Monday, April 07, 2014

Important Bill in the State Legislature to Restore rights to Keep Chickens

Dear Folks,

This bill (SB1151) would restore the right of single family homeowners to keep some chickens (fowl) regardless of city restrictions.  This would not take away a city's right to manage nuisance issues.  Just as homeowners can keep cats or dogs, the right to have some chickens for eggs etc. was a right in the past fully supported and encouraged by the government.

Please, politely, call and email the Speaker and Chairman to have this bill put on the agenda.  Chairman Robson has refused to put it on the agenda.

Please share this with everyone ASAP.

Here is the group supporting this bill Facebook page.

*SB1151 Update 4-6-14* (Our Freedom Must Be Restored)

Everyone needs to understand the importance of SB1151. This is the only Bill that is about Personal Freedom currently in the Arizona Legislature. Every other Bill is attempting to take/regulate something away from you. We need to make sure this is not just about Fowl (there is a big picture here). This Bill is about OUR FREEDOM. If we do not put everything we have into getting it heard and onto a full vote we will see more of our freedoms disappear.

Please tell everyone to help get this done. We need to not get discouraged or feel we can not win. If everyone here took 10 minutes of their time and called these 2 phone numbers along with 2 emails we would have already had a final vote on the Bill in the House and it could possibly be law or currently waiting on the Governor. (but 700+ of you have not even done this) So I ask everyone to else to help and get everyone you know to help. If we can not as a group even step up and make some simple phone calls then why are we a group and why are you a member? Are you hear to have everyone else do things for you? I promise if you do not help this will fail and it will not be the fault of those that have worked hard because so many of us hear have giving it everything we have and more. It will fail because the rest of us hear are not willing to give a few minutes of their time to help. Then when the next law is passed by your city or town and you loose more rights it will also be your fault because you did not stand up and turn this around. The silence of everyone is the reason we loose rights. -DO NOT BE SILENT ANYMORE- The members of the House that are opposed to our Bill are trying to run out the clock. We must put so much pressure on them they can not do this.

We must continue to call and write emails. These are the current two who stand in the way of Freedom. Let them know you want SB1151 heard and you want the Bill brought to a Full House Vote.
At this point we need to focus on these two. *Phone calls* are the most effective tool we have to use and we need to focus all our attention on that on that. If you also email please (cc) COPY both of them on everything we send via-email. We must be respectful we are above political games and we must present our selves this way.

Basics of what to say and or email - You are asking them to put SB1151 on the agenda and asking for them to tell each other to put the Bill on the agenda. This way whomever is writing the agenda will get the message. Tell them this Bill is important for you and important for freedom/property rights. Make it personal and they will remember what you have said. Remember the Assistant that answers the phone does not work for the Representative. The Assistant works for the State of Arizona and was assigned to that member so his/her views could be different from the Member. If you do not want to tell a story tell them you support the bill and would love that the Members allow it to come to a vote. It is very simple and only takes a few minutes of your life

These all who we must contact currently until you hear from me otherwise.

Andy Tobin (Speaker of the House)
(602) 926-5172

Bob Robson (Chairman of the Committee)
(602) 926-5549

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

How Old Buildings and Prisons Can Build on Sourcing Food Locally.

Dear Folks

Old buildings and prisons present opportunities for more sustainable food systems.

As I'm sure you know by now I am passionate about growing some or most of your own foodAlong side community garden projects, I've been reading about re-use of existing infrastructure (empty buildings) and accessible labor (prisoners)

Are you in a true urban city with old industrial areas composed of large brick buildings, or shopping and strip centers with big box retail stores which sit empty for months or years at a time?

Are you a city resident or know some/many who think farming needs to be moved out away from the city to make way for more houses?

Or, in the alternative do you wish there were more fresh food resources close to home, what is commonly called "food deserts"?

Are you interested in prison and prisoner reform?

