Tuesday, September 30, 2008

first compost batch

This is beautiful, rich compost! Now I will use this to begin a small veggie garden. More is to come. That's the great thing about compost. You can always use more, and you can constantly make more.

What I learned: Kitchen scraps naturally are wet. You don't need to add much water to keep compost moist. In fact I needed to add a lot of dry green waste (in our case grass clippings) to make it just the right balance. You just have to experiment.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

preparing for the tulsi

This week I drove to a rural town to the home of my friends Udeya and Andrew. There we began to prepare the garden bed for the future tulsi garden. We are going to try for a square patch, pictured in progress, below. We were lucky to have help from Susie, also pictured below. Also Udeya's friend Stefan came with a trailer of compost which we were able to dump. I loved being out in nature and digging in the dirt. I have to admit, I am most at home in that environment. By the time I had to leave most of the entire garden was cleared, and the compost had begun to be spread...

Susie, the angel, who drove many hours to help us.

Udeya and I shoveling compost into the garden

Udeya displays a new "tropical" version of tulsi that she discovered. If we can get this to grow on her property we will be set. Apparently, it grows very tall like a bush, propagates quite easily, and if this works we won't seed to start from seed! The seeds, though very cute, are a tad persnickety.

generous hosts of the tulsi garden, Andrew and Udeya

Atticus, age 3, helps his mom Susie

Monday, September 15, 2008

the tulsi sprouts!

This is day three. So exciting, and more and more are coming. This is my first experience doing something by seed. I have a little nursery in the back yard. I love it!


The first Green Mama Sale/Exchange went really well. I gave all of our shoppers a free reusable shopping bag. We gathered some food, raised some money, and now have a TON of stuff to bring to the shelter. Lots of toys, books, clothing for kids of all ages, and their moms. We also got a whole bunch of bedding - sheets, comforters, pillows. Now to get in touch with them and arrange for delivery.

I received donations from about ten people, and that was plenty! So anyone reading this -- it really isn't hard to find ten friends to clean out their stuff. Just make sure you ask for items in good shape. I don't want to donate stained clothing. Luckily I received items that fit this category.

Thanks to everyone for your help and care for our community, especially Aniko for helping me set up, and run the sale.

Monday, September 8, 2008


"I only went out for a walk
and finally concluded to
stay out till sundown, for
going out, I found I was
really going in."
- John Muir

Friday, September 5, 2008


Next week I am hosting the first of what I hope to be several green activities in my small town. I am having a children's items sale/exchange at my house on Wednesday Sept 10. We will be meeting for a few hours in the morning. I am encouraging people to bring gently used items separated into 2 categories: that which people want to donate or trade and that which people want to sell. I am asking people to price things ahead of time. I will also put out a box for monetary donations. I have also asked for linens, as it is also for a charity.

The donated items, any money donations, and the linens will all go to our local women's shelter. I have spoken with them and they are very grateful. The last I heard there were 12 children there.

I'm excited. There is a fair amount of enthusiasm in my community to come to this, to help, or to donate items. I hope to spread the idea and would love to see this as an island wide happening, and see other moms inspired to organize these. I also am imagining designing a tee shirt that says "Green Mama" and selling these too, eventually. I am working on that design.

When I told a friend about this idea she was really enthusiastic. She expressed her desire to go to the shelter and do birthday parties once a month for kids who are there. She was reminiscing about how when she was a child, her mom made such a big deal about birthdays, and how sad it would be for kids to be in that situation on their birthdays.

One idea that comes from love can sometimes ripple into more and more loving ideas.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

rob report - big on bamboo

This was written by my friend, Rob Parsons. For those of you who might just skim it, I have bolded releveant details that gave me food for thought.

Rob Report
Big on Bamboo
This could be the crop of Maui's future
by Rob Parsons
May 8, 2008

Can you believe we import $50 million of this stuff yearly?

Outside my Haiku window is a stand of golden bamboo, catching the morning sunlight and swaying in the trade winds. From time to time I have selectively cut a few pieces of different sizes for a variety of purposes: fruit picker, coconut harvesting long-handled saw, curtain rods, garden plant stakes, and to hoist decorative flags.

On a recent trip to Bali, I noticed bamboo used for construction scaffolding, framing, railings, furniture, fences, flooring, ladders and more. I saw an entire shade house covering an acre of organic vegetables constructed entirely with bamboo.

So why not grow this versatile crop on Maui? While it grows here vigorously, and even invasively in many locations, it does not enjoy the wide array of uses that make it one of the world's most useful resources.

