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Archive for the ‘Self-sufficiency’ Category

Balancing Tenderfoot

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My official health & wellness blog is finally up and running!
Please visit, support and be a guest blogger in
Balancing Tenderfoot!
Here’s to your health!

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Written by Karla Mercado

August 23, 2009 at 4:29 am

It Only Takes Common Sense to Be Healthy

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naturalI just discovered a great resource for natural medicine or naturopathy, an example of alternative medicine that focuses on natural remedies and the body’s ability to maintain and heal itself.

I have to admit that I’ve been suspicious about alternative medicine ever since I started showing interest and passion in the medical sciences, but when I read more about naturopathy, and especially when I discovered WellWire, I realized that it’s really all about going back to basics and learning to live a sustainable, self-sufficient, and balanced lifestyle, which are things that I also personally uphold.

When we go back to basics and when we acknowledge how much we’ve been underestimating our bodies’ capabilities, you’ll realize that you can totally do away without taking in all those pills and multivitamin capsules and acai berry drinks, and still be healthy. All you really have to do is, again, look around you and embrace what nature has to offer. And I think WellWire‘s pretty good at advocating this philosophy.

Going back to basics when it comes to health is something that I work on each day, what with all the health trends being endorsed by models and so-called health gurus every hour on TV. It’s tough; I often forget about what my body really needs. And there’s also this ongoing paranoia when it comes to sickness, when really, at the end of the day, health and wellness isn’t about completely obliterating disease from the face of the earth. I think we’ve allowed this fear of disease (and death from disease) to take over our every day lives, that we end up stuffing ourselves with all sorts of meds that end up destroying our liver anyway. What’s even worse is when we shrug it all off and say, “Ah, to hell with it. We will all eventually die of cancer anyway. Let’s live in the moment!” and allow our bodies to waste away in drunken escapades and cigarettes.

Naturopathy is such a refreshing avenue in healthcare because it reminds us of the common sense we tend to overlook each day. Yes, it’s pretty much common sense, really — “eating the rainbow” (every color of fruit and veggies), managing stress to maximize your immunity to the flu, staying outdoors early in the morning to absorb all that sunny, Vitamin D goodness, etc. And with the ridiculous expenses attributed to hospitals and treatments, going back to basics also means saving yourself if not hundreds, thousands of dollars just to stay in shape. The sun is free, for one thing!

So, like I would always tell you guys — just look around you! Nature demands our attention… and for a pretty good reason, too.

Live long and prosper

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No, I’m not here to talk about Vulcans. Sorry, fellow geeks. Perhaps another time.

Someone wise once said, “The first key to happiness tells us that by being aware of your body, you are connecting to the underlying field of infinite possibilities.”

I know this one-liner to be completely true in my own life. Growing up, I was a sickly child, and my parents spent most of their time checking me in and out of the hospital. I am still quite fragile to this day, but through education and experience, I learned how to work on my health by constantly trying to improve my lifestyle.

By getting to know your own body, you acknowledge what you physically need to be the fit and healthy person you ought to be. First, reflect on what you should strive to achieve; set goals for yourself. Are you underweight and wish to put on a few more pounds? Or do you need to lose some of it? Do you find yourself struggling to lift ordinary objects like basic furniture and know that you need to be physically stronger? Or do you wish to complete a full marathon and need to work on your endurance?

Remember not to set goals based on what you see on TV or read from fashion magazines — you’re doing it for health and not vanity’s sake. Most importantly, you are doing this for yourself (and perhaps also for your immediate family, if your current condition affects them), and not to compare yourself with anyone else.

If you ask me, the ultimate goal everyone should strive to achieve is to live long. Sounds pretty basic, right? But notice that it covers all the bases — you live long by being physically, mentally and emotionally healthy. And all you have to do is precisely that — to simply be aware of your body.

