Sacred Earth

Exploring nature and culture, ecology and eco-psychology

Nature Notes 

Autumn Equinox

Autumn Equinox

At the Autumn Equinox, night and day are in balance once again. The forces of light and dark are in perfect equilibrium. The Equinox marks the end of the harvest season, and we celebrate the gifts of the Earth on Thanksgiving (not to be confused with the American celebration, which takes place in late November). From this day on, the vital earth-energy begins to retreat below ground. The days are getting shorter and summer is over.

The end of the summer marks an intensely busy time of gathering and preserving the gifts of the earth, to give thanks and to prepare for the coming winter months. Most of the harvest has been brought in. Now we hunt for nuts and mushrooms.

This is a good time to take stock and to prepare for the lean months ahead. Stock up the larder and make sure your woodpile is high and dry so that your supplies will see you through the winter until the Sun returns once more.

Welcome to the Sacred Earth website!

Hi there! Thanks for stopping by! My name is Kat Morgenstern, and I am delighted that you have found your way here!

I have created the Sacred Earth website as a forum for nature lovers of all stripes. Come and join me on a journey down the garden path, and off into the virtual woods, where we will explore, learn and discover all about the intertwining roots of nature and culture.

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Earth Charter Initiative

Earth Charter Initiative

Earth Charter Initiative

When I first came across the Earth Charter Initiative in 2004, I was elated to find a worldwide network of hundreds and thousands of people working as individuals, or grassroots organizations and NGOs, all sharing a common vision: appealing to the highest common denominators and values of our shared humanity to draw up a charter that could serve as a guideline for a sustainable, just and peaceful future.

At a time when major changes in how we think and live are urgently needed, the Earth Charter challenges us to examine our values and to choose a better way. It calls on us to search for common ground in the midst of our diversity and to embrace a new ethical vision that is shared by growing numbers of people in many nations and cultures throughout the world.

I feel that initiatives like this, and this one especially, are important and deserve to be spread, far and wide, so that its spirit takes wings and inspires us to try harder and do more to save our beautiful home planet, I am publishing it here in full.

What is the Earth Charter?

The Earth Charter is a declaration of 16 fundamental principles for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st century. It seeks to inspire in all peoples a new sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the human family and the larger living world. It is an expression of hope and a call to help create a global partnership at a critical juncture in history.

The principles are grounded in the four pillars of Respect and Care for the Community of Life, Ecological Integrity, social and Economic Justice, and Democracy, Nonviolence, and Peace.

The Earth Charter

 

Preamble

We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.

Earth, Our Home

Humanity is part of a vast evolving universe. Earth, our home, is alive with a unique community of life. The forces of nature make existence a demanding and uncertain adventure, but Earth has provided the conditions essential to life’s evolution. The resilience of the community of life and the well-being of humanity depend upon preserving a healthy biosphere with all its ecological systems, a rich variety of plants and animals, fertile soils, pure waters, and clean air. The global environment with its finite resources is a common concern of all peoples. The protection of Earth’s vitality, diversity, and beauty is a sacred trust.

The Global Situation

The dominant patterns of production and consumption are causing environmental devastation, the depletion of resources, and a massive extinction of species. Communities are being undermined. The benefits of development are not shared equitably and the gap between rich and poor is widening. Injustice, poverty, ignorance, and violent conflict are widespread and the cause of great suffering. An unprecedented rise in the human population has overburdened ecological and social systems. The foundations of global security are threatened. These trends are perilous—but not inevitable.

The Challenges Ahead

The choice is ours: form a global partnership to care for Earth and one another or risk the destruction of ourselves and the diversity of life. Fundamental changes are needed in our values, institutions, and ways of living. We must realize that when basic needs have been met, human development is primarily about being more, not having more. We have the knowledge and technology to provide for all and to reduce our impacts on the environment. The emergence of a global civil society is creating new opportunities to build a democratic and humane world. Our environmental, economic, political, social, and spiritual challenges are interconnected, and together we can forge inclusive solutions.

