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From Soil2Soul: ‘Everything is fuel’

From Soil2Soul: Meditations on Food, Nature and Urban Farming” is a regular column by Devorah Brous charting the ways we can reconnect with ourselves in harmony with nature. Devorah Brous is an urban homesteader, lifecycle ritualist, and green consultant in Los Angeles.

Smoke over the San Fernando Valley

Smoke over the San Fernando Valley Image by Devorah Brous

The San Fernando Valley heat reached 121. That brought on the inevitable power outages, which lead to the explosion of our pond filter, which drained the pond and killed fish that fuel our herbal aquaponics system. Just like the Passover song goes: “that bit the cat that beat the kid for two zuzim.”

Even my nose hairs are singed. As our chickens burrow into the earth furiously to cool down and the leaves on many of our fruit trees are fried from the third day of scorching heat, our bananas are the only living force not really defeated by this heat.

The stillness in the air is eerie. While hundreds of thousands of acres burn across the spine of California, destroying old-growth redwoods, endangered oaks, even the ancient beings down in Joshua Tree Park, there are mass evacuations. How do you find another safe spot to shelter-in-place during a pandemic when everything seems touched by disease and fire?

In these times, everything is fuel— grass, homes, trees, jobs, lives. Everything is fuel, feeding our still-uncontained wildfires of police brutality, the unwieldy pandemic, voter suppression. Everything is fuel that kicks up the urban heat index with higher rates of suicide, divorce, mental illness, houselessness, and disease as we continue to fight fire with fire and attempt to conquer, combat and control.

At some times, I listen to the profound wisdom of a group called Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics and Ecology. Its message is that we cannot fireproof nature, so we must learn to fireproof and retrofit structures, and invest in community protection. The group’s message is a call to shift our world view. As the climate dries and the chaparral dies, feed what you want to grow and focus on what you want to protect — not what you cannot halt.

A Remedy

Fire Cider

Fire Cider Image by Devorah Brous

With all the smoke in the air, consider making a fire cider. To boost immunity at the start of fall, I always make a batch of spicy herbal tonic to power our family through the winter months.

Fire cider is less a recipe with measurable quantities of specific ingredients and more a food-as-medicine folk remedy of herbalists. It is packed with vitamins and minerals and checks off all the boxes as both anti-fungal and anti-viral — so it grows your body’s natural defenses.

I chop up the most potent ingredients I can hunt down in the garden and kitchen: fresh horseradish, ginger and turmeric roots, green,white and red onion, sage, thyme a heap of garlic, lemon, orange, nasturtium flowers and leaves, jalapeno pepper, and black pepper. Pack the ingredients into a jar, cover with raw apple cider vinegar, seal and store in a cupboard for 2-4 months. Strain, add Manuka honey and sip.


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