Saturday, May 09, 2020

Vegan And Gluten Free Banana Muffin Tops
With Blueberries And Walnuts
A Nice Surprise For Mother's Day Breakfast!

Muffin tops make a great breakfast or snack.

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Yes, we're still baking! You see, there was one overripe banana and a brand new muffin top pan that my friend Margarite introduced me to. Doug's vegan banana walnut bread is always amazing so we cut the ingredients in half (since muffin tops are smaller than muffins), added blueberries, and made these little gems. For more of a dessert muffin top, you can trade the blueberries for dark chocolate chips.

(Hey kids and dads, these would be a great treat for mom for Mother's day breakfast. They would be delightful with a mimosa!)

I heard about muffin tops last year when my sister-in-law Patti introduced me to ones made with zucchini but I didn't realize they actually had special pans for these things. But Margarite, who has every kitchen gadget known to man, of course had one. She uses it to make these delicious grain free muffins, which I will share with you at a later date, but after seeing this cool new pan, I had so many things I wanted to make in it. My first idea was to make corn muffins. Great idea but for some reason they came out like hockey pucks. I'll have to work on that one a bit more. But these banana muffin tops came out great! 

Wilton Muffin Top pan

                         *                                      *                                  *                                    

Banana Muffin Tops with Blueberries and Walnuts
Vegan, Dairy and Gluten Free
[makes 12 muffin tops]

REQUIREMENTS
Muffin Top Pan
Electric hand beater

INGREDIENTS
1 tablespoon ground flaxseeds
3 tablespoons water
2 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil plus some for pan
2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons applesauce
1 very ripe banana, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla 
1 cup Bob's Red Mill 1:1 gluten free baking flour
1/2 teaspoon stevia powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup fresh blueberries
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease the pan with cooking spray, olive oil, non-dairy butter or coconut oil.

Make the flax egg. Combine the ground flax seeds and water in a small bowl. Beat vigorously with a fork until gooey. After a minute or so, beat again. Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, stevia powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix well and set aside.

In a larger mixing bowl, combine the oil, sugar, applesauce, mashed banana, and vanilla. Beat with an electric beater until well blended. 

Beat in the flax egg.

Add the flour mixture and beat until incorporated. 

Using a spatula, fold in the blueberries and the walnuts.

Scoop the mixture into the prepared muffin top pan. Bake in the oven for 17 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean and the tops are slightly browned.

Cool the pan on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes and serve warm with vegan cream cheese.


Before baking


We baked ours for about 18 minutes

Happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there!
 

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Baking Brings Comfort
Applesauce Cake With Walnuts
Gluten Free and Vegan

This yummy cake is vegan and gluten free!

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Baking 
While people are sheltering in place during this pandemic, many have turned to baking. What's more comforting than the the smell of cinnamon wafting throughout the house? But as comforting as baking is, it can definitely contribute to the "quarantine 15", the expression referring to the pounds we are putting on. So this recipe uses far less sugar and fat than most. It's also gluten free.

Egg Shortages
First it was toilet paper, now it's eggs! With all the home meals and baking, people are now hoarding eggs, if they can find them. Well, you don't need eggs to bake a cake. Flax eggs work just as well (actually better) in this recipe while providing a nice boost of Omega-3 fatty acids. 

Miyoko did it Again!
I also am happy to report that Miyoko's new vegan butter made with oat milk is absolutely delicious. I also love her original stick vegan butter but had to give this one a try. Either one works well in this recipe.

My favorite dairy-free butter

              *                                 *                                *                                  *
Applesauce Cake with Walnuts
Gluten and Dairy Free, Vegan
[makes 12 servings]

REQUIREMENTS
Electric beater
8" x 8" baking pan

INGREDIENTS
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds *
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons water *
2½ cups Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 gluten free baking flour
1½ teapoons baking soda
¾ teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
1 scant teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon stevia powder **
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon softened vegan butter or coconut oil
½ cup light brown sugar
1½ cups applesauce
½ cup non-dairy milk or orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped raw walnuts

* Ground flax seeds and water can be replaced with 2 large eggs.
** I add the stevia for extra sweetness without the calories but you can omit and increase the brown sugar to ¾ cup.

