Agafia’s Taiga Life: Alone in Siberia


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In 1936, a family of Russian Old Believers journeyed deep into Siberia’s vast taiga to escape persecution and protect their way of life. The Lykovs eventually settled in the Sayan Mountains, 160 miles…


This video tells the tale of a remarkable woman who is truly living “off the grid” under conditions most of us can barely imagine. Everyone who dreams of homesteading needs to watch this. Seeing her tenacity and fortitude, along with a glimpse into the harsh reality of her everyday life, has given me much to think about since I first viewed this a few days ago. Who among us could survive as she has?

See on Scoop.itreNourishment

These People Turned an Abandoned Stable Into Their Dream Home – Village Green Network


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Here’s an inspiring story about turning an old dilapidated shelter into a gorgeous off-grid home. Full of great ideas!


Working with the sun, water, gravity and nature, appreciating and building upon the knowledge of the farmer who sited the original structure, these two created what may be the perfect home. The brilliance of the project unfolds as the video progresses.

Everything New Is Old Again

See on Scoop.itBon Vivant

Jewish-American deli food is suddenly the rage, as younger cooks mix tradition and reinvention.

Alice Ruxton Abler‘s insight:

Although this article didn’t touch upon the health benefits of traditional foods, it did address the deliciousness of the cuisine of their ancestors. Glad some are rediscovering and preserving this important knowledge for future generations. And by the end of the article, I was salivating! Be sure to enjoy the pictures in the slideshow.

From the article: 

The chefs and artisans behind these new enterprises are embracing the quickly disappearing foods of their grandparents — blintzes and babka, kasha and knishes — and jolting them back to strength with an infusion of modern culinary ideas. Those foods became punch lines in the 1970s, when the health consequences of a steady diet of meat, salt, bread and cream became apparent, and when strong, smelly foods like garlic dill pickles and herring with raw onion seemed dated, even embarrassing. “Food rejection was part of the assimilation process,” said Devra Ferst, editor of the food blog The Jew & The Carrot.

But now, as the values of the food revolution (fresh, local, sustainable, seasonal) have inspired a whole generation of young Jewish-Americans, they have found ways to bring the two camps together. “Kosher food didn’t reflect our generation or our tastes,” said Mr. Yoskowitz; he and his partner, Liz Alpern, are 29. “And modern food didn’t reflect our history.”

. . .

Their goal is preservation, closely followed by improvisation. They are learning to smoke fish, ferment pickles and bake pumpernickel bread in the ways their ancestors did. They are holding pop-up Sabbath dinners on Friday nights, where the challah might be swirled with Cheddar or drizzled with harissa oil. And in kitchens and social media, they are building a hive of relationships, skills and ideas that can be described as a virtual shtetl.

Continue reading the main story 

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Never Thought A Billboard Could Be Used This Way!

See on Scoop.itreNourishment

An innovative way to supply potable water in an area where there is only .51 inches of rainfall annually.

Alice Ruxton Abler‘s insight:

Lack of clean, potable water is the cause of disease and death worldwide, and some engineers at U-Tec in Peru have been working on ways to help. This U-Tec project may look like an ordinary billboard, but it is actually an innovative way to supply potable water to villagers in a desert area with almost no annual rainfall. Of course, it would only work where the humidity level is high enough, but perhaps this could be duplicated in similar areas and save untold lives. 

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Mothers’ Milk: More Than Meets the Eye?


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See on Scoop.itreNourishment

Alice Ruxton Abler‘s insight:

I attended a symposium on the safe production of raw milk recently at Chico State University and was fascinated by the presentations of each of the speakers. A common theme relating to health is that raw milk has undeniable health-promoting qualities that we don’t yet understand. Dr. Bruce German,  a well-respected, widely-published researcher (one that I’ve quoted in other articles) and founder of the International Milk Genomics Consortium, detailed ways that raw milk is responsible for all human life on the planet. One of his associates, Dr. Danielle Lemay, was also at this meeting. Some of her words inspired this article about a surprising quality of human milk. Click through to read more!

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Indigenous diets can help fight modern illnesses, say health experts

See on Scoop.itreNourishment

Traditional food consumed by rural communities contain nutrients that are lacking in high- and middle-income countries

Alice Ruxton Abler‘s insight:

Indigenous food systems – gathering and preparing food to maximize the nutrients an environment can provide – range from nomadic hunter-gatherers such as the Aché in eastern Paraguay, the Massai pastoralists in northern Kenya, and herding and fishing groups including the Inuit in northern Canada, to the Saami of Scandinavia and the millet-farming Kondh agriculturalists in eastern India.

