Sunday, December 19, 2010

Bob's Wonderful Plums

Jessica and Bob at Byron Markets
Raining today at Byron Markets, but Bob was still there with his chemical-free fruit and vegetables. Jessica came along for the tomatoes (and Russian cucumbers). Normally plums are not my favourite fruit, but these ones were deliciously sweet. 

Bob grows all this wonderful produce at his property in Dunoon. He tells me some of the trees there are very old – at least 30 years. Bob has a great variety of fruit for all seasons – peaches, custard apples, plums, pineapples, tomatoes, cucumbers, avocados and even a few bananas. His vegetables are great and this week he had enormous spring onions, lettuce, chokos and beans. Like everyone else in the district Bob also grows macadamia nuts, but unlike some of his neighbours, he does not spray.

Bob and Jessica and Bob's splendid market stall
Bob started life as a dairy farmer (conventional) but gave that up 15 years ago and now concentrates on growing fruit and vegetables the natural way.

You’ll find Bob at the local Sunday markets. He does Bangalow, Byron, The Channon, Mullumbimby (on the third Saturday) and travels over to Casino on a Thursday.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Raw Vegan Potluck - Uki

Amidst the rain and thunder last night, 20 of us gathered at Avi and Mehavit's organic farm in Byangum. December 2010 and the eighth Raw Vegan Pot Luck at Uki. It is inspiring to see such a beautiful group of people and the wonderful food they've brought to share along with stories, songs and laughter.

As Menkit points out, eating a raw vegan diet contributes not only to personal health and well-being but also to the sustainability of mother earth. Eating less meat and dairy helps reduce the impact that animal agriculture has on our soils and waterways. Eating fresh, local produce straight from nature (no cooking, processing, packaging) reduces the impact on the environment and climate change. It's all good.

And as we can see from the sumptious spread, eating raw food need not be boring. My preference is to eat mainly fruit and to keep meals simple. No need to add salt, condiments, spices as the food itself has it's own splendid and delicate flavours. The meal i prepared was a simple recipe; in-season local organic produce all purchased from the New Brighton Farmers' Market on tuesday (except for the mangoes). Zucchini fettucine with a mango and tomato sauce and finely chopped parsley for garnish.

The most elaborate meal was Tess' Mock Turkey Pate with fresh cranberries. Nice idea and definitely in keeping with the christmas tradition, but won't it be good when we can shift our minds away from trying to mimic the animal-based food we used to eat. Having said that, i can say it was a delicious combination of flavours.

The entire spread

Tess's Mock Turkey Pate with Cranberry Sauce

Zucchini Fettucine with mango and tomato sauce

The most popular dessert was Mark's classic banana and strawberry icecream, made fresh on the spot with the champion juicer. Was it really just frozen bananas and strawberry? How can that taste so good!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

who says GM is ok? say no to contamination of organic produce

Are Genetically Engineered crops grown in Australia? You betcha. 

this was reported recently from True Food Network via the permaculture forum:

"Today, WA organic farmer Steve Marsh revealed that two-thirds of his 
farmland is contaminated by someone’s GM canola crop. The canola 
travelled at least 1.5 km and contaminated 220 hectares. Marsh could 
also potentially suffer huge financial losses, as Australian organic 
standards don’t accept any GM presence.

He is considering legal action, which would be the first case of its 
kind in Australia. The WA Government showed its bias to the GM 
industry when the agriculture minister, in response to Marsh, stated 
that zero percent thresholds are “unrealistic”. Organic certifier, the 
National Association of Sustainable Agriculture Australia (NASAA), is 
conducting an official investigation."

Don Hamsford from Warick South East Queensland says "What's the bet 
Monsanto are on his doorstep, looking for their royalties, before you 
can say "substantially equivalent!"

So if you want to know who in your area is GM-free, check out this map. Produced by Gene Ethics, it presents the enterprises who endeavor, through certification, quality assurance and audits, to exclude from their products, services and facilities all GM soy, corn, canola or cotton - and products from animals fed GM feed. Let's hope these enterprises aren't too close to any GM crops that could jeopardise their clean status.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Who Are We?

“On Russia’s religious development will come the greater hope of the world.”
–Edgar Cayce

Today I am encountering the feelings described in Book 5 of The Ringing Cedars Series. In Chapter 11, Anastasia relates how things will be in the future when the Russian people have set up their kin’s domains and are living in harmony with nature. She tells how many people from around the world will want to visit and see how this is done and most importantly experience how it feels. “. . . forty percent of foreigners who did visit the domains returned home only to fall into a state of depression bordering on suicide. “

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Zen Garden Moment

A pleasant three hours weeding the veggie garden today. I love the way that gardening connects me with mother earth, with nature and with the magic of the present moment. No past, no future, just this moment. And the next. And the next.

