Category Archives: orchard

Weed It and Reap: What Should I Eat? Arthritis, Autoimmune Disease, and Diet

Best Berry Smoothie


Magic ingredient: Coconut Water.It contains easily digested carbohydrates in the form of sugar and electrolytes. Low in calories, naturally free of fat and cholesterol, more potassium than four bananas, and super hydrating.  Best Coconut Water?  According to Portland Food & Drink it’s #1. Coco Community   #2. Taste Nirvana, Real Coconut Water* #3. Harmless Harvest Coconut Water  #4. Trader Joe’s 100% Pure (cold case)

Use fresh organic fruit when possible. Clean, cut and freeze fruit for future use.

Put in blender: what you have available in a mixture of frozen and fresh banana, blueberries, strawberries,  cherries, raspberries, blackberries, pineapple, papaya, mango, acai berry, stone fruits, apple, lemon, orange, etc

Add coconut water and other organic pure fruit juice for consistency. Blend.

Learning to Make the Best Food Choices

I was recently interviewed by an investigative reporter working on a piece about the pesticide Glyphosate (aka RoundUp, manufactured by Monsanto). Glyphosate has been in wide-spread use not only in agriculture, but also in and around homes, schools, hospitals, parks, roadsides, and other public spaces since the ’70’s.  It’s been in the news lately because extensive research has shown it to be a potent carcinogen as well as being linked to ADHD, Alzheimer’s Disease, Autism, Birth Defects, Celiac Disease, Colitis, Heart Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome, Kidney Disease, Liver Disease, and Parkinson’s Disease.

People in countries all over the world have been demanding that the poison be banned. The Obama era EPA announced a decision to take Glyphosate off the market. However, Trump’s EPA headed by Pruitt bowed to Monsanto’s pressure to keep RoundUp on the market in the US. Similar pressure from Monsanto has resulted in a failure to ban the poison in the EU.

It became clear to the journalist, after a short time listening to me describe my experiences teaching in a school surrounded by pesticide-intensive ag fields, that glyphosate is just the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to pesticide exposure and human health.

The reporter asked me several times if I had contracted any illness as a result of that long-term pesticide exposure. She proded because, of course, that would make a great story. Unfortunately I had to tell her that it’s virtually impossible to attribute definitive cause and effect between long-term pesticide exposure twenty years earlier and whatever ails me now in my “old age”. I was sorry to disappoint her. But it’s complicated. Researchers can look at studies of large population samples over time and may find significant statistical correlation between exposure to certain substances and disease. But in an individual person’s life, there are usually just too many variables to claim with certainty that one event caused a particular condition.

However, with all that said, during my time teaching amidst the Pajaro Valley strawberry fields – breathing the immune system disrupters, respiratory system disruptors, estrogen system disruptors, and neurotoxins, I did get hit with an auto-immune condition, fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis and osteoarthritis. I was pretty healthy until I went to work near the strawberry fields. Now I deal with inflammation and chronic pain.

What to do? Not wanting to become yet another opioid addict statistic, I manage pain through regulated diet, healthy sleep habits, regular exercise, and mindfulness training. Food choices seem to be a big piece of what it takes to feel better. After years of buying into food fads and denying my own inner wisdom, I’ve finally come to some understanding about what I should and shouldn’t be eating.

My Top Worst Food Choices:

  • Sugar. Processed white sugar (“white death”), any cane sugar, any other processed sugar: brown sugar, rice sugars, corn syrup, all artificial sugar substitutes such as Nutrasweet (aspartame)
    – even xylitol, stevia and agave aggravate my inflammation and pain
    – Sad. I love sweets. 
    I find I can tolerate small amounts of local raw honey, real maple syrup, coconut sugar, and date sugar 
  • All fast food, fried and processed foods!
  • Processed wheat and grains, including pasta 
  • Nightsades: eggplant, tomato, potato (sweet potato okay), peppers
  • Corn and Soy products
  • Dairy 
  • animal fat
  • most processed oils including Palm oil

Best Choice:  whole food, organic, fresh, primarily plant-based, alkaline-forming diet