Here are some activities and lifestyle changes I had made (and plan to make) that I am 100% sure would help anyone live long and prosper:

Yoga, Budokon and other Eastern exercises
I admit that I favor Eastern exercises because I found that Eastern exercises tend to target more health needs than other forms of workout. Eastern exercises don’t just focus on the physical, but they work on mental and sometimes, emotional health as well. Yoga can be physically grueling, but I actually find its breathing exercises to be so much more challenging than its bone-cracking (figuratively, of course) positions. It requires a lot of mental endurance to concentrate on something we barely notice. Another insanely challenging activity — physically, mentally, and yes, even emotionally — is budokon, which is a combination of yoga, martial arts and meditation. Through its martial arts exercises, you are trained to discipline yourself and set aside your emotions in order to focus on the task at hand, just like the Eastern warriors of old.

Vegetarianism
I became vegetarian for eight months not too long ago. This is a really big lifestyle change, so big that I wasn’t able to go beyond those eight months, sadly, due to current circumstances (although I do plan on getting back to it when time, opportunity and finances allow). Being vegetarian has taught me so much, I don’t even know where to begin! So it would be best for you to back-read my journal a bit, and click on this entry: Back to Basics. In sum, it’s all about learning to be self-sufficient human beings.

Quit smoking
This, to me, was even harder to achieve than quitting meat. I never truly understood addiction until I found myself struggling to eradicate this habit. But when I decided to quit meat, it became automatic for me to quit smoking as well. More than it being both a logical and sentimental thing (i.e., I shouldn’t taint my body with nicotine while it’s trying to purify itself with all this goddamn tofu), it was more a medical thing. I learned that smoking is the most common root of almost any sickness or physical shortcoming you can think of — almost every kind of cancer, asthma, dry skin, migraines, bad breath, and even infertility.  I never thought such a common habit could cause so much chaos and difficulty in a person’s life, and even the people around him (i.e., secondhand smoking has been proven to be much worse than firsthand smoking).

A balance of time with other people and time alone
I am a social being, but I found that being an island every once in a while has helped me tremendously as well. Happiness may be most real and best felt when shared, but you will only truly know how to share your happiness to others when you know how to be happy on your own.

Gratitude. Lots of it.
I had only recently learned to be thankful for both the small and big things happening in my life. Sometimes, I even find myself being grateful for the tough, painful realizations and encounters! Marc and Angel once wrote, “Remember to be grateful for all the things you do have.” When you realize that the mere fact that you’re alive is something to be so grateful for, striving to keep being alive doesn’t only become a habit, but a devotion.

Written by Karla Mercado

August 5, 2009 at 9:01 pm

Posted in Introspection, Self-sufficiency

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Going weed

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It’s been a while since I last wrote about the self-sufficient lifestyle I’m trying, day in and day out, to work on.  I recently became interested in the concept of native plants through various articles and websites, some of which are listed on the sidebar under I Hug Trees & Metazoans.

Growing native plants is very underrated if not widely discouraged these days, when industrial planting is the “practical”, not to mention “aesthetic” way to go.  Native plants are usually considered weeds in most gardening circles and are eventually pulled out.

What is so great about native plants though is that they’re low maintenance, they live long and they’re ecologically beneficial.  Most industrial plants, like our usual indoor flower pots, grass lawns and groundcover, require the right kind of soil, the right kind of place, the right kind of temperature and the right kind of fertilizer and pesticide to survive.

They may look more sophisticated compared to their native cousins, but native plants are known to withstand any kind of weather or creepy crawly it encounters along the way.  Native shrubs and trees encourage different kinds of habitat, from insects to birds, that are actually beneficial to their survival and surrounding area.  Obviously, in my book, these creepy crawlies are always more than welcome.  🙂

I found that growing native plants will largely support that self-sufficient home I wish to cultivate, since not only is naturescaping so energy and ecologically efficient, but there’s also a huge variety of edible native plants out there, from herbs, berries and filling fruits like persimmons to help create a highly non-consumerist home atmosphere.  I also think they’re actually quite pretty, a lot of them even prettier than the industrial plants we’ve become so used to.

