Veganic Gardening At Home

July 29th, 2014 - posted under: The Farm » Flora

veganic gardening.jpg

Believe it or not, it can be pretty difficult growing vegetables without using animals. Which seems silly, if you ask me, but what do I know? That’s just the way it is, making the garden one more place that vegans and eco-conscious folks need to be a bit mindful.

Veganic Gardening is a gardening philosophy that incorporates organic gardening techniques while also eschewing all animal products and byproducts. And unfortunately, these days, that can be kind of tricky. But it’s doable! Definitely doable.

The three main considerations when planning a veganic garden are soil, soil amendments, and fertilizer.

vegan potting soilveganic potting soil

1. Soil
I’ve investigated every nursery and hardware store in my town, and I’ve only found two types of animal-free soil/potting soil. Actually, and surprisingly, I think finding appropriate soil may be the biggest hurdle for people wanting to practice veganic gardening (although this will depend on where you live and thus, what kind of access you have to various brands of soil). Because most commercial soil and potting soil mixes contain at least one or more of the following: manure, chicken manure, feather meal, fish, fish bone meal, shrimp meal, blood meal, bat guano, oyster shell, vermiculture compost, and earthworm castings, to name a few.

As far as veganic soil goes, the brand I favor is called Gardener’s, and the only ingredients are aged forest compost, perlite, and washed horticulture sand. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how widely available this brand is (it’s not on Amazon).

The other vegan soil I found in my area was by Miracle Grow, and although it contained no animal products, it was also full of the nasty chemical fertilizers that I avoid. So that was a no-go for veganic gardening.

My best suggestion, as far as finding veganic soil in your area, is to call around and ask for the Gardener’s brand. If you can’t find it you’ll have to do what I did: go to every single nursery and read the back of every single bag. Which is really not as bad as it sounds. I mean, at least you get a trip to the nursery out of it. Buy yourself a pretty new plant!

home veganic gardening.jpg

2. Amendments
Depending on your soil quality, you may want to add “boosters”, or amendments, to your garden. Many of these are not vegan – but some of them are! Vegan friendly amendments include:

  • Sphagnum Peat (Mountain Peat is very unsustainable and should be avoided)
  • Limestone
  • Dolomite Lime
  • Alfalfa/Alfalfa Meal
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Greensand
  • Phosphate Rock
  • Potash Rock
  • and finally my favorite, Compost! (from vegan homes, of course)

These are the non-vegan soil amendments that should always be avoided:

  • Manure
  • Compost Manure
  • Blood Meal
  • Bone Meal
  • Fish Meal/Fish Fertilizer

These may or may not be vegan, and should be investigated by brand before you purchase:

  • Humus
  • Soil or Topsoil
  • Mushroom compost (this is intended for mushrooms, not made from mushrooms)

seaweed fertilizer

3. Fertilizer
Fertilizers are food for plants, offering a wide spectrum of necessary nutrients. The most common commercial veganic fertilizer is concentrated seaweed, which is positively brimming with vitamins and minerals. There are many brands of seaweed (sometimes just called kelp) fertilizers and these are widely available. I’ve used the Growmore brand for years, and recently Jeremy picked up this Organix Rx on super sale. Both are awesome.

veganic fertilizer

As for more a traditional fertilizer, I’ve been using this Dr. Earth Vega animal-free mix to make a fertilizer tea, and it’s been fantastic! This stuff is amazing and I highly recommend it. You should be able to find it in your local nursery, but if you can’t get it locally there’s always Amazon.

children veganic gardening

He loves helping me mix up a big batch of fertilizer for our many, many hungry plants!

Soil, amendments, and fertilizer. That’s about all there is to creating an incredible, cruelty-free, and eco-friendly home garden. Not so bad, right?

And to all you amazing veganic home gardeners out there reading (I know you’re there!), please share your best tips and favorite products in the comments below, so we can all learn from each other. Sharing is caring, y’all!