At least, not yet.

Within the next year, a Kipahulu grower will begin to harvest two-inch to three-inch diameter poles of bamboo, among more than 40 varieties planted over the past several years. Rich von Wellsheim of Whispering Winds Bamboo already has achieved a measure of success with nursery sales of bamboo varietals. Beyond that, he envisions a "culture of bamboo" with opportunities to provide food, shelter, protect our soils and watersheds and add more jobs to our local economy.

In a time when many conversations are turning to self-sufficiency, sustainability and revitalizing our economy, growing bamboo seems to outshine the status quo of importing virtually all of our building materials, and more than 90 percent of our food and energy needs. Bamboo is actually a family of plants in the grass family, found in both tropical and temperate climates, and native to all continents except Europe and Antarctica.

Bamboo is the fastest growing woody plant in the world, with rates of three to four feet a day documented under ideal soil and climate conditions. Mature bamboo, though light weight, has a tensile strength greater than steel, and thus is prized for housing construction, bridges, and even as a substitute for rebar in concrete.

Bamboo shoots of many varieties are prized in Asian cooking, though others are bitter or even toxic. It's also the primary diet of China's Giant Panda, a docile vegetarian whose numbers have dwindled from lost habitat in a country that once had 40 percent of its primary forest standing in bamboo. Growing populations in many other countries means that demand can outstrip available resources, leading to over-harvesting.

Bamboo is trendy today, and expensive. The United States has a huge trade deficit in bamboo, importing $50 million worth of products yearly. It's used in durable and attractive flooring, paneling, curtains, musical instruments and even textiles for clothing. As a source for papermaking, bamboo out-yields hardwoods six to one.

Von Wellsheim cautions that bamboo can indeed be invasive, but that Whispering Winds cultivates only non-invasive "clumping" varieties. But upon reaching maturity, they will be selectively harvested and are never clear-cut like hardwoods.

The long-term plan is for 20 acres of bamboo, including ornamental, edible and timber quality varieties, inter-planted with nitrogen-fixing hardwoods. The 175-acre property, just below the Kipahulu Bioreserve portion of Haleakala National Park, also is the site of 40 acres of tropical hardwoods, planted by the State Division of Forestry and Wildlife, part of the Department of Land and Natural Resources. Another 80 acres will be gradually cleared and restored with native Hawaiian plants.

Von Wellsheim also succeeded in gaining acceptance from the Maui Planning Department of his overall farm plan. That means they are going ahead with construction of farm worker dwellings, creating both housing and jobs in rural Kipahulu.

One of bamboo's attributes is the ability to produce up to a third more oxygen than trees, meaning it's one of the best crops in the world for sequestering the carbon dioxide emissions produced by our industrial society and internal combustion engines. Thus, aforestation projects with bamboo could be eligible for carbon credits, offsetting emission from other sources while we make the slow transition away from burning fossil fuels.

Another way bamboo can assist in environmental restoration is through holding soil in place and preventing erosion. It does well on steeper slopes, reducing runoff, and enriches poor soil with its own nutrient rich leaf litter, helping to restore depleted topsoil.

Once planted, there isn't a need to dig it up and replant every couple years, making it an attractive replacement candidate for water-thirsty sugar cane, still grown on some 36,000 acres in Central Maui. Planting bamboo could keep the fields green, provide more biomass per acre, prevent soil loss from wind erosion when mass acreage is tilled, and bring an end to burning, while providing viable economic opportunities for self-sufficiency.

Bamboo living structures has been the focus of Bamboo Technologies, founded by architect David Sands and builder/designer Jeffree Trudeau. They specialize in uniquely designed, pre-fabricated homes built to exacting factory standards in Vietnam, then disassembled into wall panels for shipping. Over a hundred structures have been assembled in Hawai'i and the Caribbean by Bamboo Living, sister company of Bamboo Technologies.

"Tre Gai" bamboo is extremely hardy and strong, with poles three inches to four inches in diameter, and was the first species to begin forest regeneration after Agent Orange defoliation during the Vietnam War. Twenty-nine provinces in Vietnam grow bamboo for domestic use and export.

Trudeau and Sands pioneered a treatment process with a vacuum pressured bath in a salt (boric) solution. The result changes the cellular structure from sugars and starches, so beetles no longer are attracted to it. Termites generally aren't a problem.