Bob's Red Mill 1:1 already contains xanthan gum.
If you use regular GF flour, you will need to add
a teaspoon of xanthan gum to this recipe.

DIRECTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease the pan with cooking spray, non-dairy butter or coconut oil.

Make the flax egg. Combine the ground flax seeds and water in a small bowl. Beat vigorously with a fork until gooey and set aside. After a minute or so, beat again.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and stevia powder. Mix well and set aside.

In a larger mixing bowl, combine the softened butter, sugar, applesauce, non-dairy milk and vanilla. Beat with an electric beater until well blended. 

Beat in the flax egg (or regular eggs.)

Add the flour mixture and beat until incorporated. 

Using a spatula, fold in the walnuts.

Pour into the prepared baking pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Cool the pan on a rack and serve. 

Gluten Free recipes with less oil tend to crack.
No worries, they are still delicious!
I was inspired to make this so that I could use up some of
the applesauce that we canned from our apple tree.



Saturday, April 11, 2020

Natural Approaches to COVID-19
From Dr. Andrew Weil
And Center For Integrative Medicine

Supplements are part of a regimen to boost your immune system.

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Last Tuesday I listened to a live lecture with Dr. Andrew Weil, Dr. Randy Horwitz, Dr. Lise Alschuler and Dr. Esther Sternberg on Integrative Approaches to Covid-19. Let me try to summarize some of the knowledge they shared. The key theme was how to build your own immune system and strengthen your body's nature forces to fight off this deadly virus.

Dr. Andrew Weil 
Dr. Weil introduced the speakers and offered several suggestions of his own:

* Good nutrition, plenty of rest and sleep, and a positive mental state all contribute to building a strong immune system.

* Too much stress lowers your immunity and makes you more vulnerable to disease. One way to lower your stress is to do breathing exercises. He recommends the 4-7-8 breath.
Here's a link on how to perform his famous breathing technique. 

* Dr. Weil also highly recommends laughter. I know, it's hard to laugh during times like this but there are plenty of jokes flying around the internet these days so enjoy them!

Dr. Randy Horwitz
Dr. Horwitz explained a bit about the virus and the mechanisms of infection: 

* Although you can fit 700-1000 Covid-19 viruses across a human hair, it is considered rather large for a virus.  It is moderately highly infectious and virulent. The virus has one goal and that is REPRODUCTION and to take over the world. 

* The Achilles heal of the virus is its envelope. Made up of fats and proteins, it can be dissolved by soap. This is why we are being told to wash our hands with soap and water as it is very effective in destroying the virus.

Pre-Infection Stage
* The best thing to do to reduce the chances of being infected is to limit exposure. So sheltering in place and social distancing is very effective. 

* Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is also key - get plenty of sleep as sleep deprived people are more susceptible to the virus. Good nutrition, lowering stress, and taking selected supplements are also very important (we will talk more about supplements later.)

Viral Infection Stage
Here's what happens during the infection stage:

* The Covid-19 virus sneaks inside your cell and shoots in the virus's blueprint. Each of your cells has its own blueprint of what it is supposed to be replicating but the virus hijacks your cell's factory to copy its blueprint and now has changed the instructions. 

* The virus infects the cells of the upper respiratory system. The hijacked cells of your upper respiratory system releases new virus and destroys the ciliary cells. This is what causes the cough associated with Covid-19. 

* There are several things that can happen from here: One, your strong immune system could stop it or a weakened immune system may not be able to stop it and the virus could enter the lungs, replicate, and lead to pneumonia.

* Once this happens, the immune cells in the lungs become activated and go into overdrive. Fluid fills the alveoli (the little sacs that that line the lungs that allow the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide molecules to and from the bloodstream) and this prevents adequate gas exchange. 