But the trait these groups share is a keen knowledge of how to eat nutritiously without damaging the ecosystem. "Indigenous peoples’ food systems contain treasures of knowledge from long-evolved cultures and patterns of living in local ecosystems," says an FAO-supported study on indigenous food systems, nutrition, and health co-authored by Kuhnlein in 2009.

In recent years, grains such as quinoa, fonio and millet – long harvested by indigenous and rural communities in developing countries but increasingly overlooked by a younger, richer generation that prefers imported foods – have instead grown in popularity in developed countries.

Research, marketing and donor-funded financing have helped raise awareness of the ability of these high-protein grains to reduce cholesterol, provide micronutrients and lower the risk of diabetes. "Because of the many health benefits of these forgotten, or until [recently] unknown foods, valuing the wisdom of indigenous cultures [and] earlier generations is vital for reducing disease and inflammation." 

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“Expired” food is good for you: A supermarket exec’s bold business gamble

See on Scoop.itreNourishment

Trader Joe’s’ former president wants to sell you the food that other stores throw out. Will it work?

Alice Ruxton Abler‘s insight:

Last September, a major report from the Natural Resources Defense Council and Harvard Law School squashed the long-standing myth surrounding “sell by,” “best by” and “use by” dates on food. It revealed how those dates, which are mostly unregulated and surprisingly arbitrary, tell the consumer next to nothing about how long a product will stay fresh. Yet 90 percent of Americans are under the mistaken impression that they do – and that they are inviolable – causing us to needlessly throw away food.

The problem, however, begins even before such food reaches people’s refrigerators: It’s against most supermarkets’ policies (including that of Trader Joe’s) to sell food once it’s aged past these mystical dates. Dana Gunders, who co-authored the NRDC report with Emily Leib, sees Rauch’s project as the logical next step in freeing us from the tyranny of date labels. “Just the fact that he’s doing it, I think is a huge proof point to indicate that what we’re calling ‘expired food’ is in fact still good to eat,” she told Salon.

Rauch isn’t the first to look at the vast storerooms of perfectly good produce, bound for the trash heap, and see an opportunity. Stanley’s organization, Lovin Spoonfuls, also serves the Boston area, and New York’s City Harvest, to take a prominent example, has been “recovering” surplus food from supermarkets and restaurants and redistributing it to food pantries and soup kitchens since 1982. And as Rauch himself pointed out, a number of high-end retailers already repurpose their unsellable produce as hot, prepared food.

But Rauch’s focus differs from that of other nonprofit organizations, which are mainly concerned with fixing the broken link between excess food and empty stomachs. For example: Stanley’s ultimate goal for Lovin Spoonfuls, she said, is to put herself out of business – in other words, to solve hunger. “We must never forget that food’s not only a commodity,” she told Salon; more important is its role as a life force. But like it or not, our culture does treat food as a commodity – as something to be coveted and indulged in. Rauch sees that as an advantage.

Rauch, a capitalist first and foremost, is looking for a market-driven solution to food waste. The store is a nonprofit, but after an initial round of funding gets it started, he intends for it to be self-sustaining. And he expects that supermarkets will work with him, “not just because it’s the right thing, not just because they feel bad about throwing it out. All those are true, but also because it’s an underrealized asset”: There’s a federally enhanced tax deduction on the books for restaurants and grocery stores that donate their surplus, which allows them to recover up to 50 percent of their lost margin.

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Vitamin C: What it Does, Where to Get It, How to Supplement It

See on Scoop.itreNourishment

Alice Ruxton Abler‘s insight:

The harsh winter of 1534 was challenging for explorer Jacques Cartier and his crew. Their ship was immobilized in Canadian ice, and nearly all 110 men were deathly ill. There was little to eat except what scarce provisions remained, and no chance of fresh fruit or vegetables. Twenty-five men died, 50 more were on the verge of perishing, and the rest were weak and worsening. From the indigenous people, Cartier learned of a traditional remedy. They ground, then boiled the bark and leaves of a specific tree, drank the resulting tea, and used the dregs as a poultice.


Luckily, there are easier ways to obtain Vitamin C than making tree bark tea!


Every crew member who drank the concoction recovered so quickly that Cartier declared it a miracle.

Today we understand that Cartier’s crew was suffering from scurvy, caused by a lack of vitamin C in the diet. The tree’s green leaves (or needles) were rich in the vitamin C that the crew so desperately needed, and the bark’s flavonoids enhanced the vitamin’s healing effects.


Two centuries after Cartier’s voyages, in 1742, British naval doctor James Lind laid the groundwork for the discovery of vitamins when, as part of a study, he prescribed doses of vitamin C–laden citrus to scurvy patients, and observed that they recovered rapidly. When the British navy later included lemon juice as rations for sailors, their incidence of scurvy on the high seas nearly disappeared.


