Welcome to Green Gal's blog, where you'll find stories, recipes, gardening updates, and green tips related to nature, adventure, placemaking, and food systems. This blog is written by a young woman entrepreneur who is also a beginning farmer-gardener and seasoned sustainability educator who loves to grow, cook, ferment, and eat local and ecologically happy food.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Guest Post: 5 National Parks Everyone Should Visit

Interested in learning some quick facts about five of our nation's national parks? Read this informative guest post by Louise Baker:

The United States is home to an array of beautiful monuments and natural phenomenon, from Niagara Falls, to the Grand Canyon, to the Rocky Mountains. Beauty is what the United States is all about and the national parks are no different. The beautiful scenery, exciting trails, and family environment makes the country's national parks a must see. Five national parks that everyone should visit are Yosemite National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Denali National Park.

Yosemite National Park is located in the eastern region of California stretching 761,268 acres and extends across the slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain chain. This beautiful park is known for its aesthetic waterfalls that include Yosemite Falls (2,425 ft), Bridalveil Falls (620 feet), Vernal Fall (317 feet), Nevada Fall (594 feet), Ribbon Fall (1,612 feet), Horsetail Fall (1,000 feet), Illilouette Fall (370 feet), Wapama Falls (1,400 feet), and Chilnualna Falls (about 2,200 feet). The Giant Sequoias of Yosemite National Park contain three groves: the Tuolumne Grove which spans about 20 acres and contains the Dead Giant (tree that is 29 1/2 feet in diameter), the Merced Grove which is the least reachable of the other groves and has about 20 trees, and the Mariposa Grove which is the largest of the three groves and contatins over 200 trees. The Yosemite Valley, which was formed by glaciation, is one of the most unbelievable sites in the park. Yosemite National Park was once home to Native Americans starting 10,000 years ago and they named Yosemite Valley "Ahwahnee" or "place of the gaping mouth."

The view from Half Dome, taken when Green Gal climbed that granite monster last year.

The Grand Canyon National park is located in Arizona and is one of the oldest national parks in America. Environmental conversationalists fought hard to make this park a national monument in 1908. This park has been a heaven of archaeological discovery for over a century. Fossilized evidence has been found from the following cultures: Paleo-Indian, Archaic, Basketmaker, Ancestral Puebloan, Cerbat, Pai, Zuni, Hopi, Navajo, and Euro-American. The many different tourist attractions include the inner rim of the canyon, Hermits Rest, Desert View Drive, Yaki Point, and the Tusayan Ruin and Museum.

Yellowstone National Park is found primarily in the state of Wyoming but extends into Montana and Idaho. Yellowstone National Park is comprised of 3,468 square miles and is home to an array of different animals that includes grizzly bears, wolves, bison, fish, reptiles and elk. The plant life of Yellowstone ranges from wildflowers to Yellowstone Sand Verbana. This park was first inhabited 11,000 years ago by Native Americans.

Rocky Mountain National Park is located in the northern region of Colorado. Animal life in this park include the bobcat, black bears, puma, fox, coyote, elk, mule deer, moose, bighorn sheep, cougars, eagles, and hawks. The beautiful Bear Lake and Rocky Mountains personify the beauty of this national park.

The Denali National Park is located in Alaska. One of the world wonders of Denali National Park is the 20,320 foot tall Mt. McKinley. Tourists come from all over the world to take a glimpse of the massive mountain. Most of the mountain is treeless which offers a easier view at wildlife from the summit of Mt. McKinley. Animal life includes wolves, wolverines, moose, foxes, and countless bird species.

When she's not touring national parks across the country, Louise Baker is a freelance writer and online blogger. Her most recent work can be found at Zen College Life, where she blogs about online schools and the best online colleges.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A drawing & what I learned from a Me-Wuk "sopapette"

I always forget that I know how to draw and that I actually enjoy it. When I was little I drew like crazy, but as I got older I drew less and less. Every once in a while I draw something and remember that I can. It's not that I can draw really well (as my sister PawPrint can), but I can at least get my point across sufficiently. So yesterday after I posted the drawings I'd made in December, I thought I might as well take pencil to paper and make another addition to my Miwok Picture Language Book.