* Now all hell is breaking lose. The macrophages in the lungs grab the virus and send out help signals to the body to send cytokines to help. 

* When the cytokines that increase immune activity become too abundant, the immune system goes into overdrive and starts to attack heathy cells. This is called a cytokine storm. The blood vessel walls get leaky and the lungs fill with fluid. Blood clots can also form throughout the body, further reducing blood flow. This leads to decreased oxygen and respiratory failure. 

* There is a fine balance to prevent a cytokine storm without inhibiting viral immunity.

Dr. Lise Alschuler
Dr. Alschuler discussed supplements. Although none of these recommendations are proven with respect to Covid-19, she recommended those with the highest likelihood of benefit and the lowest possible risk.

She discussed the 3 components to prevention. 1. Block viral docking, 2. Inhibit viral replications, and 3. Increase innate immunity.

Prevent Viral Entry and Docking
* The Covid-19 virus gets into human cells by targeting a specific receptor called ACE2 found on certain cells. Certain vitamins and supplements may be able to block ACE2 receptor binding:
    - Astragulus may be helpful in decreasing ACE2 receptor activity.
    - Quercetin binds to ACE2 receptors, taking the space that the virus is targeting.
    - Vitamin D3 reduces ACE2 activation
    - Elderberry inhibits viral attachment in a different corona virus and may do the same thing with Covid-19.

Reducing Viral Replication
    - Zinc reduces viral replication.
    - Quercetin acts as a zinc chelator and helps facilitate bringing zinc into the cells.
    - EGCG, found in green tea, also acts as a zinc chelator.
    - Elderberry inhibits replication of a different corona virus and may do the same thing with Covid-19.

Improving Innate Immunity
    - Vitamin D activates innate immune cells but too much can cause an overactive inflammatory response (or a cytokine storm) and cause a damaging response in the lungs. (Test for 25-hydroxy vitamin D. Deficiency is less than 30 nmol/L. Potential deficiency is between 30 and 50 nmol/L and normal levels are between 50 and 100 nmol/L.)
    - Vitamin C regulates pro-inflammatory cytokines.
    - Curcumin can also help surpress a cytokine storm.
    - Melatonin may reduce lung damage during the viral infection.
    - 7 to 10 servings of vegetables a day provides immunity boosting flavonoids.
    - Other supplements that help boost immunity include garlic, ECGC from green tea, quercetin, and mycelium extract.
    
Dr. Esther Sternberg 
Dr. Sternberg discussed the impact of stress and making your home a healing place.

A certain amount of brain stress is necessary and beneficial for peak performance but excess stress can lead to disease. The stress response strongly effects the immune system and chronic stress increases the frequency of viral infections and accelerates aging.

Reducing Stress
Dr. Sternberg's suggestions on reducing stress:
* Take control as best you can even though we are in a situation where many people feel out of control.   

* Focus on your own expertise and take that stress energy and turn it into something to help others. For example, today, instead of freaking myself out watching the news, I'm spending time sharing this good information with you!

*  Have virtual social gatherings. The other night we had a virtual cocktail hour with some friends that we hadn't seen in a while and it was really fun catching up. And we didn't have to drive across town, clean up the house or dress up. This might become a thing!

* Get a good night's sleep. EVERY speaker discussed this so it's super important. Increased activity helps improve your sleep. Circadian lighting where you expose yourself to bright sun light sometime between 8am and noon and reduce exposure to light in the evening, helps the body produce melatonin and enhances good sleep. 

* Exercise is a great stress reducer. So if it's allowed, get out of the house for a walk or run while remaining socially distanced. I myself dance to zumba tapes.

* Do Mind Body activities such as meditation, yoga, and breath exercises like the 4-7-8 breath Dr. Weil suggested above.

* Maintain a healthy diet. I have over 600 posts of healthy recipes in this blog so you can start here.

