After a long 5 months of confinement, the cows go out on pasture, peat experiment prelim results, avens for acid reflux

Below are this weeks pictures from New Nandagram, with more thorough descriptions below the slideshow:

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1.-4.  We had to keep the cows in the goshalla and a small paddock over the winter because if we let them on the pasture, they turn it to mud.  It wasn’t really dry enough to let them out, but it was mid-April and they are usually out by the beginning of April.  I’m always careful to check on them when they change feed suddenly–in this case from hay to grass, but they did fine.  I thought they’d run and buck when they got out, but they just dove into the grass and couldn’t graze fast enough.  Our neighbor lets us use his 5 acre pasture and because it is mostly canary grass, we let them there first.

8.-11. It is time to harvest nettles, a common plant in our forest.  Nettles are easy to identify because if you accidental touch them, they sting severely.  However they are a healthy and delicious vegetable when prepared like spinach and when dried make a pleasant tea, particularly when mixed with mint.  Nettles do have some mild medicinal value as an antihistamine, but we harvest them more as a food and a tea.

12. Morel mushrooms appear at this time of year.  They are hard to see because they blend in with their surroundings, but I understand people can train themselves to be able to spot them readily.  I didn’t harvest these, primarily because they are growing in a place where I know they spray Roundup every year.  I also personally don’t care for the taste of mushrooms, although I understand that Srila Prabhupada enjoyed them.

13. Billy was suffering from acid reflux, and a tea made from the root of the avens weed gave him immediate relief.  This is the time of year to harvest avens root.  After thoroughly cleaning the roots, they can be dehydrated and used to make tea.  They have a spicy flavor, something like cloves.

15. and 16.  After one week, my experiment to determine if the peat moss was contaminated with 2,4D has some preliminary results.  The growth on both the monocots and the dicots was very stunted from the seeds grown in the peat compared to garden soil.  Because the dicots (wheat) were also stunted, I can conclude that the culprit was not 2,4D, but rather something else.  I did run into a friend in town and mentioned the experiment and she’d also had trouble starting seeds in a potting soil/peat mix last year.  She was so disappointed with the stunted growth that she didn’t start any seeds this year, never suspecting the peat.




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Poison in the peat moss?, Garden monster, Willow Bark Tutorial

We’re very concerned about what is happening with starting seeds in our seed incubator.  Last year I had a difficult time getting seedlings to grow and attributed the problem to a willow tree growing on the north side of the greenhouse that had partially covered the top of the greenhouse.  This winter we removed the offending limbs so I was dismayed when we seem to be having the same problem in spite of having almost ideal conditions both within the incubator at night and in the greenhouse during the day.  The seeds will germinate, but they fail to grow.

I’m beginning to suspect that the peat moss that I start the seeds in is contaminated with 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4D), a common herbicide that is used to kill trees.  The bale of peat that I have has some chipped wood in it which may have been treated with the poison. So I’ve devised an experiment which will determine if I’m correct.  2,4D only affects dicots, plants with broad leaves. Monocots which are grasses including grains are unaffected.  I’m going to plant 4 pots and start seeds from monocots in 2 of them and dicots in 2 of them.  One of the monocot pots will have the suspect peat as the medium and one of the dicot pots will have peat as the medium.  The other 2 pots will be started with regular garden soil devoid of any suspect peat.  Of the 4 pots:

  • one with monocot (wheat) seeds in suspect peat
  • one with monocot (wheat) seeds in garden soil
  • one with dicot (sprouting mix including alfalfa) in suspect peat
  • one with dicot (sprouting min including alfalfa) in garden soil

If I’m right, the wheat seeds grown in the suspect peat will flourish, but the alfalfa grown in the peat will fail.  Both the garden soil seeds should be fine.  We’ll have the answer next week.  Stay tuned!

This week’s photos with more detail below:

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1. and 2.  I was dismayed that the seeds I started on March 22 germinated just fine, but failed to grow.  Normally 2 weeks after sprouting, these tomato and lettuce plants would have their first true leaves.  These plants have had ideal growing conditions: in the greenhouse during the day and in the warm incubator (with a fan) at night.  There is no excuse for this lack of enthusiasm!

