Ancient Nuts Underground

Ecotrain, Homestead, permaculture

Imagine our ancient hominin ancestor, Paranthropus boisei, foraging for food over 1.5 million years ago in East Africa.

With 5-6 hours a day allocated to food acquisition, a sweet and fatty nutrient dense rhizome found at the base of a sedge that provided 80% of the required caloric intake in 2-3 hours would have been a sought after staple.

Tigernut aka Chufa in the author’s hand after harvest

Fast forward many generations…

Baboons in this same region of Africa are known to seek out this widespread starchy tuber that now grows worldwide.

Chufa prefers a moist habitat but can survive droughty periods as well. Being a pernicious plant (having been burdened with the label of [gasp!] an invasive species), it provides nutritional tubers for humans and wildlife throughout its now greatly expanded range. In fact, it’s currently planted even for wildlife forage.

Due to its opportunistic growth habits, it has become a choice crop for domestic hog, wild turkeys and humans alike.

On an ecological level this means more life giving food with less fuss. This sedge has much to offer those curious or hungry enough to dig up these tubers.

They are called tigernut for the characteristic stripes on the sides of the raw tuber.

Our hominin ancestors were instinctually drawn to this food for good reason.

Life giving and sustaining sources of dense nutrition were (and are) highly valued.

It’s not only very connected to eat a plant known to have provided sustenance for our ancestors, but like many ancestral foods the tubers at the base of Cyperus esculentus are considered a superfood.

In the nutritional territory what stands out for chufa is the abundance of resistant starch- its mineral content (high in phosphorus, magnesium and potassium) and the presence of oleic acid (the heart healthy monounsaturated fat also found in olives and avocados.)

Resistant starches (aka fiber) are complex carbohydrates that persist throughout the digestive process and add a crucial element to the diet. In other words, it is food for the microbial community that keeps our systems going and supports our immunity.

These are also referred to as prebiotics as they provide the favorable conditions to promote probiotic colonies of bacteria.

These starches also help reduce blood sugar spikes and add to the feeling of fullness, showing promise for those seeking to lose weight.

Chufa immediately after harvest from the bases of the sedge.

Given the nutritional profile of these tubers, there is no doubt to their benefit in our diet.

Combined with their ease of growing and sweet taste, it’s a no-brainer in the perennial landscape.

In a water garden, marshy spot or otherwise moist area, chufa is a perfect crop. Through growing this hardy tuber we are not only connecting with our evolutionary past, we are celebrating the rich abundance of goodness found within the base roots of an unassuming sedge.

References:

Foundation for our Straw Bale Home

Homestead

Wow y’all! I have not been keeping up with sharing all of the work we’ve been doing on the Straw Bale build. Things are busssssy, but I’m making an effort to document some of this to share/educate/enliven and because I value being able to look back on things.

The month of June included a lot of work on the foundation. You saw us get a backhoe in to dig and fill the trench. And I didn’t record any of the form building, though @birdsinparadise documented some of it when they visited.

It was so awesome that they could come & help us with the foundation — and my mom helped clean and organize our entire outdoor kitchen (who’s amazing? she is!!) Not only were we making great memories together and we’ll always remember them as being a part of the house build, but they’re really brilliant and skilled people. They used to own a home building company and my dad spent many hours on site (+ he’s a perfectionist who can build nearly anything!) and my mom was the accountant for said home building company and did all of the estimating for the builds… perfect duo to step in as we’re wrapping our minds around the build.

As I mentioned above, my dad is a perfectionist “over-builder” and that’s exactly what we wanted while making the foundation. In fact, we had a friend of ours who had worked in concrete for 8 years come over and inspect the forms before the concrete & pump trucks came Friday June 28, 2019, and he was impressed with the forms saying that they were overbuilt. The pump truck operator said the same thing! We had no blowouts and everything went smoothly (except Ini misestimated the amount of concrete to have delivered so we had to hand mix a section.) All in all – it went really well.

Here are some pics from the day:

We had to get a pump truck as the cement truck couldn’t fit around our site. We couldn’t believe how large the pump truck was – absolutely incredible! When it got going the work happened so quickly!
Ini directing the nozzle into the forms.

We had a good crew of local friends including Petey & Sumner from Eastwind (an income sharing community near us), Chris & Gene (neighbors from 10 min away), Michelle (neighbor 20 min away) and Sarah (a friend we recently met at the Baker Creek Festival who is 3 weeks away from having a baby!). It was a great crew!
Petey & Sumner banging the sides of forms to get the air bubbles out of the concrete.

Gene especially had a lot of concrete experience under his belt and he and Chris smoothed off the tops as we went along.
The little section to Chris’ right was the gap between our need and what Ini estimated! Some of the trench was deeper than he thought it would be and that’s why he thinks his estimate was off (even though he ordered more than he thought we’d need.)
We eeked out the last bits in the pump truck (that the pump can’t access) and filled up the trench by hand, but it still wasn’t enough. Ini, Petey and Sumner mixed some concrete by hand after Michelle and I went to town to get some. Not ideal, but it worked!