* Spiritual activities can greatly help stress. These are not always tied to religion - mine involve plants and gardening and appreciating the beauties of the universe and each other.

I hope this summary helps you understand more about Covid-19 and ways to strengthen your body to help prevent and fight this deadly virus.




Sunday, April 05, 2020

How To Make Your Own Muesli

Use as a topping for fruit, yogurt and ice cream
or eat as a cereal

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As millions shelter in place  during this horrible pandemic, many people have returned to their kitchens. I've always thought that cooking is the single best thing you can do for your health and hopefully, when this passes, people will continue to prepare their own meals.

Here's a simple recipe that we make all the time. 

This Muesli is a mixture of rolled oats and lots of my favorite nuts and seeds. It makes 7 cups so there's plenty to refrigerate and enjoy for many weeks, although it doesn't last too long in our home. You can also freeze it and it will keep for months. 

I have been trying to avoid going to the grocery store, or at least limiting my trips as best I can, so I have been buying lots of my ingredients on the internet. I figure most of the virus has lost its potency during the transit time so I only have to worry about the UPS or postman who carried the box to my door. Nuts.com has a great selection of nuts, seeds, grains, dried fruits and more so I bought most of the ingredients for this muesli from them.

Nuts.com has a great selection of nuts, seeds, grains and more.
                  
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Muesli
Vegan, Dairy and Gluten Free
[makes 7 cups]

Requirements
Large rimmed cookie sheet or shallow baking pan

Ingredients
4 cups gluten free rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup hemp seeds
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 scant teaspoon iodized salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 or 2 packets of stevia (optional)
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

Place the oats, coconut, almonds, sunflower and hemp seeds, walnuts, salt, cinnamon and stevia in a large rimmed cookie sheet or shallow baking pan. Carefully mix up the ingredients with a large spatula. 

Drizzle the vanilla, maple syrup and melted coconut oil over the oat mixture. Mix together with the spatula until the oats are well coated.

Some people do this first step of mixing all the ingredients in a large bowl and then pouring them onto a pan lined with parchment paper but I'm too lazy to wash the extra bowl and I find that the muesli doesn't stick all that much to the pan.

Place in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring half way through, until the oat mixture is lighted toasted. Don't overcook. 

Let cool completely before storing.

Enjoy as a cereal or a topping for fruit, ice cream, yogurt, applesauce, and more. As a treat for your kids (or yourself), place some in a small bowl and dip a peeled banana in the muesli between each bite! 

Bake until lightly toasted and fragrant


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

5 Tips For Coping With The Covid-19 Pandemic

Tip #1 - Make lots of soup and freeze it!

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Sheltering in Place
At this writing, as the pandemic is spreading across the world, a third of the United States has been told to stay home and isolate. The stress of waiting in isolation might naturally drive us to sit on the couch, watch the news 24/7 and eat "comfort food." Since we might be in this for the long haul, here are a few things to do to get you off the couch.

TIP #1 - Make Soup
A large percentage of the population will get the virus but not all will become seriously ill. That said, many of us will get sick, be home alone or with another family member who is also likely to be sick.  And since we are all isolated, no one will come over and take care of you. So while we are feeling good, make soup. Make LOTS of soup and freeze it. Just start with some sautéed onions, celery, and garlic. Add lots of water or broth and spices like 1 or 2 bay leaves, some thyme, oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Fresh ginger is a good addition or sometimes I just steep in a few ginger tea bags. Add your favorite beans. (If you eat meat, throw in some chicken thighs and cook for 20 minutes.) Then start adding vegetables like carrots, peas, corn, kale, green beans, a can of tomatoes, etc. Simmer until the vegetables are soft but not mushy, squeeze some fresh lemon juice into the pot. Cool and freeze. Do not add pasta or rice until you defrost and serve it. 
I have dozens of soup recipes on this blog that you can try also.

