Posted in Farming

Winnowing Amaranth (growing one’s own grains)

Every year we try to do a little better; buy a little bit less, throw out a bit less trash, use less petroleum, grow a little bit more, become a little more self sufficient. This rocky, dry desert wouldn’t allow me more space to do a swath of turned soil for wheat or oats, but I had a bit of room in a raised bed to try my hand at an easier cereal grain, amaranth.

Seed Savers showed a photo of lush, six foot growth on a plant positively tipping with grain. Gorgeous crimson color made this lovely heirloom plant, harvested from Hopi land in the Arizona desert, one I wanted to try and grow.

It was quite easy to grow. The largest plants were the ones that had escaped the raised bed and grew in the shale, clay, sand mixture of pasture. We watered it every day. I had no idea what to do with it from there on, so I ignored it. When do you harvest? How do you harvest? What part is the grain?

This week the heads had fallen, drooping solemnly on the ground, great shocks of multicolored tops told me it was time. I clipped the tops into an open paper shopping bag. Using gloves, I crushed the heads and stripped the stalks.

I then poured the contents into a large strainer. Using my gloved fingers, I swept around the grains and chaff until everything came through the holes except for the stems.

I then utilized past knowledge I had gathered and poured the contents from bag to bag, then bowl to bowl, letting the breeze take away the chaff. I think I might have lost some of the seed and was making a tremendous mess.

I then poured the contents into a large sieve and that worked better to pull the contents through, throwing out the larger pieces of chaff.

Still, I had lots of purple chaff amongst the tiny black seeds. Still losing much of it across the pasture (which I am certain will grow fabulously next year. No one gardens quite as well as Mother Nature.), I took the lot inside away from the wind. I poured a little at a time through a smaller sieve and that seemed to work. I used my finger to push through as much of the seed as I could, throwing out the purple chaff.

That large shopping bag was reduced to half a cup of homegrown grain. Not one to be discouraged, I realize that next year I will know what I am doing (presumably) and will harvest more of the heads. I will know what to do ahead of time. I will also have more to harvest from. And I know that many hands make light work and I may get a little help next year. Either way, I look forward to grinding some of this grain for bread or turning it into porridge. The bright red color bleeds into the food you make with the Hopi amaranth.

In addition, the young leaves can be steamed and eaten like spinach. The bright red tops in their peak can be used to dye wool. Another project I am embarking on.

Plan ahead for next year and try your hand at growing grains. Grains are packed with vitamins and trace minerals, proteins and important antioxidants, and add a bit more homegrown to the homestead table.

Posted in Beauty/Health

Plant Based (Your Best Life, day 3)

A fellow blogger and friend of mine used to write about butchering deer on her kitchen table. She was the quintessential farmer’s wife. She wrote often about her life with autoimmune issues. It practically paralyzed her. She was very ill. One day she got upset about something she read and set out to prove that veganism was not healthy, but the more she researched, the more she became intrigued. She went vegan. I would have never expected it! She lost forty pounds and all of her autoimmune and health issues went away. She now writes about healthy living and promotes a plant based diet. She also appreciated that she could look at her animals with a new compassion.

There are thousands of stories like Eileen’s. A plant based diet reverses and heals disease and illness. There are many athletes who prove that a vegan diet builds muscle and improves stamina. When one incorporates a plant based diet in their life, a lot changes. It changes one’s perception about the creatures we share this planet with. That maybe they are not all here for us to kill and consume. And maybe just because that is how it has always been, doesn’t mean it needs to be like that in the future.

Okay, so perhaps you are interested in ditching Diabetes, skin issues, heart problems, anxiety, autoimmune issues, cancer cells, and brain fog, but there are questions!

These are the top five questions I get from folks:

  1. Where do you get your protein? One slice of whole wheat bread contains 5 grams of protein! You will not be lacking in protein. Greens, grains, nuts, seeds, mushrooms, and many other foods contain protein.
  2. But aren’t grains bad? Only if you work for a marketing campaign trying to sell you gluten free stuff. It’s incredibly rare for folks to be Celiac. Grains are filled with fiber, protein, and anti-cancer antioxidants. Obviously pastries and Wonder bread aren’t filled with healthy stuff, so stick with whole grains and as unprocessed as you can.
  3. We have incisors, so we were meant to be carnivores, right? If you look at road kill on the side of the road and start salivating or can catch a rabbit and bite into it, sure. But no, our systems resemble herbivores biologically.
  4. But what about all the stuff being shipped in from all over the world? Vegans are very hard on the environment. Is anyone eating truly local? That orange juice and banana weren’t grown in Denver! Our goal as a species is to begin eating closer to home. Not only eating closer to home, but growing our food at our home! It has nothing to do with being vegan.
  5. But how will you get B12? That is only available in animal sources. False! Oh my, there is a lot of misleading information out there. There is B12 in kombucha, nutritional yeast, and traces on garden grown vegetables. And while we are at it, you get plenty of iron from greens and grains.
  6. Oh and a bonus question. But soy is bad for you, right? Organic soy (along with herbs that help balance estrogen, like Black Cohosh) do not disrupt estrogen production, they balance it. Soy is used to help osteoporosis and strengthens bones. GMO, field grown soy is a different thing altogether.

It is not that hard. Just plan ahead. You will feel so good eating all those beautiful plant foods and you will not be hungry. There has never been an easier time to be vegan. So, today, pick up a vegan cookbook or look at some Instagram pages for inspiration. Health and compassion are a big part of living your best life.