretch them out. Ouch! They needed help. So I moved on to step two: I moisturized them with some great beeswax shoe paste, all over the outside (which will waterproof them too) and a bit on the inside where they hurt, and I stuffed some plastic cups in the to strech right where they hurt. If that didn't work I could spray 1/4 alcohol and 3/4 water solution on the spots that hurt and walk around in them until they are dry -- this would get me a great custom fit. If I needed some all over stretching, I could fill some baggies with water and stuff the shoes with them. Then, freeze the whole thing, which results in gentle expansion of the water as it turns to ice, and a good all over stretching!


Flea Control

Though it's September we are still experiencing warm, dry weather here in the Northeast, and with it the flea populations continue to multiply throughout the region. Vets say that many people are experiencing infestations and general irritation with the little buggers. Our own home has been no exception, as well as that of my mother's. We have bathed the animals, used flea collars, diatomaceous earth, garlic, sprays for bedding, and even bombed the homes multiple times. My mother has sprayed the areas just outside the house, too. 

All these chemicals make me nervous. Obviously, they aren't working, and layering them on one after the other, powder on top of spot treatment on top of collar seems very dangerous for the enture household, but most especially for the animals themselves.

I am especially wary of yard treatments: isn't this part of the reason why there are less bees and praying mantis and such? I usually just stick with diatomaceous earth, a safe inseect killer, and lots of vacuuming though in an infestation situation I have done what I have to keep the home safe. I am ill at ease with the concept that we humans have the right to kill ALL insects outside the house. I mean, I hate the ants that come in my home every year and I do put out traps in the kitchen and spray the base of the house to keep them away, but they are more than welcome to inhabit all space oustide of my home. I have similar distaste for Roundup, and will only use it on persistant poison ivy which refuses annihilation by pulling up (yeah, you know who you are, you, you plant in the back!)... 

There are tons of safe alternatives for flea control out there -- beneficial nematode spray will decrease flea larvae in the yard by 90% within 24 hours. D.E. can be put around your home and rubbed safely into your pet's fur. Nylar is a safe chemical that you can use indoors with a lot less fear of toxicity than other products -- try I.G. Regulator. Flea collars are less toxic to animals than the spot on treatments, but not as effective, and a bit more hazardous to your humans...try natural neem oil or repellants. 

And if you still want to believe all those chemicals are good for your animals, or you, here is this excerpt from the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association’s newsletter:
In response to more than 44,000 potential adverse reactions to spot-on flea and tick products reported in 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency is intensifying its evaluation of these products. No recalls have been issued at this time. The AVMA will continue to maintain contact with the EPA and monitor the situation, and updates will be posted as they come to our attention. To see the EPA’s statement, including a chart of products, go to www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/flea-tick-control.html. For information about reporting adverse events, go to www.avma.org/animal_health/reporting_adverse_events.asp.
And this from the EPA itself:
U.S. and Canada to Increase Scrutiny of Flea and Tick Pet Products
Release date: 04/16/2009
(Washington, DC - April 16, 2009) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is intensifying its evaluation of spot-on pesticide products for flea and tick control for pets due to recent increases in the number of reported incidents. Adverse reactions reported range from mild effects such as skin irritation to more serious effects such as seizures and, in some cases, the death of pets. . . . Incidents with flea and tick products can involve the use of spot-on treatments, sprays, collars and shampoos. However, the majority of the incidents reported to EPA are related to flea and tick treatments with EPA-registered spot-on products.

For more info check out this great site:


Smoother Legs, More Free Time, Less Resources: A Product Review!

I'll just start this off by saying that I am a hairy girl. Thank you, mom, for the black Spanish hair that grows in furry profusion  :)  Over the years I have tried waxing, cream depilatories, razors, sugaring, bleaching, tweezing and it was all a losing battle...until my sister-in-law let me try her epilator. This is not the epilady (OUCH!) of the 1980's. These little machines have come a long way, and while not pain-free, are not all that bad. The first time was the worst, and each time after hurts less and less. Most parts of the leg don't really hurt at all after the first time! And, being that VERY hairy girl whose hair also grows incredibly fast (can you say 5 o'clock shadow... on your legs?) I can vouch that the results are long lasting. I only use it once a week. The best part is that my machine (the Revlon RV565 Gentle 2-in-1 Hair Removal System) comes with an electric razor on the other end that actually works!! It shaves really, really close. I never used one that worked on leg hair before, and am ecstatic that this one does. It is perfect for the bikini area and for any hairs that the epilator misses.

So, not only am I more hair-free, but I have more time, and am saving precious resources. I use less electricity and water epilating my legs for 20 minutes than I did shaving each day since I had to take incredibly hot, long showers and shave in the shower to prevent razor burn. I use 100% green energy in my home, so I am good with using an electric machine. Before, I could only use high-end razors like the Venus, so this saves me money (one time price for my epilator/shaver 18.95 on Amazon.) I also save money and resources by not needing to buy shaving cream anymore. After years of experimentation, only hair conditioner would work to prevent razor burn afterwards on my sensitive skin. I used VO5. Amazingly, the epilating doesn't cause me any skin irritation, I just moisturize afterwards as I did with shaving, and I am good to go. I haven't even had a single ingrown hair!

I wish I had owned one of these earlier. I'd probably be leg-hair free by now, since every time you epilate or tweeze or wax you damage hair follicles a bit, and there's always some that simply don't grow back. Ever. And that, in itself, is enough incentive for me :)


Today is.

a beautiful day!  The dogwood leaves are starting to turn colors, and the air is crisp and bright.

Life is always beautiful after you've had a full night's sleep and you and your children are all feeling better after a fall cold.

Perhaps that is why we have illness. So we know what  feeling better really feels like.

Today my daughter is dressed in one of my favorite outfits of my son's, and it brings back such fond memories. She has little pigtails, and has made the outfit all hers, complete with drool and bits of wet paper stuck all over her. Enchanting :)


Holly Flower Essence: Hurricane Holly #9

I've been having some crazy dreams about the number 9 and various herbs, and Holly came up as a good flower essence to create this week. Flower essences are wonderful healing tools: basically you imbue pure water with the healing, energetic imprint of a flower by setting the water and flower out in the sun or the light of the moon. Then you preserve this essence with an equal amount pure alcohol or vinegar and make a dosage bottle according to homeopathic dilution principles. 

Yesterday I made "Hurricane Holly #9", which I really can't wait to start using. This essence was made during the buildup and approach of Hurricane Earl, with two Holly flowers, a four-petaled flower and a five-petaled flower, and with 9 quartz crystals surrounding it. This Holly essence empowers and balances all the forces of nature and the five elements within you to create the strongest clearing effects possible. Parasites, miasms, dark beings and genetic disturbances scurry and flee before it. Damaged cells are purged and you are left feeling clean and clear. If you suffer any de-tox symptoms while taking this essence, drink an 8-ounce glass of water with ¼ teaspoon salt (the higher-vibration the salt, the better: Himalayan, Pure Sea Salt, etc) up to three times a day. Traditionally, holly essence is used to heal and expand the heart chakra, and to alleviate anger and envy while generating acceptance.