Universal Responsibility

To realize these aspirations, we must decide to live with a sense of universal responsibility, identifying ourselves with the whole Earth community as well as our local communities. We are at once citizens of different nations and of one world in which the local and global are linked. Everyone shares responsibility for the present and future well-being of the human family and the larger living world. The spirit of human solidarity and kinship with all life is strengthened when we live with reverence for the mystery of being, gratitude for the gift of life, and humility regarding the human place in nature.

We urgently need a shared vision of basic values to provide an ethical foundation for the emerging world community. Therefore, together in hope, we affirm the following interdependent principles for a sustainable way of life as a common standard by which the conduct of all individuals, organizations, businesses, governments, and transnational institutions is to be guided and assessed.

Respect and care for the community of life

Respect and care for the Community of Life

Respect Earth and life in all its diversity.

  1. Recognize that all beings are interdependent and every form of life has value regardless of its worth to human beings.
  2. Affirm faith in the inherent dignity of all human beings and in the intellectual, artistic, ethical, and spiritual potential of humanity.

Care for the community of life with understanding, compassion, and love.

  1. Accept that with the right to own, manage, and use natural resources comes the duty to prevent environmental harm and to protect the rights of people.
  2. Affirm that with increased freedom, knowledge, and power comes increased responsibility to promote the common good.

Build democratic societies that are just, participatory, sustainable, and peaceful.

  1. Ensure that communities at all levels guarantee human rights and fundamental freedoms and provide everyone an opportunity to realize his or her full potential.
  2. Promote social and economic justice, enabling all to achieve a secure and meaningful livelihood that is ecologically responsible.

Secure Earth’s bounty and beauty for present and future generations.

  1. Recognize that the freedom of action of each generation is qualified by the needs of future generations.
  2. Transmit to future generations the values, traditions, and institutions that support the long-term flourishing of Earth’s human and ecological communities. In order to fulfill these four broad commitments. it is necessary to: (continue to Pillar II).

Ecological Integrity

Protect and restore the integrity of Earth’s ecological systems, with special concern for biological diversity and the natural processes that sustain life.

  1. Adopt at all levels sustainable development plans and regulations that make environmental conservation and rehabilitation integral to all development initiatives.
  2. Establish and safeguard viable nature and biosphere reserves, including wild lands and marine areas, to protect Earth’s life support systems, maintain biodiversity, and preserve our natural heritage.
  3. Promote the recovery of endangered species and ecosystems.
  4. Control and eradicate non-native or genetically modified organisms harmful to native species and the environment, and prevent the introduction of such harmful organisms.
  5. Manage the use of renewable resources such as water, soil, forest products, and marine life in ways that do not exceed rates of regeneration and that protect the health of ecosystems.
  6. Manage the extraction and use of non-renewable resources such as minerals and fossil fuels in ways that minimize depletion and cause no serious environmental damage.

Prevent harm as the best method of environmental protection and, when knowledge is limited, apply a precautionary approach.

  1. Take action to avoid the possibility of serious or irreversible environmental harm even when scientific knowledge is incomplete or inconclusive.
  2. Place the burden of proof on those who argue that a proposed activity will not cause significant harm, and make the responsible parties liable for environmental harm.
  3. Ensure that decision making addresses the cumulative, long-term, indirect, long-distance, and global consequences of human activities.
  4. Prevent pollution of any part of the environment and allow no build-up of radioactive, toxic, or other hazardous substances.
  5. Avoid military activities damaging to the environment.

Adopt patterns of production, consumption, and reproduction that safeguard Earth’s regenerative capacities, human rights, and community well-being.

  1. Reduce, reuse, and recycle the materials used in production and consumption systems, and ensure that residual waste can be assimilated by ecological systems.
  2. Act with restraint and efficiency when using energy, and rely increasingly on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.
  3. Promote the development, adoption, and equitable transfer of environmentally sound technologies.
  4. Internalize the full environmental and social costs of goods and services in the selling price, and enable consumers to identify products that meet the highest social and environmental standards.
  5. Ensure universal access to health care that fosters reproductive health and responsible reproduction.
  6. Adopt lifestyles that emphasize the quality of life and material sufficiency in a finite world.

