Wednesday, January 14, 2009

10 Steps to Going and Staying Raw

Adapted from The Raw Food Blog, this outlines one way of approaching a raw food lifestyle. This might work for most people. Myself, the journey was more about really listening to my body and going with the flow. The point at which i made a significant shift was when i made my kitchen raw. Cleared out all the cooked foods, gave away my cooking gear and started using the oven as extra bench space. I had already been eating mostly raw, but this just nudged me over that point of no return.

1. Assemble the tools you need. A blender - any blender - a juicer, a dehydrator, some jars for sprouting, and a variety of raw recipes are the minimum requirements. If you can't bring it all together at once, then start with the blender and jars.
2. Assemble your list of suppliers. Where are you going to buy your food? Are you going be mostly organic? Will you be able to source from growers' markets or a food co-op? Find a supply of sprouting seeds - at least some alfalfa, sunflower and broccoli. The wider the variety the better. We've started the Living Foods Co-operative in Melbourne to support the raw community here.
3. Read your instructions. Do you know how to sprout, how to use the juicer?
4. Plan out what you're going to do. If you decide you'd like to make angel-hair pasta from zucchini, for example, you might find having a spiral slicing machine handy. This might put you back to step 1.
5. Set a starting date and create a support crew around you. Having a support group is the greatest. Check for raw groups in your area. If you don't know any raw foodies in your area, find a raw chat group or two for support. A professional Raw Coach is ideal, if available.
Share with them what you plan to do, and the date you're going to start. You'll find yourself more successful this way, than if you "go raw secretly."
6. Stay inspired. So build a collection of books, videos, and CDs so you'll have lots of material as you go raw. This will help maintain momentum. Videos are good for motivation. There are many places online where these can be viewed, The Best of Raw Food, and YouTube are just some. There are also an increasing number of films being released. Check some of my previous blogs for these.
7. Eat consciously. Research shows that it takes 21 days for a new behaviour to become a habit. This is just as true for eating as it is for any other kind of habit. So exercise your consciousness when you are eating live foods and be aware of your attitude towards the food.

Victoria Boutenko and Gabriel Cousens have written a book on the subject of eating raw and breaking that dependency on cooked foods - 12 Steps to Raw Foods. Her book covers the subject in detail, but here are her 12 Steps to Raw Food:
Step 1 - I admit that I have lost control of my addiction to cooked food and my eating is becoming unmanageable.
Step 2 - I believe that live vegan food is the most natural diet for a human being.
Step 3 - I shall gain necessary skills, learn basic raw recipes and obtain equipment to prepare live food.
Step 4 - I shall live in harmony with people who eat cooked food.
Step 5 - I shall stay away from temptations.
Step 6 - I shall create a support group.
Step 7 - I shall find alternative activities or hobbies.
Step 8 - I shall let my higher self lead my life.
Step 9 - I shall make a searching and fearless inventory of the real reasons for seeking comfort and pleasure from cooked foods.
Step 10 - I shall let my intuition help me.
Step 11 - Through clarity I will gain happiness.
Step 12 - I shall provide support to other raw fooders.

8. Part of changing diet and lifestyle is detoxifying the body. Not as a one-time detox, but instead, we should be constantly detoxing. That's where Dr. Ann Wigmore's program comes in. She taught much more than a diet. In her books and videos she lays out the procedures for a continuous healthy detox, including the foods we eat, how we combine them, the usage of colonics or enemas, the uses of wheatgrass juice, and more.
The basics are laid out in her book, Why Suffer? How I Overcame Illness and Pain Naturally.
9. Be aware, not discouraged. You're going to backslide at times, and it's normal. Don't feel like you've "failed" if you happen to go out for your favourite cooked meal. Instead, think about how well you've been doing, how much better you're eating than you used to, and how much better you're feeling since you started going raw.
10. Experiment, experiment, experiment. Knowing that I have addictions to comfort foods, I found new comfort foods. For me that's fresh blueberries, raspberries, and bananas.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

a note about citrus

after a little bit of investigation i believe i have found some useful solutions for the vexed question of how (and if) to compost citrus.
this is something i have been asked more than once. and i've had my fair share of grief seeing orange and lemon peel add to the slush i am attempting to remediate in my own bin right now. yes, it is acidic and the worms do not like it. and, according to Paul Stamet, there is no fungi that breaks down the volatile oils, which apparently are as much of a problem as is the acidity. after all, it is the orange oil that is used as the antiseptic agent in many of the "green" cleaners to cut grease and kill living things.
however, there are other uses. you can dry the peel and use it as fuel,
in this case there's even a commercial application. not only does the dried peel burn well, but it gives off a great aroma. you can freeze the peel and then compost it. apparently it breaks down much faster, and the freezer smells great. however the following three stage juice pulp composting recipe - from the Permaculture Discussion Forum - takes the cake for the most innovative solution:

Re: Composting citrus?
by Ichsani » Sun Sep 21, 2008 1:42 pm
Hi all
After my first attempts at juice pulp composting ended in rank, pongy failure
I hit upon a recipe that worked- found through lots (did I say lots?) of trial and error-

