January: This blog is an annual journey of getting closer to the place I live through using native plants on a daily basis. By recording the experience every day, I hope to keep discovering what really works. It also includes new garden discoveries since the garden is also a key part of our family’s food.
18 Kids congested today: Tea from dried Yerba Santa Leaves (about 6 per cup), Nettles and Pearly Everlasting, sweetened with a bit of local honey
19 Field Corn experiment: This summer, w grew heritage field corn for the first time, dried it, shucked it with hand crank corn sheller, and then soaked it 24 hours with pickling “lime” (calcium hydroxide). Ground it up in the Vitamix, adding a small amount of water to get it to the right consistency for masa. We formed small balls that were tossed back in forth in our hands to shape, and then pressed them flat in a tortilla press, lined with parchment paper. We flipped them, pressed again, and then set them on the hot griddle, cooking for about 2 minutes per side. They were so delicious and much more flavorful than store-bought tortillas. This was our first time to complete the entire cycle, from growing the corn to eating the tortillas, made from our own corn!
Supplies: tortilla press, tortilla grill, “lime” (calcium hydroxide), corn sheller
20 Yerba Santa: More tea for kids with Yerba Santa, though they aren’t excited about it so I’ve had to add more honey. Enjoyed wild granola (with manzanita sugar and oak nut flour) for breakfast. Made fresh apple juice from the last of our orchard’s apples.
21 Dried Nettle and Pearly everlasting tea; Collected Bay leaves, Douglas-Fir and Kit Kit Dizze fresh, along with dried Coyote Mint from the summer to make more California Bay Cleaner
22 Cracked Oak Nuts (acorns) in Davebuilt Nutcracker. It took 5 minutes, sitting in the afternoon sun, to crack 6 cups of nuts, 10 minutes to shell them (resulting in about 3 cups of nuts) and 5 minutes to grind in the vitamix and start them leaching, covered in water. With the gathering time of no more than 10 minutes, it takes about 30 minutes to make 3 cups of flour. That is pretty quick, considering all of the time it takes to plant, grow, harvest, process and ship wheat flour! Next goal: Grind the acorns and find a spot in a neighboring creek to compare leaching time. Garden: Ate last garden corn from the freezer.
23 Madrone Bark/Yerba Santa Tea: I found and carried home big Douglas Fir branches, washed down by the heavy rain. They will be wonderful for tea. Tonight we tried a new tea blend of Madrone bark (dried) and Yerba Santa. It was delicious and deep red in color. Goal: Pre-blend and store all my wild tea blends into labeled jars in the tea cabinet, instead of in glass jars with my herbal storage.
24: Chickweed! I found chickweed in the garden today and added it to our salads.
25: Oregon Grape Root: Collected from a location in abundance, on a trail. The bright yellow root shows the berberine content, which is what chases away the winter flu.
26: Turkey Tail Tea: Collected outside our house on a fallen Oak twig; simmered and made into immune building tea; Oak Nut Grinding: Started more leaching and will compare the creek time vs the one week it took for the glass jar method.
27: Manzanita Sugar: I timed myself and ground 6 cups of whole berries down to 2 cups of finished sugar in 5 minutes. Now I’m comparing methods of making the cider using cold processing (traditional) method vs simmering and steeping. I’m interested in both taste and shelf life, since the simmered cider seems to start tasting bad after 3 days in the refrigerator. Made a fresh batch of granola and mixed in the Manzanita Sugar as a sweetener.
28: Field Corn: 10 ears of dried corn, shelled, creates about 18 servings of polenta. It is so delicious and fun to have done the whole cycle with field corn. It is especially useful since we’ve finished our stored supply of frozen, sweet corn from the garden. Moss: Gathered more moss for art projects; Discovered another Wood Rat’s nest.
29 San Jose Library Talk: Prepared Manzanita Cider a different way, by steeping the sugar “leftovers” of seeds and skins overnight in water, then straining and enjoying. It tasted good, but only lasted a few days before changing flavor. Goal: Make the cider using three methods and do a taste test. Served Karouna’s amazing oak nut marzipan recipe and Treat’s vegan, Yerba Santa ice cream to participants who seemed to really love the taste of the woods in central San Jose.
30 Oak Nuts: I pulled my acorns from the stream today. I had them tied in a pillowcase and set inside a nearby stream. I think the water wasn’t running quite fast enough since they needed another day. Goal: Try a larger stream and time number of days again. It should be a lot faster than my glass jar method.
31 CA Bay: On a walk today, gathered more California Bay, Douglas Fir and Kit Kit Dizze and made Bay Cleaner for Briarpatch Coop. I love how good it makes the house smell!