Advance the study of ecological sustainability and promote the open exchange and wide application of the knowledge acquired.

  1. Support international scientific and technical cooperation on sustainability, with special attention to the needs of developing nations.
  2. Recognize and preserve traditional knowledge and spiritual wisdom in all cultures that contribute to environmental protection and human well-being.
  3. Ensure that information of vital importance to human health and environmental protection, including genetic information, remains available in the public domain.

Social and Economic Justice

Eradicate poverty as an ethical, social, and environmental imperative.

  1. Guarantee the right to potable water, clean air, food security, uncontaminated soil, shelter, and safe sanitation, allocating the national and international resources required.
  2. Empower every human being with the education and resources to secure a sustainable livelihood, and provide social security and safety nets for those who are unable to support themselves.
  3. Recognize the ignored, protect the vulnerable, serve those who suffer, and enable them to develop their capacities and to pursue their aspirations.

Ensure that economic activities and institutions at all levels promote human development in an equitable and sustainable manner.

  1. Promote the equitable distribution of wealth within nations and among nations.
  2. Enhance the intellectual, financial, technical, and social resources of developing nations, and relieve them of onerous international debt.
  3. Ensure that all trade supports sustainable resource use, environmental protection, and progressive labor standards.
  4. Require multinational corporations and international financial organizations to act transparently in the public good, and hold them accountable for the consequences of their activities.

Affirm gender equality and equity as prerequisites to sustainable development and ensure universal access to education, health care, and economic opportunity.

  1. Secure the human rights of women and girls and end all violence against them.
  2. Promote the active participation of women in all aspects of economic, political, civil, social, and cultural life as full and equal partners, decision-makers, leaders, and beneficiaries.
  3. Strengthen families and ensure the safety and loving nurture of all family members.

Uphold the right of all, without discrimination, to a natural and social environment supportive of human dignity, bodily health, and spiritual well-being, with special attention to the rights of indigenous peoples and minorities.

  1. Eliminate discrimination in all its forms, such as that based on race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, language, and national, ethnic, or social origin.
  2. Affirm the right of indigenous peoples to their spirituality, knowledge, lands, and resources and to their related practice of sustainable livelihoods.
  3. Honor and support the young people of our communities, enabling them to fulfill their essential role in creating sustainable societies.
  4. Protect and restore outstanding places of cultural and spiritual significance.

Democracy, Non-Violence, and Peace

Strengthen democratic institutions at all levels, and provide transparency and accountability in governance, inclusive participation in decision making, and access to justice.

  1. Uphold the right of everyone to receive clear and timely information on environmental matters and all development plans and activities which are likely to affect them or in which they have an interest.
  2. Support local, regional, and global civil society, and promote the meaningful participation of all interested individuals and organizations in decision making.
  3. Protect the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly, association, and dissent.
  4. Institute effective and efficient access to administrative and independent judicial procedures, including remedies and redress for environmental harm and the threat of such harm.
  5. Eliminate corruption in all public and private institutions.
  6. Strengthen local communities, enabling them to care for their environments, and assign environmental responsibilities to the levels of government where they can be carried out most effectively.

Integrate into formal education and life-long learning the knowledge, values, and skills needed for a sustainable way of life.

  1. Provide all, especially children and youth, with educational opportunities that empower them to contribute actively to sustainable development.
  2. Promote the contribution of the arts and humanities as well as the sciences in sustainability education.
  3. Enhance the role of the mass media in raising awareness of ecological and social challenges.
  4. Recognize the importance of moral and spiritual education for sustainable living.

Treat all living beings with respect and consideration.

  1. Prevent cruelty to animals kept in human societies and protect them from suffering.
  2. Protect wild animals from methods of hunting, trapping, and fishing that cause extreme, prolonged, or avoidable suffering.
  3. Avoid or eliminate to the full extent possible the taking or destruction of non-targeted species.

