Our Mission:

Our Mission: To enable individuals and communities to take an active part in the cultivation of systems that provide the highest quality fruits, vegetables, herbs and other yields, in a way that benefits themselves, cares for the land and environment, and provides a surplus to use, share and reinvest into the system.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Gifts from the Heart

Thanksgiving Holiday

I hope you've all had a grateful Thanksgiving weekend!

We can help make these feelings of gratitude carry through all year. Try keeping a "Thanksgiving" journal where you can record the blessings of each day. Or take the time to tell someone "thank you." It might make their day, and yours! Feelings of gratitude help experience positive emotions that support happiness, increased resiliency, trust, social connections and creativity.

The Holidays have Begun

While the girls had fun shopping, the boys and I took some time on Friday to build rabbit fences, pot up some plants and empty the rain barrel.

Maybe you survived Black Friday, or enjoyed Buy Nothing Day, or took time to support local businesses on Small Business Saturday. Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday are up next!

Some great deals can be had at this time of year, no doubt! And it is better to give then receive.

Gift giving plays a big part of the Holiday Season, but often times it becomes the focus building up frustration to the breaking point. Long lines, busy parking lots, traffic jams shipping hassles all contribute to Holiday Stress. And then if the kids aren't appreciative...

"You kids are going to have a great Christmas, or else!"

Just this morning my son was talking about wanting a stuffed animal of a character in an older movie we have. As we were telling him they don't have those anymore, I thought "here is a learning moment!" I started to tell him how the toys weren't made any more and they are making new movies and getting kids to want new toys to go with those movies. Instead of seeing the valuable lesson here, he was getting starry eyed at the possibility of even more toys that he would "need." I guess my timing or delivery needs a little work. Ha!

Simplify the Holidays

I encourage you to simplify your holidays this year. It is a recurring theme, I know, as we talk every year of more simpler times, homemade and "experience" gifts ...and then can get carried away.

This week I found a great site from the Story of Stuff Project, called So Kind. It is an online gift registry of sorts that helps focus on unique and memorable gifts. These include gifts of time, skill, experience and charity.

Experiential gifts are more environmentally friendly and don't wear out. Memories last a lifetime and can be with friends and family for great quality time. How about day passes or a membership to the Botanical Center, Reimann Gardens or Living History Farms?

Gift Certificates and Coupons are another good option. You could skip buying anything and give a coupon for a few hours of yard or housework, garden weeding or harvesting, or even lawn mowing. Gift cards to local restaurants can be nice to have for a special date night.

Homemade gifts are heartfelt, customizable and low-cost. The value is multiplied many fold over the cost of materials so are a great way to extend your gift giving budget. Freezer meals great ideas that make supper easier on busy nights. Try some easy birdhouses or for a bigger gift try some compost bins.

What about a gift by Abundant Design? Who wouldn't want a total backyard makeover, an edible oasis or even a pollinator garden as a gift!

Have a great week and beginning of December!!!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Give Thanks!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! 

This time of year we remember the Pilgrims' celebration of Thanks they had with the Wampanoag after their first successful harvest in Plimouth.  Hopefully you will be able to enjoy something homegrown, or at least locally grown in your celebratory feast.  Thanksgiving is also a time for prayer, and reflection.  So, before we worry about the big shopping day, I want to encourage us to take some time to reflect on the last year.

Remember the good times, the blessings and savor those memories.  What a year this has been.  Abundant Design has worked on some great projects from Easter Lake to Beaverdale and Urbandale to West Des Moines. I am truly thankful for my customers and their trust in me!

I also am thankful for the other groups I've gotten to work with.  Forest Avenue Outreach, Plant Grow Fly, Monarch Watch, Area515, Urban Ambassadors, the American Heart Association and the Central Iowa Permaculture Guild.  These organizations and many others are doing great things to promote wholesome food & healthy lifestyles, building community and environmental awareness.

Also recall the challenges and give thanks, maybe not for the actual events, but for the lessons learned and character that grew from them.

And what about this snow?!?!  We had a warm pleasant Fall that really stretched our growing season.  That came to a quick end this week with the ~5 inches we got in Waukee.  These peppers had given us handfuls throughout October, but the little ones left hanging on there now won't make it to the table.  The snow did provide some pretty scenes across the landscape.