TIP #2 - Develop a Routine
After a week of total paralysis, thinking every sniffle and allergy symptom I had was the virus, I finally resumed my daily work schedule. I have a business I do from home and I also help my daughter with her business remotely. Cooking, exercising, and gardening also takes up my time. So I put a to do list together after my morning tea and schedule my day. The schedule keeps me busy and lessens my stress. Give it a try.

TIP #3 - Plant a Garden
If you are lucky enough to have a little yard, start growing your own food. This pandemic will not completely go away until a vaccine is developed and everyone is inoculated. That could take well over a year. Growing food will lessen your need to go to the grocery store and expose yourself to others who may be carrying the virus. If it's still too cold in your area, you can start seeds at home under a grow light.


HOW TO BUILD A RAISED BED GARDEN BOX
BUILDING A RAISED GARDEN WITH WATER TROUGHS

TIP #4 - Self Care
It's more important than ever not to get sick or hurt yourself. Why? Because doctors and hospitals are too busy with Covid-19 patients to see you. So do everything you can to stay healthy.
  * Consume Immune Boosting Foods and Herbs - Include mushrooms, raw garlic and ginger in your diet as well as antioxidant-rich colorful fruits and veggies. Culinary herbs such as oregano, thyme, and rosemary have great antiviral and immune system boosting properties. 

  * Gentle Movement - You're home or out getting some fresh air while social distancing. So you may be thinking, "what a great time to get in shape!" Please avoid overdoing it. If you haven't been running or doing vigorous exercise before the pandemic, start slowly. Remember, if you sprain your ankle or pull your back out, your doctor is not available! Gentle movement will help pump your lymphatic system and boost the production of immune cells that actively protect us against viruses and bacteria. 

  * Dental Care -  Many dentists have temporarily closed their offices during the pandemic so take especially good care of your teeth. You are home so it's easy to brush after every meal. Floss every day and try not to chip a tooth on hard foods. Doug made popcorn the other night and I was super careful not to eat the unpopped kernels for fear of knocking out a crown!

TIP #5 - Try to Disconnect
It's very important to stay informed but don't do it 24/7. The news is grim as the cases skyrocket and you worry about your loved ones spread across the world. Catch up on it periodically but try and detach a bit. I have an especially hard time with this one.

Of course you have heard about keeping your distance, washing your hands often, and not touching your face so I don't need to harp on that. But I will say, TAKE THESE MEASURES SERIOUSLY! And please everyone, STAY SAFE. 




Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Avoid The Grocery Store With Pantry Chili

Easy recipe with simple pantry ingredients.

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What a Time This Is
Are you feeling like our world has been turned upside down? With the fear of you or a loved one getting ill or facing the inevitable economic toll of this pandemic, and the necessary social isolation, how could you not? 

There are so many implications from this crisis that effect us. This week, my daughter had to cancel her wedding. It was devastating to both of us. But so far, we are all healthy so putting it in prospective, we will have the wedding in better times - the most important thing is to stay well and stay positive.

So how do we cheer ourselves up? It’s not easy but one way is to focus on things that you enjoy doing or attack this situation as an adventure. The biggest thing that calms me and brings me joy is cooking. Food is comfort and stocking our pantry and planning for less frequent visits to the grocery store takes some planning and can be a fun challenge.

I stocked our pantry with lots of beans, both canned and dry. I bought rice, pasta, quinoa, polenta, oats and other grains. Canned salmon, anchovies and sardines can provide lots of omega-3 and canned clams provide a high amount of vitamin B12. If you have room in your freezer, buy frozen vegetables as they have nutrients as potent as fresh and less sodium than canned. Of course buy fresh vegetables if they are available and you are still able to get to the grocery store. But keeping a stocked pantry and freezer is important in this time of uncertainty.

Here’s an easy recipe where, except for the onion, has ingredients that are readily found in your pantry. I made this for lunch today with pinto and great northern beans but feel free to substitute those with black beans, kidney or any of your favorite beans. Beans are a great source of protein and fiber!