Flower and crystal essences are available at www.earthlodgeherbals.com/flowers.htm


Back with a Review and a Smile

Ok, really, I'm back! My son starts school again next week, I've finally got a schedule down for my newly booming jewelry business and my baby, too, and my mind has been returning to posting. It was a busy, fun-filled, work-enjoying summer, but I am sooo ready for fall. For my first post back, I thought I would introduce you all to one of my best friends: the VeggieChop. I use it almost every day, and think it is one of the coolest, most convenient kitchen tools I've ever used (and believe me, I own way too many!)

What is the VeggieChop? It is basically a small hand-powered food processor that works a lot like a pull-geared salad spinner. It is the perfect size for a bowl of guacamole or salsa, and makes baby food in seconds from just about anything. Now, I do own a big, gorgeous Cuisanart processor that can do all sorts of things. But like I said, it's big, is kept in a cupboard making a bit hard to get to, and is harder to wash. So I save that one for larger jobs like processing nuts or making Gazpacho (mmm, summer tomatoes!) My husband bought the VeggieChop for me last year at William-Sonoma for Christmas, and I was a little confused because I had just received the Cuisanart from my mom the month before. But after the first use, I was sold! This little tool is just too cool :)


Where Have I been? Making Necklaces!

I know, I know, it's been a long time since I posted anything. I haven't forgotten you all, but I have been super busy making jewelry for babies. I started with an amber anklet for my 4 month old daughter, and it worked so well for her (she's totally stopped spitting up, and now only does so when I take the anklet off for more than an hour) that I began to make them for other people's babies and even sell them alongside my grownup jewelry on etsy

So what are these necklaces all about? Well, to start off I use pure Baltic amber, which has natural analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, and has been used for centuries in Europe to help naturally relieve teething pain, and calm and soothe colicky infants. Amber jewelry is meant to be worn close to skin, not chewed on. As baby wears the amber, trace amounts of Succinic Acid are released into the skin, a safe and effective analgesic recognized by allopathic medicine to benefit pain and boost the immune system. Baltic Amber distinguishes itself from other ambers in that it contains higher traces of succinic acid, and therefore is best for teething purposes. It is also believed to be a good source of beneficial negative ions when worn close to or on the skin.  

Fossilized resin of the giant prehistoric conifer 'Pinus Succinfera', Amber Essential Oil is estimated to be between 40 and 60 million years old, and has been credited with numerous beneficial properties both physical and spiritual. The Ancient Romans and Greeks used Amber essential oil to cure ailments such as asthma, rheumatism and internal problems. It's purported healing powers have extended to epilepsy, jaundice, kidney and bladder complaints and even the plague. It has also been used as an aphrodisiac and to guard against witchcraft. The resin is used in aromatherapy to soothe the nerves, as an antispasmodic, and general healing oil. Amber has the added metaphysical property of being considered protective and healing, and the color is believed to impart joy and confidence to the wearer and aid digestion.

I combine the the amber with beautiful gemstone beads which I pick specifically for their metaphysical healing properties, always keeping my mind on what is good for babies and small children. Most of the gems I use are geared towards soothing, calming, and healing. Finally, each piece is reiki-charged by me, a Karuna and Usui Reiki Master. Each piece is one of a kind and carries a high healing vibration. I  knot the beads at regular intervals in each piece to minimize bead loss should the necklace break, and the barrel and lobster clasps I use ensure that baby cannot take it off. Under serious tension the necklace should release at the clasp, where the rings are left unsoldered for safety.

Once I'm done with a few pieces, Baby J. gets to do a photo shoot, which she just loves. Isn't she pretty? My little fairy princess.



I spent the day making adorable little tutus for my baby and other little girls. I have them on etsy (see link on the left) and am going to see if some nearby children's stores want them, too. Now, if it would just be warm enough to dress the wee fairy princess in it for the day!


A beautiful foggy morning

I was out at 8am yesterday driving through the sunny fog, thinking how gorgeous it all was. After I drove through town and started climbing the hills, I thought the fog had lifted: when I saw this amazing vista I realized it was I who had lifted above the fog. 

Wonderful world we live in :)


Of Wind Farms, Wind Storms and Big Oil

As most people now, I am both disheartened and perturbed by the lack of success by BP to shut off the oil hole, and the poor cleanup efforts by both company and country thus far. It is, unfortunately, not much of a surprise.

What I find most irritating is the language being used by BP employees: "We will clean it up." Not "We ARE cleaning it up." Not "We ARE fixing it," but "We plan to try to fix it." This language, in everyday speak, is harmless, but to me it is indicative of how companies like this generally tackle their environmental mishaps. Believe it, every word out of their spokespersons' mouths are carefully planned. So pay attention to their verb tenses. Pay attention to what they aren't saying.

Big companies approach the immediate disaster efforts slowly, and generally figure out that a delayed response and cleanup effort will cost them less. They always promise to cover all the cleanup costs down the line, but they never actually do. They always promise to be responsible and make sure every last bit is taken care of, but then... well, they don't.

Here in NW CT, GE still has not cleaned up or paid for the damage they caused by releasing massive amount of PCBs into the Housatonic River. Sorry folks, costs too much, you didn't want to eat those fish, anyway... Exxon did not pay for the full cost and efforts of the cleanup for Valdez that they were "required" to. These companies are allowed to get away with it, because their lawyers are better than the states' and their lobbies pay good money to Washington to hush things up.

And, meanwhile, WE THE PEOPLE are so enamored with oil and so fearful of wind and solar farms that we just can't seem to get anywhere. Really, seriously people, these things are NOT unattractive. They are NOT noisy. And while a few drunken birds may fly into a turbine here or there, the cost to wildlife is certainly minimal compared to drilling and spilling. On the cape, NIMBY (Not in my backyard) is threatening to stall real progress, because people like to sail and where the farms are. Get over it. Let the world evolve.

I think the most effective cleanup effort (certainly as much as anything being done by the officials) will be to create a giant wind and rain storm to drive the oil away from the coast and out to open waters where it can disperse more safely (b/c hey, the animals we can't see thousands of feet down don't really matter, anyway. It's not like we fish them.)

I'm putting on my feathers and starting a wind dance now.


Visioning the future now

Today I ventured out to a local shop that carries beautiful notebooks and journals made from handcrafted paper and worn saris from India to buy a new dream journal (mine is full!!) and a notebook for visioning. Everytime I have driven by in the last 2 months it as been open but I haven't had time or energy to stop with two kids in tow. Today I made a special trip, but alas it was closed.

I still had time before picking L up from school, tho, so I went to our local Goodwill, hoping to find a nice journal: they only had one, purple and girly with a fancy woman on the cover and the words: "It's all about me! Me, me, me, me, Me, me, ME."

Well. That's not really, um, me.

