Monday, July 20, 2009

Video of the Day!

After the storm that Food, Inc. has caused since its release, here's another quick video about an upcoming movie that'll keep your mind on organics:
And check out their super cute website!

How Does Your Garden Grow?

One of the major draws of coming back to the DC area was knowing that we could be close to my parents' place aka. that we would have access to their garden to get back into some serious veggie planting. Throughout my childhood, my family has always stuck to the simple herbs, tomatoes, and sweet peppers side of gardening as those are usually fairly low maintenance plants and are pretty fail safe. But this year? Noooo. Andrew and I decided that this year would be our serious gardener year, our first year of really gardening together, and that we would go big or go home... and it's worked out great!

Organic gardening is both a lot of hard work and very little effort all at the same time. It blows my mind how many people (ie. my entire extended family) think that organic gardening comes with all this extra effort, that our garden will be torn apart by bunnies, infested with pests, and grown over by weeds. You know what? When I see 'conventional' gardeners spraying their gardens with all sorts of chemicals and that they are still struggling to keep away the grubs and weeds, I just want to laugh. We've only had to weed our garden about once a week since starting up in mid-April, and bugs and grubs? I think I've picked off about two from our lettuce since we started. We've had to do very little maintenance (except watering of course) on our totally organic garden since we started!

To start, we doubled the plot that my parents originally hadon the side of their house and created 8 planting rows. That was already quite the challenge, really showing us how much grass lawns are the most useless thing ever invented (I unfortunately think we have the French to blame for that). Grass is really a weed that is nearly impossible to pull up. The only power tool we unfortunately had to use to get our garden started was a gas powered tiller. It still took us half the day to get done though (not to mention it was wet and rainy and we live in a very clay dense area). But we (okay, Andrew) go the job done, and from there (note the very shabby 'early stages' picture above) we managed to set up a very pretty veggie garden (thanks to my dad for setting up anti-bunny netting and for watering-also photographed here-our plants so diligently every day when we couldn't make it out there). We even get to have our plot adorned by two very pretty azalea bushes, and some irises in the back corner.

In the spring, 4 of our 8 rows went to various greens (swiss chard, red snails, spinach, and a spring mix), 1 went to carrots and beets, 1 to radishes, and 2 to beans (sweet peas and snap peas). We also planted two rhubarb plants, two brussel sprouts, and left a good sized corner for composting. My parents have been thrilled that they haven't had to buy any kind of salad greens as soon as we started and the harvest lasted 4 months and they now have next to no trash (we also get bring our own veggie and fruit shreds when we visit)! Every once in a while we were able to dress up our salads with our other freshly harvested veggies.

With the spring-early summer harvests now over and having learned a lot in the process (our beans didn't work out so great with our soil and climate, and our spinach did really strange things). Our summer garden has turned into 2 rows of tomatoes, 1 row of my mom's amazing chinese green beans (photographed here), one ginormo chinese eggplant
that's already producing two beautiful eggplants, and our compost pile has been taken over by an unknown melon and/or squash looking plant that probably sprouted from one of the seeds we composted. It's gorgeous, it's sprawling everywhere and it's making lots of little orangey-yellow flowers. I'm excited to find out what it's actually going to be.

Something really interesting I've noticed is that our 1 row of tomato plants furthest away from the old compost pile is doing nicely but has not begun to fruit yet, while the two row that we created out of the old compost space has tomato fruiting like mad. Every plant that is currently growing where our spring compost area used to be is doing brilliantly (the eggplant, 2 tomato plants, my mom's chinese beans, and the crazy mysterious compost plant), while the other rows are doing visibly less well).  This all really shows what a difference soil quality makes and that your really should compost too!

Still to do is turning 3 rows into one giant plot (x2) to start growing spaghetti squash and acorn squash for the fall (they take about 3 months to grow til harvest so now is the perfect time to plant!). All in all, I love to garden! It's so fulfilling and really reduces your environmental footprint. And hey, nothing beats being able to eat salad made out of the food you grew with your own two little hands. I definitely encourage everyone to get their own garden started, whether it's on your balcony, a fire escape (which is what we did in Kingston when we were jonesing for a garden), or even the tiny little plot behind your urban townhouse. Even Michelle Obama's doing it! Get out there and plant! 

