Abbott Organics Featured in Saveur

Abbott Organics is a fabulous organic farm in West Sacramento that I have been helping.  Their gourmet organic infused salt just got a write up in Saveur which is a hoity-toity foodie magazine my mom practically consumes raw. Check out the piece:


Abbott Organics Small Farm in West Sacramento: A Little Gem of Agricultural Ingenuity



I unexpectedly ventured onto an organic farm today.  Abbott Organics is  a small, independent farm that specializes in rare varieties of garlic which they make into infused gourmet salt with a simple solar process.  Their hoop houses are a sight to behold.

Todd and Amy do everything themselves.  The farm is in its fourth year and they are producing 2000 pounds per hoop house while using a fraction of the water compared to other farms their size.  Their vertical system combines a small amount of water and nutrients and uses gravity to draw the liquid down and nourish the column of plants.  They also sell crops of heirloom red, orange and purple peppers and grape tomatoes.



Blossom in the Tomato Sun House

Todd did everything right with his set up: he concentrated on doing two or three things really well, he picked a good price point with peppers and garlic and he has devised an elegantly simple way of infusing the highest quality french salt with the live, raw essence of these unique varieties.


Todd and Amy in the Pepper House.

My friend who invited me, Beth Wenbourne Katz, is working on their marketing strategy and I came along to see if I could help.  Our meeting consisted of a takeout picnic, plum picking, chicken petting and custard pie.  Image


Their method is inspiring and their product and  yield are impressive.  I am really excited to see what happens now that Beth is in charge getting them out there.  I could so stand it if this was what my business meetings looked like.





Teaching Yoga to Inpatients

imagesFor a few months, I have been teaching yoga to the patients at Sutter Center for Psychiatry.  I teach an adolescent class and an adult class.  Generally, people arrive at the facility because they are in a psychologically dangerous place and the average stay is between 3-5 days.  So I will likely teach them once and never see them again.

Today, the teens were especially challenging.  It was the hardest room I ever worked, to use comedian-speak.  And before I did this, I worked at the juvenile hall for almost 3 years. These kids have so little in terms of tools.  They have no impulse control, anger management, no distress tolerance at all.  They are lightning rods in the sense that anything falling outside of their expectations is shock to them.

This morning, as always, I asked them to rate their mood on a scale of 1-10, 1 being crappy and 10 being fabulous.  One girl told me 1.5.  We went through the routine, with most of them opting to just sit.  When we check back in, they usually report a little boost.  But the 1.5 Girl told me: “1. I feel WORSE”.

As soon as I finished with the teens, I quickly packed up everything including a dozen mats, my keys, my notebook and hygiene wipes that the hospital requires we use with each class. I hustle everything to the adult ward, set up and let everyone know I am teaching. there is always a certain amount of relief with this class because it isn’t required and the adults are usually so much more enthusiastic.

We practiced outside in the shade and I had three, incredibly brave, enthusiastic women.  I try to just give them tricks, like: when you are feeling anxious, bring your awareness to your feet on the ground.  When you are angry, stick out your tongue on the exhale, like a lion.  This pose helps build our endurance because it mimics the bodily feeling of distress.  These amazing women were so unsteady but that they were trying to heal in this simple way seemed nothing short of heroic.

Every time I set foot in the ward, I am so profoundly humbled by what I see.  Many of these people are in such acute pain and heavily drugged just to give them some distance from the event that landed them there.  Many of them, I realized lately, have sustained some sort of physical injury that spiraled into mental illness.  There is almost no such thing as a patient at the ward with a serious mental condition and a perfectly healthy body.

It takes so much for them to just walk, eat, smile.

Sometimes I am lucky enough to talk to the nurses as I fill out my reports.  I hear them discussing patients and treatments, and often they don’t agree with the established protocol.  There experience is so potent and they are unwavering in their listening, their tone, their sense of duty.  And they are always so actively grateful for this little thing I am doing.

My outreach director, who is a constant source of information and inspiration, suggested to me that I devise some flushing out method.  He said this to me on a day when we watched a ten year old getting admitted.  She was so small and scared that the mom in me wanted to just completely envelop her.  He registered her and then I think registered me.  He works in the prisons, which is the most intense work a yoga therapist can do; death is past present and future there.  And he said to me, if you don’t wash it off, you end up taking it home with you.

When I come out and step back into the real world, its like holding a magnifying glass up to everyday pain.  I look around at the gas station and see the physical attributes of emotional pain everywhere.  There is not really a whole lot of difference between those folks inside taking it minute by minute and these folks on the outside except crisis.

As mistrustful as I am of the medical industrial complex, I believe in the people who go to daily war on others’ behalf like the staff at Sutter.  They do battle with the amorphous alien of mental illness and the tools and the laws are always in chaotic flux.  They conquer mountains of paperwork and they never seem daunted.

I have a friend who recently lost the war with depression and took his life.  I talked to some of the nurses today about him and one of them took my hand and said, “I am so so sorry, my Dear.” as though it wasn’t something she faced down everyday with her patients.  It is as if their occupation has only served to expand their empathy.

A yogi friend of mine said to me once when I was really in doubt about my teaching skills: “we always think ‘who am I to teach this stuff, I don’t have it all figured out’ but if you know anything, anything at all about healing, you have a responsibility to share it, who are you not to share it?”  But even more than that, I am healing myself though this work because  I get to watch people choose life even when life has been horribly cruel to them.  I get to witness the most powerful examples of real-world love in action.  Contributing anything at all to the valiant efforts of the patients and the caregivers is some of the most meaningful work I have ever done.