Friday, December 29, 2006

I think we can all agree that garden fresh tomatoes taste better than supermarket tomatoes

Let's say that you are a person who eats food. Oh, you are? Well, then, this commentary may actually be meaningful for you. Excellent.

Now, let's say that you, like a vast majority of Americans, purchase primarily conventionally produced & delivered food products (ie. not organic or locally produced). You're in good company as this segment of the food market constitutes about 98% of total food purchases in the US.

Finally, let us say that 40+% (Lord knows it's probably more) of the conventionally produced & delivered food products that you buy are brought to you by just four megolithic, multinational corporations (MMCs) & their complimentary minion subsidiaries. Well, they like to call them their "families of businesses" which of course sounds very "warm" & "fuzzy" but as you may know I am no marketer for The Man.

Now, it makes sense to me that these corporations would be guarding our food system & the productivity of the land in the interest of the long-term profitability of their own companies if for no other reason. BUT NO! What they seem to be doing is just the opposite - exploiting to the fullest & fiercest extent the fertility of the land including the labor of its people (farmers & farm workers), those people themselves, & the consumers of its products (you & me & everyone we know) for short-term profit. They are accomplishing this by such market-cornering means as patenting lifeforms, creating closed loop systems for their own toxic chemicals & genetically proprietary seeds, & using scare tactics against farmers who operate outside of the neo-serfdom that they promote. As a food consumer just trying to eat well & feel secure in the safety & long-term viability of the food system upon which my loved ones, neighbors & I rely, I gotta say, "Ouch!" Does this way of doing business make sense to anyone? I mean, is this how YOU would (or currently do) operate your business?

Ish! Enough already of this whining about what is completely fucked about our food system. (However, I do think that it would be o'so nice if people were more aware of this when selecting their afternoon snacks 'n such. As in, "This apple here comes from a system that is FUCKED. Therefore, I will choose this organic apple grown by Farmer Don down the way.") What are better options? Does it sound good to anyone else to support food production that promotes land stewardship, supports small farmers (i.e. real people), enhances the natural fertility of the land & is not an all-around bummer (OH, such a complete bummer)? Yeah? All right, then, get with this....

What we choose to buy does matter. If no one chooses to buy goods from the people who are caring for our world, there will be no more goods produced in this way. Sad, right? Likewise, if no one chooses to buy goods from the corporations that are using & abusing our world, there will be no more goods produced in this way. Dig?

I personally find this to be an axiom most starkly important when choosing food. With what other earthly objects do we have a more intimate & dependent relationship? Food is meant to nourish us, to give us strength, to keep us healthy. Food is a focal point of families, love affairs & entire cultures. Good food inspires love, heals ills, & makes our parties more fun by acting as a social lubricant! In short, food is AWESOME!

So just think about it. Think about buying whole foods rather than processed foods. Think about buying organically grown, local produce. Think about buying it directly from the farmers who grow it for you. Think about visiting their farm & hearing their story of the land.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Cali photos!

Yay! I finally remembered that my new computer has a slot that takes digital media cards so I don't even need that stinkin' USB cord for my camera ever again! Enjoy....

Got a parking ticket right off the bat on one my first forays into Santa Rosa. Nuts.... Good thing Snax was there to comfort me.

Ew. Road injury. Yep, that was me tumbling over suitcases with a pan o' cat litter in hand in the parking lot of the Motel 6 in Elko, Nevada. Although it smarted real bad, I hope that someone saw it because I'm certain that it was hilarious. You may also note my up-flushing toilet in the background. I think Paul's name for it is a better description however: the Poop Grinder. Apparently, the "grinding" of the poo, paper, etc. makes the waste break down more easily in the septic system. Neat!

My apartment is totally fantastic. For one thing, having a loft makes me feel like I'm in an '80s sit-com which is a feeling for which I've always strived. That skylight is brand new. The long pole you see is supposed to be for operating it but I use it to turn off the light when I'm in the loft. Ain't I clever!

Naturally, the cats adore the loft too seeing as how they are now able to look down on the world. (Don't tell them that there is more to the world than this. The last thing I need is a mutiny.) Note also the cat door which is covered by a paper bag (minimalist environment) due to the ill-nature of Leo the Tomcat (aka. Leo the Landcat) who lives outside & periodically stops by to harrass the occupants here. Bastard.

