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Unicorn Cafe September 2017 Update

 

As I write this newsletter introduction in August, I notice that it is a beautiful spring day. I was able to drink my morning coffee whilst sitting in the garden and the pets enjoyed the break of dawn with me on the garden bench. It was a special moment to be in the now and enjoy the present.Technically we acknowledge the first day of spring on the 1st of September but by noticing the landscape and wildlife around us we can see spring is blooming and breeding is underway.

Your gardens, like ours, may be responding already by gifting brilliant bursts of colour in the form of flowers, new growth on hibernating trees and perhaps you have a few nests around with some flying lodgers.

I wonder if it’s just me or whether many other people think winter seemed to dash past without stopping for a deep conversation. I expected more rain and I fear the current drought may require even better water management skills to be implemented.

Our past newsletters have had a heavy focus on water management and will continue to do so during the ongoing drought however for this spring edition, we will focus mainly on the garden as this is a busy time for those that find food, sanctuary and healing therapy in plants. Our blog section on our website has all the old articles and you can find an article on recycling grey water,and collecting rainwater in the links provided.

We are adding more and more products to our online store. Since our last newsletter, we have added salt lamps, plant based meat alternatives like turkey rolls, bacon, pastrami, biltong, salami, pepperoni, spare ribs and steak. We also added a range of seitan products including herb roast rolls, garlic bites, and red pepper and black sesame seed rolls. We are also very excited to have added all the vegan options that Pesto Princess has to offer.

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Gardening Tips for September

September is the time to plant :

-Amaranth seeds
– Angelica seeds
– Basil seeds
– Beans – Pole/runner seeds
– Beetroot seeds
– Borage seeds
– Bronze Fennel seeds
– Cape Gooseberry seeds
– Capiscu,/Sweet Peppers seeds
– Carrot seeds
– Cauliflower seeds
-Celery seeds
– Chicory seeds
– Chives seeds
– Coriander seeds
– Corn Salad seeds
– Corn Maize seeds
– Cucumber seeds
– Dill seedlings
– Eggplant seeds
– Endive seeds
– Florence Fennel seeds
– French Taragon seedlings
– Ginger
– Jerusalem Artichoke seeds
– Leek seeds
– Lemon Balm seedlings
– Lettuce seeds
– Luffa seeds
– Melon/Cantaloupe seeds
– Mustard greens/Cress seeds
– NZ Spinach seeds
– Onion seeds
– Oregano seedlings
– Parsley seeds
– Parsnip seeds
– Potatoes
– Pumpkin seeds
– Radish seeds
– Rhubarb seeds
– Rocket seeds
– Rosemary
– Sage seeds
– Salsify seeds
– Shallot seedlings
– Spinach seeds
– Spring onion seeds
– Squash seeds
– Strawberry seedlings
– Strawberry plants
– Summer savoury seedlings
– Sunflower seeds
– Sweet Marjorum seedlings
– Swedes/Rutabagas seeds
– Sweet Potatoes
– Swiss Chard seeds
– Thyme seedlings
– Tomatillo seeds
– Tomato seeds
– Turnip seeds
– Watermelon seeds
– Winter savoury seedlings
– Zucchini/Courgette seeds

The summer seed list is long and now is the time to plant as much as you can. Water only when necessary and give moderate amounts to directly sown crops especially in heavier soils. If crops are overwatered, large seeds will rot before germinating and thickly sown crops could be victims to damping-off. You may loosen the soil carefully around perennial crops like globe artichokes, asparagus, rhubarb, and pole lima beans. Generous dressings of compost will prepare your plants for the summer ahead.

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COMMUNAL EFFORT

Communal effort or communal work is where the major goal is not personal but in the benefit of the community. The word Harambee appears in the Kenya coat of arms and translated this means ‘all pull together’ and there are many other translations for this word in many languanges and the importance of this concept is discussed.

The sum of what people can do together far outweighs what one can achieve individually and by embracing community effort, we can benefit individually too on many fronts.You acquire life skills and knowledge by engaging in community. Connecting and communicating with other individuals teaches us a lot about ourselves. We have an opportunity to grow from new experiences and we realise our strengths and weaknesses. We develop better interpersonal communication skills and learn how to share information in a more usable way. Being in different situations can help us discover hidden talents that may change our self worth. You may learn that you have good skills coping with a crisis or stressful situations. Perhaps you struggle to take charge and this experience helps develop skills in leadership, manage time better, work well with a team as well as finding solutions to real world problems with critical thinking.