I am thankful we didn't get a foot or more that fell across parts of northern Iowa.

Drive safely if traveling is part of your celebration.  Eat well, giving thanks for what has been provided to us this last year.
Happy Thanksgiving!


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sweet Survival Tactics

OK, maybe not for the Zombie Apocalyse, Red Dawn or even solar flares, but plants have figured out many ingenious ways to survive.

There are becoming more and more "Super Weeds" that have developed resistance to herbicides, especially Monsanto's Round-Up or generically, glyphosate. One of the worst for large scale farming operations is Palmer Amaranth.  It has built up resistance by producing tens of thousands of seeds per plant, which increases the chance that one of its offspring will have some level of resistance.  Over time the more resistant plants survive to reproduce making tens of thousands of seeds with some resistance, and the chance for that much more resistance the next generation.

A more beneficial survival tactic, for us anyway and our gardens, is how some plants tolerate cold.  As plants grow they make carbohydrates by using the suns energy to combine water and carbon dioxide.  These carbohydrates are stored as starch in many of the plants we depend on for food; corn, wheat, potatoes, etc.  Starch can be dissolved in water by heating, think of water in the pot after boiling potatoes, but not in cold water.  This is where some plants have gone to Survival School.

Carrots are a great example.  As temperatures drop the carrot plant starts to convert some of the stored starch into sugar.  Sugar can dissolve easier in water, even cold water.  Think of making sweet teas or lemonade.  The dissolved sugar lowers the freezing point of the water in the plants tissues, and that's good news for the plant.  If the liquid in the cells freeze, the expanding ice crystals will cause the cells to burst.

This is why carrots are tastier after a couple frosts.  Unfortunately for the carrot, this survival technique has made it more likely to be eaten. 

You can store carrots right in the ground until you are ready to eat them.  You can enclose them in a hoop house or cover them with a thick layer of straw to keep the ground workable.  Once the ground starts to freeze you need to get them out or they will be stuck until Spring and in Iowa their internal antifreeze only protects them for so long.  You can store them in a root cellar for several months or in the fridge for several days or more.

Kale, parsnips and brussel sprouts are a few other vegetables that get sweeter when its cold.  Give them a try, even if you've not liked them before, you might be pleasantly surprised at the difference a couple dozen degrees colder can make.
Have a great week!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Wild Beauty - Fall Planting Sumac

Smooth and Staghorn Sumac are common small trees or shrubs in Iowa's countryside.  The feathery leaves turn a fiery red in the Fall, and the seed heads form a garnet colored cluster on the ends of the branches.  These seed heads are high in vitamin C, can be brewed into a lemonade like tea or dried and ground into a spice for Middle Eastern dishes.

They grow just about anywhere, so poor soils are not a problem for them.  They often form thickets and can spread by runners.  Since they grow so well, they can be used for erosion control on steeper hillsides and where the land has been disturbed.  Often times you will see them growing on the banks of steeper ditches along interstate highways.

This week I've put together a video showing a transplanting from last fall and how it grew this last year.  Fall planting works well for deciduous plants as they don't have to deal with summer heat, moisture loss through many leaves and a stressed root system.  They also will be going dormant above ground as freezing temperatures arrive.  Many can still put on some new root growth even with soil temperatures below 50°.  Sumac is a hardy plant and can do well with Fall Planting.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend and have a great week!


PS - What are you thinking of the Search for Sustainability series? 
I saw the first couple episodes, but haven't gotten caught up.  I really liked hearing from the people I follow anyway, and enjoyed those portions.  There were other interviewees where I was doing something else and didn't follow too closely.


Monday, November 2, 2015

Join me for the Search for Sustainability…

I recently found out about this documentary series titled, The Search for Sustainability, and not only does it look and sound like it will have some good stuff, but it's broadcasting for free!
Episode 1 only has a couple hours left.