But then I thought: hey, if you're going to have a notebook for visioning, a place where you write your desires and wants, a place where you work on crystallizing your visions and manifesting your dreams, if you really want it all to COME TRUE, then girl, you better get comfortable with the phrase: "it's all about me". Because this is ALL about you. OK. ok. So, I'll work on it ;)

If you haven't ever had a visioning notebook, it can take many forms... You may fill a binder with clear sheet protectors in which you stick photos and cuttings from magaines of things you want or ideas you like. It might be filled completely with affirmations. It might be filled with prayers for you and loved ones. It might be filled with drawings or sketches. Ideas. Inspirations.

You might not use a notebook, but instead create a vision board that you can post on your wall and look at every day. I have done that, and it is a lot of fun, too.

The key with all visioning is to be in the moment, to be full of joy and excitement, for your strong emotion is a strong factor in the success your dreaming.

Here, here, let's have a group cheer for the NOW!


Tasty tea from your backyard

This month I have been really enjoying the wild harvests of my yard -- stinging nettles cooked up like spinach, chive pancakes, and garlic mustard pestos. To accompany my foraged finds, I have been drinking Eastern White Pine tea, simply taking a handful of needles still attached to small branches which are freshly fallen to the ground and steeping them in boiling water for 15 minutes with a dash of honey or agave. The tea is delicious, nutritious, and not at all like pine-sol, I promise!
White Pine Bark is an old and trusted remedy for colds and flu. It loosens and expels phlegm from the respiratory tract, easing bronchitis and lung congestion, and its warming qualities stimulate circulation, which may ward off colds and flu before they settle in. The high content of nature's most powerful antioxidants (proanthocyanidins/PCSs/OPCs) in White Pine Bark have made it the focus of much attention in the area of combating free radicals, arteriosclerosis and strokes.

White Pine Bark is an excellent expectorant and is used to loosen and expel phlegm and mucous excretions from the respiratory system. The inner bark has been a longtime standard herbal remedy for coughs, whooping cough, croup, bronchitis, laryngitis and chest congestion due to colds.

As a warming and aromatic stimulant, White Pine Bark is said to increase circulation and further help to overcome or prevent the onset of colds and flu by raising circulatory action.
White Pine Bark contains the second highest source (the first is Grapeseed) of nature's most potent antioxidants, tannin compounds, called proanthocyanidins (also called OPCs for oligomeric procyanidins or PCOs for procyanidolic oligomers) that provide a high degree of antioxidant capacity, which fight free radical damage in the body. These compounds allow the body's cells to absorb vitamin C, which is helpful in protecting cells from the free radicals that can bind to and destroy cellular compounds. These qualities may be helpful in building the immune system and fighting invasive material and other infections. They are classified as flavonols, and the way in which these versatile healing compounds are distinct from flavonoids is their simple chemical structure, which allows them to be readily absorbed into the bloodstream. They work actively against fat-soluble and water-soluble oxidants, thus protecting the cells from damage, and their antioxidant activity is thought to have great potential in combating cellular damage caused by foreign infectious attack.
White Pine Bark's OPCs, which may also be derived from Grapeseed, Red Wine, Hops, Pomegranate and various other fruits, nuts and beans are believed to contribute to a lowered incidence of arteriosclerosis and coronary heart problems. White Pine Bark is also a source of resveratrol, which is thought to raise the levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDLs or “good” cholesterol) in the blood, while decreasing the low-density lipoproteins (LDLs, or “bad” cholesterol) and thereby possibly helping to prevent heart attacks and strokes. It is also said to prevent fat in the bloodstream from sticking together and clogging the arteries, which is thought to promote better circulation of blood throughout the body, especially to the heart.
The inner bark of White Pine Bark (cambium) is the source of resveratrol, a polyphenolic phytoalexin, which is produced in plants that is reputed to have antifungal properties.

According to recent research (2008) from Peninsula Medical School, England, the resveratrol found in Pine Bark, Grape Skin and Red Wine can protect against cellular damage to blood vessels caused by high production of glucose in diabetes, claiming resveratrol's antioxidant effects are well documented. But the new research establishes the link between high levels of glucose, its damaging effect on cell structure and the ability of resveratrol to protect against and mend that damage. Moreover, resveratrol could be used to block the damaging effect of glucose, which, in turn, might fight the often life threatening complications that accompany diabetes. It could well be the basis of effective diet-based therapies for the prevention of vascular damage caused by hyperglycemia in the future.

White Pine Bark is considered a diuretic, and as such, encourages the flow of urine, which is said to be very helpful in cases of urinary tract infections and kidney problems.

Please note: Pregnant Women should probably avoid or limit their intake of White Pine, just to be safe.

(White Pine information found on herbalextractsplus.com)


Pretty Orbs in the Sacred Grove

My mother created a sacred grove on her property this winter, amongst some eastern white pines, a tamarack tree, and a hawthorn tree next to a babbling brook.

It is a wonderfull place to sit and enjoy a warm cup of tea in the morning or a cold beer at the end of the day after mucking out the horses' stalls. We housesat this past weekend for her and enjoyed the grove, and took some nice photos of nature spirits around the trees. See the big peach orb above?

Later that night I enjoyed a very fine tea steeped from the white pine needles (shown above with an orb on the left side) and a bit of local honey.


Directing Our Energy

What if, instead of going to war in Iraq, instead of continuing on in Afganistan, we had spent those billions of dollars, hundreds of days, and thousands of young soldiers' arms to erect wind towers and solar fields? What if instead of securing the angst of an entire region and a dying energy source, we had secured our nation as an energy-independent superpower?

How much safer do you think we would be today?

How much more secure, as a nation, do you think we would be?

What if we started tomorrow?

When we change direction, we shift our entire perspective.


Maple Beer, Acer Ale. Sweet Times!

With gallons of maple sap dripping into our buckets every day, there is a lot to do! Maple Syrup is easy -- just boil, boil, add more sap, boil, add more, boil, add more, boil, and pour into sterilized jars. It takes me about 2 gallons of sap to make 1 pint of syrup from my trees. Yum!

I like syrup, but I also like beer and wine, and they require a LOT less boiling to make!

Here are the recipes I used this year. I haven't made these before, though I have made similar ones.

Acer Ale -- A Quick Old New England Recipe

* 3 gallons of Maple Sap, boiled down to 1.5 gallons.
* Champagne Yeast

Cool boiled sap to 70 degrees, pour into sanitized fermenter, pitch in yeast. Ferment until it is finished, prime bottles (preferably with maple sugar or syrup) and cap. Ready to drink in two weeks.

Maple Beer -- Adapted from an old Zymurgy article
* 7 gallons fresh Sap
* 4 pounds light malt extract
* 2 oz. hops
* beer yeast

Choose ingredients that are lighter in flavor to let the maple come through better.
Boil Sap for 40 minutes to kill any beasties in it and set aside. Boil one gallon 45 minutes with hops and malt extract in it. Strain and add to fermenter. Fill fermenter to 5 gallons with remaining sap. Cover and let cool to 70F, pitch in yeast, cover again, ferment until completion. Prime sanitized bottles w/ maple syrup or maple sugar and cap. Ready to drink in two-three weeks!