Community work is a wonderful way to unite people from diverse backgrounds and be exposed to multiculturalism.  We also become aware of issues like social injustice and dispelling stereotypes and as we understand our community, we learn to foster more empathy and self efficacy. As we build bonds of trust and generate social weaves, we are also creating strong support networks with camaraderie and teamwork. We learn about functions and operation of government and local resources that are available to solve community needs. We also save resources by leaving more money to be available for local improvements. Volunteer work sometimes provides services to those who need it the most.

Volunteering is a great way to find work that suits you best because by working in different projects where team players have different roles, you get a better picture of where your interests lie. Volunteer work also looks good on a resume as this shows employers that you are a team player and that you have experience in work related skills. You may even be able to network with future employers and make contacts.

When people work together towards a common goal for the benefit of the community, self esteem improves and these people are more likely to get involved in current events and local affairs. The psychological effects are numerous. Volunteers experience overall life satisfaction and feel good about themselves  because of helping others. Community work decreases depression by interrupting usual tension-producing patterns and focusing on something other than oneself. Community is a strong support system for participants and often they can be physically healthy incorporating exercise like a beach or park cleanup.  Moods like optimism, joy & control over ones fate strengthen the immune system.  A human who tries to better himself and the planet earns the respect of those around.

,

Guerilla House

It’s time we value creative co-operations and collaboration. Let’s produce, promote and protect social networks and by being active members in your community, you will have a long lasting positive effect on society at large

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WHY GROWING YOUR OWN FOOD IS THE MOST NOBLE, SATISFYING, WORTHWHILE, DIVINE, MERITORIOUS THING YOU CAN DO

Growing food

That’s a mouthful but there are so many other words that could be easily slotted into this title. We will expand by explaining how growing your own food will shine your green halo so brilliantly, it will light the way for others to be inspired. I am not surprised that many religious texts and spiritual writings refer to planting and growing. One experiences a little piece of magic when you enjoy the fruits of your own labour from seed to plate.

I cannot think of a more meaningful workout than gardening. Not only does it exercise and build muscles but it is good for your brain and the rest of your body too. Planting greenery brings you out into the fresh air where vitamin D doesn’t need to be swallowed. It stimulates learning and a deeper connection with nature and it has bountiful therapeutic qualities.

The garden is a superb environment to reconnect with nature from the tiniest microscopic organism to the largest wildlife you can accommodate. It doesn’t matter whether you have a large piece of land or just a balcony or enclosed flat, you can still enjoy the healing properties. It relieves stress, it is often a meditative process improving concentration, increasing self awareness, happiness, acceptance and overcoming pain. With some care and attention, your efforts will also bless you with a sense of pride and gratification. It’s a marvellous creative outlet with endless ways to create beauty and self expression and it can also introduce new interests like botany, landscape architecture, nutrition, photography, naturalism and farmers markets to mention a few of many.

Add to the already impressive benefits above, it is purposeful way to spend quality time with loved ones and create a sense of community by connecting with others close by to bulk buy, share information, advice and accomplishments.

Home grown food tastes better and if you grow heirloom (non GMO/non hybrid) varieties in a biologically diverse environment in soil fed with nutrients, your food will be more nutritious.You will also be able to save some seeds from your crops to use for next year. Ta dah! When you save the seeds, you can also swap them for different varieties that you may not have. This is a very important aspect and a right to which we must cling on to for dear life. To read more about why – you can read our previous story about seed biodiversity here.

Growing your own food becomes cheaper and cheaper as you learn more and practice sustainable gardening. As explained above, you can save heirloom seeds for re-use or to swap or gift which means you buy less seeds as your collection grows. There is huge potential to be grow a wide variety of fruit, vegetables and legumes that your local grocery store has never stocked. There is no fresher vegetable than one that is still growing in the ground which means less fridge space and obtaining food is a walk through the garden. This act inspires us to take an interest in the origins of our food and make better choices about what we put on our plates which is a part of conscious eating. Eating more fruit and vegetables can only be a good thing when it concerns your health and the sense of security of knowing whose been near your delicate spinach leaves is invaluable.