 

 

 

 

 

  • Pure Water
  • Fresh organic fruit
    banana, blueberries, strawberries, dark cherries, raspberries, blackberries, pineapple, papaya, mango, acai berry, stone fruits, apple, lemon, orange, pomegranate, fig, guava and passion fruit, watermelon (said to be good for the skin) . . .
  • Fresh veggies – variety of all colors, especially dark leafy greens,
    broccoli & califlower, beets, cabbage, celery, collards, arugula, mustard greens, squashes, carrot, chive & leek, asparagus, peas and green beans, Brussels sprouts, artichokes
  • avocado
  • organic, cold-pressed olive oil
  • fish high in omega 3 – sardine, herring, cod, salmon (much better than fish-oil supplement!)
  • happy Ameraucanas hen’s fresh eggs
  • whole organic seeds and nuts (I don’t have the habit yet of sprouting my seeds and nuts, although some say this is a good idea)
  • whole beans (in moderation)
  • whole oats
  • fresh garlic, ginger, turmeric, bee pollen
  • fresh mint, basil, parsley, watercress, and other herbs
  • seaweed, mushrooms
  • probiotic-rich fermented foods and beverages – miso, sauerkraut, coconut yogurt . . .

I’m very grateful to live in an area with access to farmers’ markets and excellent quality food!

I’d love to hear from you! What are you choosing to eat and why?

 

 

 

 

 

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Rough Cut: Prudenciana Elementary School

Rough Cut: {The True Story of “Prudenciana” Elementary School}

California history: Amesti history mural

A California History snapshot: Designed and painted by artist Guillermo Aranda, Mary Flodin, and Amesti GATE students in the late 1990’s, the mural above depicts the cultural and natural history of the land where the school was built, from the time of the native Ohlones through the Rancho period, to the present.

Prudenciana Elementary, where Aurora teaches, is a real school. It’s in the Pajaro River Valley, Watsonville, California, on the agricultural South end of Santa Cruz County. In the 90’s, it was surrounded by strawberry fields. Prudenciana is not the actual name of the school, of course. Can you guess what the school’s name really is?

The school is one of the oldest in the county. It was founded by Señora Prudenciana Amesti, wife of Señor Jose Amesti. Don Amesti owned of one of the magnificent grants of California land bestowed by the Mexican government in the 19th century. Amesti’s wife, Prudenciana, was a devout Catholic and a great supporter of education. After her husband’s death, she gifted some of her vast land holdings to the Church for the establishment of Our Lady of Help Church (“The Valley Church” – first Catholic church in the region) and for an orphanage overseen by the Catholic priests. She also gave land to the county for an elementary school named for her late husband.

The history of this school, site of one of the great Spanish Ranchos that define California history, is rich. So much backstory I want to share about the school, the church, and the orphanage has already been cut from my novel. Yet I feel that someone may be as interested in this history as I am. Am I the only one?

My editor says historical backstory slows down the movement of the novel. I believe her. She’s a pro. She knows today’s commercial fiction market. She wants me to rush readers to the end. They want page turners after all, right?

But isn’t that kind of like rushing through your life, skimming over the deep water, in a hurry to reach your death? Don’t we need to slow down and savor the details, the beauty, the mystery,  along the way? What do you think? Cut this?

Maybe I’ll post more of the fascinating history of Our Lady of Help Church, the orphanage and Prudenciana’s school here, in this blog. Would that be of interest to you?

students and teacher prepare to paint the mural

students and teacher prepare to paint the mural

Amesti History Mural

Mary Flodin and Amesti GATE students prepare to paint the Amesti History Mural, designed by Guillermo “Yermo” Aranda – Arts Council Santa Cruz County, Mary Flodin and their students.

Chapter 15. Monday, August 15, 1998.
Prudenciana Elementary

At Freedom Boulevard, Aurora exited Highway 1 and drove north toward Prudenciana Public Elementary School. She drank in the landscape of the Pajaro River Valley as if savoring the terroir of a good wine.

