What an amazing weekend for Tampa Bay permaculturists! For me, being fortunate enough to share a weekend with so many creative, inspired, and truly conscious people was incredibly uplifting. Over and over, the thought came to me that “this is a world I can be in”. As simple as that—tiny change in perception, and there it is:
Be the Change You Wish to See In the World.
Saturday was “Spring into Sustainability” at Tricia Gaitan Medina’s Wheat Berries Homestead in Brooksville. Such a lovely drive out there, even US 19 has a different feel once you get into Hernando County, or maybe it was just the “lookout for bear” signs along the road. Ara McLeod, who was there to speak about Morningstar Farms aquaponics, said she took the scenic route through Dade City, which is a drive I also highly recommend. The land there is rolling hills and the city itself a step back in time to the Old Florida many of us may recall—a more relaxed, southern pace.
When I reached the farm in the afternoon, many of the talks had been presented already, but there was John Starnes, leading a herd of children with paper airplane in hand, much like the Pied Piper. There were tents set up with selected handmade items for sale—soaps, salves, elderberry syrup…and a woman with angora rabbits who earlier had demonstrated knitting right off the bunny! Now I may have a reason to get bunnies—I would not eat them, but their poop is great, and I do love angora sweaters.
Tricia’s daughter Corryn gave a wonderful talk on kombucha and kefirs, and thanks to her I’ve now adopted my very own kombucha ‘mother’ or SCOBY, which I now know is an acronym for “symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast”. Sounds yummy, doesn’t it? This is great stuff—as I’m learning on my wee journey of discovery about all things digestive and bacterial and fungus—fermentation is a very, very good thing! Remember “Pre-chewed Charley’s” on Saturday Night Live? (You just dated yourself if you answered “yes”…just sayen.) All fermented foods are like that, and not only do they benefit those of us with compromised digestive systems, but anyone can use a few more probiotics and enzymes in their diets—the health advantages have been proven. If you do have sensitivities to various different food groups, such as milk (lactose), or wheat (gluten), which are the common or popular ones, eating fermented foods and/or drinking kefir or kombucha is like paying a visit to good ol’ Pre-chewed Charley’s—the bacteria colonies in the food or beverage have already processed, or digested, the sugars (lactose or glucose) which can wreak havoc with your gut.
A brief aside—I just inspired myself to brew up some tea, while writing this, so that I can start my first batch of Kombucha today! The ‘standard’ formula seems to be 2 bags of green tea and 2 bags of black tea, plus 2 cups of sugar per 2 quart batch, (2, 2, 2, 2: how convenient!), but I seem to be out of green tea at the moment, so mine will be one gallon (I’m using an old restaurant-sized pickled pepper jar—glass only is the rule—no plastic or metal), 3 bags of Ayurvedic black tea, which contains some spices such as cardamom and clove, and five bags of Earl Grey. Check back in a week to ten days and I’ll update on how it comes out!
The next presentation was one that I did not think I’d be particularly interested, and was I pleasantly surprised! A young woman by the name of Emily told a story of her personal journey back to wellness, involving a car accident and subsequent chronic pain—something I and many others I know are quite well-versed in. She had my attention, so when she began speaking of removing toxins from her environment, all of her environment, included personal care products, I was really hooked. I realized some time last year that I had removed chemicals from all of my cleaning products, but had yet to tackle those closest to ‘home’, so to speak—my shower, bath, and hair products. Well, dang—what do you know? Emily spoke of the very culprit I have had my suspicions may be at the root of my remaining issues—the evil, insidious Sodium Laurel Sulfate. SLS is in everything, literally every shampoo, shower gel, hand soap, you name it—the personal care industry adds it to make soapy stuff have bubbles. Suds is apparently the equivalent of ‘clean’ to modern Americans—so much so that, when I had family visiting over the holidays and ran out of dish soap, the batch of the homemade variety I brewed was not good enough, so a bottle of Dawn appeared the very next day. Here’s the real rub: the person who insisted on having this brand-name product, “with active suds”, has chronic pain issues herself. It might behoove the general public to raise their awareness of the kinds of things the FDA approves of—particularly those which other countries do not allow, such as these common detergents, derived from palm and coconut oils.
It may not cause cancer—that seems to be in the realm of urban myth, but according to one article I read, 16,000 studies show that SLS does link to irritation of the skin and eyes, organ toxicity, developmental/reproductive toxicity, and neurotoxicity. Doesn’t that sound a lot like “toxic” to you? As one who has spent years trying to detox from environmental contaminants, I think this may just be a good thing to remove from my body care products—after all, our skin is our largest organ, so even beyond “irritation”, overloading any compromised system with more toxins—not such a great idea, right?
The rest of Emily’s presentation had to do with makeup, which didn’t really apply to me, since I pretty much gave up cosmetics a long time ago, but I did feel it was worth sharing with others, such as my daughter, who still has years of the self-esteem caulking, which cosmetics seem to provide to women in our society, ahead of her. According to my friend Franko, there are traditions elsewhere which also point to unhealthy practices, not only for women, but men as well—such as applying Arsenic to achieve that ever-so attractive ghostly pallor popular in bygone days (and by Goths).
I was up next, with a timebanking talk, which lead to a lively discussion and lots of interest from our Northern neighbors in Hernando, as well as participation by some Southern cousins already involved in the Sarasota area. Andy Firk shared that they had a very active timebank of over 200 members going, without even the virtue of any computer-based tracking system! This one is now joining with the Sarasota group, which should lead to even greater growth down there very quickly.
The final two presentations were a step-by-step tutorial on soap making with goat milk, by I believe her name was Chris, and a wonderful finish by Keith Lopez, all the way from Broward County, wherein he managed to tie up all of the holistic wellness thinking of the day into a beautiful bundle with a loving bow.
I was so charged up after this day I was concerned about running the ‘repeat’ show again the next day, but Sunday dawned as another gorgeous Florida spring morning. Not even the realization, before I’d even left the yoga mat, that I’d lost an hour to the archaic practice of “Daylight Savings” (certainly never saved me any time!), was enough to unbalance me. The day went smoothly, but not without its hiccups—I don’t think I was alone in the time change dilemma—most of the guests arrived sometime after 2PM, but once they started rolling in we had a full house, which rotated several times throughout the day.
Figure 1: Ara McLeod
Figure 2: Worms!
We gave ‘garden tours’ (more like work-in-progress intros), Ara again spoke about Morningstar, we had a good TBT ‘share’, and then we released Jacob, Sabrina, and their bees—an awesome and well-attended and attuned talk! We lost a few speakers, either to time crunches or other engagements, but even so, Justin Marlin’s worm talk also went very well, and quite suddenly it was not just six, but seven o’clock. Many, many thanks to everyone who attended, those who had a turn ‘onstage’, and those who just came to enjoy the day—We could not have done it without you, and I, and Casa Seranita are most grateful for your presence! This will be a monthly thing, along with regularly scheduled volunteer workdays, so please don’t keep us a secret—share with your friends—”Mi Casa es Su Casa“.