Category Archives: Winter 2013

The adventures of cheese and bread

016It starts early in the morning. The goats are the most calm right at the break of dawn, and I do my best to get out there right as the sun is starting to peak above the mountains in the shady San Lorenzo Valley. I individually bring each goat into the milking stand, which is an adventure onto itself; goats are adamant and strong creatures, and getting what you want out of a goat can often be a battle of wills. Milking in the morning is a joy. I love watching the streams of milk squirt down into the silver pail; it forms a bubbly froth with a depression where the milk is squirting in. The milk, still warm from the goats teat, lets up a light steam. For two semesters now, I have been bringing 3 gallons of this fresh goats milk to PICA for a bread and cheese making class. We have made a simple ricotta, which involves no more than bringing the milk to 195 degrees and curdling it with an acid like vinegar or lemon juice. We have also taken on making a goat feta, which is considerably more involved. Most cheeses, including feta, are dependent upon fermentation, which is when foods are transformed with the help of microorganisms. When making cheese, we 025use very specific strands of microorganisms, and have to create the precise conditions in which they thrive. During these classes, we have also worked with fermentation in making bread. Bread uses yeast, either wild yeast harvested from the air, or packaged yeast, to create it’s loft. This is the stage called rising, when the yeast metabolizes sugar in the dough and respires, letting out bubbles of carbon dioxide in the bread. These bubbles create the wonderful fluffiness in bread. In all that we eat, we are reliant upon a chorus of organisms, including both plants and animals but also thousands of microorganisms from the fungal and bacterial kingdoms. Making foods such as bread and cheese give us the opportunity to relate to the organisms upon which our life depends.

0About the Author:

Sally Neas is a farmer and writer in Santa Cruz county. She has spent the last two years working on and managing Camp Joy Gardens in Boulder Creek. She is passionate about regenerative culture and agriculture, and loves sharing this passion with others.


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46485_10151472950554569_1654760682_nBotanical name: Achillea millefolium Family: Asteraceae (Aster) Parts used: flowers, leaves, roots

As I walk to class in the morning, my attention is drawn to the sweet smelling white flowers around the PICA buildings. Boasting large flower heads on long straight stems, yarrow is such a lovely sight to see! It grows prolifically not only in PICA, but in every habitat in California. My first exposure to yarrow was two years ago when I drank yarrow tea. It was not pleasant. I had forgettably over-steeped my yarrow tea which resulted in a strong, bitter taste. After that incident, I make sure to steep my yarrow tea for a short time. When prepared properly, yarrow tea can be pleasant to drink! Its taste is slightly bitter and pungent with floral notes.

3456Achillea millefolium is known by many common names such as Woundwort, Carpenter’s Weed,

and Bloodwort. In Colorado and New Mexico, it is known as plumajillo (Spanish for ‘little

feather’) for its leaf shape and texture. Its botanical name, Achillea, is a reference to its use on the battlefield by the Greek hero, Achilles, who was reportedly rendered nearly invincible by being dipped into a solution made from yarrow. Its species name, millefolium, literally means ‘a thousand leaves.’

Yarrow’s medicinal actions are multi-faceted. Western herbalist, Matthew Wood, calls yarrow the ‘indispensable blood remedy’ as it is known to reduce internal and external bleeding. Used topically as a poultice, its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties can keep a wound clean to prevent infection and reduce swelling. Yarrow is a wonderful medicinal herb to use while on a hike! You can rub the leaves on your temple to subside a headache, chew the bitter leaves to help alleviate a toothache, or rub the leaves on your skin as a natural insect repellant. When taken internally as a tea or tincture, yarrow can treat colds and fevers alknd is also a good digestive remedy due to its bitter compounds.

Yarrow is not only valuable for its medicinal qualities, but is also a beneficial plant to grow in the garden. It is a hardy perennial that likes to grow in well-drained soil with full sun. It can be propagated from clippings, root divisions, and seed. As a companion plant, it repels insects

while attracting, beneficial predatory ones. In biodynamic farming, it is often used as a compost activator with other herbs such as valerian, stinging nettle, chamomile, and dandelion to speed decomposition.

