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In Defense of Dandelions

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One of the first signs of spring is the appearance of the humble dandelion. Unfortunately, we also bear witness to the endless crusade of Man vs Lawn in order to poison, destroy, and completely eviscerate this “weed.”  Some may spray weed killer to nurture a personal vendetta, as if those happy yellow poofs, and the ensuing puffs of seeds that follow, are a slap in the face against suburban banality.  Others may feel it is truly a feather in their cap to boast a homogeneous, manufactured lawn, regardless of any harm that comes to our pollinators, pets, and family members.

Now, there is nothing wrong with taking pride in one’s home and garden, but can’t there be a better way than introducing more carcinogens into our bodies and poisons into our planet?  If you, a loved one, or neighbor within spraying distance feels compelled to start dousing the lawn at the first threat of nature, consider these points:

Popular weed killers are harmful to our health and to our planet. The chemical known as Glyphosate, the main ingredient in the herbicide Round Up, has been shown to cause cancer.  In 2015, the World Health Organization released evidence that found Glyphosate to be a carcinogen. These same studies also discovered a host of other health issues caused by exposure to this chemical (in case cancer wasn’t enough for you.)  These herbicides also kill bees and other beneficial pollinators.  On a side note, keep your critical thinking cap on when researching this topic:  like most ventures where the profit of stockholders outweighs the true cost to humanity, there is much controversy and a wide range of what might be considered “studies” and credible evidence.


For example, Monsanto, the company that manufactures this chemical, conducted their own “study,” but interestingly, their study found no association between Glyphosate and cancer.  Surprisingly, when internet browsing on this topic, some of the first search results to come up are various derivatives of the Monsanto-funded studies. One that is particularly concerning is alleged research funneled through the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH). Sounds legit, right? Actually, it turns out that the ACSH is a front group for the tobacco, chemical, fossil fuel, and pharmaceutical industries.   Yes, this is the same group that tells us that fracking is good and that coal is clean energy – all under the guise of “real” science. It is no coincidence that the ACSH relies on funding from corporations – particularly those who conveniently need a study with specifically tailored findings.

Controversy aside, who even said we had to not like dandelions anyway?  They’re cheerful looking, bees love them, they are easy to take care of (in that you don’t have to do anything to them), and who hasn’t made at least one wish upon a dandelion?

So what to do? 

Remember that nature is not something that we need to get back at, control, (or poison!) or feel threatened by.  As a society that reinforces suburban conformity, we really need to let go of the idea that we require ultimate control over every aspect of our lives (read: lawns) to the extent that we are causing physical harm.  In our post-industrialized society, we have been conditioned to believe that dandelions are “bad,” that “different” is abhorrent.

Nature gives us what we need. Nature is not cruel or indifferent, but will give us exactly what we need if we just pay attention.  Think about it this way: when the first signs of spring are in the air, we emerge from our homes feeling blessed by warmer weather after a harsh winter of being stuck inside.  Many of us spend winter with lessened activity, and holiday comfort food binging becomes the norm. Our bodies literally crave fresh greens and nutrients.  One cup of dandelion greens has more than half of your daily recommended intake of Vitamin A and 185% of Vitamin K. Greens are also a great source of Vitamin D, C, B, iron, and are a rich in potassium.  Back in the day when dandelions were cultivated and not exterminated, old timers with their cottage gardens made spring tonics with dandelion as the main ingredient.

All parts of the plant are edible and the humble dandelion is one of the most easily identifiable plants for newbie foragers.  There are recipes all over the place that utilize dandelions for teas, jams, salads, even wine! When eaten as food or as tea, the dandelion helps stimulate a sluggish liver and tones the whole digestive system after a sedentary winter and too much indulgence of heavy foods.

Dandelion greens can be sauteed and are wonderful with rich, meaty dishes, like pork chops or sausage.  They are delicious when stirred into hot pasta or brown rice, too.  The newest leaves are tender enough for salads and sandwiches.  The flowers can be dried for tea, made into jelly or wine, baked into muffins, and even deep fried. Individual petals can be sprinkled on top of a salad or sandwich for a bright splash of color.  Harvest the roots and dry them to brew a rich tea. 

If you are fresh out of dandelions, or don’t have access to any right now, but want to enjoy the benefits, Traditional Medicinals Tea, makes a lovely, refreshing tea.