Up next: my culinary adventures from my recent trip to France!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

How to Heal Yourself

Your spine: the ultimate healer to all your physical and emotional woes.

Your spine: such an underrated part of your body, yet when its healthy, the difference that it makes in your life is monumental!

My knowledge of this began when my wonderfully attentive partner asked me to start going to a chiropractor with him when I was in Canada—something that he had done for years. (I do wish to distinguish the very different level of qualification and professionalism of chiropractors in Canada than those in the US).

The first thing to note is that I grew up thinking I was just one of those girls that would always have problems with my period my whole life. I’ve always had pain that was severe enough that during the first 24-48 hours I had just resigned myself to being the kind of person who would have to deal with it until menopause. No Tylenol, Mydol, etc could do a single thing to help me… but our chiropractor changed my life.

After my initial consultation and looking at my spine, my chiropractor immediately said “you have period pains, don’t you?” That was the first of many times I would gawk at the wonders these doctors are capable of. Within one week of adjustments I never had problems ever again. For over 2 years now, I’ve been totally menstrual pain-free. Both minor and more severe aches and pains outside of that time of the month have also totally gone away, whether they are short-run from exercise or long-run from who knows what. I found that I have more energy, feel lighter, better, get even less sick than before… just going to the chiro twice a week for the first month, then once a week for a month, and then every other week, made one of the most significant health differences in my life alongside regular exercise, raw food and veganism.

Even more miraculously, one chiropractor in particular changed my life. My partner’s childhood chiropractor from London, Ontario, Ted Gdanski is truly a miracle healer. Seeking to practice more than just chiropracting, he also has a solid foundation in acupressure, reiki, acupuncture, traditional eastern medicines, etc. When we went to see him over Christmas and after I’d been without a good chiropractor since leaving Canada for about 4 months, he actually healed me using the power of his energy and mine. It was AMAZING.

One of the really neat things he showed us, was how you are actually physically weaker when you and your partner do not have physical contact. The energy channeled from one partner to another makes you twice as strong. When my partner had his hand on my shoulder, my capacity to resist pressure exercises from Ted where significantly stronger than when my partner removed his hand and stepped away. Though I always believed in this kind of stuff, it was a wholly different experience to actually physically witness myself. It’s almost beyond belief, except it can’t be because it just happened.

Since starting grad school in Georgetown, I (literally) sorely miss having a chiropractor as I don’t believe the US really stands up to Canadian quality in this regard. My one miracle cure until I can go back though has been yoga. To thank for my new dedication to yoga, I have to give a shout out to the Salad Girl for giving me the motivation and inspiration to truly get into yoga for real. Rather than being a dabbler, the person who says they’ll never get into it, she gave me motivation to just do it, no questions asked. I also have to say that would have never been possible without the awesomely simple routines.

Doing only 20 minutes of regular yoga every morning has made all my pain symptoms go away as they were slowly creeping back over time sans chiropractor. In following through with the flow of each asana into another, I have found that the movements often mirror those of the chiropractor, the only difference being that they are ‘self inflicted’. Yoga, I have found, is like self-chiropracting.

After eight hours in an airplane to France last Wednesday, all my sleeplessness in tiny airplane seats, a painful seven hour wait in an airport, and a very uncomfortable two hours bus ride, all the spinal, neck and just general muscular discomfort I accumulated vanished within two twenty minute sessions of yoga. It’s brilliant. The body has the amazing capacity to heal itself, and some of us (ie. chiropractors and yoga practioners) have definitely found how to help the body make that happen. I encourage you to try one of both of them because they will heal you in ways you didn’t know were possible, both emotionally and physically.

The long plane ride I just spoke of though has indeed taken me to my summer childhood village of Les Issambres, in the South of France, where I’ve already spent almost a week and will be spending the next six days. I have taken a billion pictures document my culinary and cultural adventures here, and am extremely eager to share them with you. I love this place so much. It saw me grow up, and as I noticed earlier today, Canada is like the place I want to call home, while the South of France will always remain my summer love fling. More from me soon!