Saturday, September 5, 2015

Growing Fat Baby Achocha

   I love adding variety to my garden and to my diet, so when I read about achochas, I had to try growing them. It seems there are two distinct varieties of achocha or caigua, one with cucumber like (heart shaped) leaves and one with leaves similar to hemp plant.
  I decided to try heart shaped leaf variety first. Finding seeds or even much information in English was not easy. I have to thank two gardeners, who agreed to send me some seeds -Caro and Heather.
Seeds are shaped like arrows and are dark in color:
As far as Latin name goes it is either Cyclanthera pedata or Cyclanthera brachyastacha. Fat Baby could be a domesticated version of exploding cucumber -Cyclanthera explodens. It doesn't explode though, which is a big plus for me. Explosion could be fun, but also could injure one's eyes.
   Seeds sprouted in a few days, and grew well, but once I transplanted them into the garden, they turned yellow and then disappeared (maybe some animal ate them). I tried again, and had yelowing problem with some, and some were doing better. This time I covered them with plastic water bottles to give some protection from being eaten and shaded them with burlap bags for a few days to reduce transplant shock.
  They grew slowly at first:

Then they grew and grew and grew, until I ran out of sticks and string. I have an arbor, but it is taken by the loofah. Then they started blooming in those tiny yellow flowers:
For about two weeks I was worried, because they had lots of flowers, but no fruit was forming. I saw some small flies sitting on them, and I think they are the pollinators for the achochas. I have plenty of bees, but they were not interested at all. It seems, that achochas like many cucurbits, set just male flowers the first couple of weeks. I was relieved to see tiny fruit forming after that. :) Here is the very first fruit:

After the first one others are coming. The best time to pick them to eat as a cucumber, whole that is, is when they are this small:
Not sure why this blog turned second picture, but I can't seem to find the way to fix it. It shows same achochas inside -seeds are not formed yet, and the whole fruit can be eaten as a cucumber and taste is very mild, as a cucumber with slight taste variation. However it is juicier than cucumber. My 12 year old son said he doesn't like it, but he ate all of them twice I gave them to him. :)
Just a bit later, fruits get half or fully formed seeds (light brown at first, then darker brown and finally almost black brown.) and at this stage they are best cooked or juiced:
Unfortunately information, that they do not have pest problems in US yet, doesn't seem to be true in my garden, leaves started getting yellow, and I think I found a culprit- green stink bug:

That said, they did much better for me than cucumbers, that each year get killed by large numbers of greenish and brownish aphids being herded by Argentian ants. I tried banana peel trick, but it seems like it works very well just for yellow and black aphids, not the ones, that attack cucumbers.
It took achochas about 45 days from transplant to the first fruit. I garden near the ocean in zone 10, and this summer was unusually hot, so it might have been a lucky thing for the achocha growing. I transplanted them at the end of June, and had fruit in the middle of August. I am glad I tried growing them. :) I will try other variety in spring, and might grow this one again, but later than as I want to be able to save seeds, and not to have them cross.


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Herbal pain relief

   I got very excited about this tincture as it worked to stop my migraine pain right in the stage where it is quite bad and I could feel pain pulsing in my head. I have several preventative formulas, which work quite well, but this last week I was sick with tonsillitis and a strong cough and had my period at the same time, and was taking herbs from those things, and forgot preventatives, which all together brought on a headache after headache. I am quite pleased to say, that I didn't need to use any chemical medicine for neither of these problems. I used many herbs, magnesium, juiced veggies and greens, and drank green smoothies.
  Here is the formula I used to stop my headaches:equal parts of Jamaican Dogwood, Wood Betony, and Black Cohosh.
I was still making my Jamaican Dogwood tincture, so it wasn't even full strength yet, but it worked very well. I took about a droperful each half an hour for 5 times or so. It took about 2 hours to fully kick the headache, but possibly, if I would have taken several dropersful at once, it would have been much faster. Keep in mind, that I was already in a bad stage, when I began taking it.
   My preventative formulas contain Wood Betony,  Mad Dog Scullcap (scutelaria lateriflorra, make sure get from reputable company or be careful gathering as there is a toxic plant that looks very similar) , Boswellia (Indian frankincense, boswellia serrata), Red Clover, Black Cumin seed tincture, California Poppy (that one just in pm version as you don't want to drive for a while after ingesting it, just like with valerian), Lemon Balm, Catnip.
For menstrual migraines- Pulsatilla (anemone vulgaris)tincture might be used, but in small amounts 5-10 drops 2-3 times a day,larger amounts can cause nausea. Another strong pain herb is Wild Lettuce, which I didn't try yet.
   As far as magnesium goes, I used two kinds -magnesium malate and magnesium glycinate, and second form, I feel, worked stronger for me. People also say, that that second form helps them to sleep deeper, I didn't notice that benefit, but I was sick to begin with. I took about 600 mg in two doses a day. I used capsules from vitacost, but now I found bulk magnesium glycinate powder on amazon, so I might use that since it doesn't have fillers and I do not have to swallow so many capsules.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Remineralizing our teeth - diet