Now is the perfect time of year to do some dandelion harvesting. Look toward your own back yard – how much more local can you get?  Be a rebel. Let your lawn turn a little yellow this spring. Expand your palate and save a few bees while you’re at it.

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Achoo!

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We all know the feeling; the tickle in the back of the throat, watering eyes, maybe some sneezing, muscle soreness, a little cranky (or maybe that’s just me!)

Many of us do not have the luxury of time to nurture ourselves to recover fully when we are feeling unwell. Too many of us spend the winter months suffering with one seemingly endless cold. With our weakened immune systems, we become susceptible to anything and everything and may find ourselves barely recovering from one cold before we get the next one! It is especially during the colder part of the year when we spend more time inside, usually in a very dry environment, when we come down with a cold.  It is no help either that the person in the cubicle next to us seems to make a point to sneeze in our direction! 

In the states, flu season has just peaked and everyone and their dog seems to be sneezing.  We all know the basic preventative measures we should take to not get sick, right?

Get enough sleep.

Enjoy plenty of fresh fruits and veggies (stress on the word enjoy!)

Eat your greens!

Drink enough water.

Breathe some fresh air.

Wash your damn hands!

Here are some not-so-fun facts about colds from the Center for Disease Control who recently featured the Common Cold as their Disease of the Week.  (Yes. That is a thing.)

  • Colds are minor infections of the nose and throat caused by more than 200 different viruses.
  • Average length of a cold is one week.
  • Adults get an average of two to four colds per year.
  • Colds are highly contagious.
  • Antibiotics do not help a cold.
  • We produce almost 1 ½ quarts of mucus every day! (How’s that for a conversation starter.)

A bad cold comes with a variety of physical symptoms, to which our first reaction is to suppress.  However, these symptoms come with a purpose and we don’t want to make it more difficult for our bodies to their job; keep us well. 

Fever-Phobia

When we feel feverish, our first thought is to take something to stop the fever, but the reason your body is heating up is to make it inhospitable to viruses. Illness-causing microbes thrive at the body’s normal temperature.  When we heat things up, your body creates a much less welcoming environment for those annoying viruses.   By suppressing the fever, we make it a lot more difficult for the immune system to employ one of its strongest methods of attack.  Often we have a knee-jerk reaction and reach for the ibuprofen; however, long-term use is known to cause liver damage, so we may want to reconsider and not pop these pills like gum drops.

Unless someone is severely health compromised, letting a fever run its course is the best line of action. “Sweating it out” by bundling up, drinking hot tea, and getting some rest are the perfect ways to let our bodies heal.

It’s Snot Funny:

Yes, it’s gross and yes it’s inconvenient, but like a fever, mucus has a biological purpose.  Drippy sinuses are yet another aspect of our amazing immune response and have the ultimate effect of clearing out pathogens and inflammatory proteins in the nasal cavity. This flushing of the system also acts to keep damaged, inflamed tissues moist to promote healing. 

Many of us reach for over-the-counter decongestants to “plug up” the runny nose.  The common over-the–counter decongestant, pseudoephedrine (found in Sudafed), has a scary list of side effects including nausea, headaches, anxiety, sleeplessness, and loss of appetite. This may be a last resort for some of us – especially if we have to get through a long workday.  However, there are other, more natural solutions, which have similar results but will not stress the liver.  These more natural remedies also have the added benefit of not making your head feel like it has been stuffed with wet cotton balls.

Cough cough cough

A wet, phlegmy cough serves a similar immune response as a runny nose – the removing of pathogens from the body.  For a wet cough, we can use herbs to help make coughs more productive but also to sooth the tissues of the lungs and throat at the same time.

A dry cough can often linger on long after a cold has concluded.  Honey is one of the best natural remedies in helping a cough, and local honey is even better.  Honey has the benefit of being natural and dye and artificial flavor free.  Interesting to note, in a study done by the Mayo clinic, honey was found to be just as effective (if not more!) than commercial cough suppressants.  Remember though – no honey for the little ones.  Due to a slight chance of botulism, no one under the age of one should have honey.

Practice Self Care

Below is a list of my favorite things to do when I am nursing a cold (and when I get tired of writhing and moaning in pain to get attention from my family)

Wrap up and drink tons of tea.

Get some sunshine – either sit outside and rest with some skin exposed, or, if it is too nasty out, sit by a sunny window and do the same.  Be like a kitty and take a sun bath. 

I swear by Traditional Medicinals Teas – especially if you really need something quick or for on the go. I love this one for when my throat is sore, but I still have a speaking engagement.