The ground is still very wet from a rainy few days but I wanted to prepare the beds for laying down mulch. The sooner the seedlings are planted the better. It won’t be long now before the weather starts getting warmer and before you know it, spring will be upon us.

It seems a shame to have to pull all this stuff out. I am aware of how many wild edibles have been wrenched from their homes. But hey, more will grow.

Wild edibles - the rich cousins of our more cultured leafy greens - are regaining popularity through the likes of Sergei Boutenko and our own Melbourne-based Adam Grubb. And as part of this movement towards making the most of our food supply, there's now a growing interest in the inspired act of "liberating" food through foraging. I'm thrilled to see that folk in my home town have started a group which is mapping the location of foraging spots. I'll be checking this out on my visit to NZ next month.

Scrumping is another term used to describe the recycling of fruit that would otherwise go to waste. And though scrumping is imbued with connotations of stealing, it all boils down to etiquette. If the tree branch is hanging over the footpath, well that's public property isn't it? If it is in someone's yard, then a responsible forager will knock and ask first.

More resources on foraging:
On Wild Food and Foraging - a publication distributed by Free Range Activist Network (FRAW)

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Power of Process

This morning, reading from Dan Millman’s book "The Life You Were Born To Live", I realised the importance of taking things step-by-step. So much of my life I have been impatient, wishing for things to happen instantly.
Want to run a marathon? Do it next week. Uh oh. First I have to train. Do some preparation. This marathon called life teaches me that with every goal I have there is a process, a series of steps towards achieving it. I am not cinderella. The fairy godmother doesn’t appear and wave her magic wand. The ball gown is stitched together piece by piece over many laboured hours of loving work. I am learning to be patient with myself and in doing so, patient with others.
And in my haste to reach an end goal, this skipping over the process has led me to a life lacking commitment. So often when things have not worked out as expected: work, relationships, home, I have decided “this is not for me” and set off in search of some other holy grail. A life of rolling around like a smooth stone falling wheresoever the river takes me, I find I am without roots, without relationship and without a clear direction, goal or purpose.
But there is inner work as well as the outer manifestations. So I skipped a few steps on the path of career, home and relationship. There have been many obstacles on the path of achieving inner peace and calm. And now, in this time of reflection I am contemplating a way of building stability in the outer world based on the strength and calmness of a solid inner foundation.
Today rain cleanses the air, the ground. The power of moving water washes away all in it's wake that doesn't need to be there, just as tears clear debris from the path of the soul.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Ten Things to Be Aware of in the Raw Food Arena

Just been reading Nomi Shannon's post about the things to be aware of in the raw food movement. Though initially written in 2004, it is still relevant.
Her comments and advice make sense in relation to any aspect of life, not just how we eat. For example, Be Aware of People Who Tell You What To Do. And she adds, "Do not ask your neighbor or me what they eat hoping to emulate and be just like them. What works for your neighbor or me may not work for you."
The one that resonates most strongly for me right now is . . . "Be Aware that there is more to life than the food you eat." It has been too easy to become absorbed in thinking about food, eating it, buying it, foraging for it, learning about it, growing it, talking about it with other raw-fooders. But, when food takes up so much of my time, what room is there in life for doing other things?

Saturday, June 26, 2010


After posting a brief note on facebook the other day i thought it time to expand on this topic. Seeing the number and variation of responses to my facebook post i realised there is a lot of information out there about low sodium levels. And when i did some investigation myself, i found there are plenty of dramatic stories, particularly in the athletics field, of deaths due to hyponatremia.

But firstly, the background, and the good news. I recently completed a 19-day water fast. I did not get blood tests prior to commencing the fast so there is no baseline on which to compare data. Seven days after the fast, a blood test was done. Two major anomalies were discovered that may or may not be inter-related.

Firstly, Sodium levels were 128 mmol/L (normal range is 135-145). Secondly Ferritin levels were 634 ug/L (normal range is 30-150). The focus of this post is low sodium, also known as hyponatremia. Will get to the elevated ferritin in a later post as more information comes to hand.

So what is hyponatremia? It is, put quite simply, an imbalance between the sodium and water levels in the blood. This can come about in three different ways[*]:
hypervolemic hyponatremia - excess water dilutes the sodium concentration, causing low sodium levels. Hypervolemic hyponatremia is commonly the result of kidney failure, heart failure or liver failure.
euvolemic hyponatremia - normal water levels are combined with low sodium levels. This condition is commonly due to chronic health conditions, cancer or certain medications.
hypovolemic hyponatremia - water and sodium levels are both low. This can occur, for example, when exercising in the heat without replenishing your fluid electrolytes or with marked blood loss.