1 part pulp (citrus mainly, some vege and other fruits)
1 part coffee grounds a couple of handfuls of rich soil/old compost/ leaf litter etc
some token handfuls of lime (for later)
lots of microbes and wormies (free!)
the luck of the compost faeries (with us all)

I used a three stage process - involved, but it worked better than anything else I tried.
Stage 1:
The pulp and coffee came in garbage bags when I got them - either way, mix the pulp, coffee and those handfuls of soil in one bag (it really doesn't work without this step - the coffee has effectively been heat sterilised and the pulp doesn't have many microbes in it - cause the inside of the fruit doesn't - or shouldn't. When I mixed bags without the soil/old compost added, the coffee/pulp 'mummified' and didn't break down for yonks).
Don't add any water - just the pulp, coffee and soil/old compost innoculent.

The bags can't be so full else they'll tear. After mixing twist the bag shut so there's little air and turn over so its doesn't come undone - you can stack up several bags this way. Leave in a shady spot for at least a few weeks (no sun, not even a bit - another lesson learnt).

Stage 2:
When you have enough to make a pile (mine were ~1/2 cubic metre) slice open the bags - they'll be a little whiffy but only slightly. Its not a 'knock you over' kind of pong. The coffee bits look more 'fluffy' and the pulp looks pretty much the same but the smell is 'different' to when it went in ..... don't put it on plants 'to finish off in the garden' at this stage - it'll kill seedlings and such as there is a bit of alcohol produced.

Make the pile as big as you can comfortably turn (or use one of those tumbler things for bigger jobs). I did mine in compost bays open onto the ground (this helps for stage 3).

For each bag you add, chunk in a handful of lime (its nowhere near enough lime to neutralise the acidity of the citric acid 'in theory' BUT the theory strictly only holds for an acid and an alkali by themselves....and can't account for the diversity of molecules that make up the pulp and coffee, the wonders of life, microbial succession and all that guff.
Mix the pile around and sprinkle with water - moist not sodden is the aim.
You can add some leaves or straw at this point to make the finished compost less dense but try without first then adapt the mix how you see fit next time.

Fork it around a few times a week, sprinkle with water to keep it moist. It'll get HOT after each forking. This went for about 4 weeks depending on the season and the number of times I turned it. When the pulp doesn't look like pulp any more and it doesn't really get hot after turning, its time for:

Stage 3:
Either move to a finishing bay or leave in the same spot to 'finish' out of the sun. No more forking just let the worms move in. This stage takes about 4 - 8 weeks depending on the season - shorter if its warm. It also helps to cover the pile with hessian, old felt, leaves or something to keep it humid. Leave it alone except for a bit of water now and again.

That's it.

This made perhaps the best compost I have ever produced. Rich, very dark, very sticky and very very dense. It smelt wonderfully earthy and was so densely humusy that I reckon you could have modelled figurines out of it. My 1/2 cubic metre piles became about 20 buckets worth each - less than a 1/3 of the original size.

I had to cut it 70:30 (crappy sandy soil: compost) to use it. Other, more crumbly composts I grow straight into no problem - but not this one. I tried higher amounts of this compost in pots but it dried very hard and shrunk by about 1/3 and would only wet up if submerged in a bucket - hardcore compost!

If leaves, straw etc are added at stage 2 the compost comes out more fluffy and only needs a 50:50 cut.

Out of my own curiosity I tested the pH through the stages - end of stage 1 pH ~ 4, end of stage 2 pH ~ 6-7, end of stage 3 pH about 7-9. More often it was about pH 8. After cutting with (formerly) crappy sandy soil pH was ~7. Perfect.

Like everybody else here - I would rather all that organic matter goes to making us more gardens!!!!! (rather than going to landfill to make methane to warm our toes).

Monday, January 5, 2009

building a compost bin

i'm going to replace the old green plastic one with something that actually works. the unfortunate problem with the plastic bins is they don't aerate very well. once the anaerobic activity gets going it interferes with the breakdown and the organic matter starts to rot instead of composting. the other thing that can happen is not enough moisture, or too much heat. this can affect the breakdown process and the microbial action.

so the answer is to build a bin with wooden slats, have gaps between the boards to allow air to circulate and turn the compost as and when needed. a good compost that is breaking down well does NOT smell. if anything it has that rich sweet smell of live soil, and worms abound in plenty.
a lid is good though to keep vermin out, and for aesthetics.

these are some designs i am considering. placed a WANTED post on Freecycle tonight and have managed to locate some old pallets for the timber.

Vasili on SBS has detailed instructions for building a wooden compost pallet bin, including a video clip.

This three-bin structure is the rolls royce of compost bins, complete with detailed instructions and photographs. Even management students from Bucknell University can build one so it can't be that hard.

And this is my favourite, the twin bin, portable and compact. The instructions are clearly laid out, step-by-step with photos.

Watch this space as i begin to construct my own variation and combination to fit the space where the plastic bin sits.