Pictures Of Things + Le Love List

July 24th, 2014 - posted under: Furthermore » Feedback

Hello, and happy weekend! I don’t know about you guys, but we are in go-go-go mode over here, getting ready for a super grand adventure – and you know how I do so love my adventures! This weekend, Jeremy and Waits and I are embarking on a camping extravaganza, making our way northward through California, over the course of 8 days. We’re seeing Sequoia and Yosemite and Tahoe, and then ending up at Mount Shasta for my annual family reunion (I wrote about that last year, here, and the year before, here, and I just re-read both of those and man . . . life is wild. My life is untamed and beautiful and wild, and I’m so glad to have lived it up and down and all the way through these past few years. I’m so glad to be here where I am, right now.) So currently we’re packing and planning and generally very excited about all that!

And I always think it’s rather reckless when bloggers announce their upcoming vacations – like, “Hello, rob me now!”, so I just want to say that 1) I HAVE A HARLEY SITTER MY HOUSE WILL NOT BE EMPTY DON’T ROB ME PLEASE K THANKS, and also 2) there’s seriously nothing to steal, nothing of value here, I promise. Sad but true.

And Waits has never been camping before. Jeremy bought him a miniature head lamp (to match Jeremy’s adult-sized head lamp which he wears pretty much constantly when he’s working around the house – did I mention my man’s eccentric? ♥) and his very own camping chair, and Waits is so excited. They are geeking out like whoa and I am basically dying of the cute. It’s good times.

However! I am hoping to bank some posts to auto-blog while we’re away. I’m looking at 2 weeks gone with very limited internet access, so if it’s quiet around here, or if I take forever responding to comments and emails, please forgive me! I’m doing my best to stay on top of things . . . and we’ll just have to see how well I can keep that up. Wish me luck and Bon Voyage!!

In the meantime, here’s what life looked this past week:

curry soup

This curry soup = crack in a bowl.

raspberry pickingcalifornia raspberry picking

Raspberry picking adventures!

children's books
Mama, I want you to read me ALL these books. And these ones too. Can we read all of them? (we did. on the floor of his new bedroom. it was wonderful.)

homegrown pinto beans
The great “Grow Your Own Vegan Protein” project of 2014 continues. Have I even mentioned this on the blog? It’s a thing. More detail coming later but for now – I grew pinto beans!

beach glass
A 2-hour walk on the beach with one of my oldest friends . . . fruitful in many ways.

preschool passage ceremony
All dressed up at the preschool Passage Ceremony. It was such a beautiful celebration.

mud fight
But the real fun was at the after-party! Nothing like a good mud fight in your fancy clothes. ♥


And now, truly the best way to set the stage for a lovely and loving weekend: Le Love List!

Damian is away at the National Pool Championship in Las Vegas, which means I get Waits all to myself for almost 3 weeks. It’s so precious to have all this time together, and I am soaking up every single second of it. // Quietly drinking my morning coffee while listening to Jeremy and Waits play a board game (the game was Fur and Feathers if you’re interested – it’s a great game for vegan/animal loving kiddos!) // All three of my produce bowls overflowing with summer’s bounty. // Gathering with all the other parents for the passage ceremony at preschool. Feeling the connections I’ve made there. Watching the children be amazing together. // In that vein, watching preschool-aged children work their shit out *amongst themselves*. Most traditional educators don’t believe that’s even possible, I’m told, but it is and it is friggin’ beautiful. These tender tiny people who have learned how to express their feelings, how to listen, and how to have real conversations with other tiny people? They are going to change the world some day. // Besting Ms. Mousy in my garden. // The rare and esoteric wine-geek wines that Jeremy brings home for me to try (leftover from their tastings). // When Waits get’s in the car and hollers “Put on Ukulele Anthem, mama!” // Eye contact. // Looong walks everywhere, even when they leave you with a bit of sun-scorch. // Connection. I’ve had a number of re-connections this week, as well as what can only be described as a sort of re-connection inside myself as well. Many of my friends are experiencing the same thing, in their own lives. Do you feel it too? Something is shifting. For me I’m in a place of bloom – but also of pushing, working to expand, digging deeper, inward as well as interpersonally. Connection is the theme. Do you feel it too?