Promote a culture of tolerance, nonviolence, and peace.

  1. Encourage and support mutual understanding, solidarity, and cooperation among all peoples and within and among nations.
  2. Implement comprehensive strategies to prevent violent conflict and use collaborative problem solving to manage and resolve environmental conflicts and other disputes.
  3. Demilitarize national security systems to the level of a non-provocative defense posture, and convert military resources to peaceful purposes, including ecological restoration.
  4. Eliminate nuclear, biological, and toxic weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.
  5. Ensure that the use of orbital and outer space supports environmental protection and peace.
  6. Recognize that peace is the wholeness created by right relationships with oneself, other persons, other cultures, other life, Earth, and the larger whole of which all are part.

On the earth charter website, the earth charter is available for download in different languages. There are also a number of other educational materials available to all who wish to share its message. 

 

Visit the Earth Charter Initiative online at https://earthcharter.org/

Get involved https://earthcharter.org/get-involved/https://earthcharter.org/get-involved/

Educational Ressources https://earthcharter.org/education-sustainable-development/

Plant Profile:

Plant Profile: Walnut

Plant Profile: Walnut

Walnuts (Juglans regia)

It’s ‘nutty season’! (No, I don’t mean politics, in this case) I have was reminded of the fact by the intermittent popping noises coming from outside my window and by the mass of fuzzy hazelnut balls that are piling up on the front porch. These Turkish hazelnuts are plentiful, for sure, and easy to collect. But they are small and extremely tedious to crack. Thankfully, nature provides plentifully and these are not the only nut trees around. We also have some Walnut trees – English Walnuts, that is! Majestic to behold, Walnut trees, are among my favorite trees, and seeing them laden with nuts is a joy.

The ‘foreign tree’

Walnut trees (Juglans regia) are well integrated foreigners in our northern latitudes. Their home is in the warm, and fertile regions of south-east Europe, northern Greece, northern Italy, and France, where they are widely cultivated. Walnuts reached the ‘Low Countries’ north of the Alps in the pockets of Roman soldiers. But, it took several centuries before they really made themselves at home. Teutonic tribes, who gave them their name, apparently regarded them as an oddity, which is expressed in the name they gave the tree: ‘Walnut’ is derived from the Germanic word ‘welsh’, meaning foreign.

They did not reach Britain until the 16th-century and are only found in the warmer, southern parts. The Roman nut became known as the ‘English Walnut’, perhaps to distinguish it from the American walnut (Juglans nigra), or the Pecan nut (Carya illinoinensis). So, it seems this ‘foreigner’ has not only well adapted to its new home but has also been adopted by the locals, who think of it as one of their own.

A southerner in northern climes

Although in time walnuts adapted quite well to the much harsher northern climate, their southern origin becomes evident in spring. Despite the fact that they come into flower quite late (April), they remain vulnerable to late frosts, which can quickly ruin the prospects of a good harvest.

A generational tree

In previous centuries, walnut trees were considered so valuable that they were specifically itemized in the will. A productive grove could cover a good part of a family’s livelihood. But that aside, planting a walnut orchard was an investment in the future: walnut trees are slow to mature. Although they start to produce nuts from the tender age of 15 years, they don’t become fully productive until they have reached the age of thirty. A mature tree produces about 50kg of nuts per year.

The American Cousin

The American (Black) Walnut is quite a different fellow. They are native to the US and occur wild throughout the eastern United States. However, they are not as well-loved as the ‘English’ variety, since they have the rather unsocial habit of emitting a chemical from their roots that inhibits, and eventually kills other plants in its vicinity.  Besides, they are incredibly hard to shuck. People report placing them on their driveways and driving the truck over them in order to crack their shells. Crows & co have picked up on this trick. The birds strategically place nuts in the flow of traffic (e.g. at stoplights) in order to enlist our help in cracking the nuts.

Foraging

In a good year, a mature walnut tree is laden with nuts, which begin to fall in late September/early October, depending on your growing zone.