3.,4. and 5.  The experiment using monocots and dicots, peat and soil.  We’ll see…

6. I made mozzarella with about 9 gallons of milk.  This picture shows the cut curds being slowly heated to 98º F

7. The cooked curds culture at room temperature over night and then are ready to melt and stretch.  I’ve found that if I freeze them at this stage I’ll get a completely fresh product when they’re defrosted and stretched.  Mozzarella doesn’t keep as well as an aged cheese and needs to be offered within 10 days.

8. and 9. We got 3.5 lbs of ricotta cheese from the whey left over from the mozzarella and used it in pancakes, a creamy pasta sauce and some apple/walnut/ricotta bread (it’s cake, really).

10. We’ve been soaking Twasheek’s foot in an epsom salt bath to help draw out the infection.  It may help a little, but he is still lame and infected.  He’s been on antibiotics and pain meds for 3 weeks.

11. One of our biggest battles here is the battle of the morning glories.  They send out runners that are like a freeway exchange in Los Angeles and want to take over the garden.  This year I’ll be covering them with patty mats (cow manure mulch), but I thought I should get as many out as possible, first.  While digging in the raised beds, I uncovered this monster.  He’s a salamander and he was very lucky that I didn’t hurt him with the tools.  I found him a nice damp hole after taking a selfie with him.

12.  This is the number of morning glory runners I found in about a 4′ x 8′ section of garden.  They are being relocated to a FEMA camp.

14.  We have a wonderful walnut tree that didn’t produce any walnuts the first year we were here.  I’ve been putting all the extra whey from cheese making on it and giving it cleaning from the horse stalls.  I leave the horse stuff in piles to encourage worms and then after a few months, Billy spreads it around the tree.  We’ve had great walnut crops the last few years. Hopefully our generous tree will give us another nice harvest this fall.

15. There is a wildlife area about 1/2 mile from our house where they release cage-raised pheasants every Friday in the fall so that hunters can come an shoot them.  A few escape the hunters, but they’re usually prey to coyotes or eagles within a month or so.  This guy has survived the winter and hangs with our chickens.  He fights with the roosters and may be a baby-daddy for some of the chicks.  If he survives much longer, we’ll probably give him a name.

16., 17. and 18.  Willow bark tutorial:  The first step is to identify a willow tree.  This should be done the prior year because the bark should be harvested just as the leaves are coming out.  In the winter, sapling sized trees all look alike.  They have thin, alternate leaves and tend to prefer moist locations.  We have several on our property.  I recommend googling “willow tree identification” to become familiar with the types of willows.  The willows growing in the swamp in the corner of Dee’s pasture have the strongest medicine, I’ve found.

Once you’ve positively identified a willow, find a newish branch that has a rubbery bark, rather than the thick, rough older bark.  I use a potato peeler and peel of long strips from a clean(ish) area of the branch.  If you collect the bark from all around the branch, you’ll kill the branch above where you took the bark,  That’s not the end of the world for the willow because they love to send out new branches. I usually just harvest from one side of the branch, however.

Take your peeling strips and spread them out in a dry, airy location that is at least room temperature.  When they’re crispy dry they can be stored in a sealed jar in a dark location and maintain potency for up to 2 years.  Whenever I’m trying a new medicine, I take the precaution of taking a tiny amount and seeing if there is any adverse reaction.

For a headache or muscle ache I make a tea using as many strips as I think would make a heaped teaspoon if it were powdered.  I simmer the strips in about 2 cups of water for about 10 minutes and let it cool.  Then I strain and drink with a little honey to mask the astringent taste.  That is equivalent to about 2 asprin, depending on the strength of the particlar willow.





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Raven abducts chick, horse update, willow bark medicine