Hyponatremia is considered severe at a blood serum level of below 125. At this point an acute case of hyponatremia can cause seizures, coma or death.

Wikipedia points out that "Hyponatremia can ... affect athletes who consume too much fluid during endurance events, people who fast on juice or water for extended periods and people whose dietary sodium intake is chronically insufficient."

But what causes it? Depending on the type (see dot points above), a number of causes have been postulated. Of particular interest are the following:
• Chronic, severe vomiting or diarrhea. This causes the body to lose fluids and electrolytes, such as sodium.
Dehydration. In dehydration, the body loses fluids and electrolytes.
Diet. A low-sodium, high-water diet can disturb the proper balance between sodium and fluids in the blood. Excessive intake of diuretics, including beer or coffee, can have the same effect.
• Consuming excessive water during exercise (exertional hyponatremia). Because sodium is lost through sweat, drinking too much water during endurance activities, such as marathons and triathlons, can dilute the sodium content of blood.

Though my sodium intake is very low compared to the general population (i use no added salt whatsoever in food and this has been my practice for more than 10 years) i would not classify that as insufficient. My last blood test (June 2009) showed no sign of low sodium levels.

Having just completed a water fast, followed by more than 10 days of chronic diarrhea it is my guess that this has contributed to the low sodium levels. I would note that when the blood test was taken (seven days after breaking the fast), i had been experiencing diarrhea for only 2-3 days. Was i dehydrated? How could i be sure? That would depend on whether i was hypovolemic, or hypervolemic. the symptoms look the same.

So a bigger question might be why diarrhea after breaking a fast?

Now for the good news. Re-tested three weeks later, blood tests now show a sodium level of 137. Low, but within "normal" range. The diarrhea ceased after about 12 or so days. Though i started to consume more water, i also increased the amount of exercise. It is the middle of winter, so hardly likely to be losing water (and electrolytes) via excessive sweating.

And yes, there's even a facebook page dedicated to hyponatremia. Posted on this page is the story about the Kokoda Trail deaths. Read about a follow-up study here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Breakfast of Champions

Daryl and I eating breakfast in Myuna Bay. Watermelon is one of my favourite ways to start the day, and i enjoy the seeded variety. It is quite late in the season to be finding good watermelon. i picked these ones up courtesy of Mike at the Blue Mountains Food Co-op. They came via the wholesalers in Sydney.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Feasting on Figs

This morning we stopped for breakfast at Wises Fig Farm. One of the original farms in the area it has been a fruit farm for three generations. Although it is nearly the end of the season, their Black Genoas are simply the best I have tasted, and let’s face it, nothing tastes better than a ripe fig picked that same morning. We arrived just in time to get a box of their “jam” figs. We’re talking 4-plus kgs of very ripe, squishy delicious fresh figs, picked at 6am that morning and not even been in the fridge long enough to chill.

There are two varieties being picked at Wises right now; the Black Genoa and the Brown Turkey. I liken the flavour of the Brown Turkey as the reisling of the fig world, whereas the Black Genoas have a full body, rich flavour - more like the pinot of figs. Oh yum!

Wises used to do pick your own, for a range of fruits, but bureaucracy and the Sunshine Motorway development has curbed that. In it’s heyday, the farm had a fresh fruit stall, cafĂ© and PYO operation. However the government wanted to double their rates, re-zoning them from farm land to “tourism”. So they shut up the shop, ceased the pick-your-own and re-focussed their efforts onto growing the best ever figs.

Parts of the original farm, which used to go down as far as where the Sunshine Plaza now is, have since been sold. Firstly to make way for the Sunshine Motorway, which now runs along the border of the farm. And more recently, the Wises sold off a block of land to developers. As a result, the entrance to the farm is discreetly tucked away at the back of a swish-looking housing estate off Wises Road. Despite that, a growing number of locals seem to know where to find the farm.

Picking starts at 6am. They use no pest control, other than biological controls for fruit fly. So pickers compete with the birds for the ripest figs. Figs are packed into punnets of about 1kg and popped in the fridge in the shed. Sales operate on an honesty box system and it is definitely good to get there early for the large $20 boxes of jam figs. A little squishy, they definitely need eating the same day. But we had no trouble doing that! The wises have two stands of fig trees. The older ones are about 10 years old, and due to the increased popularity of their figs, they’ve found a need to plant more trees to keep up with demand. The younger trees have been in the ground for about 4 years.