Keep eating well – don’t use having a cold to forget about healthy nutrition. Food is medicine.

Pamper yourself as much as you can.  Get others to pamper you as well.

Read something that doesn’t require a lot of thought but is pleasant enough.  One of my favs is Nancy Drew.

Gosh, I wonder what Nancy will get clubbed on the head with this time!

Watch an old movie with a simple plot or something that doesn’t require a lot of concentration. Movies that involve explosions or long walks through meadows both work, depending upon your preference.

Ask for help – you don’t have to do everything! Seriously.

Keep washing your damn hands! (So you don’t spread germs to others.)

Below is one of my go-to herbal remedies to help bring some relief when I’m suffering with a nasty cold.  These herbs create a delicious and soothing tea, and is super easy to make from things most people have in the kitchen or garden. I drink this when I feel like I’m fighting off a bug, or when I am in the midst of a phlegm-induced misery.

Cold Relief Tea

Sage, thyme, and ginger: all these herbs are easy to find at the grocery store.

Sage has an affinity for the mouth and throat – plus it’s antiseptic and astringent so it can bring relief to a sore or raw throat.  It is also a very drying herb so it helps to alleviate a runny nose and runny/itchy eyes. However, it is not overly drying so you won’t get that awful sinus-plug headache that many suffer when taking hard-core decongestants. Be careful though, pregnant and breastfeeding women should not use sage excessively (more than culinary amounts.)

Thyme is great as an antiseptic and especially helpful for upper respiratory infections.  For centuries, it has been used in recipes for natural cold care, and is often found in the list of ingredients of natural teas and even the Ricola brand cough drops. Thyme is also helpful to bring relief from coughs caused by a variety of respiratory issues.  The herb itself is antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-spasmodic, so not only does it contain agents that fight what caused the cold to begin with, but it also helps to soothe coughs while making them more productive.

Many of us are familiar with ginger to bring relief to stomach issues, but it is also a very warming herb that can help when you have a chill – especially the kind that is associated with a fever.  Ginger is also anti-inflammatory and helps to boost the immune system. It’s also very tasty and a nice way to bring a little kick to the other herbs in this blend.

Squeeze a little lemon or orange into your tea for a nutritional boost!

Ingredients:

1 “thumb” of peeled organic ginger

4-5 sage leaves or 1 Tbs dried sage

2-3 sprigs fresh Thyme leaves or 1 tsp dried.

Raw local honey (to taste)

A little honey makes this tea even more tasty!

Directions:

To prepare fresh herbs: peel and chop the ginger into small pieces. Tear 4-5 fresh sage leaves. Roughly chop the thyme sprigs. Place your prepared herbs in a quart Mason jar and pour boiling water over herbs.  Cover opening of jar with a dishtowel and let sit for 20 minutes. Strain into a mug if you like (or just drink out of the jar, like I do!) and sweeten to taste with a little honey.  Enjoy several cups throughout the day. If flavor is too strong, cut back a little on the ginger. You can also squeeze an orange into the tea to bring a pleasant citrus note as well as healthful vitamin C.

Here’s to your health!

What are some of your favorite ways to practice self care when you have a cold?

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Zen and the Art of Geese

People often ask what made me decide to keep geese as pets.  I like to reply that I was looking for a pet that made more racket than a chicken and pooped three times as much.  

They have more than lived up to this expectation.  

But seriously, I enjoy birds and don’t need much of an excuse to get more pets.  They say chickens are the “gateway poultry,” and chicken keeping is easy enough so I figured, what the heck?  I believe that life presents us with many teachers and that most everything can be turned into a learning opportunity.  It has been an interesting experience this past year with The Geese, and I have certainly learned a lot – not just about tending a small backyard flock, but about life in general. 

Make noise – joyful or otherwise!

Geese get a bad rap for being loud and being hissy, and mine are no exception.  While I love them dearly, and feel as though we share a special bond since they imprinted on me as day old goslings, I wouldn’t put it past them to bite me if I was too close to their nest.  And believe me; getting bit by a goose is like getting attacked by pinking shears.  However, geese are remarkably expressive.  They can out-bark any dog to alert the family to intruders, (also known as guests ringing the doorbell, people walking past on the sidewalk, the train horn….)  And geese are also quite talented at letting people know that something is wrong.  If the geese accidentally knock over their water bucket (or on purpose) they let me know.  When they want a treat, they let me know.  (Man oh man do they let me know!) If something isn’t quite right, they let me know.

