Halloween Switch Witch to the Rescue!

Grandmother Witch

Around Halloween, health-conscious moms around the country are faced with the challenge of how to avoid all the HFCS and GMO-laden candy that surrounds us this time of year.

I want my son to be able to participate in Halloween Festivities, to dress up in costumes, to Trick or Treat, and to bob for apples with the best of ’em, but I don’t want him subjected to the metabolic havoc of gorging on Snickers Bars, Smarties, and Candy Corn.

So, we have struck a bargain with the “Switch Witch.”

I tell my son that he can collect all the candy he wants on Halloween, and then give it to “The Switch Witch,”  who will exchange it for his favorite foods.  This year I asked him what those foods were and he replied, “French Fries” “Chocolate Chips” and “Bananas.”  So, we gave the the Switch Witch the candy, and she gave Mama the raw ingredients.  The next day, I created the following recipe for “Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes” (being primarily comprised of of eggs, almond butter and sweet potato, these are much more like nutrient dense, grain-free muffins than cakes.)

And, as a bonus, it gave us a super-educational and fun activity to do all morning, as my three-year old got to measure everything out, press the button on the food processor, and, of course, lick the spoon!

Next activity is making gourmet french fries from our garden potatoes and local, home rendered tallow (lard works great too!)

Voila:  some (not so) naughty homemade treats to replace the typcial nasty Halloween fare.  THANKS, SWITCH WITCH!

RECIPE:  Grain-Free Banana Chocolate Chip Cake 

•4 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes (cooled, or else the chocolate chips will melt, which is just as yummy….)

•1 1/2 cups homemade almond butter (made from soaked & dehydrated unpasteurized almonds–buzzed in food processor about 2 minutes)

•4 eggs (100% local & pastured with deep, rich golden yolks!)

•1/3 cup raw honey (or to taste)

•2 organic bananas (overripe ones work great)

•2 Tbsp. powdered gelatin (Great Lakes)

•couple handfuls of fair trade, organic, dark chocolate chips

•1 1/2 tsp. sea salt

•1 tsp. baking soda (optional)

Grease cake pan with coconut oil, butter, or other yummy saturated fat.

Process almonds in food processor or blender til it turns into almond butter.  Add remaining ingredients except chocolate chips and mix together.  Consistency should be like a cake batter. If it needs more liquid, you can add milk, cream, or cooking water from sweet potatoes. Stir in chocolate chips before folding into cake pan or lined muffin tins.

Bake at a low temp–250 degrees for about 1 hour.  This cake comes out pretty dense, almost pudding-like in the center, so we are basically dehydrating it a bit in the oven, and allowing the batter to “gel” rather than “rise.”  If you want fluffy cupcakes, add baking powder to batter, increase oven temp to 350, and reduce baking time to 20-30 minutes.

(Need I mention that these go great with homemade lard frosting?  Just pulse lard with maple syrup and spread it on!)

Bee Well this Halloween!

Nala Walla, MS, FIMCA, NTP (June 2015)
Ecosomatic Wellness Coaching


Ugly Ducklings and Suckers

When I hear the word “sucker,” I think of the plum tree in my garden, which sends out little shoots and leaves in a circle around itself, pushing up dozens of baby sprouts everywhere in an effort to reproduce. Many-a plant species uses this suckering strategy, especially when under stress, often cramping up in a tangle of itself so dense that it can choke out its own sunlight and compete with itself for soil resources, making it difficult for any individual in the thicket to thrive.

Sound familiar?

This behavior reminds me of the frenzied and almost automated reproduction of the human race in the last few thousand—and especially the last few hundred—years. Despite our rapidly declining physical, mental, and spiritual health, we just keep on multiplying.
Or maybe it’s really because of our rapidly declining health that our population is exploding?

There’s a sucker born every minute.

Perhaps we (accurately or inaccurately) sense an impending doom and we whirl around in some preset breeding fit that only increases the pressure on the family, the community, the larger ecology. This downward spiral then involves even more suckers to respond to the stress, along with decreasing regard for the vigor or sanity of our offspring.