With spring upon us, it is time to garden, grow, and gather some yarrow! When harvesting, remember to leave some for the bees!

004About the Author:

Christine Olanio is a transfer student living in PICA and majoring in Environmental Studies. She is teaching an ESLP class in the Spring about personal sustainability.

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PICA, Implementing a Sustainable Lifestyle

046Food connects us all. The intricacies of its impact on the environment and people goes beyond the consumptive, especially when realizing the many layers of social, ecological and political needs to address. It can be overwhelming, but I have found resolution in how to face these challenges from living in PICA. The Program in Community Agroecology evolves each year with a regenerative cycle of students participating in experiential learning. At PICA, students play a vital role in achieving a greater connection to their food system by sharing knowledge with the UCSC community with the support and guidance of amazing mentors, Bee, Mira and Jose at the Sustainable Living Center. The garden is a learning tool. Living at PICA has put my studies at UCSC into context, empowering me to attain greater environmental integrity. In a diverse group of students with varied personal backgrounds and major-interests, we live together, fostering pro-community ideals with an emphasis in food and environmentally-conscious life skills.

During a workday, I love to see the trail of individuals entering the Foundational Roots Garden, carrying trays of plant starts, tools, and wheelbarrows full of compost. As the day proceeds, I find myself in and out of various work groups so as to catch snip-its of each. Careful hands sow seeds in propagation, those sifting compost have quick, jagged movements and others are crouched by garden beds planting young starts. As we circle up, I feel a familiar satisfaction and contentment as I see my friends gathered, tired, silly and ready to eat! In each reflection of what was accomplished, we applaud at hard work and many helping hands. We have accomplished so much in our modest garden, which is a step toward greater opportunities in the future. With our collective knowledge we’ll go out into the world, implementing skills and inspirations that were first planted at PICA and have since grown inside us.023

Through student facilitated garden work days, collaborative events with other campus organizations, garden market carts, academic courses, internships, and campus outreach and education, PICA has impacted over 4,000 students. What we do at PICA contributes to the larger vision of the UCSC Campus Sustainability Plan. Our compost system engages 150 Village residents, diverting their food waste from landfill and transforming it into soil. The student garden market cart happens several times per quarter in cooperation with other campus gardens, through which PICA strives to make accessible free organic veggies to all UCSC students. Individuals learn tangible gardening skills such as propagation, composting and planting from student leaders within the community, thereby expanding knowledge of agroecology, food systems and self-directed learning.

My peers’ commitment to achieving a more sustainable lifestyle is inspiring to me. In a time of our lives where so much focus and pressure is on individual goals and success, being a part of a meaningful community brings perspective and unity to daily life. I believe the purpose of living in a community is to increase the happiness of others. PICA has granted me a sustainable future through these experiences in college where living in an intentional community has become a model for my life.

63711_10151266080389154_790539103_nAbout the Author:

Lidia Tropeano is a 2nd year PICAn, Environmental Studies major with an emphasis in Environmental Education and Sustainability, and beet lover! When she’s not speaking Italian she likes to communicate via garden dance moves.

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What to Eat in Spring

217038_10151142783604154_1502985193_nSpring is nearly upon us! The Spring Equinox falls on the 21st of March, when day equals night. For the next six months, we in the northern hemisphere will experien ce longer days represented by the yang principle in Chinese Medicine. Spring is the time for new growth; seeds bud and flowers bloom. We too are affected by the seasonal change, being inextricably interconnected with our environment. And so we too have the opportunity to blossom during spring.