The nuts are covered by a hard, green hull that is exceedingly difficult to remove and besides, will stain your hands, clothes, and work surface.  Wear gloves, if you don’t want your hands to look like you have been chain-smoking. It is best to harvest the nuts when they are fully ripe, at which point the green cortex will split open to reveal the nut inside, or sometimes it disintegrates into a black mush, leaving the nut behind.

Remove the black stuff as much as possible. It is very high in tannin and can affect the quality of the nut inside. Once you have removed the outer cortex wash the nuts. Put them into a bucket of water. This will naturally separate the good ones from the rotten ones. Bad walnuts tend to float, while the good ones will sink.

After washing the nuts, you can either shuck them or dry and store them for later use. If dried and stored properly, walnuts can keep for a year. Shucking exposes them to oxygen, which will cause them to turn rancid more quickly, due to their high levels of unsaturated (as well as saturated) fats. Keep the nuts in a cool and dark place where there is no danger of worms or vermin looking for a free lunch.

American Walnuts are much harder to crack than English walnuts. It is said that soaking them in water for 8 hours prior to cracking makes the job much easier. For English Walnuts, this is not necessary. They readily succumb to the persuasive powers of an ordinary nutcracker. Black Walnuts need a more forceful treatment.

Walnuts are very rich in oil – 2 kg of nuts will yield about one liter of oil. which is considered a delicacy. It is not so easy to obtain from your foraged nuts, though. Native Americans are said to have boiled the nuts to extract the oil. But this also destroys some of their nutrients.

Walnut oil has a delicious nutty flavor and is excellent in salad dressings or home backing to impart a delicate nutty flavor.

Most of all, forager appreciate walnuts for their delicious ‘meat’, which can be used in both sweet and savory dishes. (see recipes below)

Medicinal uses

The soft kernel on the half-shell vaguely resembles a brain, surrounded by the protective cover of the cranium. The ancients took this likeness to mean that the nut must be good for the brain.  (according to the doctrine of signatures). Scientists have confirmed that walnuts are indeed beneficial for the brain. This is due to their nutrient content, and especially the omega-3 fatty acids (of which walnuts are a rich source). Omega-3 fatty acids support the body when it comes to dealing with stress and is said to help alleviate depression. (see https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/omega-3-fatty-acids-for-mood-disorders-2018080314414)

Native Americans have used various parts of the tree, not just for food, but also as medicine. The leaves and root bark was used in anti-parasitic preparations and to treat skin diseases. The root bark is very astringent and makes a good anti-inflammatory wash that can be applied to herpes, eczema, and scrofula. Taken internally, it stops diarrhea, stays the flux, and dries up the flow of milk in nursing mothers.

Dyeing

The leaves repel insects and can be used as an ad hoc insecticide. The hulls, husks, leaves, and bark are all used as vegetable dyes to yield various colors ranging from yellow to dark brown or black.

Paints

The oil is drying and can be used in oil paints as an alternative to Linseed oil. Recently, powdered shells have been incorporated into new types of ‘designer paints’ to produce interesting textures or in-floor paints, to produce an anti-skidding effect.

walnuts

Recipes

Pickled Walnuts

If you want to pickle walnuts, you have to pick them while they are still green and hanging in the tree. They have to be in an unripe state so that the inner shell is still soft and hasn’t turned woody yet. Typically, they should be picked in June.

Prepare a brine: 6oz salt to 1 quart of water.

With the help of a long needle poke the walnuts all over (don’t remove the green hulls) and cover with the brine. Steep for about 1 week.

Drain, and repeat: cover with fresh brine for another week.

Drain again. Spread the walnuts on a tray and let the sun dry them. Turn them from time to time.

When the walnuts are dry and have turned black, fill them into pickling jars. (Kilner jars, mason jars))

Prepare a spiced vinegar with:

  • 1oz mixed peppercorns
  • 1oz allspice
  • ¾ inch ginger root (fresh)

Add some dried chilies or coriander seeds, if you like. Lightly crush the spices and place them into a muslin bag. Simmer the bag in the malt vinegar for 10 minutes. Then let the vinegar cool down before removing the spices. Pour the vinegar over the walnuts and make sure the liquid covers them. Close the jar tightly. Macerate for 6 – 8 weeks before tasting them.