I'm really excited for the segments with Marjory Wildcraft and Paul WheatonHere's the trailer for the film and all the details:

During this series, which broadcasts online between November 1st-12th, 49 uplifting voices speak out about the tragic and crucial emergencies going on in the world, the potentially imminent food, water, and financial collapse, and how we might be able to avoid all of this disaster and thrive in a sustainable way simply by:
  • Taking back control of our food, health, water, and energy supplies
  • Implementing simple and no-cost methods for living harmoniously with the land and our surrounding environment
  • Learning to grow our own food in a sustainable and regenerative way whether you live in New York, Texas, California, Oregon or any state for that matter
  • Collecting and properly using water to build back our water table and end disastrous water droughts
  • Utilizing herbal medicines to thrive
  • Creating and participating in local co-ops, farmers markets, and food growing networks to thrive in our local communities
  • Supporting and opening sustainable schools and values-based systems to support the health and consciousness of our children and the next generation
  • Learning to thrive in abundance in Urban, Suburban, and Rural communities by making a few simple changes
  • Having a deeper and more meaningful spiritual connection to our food, land, animals, and fellow humanity
  • Engaging and supporting the creative arts, music, and media in a sustainable way
  • And much more!
All this and more will be shared at no cost during this internationally broadcasted 12-part documentary series.  I highly encourage you to visit this web page for all the details so you don’t miss a thing:
49 sustainability experts, permaculture designers, organic farmers, herbal medics, energy and building enthusiasts, systems analysts, green-politicians, and health educators share potentially world-changing information during this series that simply is not available all in one place anywhere online.

If you or anyone you know is at all interested in living more sustainably, having more food, water, and shelter security, and being engaged in a meaningful experience with your local community, then you need to see this series today.

Make sure to mark off November 1st-12th on your calendar as each episode will be released once per night for 12 nights straight, and I know you won’t want to miss a single great episode.

Thank you, I can't wait to watch it with you! 

Please assume that any links being linked to products or services outside of Abundant Design are affiliated links and we may receive commissions for those referrals. Neither Jeff Reiland, Abundant Design nor their affiliates, content providers, employees or comment contributors are liable for any use or misuse of the information provided herein and your use of any information contained herein is solely at your own risk.
The information and statements contained within this website, any added comments or products and services provided hereby are intended for educational purposes only, have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any health or medical disorder.
Be sure to always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a health or medical situation. Never disregard professional medical advice, or delay seeking medical advice or treatment, because of information received from Jeff Reiland, Abundant Design nor their affiliates, content providers, member physicians, employees or comment contributors.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Jack's day is done, now what?

It's over... 
King Jack's reign on the front stoop was grand! 
He watched the leaves change to red and gold, but now they have fallen. 
He watched the trick-or-treaters come and laugh, but they now are gone, too. 
He gained an hour (really?) but now the evening comes sooner.

Who am I talking about? 
You know... Jack. 
Jack O'Lantern!

According to the Department of Energy, 1.3 Billion pumpkins are grown in the US each year.  Millions of pounds of these will soon be headed for the landfills.  They have been painted or carved into Jack O'Lanterns for holiday decorations and will end up in the municipal waste stream.

What can we do to prevent contributing to this problem?
If you live in the panhandle of Oklahoma or Vero Beach, Florida your pumpkins, and other trash, might end up in a biorefinery.

Unfortunately most of us don't live there, so what do we do?

Lucky enough to have pigs, or chickens?  They make great snacks for them, tasty and nutritious.  You will need to break them up a bit for chickens so they can get to the inside.

No pigs or chickens? They can also be composted, and will break down faster if broken or chopped into smaller pieces.

Hopefully if you carved Jack O'Lanterns, you roasted the seeds and composted the rest of the insides.

We can eat them too, and not just the seeds! 
Pumpkin flavored everything can be found anywhere you look.  Cookies, coffees and more...  and don't forget pie!

Skip the canned stuff and you'll be rewarded with a flavorful homemade version.  Make your own pumpkin puree with this recipe from the Clever Carrot.

If you opted to paint them this year or left them as plain decorations, they'll probably be ok yet for cooking, if they haven't gone through too many freeze/thaw cycles.  Don't forget to take the paint off!

Then once you have your puree (or if you carved a jack o'lantern and bought some) try some of these Pumpkin Recipes from Eating Well and Taste of Home.

For your own Pumpkin Spice mix try this recipe:
Pumpkin Spice-
  • 4 parts cinnamon
  • 2 parts ginger
  • 1 part nutmeg
  • 1 part allspice
As a BONUS Treat, not Trick, the Sustainable Small Farm Online Summit is FREE (replay) until 9pm Central November 1st.

Have a great week!