I brought my Native American and Miwok books downstairs to our coffee table and began sketching, looking up words and images when needed. I copied the roundhouse from a drawing in a book published through Columbia Junior College called "Miwok" that Alexys's grandmother let me borrow. I collected the words from various sources: Alexys's knowledge of the Miwok language, the internet, Deeper Than Gold, the "Miwok" book, and a pamphlet from the Stanislaus National Forest titled "Shadow of the Miwok" about a re-created Miwok village in Pinecrest.

co-may: moon, molla: blue oak, nenga: man, oha: woman, haju: dog, lapisay: fish, suhssuh: firewood, umucha: cedar bark house, hangi: ceremonial roundhouse, walli: earth, chaw'se: mortar grinding stone, sykyineh: tattooed person, kiky: water, chuck-ah: acorn granary, wassa: Ponderosa pine

Over Spring Break, I had a chance to meet and learn some Miwok cultural information from Buddy, the sopapette, or dance leader, at the Tuolumne Me-Wuk Reservation. He is Alexys's uncle's cousin and we were lucky enough to have a chance to meet with him in his home on the reservation. He taught himself much of his culture by researching it, which is so incredible. He is teaching it to the children on the reservation. It's so awesome that he is keeping the Miwok culture alive. It was a unique experience to learn from him, but I haven't shared much of what I learned because it was so special and it felt like something that shouldn't just be shared with the world via the internet. I likely won't share the experiences I had, but I will share the facts that I learned.

I learned that acorns are stored for a year before they are consumed as ule, acorn bread, or as nupa, acorn mush. Sifting baskets that were used by the Me-Wuk had different designs that represented different things. Various colors were used in making baskets to give certain patterns. Acorns were ground, as most people know, in mortar cupules called chaw'se. Rock pestles, kawachi, were used to crush the acorns into flour. The chaw'se were arranged in the shape of a constellation or in a pattern to indicate the direction to the next village. I had never realized that before! One of the last times that I visited with city naturalist Eric Nicholas at the Alviso Adobe Community Park, he said he wished he had thought of arranging his grinding stone cupules in the shape of a constellation. At the time, I didn't realize that it was a traditional practice. (He is making his own chaw'se at the park so he can demonstrate how acorns were ground. When he teaches various programs, he has kids take turns pecking at the new depressions in the rock so they'll eventually become deep enough to be used. There is an ancient mortar cupule at the park, but it is a historic site that was actually used by the Ohlone, so it can't be practically utilized. For more information about the Alviso Adobe and the Ohlone, see this post.)

This set of mortar cupules, found at the Alviso Adobe Community Park, could possibly date back to 3,000 BC, according to a sign nearby. The sign states that it was used to crush acorns, but city naturalist Eric Nicholas believes it was used in ceremonial plant preparations. This bedrock mortar is listed on the California Historic Register.

I also learned that the Me-Wuk used lava rocks (found in the area from the volcanic activity in the past) to heat their water. The practice of heating rocks in fire and putting them in baskets to boil water is widespread, but I didn't realize the Me-Wuk used lava rocks. I learned from Eric Nicholas that the rock would be heated in the fire and then carried with a hoop stick to a basket of water to clean it off. The rock was then lifted into another bowl of water to boil it for tea or for food. As one rock cooled, another hot one would be added and the rocks were stirred in the water.

In the above picture, you can see a hoop stick on the right, with the rock on the hoop end. The large stone bowl is bedrock mortar and the stone in it is a pestle. Abalone shells on the left hold acorns. The brushes near the bottom of the picture are soaproot brushes made from the fibers of the soaproot plant. This display is set up at the Alviso Adobe Community Park.

I will later post the other information I learned.

