Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween and Harvest

Pumpkins seem to be quintessential symbol of Halloween.
These were photographed at Sebastopol's
own Hale's Apple Farm where there were about 8 different
kinds of pumpkins. These are the French version called Cinderella pumpkins.

Halloween, October 31, is the secular holiday when children and adults alike dress up their favorite costumes. Growing up we use to go door to door in our little town knocking on doors and shouting "trick or treats." The older teenagers moved outhouses to school yards and other locations about town. Today however with lethal threats placed in "treats," parents are not so eager to have their children out and about on Halloween. Although in Sebastopol children with their parents gravitate for the traditional "treat or treat" Halloween outing to Florence Avenue, which year round is adorned with Amiot's delightfully fun "junk art" sculptures.
This date is also our friend Judy Withee's birthday. Here's a song for you, one that Tanis sang to me on my most recent birthday. She called it the Bolinas Birthday Song.

Happy birthday
Happy, happy birthday

We’re in love with you.
May happiness be yours 
throughout the coming year
And all the best to you.

So keep smilin’ every day
And may your troubles go away
And may you never ever be blue

So happy birthday
Happy, happy birthday to you

The blue flour corn recently harvested to dry for later shelling and grinding.

And Sweet Meat squash ready to be plucked from the vines.

Sweet Meat squash ready to be stored for Winter consumption.
And there was a recent visitor to MuRefuge's greenhouse that was such a surprise.

Several days later, while I was setting out of the greenhouse the native grass filled Todd planters, this BEing was curled up in a corner of a black plastic tray upon which rested one of the Todd planters. The brilliant colors in the stripes were more evident than here where it is stretched out across the Todd planter onto the cement. Seeing this BEing in this "L" shape caused Dwight to 


Samhain is the witch's New Year marking the time of the year to begin one's inward journey. 

In Mexican culture it is know as the Day of the Dead (Dia de Muertos). This is actually a multi-day celebration focusing on family and friends gathering to honor friends and family members who have died and to support their spiritual journey in the afterlife.

Cempoalxochitl Marigold aka Day of the Dead Marigold
often appear on the altars honoring the beloved deceased
on this Mexican Holiday.
Skulls like this one created by Dwight Sims
also often appear on the altars.
Samhain "is about death and release -- letting go of what has been as we prepare for the rebirth of light at Yule . . . . To move forward in your own life, you must let go of and make peace with the past; you must let that old part of you die." This day marks the time of moving our attention inward as though entering "dreamtime" and "dancing with transformative darkness" (Clea Danaan, 2013). The increasing amount of darkness in 24 hours and the drop of temperature outside supports this inward movement of our energy.

“Healing on the causative or primal level necessitates changing the patterns 
that govern experience, and while most people in pursuit of healing 
claim to be seeking a state of complete wellness, 
this depth of healing is typically shied away from.” 

(Loren Cruden, Medicine Grove: A Shamanic Herbal)

MuRefuge's Roger Red grape vines are turning their brilliant shades of red,
as they do at this time of the year.
The wizened grapes fortify the birds' diets at this time of the year, too.
Soon the red leaves will be blown about MuRefuge's backyard,
composting in the Winter rains and feeding the soil.
As the deciduous vines, bushes and trees drop their leaves may we too let go of those habits that no longer serve us and, of course,

Thursday, October 20, 2016


In this country we are inundated with a plethora of choices no matter what item (food, clothing, appliances, medications, etc.) we want to purchase. Here's just one of many examples: Have you ever counted the number of choices for Acetaminophen, aka Tylenol, there are on a drugstore's shelf? Furthermore, have you read each label? The choice is actually between regular (325 mg.) or double strength (650 mg.) Acetaminophen; the rest of the choices have to do with the fillers, aka inactive ingredients, which vary from having benign to extremely troublesome untoward effects for humans.

St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) in full bloom this Summer past.
For myself, having mild discomfort in my hands, I make a salve from St. John's Wort grown right here at MuRefuge: the flowers featured in the above picture are plucked and "tinctured" in half organic olive oil and half organic jojoba oil. Choosing to use herbal alternatives rather than those offered by the gigantic pharmaceutical industry just seems to me to be a safer choice. Do any of you remember the salve we used to purchase in the local drugstore for abrasions, scrapes and cuts? I remember it smelled just like Yarrow. I believe it actually was made from the healing herb Yarrow rather than some pharmaceutic manipulation.

The bright yellow flowers are picked and packed
lightly in a sterilized glass jar. Within a few days the
oil turns this bright red which I am in awe of every time it happens.
After the above beautifully red liquid sits in the sunshine for six weeks, it is strained. Along with beeswax and coco butter it is gently heated to melt the wax and poured into small jars.

Each morning before sitting I slather on this richly healing herbal preparation
to find that the achy joints are soothed for the day.
Then there are also choices about, take for example, washing machines: a bazillion different companies make them. Our friend who lives on Molokai was in need of replacing their washing machine and went to see the options (Sevens are big on options as my baseball buddy constantly reminds me). "Easy," she said, "There were only two choices and I just pointed to one. It does the job!"

Perhaps we would find negotiating the excessive number of choices, which are in place to support the capitalist driven economy, if we established for ourselves some helpful parameters before making a purchase, like does it benefit Mother Earth or at worst does her no harm. Avoid using such parameters as "is it cheap?" or "is it on sale"? My beloved now dead stepfather Stephen B. Howard had a saying he lived employing: "Those who buy what they do not need often cannot buy what they need."