Alright guys, now you’re up. You game? I hope you’ll leave your own little Love List in the comments below, because I (and everyone else who’s here) would really love to read them.

Happy weekend!

Report From The Santa Barbara Fermentation Festival

July 22nd, 2014 - posted under: The Food » Food and Health

santa barbara fermentation festival 8

Last Saturday, Jeremy and I took wee Waits Rebhal to the Santa Barbara Fermentation Festival. And I have to admit, I wasn’t really sure what to expect with this event. I mean, Santa Barbara isn’t that big, so I wondered what size of “festival” our crunchy little community would actually be able to support. But I have to say . . . holy moly I was amazed!

This event was pure pleasure. Just absolute and abundant happy. We spent our entire day there, close to 5 hours, drinking in every last celebratory drop. There were farmers and hippies and families and bohemians and artisans and Average Joes, all coming together to celebrate the ancient art of culturing food. It was more than I expected, much much more, and now I can’t wait for next year’s event! Here’s how our day of good ol’ simple farm-style fun unfolded:

shoulder ride

My two main squeezies.

painted farm sign
Santa Barbara Fermentation Festival 10
santa barbara fermentation festival

First things first. Guys, there was a “frozen ferments” truck:

komucha popsickle truck
kombucha popsickle
Yes, that is a kombucha-berry popsicle. You better believe I’ll be working on my own version of this amazing treat, coming to the blog very soon!

edible hedges
santa barbara fermentation festival 4

And Waits got to draw some bacteria:

santa barbara fermentation festival 5

And make a seed bomb for some guerrilla gardening:

making seed bombs

And my favorite kid-friendly feature, which I think is just so freakin’ creative:

santa barbara fermentation festival 3

The Culture Petting Zoo, where folks could get to know the various players in all these ferment-y foods: view yeast through a microscope, grab a handful of crystalline kefir grains, or get up close and personal with a giant slimy kombucha SCOBY. This was such a fun idea!

santa barbara fermentation festival 2
water kefir grains

There were also speakers and demonstrations, back to back, all day long. And one of the best – and most generous – aspects of the event, was that each demonstration included hands-on sampling and practicing for the audience. Essentially, everyone got to make their own ferment, in real time, as the demo was going on – all cultures, materials, and mason jars provided free of charge. I’ve never really seen anything like that before, which is truly a testament to the quality and friendliness of this festival!

santa barbara fermentation festival 6
Water kefir demonstration, under the big top.

santa barbara fermentation festival 7

Santa Barbara Fermentation Festival 9

santa barbara fermentation festival 1

mulberry climbing tree

At some point we stumbled upon this mulberry tree – an enormous mulberry tree! – that created a sort of shady haven underneath. Parents lounging beneath the branches, and children all swinging and clinging to every limb. It felt magical, under there.

climbing mulberry tree
climbing mulberry tree 1

All in all, an incredible day, full of interesting people, inspired foods for sampling (I didn’t take many pictures of those, but I swear I must have tried 15 different kinds of kombucha, plus sauerkraut and kimchi and pickles and everything else you could ever imagine fermenting), funky music, farm-style fun, artisan crafters and creators, homesteaders, urban homesteaders, suburban homesteaders, and sustainable dreamers of all stripes. I found the whole event to be entirely enlivening, just exactly the kind of soul-food I was craving. It felt like being amongst my people. It felt like home.

eating borage
Edible flower power!

Much love, and maybe I’ll see you there next year!

♥ ♥ ♥

So Tom’s Of Maine Is Owned By Colgate. Let’s Talk About It.