Thanks for reading!
Green Gal


You will find something more in woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters.
St. Bernard

Monday, June 28, 2010

Miwok Picture Language Book

In December, my friend Alexys and I spent some time at my family's cabin in the mountains. She taught me some Miwok words and I created a picture book that incorporates the words so I can better learn some of the language. Since then, I've learned some more words and have written many new words from various California tribes (Maidu, Konkow, Nisenan, etc.) in a language and culture journal I'm keeping. Here are the pages that I made in December. I hope to make more soon.

watu: sun, lama: tree, oha: woman, nanga: man, kiky: water, lapisay: fish, ohnem: to fish, haju: dog

nowehkowai: I love you, ohnem: to fish, nawa: love

Alexys drew this one. honon: bear, funawa: laughter

Learn how to count in Miwok using this picture.

If I make more, I will post them.
Thanks for reading! Happy Monday.

Green Gal

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Weekend in Nevada County

Photo from the book Deeper Than Gold

On Friday afternoon, my family drove up to Nevada County to visit my step-mom's parents in Grass Valley. Saturday morning we drove to Empire Mine State Park for a family portrait. I had never been to Empire Mine before, but unfortunately we didn't really get a chance to look around. We took the portrait on the well-manicured grounds and walked around the gift shop. While looking at the interesting rocks and knick-knacks in the shop, I spotted some carved rock hippos, which happen to be my sister's favorite animal of all time (no doubt, pictures of the various hippos she acquired this weekend will appear on her hippo blog soon!). Surprisingly, they had a variety of different stone hippos for her to choose from. She bought a pink-colored rhodonite one.

I found some bear fetishes carved from various stones with a description about what they signify. Bears are my favorite animals. The first time I saw a bear was while hiking with my dad near the Clark Fork trail head off Highway 108. I just knew I'd see one while hiking and I kept turning around, expecting to see one behind every tree. Then on the way back, after reading on some boulders in the middle of the river, we saw a bear cub pawing a log. My dad wanted to take a picture, but I suggested we leave in case the mama arrived. The second time I saw one was in Yosemite last June after hiking Half Dome. A big brown bear was on top of a set of boulders near a campsite. Some rangers came chasing after him as he crossed the road right in front of us and bounded into the forest. The third time I saw a bear I was with my aunt, uncle and cousin in their car on some backcountry road off Highway 108. A cub ran across the road and scampered up a tree. I hope to see more bears in the future, but not too close-up!

My dad pointed out a book in the gift shop called Deeper Than Gold: A Guide to Indian Life in the Sierra Foothills by Brian Bibby, photography by Dugan Aguilar. It tells the stories of different Native American tribes who once inhabited the Sierra Foothills (some still do, of course!), along with interesting anecdotes, myths and many beautiful black and white photographs. I've read almost half the book so far, and I've learned a lot! It was interesting to read it while staying in the foothills because it describes old Native American village sites and various cultural locations that are found throughout the area, including a village that used to sit right where Nevada City's downtown area is today.

I had never heard of the Nisenan ("nish-ee-non") people, who lived in the Grass Valley area. I read a myth in the book about Bear and Deer that offered an explanation for why a particular boulder in the foothills was so tall. The rock is called Aalam, which means "the tall/long rock." The myth can be found on page 61 here. The book says Aalam can be viewed from Lime Kiln Road off Highway 49, which we passed on the way to my step-mom's parents house. We planned to visit it when we left.

After leaving Empire Mine, we drove into Nevada City for lunch. The farmers market was about wrapping up, but we had a chance to walk through it. The people in Nevada City are interesting, "granola," as my step-mom said. It's a cool little mountain town. My sister and I decided we would live there.

The Nevada City Classic was this afternoon, so all over town, storefronts had bicycles and posters for the 50th anniversary. My dad loves cycling, as you can see by this picture.

We had lunch at South Pine Cafe, which has a vegetarian-friendly menu! I ordered a vegan BLT sandwich with tofu bacon. It was delicious!