Here are some things to ponder:

In this 14 minute video Sustainability guru Geoff Lawton features the rustbelts - abandonded factories in America's Northeast and ponders the revitalization possibilities, noting that nature 'wants' to take it back and how citizens can use that concept to reclaim the areas for food production.

. . .

A Washington State professor needed some readily available help/labor to study moss.

"Activities got underway when
Dr. Nalini Nadkarni, a forest ecologist and Evergreen faculty member, met Dan Pacholke, then superintendent of Cedar Creek Corrections Center. Several Cedar Creek staff, offenders and Evergreen students were recruited to participate in the Moss-in-Prison Project. Using prison facilities as a controlled environment, the project explored how to “farm” mosses for the horticulture trade."

From there the project expanded into an amazing partnership which benefits the prisoners, local community, and the college.

The Washington State model is completely applicable here in Arizona, and elsewhere.

With the privatization of prisons, along with its controversies, partnering with colleges is a win/win option to take advantage of labor and at the same time creating an environment that gives prisoners skills and goals during and after prison, all while ultimately benefiting the entire surrounding community.

. . .

Geoff Lawton's vision for reclaiming rustbelts was already started by a project called "Plant Chicago."

The re-use of industrial and retail buildings for hydroponics and aquaponics is always a potential but requires planning and initial costs of equipment along with any upgrades to the buildings.

Approaching the whole project as a sustainable one with reuse of all or most components would make them more cost effective.

Several similar projects to Plant Chicago started off great but failed due to factors such as getting the audience and customer base.  But the failures led to more information and better production systems.

You, my reader, are a potential audience and customer base.  What buildings in your area could be re-used for food production?

Maybe an unused building at a school or church?  Strip center nearby?  Look for possibilities and create an additional food source for your group or community.

. . .

I started this post with the note "Are you a city resident or know some who think farming needs to be moved out away from the city  to make way for more houses?"

I was amazed at an event, where I was to give a lecture on desert edibles, when I heard a young couple ask an SRP representative why so much water was being given to farms instead of used by cities, the idea that farming was taking water from city residents.

I sat with them after that and hopefully helped them understand connecting the dots of food-production-location to things like cost, nutrient density, and healthy options.

In a far-fetched, but troubling scenario, I could envision this kind of mentality as thinking that it would be okay if most or all of our food was imported, since so much is non-seasonally imported now.  Hey, what the heck, we can get peaches in the winter and pears in the summer, or any other food item from other countries regardless of the local season.

The primary problem with that scenario is the loss of control over food quality and resources.  Ask any community in third-world countries substituting an outside sources for their food.  In other words - Food Security.

In addition to growing food in your backyard, increasing the local production of sustainable food resources only benefits the community.

Traditional farming, hydroponics, and aquaponics are all farming techniques - they simply use different media for the growing.

To learn more about aquaponics and hydroponics check out the Valley Permaculture Alliance group.  You can read all posts without signing up.  Sign up is free and allows you to post and answer questions.

The group focuses on the relationship of growing both fish and plants, but the information is helpful to learn more about simply growing plants in water.  AND, if you decide on aquaponics - the fish can be simply for viewing pleasure, you don't have to eat them!

Our recent recession was a real wake-up call to many folks who found themselves out of work and out of money.

Unemployment is capitalism's way of getting you to plant a garden.” -- Orson Scott

Naysayers will likely point out all of the logistic challenges, and one "educator" famously stated a couple of years ago in reaction to LocalFirst efforts - focusing on local producers amounted to "protectionism"!!!!

Encouraging and supporting locally sourced food is protectionism?!?!!?  My foot!

What is clear from an economic standpoint is that shopping with corporate chains means most of your shopping dollar goes out of state, while locally sourced by locally owned companies keeps more of that dollar IN your community.

Shopping at Arizona-based businesses keeps within the state 43 cents of every dollar spent, instead of only 15 cents per dollar spent at national chains."  --"

. . .