July 20th, 2014 - posted under: Furthermore » Feedback

toms owned by colgate

*deep breath*

I’ve been meaning to write this post for ages. AGES. Ever since I announced my partnership with Tom’s Of Maine back in May and was met with a lot of excitement . . . but also some concern. Which didn’t surprise me in the least! I wrote to the company right away, and since I believe in transparency, I’ll just show you the exact email I sent to my contact at Tom’s that day:

So I announced my partnership with Tom’s on my blog yesterday, and was met *mostly* with support. My readers are incredibly intelligent and fiercely independent, which is why I love them so much. So naturally, they have questions and concerns about the company (I can’t imagine a situation where they wouldn’t, since we are a “question everything” kind of crew) and I just wanted to check in with you before I engage in a dialogue.

My readers are mostly concerned with Tom’s being owned by a parent company, Colgate. I feel very strongly that smaller, natural branches of larger parent companies should still be supported – for all sorts of important reasons. I would like to speak freely about this with my readers, to share my perspective on why I think it’s so crucial to support companies like Tom’s, despite their larger parent company.

Are you okay with me speaking freely about this?

Back on the day I announced the partnership here on the blog, I joked about how my big mouth was going to get my butt sued. So yes, I definitely wanted to run things by the folks at Tom’s and make sure I wasn’t going to breach my contract by speaking out about this.

And of course, they said yes, fine, no worries. Speak freely! I set up a conference call with another contact at Tom’s, so that I could learn about the history of the company, the details of the sale to Colgate (and why that decision was made – it was intentional, by the way!), and how it’s affected the company since. But scheduling meant our conference call had to wait a week, and then right after that I was administering midterms, and the week after that I was grading those midterms, and then a psychotic misogynist gunned down 6 students at my University and everything went into crisis mode for a few weeks. And then finals.

So this post, which I wanted to write when I could give it my full energy and attention, was pushed to the back burner. Until now! And now I want to talk about how Tom’s is owned by Colgate, and how I’m [mostly] totally okay with that.

To be clear, these are just my own thoughts on the issue; my own personal perspective. Your mileage may vary. And I’d love to hear your own thoughts down below, and as always I encourage discourse as long as it remains respectful. Yes? Onwards!


So let’s begin by talking in a big picture, abstract, non-Tom’s-specific sort of way. In the most general sense, I support the idea of small eco-conscious companies growing bigger for one simple reason: wider reach. If I believe in a company and what it’s doing, then why wouldn’t I want it to grow? Why wouldn’t I want more people to gain access to the products? I think (I hope? Or is this like when your favorite indie band gets radio play and suddenly you’re too cool to listen to them?) we can all agree on this. I hope.

The problem with small companies growing larger comes when those companies suddenly become lax around the ethical standards that drew us in to begin with. More business might mean larger manufacturing facilities, maybe outsourcing production overseas, maybe re-sourcing ingredients from less-than-stellar vendors, and on. Many eco-conscious companies start out small and wholesome, then begin to grow, and start cutting corners to support their growth. That’s green washing, and it’s a big problem for conscientious consumers.

But luckily, that’s just not an issue here. Because Tom’s is green, through and through. This is a company as green as any company I could possibly imagine. That hasn’t changed as they’ve grown, and it didn’t change one single bit when ownership was transferred. So yeah, you can call them out for putting beeswax in their dental floss (so unnecessary, why??!) or you can complain about them relying too heavily on SLS (and go ahead and tell them about it too – they really listen), but man, you can’t claim that they’re not on the absolute cutting edge of environmental stewardship in sustainable manufacturing. You just can’t.

Seriously, I encourage you to visit the website and learn about what they’re doing in terms of environmentally-friendly production practices, because it’s really sort of revolutionary. Read the Goodness Report. It’s incredibly thorough, and damn impressive. Read about what it’s like to work at Tom’s. Tell me you don’t want to work at a place like that! And then check out their Stewardship Model. Okay, now show me another major corporation that’s living up to that standard.

Guys, this is NOT green washing. This is actually a really, really good company. And I hope it goes without saying that I wouldn’t have decided to partner with them if they weren’t.