The little school nestled at the base of coastal foothills that had been thrust and twisted up from the sea geologic eons ago. An upraised scar on the face of the land, the foothills bore evidence of the epic clash of monumental tectonic plates. The Continental shelf forced the Pacific plate down, and the Pacific shoved back, pushed up from underneath, and caused the Continent’s skin to buckle and fold.

Through a deep gash in the scar, winter rains washed off the hills, down Corralitos Creek to Rio Pajaro. For centuries, Rainbow trout had been migrating downstream on spring rains, over the natural willow-lined bedrock of Corralitos to the Pajaro, pushing out through the rivermouth into Monterey Bay. And for centuries, adult Coho and Steelhead had been navigating back home by moon, stars, and scent from the vast Pacific Ocean, bringing the rich gift of nutrients from the sea to the people up stream.

Aurora parked and slid out of her Miata with only a little stiffness and pain. She stood for a moment in the parking lot, stretched, and rubbed the red, raised scar on her leg. The stitches had finally mostly dissolved.

Shreds of summer morning fog clung to the coastal hills. The bell tower of the original one room schoolhouse peaked  over the roofline of the new elementary school.

That first school had been built near the creek about 1880 on land donated by Señora Prudenciana and her daughters – but a small gift from Señora Prudenciana, whose rancho was one of the most extensive and beautiful of the Californio ranchos granted to favored elite by the new Mexican government after the closing of the missions.

The old schoolhouse had served the children of Italian and Portuguese fishermen and farmers. And the children of Mexicans, many of them displaced from their almost royal status as patrons of vast rancheros to become landless peasants. Children of the nearly invisible indigenous people, and of the industrious and prosperous Japanese, so adept at farming and fishing, attended the one room schoolhouse. The Filipinos came to fish, and the Croatians turned apple blossoms into gold. The Chinese came, hoping for gold. But forbidden by law to mine the yellow metal, instead, they built the railroad that connected East to West across the continent, and they settled in camps around the Monterey Bay called China Beach, and China Town, to fish and sell, and raise children more American than Chinese. The English, the Dutch, and the Irish brought their food, their customs, their gods and myths, and their children. And the one-room school served the children of every immigrant group, from every continent, of every creed, color, and culture who washed onto the shore in wave upon wave, hoping for a better life.

Around the schoolhouse, these pioneers fished the rivers, the streams and the bay, and planted apple orchards, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and artichokes, flowers, berries and salad greens in the fertile alluvial soil, the black gold, gifted by the river gods of the abundant and generous Pajaro, River of the Birds.

In 1947, the parcel of land where the historic one-room schoolhouse stood had been sold to a family who’d restored and preserved the building. On an adjoining parcel, also part of Prudenciana’s original gift, a modern elementary school was built. Heritage apple orchards surrounding the school were torn out to make way for lucrative strawberry fields. Otherwise, not much had changed in the hundred years since the schoolhouse first opened its doors to the children of the Valley.

Aurora loved teaching California history to fourth graders in this historic location. Thinking about the school and the land, she smiled to herself, hefted her book bag over her shoulder, and set her course across the parking lot for the school library, and the first faculty meeting of the year.

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Pregnant with Pears

PearPregnantDoes anyone have any pear recipes?  Our magical fairy pear tree exploded with pears this August. Raining down sweet perfect pears by the hundreds. I’ve been giving away as many as possible, and trying to make sure Joe and I eat at least one a day. Please, leave your pear recipes here.

My neighbor Beth’s pear salad: pears, chilled and sliced thin. mild red onion sliced very thin. blood oranges. toasted walnuts. gorganzola. arugula. a light dressing of olive oil and white peach balsalmic

This is the first year we’ve had good plums. Beautiful Santa Rosas. plumsSM

I waited nearly 20 years for the old plum tree to decide to bear fruit before cutting her down and putting in new plum trees. This tree bore in its third year. Next year, two more plum trees should begin to fruit.

Our gifted Orchardist, Mathew Sutton of Orchard Keepers, and his crew worked magic in our garden this spring.

 

squashLots of people complain about having too much summer squash, but I never seem to get enough.

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