Supporting companies that produce items responsibly and sustainably is a great way to reduce the excessive amount of choices. Recently I was pleasantly surprised when the organic non-soy laying pellets we purchase for our small duck flock had included on the label no corn. When I contacted the company, Bar Ale in Winters, California, they indicated that both ingredients are nonorganic and tainted with GMOs. HURRAH! for Bar Ale!!

Across our county there are many concerned citizens who believe the state of our Union  is no longer a democracy and do not believe there is a viable choice for the next President of the United States of America to reverse this. One candidate is determined to maintain the status quo of "Big Money" running our government and the other is a bully.

Our friend, Larry Needleman, a talented sculptor, created this mask.
With this candidate's snorting during the debates
an alternative mask to the baboon could be of a snorting bull.
As with so many choices, neither candidate is without major negative consequences. So as we deal with this troublesome choice and all the others we face daily, may we

Friday, October 14, 2016

Seasonal Eating

Shasta looking longing outside at her territory. 
She was house bound for two weeks recently
as she healed from her bladder surgery.
Grappling with altering Shasta’s homemade stew to minimize the reoccurrence of struvite bladder stones that were surgically removed recently, I have revisited from whom we buy our food. Wanting organic and nonGMO verified plant and animal ingredients to prepare her meals has motivated me talk with the local vendors about their farming practices. The Sebastopol Farmers Market has some stellar farmers, both male and female, who are more than willing to discuss how their vegetables and/or meat are raised. Those farms, like Green Star Farm, almost our next door neighbor, and Bodega Pastures, from whom we buy lambs for our freezer each year, raise their animals on ancestral diets; for example goats and lambs eat grass in the pasture, not in feedlots where the animals are fattened up with grain. Cows, goats, sheep for example cannot digest grain which ferments in their digestive tract thus creating large amounts of methane which adds to the increasing greenhouse gases in our atmosphere now resulting in unprecedented violent weather worldwide.

Buying local food allows us to know the source of our food and one can often visit those farms, which is not only instructive, but can be a fun Sunday outing as well. It is amazing to me how forthright farmers are about their practices especially when they are beneficial to both Mother Earth and all BEIngs who call her home.

Both purchasing locally and eating seasonally maximize nutrition. During storage and transportation of especially plant based food, both vital nutrients and life force energy aka qi are lost. With globalization of the market place it is commonplace during our Winter months to see blueberries from the Southern hemisphere for sale in our markets as well as apples from Australia. Eating seasonally would focus on consuming citrus as well as root vegetables during this time. Of course, this requires each of us to look at our food planning and preparation, but with forethought and adjusting our habits we reap the benefits of varied local foods with their maximum nutrition.

Organs like liver, heart, kidneys, gizzards do not routinely appear in the grocery stores catering to the average United States citizen. For Shasta to have a fully nutritious diet a variety animal organs is essential . I was so pleasantly surprised at the response from Mindful Meats administration office when I emailed them about getting beef hearts and liver. Oliver's Markets (I shop the flagship market in Cotati each Wednesday) are the only markets in Sonoma County that presently carry Mindful Meats. With some negotiations between Mindful Meats administration and Oliver's meat department managers, Oliver's Markets are now receiving organs as part of their weekly order. And the butchers at the Cotati Oliver's are ever so kind to grind the exact amount needed to complete a beef recipe for Shasta.

Those of us living in Northern California who buy our food from local farms often remark how lucky we are to live in a place where organic, fresh, high nutrient density fresh food is so readily available year round. The choices are remarkably diverse over the course of an entire year. 

Eating seasonally is simple for a person shopping at their local Farmers Market: one buys what the vendors have harvested from their fields, whether plant or animal. Shasta's vegetable and fruit mix is made with whatever is in season and available from MuRefuge's garden and/or vendors at the Sebastopol Farm Market.

In the foreground are Crane Melons
hybridized right here on the Santa Rosa Plain.
They are juicy, sweet and luscious.
With a cup of plain, organic, nonGMO verified low fat Greek yogurt scooped into the center, a half of a Crane Melon is a quick pick me up at any time of the day.

Some of us preserve the abundance of Summer to enjoy during the Winter when root veggies are predominate. Slow roasted heirloom tomatoes, unthawed from the freezer, make a tasty meal warmed and served over mashed potatoes with canned peaches for dessert.

Huckleberry Gold potatoes which this vendor tried for the first
time this season. He bought the entire 50# bag of seed potatoes 
because the "seed" potatoes were just the right size. 
He planted only this variety of potatoes this year without ever having tasted them.
He, along with all his customers, have discovered that these potatoes are awesomely delicious!
A variety of heirloom tomatoes displayed for sale recently
by The Patch, located on 5 acres near the town of Sonoma.
The sign says it all! For four consecutive Sundays I bought a box of these peaches.
Jars of jam, butter and canned in a light maple sugar syrup 
now sit in our pantry for Winter consumption.
These peaches come from Yolo County and the huge organic
orchard, on the off season, was purchased by a young man and woman
to carry on the tradition of bringing the best ever peaches to the
Sunday Sebastopol Farmers Market.
Pickled peppers (I prefer pimento peppers from MuRefuge's vegetable garden) atop 7 Sprouted Grain toasted English Muffins make for a light evening meal.
What a beautiful display by The Patch's of their many different kinds of peppers.
In large part due to the "roller coastal" weather this growing season, pears are not their usual stellar juicy deliciousness. A number of farmers brought their harvest and we tried all of them. Dwight is the pear connoisseur and no vendor's pears met with his stamp of approval.
Red Pears from Stone Horse Farm located on Occidental Road near Sebastopol.
As each one of us grapple with our individual and/or family's nutrition and where our food actually is raised, may each of us