Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Let It Snow

Just back from a romp around town. It's the Northeast's turn for winter storms and, man, I can't get enough. It finally feels like winter! Today's snowfall is heavy, wet, and beautiful, dampening the sounds that typically move through town. The male and female cardinal who visit our bird feeder are the only creatures I can see through the window. Does February in NH get any better than this?

We've had some fabulous walks lately; last week we saw a Pileated Woodpecker—a first for me! Here are a few shots from today:

Old North Main

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Who knew that the typical human body is overloaded with a variety of environmental toxins? I did, but I never knew how much of an effort it would take to detoxify my body.

I've been following Teri Kerr's Ultimate Detox Diet on the advice of my dietitian at Sojourns, a wonderful yet expensive resource just across the river from Walpole. The diet consists of three phases: phase one is two weeks long and involves deep cleansing with lots of beets and dark leafy greens; phase two is a slightly less intense cleanse that also lasts for two weeks; phase three is essentially the rest of the participant's life.

I've successfully made it through phase one, eating only legumes, vegetables, fruit, nuts, poultry, fish and a little tofu, and drinking only water, herbal tea, and a fruity but complexly flavored breakfast drink. I'm now moving into phase two, where I get to add small amounts of gluten-free grains—amaranth, quinoa, millet—and eggs.

During the first few days of the diet, I noticed a marked change in my energy levels. It's been easier to wake up in the morning (so easy that I've been getting up around 6am almost every day, which is something that would have been exceedingly difficult before the diet), I've had more energy throughout the day and have noticed that I'm more mentally alert and focused. I also have more energy for exercise, which, coupled with the healthier eating, has led to twenty pounds of weight loss.

Once phase two is complete, I will start to add back potentially problematic foods, like cheese, milk, gluten, wheat, sugar, alcohol, and so on. I choose one food, eat it three times in a day, monitor myself for potential reactions, wait 2-3 days and if there's no problem, I move on to the next food. Sounds easy enough, right?

In spite of all this good eating and exercising, I have seen a slight decline in my energy levels. I met with Stacey, the dietitian, late last week to discuss this trend and she determined that I might have an overgrowth of Candida yeast in my system. Everyone has this fungus in their gut, but an overgrowth can lead to symptoms like fatigue, depression, bloating and gas, yeast infections, weight gain, rashes, sensitivty to certain smells (like cigarettes and automobile exhaust) and the list goes on. My meeting with Stacey ended with a few brief mentions of how to fight Candida, which thrives on carbohydrates and sugars, so I bought some oregano oil, grapefruit seed extract, pau d'arco tea, and highly potent acidophilous—four proven remedies—and left feeling fairly positive about ushering these organisms to their imminent deaths.

Then I got the letter.

Stacey wrote to tell me that she felt that we hadn't had enough time to talk about the Candida and that treating this particular ailment was one of her specialties. Included with the letter was this printout about Candida and MS, which I made the mistake of reading last night. Stacey cautioned me about the source, saying that she didn't know much about it. Still, I think anyone who reads this would feel pretty freaked out afterwards. I am pretty freaked out. To be sure that I had cause for alarm, I looked up Candida in my copy of Prescription for Nutritional Healing, a trusted source of health information that I've consulted for years. The information in this book backed up that of the printout. Great.

So now I have a parasitic overgrowth and feel fairly grossed out and concerned about eating anything, really. As I mentioned earlier, the detox diet calls for a fruity beverage for breakfast, something that my Candida love. Oh, and the best part is, according to the printout, that I'm not supposed to eat mushrooms or spend time in damp or moldy places. This is great news for our new MUSHROOM FARM business.

I woke up today, skipped the beverage, drank three cups of tea and had some leftover root vegetables for breakfast. Pardon my language, but I really want to starve those little fuckers. I made an appointment to see Stacey again in a few weeks and plan to call her later today to inquire about my state of dismay regarding the fungus. This is a huge blow to the progress I've made, but I'm trying my best to not let it get the best of me.

If only the Candida didn't love beer, too.

Monday, February 15, 2010

How Time Flies

When I did my study abroad in Germany back in 1997-98, I made a great friend along the way. At first, Krista and I didn't seem to have a lot in common, but the time away from home brought us closer together, and we're, thankfully, still in touch today. We plan an annual camping trip together, usually to one of Pennsylvania's many state parks, though we missed the outing last fall, which is why it was a particularly nice to host her in Walpole over the weekend.

We took a hike up Wantastiquet on Saturday, accompanied by Andrea, our new friend, Jesse, and her dog Kaiser, a rowdy and rambunctious pit mix. The weather was cool and crisp, the path icy and hazardous at times, but we managed to make it the entire way without anyone wiping out.

Ice flows
Winter in Vermont
Krista loves New England
Candid at the top

It was quite windy and cold at the top, so we didn't linger for long. On the way down, Liz managed to drop my camera, which we didn't realize until we were in the car and ready to leave. We had about fifteen minutes of daylight left, so Liz and I jogged about a quarter of the way back up the mountain, where she found the camera lying on an icy patch. A little extra exercise never hurts!

On Sunday, we were eager to get over to the mushroom palace to try, for the second time, our hand at inoculating. There was a lot of waiting around because we had to heat 40 gallons of water, in which we would submerge a large basket of chopped straw. The straw is our substrate for the mushrooms and it must be sterilized before it's mixed with the spawn. Needless to say, this took a long time because it was about 27 degrees outside.

To kill some time, I chatted with Susan, a reporter from New Hampshire Magazine, who had stopped by with her husband to get the skinny on our business. Terra Fructi will be featured in the April issue as part of a sidebar column called "Field Notes." We talked for about 45 minutes and I answered all of the questions they had about us personally and mushrooms in general. We look forward to seeing the article, though we're just as excited about the upcoming feature-length piece that Andrea composed for the spring issue of Local Banquet, an ag/local foods publication produced by our friends Meg and Barbi. Here they are on their visit to Terra Fructi, dutifully working, as most guests do:

Removing the protective layer from the stainless table

Once the water boiled, we were able to sterilize the straw and move forward with the inoculation. We had only enough straw to fill 6 bags, but at least it was a start. And the support we got along the way was priceless. Krista helped out with various tasks and kept us positive and on track; Julia, John, and Effie came by, along with their guest Griffin, and they all contributed in one way or another. Most notably, John performed a Buddhist fertility ceremony for the mushrooms, quite possibly the most interesting thing that's happened since we started the business. All in all, the inoculation was a success. Of course, there's still the matter of the process actually yielding mushrooms. We have only a few short weeks to wait on that...

Inoculation ingredients
Liz removes the sterilized straw
Draining and cooling
John and Effie wait patiently
Liz with what will be the first bag of gray oyster mushrooms