Just What America Needs… to Play in the Woods

CreatespaceAcornsAndEat'emFRONTCOVERWhen the weather turns beautiful and everyone wants to head outside, what better way to do it than to have an idea in mind. Some people like to river raft down the nation’s free-flowing rivers. Others like to ride bicycles or motor scooters. And America loves to garden and man, do we ever love to camp. What else do we like to do? And how do we get ideas for trying new experiences? Robin Blankenship, of Earth Knack, an organization that has been teaching primitive living skills for decades, has a new book out; How to Play in The Woods. Her new book gives “many easy and accessible activities and ideas about how to have fun out there.” How to Play in the Woods is a handy reference book for campers and outdoor enthusiasts who need to brush up on basic survival skills. If you need encouragement and motivation because you want and need to be interactive with nature… check it out here: http://www.amazon.com/How-Play-Woods-Activities-Survival/dp/1423641531

Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Acorns-Eatem-How–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973

What’s the Difference Between Horses and Mules? This May Surprise You


I’m lucky to have two beautiful mules move in next door. They are gorgeous. They’re tall, sleek and exceptionally friendly. They carry packs for hikers in Yosemite. They’re a little aggressive, they’re pushing the field fence over but I can fix that with a strand of electric fence tape. (Much as I hate to.)

I’ve discovered there are some differences between them and my Quarter-pony, “Sugar.” For one thing, they graze everything. It looks evenly mowed. Every horse I’ve ever had grazes what it likes and leaves the rest, allowing the things they dislike to go to seed and proliferate.

Another difference is… where’s the manure? They’ve been there for a couple of months and they gravitate to my pony. They’re always out there with him but they leave no droppings. Go figure. They must be tidy about it and have a spot somewhere else. Works for me. The last thing I need is two equines just over the fence leaving droppings that I can’t rake up. Did I say they’re gorgeous?

Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here: http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78

Take it Straight from an Italian Girl… Bread and Pizza Dough

My daughter-in-law comes from a large Italian family. When I watched her whip up a loaf of fresh bread, I was taken back by the ease at which she went about it. It was a hot summer day, so she would have no problem with the yeast rising. We went hiking in the Arboretum while the dough rose and when we got home, she stuck it in the oven. We had fresh bread for dinner.

When I bake bread, I make four loaves. It is a big deal and consumes a lot of my day and my time. But today, when I pulled out an Italian cookbook and looked up pizza, I found my answer. The recipe calls for one cup of warm water and one pound of flour. I looked up the equivalent of one pound of flour and found that it was only two cups. I got out a big wooden bowl and prepared the dough. It was so much easier than the eight cups of flour I usually have spilled over my kitchen counter. The recipe was for pizza dough but I can use the same simple recipe for making one little loaf of bread at a time. Here’s the pizza recipe:

2 cups of flour

1 tsp salt

1 cup lukewarm water

1 cake yeast or 1 tablespoon yeast granules

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon olive oil

In a large bowl mix the salt, yeast, honey, olive oil and lukewarm water. (I used a rubber spatula.) Add the flour. Mix and knead it for about fifteen minutes. Shape it into a ball and cover the bowl with a clean dishtowel. Set it in a warm spot on your counter for about three hours until it doubles in size.

After it has risen, oil a cookie sheet (or pizza pan if you have it) and spread the dough onto it. Add your toppings, sauce and cheese and bake it at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. If you like it browned, lower the oven to 350 degrees and bake another ten to fifteen minutes.

Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78

First Thing in the Morning… a Sharp Knife and a Good Cutting Board

In the morning, before I get up, I think about what I’m going to fix for breakfast for my hubby and myself and what kind of sandwiches I’m going to make for his lunch. Because I am still half asleep, when I get downstairs to the kitchen, I like a sharp knife and a large wooden cutting board. Standing at the counter cooking at 7:30 in the morning is one of many things I do to keep healthy and energized and having a sharp, long, slender, serrated steel knife that slices through tomatoes quickly, on top of a stable, wooden cutting board, gets the job done. The sooner I get the breakfast routine done, the sooner I can move on to things I really enjoy, like gardening, writing and ironically, cooking and baking… once I’ve woken up.CreatespaceAcornsAndEat'emFRONTCOVER

Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here:


I Have Re-discovered Waxed Paper

I’m the chef around my house… I enjoy cooking. And I make sandwiches for my husband five days a week. But being the environmentalist that I am, I hate wrapping them in plastic. Every time I use a plastic bag I think about the horrendous video I watched on Facebook about seabirds who ingest our cast away plastic bags and tons of other plastic items. Even though I recycle bread wrappers, etc., it is still plastic and winds up in the garbage eventually. I bought a big roll of waxed paper for only $1.50 and this morning, the sandwiches wrapped up really well in them. It was kinda fun using it. I looked all over the box for the “ingredients.” I couldn’t find anything. I “heard” that waxed paper is more ecological because it breaks down. I think it’s a step up from plastic and I’m pleased so far. On the box, it had several other uses for it but for now, I think I’ll just stick with a new, old-fashioned way to wrap up sandwiches for my hard-working fellow. (He’s a surveyor in the Sierras… he climbs mountains.)CreatespaceAcornsAndEat'emFRONTCOVER

Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78

Covering the Gardening Beds With Straw… Fantastic!

Smaller Gone North Front CoverI first read about covering the garden with straw in a book by Ruth Stout. I think it was called, “Gardening the Easy Way.” Something like that. It was well written and made you feel a fool if you gardened any other way. Every year or so, I’ll throw a little straw on my garden to mulch it, especially last year with the horrible Armageddon drought we had. But I’m doing it again this year and I will continue to do it as long as my local feed store has wheat straw in stock. I ask myself, what part of it keeps the weeds down don’t you understand? And the water conservation is fantastic. That and as it breaks down it feeds the earthworms.

Yes, my garden beds are almost completely covered in bright yellow wheat straw. It looks so cheerful and it hides the weeds that I am unable to yank up. If I put enough straw on them, they will die. And if weeds do pop up out of the straw, they are really easy to pull up.CreatespaceAcornsAndEat'emFRONTCOVER

Life is good isn’t it? When we garden? I look forward to spending a lot of time out there this summer… lounging and watering. I hope you are enjoying yours or if you don’t have one, enjoying looking at other people’s gardens. There are a lot of them out there these days. It’s very trendy…

Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78

The Beginnings of a Wild Foodie…

Secret Genealogy IV CoverThere are a lot of books about Native Americans and when I wanted to learn about eating acorns, I thought sure that I could go to the library and find a book that would tell me how to do it. That was not the case. I went through countless books and the only thing I could tell was that they were using water to leach them. I did not know how long the Indians leached them, nor did I know if they kept them cool in the process. I was just a girl who loved nature and wanted to live and sustain myself within the woodlands of Northern California.

So I gathered acorns. By the pillowcase full. I totted them up the hill to my house and with a large river rock, cracked them open. Then, I put the shelled acorns in a white plastic bucket and covered them with water. I had to guess how long to leach them. They don’t leach well if they aren’t ground up and without refrigeration, they get a scum on them. I lived without electricity so I couldn’t keep them cool. I just poured the scum off and rinsed them really well. I ensued a lot of stomach aces though. Not from the scum but from the tannic acid not removed well enough.

CreatespaceAcornsAndEat'emFRONTCOVERWith a lot of trial and error, I finally figured out how to leach acorns. The answer is; long enough to get the tannic acid out. Each oak species has different tannic acid amounts. You have to experiment yourself. My guess is that you will need to leach them anywhere from one week to a month. The tan oak acorns I used in Mendocino County, California required only one week’s leaching. But the acorns I gather in the Sierra Foothills require three times as much leaching.

