Why destroying free food sources is a bad idea

When food prices soar and people are struggling to maintain food security, those who annihilate free food sources completely miss the direction the wind is blowing.

Photo by Ryan Baker on Pexels.com

Right next to our home, there was an old, abandoned-looking little house with several lovely orange and lemon trees. Its elderly owner had moved to a long-term care facility and let the neighbors know they could pick the fruit to their heart’s content. We’d carefully step over the sagged low fence and bring home bags of lemons and oranges.

Time passed. Not long ago, the elderly homeowner passed and his heirs put the house up for sale. An enterprising young couple bought it, divided it into two sublet units, and cut down the beautiful old trees.

My heart broke when I saw the lush green branches being dragged to the waste disposal and left there to wait for the municipality’s truck. My kids, who saw it too, nearly cried. We stopped next to the branches for a while, picked a few last oranges, and said goodbye to the tree that had given so much to so many people over the years. Today, I saw they were preparing to pour concrete over the place where the trees had stood.

It’s not the first time we have recently witnessed fruit trees being decimated. Just a few weeks ago, our municipality uprooted two ancient, magnificent trees from which people in the neighborhood used to pick olives every year. Some bean-counter must have decided that fruit trees aren’t worth their annual upkeep, like pruning or removing falling fruit.

Here’s what I think. I believe that when food prices soar and people are struggling to maintain food security, those who annihilate free food sources completely miss the direction the wind is blowing.

Luckily, we still have plenty of abandoned yards and public spaces where we can pick lemons, oranges, and tangerines. They might be smaller and have more pits than regular varieties you’d find in the store, which might be the reason why most people don’t bother with them, but they’re perfectly good for juicing.

In Judaism, fruit trees hold a special place and it’s generally forbidden to cut them down for no good reason. I think it’s one of the greatest pieces of wisdom in Jewish lore – the respectful, almost reverent attitude toward sources of food and life.

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Why you should grow rosemary if you can

Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs. So hardy and easy to grow, and with so many uses. This native Mediterranean shrub thrives in bright sun and warm temperatures, so you should be able to grow rosemary in zones 8 and 9.

I love rosemary for its versatility. It’s great for cooking, has outstanding health properties, and requires little care and not a lot of water. Even better, bees love it, but chickens don’t like to eat it, so a mature rosemary bush can even grow in any place you use as a chicken run.

I use rosemary as a:

#1 Cough and cold remedy. Rosemary has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. Just make some rosemary tea when you’re under the weather and enjoy it with a little honey. I find it helps soothe coughs and sore throats.

#2 Cooking herb. Rosemary really brings out the flavor of meat and fish; oven-baked salmon sprinkled with salt, coarse ground pepper, and rosemary leaves is my favorite.

#3 Lice and bug repellent. Rosemary’s pungent smell repels lice, mosquitoes, and other bugs. You can spray hair with a little rosemary infusion or dab some rosemary tea behind children’s ears to defend them against a lice infestation.

#4 Fragrance. I’ve added rosemary to home-processed soaps, sometimes combined with mint and eucalyptus extracts.

I got my rosemary plant from someone who simply cut off a branch and let it develop roots in water. I haven’t been very successful in rooting rosemary cuttings in water myself, but I’ve seen it work for other people. You can also buy a young plant from a nursery and add it to your herb garden. Rosemary takes some time to really start growing, but once it gets going, you may need to prune it once in a while to keep it from overrunning its space.

An oasis of sustainability

A thriving little urban garden

It used to be just a tiny synagogue with an empty dirt yard full of construction debris. Until one day I passed and saw that someone has cleared the trash away and began to make rows for planting.

Ever since, I have seen them often. They are a lovely older couple that had taken over this desolate little plot and have made it green and thriving. They have planted greens, herbs, squash, tomatoes, and young trees. And they work there every day without fail.

I’m so grateful to these people. They have shown that no plot is too small to work; every bit of unused urban land can turn into a little island of sustainability. And it doesn’t even have to be your own land.

As Naomi of Bloomah’s City Farm writes,

“Though I live in a regular Beit Shemesh apartment, there are so many budding opportunities for me to farm. I farm on my kitchen windowsill, in my storage room, on my porch, in the yard I’m blessed to have, in my neighbor’s yard, in the open spaces that surround my neighborhood. I don’t need rolling green acres.”