Later that day, my dad and I drove back into Nevada City and walked to the theater. My dad had read the paper that morning and had seen that past winners of the Nevada City Classic would be at a reception in the theater at 5:30. One of the names listed as a past winner was his 5th grade teacher, Mr. Bob Tetzlaff, who actually won the first and second Nevada Classics in 1961 and 1962. My dad had him as a teacher in 1965. My dad spoke with him for a bit and told him that now he loves cycling, too. It was neat that he got to say hi to him and say thanks for being an inspiring teacher and cyclist. Another acclaimed cyclist, John Howard, walked up to talk to Retzlaff as we were about to leave. My dad was classmates with the famous Fred Markham, who was mentored by Tetzlaff. How cool!

Bob Tetzlaff, left, who won the first two Tour of Nevada City Classic bicycle races, talks with race founder Charlie Allert at the inaugural race in 1961. Photo by Bob Wyckoff.

My dad with his 5th grade teacher Bob Tetzlaff

Here's are some articles about the Nevada City Classic and Bob Tetzlaff:
- Past masters of the Nevada City Classic by Brian Hamilton
- A Classic from the start by Brian Hamilton
- Nevada City Classic History
- Coverage from today's classic, including an interview with Bob Tetzlaff and John Howard

This morning after breakfast at South Pine Cafe in Grass Valley this time, we walked around downtown and ventured into an antique shop. I found a book called Place Names of the Sierra Nevada by Peter Browning, which has explanations for various place names in the area. It seemed like something interesting to read while hanging out around the cabin with my mom's family, who has visited a lot of places near Pinecrest, so I bought it.

We drove out of Grass Valley down Highway 49 and turned right at Lime Kiln Road, hoping to see the aalam rock on the side of the road. We drove two miles before turning around. We didn't see it anywhere. I just looked on GoogleMaps to try and see if I could spot it, but no such luck. And it's not mentioned anywhere on the internet. Hmm... Here's a picture of the rock from the book, taken by Dugan Aguilar.

Thanks for reading,
Happy Father's Day!

Green Gal

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friday Visit to Terra Bella Family Farm

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my family has joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program with Terra Bella Family Farm. I hadn't visited the farm until today when we picked up our fresh produce and bread. I had to take pictures of the quaint farm located right in Pleasanton.

On another note, I saw the Toy Story 3 midnight premiere in IMAX 3D early this morning and then again watched it at noon with my younger sister, and I have to say it is one of the best movies I've seen in awhile. It's a little stressful and scary at times, but hilarious and very sweet and definitely one of my new favorite movies. One thing that freaked me out was the depiction of the landfill. I won't give anything away, but it made me never want to buy anything disposable ever again! Which is a good thing, I suppose!

Happy Weekend and Happy Summer!
Green Gal


"Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you."
Lao Tzu

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Kenyan chapati bread

Sabore, a Maasai warrior I met two years ago (Photo credit: Asante Africa)

Today in AP Human Geography, my friends and I presented our end-of-the-year project, which our teacher calls Extreme Makeover: LDC (Least Developed Country) Edition. We chose the African country of Kenya because my good friend Taylor visited Kenya last summer with her church, so she knew about the culture already. As it turns out, I too know a bit about the culture, having read about the nomadic pastoral lifestyle practiced by many Kenyan people in Man on Earth by John Reader. I also met a Maasai warrior named Sabore and a teacher named Hellen from Kenya at a presentation by Asante Africa at my school two years ago. At the presentation, I purchased a hand-made bracelet and a piece of cloth which is typically worn as clothing. I use it as a table cloth in my room (see it in pictures on this blog post).

