Robin Katz

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since May 10, 2015
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Recent posts by Robin Katz


I understand that part, and we will be making some of these for the wildlife now that I see how beneficial they are (although I still needed the chips for soil building). I like the idea of other uses for brush than burning it, which is what everyone does around here. Waste of good biomass.
1 week ago
We just created a lot of these piles in the past month, then chipped them for putting back on the soil and the garden beds. Good thing we still have a few thousand trees yet to thin out of the forest.
1 week ago
Daron, as usual, this is a great thread and it's got me thinking about our new property and how to fit all five zones in. Most of our 11.5 acres is second generation evergreen forest. We are doing a lot of thinning of the tall, skinny trees that can't survive long but add to the fire danger. Our goal is to bring the balance back to something like a mature zone 5 forest. We already have the wildlife but the trees are not healthy and are a fire hazard.

Our current plan is to have zones 1-4 take up 1-2 acres near the house, incorporating some of the forest for cultivation of forest herbs so they will be visited more often but pretty much left alone. The land is flat so we'll need to build up to create some texture to the land.

A friend of mine is a landscape designer from Silicon valley area that I got hooked on permaculture last year. She will be visiting us this spring to incorporate her designs with permaculture principles for the area near our house. Her goal is to start incorporating permaculture in her designs for clients and hopes to use our property as a test bed. We will be documenting the process and taking a lot of pictures along the way. It should be a lot of fun exchanging ideas and coming up with a plan.
2 months ago

I would change only one small item under oil infusions. I would not suggest anyone make a garlic oil infusion due to the risk of botulism. If they know what they're doing by adding acid, refrigerating, and using within a week that's fine, but it is a real risk if left at room temperature for any length of time.

This is a good list, covers a lot of territory yet leaves the user to make the appropriate choice for his/her situation. I think anyone could learn a bunch by completing this.
2 months ago

I like the approach of having several to choose from under each category. I noticed that you have an infusion category and a tea category, which look the same to me. An infusion is 3-5 minutes steeping in hot water, usually for leafy herbs and flowers with volatiles. A decoction is boiled longer (20 min or so) usually used for roots and stems to extract non-volatile components.

An example is dandelion root. It needs more than just a few minutes to pull out the goodies. And peppermint will be ruined if you cooked it for 20 minutes, so an infusion would be better. Below are my suggestions.

Infusion: (30 minutes) Pick One:
Chamomile Flower
 - Make a journal page about the uses and attributes and and how to ID chamomile . Add it to the herb section. Post picture of your ID page in the book
 - Make a journal page about the uses and attributes and recipe for a chamomile infusion.
 - Make a chamomile infusion, with a picture of it being made, and of it being finished.
Lavender flower
 - Make a journal page about the uses and attributes and and how to ID Lavender . Add it to the herb section. Post picture of your ID page in the book
 - Make a journal page about the uses and attributes and recipe for a Lavender infusion.
 - Make a Lavender infusion, with a picture of it being made, and of it being finished.
Another flower?
Peppermint leaf
 - Make a journal page about the uses and attributes and and how to ID and grow peppermint. Add it to the herb section. Post picture of your ID page in the book
 - Make a journal page about the uses and attributes and recipe for a peppermint tea infusion
 - Make a peppermint tea infusion, with a picture of it being made, and of it being finished.

Tea (15 minutes)
Decoction (45 minutes)
Dandelion Root
 - Make a journal page about the uses and attributes and and how to ID dandelion. Add it to the herb section. Post picture of your ID page in the book
 - Make a journal page about the uses and attributes and recipe for a dandelion decoction.
 - Make a dandelion decoction, with a picture of it being made, and of it being finished.
Ginger Root
 - Make a journal page about the uses and attributes and and how to ID ginger. Add it to the herb section. Post picture of your ID page in the book
 - Make a journal page about the uses and attributes and recipe for a ginger decoction.
 - Make a ginger decoction, with a picture of it being made, and of it being finished.
Nettle Leaf
 - Make a journal page about the uses and attributes and and how to ID nettle. Add it to the herb section. Post picture of your ID page in the book
 - Make a journal page about the uses and attributes and recipe for a nettle decoction.
 - Make a nettle decoction, with a picture of it being made, and of it being finished.
2 months ago

Thanks for the reminder about contaminated chips. That didn't occur to me since we haven't ever sprayed around our trees at our old house and the chips we will use at our new place is from forest patches that we are thinning for fire mitigation. Some are dead of natural causes and some are alive but living too close together so they have to go. This makes me even more concerned about bringing in anything to our site since we won't know where they came from and what's been added to the mix.
2 months ago
When we lived in the Denver metro area, we used the Ruth Stout method out of desperation due to the packed clay soil being virtually untillable. It was a good experience overall and there were benefits and downsides of course.