I had recently several of my fillings fall out, and at first I wanted to fix them at the dentist. He told me, that because cavities are large, and he would have to drill deeper to make the fillings hold, it would be to close to the nerves, I would have to have 2 root canals. I decided to research, and at first I thought I could find a dentist, that doesn't do regular drilling and uses laser or ozone to clean the cavity, but I found tooth remineralization information. That is even better! I searched for many hours, and decided to share, what I found out. First, I want to tell you, that since not much scientific research is done about this, most of it is taken from people experience, and many variables can be in the picture, which we are not aware of yet. So it is a journey, and some markers for it, not set of rigid rules.
Some information sources say, that deep cavities can't remineralize fully, and some say, that they can -just takes a few years, even though decay and softness will reverse soon, just filling in takes a while. I would imagine that depends on how much of nutrients that particular person was getting, and how well their digestive system worked.
 Diet is the most important part. Teeth are alive organs with fluids flowing through them and constantly renewing themselves -but if there is not enough nutrition to support healthy tooth, that balance is disturbed, and we get cavities and gum problems. Not eating anything processed is not enough though -all seeds (including grains and nuts) contain high amounts of phytic acid, that binds with minerals, and we can't absorb them. So those foods, no matter how high in nutrients they might be, technically they are almost empty calories to us. There are ways to reduce phytic acid in them - soaking for long time, sprouting, fermenting help to reduce some. Eating them with lots of dark greens. I was even thinking about eating some chocolate (yes, it is seed too!) first thing in the morning (and then not to eat anything for a while as to not to steal minerals from other foods I would eat). That would work for occasional indulgence, if that is true, that phytic acid binds just with foods in the stomach, and not with minerals in our bones and teeth. I found different opinions about this during my search. In any case, for now I am not using it at all.
   So what are great foods to eat to remineralize teeth and bones? Here are important ones:
* Dark leafy greens - kale, collards, chard, New Zealand spinach, Malabar spinach, regular spinach, beet greens. Even better - wild greens. I juice weeds from my garden such as chickweed, lambsquarters, nettles, purslane, common mallow, etc. Juicing is great, if digestion is weak, because juice takes very little digesting - all that goodness is in your blood within minutes. I mix my with a few carrots to improve the taste. If you are a vegan, this is your best chance. A lot of sources say, that vegans can't remineralize their teeth, but I think it is possible, if they use large amounts of wild greens. Victoria Boutenko, and her family seemed to have a good experience with that once they upped their green consumption. They drink lots of green smoothies (fruit and greens blended), and that is another easy and tasty way to eat the greens. I personally tend to juice wild greens, and blend "domesticated" greens like kale. Wild greens have smaller leaves and tougher stems, so it is easier that way. How much to eat daily? There is no set answer - if that's your only high mineral intake food and you need to remineralize, I would go to about 2 bunches a day worth of domesticated, and a bit less for wild since they are more nutritious.
* Pastured eggs - they have to be from chickens, that are healthy, run in the sun, scratch bugs, eat greens, and generally are raised with love. Their yolk will be darker (almost orange), and shell generally will be tougher than factory farmed ones. Even if you have to drive a distance to find them, it is worth it. Unwashed eggs(and even washed) can keep a long time, so drive wouldn't be needed very often.
  It seems, that eating raw eggs is best, soft boiled -second best. You can make your own mayo and eggnog for delicious and easy way to eat them
* Vegetables and fruit - vegetables unlimited, and 1 or 2 pieces of fruit a day. Too much sugar, even if from fruit tends to disbalance the ph. That said, it is not the sugar that sits on your teeth is reason for decay, but the one, that goes inside of you. Just brushing immediately after eating a candy, won't help much.
* Pastured butter and dairy - again, pastured is the key here. The more greens cows or goats eat, the healthier their milk will be. Raw is also much better than pasteurized. I have trouble digesting pasteurized milk, so until I am able to find raw pastured milk, I make yogurt from it, and seem to be doing fine with it. I am also looking for kefir grains for added variety of good bacteria as I have a sensitive digestion tract.
* Pastured meat (organ meat included) and bone broth. More and more stores now carry pastured muscle meats, but bones are not that easy to find. Also, pastured animal meat is tougher (they are less flabby as you can imagine), and in order to taste good, has to be dry aged. Whole Foods pastured meat is not and tastes not that good. Best bet is to buy from online or local farms, that pasture raise their animals and dry age the meat. They sell bones as well. Bone broth can be made once in a while frozen in small portions. How much I understand, eating muscle meats have to be balanced with bone nutrients. Second best thing instead of bone broth is to take gelatin supplements made from pastured animals. There are also supplements made from animal liver for organ meat intake.
  I am not such a big fan of eating meat though, and I hope, that pastured eggs, and dairy might be enough for rebuilding teeth, but since I am not sure, I do eat some meats until I do more research about that.
You can see, that edible flowers are great in salads as well -nasturtiums, borage, calendula.
I noticed, that I get full really quickly on the nutritious foods, and my dilemma is now not to how to eat less, but how to eat more. I do trust my body though more than my research, so if i am not hungry, that means it is enough.
Anyway this post is getting rather long, so I will have to cover other aspects of teeth remineralizing in other posts. Share you ideas and experiences in the comments. Happy remineralizing!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Menstrual Cloth pad sewing adventures part 1

