Sunday, July 24, 2011

Nectarine juice

You must let the juice drip down your chin at least once. It is quite therapeutic, I think. I find myself neatening up, frustrated when I drop a berry on the floor... 'argh, gotta wipe that up!', and when I am busy, that dust that builds up in so short a time and must be sucked up and away to keep a keen house is just another source of angst.

Today, I was in the middle of a project, but hungry, and saw the nectarines on the counter watching me work. I reached over and grabbed the softer of them, and took a bite. I was doused with sweet juice, my beard now sticky and the window where it squirted eyeing me, waiting for my reaction.

It was a learning experience, a life lesson, and I smiled to myself and to the walls and thought, 'hey baby, let the juice flow.' If you've read my 'other stuff', you are probably wondering what I am on about, but soon you'll nod and know.

Last week I was out returning home from a midweek appointment and decided to take the shortcut past the local orchard and farm store. I needed eggs and milk, so I decided to see if they had both. They did. Both top quality and local. Since I am making a big effort to eliminate plastic from my life - that is, any future plastic, I bought my milk that day in the glass quart bottle, like it used to arrive on our doorstep when I was a child, except this one had a plastic top (grrrrr). I bought eggs in a paper carton, local too, free range, natural ingredient fed (not organic) eggs. And I bought a little paper container of nectarines, yes, one of which doused me only a short while ago.

I went to the counter to pay, and the teenage cashier looked at me and said, "you realize there is a $2.00 deposit on the bottle?" I said I did, and proceeded to get my wallet out. I looked at her and asked, "do people freak out about that?" to which she responded, "Oh yeah, you have no idea!" She was right, I did have no idea. I couldn't imagine people having a problem with paying $2.00 to be sure they brought a bottle back to be reused. And they would either get the $2.00 back or take another bottle away without paying again. But that was the naive me talking - any outlay of money upsets some people, which brings me to sadness 2. Why does the good food have to cost more than the bad food? We all know why - economies of scale and subsidies, but the irony is that huge profits go to corporate leaders who produce that subsidized substitute for good food, while local farms struggle to stay in business producing actual healthy food.

Lately I've been reaping the rewards of my own garden, and of local farmers. I went to The farmer's market, you know, the one Michelle Obama spurred to growth near the Whitehouse, a couple blocks from my office. The peaches I got there a week earlier were perfect, and some had true character.
This guy was yelling from the vendors booth for me to come and get him. I know it's a he... I can just tell. And so he and four others came home with me and I enjoyed them all, then the chipmonk outside enjoyed the pip of one of them as well, the pip I had just planted to see if I could get a whole tree of these beauties some day! Ah well, I'll put a cage around it next time.

So you see, I've been 'working' to buy more local foods, and spent more time preparing my own garden this year too so that I'd have my own food. I have a dozen or more cukes in the fridge ready to pickle one night this week, and I've not bought greens in a month now for all I have in the garden. I made blackberry wine a couple weeks ago, blackberry infused vinegar too, and some simple juice of blackberries that I canned to use at a later date as well. Wild blackberries.

I'm happy because I feel good about being able to support farmers and to grow some of my own food. I want to grow more, want to grow it all, want to be on the land, responsible for it, because it supports me. I'm usually so far removed from all the stuff I eat, that it is dispassionate consumption, a hollow sustenance. This last week, the juice, the fresh produce, the smart and good milk and the determination I've gained have all brought new light to my living, and I encourage you all to give it a try. Hit the brakes (rationally) next time you see a local farm stand. Wash whatever you buy, because even if local, it is usually also sprayed, but it is fresh, and there is nothing better than local and fresh produce.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Easy peasy, saving the world

One bite at a time, I'm saving the planet. In a past blog, I noted some of the rather mundane things I do to save/conserve energy, most of which are just plain old energy saving common sense. Like hanging clothes out. When I can't, I dry them with air - it's the heating element that really soaks up the energy, so put it on low/off and dry with cool air. It works!

This is me gearing up to hang clothes.

I have a 50 gallon drum under one gutter downspout, and the other night, in a single night of combined storms and light rain, it filled that bucket to the brim and overflowed. Today, I dipped a bucket in and watered all my gardens with that water.

Which brings me to my favorite environmental trick. Gardening - not necessarily for show, but for food. With pretty minimal purchases (some organic garden soil) I managed to raise enough lettuce and arugula to have fresh salad whenever I want, while also able to give some away. Cukes started coming two days ago, I've had five picked so far with many to come. Beans didn't do well this year - I ended up with a single string bean plant growing. And today I harvested it's 6 beans, but they were fantastic. There are hundreds of tomatoes ripening, from small through giant, and I hope to be eating those in a week as the first have just begun to blush.
Then there are the wild blackberries on the west side of my yard and the cultivated raspberries and the herbs, dill, basil, oregano, a couple kinds of mints.

This year I have lots of mulch (not the bagged kind) and weeper hoses buried in the mulch to keep the ground wet without above ground evaporation. I plan to install a water tank at some point to store water in the future too, and eventually hope to waste very little water. It is an evolving exercise in practicality, and a bit of fun and hard work too.

So you see, it's easy to save the world!