Food security is also about the impact of  seemingly opposite problems:  Hunger and Obesity addressed by Ellen Gustafson in the TedX video below.

In her 2000 TedX talk she makes the case for reviewing just how these problems are related, and that simply making crops like corn and soy more high yielding does not address the issue.  In reality the nutrient density of food crops DROPPED over a 43 year period according to USDA statistics sited in an article published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition which charted the decline.  This period included the rise of GMO crops along with the myriad of hybrids created in more traditional methods.

To sum up, access to food is all about who controls YOUR food sources.  You can take control by growing some or most of your own; you can become involved in community gardens; you can join together to form food growing projects like re-using old buildings or even vacant lots for traditional gardening/farming, aquaponics or hydroponics.

It should not take a recession or loss of a job to learn that food does not come from the shelf of a store, subject to economic considerations which have nothing to do with how hungry you and your family might be.

A current political hot topic is Venezuela's issuing of Food ID cards to prevent hoarding and as a probable step toward food rationing.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Equality Through The Centuries

Dear folks,

I'm going out on a limb here with a type of greening post on equality.  I've been keenly following all of the back and forth on the issue of marriage equality and non-discrimination as it relates to the gay community.

For the record I'm committedly straight and in a loving relationship with a wonderful guy.  I have numbered among my friends who are like family some who are gay.

The passionate defense of anti-gay efforts had me wondering just when all those people - particularly women and people of color - learned the history of when they got rights under our Constitution.  So I went and did some research.

I hope you find this opinion piece useful, thoughtful and worth reading and sharing.

. . .

Equal Rights Under the Constitution

A discussion of how rights have been applied.

"Not until the 1970s did the Court extend to women the 14th Amendment's guarantee of "equal protection of the laws"."

The current debate over equal rights for the LBGT community, particularly with regard to marriage and non-discrimination brings to my mind the whole history of how our Constitution's "rights" (to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness) have been interpretted down through the centuries.

All along the way, any non-white, non-male had to prove they had the same rights as the predominately white Anglo-Saxton founders of the revolution.

The lead-in above really illustrates just how difficult it was for any non-white, non-male to not only get the 'right' but also to keep it.

From time to time, the courts have held that there is no 'right' to non-discrimination under the law.  Each group had to "prove" they were some how, in some way, eligible for this 'right'.

"The Constitution of 1787 was neutral with regard to race and sex, thereby leaving the way open to equal protection under the law for women and racial minorities."

But the problem was there were many vested interests (power and money) who wanted the pre-constitution status quo kept in place.

The pre-revolution British use of slaves customarily dictated that no Christian could be kept as a slave and therefore forbade the preaching and conversion to Christianity of any slave.

The monetary benefit to the British and then the Americans was paramount to the continued success of growth and prosperity of the countries.

In a similar vane women were seen as incapable of self-rule.

"Under the common law legal doctrine known as coverture, a married woman in Great Britain's North American colonies and later in the United States had hardly any legal existence apart from her husband. Her rights and obligations were subsumed under his. " --

Women did not get the right to vote until 1919 and did not get "equal protection" under the law until the 1970s.

When Chinese immigrants added to the labor force in the 1800s and were tolerated, then needed and then vilified when sentiments shifted to anti-Chinese laws including the infamous Chinese Exclusion Act and was not repealed until 1943 --

Most people are familiar with the Japanese American Internment Order.  American citizens of Japanese ancestry including whole families were put into prison camps.

"In 1980, Congress established the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) to study the matter.  On February 24, 1983, the commission issued a report entitled Personal Justice Denied, condemning the internment as unjust and motivated by racism and xenophobic ideas rather than real military necessity." --

While all of the racial discrimination is well known because of the civil rights movement, it was not until 1967 that "1967 Supreme Court decision that deemed anti-miscegenation (interracial marriage) laws unconstitutional, with many states choosing to legalize interracial marriage at much earlier dates."  --

Many whites twisted any biblical references to race as "The offspring of interracial unions are no longer God's intended creation."