Today Ini is taking off the forms (we’ve been lightly misting it for the past day and a half). It’s been super hot – like in the 90s so that concrete is drying and curing quickly. So far what he’s taken off looks great!

I have a video of the process that I’ll compile and upload as well and we’ll do our best to blog about the process as it unfolds.

It feels like such a big hurdle to be finished with the foundation. This was a new step for us and a lot of the steps to come are things we’ve done before. We’ll be calling the community in for help along the way and we’re super excited to be finished with the foundation! Onward <3

Wider Circles – Community Connections & Remembering the Journey Here

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Last night Ini and I walked around the homestead and I’m not sure what it was, but we started saying Remember when…

Prepping signage and plants to bring with us to the festival

Remember when..

This was just a scrubby field with a huge oak and hickory in it?
When our neighbor came up one time with his discer and we walked behind it picking up rocks (which did nothing…) When you got naked and started pulling out what we thought was poison ivy, but ended up being aromatic sumac and I screamed when it touched your butt.

Remember that winter we slept outside when we came back after traveling and our yurt was moldy.. How we started off without power and carried water up the hill from our spring…

When we were just talking about getting a high tunnel.. starting a pond.. building the solar shed. Remember year after year when we dug beds and half of the soil was rocks..

Remember when we met at OUR ecovillage and sat by a fire one night realizing how closely our dreams aligned and decided to try it together…

All of the hard work, literal blood, sweat and tears that have gone into this…

Wider Circles

It’s all coming together in another turning of the revolution as we reach out into the community to share ourselves and some of the fruitions of the homestead.

send ya straight to our instagram!
I got a stamp! Business cards

In making the final preparations to vend this weekend, we’re seeing just how much we’ve set into motion and how we can bridge with the community. It’s extraordinarily exciting!

Thanks for being a part of the journey!

Artificial “Asimina-lation”: Pollinating the Paw Paw, N. America’s Largest Fruit

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As the redbud blossoms fade and dogwood flowers makes their appearance, the mighty paw paw flowers waltz their way to center stage in the Ozark woodlands.

These luscious drooping maroon blossoms are sultry in their demeanor, but yet perhaps a little shy…

The paw paw has fast become a very dear tree to us, and we’re excited to get a little more intimate with some specimens this spring.

Immature Paw Paw Flower on the left, Mature on the right

Almost all fruit needs to pollinated to set fruit.

There are a few exceptions such as certain persimmons, which can set fruit parthenocarpically which results in seedless fruit. The same can be said about seedless watermelons. All other fruit require male and female sex organs to intermingle in order to produce fruit. While some trees are self-fertile (meaning one tree can pollinate itself), others require cross-pollination.

Generally fruits are either wind or insect pollinated.

The scope of fruit pollination is far beyond this article. Paw paws (Asimina triloba) are pollinated by insects and often need a little help with setting fruit. Being pollinated by flies and carrion beetles and having female organs that are receptive before the male organs shed pollen, proper pollination (and therefore fruit set) can be tricky.

Some old timers swear by hanging rotting meat to attract pollinators, but hand pollination seems like a more savory choice for most.

The paw paw flowers are known as perfect; meaning they contain both male and female reproductive parts.

The stigma (receptive female part) matures before the male anthers shed its pollen. Here lies the conundrum. To make things even more nuanced, the pollen must almost always (there are some exceptions) come from a different genetic source to ensure proper pollination. This is where is gets a bit frisky.

Today we are harvesting some paw paw pollen from the flowers of several different trees. Paw paws fruit best if cross-pollinated, that is by receiving pollen from another tree. It is recommended to plant at least 3 varieties for proper pollination, so we will be roaming the woods near us and collecting pollen in hopes of increasing fruit set on wild paw paws on our land. Our cultivated varieties have only 1 or two flowers so far.

Our goal is to transfer the male pollen to a clean and dry container and then transfer it to the female stigma. The pollen is ripe when the ball of anthers is brownish and sheds readily. The stigma is ready when the tips of the pistil are green, sticky and glossy. At this time the anthers ball is firm and light yellow to greenish in color.

Once we have collected enough pollen we will use a delicate brush and simply apply pollen to receptive stigmas.

This is a delicate task, but one that we feel is well worth the effort. For a tree that has few to no pests, does not require pruning in almost all cases and produces such a wonderful fruit, hand pollination seems a small price to pay.

Many of the larger scale growers, including the Kentucky State research facility report that pollination isn’t a problem.

Perhaps this is due to the large volume of flowers that creates a habitat for pollinators. The head of the KSU paw paw research team Sheri Crabtree, says that while hand pollination is the best option for optimum fruit set (as opposed to hanging rotting meat), she and her team say it isn’t needed in their paw paw test plots and orchards.

Playing sexy time with trees is fun, and hopefully will pay off in the form of scrumptious fruits in late summer. Artificial “asimina-lation” is a great way to connect with nature in a productive and intimate way.