The spice in this chili comes from the Rotel tomatoes. They come in three flavors – original, mild and hot. I prefer Rotel original since it has just enough spice for me. You can enjoy a bowl of this chili as is or serve it over a grain, pasta, or a baked potato.

Use two cans of your favorite beans,
a can of corn and Rotel tomatoes
  

Don't drain the beans or the corn.
Their liquids add to the base of the chili


PANTRY CHILI
Vegan, Dairy and Gluten Free
Makes 6 Servings

INGREDIENTS
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1½ cups chopped onion
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 can pinto beans with its juice
1 can great northern beans with its juice
1 can corn niblets with its juice
1 can Rotel tomatoes, original flavor

DIRECTIONS
In a 5-quart Dutch oven, heat the olive oil. Add the chopped onions and sauté on medium-low heat until they soften, 5 to 8 minutes, but do not brown. Stir in the garlic powder and chili powder.

Add the cans of beans and corn with their juices and the Rotel tomatoes. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Cook uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes until the chili is heated through and slightly thickened.

Serve as is or over rice, quinoa, polenta, your favorite pasta, or a baked potato. I like to add a dollop of vegan Tofutti sour cream.

Enjoy!









Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Building A Raised Garden With Water Troughs

Water troughs make great raised beds!

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Raised Garden Boxes
One of our most popular posts was How to Build a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden Box, that I posted in 2010. This post showed how to make garden boxes out of redwood. Nine years later, these boxes are still standing. I have to restain the wood every few years, but they are holding up pretty well. 
Building a raised garden box from redwood.

But when we decided to replace a thousand square feet of back lawn with more garden boxes, we wanted to do something that was easier. We had seen lots of those bright silver water troughs used as planters and thought that we could make them look a lot better with some paint. So here's what we did.

We purchased 7 water troughs that are 3' x 6'. Since they nest them when stored, they aren't all the same size. Keep that in mind when picking them out.

Step 1 - wash them well, inside and out, with soap and water. The inside because you will be growing your food in them and the outside to get the paint to adhere to them.

Step 2 - paint the troughs. We used Hammered Copper by Rust-Oleum. We brushed and rolled it on rather than buying the spray cans. It took two coats and around 3/4 of a can per trough. We didn't paint the lip to avoid painting inside the growing area.
Rust-Oleum Hammered Copper.


Step 3 - drill holes in the bottom of the trough. We used a drill bit that was less than 1/4" and we drilled a hole every 6 to 9 inches. Vacuum up the shavings. 

Step 4 - turn them over and cover the bottom of the trough with weed cloth to prevent the dirt from pouring out of the holes.

Step 5 - insert irrigation tubing. There is a hole at the bottom of the trough that you can use to slide the irrigation tubing through. Use whatever irrigation system you like - just set it up before you add the dirt.


Step 6 - add the dirt. It takes about a yard of compost per 3' x 6' trough. To that we mix in earthworm castings, Biochar, glacial rock dust, and mycorrhizae. We usually mix in some native dirt, but for these, we used all compost. See my husband's Magic Dirt Formula.

Step 7 - finish your irrigation and plant your veggies!

To prevent weeds, we also placed weed cloth over then entire garden area. We then covered it with about 6 1/2 tons of gravel.


I also place a few ceramic pots filled with herbs and flowers around the garden area to give it some color.
Pots with rosemary, lemon thyme
and geraniums.

Growing your own food is great! I take a basket out every morning and "shop" in my garden for our daily meals. If you have any room at all in your yard - even your front yard, put in some raised beds and start growing your food. Grass is a waste of water. We've ripped every inch of lawn out from our front and back yards which are now all covered in fruit trees and vegetable gardens. We also have a few acres of Pinot Noir plants which yielded 7 tons of grapes last year. I grew up in a small apartment in New York City and always had a dream of living in the country and farming. My dream became a reality 11 years ago when we moved to Sebastopol and turned 3 acres of dirt into our farm!