The 1967 Supreme Court ruling arose out of a lawsuit by an interracial couple who were given the choice of prosecution (punishable by a prison sentence of between one and five years) or leaving the state of Virginia. (Loving v. Virginia) under Virginia's Racial Integrity Act of 1924 (1924) State legislature of Virginia (SB219)

"5. It shall hereafter be unlawful for any white person in this State to marry any save a white person."

It also expanded the scope of Virginia's ban on interracial marriage (anti-miscegenation law) by criminalizing all marriages between white persons and non-white persons.

So now we are at a point in time, and what will be history, over another denial of rights.  It is not a stretch to equate the desire for gay marriage to be legally recognize in the same manner as interracial marriage.

In the original prosecution of  the Lovings the trial judge in the case, Leon M. Bazile, echoing Johann Friedrich Blumenbach's 18th-century interpretation of race, wrote:

"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix."

No sincere person holding Christian beliefs wants to be associated with such cruel and discriminatory uses of law in our past, but it is also important to keep in mind that the so called Christian Identity groups associated with White Supremacist theories all use the bible as the basis for their hate.  Some of these haters are in the frey of anti-gay marriage rhetoric.

Recently the anti-gay-rights group has couched the desire for equality as a grab for more than equal rights.

On the subject of marriage equality the ultra conservative "Christians" claim the recognition of gays to have a legal marriage would take away the meaning of marriage.

At its base marriage, in the United States, is a legal contract with rights and responsibilities assigned to both parties.  They can sue and be sued under these rights and responsibilities.  The IRS for instance can go after either spouse for the tax obligations of the other with no more basis than they are/were married during the time period in question even if one spouse did not know or have control over the money.

Marriage for many people is also a spiritual contract before their God under the authority of not only their religious leader (Priest, Minister, Rabbi, Imam etc.) but it is also a contract permitted by state and US law which gives the religious leader the legal authority to marry within their congregation.

Eventually the right to a legal marriage will be extended to the gay community because in the end it is a legal contract.

But in the mean time those calling themselves Christians who oppose this inalienable right, use foolish-sounding and even less valid arguments than "because I said so."

Everything from incorrect Biblical quotes to outlandish legal arguments that the recognition of gay marriage would somehow cause traditional couples to forgo marriage because it was not 'sacred' anymore and did not focus on the sole purpose of marriage - procreation.

Currently Oklahoma is appealing an overturning of its gay marriage ban law.  "The Alliance Defending Freedom cited courts and anthropologists, saying children are better off in a home with a mother and a father. It said traditional couples would be less likely to marry, or stay together, if marriage became a genderless institution not focused on procreation."

So the question for each individual to consider is how, when the granting of a right they now enjoy to another group, that grant and recognition somehow takes the extant right away.

If a traditional marriage, a hopefully loving bond between a man and a woman, is damaged or destroyed because their gay neighbors are married, what was the basis for the marriage in the first place?


-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Plant Sunflower Houses!

Dear Folks,

If you have children or grandchildren and a spot in the garden, it is time to plant a sunflower house in the desert garden (wait about a month for other areas).

I've mentioned sunflower houses and teepees in other posts and writings.  I first read about them in Susan Lovejoy's wonderful book "Sunflower Houses" a wonderful gardening / teaching tool for children.  You can order the book here.  Either of these "hideaways" will delight your budding gardener.

a) Create Tee Pees using 8-foot garden bamboo poles bundled and tied tightly 1 foot from the top. Prepare the ground for the garden. Spread the legs of the Tee Pee and anchor in the ground. Plant pea, cucumber, or other edible vines at the base of each pole, and allow them to grow and cover the teepee.