In Chinese Medicine, spring is represented, perhaps not surprisingly, by the color green and is governed by the wood element, which corresponds to the liver and gall bladder. Our ability to focus, plan and make decisions is governed by the wood element. An imbalance in the wood element may represent itself in an inability to make sound decisions or on the other end, a mind that will not allow the body to relax. A wood imbalance makes it difficult to meet the day with energy and vigor, and may be felt as inflexibility and tension headaches. Wind nourishes the wood, but when in access can weaken it, causing hay fever and allergies. The flavor associated with wood is sour. Craving or avoiding sour or vinegar rich foods may reveal a liver imbalance. The emotion expressed by the liver and gall bladder is anger. Repressed anger will damage the liver. The liver is also the home of the soul, which gives us our will to thrive.



Spring is a time to pay particular attention to the how we fuel our bodies. I encourage you to eat whole, unprocessed, organic foods, which are seasonally abundant this time of year. Eat plenty of greens and try sprouting (it’s easy! ). Almost any seed, bean, or pea will sprout. At the moment I can’t get enough sunflower sprouts! Sprouts are a wonderful living accompaniment to almost any springtime dish. Sassafras, found in traditional root beer, is a wonderful springtime tonic with many medicinal uses. Dandelion leaves go great in salads or can be used for teas. For a more potent liver tonifier, use the root and simmer for about 20 minutes. Peppermint is another great herb, which is second to none as a tea on a warm, spring day.

The changing seasons bring new opportunities for our outdoor and personal gardens. Devour plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables! Let your creativity soar and express yourself to your world! It is the time to awaken from the hibernation of winter to dance and play outdoors! To clean out those dusty corners with mops, brooms, and vegetable juices! It’s time to sow the seeds you will later harvest!

12605_10151218879096225_413044594_nAbout the author:

Nich Green is a junior transfer student living in PICA. He is a holistic health practitioner, bodyworker, and is co-facilitating a five-unit upper division ESLP course in spring quarter called Thrive: Tools for Healthy Living Through Holistic Perspectives.

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Food Deserts

007“Issues of hunger and malnutrition are commonly associated with developing nations and are often overlooked in wealthy countries. However, there is growing areas forming across the United States called food deserts. Food deserts, defined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), are areas “that lack access to affordable fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk, and other foods that make up the full range of a healthy diet”. The causes and impacts of food deserts are based on racial, health, economic, and environmental factors that influence one another. In response to this issue, there is both local and federal action being taken to find a solution. Ultimately, the issue of food deserts and its related problems underlies the greater problem of food security.

Food deserts are made up of many qualifiers, but the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) identifies two important guidelines:

“A census tract that meets both low-income and low-access criteria including:

1. Poverty rate is greater than or equal to 20 percent OR median family income does not exceed 80 percent median family income

2. At least 500 people or 33 percent of the population more than 1 mile (urban) or 10 miles (rural) from the nearest supermarket or large grocery store.”

008Food deserts are a dynamic problem influenced by demographic, economic, and transportation shifts within urban and rural areas, and vary depending on the infrastructure of the location. According to the Huffington Post’s article on California food deserts, “nearly 13.5 million people – 46 percent of whom are classified as low-income – live in food deserts nationwide” in addition to the almost 1 million Californian’s who live in food deserts.

Although food deserts are found throughout California, a large number of them reside within the Bay Area. In 2009, associates from the University of California at Berkeley released a study that mapped the type of store and availability of nutritious food within Northern California and the Bay Area. Their findings showed that 54 percent of the surveyed stores were convenience stores, and only 19 percent small and 5 percent large grocery stores. What differentiates California from other states is the abundance of major urban cities incorporated into outlying suburbs within the Bay Area. This area of land includes cities like San Francisco, San Jose, Berkeley, and in particular, Oakland in regards to food desertification. These large urban centers are places of minority race and ethnic communities that are often lower income areas.”

Read the entire “Food Desert” Essay Here

0About the Author:

Molly Travis, a second-year Environmental Studies major, is a plant/food/outdoor lover who can often be found playing with Nanuk the Farm Cat in the garden. In this paper, she explores the inner workings of food deserts through experiential education by simulating a food desert in Santa Cruz, CA. To see what impacts food deserts have on one’s health and livelihood, Molly purchased and ate only food from a local 7-11 convenience store for a week.

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