I am using cloth pads for quite a while, since I was cloth diapering my son, who is eleven now.  I used purchased pads, and all of them had fleece (or pul) and microfiber. And they were getting not as pretty, so I decided to sew my own, all natural material ones, and in variety of styles.
    AIO (all in one) was the first style I made -one with soaker part on top, and one - sewn in inside:
From those two, I prefer the one with soaker hidden inside for two reasons - first it is much faster to sew (and easier for the sewing machine as less layers have to be sewn together at the time), and second, they seem last longer (leakage wise).  Possibly, because stitches, that hold soaker to the winged part, go all the way through it. Of course, I could make soaker part a bit shorter, and sew it on before sewing winged parts together, but I just don't see the point. AIO is faster to sew and works good. For these two I used flannel for both winged parts (front and back), and 2 layers of flannel and one layer of felted cashmere sweater for the soaker part. I used buttons for my pads, because I do not have snap press, but buttons allow them to be dried in the dryer too as snaps can get fried(I had that experience.)Several pointers:
1.) Use polyester thread, because cotton has potential to leak through seams more.
2.) Sew the soaker to the top part only, avoid seams in the lower part.
3.) You can quilt the soaker to the top as I did in a simple wave like pattern, or just attach it from the sides. I think quilting allows blood to go through easier instead of pooling on top. Hmm, that makes me think, that cotton thread for this part might be an advantage.
4.) Prewash your fabrics on warm or hot, if possible, to avoid shrinkage later, after pad is made.
5.) Prewash pads before first use as well, as this helps to seal the seams a bit.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Variety of projects

Okey, I am not so much of the blogger, but now I read so many beautiful craft blogs, that I remembered my own. It is not that I didn't craft much meantime - I serged reconstructed upcycled sweaters, embroidered felt hearts for my son's classmates, crocheted some flowers and chockers, and crafted other stuff.Now I got interested in japanese crochet books - they take crocheting to totally different level - before I saw them, I was not too big fan of crocheting.... For now I post a few photos and later I will try to come up with some tutorial, because I feel like I have to give back to our beautiful and creative crafter blogger community.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Artist trading cards

Artist trading card movement started in 1996, when couple artists made thousands of little art pieces sized the same as baseball cards 3.5" by 2.5".

They told everyone who wants to get one, has to bring their own to trade. THey are fun and quick(usually - it depends on the technique, of course)to make because they are so small. They don't have to be done from paper.

I did some from fabric with some Peltex inside to make it stiffer. A lot of artists like to use vinatage look images, buttons, lace, charms.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Here is the spring again!

It is getting warmer here in Southern California(winters can be quite cold here too, not freezing, but cold enough for me).
Lately I've been doing not just felting, but also carving rubber stamps, making and drawing atcs(artists trading cards), making paper from junk mail and used envelopes. My next project is a folder cover for my guitar class sheet music. I already gathered some vintage photos of people playing guitar and hope that my fabric transfer paper will come soon, so I can start.

For now I am announcing


I found this great idea on Cornflower's blog. Here is the link and I have put her on my blog list as well: This is a free giveaway and everyone is encouraged to play - worldwide! It's open to everyone who reads my blog.The first FIVE people to respond to this post will get something made by me! My choice. For you.

The catch? Oh, the catch is that you must re-post this on your blog and make the same offer to the first 5 people who respond on your blog entry, thereby continuing the fun! (Though you can keep it local if you want, I don't fear international postage!)The first 5 people to do so and leave a comment telling me they did win a FAB-U-LOUS homemade gift by me! Oh, and be sure to post a picture of what you win when you get it! Sounds like fun, right? So, let's play!