Click through to read more about VItamin C!

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Pregnant Nurse Fired for Refusing Influenza Vaccine


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I just read the Associated Press story about a pregnant nurse who was fired from her job with a healthcare company for refusing a “flu shot” (influenza vaccine). According to the health news article, Dreonna Breton had suffered two miscarriages before this pregnancy, and was concerned about the health of her unborn baby. She offered to wear a mask in lieu of vaccination, but she was still fired on December 17, 2013.

Breton shared the fear of many others in her situation—she contended that “the immunizations may not be safe enough for pregnant women.”

The cautious words of a biology professor at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and research professor at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California (who indicated that if his wife were pregnant, he wouldn’t want her to get vaccinated) prompted me to write an article on the subject (published on He studies the relation of maternal infections to both autism and schizophrenia, and his arguments against the vaccination of pregnant women gave me pause.

Of course it’s not as simple as “vaccination causes autism,” and there’s a strong outcry in the medical world against such a direct connection. However, recent research does show a strong connection between maternal infections (especially influenza) during the first half of pregnancy and increased risk of schizophrenia in the fetus. The infected mother’s immune system releases special proteins to fight the infection, and these cytokines (specifically interleukin-6) may have a negative effect on the neurological development of the unborn child.

So, then, is the answer to vaccinate all pregnant women? As the professor said, “And what does a vaccination do? It activates the immune system. That’s the point of vaccination.” So an activated immune system could trigger increased cytokines, which may in turn cause neurological difficulties in the baby.

You can read more about this topic here:

Autism Spectrum Disorders: The Vaccination Debate

Both the safety and the efficacy of vaccines are under question as well. I have been researching these topics lately, resulting in two blog posts for the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation. But there is much that we do not understand. Although it appears that vaccines have been helpful in some cases, there have been many cases of disease and death that seem to be a result of vaccination, but it’s not usually provable. The long-term effects are still unknown, and each individual may react differently to immunization.

You can read what I wrote about the efficacy of vaccines here: 

Influenza Vaccines: Are They Effective?

and the safety of vaccines here:

Vaccines: Are They Safe?

Is it more risky to be vaccinated or is it more risky to reject vaccination, even if it means losing your job when you need it most? For one woman, the answer was clear.

Below is the Associated Press article that started this whole post.

Until next time~

Pregnant nurse fired after refusing flu shot

By Associated Press

Posted: December 28, 2013 – 8:30 pm ET
A pregnant woman who refused to get a flu shot due to her fear of miscarrying has been fired from her job with a healthcare company.Dreonna Breton worked as a registered nurse for Horizons Healthcare Services in central Pennsylvania. The company requires all personnel to get the influenza vaccine.

Breton contends the immunizations may not be safe enough for pregnant women. She suffered two miscarriages earlier this year, and doesn’t want to risk a third.

Company spokesman Alan Peterson says it’s unconscionable for a healthcare worker not to be immunized. He also says pregnant women are more susceptible to the flu.

Breton offered to wear a mask during flu season. But the 29-year-old was fired Dec. 17.

Urban Gleaning: Food Forward


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I cannot bear the thought of letting food go to waste. Especially preservative-free home-grown produce. We’re fortunate to have an abundance of this on our property, and I enjoy the culinary challenge of using it in every way possible. But sometimes I still can’t get through it all.


After I’ve eaten, frozen, preserved, candied, fermented, salted, pickled, dehydrated, chutneyed, marmaladed, sauced, juiced, reduced and given away all I can to people I know, there’s usually some left.


Homeowners who have neither the time nor the inclination to harvest their produce sometimes find such abundance to be a burden. I often see urban trees full of overripe produce dropping and rotting, attracting vermin and making a general mess—produce that could provide sorely-needed nourishment for those in food deserts that may be a few short miles away in the same city.


Sharing such abundance with others in need is not a new concept. We find it first mentioned as a statute in the ancient Hebrew scriptures, where those working the land were instructed to leave the edges and the corners of the fields unharvested for the poor to glean.

Gleaning grain

According to Jamieson-Fausset-Brown, “This was the earliest law for the benefit of the poor that we read of in the code of any people; and it combined in admirable union the obligation of a public duty with the exercise of private and voluntary benevolence . . .”

Much urban produce goes to waste simply because it’s not always easy to get it to those in need and “exercise . . . private and voluntary benevolence.” We may have the will to share the bounty, but it takes a bridge to get it to those who may need it.


Fortunately, someone in Los Angeles started building that bridge a few years ago.

Rick Nahmias saw the potential of unused urban produce to help nourish those in need. He took that first step in 2009 when he gathered a few friends to pick a neighbor’s tangerines (with permission!), donated the crop to a local food pantry—and in doing so, built the foundation of Food Forward.


