Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Harvesting Moringa for My Mom's Tea

Moringa Bouquet for Mom 

I'm so excited that my mom is coming to visit for a few days.  Our moringa plant has been growing nicely (with a little help from a recent deep watering with rainwater from our cistern) so I went ahead and harvested some to dry for some nutritious tea for my mom.

It's super easy to snap off the branches. The moringa actually likes to be pruned this way. It encourages new growth.  

Next I wash it over our metal dish pans. (That water will go on our Mexican Honeysuckle.) 

I wrap a twist tie around the stem and hang them in a bunch to dry on a rack in our guest room. It takes about 4 days for them to dry that way. The smell of fresh moringa fills the room! 

I remember when I first planted it by seed in our (then) new right-of-way basin. Oh, the memories...


After the leaves are dry, I take them off of the branches.

Here's how much tea it made for my mom. 

Then they are ready to be scooped into a tea ball to seep in a cup of boiling water. 

Can't wait to share a nice cup of moringa tea with my mom.

NOTE: Our moringa are planted in the right of way basin - which is great when it rains. (It grows up to 6-8 feet after the monsoon rains.) But not so good in the winter since it has no protection from the cold. It always dies back when we have a hard freeze so I harvest the leaves before then. But we're always excited when it comes back in the spring. 

More moringa memories: 

Why is moringa good for you?

Saturday, May 25, 2024

My favorite places in Tucson to bring visitors

Gazing at Brad Lancaster's house and cisterns in Dunbar-Spring neighborhood

After a day exploring the rainwater and greywater features on our yard, the sun went down. We decided to harvest some tasty (and slightly sour) barrel cactus fruit to prepare for Watershed Management Group's Family Saturday event. 

Slice and bake barrel cactus leaving the seeds in place

The next morning, we were off to Watershed Management Group where I gave Lillie a quick tour of the Living Lab and Learning Center. Check out the chicken coop that Dan helped to build. The chickens compost the lab's kitchen and garden scraps so they can be used for fertilizer for the nearby food forest. 

Also on the campus is a big underground cistern that holds 10,000 gallons of water collected off of two roofs on the campus. The wooden hatch in the foreground is the access cover to the cistern.

And in the background is their stylish blue bathroom with composting toilets that provide humanure for the many trees at the Living Lab. 

Since Lillie is a civil engineering mayor with an emphasis on the environment, Dan figured she would benefit from an explanation of their water filtration system. The water pumped out of the underground cistern is filtered so it can be used for drinking. 

Those are just a few of the conservation efforts demonstrated at the Living Lab. You can learn about more on the Living Lab Tour. Dan might even be your guide! 

Always the trooper, Lillie was game for a tour of Brad Lancaster's Dunbar-Spring neighborhood

We saw a roadrunner enjoying a path shaded with native palo verde trees in rainwater harvesting basins.

On the path was a sign that showed BEFORE AND AFTER the rainwater harvesting features were installed. The area in front of Brad's house used to be nothing but hard, stark ground. Now there is a lush desert food forest and habitat for all kinds of desert critters! 

We were inspired by the community spirit in this neighborhood as well as the street art, rainwater and traffic calming features that the industrious neighbors installed. 

We saw the famous "garottage" (garage cottage) where Brad lives. Dan explained the passive solar that the positioning of the house provided. 
Sign explaining passive solar

I couldn't wait to show off the many rainwater features like the curb cut that directs water into the rock-lined catchment basin to water that native mesquite tree.

This is on the same street where Brad installed the first guerilla curb cuts that are now legal and eligible for rebates in Tucson and are part of neighborhood Green Stormwater Infrastructure projects being installed by the city.

Just look at all the shade this traffic calming chicane provides the neighborhood! 

Water from the street nourishes the native trees and plants in this chicane

Jeremy reminded me that they need to be able to explore for themselves.

Jeremy and Lillie explore a traffic circle that serves as a habitat for desert critters.

And make their own discoveries... 

But it always comes back to this...

We celebrated with a yummy dinner at the nearby La Indita restaurant on Stone. 