My 5 favorite herbs and how I use them

Herbs are some of the easiest things to grow, hands down. Proof is, even I am capable of keeping them alive and thriving. Many of them will spread like weeds if you let them, popping up every spring without any effort on your part. Herbs are usually pretty tolerant when it comes to soil type and sun and shade balance.

Here are my top five favorite herbs, which I use for tea, seasoning, remedies, or all of the above.

1. Mint

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With its refreshing, invigorating smell, mint makes delicious tea that is great either hot or cold. Mint is great for colds and digestive complaints.

2. SageDSC_0711

We had a glorious sage bush at our old home, but here, my poor little sage plant took some assaults from the chickens, who insisted on digging around it and trampling it for some reason (they don’t eat it, though – it’s a bonus point for chicken keepers. Sharp-smelling herbs are about the only thing chickens find unappetizing).

Anyway, my sage plant seems to be in recovery now, and is flowering. Which makes me really happy, because sage tea is a powerful decongestant and great for sore throats.

3. Rosemary

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My rosemary is still young, but its mother plant is a big arborescent bush.

Rosemary has some potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities, and I just love it in cooking. It’s divine with oven-baked fish and roast potatoes.

4. Oregano (thanks to the readers who pointed out the correct name of this herb! It’s sometimes easy to get confused when the guy at the plant nursery assures you he’s selling you something which it is, in fact, not 😁)

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This is another herb I appreciate primarily for its culinary uses. It’s great either chopped fresh or dried and crushed – thoroughly air-dried herbs will keep almost indefinitely, retaining most of their properties.

I love it in bread, chicken roast, soup, and much more.

5. Lemongrass

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I adore the way this plant looks – like a giant spiky tuft of grass. It makes delicious tea, which I love to drink while breastfeeding as, unlike mint and sage, it doesn’t negatively affect milk supply.

If you’re planning a garden, herbs are one of the best places to start. I would say that at the very least, climate permitting, you should have the trio of mint, sage, and rosemary. They are perennial, hardy, easy to grow, smell delicious, and repel insects – what’s not to love?

From our backyard

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The little quail pen. It’s easy to move so that they can dig in a fresh place from time to time.

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An inside shot of the quail: the darker one is the female. Raising them has been fun and I can’t wait to try hatching their eggs (which, by the way, make delicious tiny omelets).

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The upgraded chicken coop: now on a raised netting-covered platform. Most of the poop falls right through the netting, which reduces the mess and smell.

Clockwise: sage, mint, rosemary, lemon balm.

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Tomato seedlings are in the ground.

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Two of my favorite repotted geraniums. They are incredibly easy to propagate: just cut a piece, stick it in moist potting soil, and it will soon sprout roots. I’ve been making little plants to give to neighbors this way.

As you can see, we’ve been busy and enjoying the nice weather. I hope everyone is doing well and keeping safe.

Can you feel the spring?

The end of February is probably the time when everything around here is the freshest and greenest. After a week of rain, I went out to see my little garden completely covered with unruly weeds – but all my plants looking healthy and invigorated all the same.

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The tomatoes are actually starting to grow tiny fruit! I’ve tied the vines to the fence to keep them from sprawling over the ground.

DSC_1098My little papaya is really beginning to shoot up

The mint and hyssop are looking nice and fresh. So do our potted celery and beet greens.

I hope that even those of you who are still snowed in will get to feel the breath of spring soon. As for the folks at the southern hemisphere, who are gearing up for autumn, I’m wishing you a cozy, snug winter with many cups of tea, good books, and crafts.

Busy as bees

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Lately, I challenged myself: instead of fiddling with my phone whenever I have a spare moment, what if I whip out the crochet hook and work on some little project? The result: surprisingly quickly, I completed this adorable (if I do say so myself) tiny dress for Hadassah. It’s made of yak wool blend similar to this one and is very soft to the touch, cozy and warm.

I didn’t follow an exact pattern, but I can say that I started working from the waist up on the front half, then went back to work from the waist down on the skirt, and in the end stitched front and back halves together on the sides.

Also take a look at this latest little video on my YouTube channel: honeybees busy at work on the mustard flowers in our garden. With a nice sunny spell, we’ve finally been able to do some weeding (not enough) and planting (somewhat haphazardly).

 

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