This is the view from my window. It is AWESOME! Birds love to hang out all around out here. If I had walked out to the street to take this photo, you would see Mt. Helena in the near distance.

I went hiking around on the nature preserve behind the house & appreciated what I saw there including the enormous piles of crap that were everywhere. What deposited them? I later found it that it was just steers - just plain old steers. Boo.

Don't get upset, Midwesterners, but this is my winter photo. Things are just starting to grow here. There is periwinkle flowering outside my window & some kind of bulb is just about to toss up two blossoms as well.
You will not hear me complain.

Table for one? The Lagunitas IPA from nearby Petaluma went well with this delicious batch of chili that I made from scratch. The beautiful handmade bowls are a housewarming gift from a guest that I had recently. How sweet.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

nature calling

So I'm waiting here at home for my landlady to meet me outside (she lives 30 feet away) when she calls me up to tell me, "Change in plans.... Nature has called me urgently & I don't know how long I'll be. Can I just knock on your door in a few minutes?" Nature has called her urgently? What on earth? Did she seriously just tell me that she has to take a shit? Wow...California....

another great quote to live by

"I believe it to be perfectly possible for an individual to adopt the way of life of the future...without having to wait for others to do so." - Mohandas Gandhi

Thursday, December 14, 2006

persimmons & monkeys as soul-trajectory affirmations

One night before leaving Minneapolis to move here to Santa Rosa, California I had a dream of persimmons. They were boxed in the same lovely way that you'd see them at a food co-op or a farmers' market. A hand-crafted sign posted on the box colorfully warned the would-be buyers that if they should be allergic to monkeys, their tongue should not know the taste of this tomatoesqe fruit. Why? We don't know. But I can tell you this. Upon my first visit to Santa Rosa's charming worker-owned, vegetarian natural foods store, I was astonished to find the persimmons accompanied by a monkey - a little stuffed monkey probably dropped nearby by a child & placed there for easy retrieval. Some would not see it so but I determined this to mean that I am on the right path. I expect other humorous & moving affirmations in the near future. So fear not, dear-hearted worriers! That intangible element of our surroundings that seems to care for us has indeed wrapped its ever-lovin' arms around me.

It has been one week since I arrived here in my new home. So far, so good.... My fantastic, fun & supportive friend Paul helped me drive out with whatever I could fit in my car including Daphne & Snax. The cats traveled exceptionally well - so well, in fact, that we're planning a road trip to Vancouver for next summer. Snax loves the international flavor of the city.

When we arrived, my landlords - a 60-ish couple - gave us a warm greeting which included homemade, organic, vegetarian soups. Yum! Juliette is a vegetarian chef who makes & freezes meals as well as caters events. George is a tilesetter who built the lovely kitchen counter & bar upon which I am now typing.

The apartment is great. It's a roomy studio cottage with a loft for the mattress that I will buy (hopefully before I can't stand sleeping on the floor anymore). Outside my window I look out over hills & trees & birds. I heard frogs last night which I'm guessing will be more active come spring. To get to my place one must drive up narrow & winding roads past overdone inflatable Xmas displays, succulents & a vineyard. When I turn off the lights to crawl into my sleeping bag at night, it is blacker than black. Good thing I grew up in the country where I could develop my night vision & my companionship with the dark.

As for the weather, the rain has been hanging around since I got here but I do see sun in the forecast. I am looking forward to that as the dreary atmosphere does not much help the feeling of loneliness that can come over a person in a new place. I already miss Minnesota & everyone there - & one fine fellow in particular. Hey, everyone, it's pretty here! Come drink some wine, drive on very curvy roads & eat delicious dinners cooked by me....

Today, I was determined to find a friendly coffee shop in which to begin my school reading. Success was mine! A'Roma Roasters is a charming, woman-owned business just a block from New College. I think I'm figuring out that the west is the best when it comes to Santa Rosa. It seems like most of the cool stuff & cheaper gas is on the west side of Highway 101. Of course, there is also a SCARY looking Chinese restaurant but I'm going to really try not to judge that book by its cover. On the other hand, I don't want to judge it by its indigestion either. I'll stick to the home cookin'.