We built 5 50x4' raised beds by putting down whole flakes of straw or hay to kill the persistent grass and start to form some friable soil when the straw broke down. We'd do this in late autumn. It did kill the grass underneath but every year the grass would move back in. You may not have this problem.

Eventually we had 6-8 inches of raised beds with pretty darn good soil. The worms were our tillers and they brought up clay into the beds. We had a lot of small, black spiders in the straw which kept down pests. The spiders would scatter when I'd start weeding or planting so they weren't a problem.

As someone else mentioned, getting straw or hay that isn't contaminated with pesticides or herbicides is a big concern. I plan to use wood chips from our new property even if this will take longer to break down, and it's cheaper.

The straw/hay kept the soil moist but it also kept it cold so we'd have to pull it back from the tomato and pepper plants so they could get warm soil. Also, when we planted seeds, we'd have to pull back the mulch, plant, then re-scatter the mulch. Not a big deal on a small scale but a pain in the butt on larger scale. I did experiment with scattering the seeds in the spring onto the mulch and let them work their way down to the soil, but this was not hugely successful. Although, when we scattered garlic cloves in the fall into the loose mulch we got a ton of garlic the next year. This may be due to putting cloves in at the beginning of the cold season so they didn't grow until the spring, and in the mean time, winter snows, wind and breakdown of the mulch created the right environment for natural growth when it got warmer. Since that's the way nature does it, that might be a good experiment for the future with seeds too. Now that I think about it, plants that went to seed in the fall had lots of volunteers the next year.
2 months ago

In Chinese Medicine there is a whole category for herbs that stop bleeding and herbs that move blood (improve circulation, dissolve clots and bruises faster, etc.). There are two notable herbs that can balance moving blood and stopping excess bleeding. Sounds a bit odd but the combination is good in cases where there has been bleeding, subsequent clotting, and obstruction of healing. Getting the congealed blood out without causing more bleeding is a tricky thing, same with stopping bleeding without making a huge clot.

The first one in cat-tail pollen, which is available in a LOT of places in the U.S. growing wild. The entry from Bensky and Gamble TCM materia medica states under Functions and Clinical Uses:
-Stops bleeding: used to stop external bleeding as a result of traumatic injuries and various forms of internal bleeding such as uterine bleeding, vomiting blood, nosebleed, coughing up blood, blood in the urine, blood in the stool or subcutaneous bleeding. It has an astringent nature and is quite effective for stopping bleeding.
-Promotes the circulation of blood and dispels Congealed Blood: used for chest pain, postpartum abdominal pain, and menstrual pain from Congealed Blood.

The second one is Panax pseudoginseng. This is NOT the ginseng most people are familiar with, so you'd need to buy this from a place that specializes in chinese herbs. You can buy a small bottle of the powdered pseudoginseng that is typically for topical use and it's great at stopping bleeding. It can also be used internally and is very safe. The entry from the materia medica states:
-Stops bleeding and transforms congealed blood: used for internal and external bleeding including vomiting blood, nosebleed, and blood in the urine or stool. Because this herb can stop bleeding without causing congealed blood, it is very widely used.
-Reduces swelling and alleviates pain: this is the herb of choice for traumatic injuries and is used for swelling and pain due to falls, fractures, contusions, and sprains. Effective in promoting the circulation of blood, it is used for chest and abdominal pain, as well as joint pain.

Neither herb should be used internally during pregnancy. I keep a small bottle of pseudoginseng powder in my first aid supply. I have also used it on my dogs when they get a cut. Both powders can be placed on the cut directly and they work fast.
2 months ago
There are a lot of good responses here. I'd like to share two important therapies that have worked for me. Exercise and magnesium therapy. I know the title of this thread is foods for nerve and spinal cord damage so this may not be the best location, but here goes.

I ruptured the L4-L5 disc 34 years ago and the disc jelly was pressing on the sciatic nerves and causing excruciating pain jabs down the leg and creeping numbness. I was luck enough to have the orthopedic surgeon for the WSU football team do my surgery so it was the best for that time. It was a success but the pain continued for 2 more years with the doctors saying to rest more. Finally I realized they were wrong, got on a stationary bike and within 30 minutes the pain was reduced. Exercise is very important after an injury, but it needs to be done slowly, with thorough range of motion movements, and focus on how your body feels. You have to push, but not too much. Very hard to define since what this means changes as you heal. Once I started feeling better, I began doing weight lifting, especially dead lifts with light weights. The dead lifts strengthened the spinal erector muscles (among others ) so that my lower back would support itself, resulting in less pain. Good form is critical here so make sure that the posture is correct. I've also found that gentle yoga has been very beneficial for all of my joints, tendons and muscles. It even helped reverse the vertigo I've had for years by moving the crystals that form in the fluid of the ears into an area that doesn't result in dizziness.