b) Sunflower Houses are created using the growing sunflowers for the poles of the house. Prepare the planting area and decide how wide and long you want the house to be  ex. 4' x 6'  and draw the dimensions in the soil, leaving an opening for the 'door.'  Mammoth sunflowers (those that grow over 6 feet) are best for this. Plant the sunflower seeds 2 or 3 to a hole, about 1 foot apart all along the 'walls' of the house. In between the sunflower seeds, sow edible vines like peas or cucumbers. Given the water requirements, creating a trench for the walls will allow flood watering for the growing plants. These houses can be as elaborate as you and your children wish. Plant flower or strawberry beds along the outside walls; herb and flower ground covers inside for a 'carpet' are limited only to the imagination. The vines grow up the sunflowers and if they are enthusiastic enough, will even grow over the top of a narrow room creating a ceiling.

c) do teach the children about bees, leaving them alone and avoiding them when they are "working" the flowers.

I truly believe that if you teach your children to garden they will always have options in their life regardless of jobs or economy.

Have a wonderful time 'springing' into the garden!

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

My books





Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Tell USDA to Protect GMO-Free Producers  - Comment by March 4th

Dear Folks,

This is so important I am going to post here and in my newsletter, so I apologize if you are signed up to receive both for the duplication.

Tell USDA to Protect GMO-Free Producers  

Submit Comments on Proposed Coexistence with GMOs 
Deadline midnight Tuesday - March 4, 2014 

In 2011, the USDA convened an advisory committee to discuss the issue. The topic was labeled "coexistence," based on the assumption that GMO and non-GMO crops can coexist in the same area.

The committee's recommendation????   The advisory committee recommended that farmers buy crop insurance to cover the costs of unwanted GMO contamination - placing the burden squarely and totally on the non-gmo farmer.

USDA is now asking for comments from the public on the issue of coexistence. Tell them it's time to take steps to prevent contamination and put the costs where they belong!

Here is the link to post your comment to USDA!submitComment;D=APHIS-2013-0047-0061

The Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund has some talking points and other information to help you form your comment.


Here is the comment I left:

Currently the burden of protecting non-GMO crops, including organic, from GMO contamination is placed on the farm which is contaminated.  This is at its base totally unfair.

1.   Those who choose to plant GMO crops should absorb the full costs of their actions.  It is their responsibility to prevent contamination just as a pet owner is obligated to keep their dog or other animal from getting out and doing damage to people, property or other pets.

2.   The current USDA recommendation that non-gmo farmers get and pay for crop insurance to cover the cost of contamination is like asking a family to get medical coverage to protect them from the vicious dog next door.

Specifically, I urge the USDA to:

1.    Implement mandatory contamination prevention measures to protect non-GMO agriculture.
2.    Stop allowing the planting of GMO crops whose pollen is easily spread long distances, such as alfalfa and sugar beets.
3.    Place the costs for contamination on the companies that benefit from GMOs, not on the farmers that are trying to avoid GMOs.

Thank you.

Please pass this on to anyone you think has an interest in food safety and shopping options.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Some Great Information Resources and A Couple of Neat Ideas!

Dear Folks,

This is kind of a potpourri of some great information and ideas I have recently come across or which was sent to me.

First up is the great make-a-head salad idea I've seen several times and wanted to share with you in case you have not seen it.

Salad in a Jar!

These will keep for 5-7 days in the frig if you start with very fresh ingredients.  The concept is to keep the dressing away from the more delicate items like tomatoes and leaf greens.

So put any dressing in the bottom of any size jar (pictured is a quart jar).  Next add the sturdier veggies like carrots, celery, radish, peppers, then tomatoes, onions etc. and last the greens.  When you want to have salad up-end the jar on a plate or in a bowl and the dressing "dresses" the salad on the way out.

Another tip for making a head -- I frequently keep chopped onion, celery, carrots, radishes or bell peppers, each in their own jar.  This way it can be a fast soup prep, or one of the things we like a lot is to use tablespoons of one or more as a garnish for hot foods like stews or soups.  The cool fresh crunch with the soft texture of the hot food is a great contrast and adds extra flavor.  Like adding the last bit of basil etc enhances the final flavor foods.