As for the school reading, why, it was just marvelous! You see, The Fatal Harvest Reader: The Tragedy of Industrial Agriculture is just such a text as I might assign to myself to read. Yes, that is really how much of a sustainability dork that I am - or rather how much of a passionate person that I am according to my sweet & thoughtful brother. This is gonna be fun!

I sincerely wanted to post some photos here tonight but, regretably, I forgot to bring the proper cord with the first round of stuff. Come January the rest of my belongings will arrive in Eli's bread truck where they will have been subjected to several days of heavy vibrations & biodiesel fumes (I hear that they are cleansing...?). Then, I'll have a couch & all my cooking supplies. I can't wait!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

a New adventure

Have I been slacking? Oh no! I have been very busy feverishly preparing for my move to California & the start of my Master's program in Culture, Ecology & Sustainable Community at New College. I think that I have everything packed save a few random items. Now the cleaning begins. I'll back at this blog thing soon. I hope....

In the meantime, enjoy some mindless entertainment from R. Kelly! "Now he's opening the closet...closet...closet...."

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I'm serious about this, people

If I may command you for one moment.... You MUST go see An Inconvenient Truth. It is the most powerful presentation of the climate change issue that I have seen. It is factual & emotional & cuts across political preferences (with the exception of Al Gore lamenting his unsuccessful bid for the presidency, which was probably better left unsaid despite the appreciative response from the audience). Both my friend & I left the theatre sniffling & deeply touched.

Although you can still find the film in theatres, there are still lots of opportunities to see it for free. In the Twin Cities, Congregations Caring for Creation is offering An Inconvenient Truth & other films for screenings at congregations of all kinds. As Bill Moyers showed us in his recent PBS special Is God Green?, earth stewardship is no longer just a "liberal," "secular" issue but is documented in the Bible & other religious texts. So get your fellow Christians, Jews, Universalists, Muslims & Buddhists up to speed!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I hate housework but I like making things

Yes, it's true. I, like many others, hate cleaning my house. Don't get me wrong, I like it when it's done but the process of washing dishes or doing laundry or scrubbing the shower is a drag. On a positive note, I guess vacuuming and sweeping are OK so if there are any eligible bachelors out there in search of a partner who prefers getting on the floor, let me know. I also can't stand clogged pipes and will do everything in my power to free them but I digress.... What I'm really wanting to get at here is the question of cleaning products which my darling friend Sarah brought up on Sunday.

Again, Grist comes to the rescue with a comprehensive article on cleaning your home covering everything from offgassing to making your own. Personally, I'm on a make-my-own kick in general & have enjoyed making food for my cats & using for ideas on zit zapping, housekeeping & more. Someday perhaps I'll even be making my own biodiesel...?

Ooo, I just found this lovely web page that does a thorough & succinct job of telling you what you need to know about making your own cleaners. I like it....

For all you red wine drinkers & spillers out there, I found this red wine stain recipe on some random-ass web site & I'm telling you it is miraculous:

2 T hydrogen peroxide
1 T liquid soap
water (not essential but if it's a big stain, it can help distribute the peroxide/soap combo)

The proportions don't matter as much as the freshness does so mix in small quantities. If the mixture has been sitting for a while, adding more peroxide usually makes it work again. This works on crusty old codgery red wine stains too. It might work on other types of stains too but I haven't had much luck so far.

P.S. Remember that the Three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) are in order of importance with "be a lazy ass who does nothing to curb waste" not even making the cut.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Northland Bioneers Conference

I should make sure that everyone in Minnesota and around knows about this inspiring event that is sure to be flipadeedoo FANTASTIC!

The Northland Bioneers Conference ( is first and foremost a forum to "share solutions and strategies to develop and restore the earth." It is a satellite event to the national Bioneers Conference held for the past 16 years in San Rafael, California - thought of by many as the conference on sustainability. Some of the highlights that I'm excited about are keynote addresses that will be sent to us from CA (Michael Pollan, Amy Goodman, Paul Hawken and more), our own local speakers (including Ronnie Cummins of Organic Consumers Association and David Wallinga of the beloved Institute for Ag and Trade Policy), and "the vibe" that will no doubt be flowin' that weekend assisted by artists, a meditational space, the lovely Loring Park and the amazing people in attendance.