Smartipants Diapers -- A Review

With my son, I used cloth diapers for over three years. For the first year I used mostly prefolds and covers, with some cute fitted kissaluvs thrown in for fun. Then I discovered Bum Genius, a one-size pocket diaper that comes in cute colors and fits newborns up through 35 pounds. They were great, except the leg elastic had a tendancy to give out after 6-12 months, and the velcro fasteners can come undone in the laundry, resulting in lots of "pulls" on washclothes and other fabrics. I used them with my daughter for the first 5 weeks, too, but they were on their last legs. Enter SMARTIPANTS!

Smartipants are fantastic diapers. These diapers are constructed very similarly to BumGenius, but they use snaps which don't catch on fabrics. They fit my 11 pound daughter very nicely, and my 37 pound son, too. Their pockets, which hold the SUPER absorbant microfiber inserts, are open on both ends so that they agitate out of the diapers by themselves in the wash -- no more reaching for the insert through poo and muck to remove it. A nice bonus, indeed. They are also very trim, even trimmer than the BumGenius, and hold more pee with less leaks (how they manage this, I don't quite know, being so trim, but do it  -- they do!)

Granted, I've only been using them for 1 week so I can't say that the elastic will last forever, but the owner of the company is one of the foremost names in cloth diapering, having invented Wonderoos years ago, so I when she says they use the best elastic they could find, I believe her.

All in all, a great diaper for a price that is nice. They are several dollars less than similar one-size pocket diapers, as well as less than most fitted/cover combos. The company offers them in three packs for those looking to save money, but then you can't choose your colors. I bought mine through thanksmama.com, whom I've dealt with before and like quite a bit. They also offer them in three packs, but let you choose your colors, and right now they have a 5% off sale if you use the coupon code "mama."


Gentian Violet for thrush... and crafts?

Gentian Violet is an old remedy for fungal and yeast condition on the skin and within the orifices. It is not made from violets or from gentian, but does have the stunning, vivid purple color of a gentian flower. You can get it through most drugstores by order without a prescription for around $2.00. One tiny bottle will last a lifetime, as you only use a tiny bit. When babies have oral thrush and/or mama has sore, red nipples from thrush, a tiny bit painted on the nipples before feeding once per day, for three days, will almost always clear it up. Baby will have a punk-looking purple mouth for a few days, but the staining is not permament. I have used this remedy once with each of my babies for minor thrush at the beginning (both births had me on IV antibiotics throughout the delivery, creating the perfect environment for this condition in my body and my babies').

Gentian violet WILL stain any clothes it comes in contact with, and so it is generally recommended that you wear black and use old black t-shirts for burp clothes for a few hours after you use gv as a treatment... I got a tiny drop on my daughter's onesie, and it came out of the wash with a stunningly beautiful bright violet spot on it. Which of course gave me the idea: why not die the whole onesie with spots? And why not die a few more onesies and socks a plain purple? So I dotted the one onesie and let it dry, and then placed it in a bowl with some vinegar and water to set the stain (not that GV needs much help in that department!) Then I also made another small bowl with 1 tsp GV, 1 cup vinegar and 3 cups water, and soaked the other onesies and socks to get a nice solid purple color.

Here is a pic of the bowl of clothes before washing: the violet comes out a bit lighter, and more vivid, in the end. You can see the onesie with spots after it came out of the wash, still wet :)  If you get any on your counter or staining your sink, a tiny bit of bleach in water will take it right out.


Love Notes from the Universe

Little blessings abound. I like to call these "love notes from the universe." Finding a 5 dollar bill when picking up trash at the local park with my son (I'm all for being a crazy teenager when one is at that age, but really guys, do you have to throw your gatorade bottles, pints of vodka and condom wrappers out your car window into the parking lot? Yuck!) A donation from family so I can buy good new cloth diapers for the baby, now that her brother's 3 year-old ones are all worn out. And now, an unsolicited offer of a free 3-year old water heater to replace ours which just died.

The water has seemed just a little less hot the last month or so, but I didn't really think about it -- it was the coldest month of the year, after all! Then yesterday there was almost no hot water when I tried to shower (emphasis on tried. I didn't last long in the cold.) I assumed it was because I had just washed a load of diapers on hot, and forgot to adjust the load size down from "large". But today, sure enough, no hot water again. None at all. No breakers are tripped. The heater is on but not working. So when I stopped at my husband's work to report on my findings, a coworker overheard us talking about heater shopping tonight and asked if we wanted his. Apparently its a great brand that he received from a company for a special trial offer: use for three years, review it, and then get another BRAND new one installed free at the end of that time. So he did the trial, and has had this great hot water heater sitting in his garage unused for the last 9 years. It's twelve years old, but was only used for three. All we have to do is clean the fittings, and my husband can easily hook it up! It is 12 gallons more than ours and a little taller, but will fit perfectly. And since ours was TWENTY TWO years old, I am sure it will still cost less to run.

Oh, the joy :) This is such a blessing, since we really don't have $500 lying around right now for a new heater. In thanks, I went and picked up more trash from the same park parking lot -- that make 6 bags now! And there's still more...

How do you juice a tree?

Can you do it? Would you do it?

My son asked me these questions last week. And I said, of yes, yes you can! And oh yes, yes I would!

Yesterday my mother and I walked around her property talking to the old Maple trees and asking their permission to tap them for sweet, healthful sap. They all said yes, all except one. The most ancient tree on our property, the 2nd oldest sugar maple in the state according to a local tree expert, we did not tap out of respect (We call her the Mother Tree), but we did tap her daughter.

Tapping is fun!

This was my first experience with tapping, so I followed all the experts instructions. I bought a 7/16th" drill, and drilled holes at chest height (about 5 feet up), 1.5 inches deep. The whole time, it smelled like crepes, like caramelized sugar wafting from the street vendors in Paris, a fond childhood memory I have from visiting Dad there every year. Mmmmmm.

I positioned the holes under large branches and/or over large roots for optimal sap collection. Next year I will not use the same holes, but tap at least two inches the right or left of them (not above or below, that still uses the same "veins".) The sap began to flow right away. We've been having warm days and cold nights for a week now, which is the best weather for tapping. I had to wait until my taps arrived by mail, though!

I drove the spiles (taps) in by hand,  and hooked on clean gallon jugs to them. That's it! Now I just need to check them and collect the sap every day or two, and begin the boiling process on the wood stove to make syrup. It takes 30-40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup, and I doubt I'll make anywhere near that much. BUT I am planning on drinking the sap (it's naturally sterile, totally filtered, full of minerals and enzymes, and yummy yummy, even tho its just 2-3 % sugar). In Korea they drink the sap as a health ritual every year. And I also want to make Maple Beer and Maple Wine. Yum yum yum. I will include the recipes I have for those and my experience with them when we do that!

