Posted on Updated on

American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) is a ubiquitous plant found on our hikes and needed to be explored further than taking pictures of its vibrant purple hued berries with a handsome fellow looking on.

Of interest was the possibility of making jelly with its berries, and an insecticide with the leaves.  However, upon a little deeper research, a plant growth induction concoction came to light.  The Callicarpa species have a natural plant growth promoter caller calliterpenone which can be extracted from the leaves.   I am familiar with making a Comfrey “tea” to use as a growth promoter on my plants (gibberellic acid at work here according to the herbalist who suggested utilizing it to me, a farming newbie) but now wish to try wild Callicarpa americana leaf tea as a side by side experiment on some Moringa oleifera seedlings.  An experiment documented online showed an increase in biomass in the case study of Mentha arvensis as well as an increase in the essential oil production.

AB Tea is brewing in the sun!


Back to Ethical Metalsmithing…….

Posted on

IMG_3324  Had I been in my favorite, nonstop, find anything you want city this weekent–NYC, my schedule would have found me at Lindhardt studios this evening for the Ethical Metalsmith meeting.

Departing upon the jewelry making craft, I never initially considered where the metals were coming from.  It was never mentioned in classes and only came about as a consideration while taking ethical fashion classes at FIT with the fantastic, passionate Carmen Artigas.  What a shock!

Fashion, according to Carmen, is about ten years behind the organic food movement and mining is not even on the map of industry movements for conservation and sustainability.   Why it never occurred to me to question where the metals I was using originated is inexplicable but once the seed was planted, jewelry construction took on a new twist to fit into my value system.

The fold formed fine silver bracelet above is a from recycled metal.  One can wear it with pride knowing it is a made in the USA ethically produced accessory.  Now all my jewelry is so constructed and if it cannot be, that design is off the books.

As my current instructor questioned why I care–and why anyone balks at the fact he has ivory obtained years past that he wants to use in custom pieces, I discovered Ethical Metalsmiths.  A tribe to belong to in this world of taking from mother earth for capitalist good.

Love my Omega Juicer and Tribest.

Posted on

dreamstimefree_171595  The blueberries are for smoothies in the Tribest.  If you are not familiar with them they are the greatest portable smoothie blenders which also have an attachment for grinding spices and nuts.  I have travelled a lot with mine and it is always nice to know you can pick up a few fruits and vegetables at the market and have your healthy morning smoothie on the go.

The Omega juicer has turned out to be a fantastic investment.  I used to have a Breville and was never too keen on it since the wet pulp and the high RPM’s while making the juice did not jive as the best machine for the purpose.  Enter the Omega.  Wow.

It uses an auger to “squeeze” the juice out of the produce which then goes through a screen and into the catch container.  The ejected pulp is very dry.  Funny enough, my dog loves to sample it, especially if carrot juice is on the agenda!  In fact, I obtain more juice from this machine for the same amount of produce vs the Breville.

In addition, making your own nutbutters with this machine is easy as well.  I am one who looks at the nutbutter machines at Whole Foods and cringes at the sight of the exposed, clinging glob of nutbutter residue on the machine.  How sanitary can this possibly be?  Maybe this is never a problem (misting produce sprayers scare me as well due to the possibility of mold growing in the misters if they are not cleaned and maintained properly.  I will take my herbs dry, thank you, until I start growing my own).

The Omega plus Tribest give me the best of both juicing and smoothie making worlds.

Of Okinawans and Purple Sweet Potatoes

Posted on Updated on


     Anthocyanins.  Those wonderful blue pigments found in blueberries, purple cabbage, blue potatoes and blue sweet potatoes just to name a few foods.

     The Okinawan diet is comprises mainly of purple sweet potatoes.  Or should I say, was since they have now been eating a more Westernized diet, leaving the longevity statistics to the complete vegetarian Adventists right here in the USA.

      But what they did have in their traditional diet was a lot of sweet potatoes.  They were the primary food eaten along with yellow and green vegetables and soybean based foods, plus medicinal plants!  This diet is highly antiinflammatory, and antioxidant rich as well as being low calorie but nutrient dense.

     Maybe eating until 80% full and eating more blue and purple whole foods should be a mantra for us all.

TEDX MacStone and Everglades Photography

Posted on Updated on

Always a pleasure to encounter a gator on the daily hike. Much more exciting than spending time on a treadmill for exercise.
Always a pleasure to encounter a gator on the daily hike. Much more exciting than spending time on a treadmill for exercise.


Check out MacStones’ Ted talk from Gainesville, Florida.  It is so much more than just stunning photographs.  A treatise on why we should protect Florida’s wildlife and wildplaces.

Of Bidens pilosa and Retin A

Posted on Updated on

Bidens pilosa, Spanish needles, IMG_3079Picao preto.   By any name an amazing plant.