A typical 2,500-square-foot home made of Douglas Fir two-by-fours requires an acre's worth of trees, and twenty five years to mature. Built with bamboo, the same acre could provide necessary materials in seven years. Sands' custom designs incorporate bamboo structural poles where four-by-fours would go in conventional construction.

Sam Small lives in a bamboo home on Pi'iholo Road in Olinda, and is a Vice President for Developing Markets for Bamboo Living. "Everyone who walks in my house comments on how relaxing and comfortable they feel here," he says.

Small says his main structure, a 30-foot round (actually 12-sided) pavilion with vaulted roofs and a covered lanai, was assembled in just three days. Finish work, plumbing, electrical, caulking, and other details may take another four to six weeks.

But the basic covered, waterproof structure goes up extremely quickly, making it very useful if disaster relief is needed. But their bamboo homes are also strong, and have stood up to hurricanes.

Their certification process with the International Building Commission (IBC) has been arduous and expensive. The IBC certifies building materials per species, and location where they are grown, which means that bamboo grown here in Hawai'i would have to go through rigorous testing and lengthy permitting to meet building code standards.

Jericho Stringer of Yellow Seed Bamboo Nursery in Haiku works with Steel Timber Bamboo to import Guadua Angustifolia from Columbia. Their pre-treated, non-toxic poles are available for a number of construction uses. Yellow Seed also offers many varieties of nursery stock, non-clumping bamboo. Like Whispering Winds, they place an emphasis on sustainable local agriculture.

Yellow Seed states that they use no chemical fertilizers or pesticides, opting for bone meal, azomite and worm castings for nutrients and wood chip mulching to add organic matter and increase soil microbial life. Their two-acre nursery, near the corner of Hana Highway and West Kuiaha Road, is open Monday through Friday.

Von Wellsheim sees bamboo as a viable crop throughout the Hawaiian Islands. Once certified, it could provide a myriad of building material applications, from carports to gazebos, and from rafters to main structural supports. When the "culture of bamboo" is established, he writes, people will be able to "grow their own house" in just five years.

Bamboo might even provide an innovative new way of looking at affordable housing in Hawai'i, as well. Sounds too good to pass up.

For more information:

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


I received this in an email recently from Greenfriends:

Bamboo Facts and Environmental Benefits

Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on the planet! Some species can grow more then 3 ft. a day, and can be harvested in 3-5 years versus 10-50 years for most softwoods and hardwoods. Almost 1 million acres of forests are lost each week worldwide to deforestation. Bamboo's quick growing nature and versatility as a substitute for hardwoods offers a chance to drastically reduce that figure and protect the forests that we have left.

Bamboo can help mitigate global warming. Bamboo absorbs up to five times more carbon dioxide, and releases 35% more oxygen into the atmosphere than an equivalent stand of trees. It has been calculated that some bamboo plantations are able to capture 17 metric tons of carbon per hector per year. According to experts, bamboo could be the fastest and least expensive way to offset CO2 emissions (by sequestering atmospheric carbon) while new systems of energy and conservation are developed.

Bamboo is an ideal replacement for wood due to its incredible strength, regenerative properties, and natural beauty. In structural engineering tests, bamboo has a higher compressive strength than many mixtures of concrete, a higher tensile strength than most types of steel, and a higher strength to weight ratio than graphite. Bamboo has been used as the main building material for the majority of the world for thousands of years. There are many examples of buildings constructed entirely of bamboo, which are now several hundred years old. Due to its strength and flexibility, bamboo is considered ideal earthquake proof building material.

Bamboo can be harvested and replenished with virtually no impact to the environment. Bamboo can be selectively harvested annually or continuously re-harvested every 3-5 years. When it is harvested, it will grow a new shoot from its extensive root system with no need for additional planting or cultivation. During the time it takes to regenerate, the bamboo plant's root system stays intact so topsoil is held in place and erosion is prevented. One bamboo clump can produce 200 poles in the five years it takes one tree to reach maturity. Because of its dense litter on the forest floor, it actually protects, enriches and fertilizes the topsoil over time, providing healthy agricultural lands for future generations.

There are over 1200 species of bamboo on the earth. This diversity makes bamboo adaptable to a wide range of climates. Bamboo can grow in arid regions where droughts cause other crops to fail; and since the roots are left in place after harvesting, it helps to preserve vital moisture in the soil. From low wetlands to higher elevations in the mountains, bamboo's versatility helps it to thrive. And perhaps its most important adaptive quality is its ability to be grown in soil damaged by overgrazing and poor agriculture techniques.