And look, I know the company’s not without its flaws. I’ll be the first to admit that – and I don’t have any problem saying so! Hey Tom’s, why you gotta put bee-derived additives in products labeled “free of animal ingredients”? That doesn’t fly with the vegans, dudes!

I can support the company, and admire them, *and* want them to do better. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

toms of maine colgate

Back to the Colgate thing. My question was, why did Tom and Kate sell their super-hippie company to Colgate in the first place?

Well apparently, it wasn’t an accident. It was a calculated decision. A choice. Because they knew that Tom’s would remain unchanged (as stipulated in the terms of the sale), while also reaching millions more people. Essentially, they wanted Colgate for its distribution. So that now, because Tom’s is attached to Colgate, Tom’s can be distributed wherever Colgate is distributed. And I love that. That was my original point! I love that everywhere, all over the country in grocery stores and Wal*Marts, from the inner city to the rural middle-of-nowhere, people from all walks of life and in every situation can choose a natural, cruelty free, and healthier product for their family. I believe that everyone deserves to be able to make that choice.

Listen. Here is my own truth: I may dream of an ideal future, but I am not an idealist. I’m actually a realist, maybe even a radical realist (just ask the vegans who want me to shut up already about all those EX-vegans), so I prefer to see a situation for what it really is, here and now.

And what that means is, I know it would be wonderful if we could all be making our own body care products at home out of coconut oil and baking soda and other simple ingredients. I encourage anyone who has the time and energy to do that, to do that! But not everyone has that kind of time. And for people like that, I’m so glad that they have access to a healthier product like Tom’s.

In my ideal world, we might also all support independent, local artisans. That would be amazing, and for those who can afford it, I encourage you to do so. But again, not everyone has that kind of disposable income.

I am not willing to ignore the financial or lifestyle limitations that millions of Americans face. To do so would be to erase them from our conversations about what it means to be a vegan or an environmentalist.

Clearly, I’m talking far beyond toothpaste. This brings up much larger issues involving social justice, equality, and perhaps the sort of realistic expectations that I believe our compassionate and eco-conscious community would do well to consider, if we truly want to make progressive change.

Not everyone has the means to meet the ideal. For people in that position (a position I was in less than a year ago, and which I am still working my way out of), I am so glad that Tom’s provides a natural choice that’s accessible to everyone.

So yes, that is why I think it’s important to support small sustainable subsidiaries of larger, big-mean-nasty parent corporations. Because they allow greater access to natural products for people who would not otherwise be exposed to such things, and also because every time you choose Tom’s over Colgate, it sends the parent corporation a very important message about the direction they may want to take Colgate itself in the future.

I know what the other side says – that the money trickles up, that buying Tom’s will ultimately line the pockets of Colgate. And I understand that, I do. It’s just that . . . I don’t necessarily find that to be a productive way of thinking.

In the same way that I shop at grocery stores that sell animal products, even though I’m opposed to eating animals, and even my little super-hippie Co Op in Portland sold eggs and dairy, and some of my very favorite restaurants that make an awesome vegan meal also serve up dead flesh, and I’ll support the delicious sorbet at my local creamery, even though their main focus is un-vegan gelato, and do you see where I’m going with this? This is my point about ideal versus reality. If you shop at a grocery store or a restaurant or any other place that sells items in conflict with your ethics, then you’re really no different than people who buy from green companies owned by a parent corporation. Which is not to say “Nyah Nyah, GOTCHYA!”, but is instead meant to illustrate that it’s all of us. We are all doing it. We all draw our lines in the sand, wherever we feel comfortable and in whatever way our own unique circumstances allow. But ultimately, our lines may not be as different as we prefer to imagine they are.

Personally, I’d rather see people give money to a company that reserves 10% of its profits to donate to charity, a company that’s busy thinking about how to reduce water waste and increase energy efficiency on the production line, a company that’s got an entire team of people thinking about the littlest things, like where they’re sourcing the glue that holds their packaging together, and how maybe they can switch from a petroleum-based binder to a vegetable-based one (seriously, this is what they’re currently doing). That makes me happy. I think it’s a good thing, and something I very much want to support.