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  1.  This time of year we’re mostly eating vegetables and fruit from last Fall.  I read a quote from a transcription where Srila Prabhupada discussed when he first encountered frozen vegetables.  He said he was intrigued until he tasted them and pronounced them “tasteless.”  He went on to recommend drying vegetables in the sun so that they’d preserve their flavor.  We can’t dry vegetables in the sun because it is usually cloudy at harvest time, but they dry nicely in our dehydrator after being blanched.  We dry zucchini, strawberries, kale, chard, celery, string beans, tomatoes, carrots, beets, potatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, apples, pears and more.  Dried vegetables are great in dahl, casseroles and soups.
  2. Twasheek our geriatric horse has been fighting an abcess in his foot caused by stepping on a nail.  His recovery has been a rollercoaster.  The farrier stopped by the other day after I told him that Twasheek would not bear any weight on the affected foot and Twasheek proved me wrong by barging past us to escape to a greening up pasture.  He was actually trotting on his bad foot.  Today he is very sore again and we’re continuining antibiotics and pain meds.  The old guy is a fighter.
  3. You can see pus oozing out of the heel.  We’ll be soaking the foot in Epsom salt today.
  4. Nap time.
  5. When I went for our daily japa walk there were two eagles right above us on the path making a racket.  It was an adult and a juvenile.  Although they are our national symbol, the eagle is actually a bird of low moral character, according to Benjamin Franklin.
  6. We’ve started our rootstock for grafting tomatoes as an experiment.  The incubator is running, but needs some adjustments to keep the heat even at all levels.  It has a fan to bring hot air from the top and thermostat, but the air needs to circulate more fully.  We’ll try a second fan.
  7. This is a harmless garter, the first I’ve seen this year.  It coiled up and acted aggressive, however so I didn’t get too close.
  8.  When the Cowlitz river was dammed in Mossyrock in 1963 there were still some large old growth fir trees in the area.  One of my neighbors has a picture of a log on a truck that was wider that the semi-truck hauling it.
  9. Their Lordships Sri Sri Balajii and Giriraja,
  10. This is the time of year to harvest willow bark because the rising sap makes the medicine more potent.  We make a tea if we have muscle aches or a head ache.  Modern asprin is synthesized to resemble the active ingredient in willow bark.  I didn’t get around to harvesting any last year, but the 2 year old bark is still potent.
  11. Rakshana is enjoying running through a grassy meadow on our japa walk.
  12. I was working in the garden when I heard the chickens raising a commotion.  I ran over in time to see a raven carrying off a chick.  The hen and four roosters went running after the raven, but it landed in the middle of Dee’s pasture and began dismantling the poor chick.  The adult chickens followed the raven, but didn’t confront it.  Two days later I heard a similar commotion and there was another chick missing.  We’re now down to 5 chicks.
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Pictures taken this week at New Nandagram

We had another cold, rainy week with the sun finally making an appearance today.  Read below for more detailed descriptions of the photos.

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  1. This was taken where Rainey creek flows into Riffe Lake, a lake created by an dam in the 60’s.  New regulations regarding earthquake readiness have forced them to keep the lake much lower than usual which will result in hundreds or thousands of acres of new pasture land.
  2. This time of year we have very little fresh veggies so we usually make some sprouts.  To go with our salad, I made some baked beans with lots of dehydrated vegetables added.  We also offered some of the fresh mozzarella that I make with any milk that doesn’t get sold.
  3. Our farm is just below Dog Mountain, a popular spot for hang gliders.  This picture was taken at the wildlife preserve about a mile from our farm.

12.  Twasheek unfortunately stepped on a nail that penetrated the soft part of his hoof (frog) by about an inch.  He developed an infection as a result and is not putting any weight on the affected foot.  Our farrier made him a boot to keep the foot clean and dry and we’re giving the old guy pain meds and antibiotics.  Because Twasheek is 35 years old (about 100 in human years), he may succumb to this trauma, but we’re remaining optimistic for now.  It happened on Sunday and now, on Friday he’s still not putting any weight on the foot.  He is, however laying down which will give his other front foot some relief.

13.  Our seed incubator wasn’t keeping the flats warm enough and now after a week, we have very little germination.  I put in a higher watt lightbulb (the heat source) and it seems to be keeping warm now.  However I don’t know if any of the seeds that really need the warm environment have rotted due to being too cold.  We may be late this year in getting our nightshade seedlings started: tomatoes, eggplant and peppers.

14.  Billy is making an new, improved seed incubator that is large enough that I can keep flats of started seedlings in it over night.  We don’t have a heated greenhouse, so we’re always trying to figure out how to keep the heat loving starts happy.

15.  Ra Ra is a 4 year old ox whose mother died when he was only 3 days old.  His former owners had no way to feed him, so we adopted him.  This week we moved him into the round pen with Lani Moo, Shyami and Bala because he was getting beaten up with the big boys.  In this picture he is meeting the new chicks for the first time.  He was careful not to step on them.

16.  The chicks’ daddies are quite gentle with the babies.  This was the first day that I let them out because it has been so rainy.