The blooms of flowers that will turn into fruit are gorgeous to look at and one can enjoy the sweet  perfumes they emit. There is something very special when you are relaxing in your garden and nearby are hanging grapes or crisp cucumbers, striking red leaves of beetroot or even the flowers from potatoes reminding you of the treasures below. Imagine sitting in the shade of a fruit tree whilst reading a book or watching your loved ones play.

You have been showered with the benefits of gardening for you but let us take a closer look as growing your own food solves many other environmental concerns.

You cut out many carbon emissions by not supporting trade where food is transported to the grocery store by trucks and planes and the fuel you would use driving to the grocery store and driving back again.

By growing organically and maintaining biodiversity in your garden, you can combat soil erosion, cut out pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilisers. That means less air pollution, less water pollution, less body pollution and less pretty birds and other animals dying. You also create less of a demand for monoculture which is a monopoly of bad farming practices designed for maximum profit and not for the health of those consuming these products or for the giving soil that gives up it’s nutrients for these crops. The seeds these corporate giants use are usually genetically modified and their farming practices rely heavily on machinery, water, chemical fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and as a result reduce biodiversity and deplete the soil of nutrients. Geoff Lawton explains this process simply and visually in this informative video below this article

 

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Pesto Princess is here

Pesto Princess
Pesto Princess is here

Pesto Princess staff spend their days making fresh, preservative – free pesto sauces & pastes by hand and cooking vegan soups. These are sold through retail chains and food distributors across South Africa. We still use our original pesto recipe, created 19 years ago, which is highly concentrated, so a little sauce goes a long way. We make our pesto exactly as you would in your own kitchen: by destalking the basil, using only the soft leaves to produce a creamy sauce. .
This way we guarantee there are no ‘nasties’ in your product.
We take full responsibility for the impact our business has on the planet and its people and give sustainable farming practices the royal thumbs up.
We buy our herbs from small-scale farmers wherever possible, who use organic sprays for pest control, and farm sustainably. We love local, and for that reason have ditched the pine nut in favour of cashews and almonds which are grown closer to home.
We use glass jars since they are the best keeper of food products and can be recycled.

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Buddha Bowl

Vegan Buddha Bowl

Vegan Buddha Bowl

A Buddha bowl is a wonderful way to combine nutritious ingredients with the tastiest of dressings. The idea is that you ad lib – experiment with the veggies, nuts, pulses that you have at your fingertips (but try and keep it vegetarian) – and when you sit down to cradle your delicious bowl in your hands, be mindful of the eating experience.

Taste it, enjoy it and celebrate it.

With love from a bustling Palace,
HRH Kathleen 

You will need

2 cups cooked wild or brown rice
440 g can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 Tbsp Pesto Princess Coriander & Chilli Pesto
2 small red or green cabbages, rinsed and quartered
180 g hummus
1/3 jar Pesto Princess Basil & Lemon Pesto
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
Baby gem lettuce
Quick pickled carrots (see recipe below or you can use store-bought kimchi or any pickle of your choice.)
1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
Seed sprinkles – a combination of your favourite seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin and flax

For the pickled carrots
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp each of ground cumin, ground coriander and dried chilli flakes
3-4 medium carrots, peeled
How to

1. To pickle the carrots, heat the white wine vinegar, sugar, salt, ground cumin, ground coriander and dried chilli flakes.

2. Grate the peeled carrots and pour over your hot liquid. Set aside to cool. They can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.

3. Cook your rice according to the packet instructions.

4. Heat the oven to 200°C and line a baking tray with a silicone mat or foil. Toss the drained chickpeas with Pesto Princess Coriander & Chilli Pesto and place onto the baking tray alongside quartered cabbages, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. Bake for ±15 minutes until the chickpeas are golden and slightly crispy.

5. Make a dressing by combining the hummus, Pesto Princess Basil & Lemon Pesto and lemon juice in a blender. Add more liquid (either water or lemon juice) to adjust taste and consistency.

6. Arrange the cooked rice, roasted chickpeas, cabbage, baby gem and avocado in serving bowls, top with pickled carrots and green dressing. Sprinkle over your seeds and serve.

Serves 2

Recipe and food styling by Michelle Parkin.