All in all we tapped 7 trees, even tho we had taps and 10 jugs, my mother and I aren't sure we can use that much sap! We both have wood stoves and plan on splitting the sap between us. She is very excited, and followed me around holding the jugs on a long rope, declaring how proud she was of her "homesteading, pioneering daughter." LOL. We'll see if said daughter can make some good, consumable items out of this sap before my inner jury decides :)


U.S. Wind Energy Potential Is Three Times Higher Than Previously Estimated

Oooh -- I find the article below so exciting! I have driven through wind fields in Europe and California, and I find them beautiful. I have never understood the general American NIMBY opposition to wind turbines... I think they are so pretty, and relaxing to watch. And they are so much better for the envirnment than most alternatives. Even with the alloted amount of bird deaths from the turbines, I imagine they would kill less birds yearly than pollution from many other energy sources. In our home we use 100% green energy from our electric company in the form of 50% wind, 25% hydro (very common in CT), and 25% landfill gas. So, even when our bills are high, I still feel pretty good about them! Still, I have looked into getting a small turbine for my own land, and hope to someday have a pasture to accomodate it (and some goats!)

Reprinted from EERE Network News, a free newsletter from the U.S. Department of Energy:

New estimates for wind energy potential are blowing us away! The United States has the potential to create nine times as much energy by wind annually as was created by all energy sources combined in 2009.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently released new estimates of the United States’ wind energy potential, which tripled previous estimates of the size of the nation's wind resources. The new study, which was carried out by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and AWS Truewind, finds that the contiguous 48 states have the potential to generate up to 37 million gigawatt hours annually. To put that in perspective, total U.S. electricity generation from all sources was roughly 4 million gigawatt hours in 2009. The estimates show the total energy yield that could be generated using current wind turbine technology on the nation's windy lands. (The estimates show what is possible, not what will actually be developed.)

Along with the state-by-state estimates of wind energy potential, NREL and AWS Truewind have developed wind resource maps for the United States and for the contiguous 48 states that show the predicted average wind speeds at an 80-meter height. The wind resource maps and estimates provide local, state, and national policymakers with accurate information about the nature of the wind resource in their areas and across the nation, helping them to make informed decisions about wind energy in their communities.
Why Has Wind Energy Potential Gone Up?

The new estimates reflect substantial advances in wind turbine technology that have occurred since the Department of Energy's last national wind resource assessments were conducted in 1993. For example, previous wind resource maps showed predicted average wind speeds at a height of 50 meters, which was the height of most wind turbine towers at the time. The new maps show predicted average wind speeds at an 80-meter height, the height of today's turbines. Because wind speed generally increases with height, turbines built on taller towers can capture more energy and generate more electricity. The new estimates also incorporate updated capacity factors, reflecting improvements in wind turbine design and performance.


A Visit from Flicker

Today I saw a beautiful yellow flicker with a red back of the head, if stayed in a tree flitting from branch to branch for over 30 minutes during a bit wet snowstorm. Gorgeous. Flickers are 12-14", close to the size of a crow, and members of the woodpecker family. They are all about healing and empowerment, and were highly respected by Native Americans throughout the U.S.A.

Flicker is about change and evolution, the opening of the heart to show us new ways, and the powerful intuitive powers of the crown chakra, or messages from the divine. It shows us that new life and dreams are emerging, and indeed, an hour after seeing the bird my husband worked out some wonderful things with his business.

Flicker parents also keep a fastidious home, and I saw the bird just after tidying up and reorganizing our office and living room spaces.

Flicker is supposed to bring in renewed creativity, which is part of why I had been cleaning the office area, to allow room for more work to come in.

Beauty is all around us.

We are so blessed. We are so loved. Trust. TRUST. TRUST!!

Believe that it is all for you, for truly it is. How I yearn for you to know and believe all this. It is the fullest truth of the verse.



A Haiku

Beauty sleeping
Pink wonder, joyful wisdom
Here for a time.


A Poem to ponder...

by Michael Faraday Alexander

We speak of Consciousness,
yet what do we do;
We live in the Moment,
yet plan future Events;
We share the Dream,
yet are we fully Awakened;
We pray to our Ancestors,
yet forget to love the Children;
We learn from our Friends,
yet where is the Unity;
We acknowledge the Importance,
yet fail to provide Support;
We recognize Inspiration,
yet do we inspire Others;
We take from the Earth,
yet what do we give back;
We are born of Woman,
yet what separates our Sacredness;
We feel our inner Earthquakes,
yet not our Mother's Unrest;
We climb Success Ladders,
yet never stop climbing;
We know of The Oneness,
yet know not of our oneness;
We want Independence,
yet who is anyone Alone;
We understand Patience,
yet are ignorant of Time;
We live a life Full-Talented,
yet where is our One-Hearted;
We desire Uniqueness, seek Democracy,
yet we cannot reform our Families;
We have Experiences,
yet we keep them to ourselves;
We honor White Buffalo,
yet still follow the Herd;
We all have been Hungry,
yet still there is Starvation;
We think what we Become,
yet what we think also Becomes;
We exalt at writing Poetry,
yet how many are living as Poets;
We love to Live,
yet do we live to Love.


The Many Benefits of Drumming

Tonight I'll be drumming with friends and family at the Earth Lodge monthly drumming circle. free for all ages. We drum in the Native American heartbeat style, which is a wonderfully healing and therapeutic activity to get us in tune with our own hearts and minds, and allow us to release the stresses of the day, week, and month. Drumming helps us relax and enter meditative states (read more about that below), and tends to also increase feelings of ease and joy for those who attend the circle. Children of all ages and attention spans are welcome, making this a community-minded event that re-awakens our memories of being one-family, one-village, one-and-all.
Below, I have compiled a list of many more benefits of drumming: even if you can't make it to a local circle, just see how a little drumming at home could increase your well-being:

Blood samples from participants of an hour-long drumming session revealed a reversal of the hormonal stress response and an increase in natural killer cell activity (Bittman, Berk, Felten, Westengard, Simonton, Pappas, Ninehouser, 2001, Alternative Therapies, vol. 7, no. 1).

Stanford University School of Medicine conducted a study with 30 depressed people over 80 years of age and found that participants in a weekly music therapy group were less anxious, less distressed and had higher self-esteem (Friedman, Healing Power of the Drum, 1994).

Subjects who participated in a clinical trial using the HealthRhythms cancer protocol showed an increase in natural killer cell activity and an enhanced immune system. While this does not indicate a cure for cancer, such results may be of benefit for those facing this disease. (Bittman, Berk, Felten, Westengard, Simonton, Pappas, Ninehouser, 2001, Alternative Therapies, vol. 7, no. 1).
According to Clair, Bernstein and Johnson (1995), Alzheimer’s patients who drum can connect better with loved ones. The predictability of rhythm may provide the framework for repetitive responses that make few cognitive demands on people with dementia.

Rhythmic cues can help retrain the brain after a stroke or other neurological impairment, according to Michael Thaurt, director of Colorado State University’s Center of Biomedical Research in Music. Researchers have also discovered that hearing slow, steady rhythms, such as drumbeats, helps Parkinson patients move more steadily (Friedman, Healing Power of the Drum, 1994).

AND From "The Healing Power of the Drum" by Robert Lawrence Friedman, who quotes Layne Redmond, author of "When the Drummers Were Women."
"One of the most powerful aspects of drumming and the reason that people have done it since the beginning of being human is that is changes people's consciousness. Through rhythmic repetition of ritual sounds, the body, brain and the nervous system are energized and transformed. When a group of people play a rhythm for an extended period of time, their brain waves become entrained to the rhythm and they have a shared brain wave state. The longer the drumming goes on, the more powerful the entrainment becomes. It's really the oldest holy communion. All of the oldest known religious rites used drumming as part of the shared religious experience.

It is interesting to look at these ancient drumming practices from the perspective of the latest scientific research into the functioning of the brain. Using electroencephalographs, scientists can measure the number of energy waves per second pulsing through the brain. A system of classifying states of consciousness according to the frequencies of these waves was created.

Normal outwardly focused attention generates beta waves which vibrate from 14 to 40 cycles per second. When awareness shifts to an internal focus, our brain slows down into the more rhythmical waves of alpha, vibrating at 7-14 waves per second. Alpha is defined by relaxation and centering. Dropping down to 4-7 cycles per second the brain enters the theta state in which there is an interfacing of conscious and unconscious processes, producing hypnologic dream-like imagery at the threshold of sleep. Theta is the course of sudden mystical insights and creative solutions to complex situations and is marked by physical and emotional healing. People with a preponderance of theta brainwaves are also able to learn and process much more information than normal. Without some form of intensive training it is hard to stay awake in theta--one slips quickly down into delta. This is the slowest brainwave frequency, 1-5 cycles per second, the state of unconsciousness or deep sleep.
The brain is divided into two hemispheres that are basically split in their
control of the thinking process. The right brain functions as the creative, visual, aural and emotional center. The left brain is the rational, logical, analytical and verbal administrator. Generally, either the right or left brain dominates in cycles lasting from 30 minutes to 3 hours. While one hemisphere is dominant, the memories, skills, and information of the other hemisphere are far less available, residing in a subconscious or unconscious realm. Not only do the right and left brain operate in different modes, they also usually operate in different brain wave rhythms. The right brain may be generating alpha waves while the left brain is in the beta state. Or both can be generating the same type of brain waves, but remain out of sync with each other. But in states of intense creativity, deep meditation or under the influence of rhythmic sound, both hemispheres may becomes entrained to the same rhythm. This state of unified whole brain functioning is called hemispheric synchronization or the awakened mind.

As the two hemispheres begin to resonate to a single rhythm, a sense of clarity and heightened awareness arises. The individual is able to draw on both the left and the right hemispheres simultaneously. The mind becomes sharper, more lucid, synthesizing much more rapidly than normal, and emotions are easier to understand and transform. The conscious and unconscious levels of the mind interface and integrate more easily. Insight quickens and creative intuition flourishes, giving one the ability to visualize and bring into manifestation ideas more easily. An expanded, more complete and integrated state of consciousness comes into existence. Scientists believe that hemispheric synchronization may be the neurological basis of transcendent states of consciousness.

Research has shown that rhythmic music is one of the most effective ways to induce brainwave synchronization. Musical comprehension is a joint function of left and right brains and rhythmic sound can drive the brain waves into alpha or theta states. Many ancient religious practices seem to have originated in attempts to induce the transcendental experiences of hemispheric synchronization. Traditional drumming rituals appear to be efficient techniques for entraining the right and left brains, leading to emotionally and physically healing experiences."

Drum on!


Just BE it -- Guest Blog from edenisnow.blogspot.com

You can do anything you want. Anything you desire. Know what you want, feel it, breathe it, think it. Do not allow negative thoughts into your mind, focus only on the reality you want to create and it will be here soon enough. What you want is but a moment away from you. You always have more options than you know of, more possibilities than you can dream, more miracles to behold. Begin your journey. Take step after step, and your desires will unfold before you as a flower in bloom. As you do so, a new life, full of new desires, will unfold as well: this is life on earth, this is the way it should be. Be open to all possibilities, be joyful and positive, and the universe will return unto you tenfold what you dream of.


Antibiotics Inhibit Plant Growth

Studies continue to confirm what environmental agencies and waste management specialists have been worrying about all along: that the antibiotics and other chemicals in our wastewater is leaching into water tables throughout the United States, affecting people, animals, and even plants with unforeseen consequences. This latest article from Discovery News brings our attention to the silent victim of human waste: the Plant Kingdom.

Antibiotics Inhibit Plant Growth : Discovery News

We are all connected. Let's not forget that. Without plants, there can be no humans. Don't flush medication down the toilet: make sure it is sealed and properly disposed of. Don't throw your CFLs or batteries in the trash. Use less, live more.


Small sighs, little cries

And a baby is born!
Jocelyn Sophia, 8 lb 15 oz, born Jan 20 at 12:48 pm after a very easy and joy-full delivery. Appropriate, of course, since baby j's name means "joyful."
She is a doll. Sleeps all the time, almost never cries, all smiles and snuggly warmth.
One Day Old

In her thinking cradle...

One week old, wearing a cap and sweater crocheted by great-great-grandma, worn by grandma and mommy, too! Oh -- and lying on a shawl made by great-grandma :)

Yes, I possess the wisdom of the ages.
With momma.

Snug as a bug.


Buying Seeds for the Garden

Now, now, just because I won't be planting so much this year, you didn't think that meant I wasn't dreaming about seeds and gardens, did you? Ha! I just wrote an article for Equine Wellness Magazine yesterday all about planting edible flower, herb and vegetable gardens for your horse (the issue is coming out in May, I believe)... I simply can not get away from the leaf and shovel :)

My very first blogpost ever was about seeds, and I am reposting that post here because it is very appropriate for the season. Enjoy!

"Having turned the corner through the dead of winter, our days are getting longer and everyone (at least here where I live) is dreaming about Spring and days that don't begin with a stoking of the fireplace. Seed and plant catalogues are a great way to feed the mind and soul during winter, with beautiful images of flowers and vegetables, herbs and exotic grasses. I recently found a great article from Mother Earth News that had links to seed companies all over America. This is a fantastic resource, because when you buy seeds locally you are accomplishing two things: you are supporting local business communities and your plants are more likely to thrive in your soil, having been bred for generations in that spot of earth.