Bamboo is an ideal soil conservation element. Because of its wide-spread root system and large canopy, bamboo greatly reduces rain runoff, prevents massive soil erosion and keeps twice as much water in the watershed. Its anti-erosion properties hold the soil together along fragile riverbanks, deforested areas, and in places prone to earthquakes and mudslides. Bamboo also helps mitigate water pollution due to its ability to take up excess nitrogen, phosphorus, and heavy metals. This ability could provide a solution for processing excess nutrients contained in wastewater from manufacturing, intensive livestock farming, and sewage treatment facilities.

No fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides are needed to grow bamboo. Unlike most cash crops, bamboo requires no agricultural chemicals to thrive. Unlike cotton, which is one of the most intensely sprayed crops in the world and rapidly depletes the nutrients in the soil, bamboo sequesters nitrogen and cultivation does not add chemicals to the environment. Bamboo is rarely attacked by pests or infected by pathogens as bamboo contains a natural antibacterial agent and pesticide known as "Bamboo Kun". The bamboo kun is also maintained when bamboo is transformed into fabric, making it naturally anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, anti-fungal and odor resistant.
Bamboo is a livelihood for many poor rural communities. Bamboo plantations do not drain the resources of these communities or expose the workers and the environment to harmful chemicals. Bamboo and its related industries already provide income, food, and housing to over 2.2 billion people worldwide. In under-developed countries, bamboo production and the manufacturing of bamboo products provides job opportunities in areas that desperately need social and economic stability, without degrading the environment.

Bamboo is a high-yield, renewable natural resource for agro-forestry products. After harvesting, virtually every part of the plant is used to make a wide variety of products. Bamboo is being used for wall paneling, floor tiles, bamboo pulp for paper making, briquettes for fuel, raw material for housing construction, and rebar for reinforced concrete beams. It is used in scaffolding, food, utensils, arts and crafts, furniture, instruments, clothing and more.

Bamboo is an ancient medicine and has been used for centuries in Ayurveda and Chinese acupuncture. The powdered hardened secretion from bamboo is used internally to treat asthma and coughs. In China, ingredients from the root of the black bamboo help treat kidney disease. Roots and leaves have also been used to treat venereal disease and cancer. Sap is said to reduce fever and ash will cure prickly heat. Current research points to bamboo's potential in a number of medicinal uses.

Bamboo shoots as a food source provide nutrition for millions of people worldwide. In Japan, the antioxidant properties of pulverized bamboo bark prevent bacterial growth and are used as a natural food preservative. Bamboo "litter" makes fodder for animals and food for fish.

Environmental Bamboo Foundation
P.O. Box 196
Ubud 80571, Bali, Indonesia
Telephone: 62-361-974-027
Fax: 62-361-974-029
Ong, C, 2006 Can Bamboo Replace Thirsty Trees? www.worldagroforestrycentre.org/news/ 
C4 carbon fixation http://www.wikipedia.com/
Urban Bamboo Farms – winners of Chicago sustainable awards www.bamboo-insights.com/articles/bamboo-farms-could-help-soak-up-urban-pollution.html
Ong, C, A , 2004 Giant Solution to a Giant Problem www.worldagroforestry.org/ar2004/tc_story01.asp
International Network for Bamboo and Rattan www.inbar.int/
Rayne-Oakes, S & SRO, 2007, S4 Sustainability Trends in Fashion
Bamboo, FAO, www.fao.org/docrep/009/a0467e/a0467e04.htm
Why Bamboo? http://www.bamboocentral.org/
Bamboo Farms for Carbon and Methane Sequestration, Biodiversity, Project for the Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emission www.eco-web.com/index/category/4.2.html


I have begun a project, and it is in the infancy stage. I was asked by a friend, who is part of an organization called Greenfriends, to help her with this. She gave me a packet of seeds and asked me to get them started. Eventually she wants to have about 3/4 acre of this plant on her property. She says she has the perfect climate, and once the plants get going they will grow like weeds. I should know. I had one in my yard and I hardly cared for it, but it thrived.

The plant is tulsi, or holy basil. It is the most common herb grown in India. Tulsi leaves and seeds have numerous medicinal properties. My friend and I are involved in a humanitarian organization that raises money for charity by selling various products. One of the products is tulsi teas and tinctures. They can't keep up with demand for this particular product. They grow it mostly in California, where there is a shorter growing season than where we live. So for all of those reasons it seems like this is meant to be the first Green Mama project.