But . . . that’s not my point. My point in writing this was not to try and convince you to purchase Tom’s. Not at all. In fact, like I said – if you have the time to make your own personal care products, I think you should. Or if you have the means to buy the small-batch local stuff, I think you should do that as well. I think that you should do whatever makes you feel best, within the constraints of your own actual reality.

My point, I guess, is that I don’t believe this to be as black and white as it’s so often presented. There are larger issues at play here. And I don’t know that it makes sense to blindly or blithely write off entire branches of the eco-friendly marketplace. I do think, however, that in order to be intellectually honest, we need to have a more nuanced conversation.

But that’s just me, your resident radical realist. Like I said above, your mileage may vary.

♥ ♥ ♥

Pictures Of Things + Le Love List

July 17th, 2014 - posted under: Furthermore » Feedback

Hello, happy Friday! So firstly, I want to say thank you to everyone who left a sweet or supportive note on last week’s “Pictures Of Things” post. I was having a rough time, and your words of kindness mean more to me than you know. Thank you so much for that.

This week, things are looking up. And this week I’ve tried to be especially mindful of all the treats and treasures around me, all the time. Which is sort of the point of these posts, and one of the reasons I’m enjoying this new series here on the blog. Because it forces me to pay attention to the world around me. Constantly. Looking for pretty pictures to capture, well, it keeps me very present!

So, without further ado, here’s a bit of Happy that I’ve captured around me this week:

driving kid

“I’m the driver, mama! You sit in the passenger seat, you’re the kid. I’m the mom.”

whiskey barrel
Our first barrel! This one housed whiskey once upon a time, and now we can hardly wait to cut it in half. Jeremy and I have been dreaming and scheming of all the things we could plant in our two impending half-barrels. It’s going to have to be something really special . . .

incredible salad and t rex
This amazing salad (and T-Rex!)

summer watermelon kid
Summer watermelon face.

on top of a mountain in santa barbara
ADVENTURES >>> Driving up, up, up, until you’re so high you feel like you’re driving in the sky itself . . .

unpaved road
And then down, down on dusty broken roads, for what seems like ages, into the middle of nowhere . . .

boy on hike
Because you’re hunting . . .

santa barbara hot springs
For some place . . . magical.


And now, one of the easiest things that we can ALL do to make the world a little bit of a better place: Le Love List!

Deep cleaning my kitchen. Scouring the inside of my fridge. Ahhhhh. // My dahlias (hybrid, grown from seed instead of bulb) are finally beginning to bloom. I’ve been waiting for them! // Sex-positive people. Listening to the Savage Love podcast non-stop (FYI, that is graphic and explicit, NSFW, NSFkids) while I clean and putter around my house. // That incredible impromptu dinner picnic + magical soak in the natural hot springs, with my two very most favorite humans (as pictured up there ^^^). That was a really good one. // Every few months I’m surprised by a bit of money arriving in the mail. I’m surprised every. single. time. And I get to go “Oh yeah, I wrote a book and people actually buy it!” Good feeling. // Fermenting ALL THE THINGS. // And oh yeah, label makers are pretty neat-o. // Breaking 2000 followers on Instagram. It’s my favorite social media platform by far, and man do I suck at social media! Oi. But truly, I love Instagram and would love it if you joined me there. // Having dinner with my godparents and their children, and my child, and their children’s partners, all of us together is so rare and SO precious. // Last week I was gutted over a smoking engine and expensive, unexpected car repairs. And today, on his day off, all day, Jeremy was working under my car, doing things I don’t quite understand. And he somehow saved me over $600. And . . . I just . . . I don’t . . . HE is at the top of my gratitude list this week. This week and every other, I am so thankful for the winding path that led me to Jeremy. ♥ ♥ ♥

Alright guys, now it’s your turn! I hope you’ll leave your own little Love List in the comments below, and let us all know what’s making you smile these days.

Happy weekend!