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GARDENING TIPS FOR AUGUST

 

August is the time to plant :

– Beetroot seeds
– Borage seeds
– Cape Gooseberry seeds
– Capiscu,/Sweet Peppers seeds
– Carrot seeds
– Cauliflower seeds
-Celery seeds
– Chicory seeds
– Corn Salad seeds
– Corn Maize seeds
– Dill seedlings
– Eggplant seeds
– Endive seeds
– Jerusalem Artichoke seeds
– Leek seeds
– Lemon Balm seedlings
– Lettuce seeds
– Mustard greens/Cress seeds
– NZ Spinach seeds
– Onion seeds
– Parsnip seeds
– Pea seeds
– Potatoes
– Radish seeds
– Rhubarb seeds
– Sage seeds
– Shallot seedlings
– Strawberry seedlings
– Strawberry plants
– Swedes/Rutabagas seeds
– Sweet Potatoes
– Swiss Chard seeds
– Tomatillo seedlings
– Tomato seeds
– Turnip seeds
– Zucchini/Courgette seeds

August is a busy sowing month for early summer crops.
Fresh seeds are better for early sowings if conditions are not ideal. Sowings should be made shallow especially with cucurbits. Pay attention to the soil moisture as the ground is still cold. Cucumbers, squash and marrows can be grown under protection or towards the end of the month, directly outdoors. Slugs and snails will be active so be on the look-out.

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MAKING YOUR OWN COMPOST HEAP

MAKING YOUR OWN COMPOST HEAP

In a natural system, living things die and their deaths allow life to be reborn. Plants and other living things die on forest floors and in meadows, and are broken down over time by water, microorganisms, sun and air.

Compost has two main functions. It improves the structure of the soil, which makes the soil easier to work, providing good aeration and water retention characteristics. It also makes the soil more resistant to erosion. Compost also recycles and provides nutrients for plant growth. In addition,  its organic acids make nutrients in the soil more available to plants. Carbon, nitrogen, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, phosphorus, potash and trace minerals maintain the biological cycles of life. Fewer nutrients leach out in soils with enough organic matter.

If soil only consisted of rock meal, it would be infertile. The fertility depends on the amount of organic matter or humus present in the soil as well as the effective micro-organisms and soil nutrients.

Healthy soil means healthy plants and healthy plants are more resistant to diseases and insect attacks. Ensuring you have fertile soil is a far better way to grow food than using poisons that kill beneficial soil life.

Composting is simply speeding up the processes that occurs in nature and it involves some fundamental principles. These principles are the provision of air, moisture and warmth in order to create an ideal environment for the fungi and bacteria that are responsible for the decomposition and breakdown of the raw materials.

There are many methods of making compost heaps and different recipes for layering your pile. Spring and Autumn are ideal times to make a compost heap as biological activity is high during these periods and it should not be too hot nor too cold for microbial life in the pile. We thought it would be a good idea to include this article to give you time to make before the onset of Spring.

Many households throw away things that can be turned into this black gold and this is why we are about to explain how to build a simple and effective compost heap.

You don’t need any fancy equipment or containers, however you may use them if you wish. It is also a good idea to build a compost pile on an unused growing bed so the next crop grown in that bed will pick up and utilize any nutrients that leached out from the pile and into the soil. When the next season comes, you can build a compost pile on another unused bed.

Here’s the process step by step:

1. Loosen the ground, where the pile will be, to about 30cm deep with a fork or hoe.

2. Lay down brush, woody materials and other roughage for air circulation.

3. Add about 5cm of mature material like dry weeds, leaves, straw, hay and old garden wastes. Water it thoroughly.

4. Add about 5cm of immature material like fresh weeds, grass clippings, hedge trimmings, green cover crops and kitchen wastes you have saved. Water well.

5. Cover lightly with  about 1 or 2cm of soil to prevent flies and odours.You will want to do this straight after adding the immature material. Moisten the soil.

6. Add new layers of mature vegetation, immature vegetation and soil. Water the pile regularly until it is ready for use. You can also cover your compost heap to protect it from too much rain or too much sun.

7. Let the pile cure for 3 – 6 months while you are building a new pile. Turn the pile once for faster decomposition. A 1.2 meter pile will reduce to 30 – 40 cm when it is ready to use.

When you turn the compost pile, make the base of the new pile smaller than the original base to give the turned pile more internal volume and less surface area.

If you are not ready to use your compost when it is fully cured, stop watering it and spread it out to dry.