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Star jelly, sick horse, medicinal lichen

Here are some pictures taken this week at New Nandagram.  There is more detailed information about them below:

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  1. When Billy went into the barn to feed Dee Wednesday night, she looked sick and refused to even smell her sprouted grain.  Tummy aches in horses is called colic and most horses that die from disease, die from colic, so horse owners take this condition very seriously.  I gave her some pharma pain killer and made some tea from elm (it is very slimy and lubricates the stomach and intestines.  We suspect that her colic was due to parasites because her pasture has become a swamp.  So we wormed her and kept an eye on her all through the night.  She did evidently thrash around in pain and banged up her head, but she is now eating and seems to have fully recovered.
  2. Usnea lichen contains usnic acid which is a powerful immune system booster.  I like to collect my lichen before the insect season begins to make the cleaning process easier.  The lichen is crammed into a jar and covered with vodka for at least 6 weeks.  By that time the medicine becomes dissolved in the vodka and the lichen can be discarded.  I recommend taking about a teaspoon of the medicine 4-5 times a day when fighting a virus or infection.
  3. Star jelly.  The first time I saw this stuff was about 3 years ago and I googled, “transparent jelly found in the middle of a pasture” and came up with star jelly.  The internet claims that this phenomenon has been written about for hundreds of years and still no one knows what it is.  Apparently it is not organic–not a plant or animal product.  There is an interesting story about the “Oakville Blobs” that may or may not be related.  We live about 50 miles from Oakville.  This jelly looks like it was plopped from above, rather than oozed from the ground.  My last jelly was transparent and clear.  This one is brownish, but still translucent.
  4. Our seed incubator is made from a home thermostat, a computer fan and a lightbulb.  I’ve set the temperature at 80º to germinate tomatoes, tomatillos, eggplant, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and more.  They should sprout within a week or so, by which time I hope to have the greenhouse cleaned out and ready.
  5. Bantam chicks.  We keep chickens because they really keep the slug and bug population under control.  Plus they’re pretty.  This hen was orphaned last year when our dog, Gita beheaded her Mom.  This is her first clutch of chicks.  I do try to give the eggs to the dogs when I find them, but if a hen is able to hide them well enough, then we get chicks.  So far we haven’t had an over population problem.
  6. Torus is the herd leader and has been yoked with Makani.  Unfortunately Makani is about 4″ shorter, so we’re waiting for Shyami to become Torus’ teammate.  Shyami is almost as tall as Torus at 3 years and they are half brothers.
  7. Round bales.  We ran out of hay and bought some round bales that weigh about 500lbs each.  We rolled them against the fence and secured them with rope, tightening it as they consume the hay.  It seems to be working and next year we may figure out how to use these round bales because they are less work than carting around 50lb square bales.
  8. Their Lordships Giriraja and Balajii.  Giriraja is a Goverdhana Sila and Balajii is a Dvarka Sila.
  9. Tamale pie made mostly from homegrown ingredients:


2 cups masa corn flour

1 cup wheat flour

2 tsp. non-aluminum baking flour

1.5 tsp. salt

2 cups ricotta cheese (by product of making mozzarella)

1/4 cup oil


Mix all ingredients using enough milk to make the dough hold together.  Spread on a greased casserole and bake at 375º until done–about 20 minutes.  Let cool and layer with hung yogurt or sour cream, bean/veggie/tomato and top with fresh mozzarella.  Return to oven and bake until the mozzarella is melted.


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Rain, Flood and More Rain

Pictures taken this week at New Nandagram:


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“Puffed up by such a false sense of becoming God, the deluded living being increases his material strength by so many activities and thus becomes the burden of the earth, so much so that the earth becomes completely uninhabitable by the sane. This state of affairs is called dharmasya glāniḥ, or misuse of the energy of the human being. When such misuse of human energy is prominent, the saner living beings become perturbed by the awkward situation created by the vicious administrators, who are simply burdens of the earth, and the Lord appears by His internal potency just to save the saner section of humanity and to alleviate the burden due to the earthly administrators in different parts of the world. He does not favor either of the unwanted administrators, but by His potential power He creates hostility between such unwanted administrators, as the air creates fire in the forest by the friction of the bamboos. The fire in the forest takes place automatically by the force of the air, and similarly the hostility between different groups of politicians takes place by the unseen design of the Lord. The unwanted administrators, puffed up by false power and military strength, thus become engaged in fighting amongst themselves over ideological conflicts and so exhaust themselves of all powers. The history of the world reflects this factual will of the Lord, and it will continue to be enacted until the living beings are attached to the service of the Lord.”  SB 1.11.34

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