Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Harvesting the Children of the Oaks

The children of our mighty oaks are everywhere. The are deep under the trees themselves, of course. They crunch sadly under our tires as we drive around the property. And on my daily walk, I must be careful if I hesitate too long under the trees for fear of being bonked on the head by the nuts as they fall!

Since, for various reasons, I spend a lot of my time thinking about where food comes from and how we can enhance all of what we have, plotting the future of at least some of this bounty is currently much on my mind.

First it’s important to note that humans aren’t the only ones who can benefit from the oak’s gift of the acorns. At this time of year, our beloved deer apparently stop their dancing long enough to take about 25 percent of their diet from the acorns found on the property in such numbers.

It isn’t just the deer, either. Birds, ducks, woodpeckers, mice, squirrels and other rodents enrich their diets and prepare for winter munching on the nutritious nuts.

And acorns are nutritious! All varieties have protein, carbs and fats in abundance and include vitamins and minerals like calcium, potassium, phosphorus and niacin.

Even though so many creatures gain a lot of nutrition from acorns, there’s enough around for humans to have a share, as well. After all, a mature oak can produce up to 1000 pounds of acorns per year. (No wonder I’m getting hit on the head so often on my walks!)

Unlike many other nuts, acorns have strong tannins that must be removed before humans can enjoy them. This is done with either cold water flushing or boiling. How it is done depends on the amount of tannins -- and resulting bitterness -- in the nuts you’re dealing with. How and why this is done is discussed in some detail here.

Ironically, one of the uses for the brown water left after the boiling method is to use it as a traditional remedy in the relief of poison oak blisters. Since poison oak often grows near or in the shade of oak trees, having this natural remedy so close at hand seems like another one of nature’s signs that she’s looking out for us!

For more information on acorns and how and why to eat them, you can find recipes here and here and here.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to share in some of our bounty, call Laura at 805-769-8699 to schedule a visit.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Walking Softly on the Earth

This has been the sort of week that puts us in mind of why we need to continue to care deeply about the Earth and the environment. With a major earthquake and Tsunami on the West Coast and a devastating hurricane wreaking havoc on the East, it was difficult in the last few days not to at least cast a thought to the worst possible outcomes. But it’s hard for me not to think that, at least on a certain level, that’s a bit of a cop out. I mean, sure: there is such a thing as force of nature. There are elements and matters over which we can have no control. But there is evidence at hand that indicates that Hurricane Sandy may have been, to quote the Guardian newspaper, “supersized by climate change.” That is, while the hurricane itself was not attributable to climate change, some of the more devastating effects we saw over the last few days probably were. Sea surface temperatures are higher as is the overlying atmospheric temperature and the results were sad to see.

There is much debate on whether or not our actions could have at least minimized the intensity of the hurricane. On a personal level, though, the message seems very clear: though it’s easy to see our environment as robust, self-contained and untouchable, we need to stay cognizant of the delicate balances at play and, more importantly, the places where we can impact those balances in both negative and positive ways.

We try to do that every day at Dancing Deer Farm and the Center for ReUniting Families. Not only on a personal level, but in the widest way we can, in the form of various educational and community outreach programs. Laura Albers, the Education Director at the Center for ReUniting Families is deeply immersed in all aspects of both our programs and the various goings on at Dancing Deer Farm. Laura will be making occasional reports from Dancing Deer and CRF in this space. Her voice is warm and her vision clear and we look forward to her contributions.

Meanwhile, think forward from this eventful week. If we’re to take away one thing, remember that the Earth is delicate and requires our careful and conscious stewardship. Walk softly as you move ever forward.
“Teach your children that we have taught our children that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of earth...  This we know, the earth does belong to man: man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected…" -- Chief Seattle, 1851

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A doe and her buck

This is a story about our deer.

October 27, 2012
I have been witnessing the passing of a doe today, and an extraordinary devotion to her by a buck.

This morning, around 8:30am, my neighbor called to say she was concerned about a noise that had been coming from down the hill, sounding like an animal in pain. Assuming it was a deer that had been hit by a car, I got dressed for tra

ipsing through the poison oak covered hills.

I finally saw them - a doe on the ground, not too far from the street and neighbor winery, and a buck hovering around her. She screamed out every time he nudged her. I stood still up on the hill above them and watched for a half an hour as the buck refused to give up - kept trying to urge her to get up, from every side, from every angle. With each nudge, the doe cried out. In between the nudges, he would circle around her, licking her head and the wounds by her back legs. Once, she mustered enough energy to lift her head up and meet his mouth with her own - just as if in a kiss. He tried to scoop her up with his front legs. He tried to push her to her other side, drag her, anything to get her to move. When not nudging her or licking her, he stood over her - guarding his doe. When people were walking a few hundred yards off, he stood over her in complete alert.