Here are some of the native plants that I can imagine cultivating in my backyard:

Native Tree:

Douglas FirThe Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii).  I see a bunch of these in my area, which isn’t a surprise since this native tree is commonly found in spacious, dry to moist soil.  It loves the sun, families of birds and critters, myself included, who love seeing Christmas trees all year round.  Plus, it reminds me of Baguio.  😉

Native Shrub:

Huckleberry EvergreenThe Huckleberry Evergreen (Vaccinium ovatum).  Buds pink, bell-shaped flowers, and don’t you think those berries look so pretty?  Well, they’re edible, too!

Shade Aesthetics:

Shooting StarThe Shooting Star (Dodecatheon meadia).  These beauties are at their best in spring.  The foliage is just as awesome, but grows dormant in the summer.  The flowers can be white, light pink, or this lovely lilac shade.  It’s obvious why they’re called shooting stars, ey?

For sweet-toothed, music lovin’ creatures:

Wild Sweet WilliamWild Sweet William (Phlox divaricata), and…

Sideoats GramaSideoats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula).

Native plants are known to attract butterflies, bees, and create songbird havens.

Wild Sweet Williams survive best in highly organic soil, and provide sweet nectar to hummingbirds!  The flowers are nicely scented to boot.

Sideoats actually look familiar, don’t they?  I remember seeing a few of these in my elementary school.  We’d play with the seedheads and pretend they’re bigas when we played “chef.”  These are very drought tolerant and provide great feed to birds and small mammals.

I want to start growing native plants as soon as I can.  There are loads of possibilities even here where the weather can be lip-cracking cold and the air thin and dry.  I found a bunch of native plant nurseries in my area, mostly up in Santa Fe, which isn’t a surprise — I remember Santa Fe to be rich in native perennials and herbacious shrubs.  I can’t wait!

Written by Karla Mercado

February 28, 2009 at 1:35 am

Vermicelli, anyone?

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(Written 31 October 2008;  Earl now has his own worm farm)

I’ve always wondered where Italians got that name for this type of noodle.  But this blog is about a totally different topic altogether.

Earl just recently decided to try his hand at vermiculture.  It is basically breeding earthworms to produce nutrient-rich, organic fertilizer.  I think it’s a great add-on to the itty bitty things we wish to do for the environment.

Getting into vegetarianism has opened so many doors for us to tap other related activities that would help strengthen our convictions.  On a personal level, it has also helped us as a couple to discover so many new things that we have in common.

We have pretty diverse beliefs but always with a common ethical and environmental denominator.  For example, I am largely into animal rights, while Earl is into non-consumerism. We’ve constantly discussed topics such as freeganism, bushwalking, organic cooking, foraging and health.  But I noticed recently that we’ve been talking a lot about our desire to become self-sufficient.

We both agree that growing our own food is a great way to contribute to the environment, and at the same time train ourselves to reach that level of independence, which was the kind of independence our ancestors had once upon a very long time ago, way before the dawn of modernity and instant coffee.

Imagine picking herbs, plucking out tomatoes and digging for potatoes just three steps away from your kitchen or maybe even less, depending on where your garden is located.  It’s always fresh and you know exactly how the food on your plate was cultivated and produced, precisely because you grew them yourself.  It also reminds us human beings that we can indeed be strong enough to not have to rely completely on supermarkets and genetically modified onions to whip up an awesome salad.

And so this morning, Earl started telling me about his newfound interest in vermiculture.  Believe me, it’s so fascinating that I wish I could do it myself, but given this tropical climate, breeding healthy earthworms is almost impossible.

There are so many interesting tidbits about this practice.