Always be sure to add at least 3 different kinds of crops to your compost piles. Different microbes flourish in specific kinds of crops. The result of this crop diversity is microbe diversity in the soil, which ensures better soil and plant life.

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PROTECTING OUR SEED BIODIVERSITY

PROTECTING OUR SEED BIODIVERSITY

Seed diversity is essential to securing our own food, especially now when we are experiencing the onset of climate change. We need seeds with many traits (like early ripening and resistance to drought) to make them more adaptable to changes in the weather.

Small scale farmers provide 70 % of the seed of food grown in Sub-Saharan Africa. Some of their seeds have become drought resistant and seeds can be saved and used year after year.

When we plant seeds, we can produce our food for the coming year and use the seeds again to grow more crops. However, all of that is changing and we need to protect our heirloom seeds.

Seeds have been an open access, common resource for millennia, developed and improved through the efforts of countless generations of people.

In the 1980’s, there were thousands of independent seed companies across the world. A lot of these companies had history dating back to the 1800’s and early 1900’s which was linked with the history of the region they operated in. Sadly, most of these companies are no longer present. In less than 20 years, fewer than 10 multinational companies have engulfed hundreds of seed companies and the rights to grow most of the common staple foods that we eat. The top 10 companies now own 75% of the global seed market.

There are further acquisitions underway. The big players were Monsanto (owning 26% of all seeds), DuPont (19%), Syngenta (8%), Dow (4%), and Bayer (3%). Syngenta was bought by state-owned Chem-China for $43 billion and Monsanto accepted an offer by Bayer for $66 billion – the highest bid ever offered in the seed industry. This massive transaction still needs to be approved by the anti-trust authorities in several countries. (An anti-trust authority is an independent professional authority working to protect the public from harms to competition, for the good of the public.) Dow and DuPont have also merged. This was finalised on the 9th of June 2016.

These consolidations mean that these few companies can decide prices which affect our food prices. They can also determine the seed varieties on the market. When the seed company Seminis was purchased by Monsanto, it dropped more than one third of its seed catalogue (which included 2,500 fruit and vegetable varieties) as a cost-saving measure. They can also determine the conditions of growth for the seed varieties they collectively own – a dangerous situation.

These seed giants manage patents and intellectual property rights and they make agreements with governments and public institutions, having a strong influence on laws, regulations and treaties. Small scale farmers are being criminalised for propagating seeds, and are being forced to buy new seeds every year due to hybrid varieties and genetically modified seeds. A hybrid plant is created when different parent plants are crossed. In order to retain the special qualities of that hybrid plant, it must be cross-bred with original parent plants.

Philip Howard, who is an associate professor at the Michigan State University in the Department of Community Sustainability, explains that it is quite possible for 3 companies to eventually own 60% of all seeds. Whilst it may seem to the consumer that these companies are in competition with each other, they actually become like each other and in this scenario, it takes one company to signal an increase in prices and the other company/companies will follow suit. You can watch this interview here.

This monocultural business promotes monoculture farming. This means huge fields of one type of crop which deplete soil nutrients and require chemical fertilisers which kill the essential life forms in the soil. These monoculture farm fields also require pesticides. The large monocultural companies sell pesticides too, and also genetically modify seeds to tolerate harmful herbicides (like Roundup) which kill plants, weeds, and harm crucial insects needed to pollinate  plants.

South Africa had to import millions of metric tons of maize due to our drought, and food prices are continually on the rise. We, the consumers, have to live with the long-term negative health effects of chemical residues and pesticides. This type of farming is heavy on our water resources and bad for the environment.

Our farmers are in danger of being pushed out of the market and becoming obsolete. The government-run farmer subsidy programme supports hi-tech solutions such as mono-crops, fertilisers, pesticides and genetically modified seeds. The big companies get a secure market, but little is left over for sustainable farming and small-scale farmers are falling into debt.

The good news is that the legislative process in South Africa is still evolving and there are opportunities to protect the small seed farmer in new laws. Farmers are networking to promote agro-biodiversity and people are contributing toward The Submission on Plant Improvement and Plant Breeders’ Rights Bills.The deadline for contributing to this submission ends on the 12th of August so please contribute if you haven’t already done so. The African Centre for Biodiversity has conscientiously prepared a document for you  to make the submission quickly and easily. You can click here to add your voice and increase this movement’s strength.

To read and hear about some inspirational farmer’s stories in this difficult and challenging time, click here