Eventually, she stopped moving at all, and while he still kept licking her, he stopped trying to move her. I left them then, thinking that she was finally done.

Tonight, at about 6:45 pm, I drove over to the spot to check on things, to see if she needed to be pulled further into the woods for decomposing. To my amazement, the buck was still there! It didn't look like she had moved again, but he still had not left her side. More than 10 hours later, that buck was still by her side.

I am truly amazed at the devotion that this buck is showing. Such beautiful and compassionate animals these deer are. If only we could keep them safe from our streets. I'm sending all my love to this doe as she passes, and to this buck for loving her so fully. 

October 28, 11:00am: Visited doe, the buck had finally moved on. Brought sage and cedar and prayers to send the doe off with ceremony, and to pray for comfort for the buck.

October 29: The winery buried the doe where she died - at the edge of the oak forest.

October 30: Pumpkin carving in honor of the deer.

November 1: Marker brought to the area of passing.

In gratitude,
Laura Albers
Director of Education
The Center for Reuniting Families
Dancing Deer Farm

Thursday, February 9, 2012

From the Heart to the Home: Living Sustainably and with Thought

My mind really gets going when I start ingesting some of the ideas over at Eco Friend. This humble little web site isn’t big and flashy, but they tend to collect ideas and images on a wide variety of green topics. Though they aren’t generous with the links, Google makes it easy to look things up for further study.

Today the piece that caught my eye was called “Eco Friendly Houses for Green Living.” This is always a topic of interest for me because, in many ways, it embodies so much of our focus at the Center for Reuniting Families. After all, the home often symbolizes the very heart of the family. And it seems to me that, if we make an effort to make that familial heart as efficient and earth-friendly as can be, we’ve already taken steps to make the family itself more healthy. That is, ideally, caring manifests into every portion of our lives: If we begin by caring deeply about the planet, we come to care about where and how we live. We care about what we eat and where it came from. With all this caring and thought in our lives, how can we not also care more about each other? It is, in a way, about a culture of thought and caring and a way of living consciously that we try to share here at every opportunity.

So the piece on eco friendly houses really gave me a lot to think about. Though not all of these houses are ones I would think of as perfectly eco friendly, I love that an increasing number of people are giving thought and more than lip service to making the structures that protect us more Earth friendly in many ways. And I love that even people like Dow are now talking about the need to make big changes in the way we live and build. More than talk: they’re making it happen.

Of the houses discussed in the article, I was especially impressed with the Torus Design concept house (shown above left). In some ways this house completely reconsiders the way we as a culture currently think about buildings and homes. And when you read about it, you realize that was the point. From the web site of the designer, Colorado’s Dream Green Homes:
The Torus Design concept was inspired by the movie Thrive, which outlines ways of creating prosperity and equality in the world. The design brings together three emerging trends: increasing self sufficiency — including renewable energy and food production, families moving back together to save money, and sustainability. These trends are evident in the growth of home gardens, organic food, green building, eco-conciousness, off-grid homes, do-it-yourself attitudes, and cost cutting strategies such as bartering and trading for goods and services.
With people and companies like this putting such great effort into rethinking this most basic of human needs, it’s difficult not to be optimistic about the future. I love what it says about thinking about sustainable living and the families that will get to create the core of their lives around these bright, new hearths.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Super Efficient Prius On the Way

A Toyota Prius that gets 95 mpg may be in easy view according to Treehugger, who tends to get a bead on such things. From Treehugger:
The plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version of Toyota's best-selling Prius hybrid, which is debuting in the U.S. next month and will be commercially available in 14 states this Spring (national rollout in 2013), was first supposed to be rated at around 87 MPG-equivalent. This alone would have been enough to put the plug-in Prius pretty high on the fuel-efficiency list, but after more testing, Toyota has revised its estimate and now says it is confident that the Prius PHEV will get 95 MPGe, which is 2 MPGe more than the Chevrolet Volt, which is rated at 93 MPGe.
You can read more here.

Meanwhile, Britain’s Lightning Car Company is getting ready to debut their completely electric supercar. We certainly live in a time of great and exciting change! You can read more about that car here.