I take a good magnesium supplement just below bowel tolerance (you will know when you reach it 'cause you'll get the runs!). But one of the most important treatments I use is transdermal magnesium therapy, which I do using two different methods. The reason I do this in addition to supplements is that my gut can't absorb enough for my bodily needs without unfortunate side effects. My skin will absorb a lot more without these side effects.

1. Epsom salt baths and soaks have already been mentioned, which are excellent and I do one every week. What's important is using enough salt. None of this cup or two in the bath. I use the whole 6 lb bag in my bath and I get it at Costco so it's not too expensive. Since the salt needs to diffuse through the skin, the concentration in the bath is important. Higher concentration means more can be absorbed in a set period of time.
2. Concentrated magnesium chloride: This is the heavy hitter than allowed me to walk pain-free from plantar fasciitis that made it excruciating for to walk, and I've had no pain in my back since I started using it. I use the bath salt crystals from and make my own "magnesium oil." It's not an oil and I wish they wouldn't refer it as that. It is concentrated (apx. 50:50 MgCl2:water by weight) salt solution but it has a slippery feel. I make a quart of the concentrated solution, then dilute it down as needed. If you use the concentrated solution on your skin it can cause irritation but I've used it on my legs with no problem although it can leave an odd feel to the skin that some people don't like. I add this concentrated solution to my homemade lotion at the rate of 25% solution to 75% lotion and use it on my arms and legs after every bath. I find that the oils in the lotion counter the salt after it dries on the skin, and my body can continue to absorb the magnesium all day. This is the most cost effective use of the fairly expensive salt crystals. If I'm having localized muscle/tendon pain or cramping, I'll use some of the concentrated solution on the skin and follow with the lotion to keep the skin from drying out. There are lots of variations on using this salt and the key is to start slow with a small patch of skin, and work your way up to what works for you. Do NOT ingest the solution because that much magnesium would result in disastrous effects on the bowel. The ancient minerals web site has a lot of excellent information and I'd suggest reading all of it. There are also whole books on this topic so I've just relayed what works for me.

When my cousin was visiting last year, I told her about the magnesium and she put the concentrated solution on her knee that had been injured years before in a car accident and since then she used a cane to walk. She felt a reduction of pain within a few minutes and the next morning she could walk slowly and carefully without the cane. Sounds like a tall tale but it isn't. She's telling her friends who are in their 70s with varying amounts of pain and disabilities and it has helped all of them in reducing pain and helping with mobility. One of the least expensive and safe remedies that I have ever used.

If anyone is interested and has questions, I am working on developing more detailed notes about the magnesium therapy and the lotion I use.

2 months ago
I would model this after Traditional Chinese Medicine. TCM has been around for about 2000 years and doesn't require expensive lab tests to be effective. From my studies so far, treatments consist of appropriate foods, medicinal herbs, minerals, and some animal parts (although I don't recommend this as a rule - too many issues to go into here). Pressure point therapy and massage are of great value but I'm not sure this is the focus of discussion. I personally wouldn't recommend acupuncture for this application unless you want to go whole hawg with that and get good, complete training. That isn't something most people want or can afford to do.

So, focusing first on foods, herbs and minerals, and the all-important ability to treat the right ailment with the right medicine. Someone has already mentioned case studies and that is indeed crucial.

Where will you get your medicines? Not everyone can grow or forage for what they need yet that's a very valuable skill. I'd recommend starting out with some foraging for things like dandelion (one of my all time favorites), purslane, chickweed, etc. since those types of herbs are fairly prevalent. Of course the herbs have to be from soil that's not been treated or by the side of the road, so it can take some time.

Take your foraged herb (or purchased as the case may be) and make several preparations with it. For example, dandelion tops and roots have different functions. So make an infusion with the fresh tops and a decoction with the fresh roots. Then dry the roots and tops and repeat. Knowing what the herbs look like fresh and dry is important. You find out real quick that drying a whole root takes a hammer later to break it into small pieces for further use. Make a salve, a tincture, and other preparations from the same plant, which allows you to apply the herb in multiple ways (ingestion, inhalation, topical, etc). I think it's more valuable to know a few herbs or treatments well than know a little about a lot of herbs. Take garlic (yes please!). It is common and effective at treating viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitic infections. Garlic dosage is important for these ailments so there is a lot to learn.

I would start people with basic, common, effective herbs for everyday ailments, then work up in complexity and severity. You don't want someone trying to treat an acute appendicitis with an herb tea or poultice unless you have NO other choice and understand the risk.

This is just scratching the surface though. I love the discussion and different ideas.
3 months ago