Loud and clear. 

But that’s the thing: they let me know – they give feedback. How often do we go through our days and don’t say anything?  We have the worst day ever and our significant other asks what’s wrong and we say, “Nothing.” Or when we see an injustice and don’t speak up because we don’t want to “get involved.”   We all have missed opportunities and times when we regret not saying what was on our mind.

 Geese never miss an opportunity to speak up. Ever.  

We need to be comfortable to ask for what we need.  We also need to be comfortable when the answer isn’t what we want. 

My geese have taught me to say what I mean and mean what I say.

Attack the day!

When I walk down the path to their little goose hutch each morning, they are already pacing back and forth and making their joyful noise because they heard me open the back door.  They are totally ready for their day, and when I fling open their door, they burst out of the hutch like racehorses at the gate.  They don’t lie around in bed and hit the snooze button three more times – they are there, awake, and totally present.  Geese don’t “phone it in.”  They take off running, heads down, wings flapping, toward the yard to check on their pool –  I assume to see if anything changed since the last time they were there (yesterday).  Their beady little eyes are lit with the fire of curiosity as they charge to see what the day has in store for them. 

here we come!

What would it be like if we approached our days with a sense of excitement and adventure?  With energy, vitality, and a healthy dose of curiosity? Do we approach each day as a series of burdens and ordeals to muddle through, or are we truly grateful for the gift of another day?

My geese have taught me that every day is a gift and to approach each day with an open heart and open mind.

Take a (Goose) Bath!

My geese remind me how to find joy in simple things.  It doesn’t take too much to keep a goose happy: some fresh greens, a nice space to wander around, a cat to terrorize, a patch of sunshine, and best of all: fresh water! It is a happy day indeed when I refill the goose pool.  After I flip it and dump the dirty water, they watch and stare eagerly, their eyes laser- focused on the water spouting from the hose in my hand.  They wait until the pool is completely full and I have turned off the water before climbing in.  They prefer to each have their own pool, but in winter, this gets a little challenging so they have to share.   They manage.  And once they are in that water, they are a flapping, somersaulting, back flipping shimmer of water splashing everywhere.  A cacophony of water!  They stretch and preen and any eyewitness can look at them and come to the realization that those birds are truly having a great day.

Geese are excellent at self-care.  They know when they need a break and when to attend to the business of making sure all is right in their world.  They are totally present in the moment and no worries of the future or musings of the past haunt their thoughts; they are simply enjoying the now.  In their bath, they aren’t thinking about laundry that needs folding or bills that need paying.  They are fully immersed in their pool and the moment.

My geese remind me to stay in the moment and to take care of myself.

Eat your greens!

Even since they were babies, my geese have loved Romaine lettuce.  When they were still living in a storage tub in my living room, they would descend upon a fresh head in a manner closely akin to a coalition of cheetahs that just brought down a gazelle. If lettuce could scream, it would. Geese have a very healthy diet – they eat fresh greens, their vitamin fortified pellets, fruits, and a wide assortment of vegetables.  Unlike chickens, who will eat Styrofoam or even each other if given the chance, geese are vegetarians.   Geese eat for wellness and they eat a lot of good, healthy food. Most people fall far short of eating the recommended amount of leafy greens each day.

don’t trust this face!

What would it be like to incorporate more fresh fruit and veggies into our diets?  Especially the green leafy kind?  Imagine how good would we feel with a nutritious, plant-based diet?

Those geese remind me to eat my greens.

Roll with the punches!

Geese are clumsy.  Like really clumsy.  I’ve seen the occasional animal blooper with a cat falling off a shelf and other internet delights, but that’s amateur stuff.  These geese are total pros when it comes to being clumsy.  I’m left wondering if this is why this particular breed of goose is becoming endangered.   If there is something on the patio, the geese will trip on it.  If there is a patch of ice, the geese will slip on it.  When attempting the deck stairs, the geese will tumble down in a series of forward rolls with floppy feet a-flailing, and flappy wings a-thrashing.  It ain’t pretty.  In fact, it’s so cringe-worthy that I literally hold my breath until they skid to a landing, certain that something broke this time.  And they don’t even have the decency to look embarrassed!  If I fell down the stairs like that, I’d be in the emergency room.  But these geese are made of tougher stuff than I am! 