And then, of course, there is the other sense of the word sucker, which also happens to line up quite well with modern behaviors: someone desperate, someone gullible, someone willing to accept almost any imitation as reality. Confronted with the firepower of an increasingly exploitative and and pathetically fake society, our habitual response is to paddle around our polluted little pond faster and faster with our brood. As the big guns take aim, the chemicals rot our feathers, and we become the proverbial sitting ducks.

But there are other responses to stress besides suckering.   Like the fabled Ugly Duckling, it is time for us to find the place where we truly belong, a beautiful place that involves real sustenance for people and planet both. Not to mention that human beings are (supposedly) a heckuvalot smarter than ducks. It is possible to slow our pace and actually give our children what they need, even if its something we never got ourselves. We can insert some creativity into our tired old procreative fantasies.

Like all other life on Earth, humans do have to reproduce if we are to continue here. Strict abstinence strategies amount to little more than suicide.

The real question is:  reproduce what?

It seems less and less wise to invest the future of humanity in a generation of record-breakingly sick, traumatized and bullied children. Plus a growing epidemic of fertility problems is rapidly chopping away at the colossal numbers we are capable of replicating.

Can we make an attempt to tune-out the roaring industrial propaganda—including brainwashing and guilt-trips about over-population, food pyramids, material success, academic achievement, obedience, manners, and discipline–and listen for the instinctual voice that still knows the root of what our children need? Nourishing food, loving arms, clean air, water & soil, strong family and community ties. These have always been the basis of what humans need to thrive. Maybe if we took care of these basics, we would naturally figure out how to keep our numbers in the range that our ecosystems can support, a homeostasis we achieved for 99% of human existence and lost only a blink ago.

If we can focus on raising a few truly healthy children, maybe when they grow up, they won’t be such suckers.

Backhoe Blues

As I lay here in our neighbors’ sunny dome, I feel so thankful for such a nice place to nurse my baby down–both of us getting a much-needed midday rest from the land-clearing going on today at our homestead. I close my eyes and envision a funeral wreath made out of the shimmery green hemlock branches that I cut down today, as I shed a tear over the complexity and profundity of it all–how we humans inescapably kill in order to live and live to order to kill, every day of our lives.

Sacrificing the plants and animals around us, and watering the burial site with our sweat and tears: just another trip around the wheel. Today is no different, just the speed of the turning is turned up a few notches.

I’ve done clearings like this many times here in this land, but this is the first time I’ve done so as a nursing mother. And I can assuredly feel the difference: softer, more sensitive joints, and more sensitive heart. My chest and my jaw is literally sore from clenching, and I’ve had to cry alot, as I bear witness to the destruction, even as I hold the saw myself.

My son points in fascination and repeats the word “chain-saw,” in his sweet baby-babble way. The sight of my liitle-one witnessing such industrial scale destruction from the breakfast table of our cozy little hollow feels like a failure–I am unable to shield him from what are, in my view, some of the most distasteful parts of our culture.

I severely dislike the fascination our culture builds around big machines like tractors, backhoes, and steamrollers, around the excavator which is right now tearing down the very trees that Montana has grown up gazing upon, learning the shapes of leaves and the different sounds they make during a storm wind versus a summer breeze.

I was hoping to spare him the sight of this destruction, to preserve his sense of kinship with the trees, but it is not the possible with the homesteader life I lead, and I cringe at the coarseness and desensitization that I am setting up in his soft baby soul–and my own.

Ultimately, underneath it all lies a deep feeling of gratitude to the trees and critters who gave their lives today to provide raw materials and open space for the garden, the duck run, and the future barn and kitchen. Rest assured, we are taking care to save every branch and twig for composting and chipping, so as little as possible goes to waste, and builds the fertility in which we will be planting fruit trees. Our aim is to feed ourselves and our forest kin, with an eventual net gain in fertility, not a loss!

Please forgive us for the gorgeous forest soils and snakes and beetles and worms and creepy crawlies of all kinds that we do trample under our admittedly clumsy boots. We humans still have much to figure out in this world. I remain humbled, dwarfed, and supremely grateful for the immense generosity of this forest.

Car seat woes

Carseat Woes

I love my rural life. I love the night sounds of creatures crawling in the leaf litter, I love the wild berries that line our country lane, I love the moon sparkling on the frosty cedar trees that ring our house.  And, I love the privacy afforded by the forest around me, too.  The freedom to experiment with building and gardening without the pointy noses of city authorities or neighbors constantly poking into my business.