Did you know that, by breeding your own earthworms, you can actually create different kinds of fertilizer that would address different kinds of plant needs?  In other words, giving your worms a particular kind of diet would correspond to a particular kind of successful harvest.

Did you also know that worms require calcium to produce eggs?  It is recommended that egg shells be a regular part of the worms’ diet to address their calcium needs.  They love curling up in them too.  So cute!

Worms help pick up your garbage.  It’s their favorite meal, so kitchen wastes can easily be taken care of by tending your own little worm farm.

It’s also practically odorless.  Way, way better than your usual garbage bin.

A worm farm is basically a tiny ecosystem, so the breeder shouldn’t attempt to remove other critters that seem to be nesting with the worms — they’re considered helpers.  But centipedes should be evicted, as they are carnivores — they eat baby worms and eggs.  Yikes!

Breeders shouldn’t allow worm bins to heat up past 90 degrees.  It will cook the poor worms — something no one should smell!  Double yikes!

Read more about making your own worm compost system here:  http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Your-Own-Worm-Compost-System

It’s an exciting undertaking and I can’t wait to see how it’s gonna pan out once Earl starts.

Written by Karla Mercado

February 1, 2009 at 3:05 am

Autarky during ‘that time of the month’

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(Written 1 November 2008)

Warning:  Boys, this might freak you out.  You may skip this entry if you wish.  :p

While I am still on the topic of self-sufficiency, you guys might find this particularly interesting.  Or perhaps some of you might find this a bit too extreme.

This is a kapok seed pod.  When ripe and ready for harvest, it becomes…

…like this.

A friend of mine who has been living a largely self-sufficient lifestyle for quite some time now grows a kapok tree in her backyard and uses the fiber to — you guessed it — make her own monthly bleeding pads.

I’m sure a lot of you wonder how in the world she, first, harvests enough kapok fiber to last her every monthly visit (Answer: The kapok tree is, luckily, a tropical plant;  she easily tends to it at home) and most importantly — is that sanitary?! — which was also what I first asked her.

This self-sufficient, non-consumerist innovation is actually a spin-off to our grandparents’ pasador cloths, which were regularly washed and folded up.  Kapok napkins pretty much use the same technique by using washable cotton casings over the kapok fiber.

The fiber is way more absorbent than the old pasador cloths, and more importantly, disposable;  the casings are washable and, well, there you have it — a clean and green way to avoid those scented, badly designed plastic napkins that are injected with so many chemicals, and require energy to be produced.

Interesting Tidbit: The kapok tree helps provide habitat to bats.

Written by Karla Mercado

February 1, 2009 at 2:55 am

Random plantae/animalia thoughts

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Earl finally ordered little red wrigglies (Eisenia foetida) for the much awaited worm farm we’ve both been fantasizing about for the longest time.  Ahh, vermiculture heaven.  I’m really excited about how it’ll turn out.  The weather’s perfect for the worms, too.  I can’t wait to see them all curl up in the pieces of egg shell thrown into the bin every once in a while.

I’m also excited to see how the fertilizer’s gonna turn out for the different herbs and shrub we plan to cultivate.  Speaking of which, I have yet to find out how to successfully grow a kapok tree in a non-tropical area like New Hampshire, where Earl’s greenhouse will be located.  I hope it can be done.  There are so many things we can do with it!  For one thing, I’m really curious about how to make the cultivated fiber buoyant and water resistant, for raincoats, hiking gear, life vests and the like.

I’ll be meeting our new beagle for the first time in a few weeks, too.  We finally decided to name him Cooper.  My aunt is currently taking care of him during his first few weeks out of the adoption facility.  She says that Cooper’s getting along really well with his peers, big and small alike.  It seems like his vocal chords haven’t grown, and is only able to snort when excited or nervous.

We were able to find a nonstop flight to Albuquerque, which is good, since I don’t think Cooper will be potty trained that fast.  Wish me luck.

Written by Karla Mercado

December 23, 2008 at 3:06 am