Here is the video of Hellen Nkuraiya (see it on the Asante Africa website here):

To prepare for our presentation, yesterday Taylor and I made Kenyan chapati, a type of fried flat bread made of white and wheat flour. We stopped by Safeway after school (finals week means school gets out at 11:40 am), and went to my house to make some delicious food. Taylor later told me that she expected us to fail and that she thought our bread would taste gross. I was a little concerned about how difficult it would be to make it. Here's the recipe Taylor found online here:

Chapati (Round Flat Bread)

Ingredients (6 servings)
1 cup of whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
2 tbsp oil or ghee
3/4 - 1 cup of warm water
Salt to taste

Mix the flour in a bowl and add salt and oil. You can mix with clean hands, or use a mixer or food processor. Add a little bit of water at a time and knead well for about 10 minutes until you have a stiff and smooth dough. Cover the dough and let it stand for at least 30 minutes up to two hours. Knead the dough well again and divide it into egg-sized balls. Dust each ball with extra flour. Flatten each ball and roll out thinly into sizeable circles. Heat a heavy skillet or griddle over a medium flame. Lightly grease the pan and slowly heat the first chapatti. Cook on one side for about 1 minute or until lightly brown, then flip and brown the other side. Press the sides of the chapati with a spoon until it puffs. Remove the chapati from the skillet into a warm dish or foil paper and wrap it to keep it warm. Repeat this process for every chapati, wiping the pan with greased paper every time a new chapati is to be cooked. Serve the chapatis warm with a meat stew and/or cooked vegetables. Chapatis can also be served with hot milk or chai.
Taylor measuring out the oil

We multiplied the recipe by five to serve the 30+ students in our class. My math skills aren't superb, so Taylor did most of the converting. We decided to mix with our hands, which I highly recommend as it is fun and connects you to the food you are making. It also made us feel more like we were making real Kenyan food because we sat outside on the ground and it felt more real than standing in the kitchen with a mixer.
Taylor and I mixing the chapati dough in my backyard

Taylor's hands mixing the dough

We split the dough into two bowls to mix, and mine turned out normal. Taylor's had a strange consistency--not unlike tuna fish--so we added more water and flour until it became normal. My sister PawPrint took pictures of us and brought us the water to pour onto the mix. My dog Misty started running around and dog hair was flying everywhere, including into the bowls. During class this morning, my friend Jon asked me if a I have a pet because he found some hair in his chapati. Good thing I'm posting this after everyone ate some and not before!
Kneading the dough



We let the dough sit for awhile as we made a book for our Human Geography teacher Mr. Bull. His wife is pregnant with their first child, so this year he had the class come up with names for his future kid. Red Bull, Adora Bull, and other names of that nature were definitely brainstormed. So Taylor had the idea to make a book of joke names that he and his wife (Mrs. Turner, teacher adviser for Environmental Club) could have chosen for their son. Mr. Bull promised to send all of his students a picture of his son this summer when he's born, and we're supposed to respond with our AP score once we receive it in the mail.

After a bit, we returned to the chapati and began cooking it in a pan with oil. You can roll the dough with a rolling pin or flatten it with your hands, but we found that the flatter the better if you want to have it poof like it's supposed to. We ate the first one we made and it was surprisingly delicious!
The dough


We learned that adding salt to it as it's cooking makes it have more flavor, and too much oil makes them gross. We cooked the entire two bowls of dough and made enough that I still have some left over after most of my class had one and I ate about four during school. We served it with hot chai tea (we just purchased chai tea bags and brought milk, rather than heat them together), which was also a hit with our class. Our presentation was successful, as well. Being drama students, our group presented a play that explained how we would solve the issue of poverty in Kenya using non-profit organizations and investments from transnational corporations. Taylor showed pictures from her visit to Kenya, and we were able to show off some cool cultural items: my bracelet and cloth, Taylor's Kenyan flag and banner and her spear. We also had a jumping contest, a cultural game that Taylor told us about. Best of all, we succeeded in making chapati! Taylor said it tasted the same as the chapati she ate last summer. I definitely recommend trying it--it would be delicious served with a stew as the recipe suggests. Learning about other cultures and experiencing their food, music and traditions is so fascinating! I guess that's why I'm studying anthropology!