When you are reading about seeds, you will come across the terms Hybrid (F1), Open-Pollinated (OP) and Heirloom. Hybrid seeds produce specially bred varieties that are often disease and drought-resistant, or have special production properties. They are also usually designed to create more seed buying and protect the seed company's economic interest in their stock, which means that they will not breed true: if you want the same plant next year, you'll have to buy the seeds again. If you try and use seeds you collected from the plant, they will grow into a different plant, generally with different fruit production, or not even germinate at all.

Open-pollinated seeds breed true, and are often organic or grown without pesticides. You can save seeds from an open-pollinated plant and expect the exact same plants the next year. Environmentally, they present a better heritage for our children because these seeds are dependable and safe. Heirloom seeds are generally considered open-pollinated seeds which have been growing true for over 50 years or plant generations -- these are the seeds of our grandmothers, and theirs. Some heirloom varieties are endangered, and I love knowing that I am preserving a little bit of istory by planting these varieties in my garden.Here in Connecticut, I chose to order from two companies. The first is Comstock, Ferre, which had many OP seeds to choose from, does a lot of their own growing, and is the oldest seed company in the United States. How cool is that?? The other is a small company just a few towns aways from me, in a really tiny town, actually, called John Scheeper's Kitchen Garden Seeds. I also have some seeds from last year from Park's and Seeds of Change that I will use up."
Another great resource for those of you who are uber-serious about saving and using your seeds for next year is the fabulous book, Seed to Seed.


Cutting back on the Garden so we can GROW

The seed catalogs have begun to pour in, and I am poring over them, loving the photos and descriptions. But I'm not buying much, if anything at all.

This spring and summer, I don't plan to have a vegetable garden. I may hide a few plants here and there in the rest of my gardens if I can't completely restrain myself, but the veggie plot itself is being planted over with grass in March.

Shocked? Surprised? Wondering what on earth I am thinking?

Well, the reasons are many.

1. The soil in my garden has been severely compromised by last year's fungal blight that rocked the Northeast US. It affected my beans, tomatoes and potatoes, and that soil will be infected for about 3 years they say, and I can't grow those crops during that time.

2. We have a baby coming in oh, a week or two, and plan to put the house on the market in the Spring after we do some final fix-ups. This means I should be spennding time beautifying the flower gardens and rest of the house/yard, not the veggies... While I love my veggie garden, it is not particularly attractive.

3. Last summer with the constant rain and being in the first trimester of pregnancy, I did almost no weeding on our property, which turned into a jungle. I have major work to catch up on to make it nice again.

4. We have more veggies than we can eat coming in from our organic CSA, plenty to can and eat. A veggie garden of my own is a fun and provides more to can and dry, but is not totally necessary.

5. Hopefully the house will sell quickly, which would mean we wouldn't get to reap our harvest anyways.

6. Mainly, I'm forgoing the garden this year with an eye to the future: next year, and for years to come, I hope to be living somewhere that I can plant the full garden I want, have the farm animals I want, and live the dream :)


Is Squatting Behavior Submissive Behavior in Hens?

I had a discussion with some other poultry owners today about hens who squat when you reach to pet them (like the one in the picture) . Squatting is a hen's way of "presenting", or signaling a rooster that she is willing to mate. Hens that are reaching the age where they are ready to lay eggs will often begin squatting when you pet them, whether you have a rooster or not. Some people believe the squatting is just a sign of submissiveness, since hens are generally submissive to their roo.

Out of my four hens, I have two that always squat, one that does sometimes, and one I can't generally get near enough to see what it will do, lol. The two who squat are not the most submissive in my flock, but they are the least skittish. In fact, one of them is the alpha of the flock. They are also the two that lay eggs every day. The other two are not so reliable.

Though I suppose that the squatting might be a sign of submissiveness to an owner or a rooster, I believe it probably has more to do with their hormones, thus their brooding and possibly even their mothering capabilities. I have never seen hen squat in submission to another hen, that is for sure!

My mother breeds dogs, and the ones that most eager to present have also been the ones that made the best moms, both from a fertility standpoint (always producing lots of healthy puppies) and as pertained to their willingness to nurture their babies for longer periods of time, nursing, teaching, etc. The dogs that don't present as often, or who dislike it altogether, have made worse moms, or sometimes not conceived at all (even after multiple Artificial Inseminations...)
I believe chickens have real submissive signs, such as head ducking, pecking order at the feed, even roosting order. Just like dogs: I have never seen a female dog present to another female (or male when she's not in heat for that matter) as a sign of submission. But tail, eye and ear position,who eats first, yawning and bowing: these are all signs of submission. I think that because we humans cower in submission, we assume that a similar position in an animal must be the same thing, but it's just not always true. That said, I am no chicken behavior expert, and since I don't have a roo anymore, I can't really test the fertility/mothering link myself. Someday!


Saving Heritage Breeds

Heritage Breeds are farm animals that have been around a long time, and in general are not used by large scale agriculture. These breeds are dwindling due to commercial unavailabilty or viability within CAFOs, but they are vital to insuring the survival of farming in the future.

For example: modern turkeys that are used on most meat farms and sold in most hatcheries have been bred to have such large breasts that the males can not longer mount the females to mate naturally: they must be artificially inseminated. Many of the most commonly sold chicken breeds on the market no longer care to hatch and raise their own young -- quite simply, the desire has been bred out of them. Some larger animals have lost some of their natural foraging and mothering instincts, along with natural disease resistance. Many pigs on large farms are being born with poor leg structure, because the breeding sows don't need to walk or even turn around in their cubicles to gestate, and no one is noticing that their legs are weak and being passed on to their young. Holsteins have been bred with overactive pituitary glands which stimulate exorbitant milk production that is results in milk laced with similarly raised amounts of growth hormone -- making more milk than an average family could ever drink in a day.

For these and many other reasons, a lot of people think its important to assure the survival of the "old" breeds which may not be super-producers but tend to be more disease resistant and better suited to life on small farms or homesteads. Smaller cows such as Jerseys and Guernseys are easier to manage and produce milk in quantities that are better suited to family use. Pigs that know how to forage are better suited to pasture life and may feed themselves for free, especially if you have great stand of oaks for them to rummage through. Baby chicks that are reared by their mamas grow up to be good mothers, too, eliminating the need to buy incubators and monitor hatching. Life on a farm, even a small one, is a lot of work: why not choose animals that help out and simplify matters wherever possible?

Even scientists are getting in on the action. Check out this NY Times article about a heritage breed sperm bank: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/06/dining/06frozen.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Where to find coupons...

My local papers don't carry coupons, only circulars. I use the coupons that print out when I buy groceries, and I buy things on sale, generally saving $10-20 at the register, but I have rarely found any good places for coupons online, and get nothing in the mail.

Until today!

Hoorah, I have found two great places to print out coupons:

I have also signed up at a couple places that are supposed to send lots of great coupons every month -- we'll see how those live up to their reputation. If they are any good, I will post them here. In the meantime, I have lots of good coupons printed out now for healthy cereals, some pillsbury cresent rolls, progresso soups, and more -- and it only took me about 15 minutes to go through both sites, choose what I wanted and print them up. They print all coupons that you "clip" at the end, so that it saves paper, too.