Living off the grid has required that I go without many of the conveniences that I grew up with in my urban childhood–washer/dryer, electric light on demand, dishwasher, thermostatically-controlled heating.  As we’ve built our homestead, we’ve worked hard to set up patterns of sustainable and ecological living, which has required lots of unlearning of bad habits and addictions, a vigilant questioning of our needs for things that we previously took for granted (refrigeration! unlimited supply of water!)   I am so thankful for the stripped-down life that I now lead.   I thought that I would never give it up for anything.

And then came the carseat.  Ha!

Everytime I strap my son into that hideous contraption–which reminds me somewhat of a straitjacket for babies, or even a torture device–I seriously consider moving to a little town somewhere, with everything we need within walking distance.  I know this may be an extremely unpopular thing to admit to these days, but I really hate the carseat, or, as they are commonly (and all-too-accurately) described, “infant restraints.”

I am currently doing what I can to minimize car travel, but since I live in a rural area, I am still fairly dependent on my car, since there is no ready access to public transport, and we are still a-ways away from manifesting our dream of new village life where we produce all we need onsite.  For now, everytime I get into a vehicle, I am forced to choose between two undesirable options.  Do I want to forcibly “restrain” my child as he screams like he’s going insane, or do I want to risk our physical safety by playing on the loose in the backseat with my son, just like my parents did in the fifties?

If you are thinking that car seats are hands-down the safest way for children to survive a car crash, you’d probably be correct. But, I ask you to consider that this may be a narrow view, one defined by a society utterly dominated by automobiles. The real question ought not be, “How can a baby best survive a car crash?” but rather “Why do we consider cars an appropriate place for a baby at all?”

Since they cannot speak up for themselves, let me submit that little babes, who cannot yet consent or even understand why they are being strapped down, should not be expected to ride in an automobile.

But, alas, we do not live in a society that honors children, mothers, or any of us enough to even consider this view as humane and frankly, commonsensical. To me, it is frightening that, year after year, our society blindly accepts the staggering casualties resulting from our use of automobiles–the US census in 2009 reported over 2 million people are injured or killed in car accidents in the US alone–rather than demanding meaningful redesign of our towns and cities to encourage walkability and car-free culture.

If I had my choice, I would much rather accomplish all my errands on foot, if only to spare my child the indignity of strapping him into that thing.  Then combine all that fuss with careening down the highway at 50mph, and you’ve got the makings of a horror film! I’d much prefer simply to walk, thank you.

But how many American cities and neighborhoods are designed to facilitate a walking option? Not many these days, thanks to skewed development schemas that prioritize car access, strip mall construction and megaprofits above the needs of children and families. How about designing safe, green neighborhoods built with the flesh of the human foot in mind, instead of quick cash, steel and gasoline?

Yes, I am as dependent on my car as most Americans, living in a rural area with a sluggish economy. But this does not mean that I therefore desire to strap my child down in a moving vehicle, often with him kicking and screaming “No, Mama!!! No!!!!”

There is little question that if we were to be in a crash, that he would be safer in his car-seat. But, I ask you, is the risk of getting into a car accident automatically greater than the risk of emotional damage that results from forcibly strapping him down against his will? What harm do I cause him when I repeatedly ignore his very clear communication that he does not wish to be tied up, by himself, with no chance to wiggle and stretch (as babies do) and no warm lap to comfort him? Why should he be expected to sit still? He’s a baby for goodness sake! I do not blame him one bit when he protests.

Unfortunately, I have seen many times an over-reliance upon the practice of “infant restraint” for the parents convenience, rather than the child’s safety.  As they are moved from the car, then to the shopping cart at the big box store, then back into the car again, often spending hours without ever leaving the car seat, children quickly learn that their needs and requests will be ignored and overpowered, and cope by becoming completely passive.  It isn’t hard to understand that a baby needs to move as part of the developmental process. “Child restraint” is anathema to this development by definition.

Everything I’ve read and observed about continuum parenting, connection, and attachment theory underlines the importance of listening to children and accommodating their basic needs for physical connection with their parents, of being in-arms, and of sensing and going with–not against!–their cues wherever possible. The consequence of coercing and bending them away from their basic needs may at first create that docile little “angel,” watching the world go by from their padded car seat transport. But there is a heavy price to be paid later when the child learns he cannot trust his parents to hear and respect his needs.