Thanks for reading! Next time I post, I'll be a high school graduate!
Green Gal

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I Voted!

That's what the sticker says that they gave me: I Voted. How exciting that my voice has been heard as a voting citizen for the first time! I followed some Sierra Club recommendations and talked with my parents about the different issues and people to vote for. Sierra Club recommended No on Measure D, but I voted Yes because it makes way more sense, even from an environmental standpoint. (Don't know what that is? Check it out here: http://oakgrovepleasanton.com/ or on Pleasanton Patch.)

Today was my last full day of high school. Tomorrow and Thursday are half days for finals, and then Friday is graduation practice and senior assembly. Then, I graduate! :)

Happy Tuesday,
Green Gal


Think of the sunset from the sun's point of view.
- Steven Wright

Friday, June 4, 2010

Fair trade Earths, CSA, barefooted seniors, and yearbooks

With sadness and yet joy for the future, I attended my last Environmental Club meeting of high school on Wednesday. I stepped down from the role of publicist/secretary and said goodbye to my beautiful club members and fellow officers, with whom I have helped rebuild a fallen club. I will miss running meetings and sending emails, but it’s time for me to let someone else have that title and to let the other officers take the club in new directions next year, including food scrapping and other events that we brainstormed this year but never got around to doing. I wish them the best of luck next year and I will most definitely attend their events and visit when I have the chance. I hope to find an environmental club or group at Santa Cruz that I can join (I know it won’t be difficult!) and experience a similar, yet fresh community of activism for the environment.

I was pleasantly surprised when my dear friend Patricia (remember, the whole grain cookie girl?) presented me with a parting gift: fair trade chocolate Earth globes and a homemade card with a kind greeting. Thank you Patricia!

Today, I learned that our family has officially become part of the community-supported agriculture world. My dad and step-mom picked up our first batch of vegetables, fruit and artisan bread from our local Terra Bella Farms. We’ve already eaten one of the peaches and it was delicious! The bread they picked up is carmelized onion with Asiago—of course I had to try it, and avoided the Asiago as best I could. It is superbly yummy. We cannot stop slicing pieces of bread and eating them!

Also this week, I started an exercise routine in order to train for summer backpacking and my Wilderness Orientation in August. I started on Tuesday, fitting since it was June 1 and starting things on the first of the month always makes it feel more likely to be maintained. I jogged Wednesday and Thursday and then this evening after eating some bread, my dad, step-mom, Boston terrier Simon, and I went on a walk around our park. I went barefooted, which I love to do because then my feet become callused enough that I can go barefooted anywhere. It makes me feel more self-sufficient if I can take off my shoes whenever I want and not worry that my feet will hurt if I step on a rock.

Yesteday we got our yearbooks, and considering how many clubs I’m involved in, guess how many pages I’m either pictured in or quoted on. Go ahead, guess. Thirteen! A student in the yearbook class told me a couple of months ago that I wasn’t allowed to be photographed anymore because I am in the yearbook so much. Then I took a picture with the writing club. Later I was asked for a quote for two different clubs. No one’s surprised of course, but it is a little insane if you look through the club pictures section and see my face in five of them. Oh, and the best part is, I got to write an entire section on being “green.” In describing how I am “green,” I was able to list some easy ways for others to be more conscious. Hopefully, some students will read that and think a little bit more about their actions in relation to the environment.

In other news, my younger sister PawPrint is at her 8th grade Promotion Dance, a semi-formal dance for all the 8th graders who will be “promoting” to high school. She has only five more days of middle school, which means I only have five more days of high school. Absolutely raving mad, I tell you. It doesn’t even seem possible that high school is over. No way. But I guess it’s true, because there’s a purple gown in my closet and my Thespian honor cords are waiting on my dresser to be worn at graduation...

Have a great weekend, Blogosphere!
Green Gal


And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
-- Anais Nin

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