Sources:

Paw Paw Fruit Facts

PAWPAW – A “TROPICAL” FRUIT FOR TEMPERATE CLIMATES

Stinging Nettle Rhizomes For Sale on Homesteader’s Co-op

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Spring is fully in swing at Mountain Jewel Homestead. It seems like everywhere we walk we spy plants returning from winter’s cold slumber. Dormancy is breaking and we’re delighted to see so many of our plant allies lush with green vibrant growth!

We have to laugh every year because Spring usually also entails a lot of, “Oh, I forgot I planted that there!” In Fall we are busy dividing and spreading roots like comfrey and nettle, sowing seeds and propagating plants. Spring is when we start to see the blossoming of our hard work!

This Spring, we’re delighted to offer Stinging Nettle Rhizomes to our community! We’ve had these nettles on our land for 3 years and initially received them from a dear friend and longtime organic and biodynamic grower.

She told us they are a noteworthy biodynamic variety from Europe. Nettles are quite popular there and a mainstay in biodynamic gardening. We not only use nettles to help build amazing compost & soil on our land, but they also taste great!

This morning (after being inspired by some recent marketing developments at Homesteader’s Co-op), Ini and I made the profile for our Stinging Nettle Rhizomes. You can check it out on the site and I’ll also share it here.

Seasonally available for a short time. Buy NOW!

Stinging Nettles – Urtica dioica

 This is an essential plant for any garden or homestead. An amazing dynamic accumulator
(of K, Ca, S, Cu, Fe and Na), nettles are a fantastic soil building plant. Often used in compost building and biodynamic preparations, this plant is a gardener’s best friend. Nettles produce abundant delicious mineral rich greens (both summer and fall for us) and make a splendid tea when dried. Seeds can be eaten and stalks can be used to make cordage or yarn.

Once established a nettle patch will yield for years and will continue to spread, so be mindful of where you plant it. Its stinging can help relieve inflammations and arthritis.

What you can expect:

A small bundle of nettle rhizomes packed in mulch. Once you receive your package, it should
be planted or up potted immediately. Due to the nature of this plant, we will only be shipping it out for a short period of time in April. Place your order now. 

Nettle will thrive in rich soil, but will tolerate a wide range of soil types.

As it says in the description, we’ll only be offering these for a short Spring window so if you’re interested, get some now! This is definitely a plant to have for its many uses and absolute holistic nutritional offerings! This is a plant I can’t imagine our homestead without.

Our Free, Community Marketplace

New Homestead Product! St John’s Wort/Hypericum Oil

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We have missed each of you! As I sat (I went back to serve a Vipassana course) during a meditation session, sometimes my mind would wander to the herbal realm where I envisioned homestead offerings I would like to share this year. This product I am sharing today was something that I put into motion around the summer solstice, as this is the time of year that this plant shines!

You may even remember my post about it:

DIY Herbal Medicine: St John’s Wort Oil (Vlog & Photos)

Even taking a glance at this post reminds me of the bright medicine that midsummer holds, and especially how lovely it is to take a deep (energetic) whiff of it during winter! Encapsulating the suns energy through making herbal medicine at this time is a treat for our future selves.

I finally went about making a label for this product. I kept it quite simple:

Made using onlinelabels.com design software.

And now I am ready to offer this amazing product!

What is Hypericum Oil?

According to many sources, hypericum oil has been used for a long time. It’s one of the medicines lauded from the beginning of herbal records. In fact, people respected it so much that it was said to repel evil spirits (perhaps today interpreted as its antiviral and antibacterial properties) and depressions of all types.

Used internally it is well known these days for a natural antidepressant. I experimented with this in Autumn and was pleased to be able to concur as its gentle healing properties became known to me almost immediately!

The herbal oil, used topically, however, brings another aspect of this magical plant’s potency: wound healing. Whether a burn, a wound, old or new scar tissue, inflammation from inflamed sciatic or other nerve troubles, sore muscles after a hard day’s work, arthritis, St John’s Wort oil (long known as Hypericum oil – scientific name Hypericum perforatum) is your ticket!

Simply massage some of this amazing herbal oil into your skin and truly the effects make themselves known quite quickly. I’ve never had nerve pain, but I do know a thing or two about tired and sore muscles and I find quick relief after rubbing some on (or having Ini do it.)

Homesteader’s Coop

We’ve decided to offer this exclusively at the @homesteaderscoop to start because we love this community and thing it’s an amazing development. It’s an ethical, sustainable, verifiable business model initiated and developed by some truly inspirational and quality people. Not to mention, it’s a coop that doesn’t take any cut from the vendors or buyers! Using Steem blockchain as its revenue generator (through posts and delegations), we are able to try our hand at being a part of a collective and truly sustainable business.

I only have a handful of this product for sale so get one if you find yourself drawn to its longstanding healing nature and a little dose of peak Sunshine from the time of the solstice!