A child who learns in infancy that ‘might makes right’ will soon start to learn and use his own methods of coercion. Monkey see, monkey do. It’s very simple, and very predictable. From temper tantrums at two years old to all-out mutiny and rebellion in the teens–all of these are legitimate adaptive responses to a culture of coercion.

Just because I was born into a regrettably car-obsessed culture doesn’t mean I agree with it’s basic assumptions—namely, that the risk of getting into a car accident must be avoided at all costs, even when it assures damage to his sense of emotional safety, which is arguably just as important to health as physical safety.

So when I refuse to ignore my son as he screams to be released from his little car straitjacket, I ask you not to judge me as a monstrous, incompetent parent. On the contrary, I am trying to protect him from the carnage of an emotional car wreck, carnage which is so common these days that many have ceased to notice it.

Jack O’ Lantern

Every year since I can remember, I have carved a pumpkin around Halloween. And every year, a friend remarks that they haven’t carved one since they were a kid. I am always scandalized by this notion. “Really?! You havent?!,” I stammer, unable to stop my eyes from popping a bit from my skull, just like Jack’s.

Carving a Jack O’Lantern is such a part of the fabric of my ritual life at this point that I can hardly imagine omitting it. And why would I!? There are pumpkins everywhere around harvest time, bushels and bushels of them, beckoning, pleading even, for us to sculpt their true jagged, bumpy faces out of the smooth orange skin. Especially when you consider that these pumpkins were grown just for this purpose–they are really no good for eating–it seems just so wasteful not to carve them!

First I scan the pumpkin pile for one that calls out to be chosen. Each one assumes a notably different posture, some slumpy and slouchy scoundrels, others upright and perky autumnal citizens, and there always seems to be one character in particular that asks loud-n-clear to go home with me. I pick ‘im up and off we go!

Later, in the crispy cool of my front porch, I study the shape of the pumpkin, and usually I can see a faint wraith of a face hovering sheerily over the surface. I trace out the features little by little with a pencil, gradually darkening the lines as a one-toothed grimace or scowly eyebrow reveals itself. I get out a small, thin steak knife, and pierce the flesh at the crown, circling the stem with little jabs until the top pops off, and I can get my hand in to scoop out the guts.

This year, while my Jack O’ lies there, disemboweled, my 8 month old son crawls over and has a blast squeezing all the goop through his tiny hands. Just another of the sensorial discoveries of his first Fall, along with piles of golden maple leaves to crunch, and baskets-full of shiny apples to roll about.

I set him next to a mound of straw that I’m using to line the apple box, and he plays there contentedly while I carve. Just as dusk falls I put on the finishing touches–a big curly moustache–and light a candle inside the punkinhead. A big smile creeps across my son’s face, almost as big as Jack O’s, and just as glowing.

I breathe a prayer of thanks for all the dead folk who I’ve been missin’, appreciating the abundance of the harvest, and my first Halloween as a mother. Wow! Its chilly out here! I grab a chunky wool sweater and wrap it a bit awkwardly around us–I am not yet accustomed to holding a baby in cold weather–cuddling him close as the steam of our breath mingles in the air, possibly for the first time.

This is the first year in a long time that I haven’t planned a big Halloween ecosomatic style performance to mark the occasion–I have more on my new-mommy’s to do list than I can possibly get done this season, and have had to let some balls drop. So, I am even more thankful to have this small, sticky ritual to acknowledge the pleasures of Autumn before the busyness of Mamahood calls me away again.

In a few weeks, when Jack O’s head begins to mildew, he will become ritual mulch for my garden. I will take another big breath and smush him into the soil, composting him down along with all those unfulfilled promises and little dreams rotting on the vine–all the projects I was so sure of when I seeded them, but which never quite ripened. These are the shriveled things which don’t seem so important anymore through Jack O’s now-dim eyes, reminding me how much better they will serve as fodder for spring growth.



