Podcast: Meet Ellen Moyer, author, TED talk presenter, who talks about her new book, Our Earth, Our Species, Our Selves: How to THRIVE While Creating a Sustainable World. Ellen’s vast experience creating green environments offers all of us great creative solutions which we can act upon today. Some simple, some reinforce what we already apply, some inspiring. What can we do as a society? What can we do economically? Join us for an inspiring and transforming discussion with practical action.
About my guest: Environmental engineer Ellen Moyer, Ph.D., wrote this book, her third, to empower and inspire readers to accelerate our urgently needed global transformation. She has more than three decades of experience assessing and cleaning up contaminated soil and groundwater and designing “green” systems and solutions. Moyer holds a BA in anthropology, an MS in environmental engineering, and a PhD in civil engineering. She is a registered professional engineer, a US Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, and a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. www.ellenmoyerphd.com.
Click Here For Podcast Transcript with Ellen Moyer
My intent is to take us, you and I, into a better understanding of the concepts behind our holistic nature and how that ties directly to the holistic nature of the world around us. How can we connect the dots in practical ways that we are nature and nature’s in us?
I feature authors and educators, practitioners and others whose passion for this earth help us create bridges. We’ll see what’s trending, what’s relevant to our world today not just for land use but to connect the dots between ourselves and nature. It’s time for practical action and profound inner change so our natural world is valued once again.
“What we do affects the next seven generations.” Native American philosophy.
I began the podcast series The Holistic Nature of Us because I want to connect the dots that we and nature have so much in common.
I remember my Native American elders saying over and over that the mountains are the spine of the earth, the bones. Rivers are like our blood, they are the Earth Mother’s blood. Trees, plants breathe out oxygen for us as we breathe out carbon dioxide for them, a true symbiotic relationship.
Yet, it seems we disregard her. We have exploited resources, caused toxic pollution never before seen on this planet. Today, some states do not have recycling laws or refunds, do not manage their waste efficiently.
We have stretched some resources to the point of genuine concern. The planet has lost one-third of its topsoil in the past century alone. Desertification of our planet is a real concern. Our precious water is polluted and unpotable in many areas. Though we have initiated clean up efforts is it enough to counteract the rate at which we continue to pollute, create trash?
Several years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting some camp counselors nearby my health food store. We engaged in enjoyable environmental discussions as they taught environmental classes through the camp. One day they burst out into song: Where is Away?, a song about when we throw it away, where is away? Most of us have no clue unless we receive a Facebook video about the build-up of plastic bottles etc on coastlines.
There are many innovations out there that are helping. Crowdfunding is helping visionaries, engineers, entrepreneurs create solutions and it’s exciting.
I hope to bring in guests from many different perspectives. Their sharing is a strand, a piece of the web of interconnection to the web of life in some measure. They all offer practical tips and wisdom from their chosen fields, something we can connect with to bring back respect for this place we call home, not for ourselves but for all species. They are passionate and knowledgeable. Join us. It is my sincere hope you will be inspired to take practical action today!
My podcast series will be posted here and on several platforms. What are you doing to make a difference? How has a podcast inspired you? We’d love to hear from you. Enjoy.
Autumn winds through December bringing the holiday season to our doors. Pine and Juniper boughs decorate our hearths leaving the smell of the forest mingling with the aromas of holiday baking. Doesn’t the scent bring you back to childhood or a time when we used fresh boughs more frequently? It does for me. Did you know that Thomas Edison’s assistant, Edward Johnson, came up with the idea for electric Christmas tree lights in 1882? Prior to these inventions, candles were used to light up the trees. The combination of candlelight and dry needles posed for a serious fire hazard. They began mass production of them in 1890.
White Pine, Pinus strobus, is often used and thought of as the “Christmas Tree.”
White pine has a rich and noble history that predates the arrival of European settlers.