Maple Sap for Good Bones, Syrup for Good Eats!

I am looking forward to tapping some maple trees later this year for the first time -- here is a neat article about the sap itself, which can be used as a healthy beverage or addition to recipes as well as being boiled into sap. Good to know, since it takes 30-40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup! I tried some sap about 9 years ago -- it was very tasty :) We usually are still burning the wood stove all day in March, tapping season around here, so we'll do both: boil and drink. Though I don't see myself drinking 5 gallons in one sitting, you?

In South Korea, Drinks Are on the Maple Tree
Published: March 5, 2009

HADONG, South Korea — At this time of year, when frogs begin stirring from their winter sleep and woodpeckers drill for newly active insects, villagers climb the hills around here to collect a treasured elixir: sap from the maple tree known as gorosoe.

“It’s important to have the right weather,” said Park Jeom-sik, 56, toting plastic tubs up a moss-covered slope.
“The temperature should drop below freezing at night and then rise to a warm, bright, windless day. If it’s rainy, windy or cloudy, the trees won’t give.”
For centuries, southern Korean villagers like Mr. Park have been tapping the gorosoe, or “tree good for the bones.”
Unlike North Americans who collect maple sap to boil down into syrup, Korean villagers and their growing number of customers prefer the sap itself, which they credit with a wide range of health benefits.
In this they are not alone. Some people in Japan and northern China drink maple sap, and birch sap has its fans in Russia and other parts of northern Europe. But no one surpasses southern Koreans in their enthusiasm for maple sap, which they can consume in prodigious quantities.
“The right way is to drink an entire mal” — 20 liters, or about 5 gallons — “at once,” said Yeo Manyong, a 72-year-old farmer in Hadong. “That’s what we do. And that’s what gorosoe lovers from the outside do when they visit our village.”
But how can you drink the equivalent of more than 50 beer cans of sap at one go?
“You and your family or friends get yourselves a room with a heated floor,” Mr. Yeo said, taking a break under a maple tree in Hadong, 180 miles south of Seoul. “You keep drinking while, let’s say, playing cards. Salty snacks like dried fish help because they make you thirsty. The idea is to sweat out all the bad stuff and replace it with sap.”
Drinking gorosoe has long been a springtime ritual for villagers in these rugged hills, for whom the rising of the sap in the maples is the first sign of the new season. Some villagers even use the sap, which tastes like vaguely sweet, weak green tea, in place of water in cooking.
In the past decade, thanks in part to the bottling industry and marketing campaigns by local governments, gorosoe sap has become popular with urban dwellers as well.
“I send most of my sap to Seoul,” said Mr. Park, who harvests 5,000 liters, or 1,320 gallons, of sap in a good year.
Koreans may have been drinking sap as early as a millennium ago, historians say. According to one popular legend, Doseon, a ninth-century Buddhist monk, achieved enlightenment after months of meditating cross-legged under a maple tree near here. When he finally tried to get up, his stiffened legs would not work. The sap from the tree fixed the problem. Hence the name’s meaning it is good for the bones.
Mr. Yeo said that villagers used to make a V-shaped incision in the tree and insert a large bamboo leaf to run the sap into wooden or earthenware tubs. Then they would carry away the sap-filled tubs on their backs.
Today, villagers usually drill holes in the trees and insert plastic spouts. A maze of plastic tubing carries the sap to holding tanks downhill.
Every year, Hadong produces 317,000 gallons of sap, which fetches between $6 and $7 a gallon. Although most sap harvesters here are tea or persimmon farmers who gather sap on the side for extra income, some enterprising villagers have begun planting thousands of maple trees as a primary business venture.
Some rural governments host gorosoe festivals for tourists, with activities that include sap-drinking contests and rituals venerating mountain spirits. A popular place for drinking sap is public bath houses, where customers take the tonic while relaxing on heated floors.
Promotional pamphlets advertise the sap’s purported benefits: it is good, they say, for everything from stomachaches to high blood pressure and diabetes.
Lee Jae-eung, a naval officer attending the gorosoe festival on Koje, an island east of Hadong, with his two daughters, said he liked the sap because “it soothes my stomach after a hangover.”
Most of these claims have yet to be substantiated, said Kang Ha-young, a researcher at the Korea Forest Research Institute.
“But one thing we have found is that the sap is rich in minerals, such as calcium, and is good, for example, for people with osteoporosis,” he said. “Somehow, our ancestors knew what they were doing when they named it.”
The seesawing temperatures are needed to collect gorosoe because they build pressure inside the tree, which causes the sap to flow more easily when the trunk is punctured, preferably on its sunny side.
Now that sap-gathering is becoming more commercial, some environmentalists have criticized tree tapping as “cruel.”
“I oppose boring holes in a tree and drinking its sap,” said Kim Jeong-yon, 46, a tourist visiting Koje.
Mr. Kang, the researcher, says careful tapping is harmless. To ensure this, the national forest authorities recently began requiring licenses for sap collectors and regulating the number of holes they can bore into each tree.
Gorosoe farmers, who were doing a brisk business selling sap to visitors from makeshift stands, acknowledged the need for restraint.
“The trees donate their blood to us,” said Yang Heung-do, 51. “If you donate too much blood, you get weak. So we drill only one to three holes per tree, depending on its size.”


The Prodigal Cat Returns

Two or three weeks after my son was born, my skittish indoor cat, then aged 7 years, snuck out the back door and refused to return inside. Ever. She has weathered winter storms in our sheds and allowed me to pet her about once a year. Sometimes twice.

She has been outside for 3.5 years, friendly with our indoor/outdoor cats but refusing to allow us within 5 feet of her. The last few weeks we have had a feral cat hanging around sleeping in her favorite spot and competing for food, and what with the frigid near 0F wind chill outside, I guess she is fed up -- she has been acting like she wanted to come in, but was still nervous.

Until Today!!

She meowed and meowed on the porch, so I went to feed her and she tried to run inside. Then she ate instead, but kept meowing so I went and pet her. She started purring, I picked her up, and brought her inside. Amazing. I checked her over for fleas and didn't see a single sign on them. She actually looks cleaner than our indoor cats. Still, I put spot-on flea medication on her and am feeding all the cats some Diatomaceous Earth in their food...

The oddest thing about all this is that she is returning just a couple weeks before we expect my daughter to be born. Maybe she just wants to see the baby...
I love this cat. I've had her since she was rescued from a back alley in Los Angeles at 5 weeks, her mother and siblings all dead next to her. She's always been skittish, but as long as you DO NOT MOVE, she will roll all over you purring and purring. She is a doll. The only house she was ever successfully indoor and outdoor at the same time was my mother's, where she has all sorts of cat doors going in and out, and a nice warm barn. She may wind up there again, since my mother is always asking after her and I'm not sure that Cleo is really up to being in a house that now includes a sword weilding robot loving toddler. But I am so glad to have a chance to pet her again :)