Don’t be discouraged. They’re worth the wait. Acorn dip with blue corn chips… the thought of it makes my mouth water. That’s probably the little bit of tannic acid that is retained that gives the acorns and any dishes you make with them, their distinctive flavor.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns, http://www.amazon.com/Acorns-Eatem-How–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973 and Secret Genealogy IV – Native Americans Hidden in Our Family Trees. http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Genealogy-IV-Native-Americans/dp/1500756105

Eating Wild Foods… Is it OK to Eat Sprouted Acorns?

Secret Genealogy IV CoverIt’s spring now in California and in some woodland areas, there are still acorns on the ground. After all the rains, they may begin to sprout. That’s okay. A little sprout on the acorn won’t hurt. But when the sprout starts getting longer than half-an-inch, you may want to toss it where it can grow into a tree.

Sprouted acorns have grown from a starch to a sugar state. You may notice a difference in the leaching water color. It can range from black to white, depending on the species, the freshness, and whether it is in a starch or sugar state. Just because the water is white, doesn’t mean it won’t be bitter.CreatespaceAcornsAndEat'emFRONTCOVER

For the record, I’ve had plenty of tan oak acorns that had sprouted well over an inch. When it gets that long, it’s growing a root. I broke it off and processed them as I did any other acorns. It was all fine.

Native Americans record burying their acorns in mud until they turned purple, and then they leached them. The acorns that I used with the long roots attached, were tan oak and they developed a bright pink on the tips. So my thinking is, the Indians were burying their acorns in mud so that they would gradually sprout, bringing them into a sugar state.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns, http://www.amazon.com/Acorns-Eatem-How–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973 and Secret Genealogy IV – Native Americans Hidden in Our Family Trees. http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Genealogy-IV-Native-Americans/dp/1500756105

America’s Multi-Ethnic Communities Are Growing

Smaller Gone North Front CoverI have lived a good portion of my life in rural communities. Diverse in personality but not so much in ethnicity. In one of the communities, there was one black family, a brother and sister (the brother was married to a white woman). They didn’t stay long and my husband and I were appalled at the stories they told. The community lost some good people when they left. But I do not blame them for leaving. Sadly, they didn’t feel safe.

My parents lived in Napa, California, an area that attracts Latinos. And in Suisun City where they had a furniture store, their neighbors were black. Spending time in both those communities was refreshing. I’ve always said that I like multi-ethnic communities, it’s what I like about the San Francisco Bay Area. Years ago, I filled my need for diversity by marrying into a large Italian family, and then later, a large Jewish family that was intermarrying.

America’s multi-ethnic neighborhoods are growing faster than ever. Today’s media personalities reflect that. I find the stories are more interesting when a station hires a diverse group of newscasters. However, some Americans are threatened by the rapid change. That’s why we have gangs and politicians whose reflexes send them backwards instead of forward. I wish they would understand that a community of many cultures is never boring. Whether it’s the annual Sikh parade, the Italian Festival or the many other events within driving distance… variety truly is the spice of life.

Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78



There’s A lot of Talk About Living Forever… You Can Count Me Out

CreatespaceCover The Celtic PrinceMy son sent me a link to an article about humans living forever. Immortality through technology. I have no interest in living forever. Creepy… scary… like being stuck in a submarine with no way out. I would however, enjoy living a healthy life into my 100’s. To stop the dying process would be to stop ourselves from going into the great beyond… heaven… the otherworld. Why would we want to do that? Just because we don’t know what happens after we die? What’s wrong with… surprise! You’re an elephant! Or surprise! You’re on the next level of humanity because you did so well last time?

This world is a beautiful place… most of the time… for many of us. But it’s a real hell hole for others who live in unfortunate circumstances in dangerous and inhospitable regions. Folksinger, Arlo Guthrie has a response to the statement, there’s always someone worse off than you. Arlo says, “What about that last guy…” the poor guy who is so unfortunate, no one has it worse.

I could give you the same reasons we’ve always heard. “You get so old, all of your friends are dead.” Good point, even if it is a cliche. It’s just that I spend a lot of time in nature observing that life goes around and around. Life and rebirth. When it’s my turn, why would I want to give that up? Life might be even more beautiful on the other side.  Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78