The entire plant may be used and here is a list of its potential power:

  •  antibacterial, including MRSA
  • antifungal
  • hepatoprotective, inhibits prostglandin and COX
  • antiulcer
  • anticancer
  • immunomodulatorIMG_3170
  • and, antiaging!!  This is what I am currently exploring with various Biden pilosa infused oils soaking up the sun.  In recent Pubmed studies there is evidence of Bidens increasing growth factors, stimulating extracellular matrix elements and modulating retinoid receptors potentially even better than other well known retinoids (for example, retin a).

Once the oils are ready in a few weeks it will be on to exploration and experimentation by documenting any changes to a patch test area.  If this works, imagine not only am amazing plant for pollinators but an amazing, readily available plant source of antiwrinkle concoctions.

Ceresaa Tea on NPR but more fun as Momordica charantia

Posted on Updated on


      I had never heard of Ceresaa tea but an introduction on NPR this morning speaking of Islanders in search of a vine in Miami caught my ear.  It was never mentioned that the plant they were discussing is also called bitter melon and even more fun by its Latin name, Momordica charantia.

     According to the show, it is used to treat just about everything by the people they interviewed.  My introduction to it was while volunteering at Solace International’s organic farm where they planted and harvested for sale.  It was a new vegetable encounter however, once reading about its taste as well as its medicinal use for diabetes it was not something I needed to include in my diet.

     Quickly put on the back burner of new plants to explore, it came to the forefront on several hikes that followed.  I found it a beautiful plant with much smaller fruit than the cultivated variety.  Just little orange walnut sized fruits, filled with lycopene according to Green Deane on a foraging walk.  He also mentioned it is toxic to dogs.

Tiny House Truths

Posted on Updated on

IMG_2221I live in a tiny house with a not so tiny companion.  I researched tiny houses for over a year and thought I had everything covered.  Yes, I had things covered when one is looking through rose colored glasses!  My interest grew after attending the ethical fashion classes taught by amazing Carmen Artigas at FIT.  She went far beyond addressing fashion in her passion to educate about sustainability, environmentally friendly choices, etc.


Funny, how in retrospect a little deeper digging would have told me the headlines: “Move when ever you want” were not quite true–tiny houses may be on wheels but most are not structurally sound to be moved many times.  “Be free of a mortgage, paying rent, etc”.  Yes, but tiny houses are not legally permitted to be parked in most areas (Orlando, Florida has a legal tiny house community in an RV park with a dynamite view if you happen to get a lot on the water but the front entrance is crossed by railroad tracks……and really, the tiny house/RV park is not on the best side of the tracks so to speak).

So, one is confronted of where to park it, trusting the “landlord” if you do not own your own land, hoping you are not caught illegally parking, where to find running water and electricity ( I have a composting toilet and solar panels but the solar will not run A/C and the necessary dehumidifier required to live comfortably and I might add, in a healthy indoor environment in South Florida.  Therefore, electricity is a must!).  Yes, the list can go on and again, all this is depicted online but not on the shiny “Tiny House” websites nor apparently on “Tiny House Nation” which I have only been told about as I do not have a TV in my tiny house.  No TV is a plus!

Cooking in a tiny house is a questionable feat depending upon one’s cuisine.  I initially thought, great, this is the time to really delve into a RAW diet.  Then I heard an NPR talk by the neuroscientist Suzana Herculano-houzel on how we have evolved such a large brain with so many more neural connections than the great apes due to cooking our food.  This change allowed us the ability to fuel this brain with calories.  RAW was out.  Not a sustainable lifestyle.   Ironically, just as I am finding a  tiny house not to be when one loves to pursue artistic endeavors, needs crafting (i.e. creating linocuts and blockprinting, jewelry construction, natural dying, glass works…) and cooking space to do so.  Plus all those wonderful books tucked away.

With RAW out, I returned to being a vegan which is just fine.  However, I am a vegan who likes to utilize a lot of different spices for both their taste and health benefits.  Cooking in a tiny house means sleeping with the aromas of your meal, vent running and windows open aside.  This quickly morphed into cooking outside which translates into camp cooking.  Fun sometimes but not when it is a daily necessity.  Mostly raw vegan is where I have settled.

Fortunately, I have found a quiet place on the back of the farm where the creepy landlord to whom I pay electric bills finally realized I have no interested in his “boring, married life and open marriage”.  YUCK.   Why living a happy, tiny, minimally consumerist life with a growing edible potted garden and a beautiful funny dog as a companion seems to bother people is beyond me.  This is the plus side of my tiny house living arrangement but only because I can found a nice parking spot under a very large bamboo for shelter and do not mind bringing in the water needed.

We have just celebrated our one year anniversary.  During this time, researching quite a bit on tiny houses, looking at tiny houses for sale listings and revisiting a tiny house builder in Florida over a year later only to discover he has the homes I first saw back him constructing for clients on the lot, it seems quite a lot of people do not live in them long term.  It is an experiment I am glad to be participating in but has numerous limitations.  At times I think I would love to move up to a Tennessee Tiny Home which would be a small house compared to my tiny one but the reality hits: Who really wants to crawl into a loft everynight?  I like to put my pajamas on standing up!