Their mission? To rescue “fresh local produce that would otherwise go to waste, connecting this abundance with people in need, and inspiring others to do the same.”


So I contacted them, hoping they would want the organic Duncan grapefruit that was dripping from our huge trees. I found out that for scheduling purposes, it is best to call or email a few months before the fruit will be ripe, but a scout was able to stop by to assess how much fruit was on the trees, how many volunteers and what equipment would be needed.

The fruit was ready, so the pick was scheduled for the next week.


The pickers showed up on time with ample equipment to tackle the project. Thanks to grants, donations and fundraising, they have a “Fruit Mobile” and a “Glean Machine”—snazzy, hardworking vehicles that announce their arrival and cheerfully advertise their services.


A yard sign gave another chance for neighbors and passers-by to notice the activity. I did get some questions from neighbors with fruit trees, and Rick left some informational flyers for them.


I appreciated that and other details, like Food Forward’s sturdy produce boxes, printed with a design reminiscent of vintage fruit crate labels, that carry the fruit to their destination in safety and with style.


Backyard Harvesting is their core program: Food Forward volunteers pick at public and private properties throughout Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, with an occasional foray into Santa Barbara County. The harvested food is immediately donated to Receiving Agencies who then distribute it to those who are food-insecure. Healthful, perishable produce is, understandably, far more difficult for these agencies to come by than unhealthful processed food, so the donations of fresh fruit and other produce are especially welcome.


For homeowners with fewer or smaller trees, they have a DIY Pick program. Food Forward supplies all information needed and a kit with tools and resources to harvest backyard fruit, including volunteer release forms, fruit pickers, produce boxes, a first aid kit, goggles, a Food Forward yard sign, clippers, gloves—even sunscreen and hand wipes.


In addition to backyard harvesting, Food Forward has other related programs. Their Farmers Market Recovery Program gleans about 15,000 pounds of unsold produce per month from Farmers Markets around Southern California and distributes it to nearby non-profit agencies, including shelters and pantries.


When they learned of the dozens of produce wholesalers, vendors and brokers who routinely dump untold pounds of grade-A fruits and vegetables in the trash, Food Forward started their Wholesale Recovery service—a win-win solution, offering pickup service for unwanted produce and a tax deduction in exchange.


Food Forward also offers Private Fruit Picks, which are customized events for groups up to 300 people. Some people book them as team-building alternatives to birthday parties and company picnics. What a great opportunity to get to know each other better and serve the community as well!


As the mother of an Eagle Scout, opportunities for youth to serve the community are always on my radar. Food Forward is equipped to mentor teens who want to conduct a Youth Service Project, culminating in planning and executing a Fruit Pick on their own.


I was delighted to learn about Food Forward’s Can It! Academy, which offers classes in different aspects of food preservation far beyond strawberry jam and canned tomatoes. They address topics that are near and dear to me: pickling, fermenting, liqueurs, brewing, curing, and even sourdough! Seeing this organization encouraging the revival of such important yet nearly lost arts relating to real food is very encouraging to me. They even offer a food preservation and cottage arts certificate program.


And the practice what they preach.


Inevitably, some of the fruit fell, and the juicy grapefruit would crack ever so slightly. This meant that the fruit could spoil more quickly, so it was not put in the boxes for donation as whole fruit. Instead, the bruised or cracked fruit was set aside to be juiced or otherwise processed immediately—perhaps into a rosemary-grapefruit syrup or thyme marmalade, or maybe made into a grapefruit-mint body scrub to be sold at one of their outlets or on line.

When the pick was over, they cleaned up and left the area looking better than ever. I received a follow-up email thanking me for the several hundred pounds of fruit, and a receipt arrived a few weeks later detailing the tax-deductible donation.


I’m happy to see that this organization has expanded in just a few short years to become the nation’s largest urban gleaning organization. Food Forward includes 5000 volunteers and sees the distribution of its produce to over 40,000 clients per month. Their continued growth and expansion is heartening, and I hope others will follow this model in urban areas across the world.


Los Angeles may be unique in its twelve-month growing season, but if cities as far north as Edmonton, Alberta, can (and do!) have urban gleaning programs, it seems every city should encourage such organizations. Some estimates indicate that there is enough food in the world to feed 70% more than the world’s population, but so much of it goes unused.


Urban gleaning in just one city is already helping thousands of food-insecure families by being the bridge—giving them access to fresh, nutritious, free produce that would otherwise go to waste. With efficient distribution, imagine how many millions of people around the world could be helped through similar adaptations of the ancient philanthropic principle of gleaning.

~Until next time!

(Credits: Most photographs in this post courtesy of Jessica Leigh)


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