The Iroquois Confederacy began hundreds of years before 1492. This Confederacy culminated in the joining of Five North Eastern American Tribes into a peaceful union. Weapons were buried beneath the White Pine tree or planted at the bottom of the hole of a new planting to symbolize the laying down of arms. The Confederacy sought to negotiate a peaceful outcome with and for all tribes. The Iroquois Nation offered this symbol to the new arrivals in order to develop diplomacy. Thus the White Pine is a powerful symbolic and healing plant for the Iroquois nation.
Did you know that when the first Europeans arrived in North America, they noticed large swaths of bark peeled from the trees? Many NE Tribes used the inner barks of trees for food and medicine.
White Pine: Pinus strobus
Where Found: Eastern US; Evergreen, tall, grows to about 50-80′; native and common to eastern half US; needles- 5 inches; the needle count of 5 is a distinguishing characteristic. This tree is considered the most valuable hardwood in North America used for trim work, delicate cabinetry, etc.
Wildlife and birds feed on the seeds and soft needles. Deer and Porcupine seem to like the inner bark for winter feed.
Bald eagles will build nests at the main branch located below the crown top.
Parts Used: Twigs, bark, leaves, and pitch;
Pine needles used for sewing; basket making; tea; good to chew on to freshen breath; strong tea can be used as a hair, face or body wash; High in Vitamin C, pine needle tea helped the early settlers relieve symptoms of scurvy. This is an easy tea to make when out camping overnight. During a wilderness class I participated in several years ago, we made pine needle tea at our campsite. One less item to carry; needles readily available in our forest setting.(See recipe below)
Resins (pine pitch) used as cement to seal the seams in canoes; also chewed for a sore throat; they would dry, powder, and apply the dried resin to sore throats; resin added to a salve is supposed to be great for taking out a splinter or bringing a boil to a head;
Inner bark: used with other herbs or inner barks e.g. wild cherry bark, to make a cough syrup for colds; chronic indigestion, flu, kidney troubles. The inner barks and small twigs as a tea helped as an expectorant;
Essential oil: antiseptic, antiviral, antibacterial, deodorant, diuretic; refreshing, stimulating qualities; can also bring relief in a body oil for muscular pain.
Whiffing the soft fragrant essential oil can help alleviate a dark mood as it has an uplifting, enlivening quality. Essential oil of pine can be added to bath or skin oils in very small amounts as it can be irritating to the skin for some people. You will find pine oil used in combination with other essential oils for this reason.
Inhalation of the oil is good for colds, sinusitis, and sore throats and can be mixed with eucalyptus or tea tree oil. Placing several drops of pine oil in a pot of water and leaving on a wood-stove can permeate the room with a delightful forest fragrance.
Caution: Do not use: Dwarf pine oil: Pinus pussilio or Pinus mugo. These oils are hazardous to health.
I like drops of essential oil of pine sprinkled in a pot of warm water on my wood stove. The essential oil comes in handy too for any sniffle. As December takes us into the midst of the holiday season, remember white pine. Sprinkle a few drops on your decorations and bring the scent of the forest into your home.
Tall joe-pye weed graces our backyard filling in and creating a hedge like area. As summer blossoms, joe-pye weed holds steady with tall, leafed, unbranched, and hollow stems. The leaves have a purple hue to center. Then when the end of July and August rolls around, the plant blooms leaving us with soft lilac hue in contrast to the deep yellows of Black-eyed Susans. It attracts a variety of butterflies too.
Name: Eupatorium maculatum or Joe-pye weed, purple boneset, gravel root, Queen of the Meadow are a few of the more common names; several varieties are well known: E. dubium, E. fistulosum, E. maculatum, E. purpureum, E. steeli. Perennial herb, native to North America in the sunflower family.
Parts Used: Root, gathered in autumn
Habitat:: perfect for damp soils, in marshy areas, stream banks and can also thrive on rich garden soils. We have clay soil here, which holds in moisture. Joe-pye thrives. Grows about 5-6 feet tall. Over 40 species have been noted
Uses: diuretic, nervine; an herbal legend has it that a Native American doctor named Jopi or Joe Pye, used it to cure typhus; at the very least there are accounts of joe-pye helping with fevers; known to be helpful for gravel and renal issues, gout, hematuria ((or blood in the urine)
Note: Always check with your health care practitioner before using a plant with medicinal history. Some plants can interfere with medications and other herbs.