I'm completely stoked....

Wind blows

Oh, PLEASE! This shit is priceless....

Thanks to the fine online enviro mag, Grist, for turning me on to this and so much more. While you're there, check out my favorite Grist blogger, Tom Philpott, who is a small organic farmer writing about food and ag issues. He's got his finger dead on that pulse.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Where O where has my recycled paper gone?

Woe to those of us who do not work for environmetally oriented organizations. Where is our recycled paper? Must the light in the storage room always be left on? What's up with those stanky white board markers? And what's this? Styrofoam in the break room!? Aaaaarrgh!

Currently, I work for perfectly lovely childcare-oriented nonprofit that does, indeed, provide valuable services to society. However, they do not see themselves as connected to the greater web and the future seems to go no further than the first day of Kindergarten. As a result, I am at this very moment breathing the offgas from recently applied paint and new carpet.

I've been trying in ways subtle and obnoxious to up the sustainability quotient at this perfectly lovely nonprofit and one of my major victories of last year was to get 100% post-consumer chlorine-free recycled paper in all of our copiers and printers. Yes! Thanks to a much-needed buying cooperative hosted by the decorated local nonprofit waste handler Eureka Recycling we had all the plain white and colored paper we could want! What a glorious day it was when our first shipment arrived!

It didn't last long. After two orders from the co-op and the departure of our sympathetic administrative assistant, ye olde Office Max paper starting showing up again. I finally sent an e-mail to our associate director yesterday. I just couldn't stand it anymore.

OK, I finally have to say it. I’m disappointed that we don’t have the recycled paper anymore. I don’t know what happened. I really feel that it’s a small step that we can take in the right direction. And it IS related to what we do as an organization. Today’s children will be very much affected by how we adults choose to use resources, eliminate/use toxins, etc. I know you don’t need a lecture so I’m sorry about that! I just wanted to emphasize my point a little bit. The co-op paper is comparably priced, good quality & supports another important local nonprofit, Eureka Recycling. They have also added compostable cutlery, etc. though I’m not sure what the costs look like on that.

The e-mail seems to have worked and, theoretically at least, we'll be back to the recycled paper very soon. So what's this post about? Perseverence, I guess. I don't think the problem is that people don't care about preserving trees and wilderness and ecosystems or reducing toxins. They just need to be reminded of the connections and be shown how to act upon the information. Our American experience does not include these more sustainable options among the more convenient ones that we've been trained by marketers to prefer.

Although I would recommend finding a local enterprise to support (or starting your own!), here's another recycled product cooperative that delivers to anywhere in the US: Recycled Products Cooperative

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Choices - ya gotta love 'em!

OK! I finally went and did this thing. I couldn't take it anymore. I am exploding with resourceful assistance for you all (although I suppose this is in the eye of the beholder...?) & just a hint of angst (I'll try to keep it in check).

Let me explain. I have a brain that has been thinking about the sustainability of the human experience for some time now. Everything is connected - this much is clear - but how do we honor our understanding of this concept in our everyday lives? Our choices matter - who & what we give our money to, which potato we choose in the market, whether we are cooperative or combative, what we teach our children. That's what I'm talking about! Choices. I just love 'em. I especially love that even the smallest ones done right can make you feel so good.

You may be asking now, what is sustainability? Well, I can certainly say a lot on this subject but in a nutshell sustainability means that our current generations use resources (in the broadest sense) in a manner that preserves the ability of future generations to also find what they will need to live happily.

This is a discussion, please, so feel free to talk back, ask questions, rant (intelligently, please) about how we disagree, or relish our parity. Think of me as your personal Dear Abby/punching bag for sustainability. I won't have all the answers but I'll give it my best shot. (I know there's a certain someone out there who is just brimming over with inquiries so bring 'em on, EC!)

Next year, I'll be attending a the Master of Arts program in Humanities & Leadership with an emphasis in Culture, Ecology & Sustainable Community & a concentration in Ecological Agriculture at New College of California. I'll try my best to keep this blog going & include some nuggets from my graduate work.