My trays ready for planting. I have gotten different advice as how to start. I know the tiny seeds need to be kept wet at all times. I am trying various measures, and now have most of them on trays or plates, covered with paper towels that I am keeping moist. They are supposed to sprout in a week or so. I do have one row planted in soil on the above pictured shelf. Keeping these moist is tricky in the heat here.

Greenfriends - http://amritapuri.org/nature/friends.php

Their tulsi project, with a slideshow - http://photos.amritapuri.org/nature/tulasi.php

There is much on the internet about tulsi. Sometimes it is spelled "tulasi."

The tulsi or
holy basil is an important symbol in the Hindu religious tradition and is worshipped in the morning and evening by Hindus at large. The holy basil is an herbal remedy for a lot of common ailments. Here're top fifteen medicinal uses of tulsi.

1. Healing Power: The tulsi plant has many medicinal properties. The leaves are a nerve tonic and also sharpen memory. They promote the removal of the catarrhal matter and phlegm from the bronchial tube. The leaves strengthen the stomach and induce copious perspiration. The seed of the plant are mucilaginous.
2. Fever & Common Cold: The leaves of basil are specific for many fevers. During the rainy season, when malaria and dengue fever are widely prevalent, tender leaves, boiled with tea, act as preventive against theses diseases. In case of acute fevers, a decoction of the leaves boiled with powdered cardamom in half a liter of water and mixed with sugar and milk brings down the temperature. The juice of tulsi leaves can be used to bring down fever. Extract of tulsi leaves in fresh water should be given every 2 to 3 hours. In between one can keep giving sips of cold water. In children, it is every effective in bringing down the temperature.
3. Coughs: Tulsi is an important constituent of many Ayurvedic cough syrups and expectorants. It helps to mobilize mucus in bronchitis and asthma. Chewing tulsi leaves relieves cold and flu.
4. Sore Throat: Water boiled with basil leaves can be taken as drink in case of sore throat. This water can also be used as a gargle.
5. Respiratory Disorder: The herb is useful in the treatment of respiratory system disorder. A decoction of the leaves, with honey and ginger is an effective remedy for bronchitis, asthma, influenza, cough and cold. A decoction of the leaves, cloves and common salt also gives immediate relief in case of influenza. They should be boiled in half a liter of water till only half the water is left and add then taken.
6. Kidney Stone: Basil has strengthening effect on the kidney. In case of renal stone the juice of basil leaves and honey, if taken regularly for 6 months it will expel them via the urinary tract.
7. Heart Disorder: Basil has a beneficial effect in cardiac disease and the weakness resulting from them. It reduces the level of blood cholesterol.
8. Children's Ailments: Common pediatric problems like cough cold, fever, diarrhea and vomiting respond favorably to the juice of basil leaves. If pustules of chicken pox delay their appearance, basil leaves taken with saffron will hasten them.
9. Stress: Basil leaves are regarded as an 'adaptogen' or anti-stress agent. Recent studies have shown that the leaves afford significant protection against stress. Even healthy persons can chew 12 leaves of basil, twice a day, to prevent stress. It purifies blood and helps prevent several common elements.
10. Mouth Infections: The leaves are quite effective for the ulcer and infections in the mouth. A few leaves chewed will cure these conditions.
11. Insect Bites: The herb is a prophylactic or preventive and curative for insect stings or bites. A teaspoonful of the juice of the leaves is taken and is repeated after a few hours. Fresh juice must also be applied to the affected parts. A paste of fresh roots is also effective in case of bites of insects and leeches.
12. Skin Disorders: Applied locally, basil juice is beneficial in the treatment of ringworm and other skin diseases. It has also been tried successfully by some naturopaths in the treatment of leucoderma.
13. Teeth Disorder: The herb is useful in teeth disorders. Its leaves, dried in the sun and powdered, can be used for brushing teeth. It can also be mixed with mustered oil to make a paste and used as toothpaste. This is very good for maintaining dental health, counteracting bad breath and for massaging the gums. It is also useful in pyorrhea and other teeth disorders.
14. Headaches: Basil makes a good medicine for headache. A decoction of the leaves can be given for this disorder. Pounded leaves mixed with sandalwood paste can also be applied on the forehead for getting relief from heat, headache, and for providing coolness in general.
15. Eye Disorders: Basil juice is an effective remedy for sore eyes and night-blindness, which is generally caused by deficiency of vitamin A. Two drops of black basil juice are put into the eyes daily at bedtime.