Do you have a good use for joe-pye? It’s a new plant for me to learn about. It’s abundant here. When fall comes and the first frost, I will be digging, gathering and drying root. Please let me know if you have any other uses for joe-pye… thanks.
Summer time is a time to ramble down highways and country roads. We see many wildflowers, some in bloom, some spent. For me, August is the color of blue and golds. Goldenrods fill the fields and byways along with black eyed Susans. The light blue purple chicory flower adds a contrast of color that easily captures our eye with its beautiful star-like petals of blue. And is often found right by our roads whether highways or exit and entry ramps, medians and of course in fields.
Caution: It is never wise to gather plants near roads. The ground is polluted with exhaust fumes and tars.
Chicory: Chicorium intybus; a perennial plant native to Europe, India and Egypt.
Parts Used: Leaves: gather in mid summer; roots: gather in late summer,
Uses: the tender leaves can be chopped and used in salads. Tea, made from their roots, is often used in coffee like beverages because it does not contain caffeine. The root is also used to mellow coffee. In reviewing the literature, chicory uses and effects seems to temper the caffeine effects of coffee which is why it has been mixed with coffee. It is consumed in large amounts in many parts of the world with little or no side effects. However, if you notice chicory at the edges of your gardens and forests try tender leaves in salad. Chop like you would dandelion greens.
Health Benefits: Dr Weil tells us: “in terms of glucose control, the root contains up to 40% inulin, which is a zero on the glycemic index, so it has a negligible effect on raising blood sugar. This makes it a favorable choice among diabetics and a small study in 2015 show early promise that chicory root could actually help delay the onset of diabetes.”
Practical tips: its bitter much like dandelion root which is why it is favored in coffee substitute beverages. I have found it difficult to harvest. It can be found in compacted or dry soils and they are difficult to dig. also critters get after the roots too. I find the ones near my garden and meadow areas are worth digging for. I wash, chop roots and let them dry. They can be added to your teas or by itself for a strong coffee like brew.
Also one can mix them with dandelion root.. Both impart bitter coffee like flavors. Does this tea taste like coffee? No, but the bitter flavor is close.
Any other recipes? I would enjoy hearing from you.
There’s nothing prettier than a glass jug filled with cool refreshing water where some of our garden beauties have center stage.
Sun tea is just that, a pitcher of water filled with summer flowers that are known to be edible.
Get a gallon glass jug, fill with pure water and place any of the following for their subtle and not so subtle flavors and colors: Experiment for the flavors you like best. Let sit in the sun 2-4 hours and serve over ice.
Remember to use only flowers you know are not treated, preferably ones you have grown without chemicals which makes flower shop flowers unacceptable. Please research any flower not on the list to make sure it is safe to eat. For ex. Daffodils are not safe to eat.
Red clover blossoms
Ground ivy blossoms
Scented geranium leaves
Rose purple coneflower (Echinacea)
Flowers: make a beautiful garnish to many dishes. Also, flowers can be placed in ice cube trays and then placed in ice tea, lemonades, even cool refreshing water for a hot summer day treat. Violas, woodland violets which make their debut in spring, can be gathered in the spring time and frozen for summer’s use.
Salads: use as a garnish; remember that culinary herb blossoms can be added such as marjoram, or sage, even basil. I suggest that for salads that use wild greens and flowers start in small amounts in order to get used to and savor the different textures and flavors. Greens when cut up fine and mixed with traditional greens such as arugula, bib lettuces etc. blend in nicely. Place the flowers and/or the petals on top.
Recipe: Quiche: I often place flower petals on the top of quiches before cooking. Flower petals can be stripped and placed in a decorative pattern. My guests positively remark when served these wild food treats.
Book: Kitty Morse has a delightful book of flower recipes titled: “Edible Flowers, a Kitchen Companion With Kitchen Recipes”.