What can we possibly learn from this? A reminder to keep going and to never give up.  Sometimes there are delays and obstacles, but we just have to get up and muscle through them. Or perhaps take it up another day.   Every journey has its challenges Maybe we do something stupid or embarrassing.  Move on.  Let it go, get through it, and just see what happens.  Sometimes, that’s the best anyone can do.

so very fluffy…

What is the lesson here? To go with the flow and to not take myself too seriously.

So, later today, when I am schlepping buckets of water through the frozen mud, and leaving offerings of yet another bushel of lettuce for Ivan and Natasha, my heart will sing with gratitude for all these special birds have taught me and all the joy they have given me as they teach me the lessons of life.

What have you learned from watching your pets or animals in nature? What is your “spirit animal?”

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If you bite it, you write it

Keeping a food journal can be an enlightening experience and has numerous benefits. I encourage you to print out the sample journal below and faithfully write down every bite and taste that goes into your mouth for at least five days. Don’t worry about guilt or shame – just eat what you normally eat. The purpose here is to gather data, not a judgement. Be honest and as accurate as you can. You can also track your water intake and keep notes on how you are feeling after meals. If you prefer something fancier, there are no shortage of lovely journals and trackers available – both physical and apps. A spiral notebooks works great, too! Do what works for you.

After you have collected your data for several days, please contact me for a free 15 minute nutritional consultation.

Benefits of Food Journaling

  • More mindful eating
  • Greater awareness of what you’re eating
  • Discovering patterns and trends
  • Understanding where you might have a nutrient surplus or deficit
  • Identifying trigger foods and situations
  • Detecting food intolerances
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Giving ourselves permission to change

Why do we hang onto things that no longer serve us?  Whether it’s a broken mug or a self-harming habit, it is a part of human nature to hang onto things.  Change can be difficult, and historically and even biologically, maintaining the status quo was a big part of survival. But sometimes we hang onto situations, behaviors, things, even people, that are not healthy for us.

Many times we will tolerate a seemingly intolerable situation for years simply because there is comfort in the familiar and security of the routine.  Many choose to be miserable rather than face the unknown. Why?  Because change is scary!  It’s hard, it’s new and different, and we don’t know what to expect.  Often, in order to instigate change, a situation must become so unbearable that the pain outweighs the fear of changing the original circumstances. Sometimes this desire is brought on suddenly by a health scare or close call. Other times, it takes years of a difficult situation before that breaking point is finally reached.  Either way, we can find ourselves standing on the precipice of “before” looking into the “after,” and not knowing what to do. 

where is your path taking you?

How does this fear of change relate to our wellness?  While we may have a strong desire for a particular outcome (Fit into these skinny jeans! Run a marathon!), we often think in vague abstractions of a someday, and that’s for other people… not me….  We don’t comprehend how this “other” life looks and we don’t even believe we are capable or deserve this “other” life.   Because we don’t see ourselves as deserving and capable we don’t even look at the steps involved to reach that goal. 

We set ourselves up for failure before we even begin.

So what ends up happening?

We continue along with our bad situation with a sigh of resignation. We settle back into the comfortably uncomfortable.  We tell ourselves it wasn’t meant to be.  And then we plod along until the next crisis.

But imagine!  How would we feel if we were living our lives to our full potential?

where will your potential take you?

Let’s say our goal is “to get healthy.”  What does that picture look like?  Do we see ourselves enjoying a healthy meal full of whole foods?  Do we visualize ourselves being comfortable in the clothes we wear?  Do we envision a healthy relationship with food? Have we visualized what it would be like to look forward to a workout, to jog up a flight of stairs and not feel out of breath, or be able to play tag with our children? 

When we get that picture in our heads, we also need to realize that we deserve to be healthy.  We deserve to feel good about ourselves.  We deserve to live our lives to the fullest potential.

what could we become?

When we give ourselves permission to change, it can be uncomfortable, but that is our first step. 

Sometimes we mess up – like we forget to pack a lunch and have to raid the vending machine.  But the important thing is that we plan for the next time because we know how crappy we felt after a lunch of Doritos’s and Milkyways.

The important thing is that once it starts, we keep that momentum going.  Remember that this life is a journey and our body is our home and the only one we get.  We should feel privileged to be the architects of our wellness, and treat our bodies with the respect we deserve. We need to give ourselves permission to take the next step.

What is your next step?

What have you been holding back on in your life?

 What old ideas and beliefs have you been hanging on to that no longer serve you?

How would you live your life if you weren’t afraid?