Posts tagged plants

Solar Panel Installation (and Eating Your Neighbor’s Lawn)

Great news!  It’s been a while since I posted, but there are a slew of recipes that you’ll be seeing added over the next few days.  As few things in life turn out perfectly the first time, I have been refining the previous recipes and trying a few new ones, side dishes mostly.  Most have been successful, but more on that later.  Great news, you ask?  Yes!  I’ve just signed up to get certified as a solar panel installer.  This means that for the next eight months, I’ll be working toward completing the necessary coursework and study hours for the National certification exam, and hopefully getting some practical experience working with panels along the way.  You might be asking why this should interest you in any way… well, since I love to share, and since writing about things helps me to learn, I mean really LEARN things, I’ll be keeping a sort of study diary on this site.  So if you’re wondering where to start on that whole “watts vs. volts” issue, or if you need a little brush up on your high school physics or electronics (and who doesn’t?), keep checking back often to see if I’ve covered the topic here.  I’ll be using the SEI’s textbook on photovoltaic installation and repair, which is pretty much the best on out there as far as I can tell.  Class starts Wednesday, so more about that then!

In the meantime, I’ve been reading a lot about urban foraging.  It’s a huge topic with relatively few available references.   But starting with Christopher Nyerges’ excellent Wild Foods and Useful Plants guides and also covering specific guides to my local SoCal area, I’ve been out every morning hunting for food.  And it’s everywhere!  Did you know that most of the plants in your garden, never mind those that professional landscapers use in public places, are edible in one way or another?  Geraniums, pansies, daylilies, lavender, nasturtium, chrysanthemums, marigolds, roses and more all make tasty snacks alone or blended into recipes.  You can even replace some of the gourmet items in your pantry with wild alternatives, adding an exotic flair to your cooking.  For example, nasturtium seeds make an excellent caper substitute when pickled, and you can make jellies straight from your yard instead of store-bought marmalades. 

If you’d like to find out more about the plants of your area, I’d highly recommend you check out a book that specializes in your area and start looking for wild foods every time you go out the front door.  I have to admit that though I’d never even noticed what was edible before, now I’m finding myself distracted trying to walk down any street, looking at the possibilities.  And the fruit you pick is SO much sweeter than the one you buy, even if just in principle.  The book I just finished Edible and Useful Plants of California (can’t remember off-hand who wrote it) also included many great anecdotes about the Native American food and medicinal uses of various plants.  When moving away from reliance on the grid, you’d do well to know a bit about the native flora of your community.  And I hardly need to spell out its importance after grid-crash, except to point out that it will be the few months following immediate aid and before people’s sowed crops mature that will be hardest for individuals to survive.  If you know about edible plants, then you can sit happily munching on your neighbors’ lawns while they sit inside their houses panicking.  You might even get an “I told you so” out between bites.  How’s that for sweet justice!  Until next time, happy foraging!

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Organic Farming Learning Opportunities

If you are planning a garden, I can’t recommend enough that you go organic in your approach. After all, since 50% of all pesticides used in America are sprayed on cotton (and therefore your clothes!), you’ve likely already got a lot of toxins to offset in your life! However, the topic of organic gardening can be a little intimidating at first, as it is so large.

If you want to get your feet wet, while learning from experts in their field, why not volunteer at a working organic farm in your area? The originator of all organic exchange websites, WWOOF.org has many such opportunities to do just that. And it’s sorted by area, so you’ll be able to find something local. Also, try OrganicVolunteers.com for similar invitations. Most of the opportunities listed allow for you to sample or take home some of the produce you help to tend for a taste test. It’s like a free grad school education with an excellent cafeteria!

Do you know of any other great sites? Post them here!

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Link Bonanza: medicinal and edible plants

Balsam Fir Pitch

Medicinal plant list

More edible and medicinal plants

Articles about Australian medicinal plants

Forage with Wildman Steve Brill

Whoa! That’s a lot of information! While we’re on the topic of edible plants… when planting your garden, why not plant things that do double or even triple duty, providing medicine and or nourishment along with shady beauty? While every locale has its own host of plants that fit this bill while still thriving ecologically, you may be surprised to find that plants you’ve known and loved for years have different uses than you’d imagined. Take the above article on the balsam fir. My house growing up had one in the front yard. I knew it as the good climbing tree, and my mother no doubt saw it as “that darn tree that ends up all over the kids’ clothes”, but neither of us ever thought that the sticky pitch might have other uses. Again, knowing more about your local environment can only enhance the pleasures of living there, and bring you more into balance with nature. Happy reading!

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Wilderness lessons: Plant Taste Test

If you’re into off-grid living, then it’s quite possible you also like to escape to the great outdoors every once in a while. And though you’re super smart and careful, you may find yourself in a position one day when you need to literally go back to nature for some food. Even if you don’t find yourself in this unenviable position, it’s valuable to know what in your environment is toxic, and what plants are edible. It makes for great conversation when you can pick up a plant off the side of the trail and offer it to a friend! Read this survival tip from simplesurvival.net to help you understand the risks and processes for testing the flora of your area for edibility.

You can also learn a lot by reading books on Native American traditional cooking from tribes local to you. Though there are not always a wealth of cookbooks out there, several websites catalog user contributions on the topic. Here’s an interesting example with a few recipes and a different interface from most. NativeTech.org is another good site. Look out for salad recipes and vegetable side dishes. They often include native plants that are uniquely well-suited to grow in your area. These would be excellent candidates for planting in your own home garden. Finally, when you do have a crop of something native, experiment often with cooking it different ways (bonus points for cooking with solar or alternative energy sources!), and share that knowledge with others. You can do it here if you like! That way, the wondrous internet can do its job in spreading the word about native plants. And we can all enjoy an exotic meal together without ever hitting the supermarket. Yum!

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