Ecosomatic Mommyhood: Learning to Walk Like a Mother

Well, well, well! It’s been 8 months since my son Montana Rose was born, and this is the first opportunity I’ve taken to sit down and post to this blog. I apologize (mostly to myself) for the long absence! I have been an avid daily journaller since I was about 16 years-old, yet I have scarcely written more than five or six entries since becoming a mom. How in the world can I keep track of my life without my journal!? I am losing the battle to retain control of my previous navigational systems, having to accept the occasional email or Facebook Post—usually sent from my iPhone while Montana is asleep at the breast—as a meager substitute. The effect is one of total disorientation, like being blindfolded and set adrift in a lil’ rowboat, without the oars. Reminds me of a favorite quote:

“Mankind owns four things that are no good at sea:
Anchor, Rudder, Oars,
and the Fear of Going Down.”
–Antonio Machado

Giving up the fear of drowning, and learning to dive with abandon seems to be the most useful parenting skill I can muster. Fortunately, I do have the chance every single day to practice, practice, practice!

I’ve felt very sensitive about existing as much as possible outdoors (yet another reason why posting to this blog is difficult!), as Montana is infinitely calmer and happier to be around cedar, kale, wind, falling leaves, roses, pebbles and sand. Especially when he was a newborn, I had zero desire to leave our homestead (driving in a car felt like utter torture!), preferring to lull about in the garden and forest, letting Montana crawl barefoot in the soil and duff. One of my favorite fotos is of him triumphantly holding onto our young apple tree with a mouthful of dirt. It was truly amazing how long he was able to stay in self-directed play on that little patch of ground at only six months of age.


I feel sad when I think about so many moms and kids who don’t have the opportunity to play with simple, clean earth. My partner Keeth mentioned to a city-mouse friend how much Montana prefers sticks to any manufactured toys, and she replied, “yes, but you don’t know where that stick has been!” In an urban environment, this is sadly true, but on our rural homestead, we are among the rare few who know there has never been any industry or agriculture to pollute our land. Luckily, we DO INDEED know where that stick has been—it was grown and fed directly from the breast of Mama Earth.

I have also been very sensitive to electric light ever since he was born. Because we live in a tiny off-the-grid cabin and spend most of our time at home, the only lights Montana usually sees are very dim-LED style. He has always risen at daybreak, and fallen asleep at dusk. On those occasions when we are out-and-about after dark, the bright lights tend to keep him buzzing awake. Last night, in the glare of our uberlit local laundromat, he was crooning and screeching away as if it were noon! As soon as we climbed back into the darkness, he was asleep in five minutes. It’s so interesting to think about how our current society hardly considers exposing our babies to electric light to be a health issue because we’re so accustomed to it.

Mothering has certainly been one of the most physically challenging things I have ever attempted, from heartburn to backpain, and everything in between. My new normal has been naturally more grounded and ‘in my body’ than ever before, yet paradoxically, I’ve felt it necessary to be utterly vigilant about keeping my ecosomatic skills in the foreground. Just walking down the road with 20 extra pounds of bouncing-baby-boy (how literally true!) strapped to my body demands that I focus on the nuances of every single footfall, lest I keel over. How suddenly strange to have to THINK in order to do something which has been automatic for most of my life since toddlerhood.

It’s as if I am learning how to walk right along with my son. It really helps to be able feel the ground beneath my feet, so I’ve taken to wearing moccasins ever since becoming pregnant—the rocks on the beach and our country lane offer foot accupressure treatment anytime. I’ll often pause when I step on a particularly well placed stone: STOP, CLOSE EYES, TAKE A DEEP BREATH. Then move on.

Gathering blackberries requires a whole new skill level of skill when you have a babe-in-arms! I have to avoid scratching the heck out of my boy’s flesh, offer his eager mouth some, but not too many (yes, I learned this the hard way–he gets a rash), and keep him from dumping the whole basket on the ground, all the while trying to avoid ending up in the briars! Its now quite a feat to actually arrive home unscathed and with a bucket o’ berries.

All in all, I feel very committed to raising my child in nature as much as possible in this digital world. Check back here for more posts on this subject.

Whew!!! That’s all the time I have right now! I’m amazed I got this far. Got to click ‘publish’ lickety-split—no time for editing—before Montana wakes up from his nap! Got to get back out to my garden while the sun is still up! Not sure when I’ll be able to post again…..Ciao for now!