Stuffing

Walnuts make an excellent stuffing for mushroom, marrows, or puff pastry parcels.

Ingredients:

  • 12 medium-size mushrooms caps
  • 1 tbs. olive oil
  • 1 tbs. butter
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 tbs. coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
  • 5 ounces frozen spinach, thoroughly defrosted and squeezed to remove most of the liquid
  • 1 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 oz Gruyere cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tbs minced fresh dill
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper and nutmeg to taste

Method:

Preheat oven to 400° F. Clean the mushrooms and remove the stems.  In a small skillet, heat the olive oil and butter. Add the onion and cook over medium heat, cover and sauté until soft.

Add walnuts and cook for another minute. Add the spinach and stir continuously for about 5 minutes. Take off the heat and cool slightly. Stir in cheeses, dill, nutmeg, and salt and pepper, to taste.

In an oven-proof pan arrange the mushrooms, cavity side up. Plop a wallop of the spinach/walnut mixture into each mushroom cap and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the filling turns brown and the mushrooms are thoroughly heated.

Walnut Liqueur

In Italy and France, walnut liqueur is considered a regional specialty. ‘Nocino’ in Italian –  although there are many versions of the ‘original’ recipe. The idea is simple: macerate green, unripe walnuts in a blend of clear alcohol, (e.g. grain alcohol), and syrup.

Method

In June, when the Walnuts are still green and soft inside (traditionally on St. John’s Day=Midsummer), pick your nuts straight from the tree. Wash and quarter the nuts.

Remember to wear gloves!

Fill a large jar with the nuts and add some spices, such as a couple of cinnamon sticks and a few cloves and perhaps a vanilla bean. Chop up an organic, untreated lemon (or orange, if you prefer) and add to the mixture. Pour in about 1 ½ pound of sugar and cover with 3 liters of grain alcohol. Close the lid tightly and steep for about 6 weeks. Keep in a warm dark place.

Test the liquid and adjust to suit your taste. Strain through filter paper and bottle. Store in a cool place.

Green Walnuts preserved in Syrup – from Mrs. Grieves – A Modern Herbal

‘Take as many green Walnuts as you please, about the middle of July, try them all with a pin, if it goes easily through them they are fit for your purpose;

lay them in Water for nine days, washing and shifting them Morning and Night;

then boil them in water until they be a little Soft, lay them to drain;

then pierce them through with a Wooden Sciver, and in the hole put a Clove, and in some a bit of Cinnamon, and in some the rind of a Citron Candi’d:

then take the weight of your Nuts in Sugar, or a little more; make it into a syrup, in which boil your Nuts (skimming them) till they be tender;

then put them up in Gally potts, and cover them close.

When you lay them to drain, wipe them with a Course cloth to take off a thin green Skin. They are Cordial and Stomachal.’

– (From The Family Physician, ‘by Geo. Hartman, Phylo Chymist, who liv’d and Travell’d with the Honourable Sir Kenelm Digby, in several parts of Europe the space of Seven Years till he died.’)

Walnuts are incredibly versatile – even if they are not the star ingredient, they never fail to give a dish a refining note. I sprinkle them on salads or use them instead of pine nuts in a pesto blend. They are also fabulous in desserts and cakes.

Caution:

People who are allergic to nuts should stay away from walnuts and all products derived from them or containing them. Likewise, people who are scared of calories should treat this nut with respect. However, replacing some of your normal dietary fat with walnut oil can be a very wise choice as walnut oil has an excellent nutritional profile and can help to fight free radicals while lowering cholesterol levels. Walnuts are a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Always wear gloves when handling walnuts – especially as long as they are still green. And leave some for the wildlife – it is an important source of food to carry them through the winter.

wildlife

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