Then it was off for a well deserved day of fun at the Desert Museum!

Where Lillie made her own discoveries...

But we can't help to point out the reason that all of that water conservation matters. From a platform at the Desert Museum, we spotted the Central Avra Valley recharge basins. Our CAP water is pumped 326 miles from the Colorado River which we share with seven other states and Mexico - who are also suffering from a severe drought. 

Rainwater harvesting is one tool for water security in Tucson and helps to cool our neighborhoods. 

Central Avra Valley recharge basins from Desert Museum

It was great spending a few days exploring some of the most inspiring places in Tucson with Jeremy and Lillie! 

To find out how much water you can harvest at home, try out this simple water budget calculator from Watershed Management Group.


Friday, May 24, 2024

Sharing my passion with the next generation

I always enjoy sharing my knowledge about sustainability with the next generation. So I was especially excited to give a tour of our rainwater basins to my son Jeremy's girlfriend Lillie, a civil engineering major with an emphasis on the environment. Can Jeremy pick 'em or what?!!! Jeremy tagged along to find out which plants to water when Dan and I go away on vacation. He took some photos while he was at it. Thanks, Jeremy! 

Our first stop was filling up my water bucket at the slimline tank. I explained how we get a lot of rainwater off of the roof (nearly 11,000 gallons a year.) Some of that water is directed from a gutter to a downspout and into our jujube basin. Gutters also direct water to the various cisterns around the house. 

I was delighted to share how the nearby jujube trees had grown three feet last year on just rainwater collected in the basin. And they were starting to bear the first fruit of the season. Even after this long dry spell! 

I had recently chopped and dropped some dried native plants (that some people might call "weeds") into the basin to create organic mulch. That observation inspired this story. Five years ago, Dan had removed a row of aging oleanders and dug a basin there for three baby jujube trees. The one planted farthest from where the oleanders were grew four times as fast as the two planted in the soil poisoned by the oleanders. But native grasses, organic matter (chopped weeds and fallen leaves) and rainwater mitigated the soil, so now the other two trees have caught up with the biggest tree!

The next stop was our shallow front yard basins. (See the pic at the top of the page.) The wood chip mulch has mostly broken down into soil. (We need another truck load.) So a bunch of poppies and native grasses grew there. When they died, I broke the stems of the poppies into hay-like mulch and left the dried grass (that had gone to seed) to feed the ants, birds and squirrels. 

Doves eating grass seeds in the shade of a desert acacia tree by the PLANTS FOR BIRDS sign.

Here I am pointing out the bird bath in the mesquite guild. (It is so important to provide daily water for the birds - especially in this heat!) The mesquite tree acts as a nurse plant providing shade and nitrogen for the nearby hackberry and a young saguaro. Notice that even during this dry spell, the native trees are green and thriving.

Next we visited the right of way basin where our moringa is coming back nicely after dying back in the hard freeze. Lillie gamely tasted the leaves of the nutritious "horseradish plant." 

Then I filled up my watering can and watered our flowering hibiscus plant that we recently planted in the greywater basin. There it benefits from greywater from our outdoor washing machine. The drought tolerant heritage pomegranate in the basin was also bearing fruit! It's always good to have that extra washing machine water for higher water-use plants like fruit trees.

I pointed out how the big slanted roof on the neighbors house had directed so much water into our yard that it had dissolved a wooden shed. Our kind neighbor gave Dan permission to install a gutter there to direct rainwater into a cistern to water our little garden. 

Jeremy followed me and Lillie into our fenced-in garden where he took this picture of his loved ones and learned that I use one watering can full of water on our little veggie garden. 

Lillie learned that the Palo Verde trees shade the garden from our hot summer sun and provide nitrogen to the soil. Bird netting cages keep the squirrels out of the chard (that grows year-round here.) And we use our dirty dishwater (with salt free soap) to moisten our compost pit. Every drop of water is precious in the desert.

It was so fun sharing my passion with Lillie. Can't wait to see what the next generation does... 

Continue our tour of my favorite places to bring visitors here:

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