Many herb books also contain recipes e.g. Colonial and monastery type cookbooks, that demonstrate many ways to use edible parts of wild and cultivated plants.
Summer is well under way. As we ramble down highways and quieter roads we can see many plants in bloom. What are your favorites? Do you have any favorite edible flower recipes? I would love to hear from you.
Summer gardening chores are in full swing. We have rain barrels around our garden. While that helps us harvest rain water, it does mean a bit more work watering. Weeding puts us on our knees or bending our backs. Produce is producing strong right now and that means gathering and putting them “up”. Whether canning or freezing, garden chores are in the intense mode during this part of summer.
Got a few aches? Maybe a sore muscle or two? Here’s a great muscle rub recipe that uses quality essential oils.
Recipe: Essential oil: Soothing Muscle Rub
In aromatherapy, pine is used in saunas, steam baths and massage blends for sore muscles. The natural evergreen aroma of pine essential oil is a sweet alternative to harshly medicinal pharmaceutical preparations. Here’s a recipe that combines the oils of several plants used to add, therapeutic fragrance to steams and saunas or to apply to sore muscles at the end of a gardening day.
To make a penetrating massage oil for overworked muscles, dilute 12 drops of this concentrated blend in 3 ounces of vegetable oil, such as sweet almond. This fragrant muscle rub is especially nice after a strenuous workout when muscles may be tight and sore.
Never apply concentrated essential oil blends directly to skin without diluting them first as irritation may develop.
One of my favorite summer plants is Borage. Large leaves with beautiful bluish purple flowers are getting ready to blossom. Known as the “bee” plant, it obviously attracts many bees and is a good companion plant too for strawberries, tomatoes and squashes. making it a good contributor to our gardens. I have a couple of plants in between my tomatoes and a few near my strawberries. When the flowers are gone to seed, collect some seed and then cut plant down and leave in bed. The leaves will be good for the soil.
Borage: Borago officinalis
Parts Used: leaves, flowers, seeds
Where Found: originated in Syria; naturalized over Europe, US
Borage, also known as the “Starflower, named for its beautiful light blue – purple star shaped flower, is a plant that is edible. It is a hardy annual plant that can reseed itself, too.
According to some of the old herbals, this plant was noted to soothe a troubled heart and help with exhaustion. So many herbals refer to this plant “as a comfort to the heart, increasing joy of the mind, and relieving sorrow. “
Leaves: are a good source of organic potassium, calcium and minerals. The juice from the leaves is mucilaginous, which means it offers a soothing, cooling quality to the stomach. This is one of the herbs that seem to be helpful in adrenal exhaustion. Stress, long days, and decrease in sleep can take a toll on our adrenal glands. As the flowers come into bloom the tender leaves can be picked and added to salad. The leaves have a mild cucumber like flavor.
Recipe: Pour 1 pint of boiling water over 6 teaspoons of fresh cut leaves. Let sit, strain and then add to wine, juice, lemonade even by itself over ice makes a refreshing drink.
Flowers: these beautiful blue flowers are edible, attract bees and can be used as a garnish to salads or side dishes. Many wild edible enthusiasts candy the flowers:
Recipe: Candied Flowers:
Thin the white of an egg with 1 tbs water, and the juice of one lemon. Dip the blossoms into this mixture and then roll in granulated sugar. Dry on wax paper until they no longer stick together, then put in a covered dish, store in refrigerator or freezer if not using right away. This makes for a lovely party treat or topping for cupcakes or cakes.
Seeds: Borage seed oil can be recommended for a variety of skin and inflammatory issues. The seeds when pressed contain a large amount of GLA (gamma linolenic acid) which has health benefits. The form of GLA found in Borage oil seems to help turn off the inflammatory mechanism implicated in so many chronic diseases. It may reduce the symptoms of Rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, seborrheic dermatitis and contribute to healthier skin in the elderly. Borage Seed oil has its cautions though and should not be taken with seizure disorder, blood thinners or pregnancy. It may be a good idea to check with your health professional about stopping prior to surgery.
Borage, the plant for courage, has many uses and contributes to a sustainable garden. Enjoy.