 . . .

Next up I wanted to share the current newsletter from the Urban Farm with you.  You can sign up to get your own copy and enjoy all the great articles and ideas.  Greg Peterson and company have created a great resource for those wanting to more into backyard gardening, chicken raising, etc.  Make sure you check out the Urban Farm app for iPad or iPhone if you have those devices.  A series of ebooks is available through the app and more will be added. (Disclaimer: I am working on a book with Greg which may be added to the app later.)

Urban Farm 

. . .

Another farmers market is coming to the valley, this time in Tempe.  Cindy Gentry, who helped guide the Phoenix Downtown Market is working together with a lot of folks to bring this new market.  It will be held Sundays beginning March 2nd at and 'under' the bridge at Mill Avenue.

"This market is located at the north end of the Mill Avenue Bridge, under the 202 Bridge (just south of the Marquee Theater parking lot and adjacent to the City of Tempe boat storage area at 620 N. Mill."

Their facebook page

. . .

Permaculture and sustainability are not just current buzzwords, but real practices which seek to either maintain a healthy growing environment, or to reclaim and then manage areas for food and wildlife benefit.

Geoff Lawton is one of the masters of the concepts and has some incredibly inspiring information to share.  He teaches courses, including one online.

One of the 'permies' over at the Valley Permaculture Alliance, Jennifer Wadsworth, put together an outstanding collection of short videos by Geoff to give you a real idea of his work.

Geoff Lawton videos

. . .

Speaking of the VPA, so many of the most well-known names of backyard gardening and sustainability like Greg Peterson are part of the group which became VPA because they had a passion to 'grow by example' and then teach.

Membership in the VPA is free, you get to check out forum topics and attend classes on subjects near and dear to the hearts of those who want to grow more easily in the desert garden, or learn how to raise chickens, etc.

Consider joining in the fun sharing of information.  I may be considered and expert in edible landscaping in the desert, but I am constantly learning new things via the VPA.

Valley Permaculture Alliance

Oh and on the subject of chickens -- legislation is now in the State legislature to give single family home-owners the right to raise a few hens.   A bill was introduced into the Senate and passed, and is now on the way to the House.  This bill would give those who want to raise a few chickens in their back yard the right to do so, by limiting what cities and municipalities can regulate.  This would not apply to HOAs.  It is truly aimed at those towns which block a family being able to raise a few hens to help feed their families.  Recently some towns like Chandler repeatedly blocked this 'property right', while it is okay to have dogs which bark constantly.  All cities would still have the right to regulate nusiance issues.  This is about responsible owners of chickens to have more control over their food.

Check out the group page on "home grown freedom" facebook for information about SB1151.

Besides calling your reps etc. have you heard about "Arizona Voices"?

This new 'service' allows you to register and voice your preferences to your representatives on issues meaningful to you.

Check it out here.

I am in the process of doing this myself.  For a long time I thought our Senators and Representatives should have a way for their citizens to 'vote' on things as various bills and ideas are considered, kind of an electronic Town Hall.  Maybe this Arizona Voices service will finally provide it.  We will see.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Free Seed Share - February 21st!

Dear Folks,

The next free seed share is this Friday.
Mesa Community Farmers' Market
Center & University
(Just south of University on the East side of the street)

Friday, Feb 21st – 9 a.m. - 1 p.m.

How It Works:
Choose:    Any seeds we have – small envelopes will be available with pens to select and mark what you want to take home.

Bring:     Any seeds you harvested.  Share any organic or heirloom seeds you purchased.  Focus on edible seed varieties.

What:    No -  GMOs - if you are unsure if the seeds you have are GMO, please just bring yourself to choose seeds available.

Why:    Grow some of your own food, help “your economy,” and share with friends and family.

You Do Not Need To Bring Seeds to participate.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady