Monday, November 16, 2009

Yes, it makes a difference

I sat on a panel of academic "experts" this evening, sharing opinions and thoughts about ways to "green" our fine institution of higher learning. The question came up as to whether or not a single person's efforts to recycle make any difference. Indeed, often it feels like it doesn't. My moment of insight went something like this:

" A single visit to a flower by a single bee may not seem like much, since it only brings back a tiny bit of nectar. But if thousands of bees each visit a few flowers each hour, and if they do that for several hours each day, soon they can make enough honey to ensure the survival of the hive."

So when you feel like it's just not enough, remember that there are LOTS of bees out there working fo the same thing you are. Do what you can, every day, and soon we'll have enough honey to get through whatever lies ahead.

(LR's message to the world on our front walk ...)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Transitioning in coffee shops

Found this video via another blog and got inspired.

There are people who get it! We're just not satisfied with what the global marketplace wants to sell us. We'd rather see our money stay in the community and help friends and neighbors.

The thing that caught my attention the most about Whidbey Island is the monthly potlucks. Neighbors get together, actually. How many of us do that, even within a community like Bioneers? We see each other at meetings, but when can we just get caught up? I'm thinking we need a way or a place to, how shall I say, gossip! That is, gossip for the greater good! Have you ever been in a local restaurant with a table of local guys (I guess women have too much work to do) who sit around and talk over coffee every day? I know of one such place where the table is occupied from before 7 a.m. till after 9 with a changing parade of regulars. Those guys end up knowing everything that's going on in town.

Yes, Bioneers and social movers, we need a place to sit down over coffee or herbal tea and share what's going on. Had I known about cherry farmers dumping their crops on the ground I would have dropped everything and made buckets of cherry jam! How shall we keep each other informed? I suppose Facebook and Twitter have evolved to fill that role somewhat, but I hold them to be very poor substitutues. So much good stuff comes up in casual conversation. How much trust and relationship can you build posting 140-word tweets? The only tweets I want to hear come from my bird neighbors on spring mornings!

So where shall we meet? Let's keep posting, because few of us are retired or self-employed, or are full-time farmers who "take a break" about 9 a.m., but let's find a way to come together once a month, just for fun, with no agenda. If you can only drop by for a minute, that's fine. The pot of shade-grown, organic, fair-trade coffee is always on!

An early Thanksgiving

After a cold October, we're getting a few days of nice weather. We have even shut the pellet stove off during the daytime for 3 days now. All those deer in their winter coats must be panting! The bees have been out, too. We've seen several drinking at the pond, and the hive entrances are crowded. There are still a few drones getting the boot. I cut upper entrances for both hives, just a 4-5" wide slot in the edge of the inner cover, overhung by the outer cover. When (not if) the snow gets deep, they'll have a way out.

The garden is basically done except for a few greens in the cold frame. I picked parsley for a lentil & sweet potato casserole the other night. As Thanksgiving approaches, we're contemplating how to celebrate. The usual over-indulgent dinner with family just doesn't have any appeal. We're thinking of trying a 100-mile Thansgiving in the spirit of Michael Pollan's homemade local dinner in Omnivore's Dilemna, eating only things we can get from a 100-mile radius. There goes the sweet potatoes!

In the tradition of Thanskgiving, I'd like to publicly thank some of those who fed us this year. Some of you are good friends, and some are becoming such. We owe you much, farmers, so thanks to you (in no particular order):
  • John Sullivan for eggs
  • Jim Moses and Linda Grigg of Forest Meadow farm
  • Sandy & Bernie Ware for strawberries, potaotes, and many other good things
  • the kind folks at Second Spring Farm
  • Laurie Brown for honey, fruit, and tomatoes
  • Jayne Leatherman-Walker for tomatoes and great vibes
  • Hochstettlers for peppers
  • Alan Jones for those fantastic pears
  • Maple Ridge Farm for grass-fed meat and granola
  • another local organic farm for cilantro
  • Shangri-La farm for apples
  • Ebert March for carrots, squash & beans
  • Millie Hathaway for rhubarb
  • Marty & Michelle of Birch Point farm
  • Good Neighbor Orchard for organic apples that went into some of my finest applesauce

There are many, many others, of course, who provided us with grains, flours, oils, all those things we buy at the conventional grocery. Thanks to you all; we'll help you keep up the good work! It's a joy to hand my hard-earned dollars to someone who has worked even harder for it.

Last but not least, I'd like to thank the soil of Snowy Hollow, my own place, for providing us with tomatoes for sauce in spite of the anonymous fungal disease, carrots, tons of raspberries, cabbage, parsley, peas, and especially maple syrup! Rest well, and next year I'll try to give back even more.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

To those we elected

Here's a letter I sent to my elected representatives just after the Climate Change Day of Action. Feel free to paraphrase or copy/paste. I ask that you investigate the issues yourself, so the letter comes from you. It's just important that we the people they actually represent tell them what we think.

Dear _________:(insert name of your representative)

We are approaching critical moments in the debates on three major issues before the U.S. legislature: climate change, health care reform, and food safety. Fortunately, there are actions you can take as an elected representative, that affect two, if not all three issues simultaneously.

Most immediately, world leaders will discuss a new climate change treaty this December. We need to bring atmospheric CO2 levels back down to 350 ppm! Levels above that could lead to irreversible, catastrophic changes for humans and many, many other species. Please visit for more information.

Localizing food supplies is a very effective way to reduce carbon emissions. Did you know that it takes approximately 26 ounces of oil to produce a double quarter-pounder with cheese? This product generates 13 pounds of CO2, as much as a typical car generates from driving 13 miles! Local food generates less CO2 since it travels, on average, less than 150 miles, and it is much more nutritious. Local food is produced by small farmers and sold through farmers’ markets and other direct-to-consumer avenues.

By now it must be intuitive that the above-mentioned quarter-pounder is chronic disease waiting to happen. Over the past several decades, what we have saved in paying for food, we have paid in increased health care costs. Some savings! With “nay” votes on H.R. 2749, or The Food Safety Enhancement Act and H. R. 875, the Food Safety Modernization Act, you can help save America billions on health care. These bills place unbearable regulatory and financial burdens on small farmers who produce the healthiest food, and who are not part of the food safety problem! The recent food-borne disease outbreaks have all originated on factory farms, in feedlot-style livestock operations, or in centralized processing facilities. Several of the farmers who grow my food are very worried about staying in business if these bills pass in their current forms. Please, remove small farmers and direct sales from under the regulatory umbrella! They are some of the folks actually doing some good.

These days, people in Michigan need any advantage they can get. The western side of the Lower Peninsula is second only to California in the diversity of food crops grown. Small farms are one of the few growth areas in Michigan’s economy. Passage of H.R. 2749 and H.R. 875 could snuff out that growth as effectively as a pesticide. If the government will make room, small farmers in Michigan will flourish, bringing with them nutritious local food, fewer CO2 emissions, and better health for all.

In summary, I ask you to:
1. only accept a carbon emissions treaty with levels no higher than 350 ppm,
2. revise the pending food safety legislation to remove regulatory burdens from small farmers and direct sales.

By taking these simple steps, you will be doing a great service for many, many people in Michigan and all over the world.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bioneer, wrinkly, and proud of it!

So I was picking out a shirt this morning, and the first two I grabbed were covered with wrinkles. I couldn't bring myself to wear them and reached for one of the wrinkle-proof ones. The new irregularly-pleated look is a result of a concious choice, mostly on the part of my wife since I hardly ever do laundry. Since the Bioneers conference (see below), we've been working even harder to reduce energy consumption, and the latest victim has been the dryer. We heat with a pellet stove, so the drying racks are now regular fixtures in the living room next to the stove. We get the look, feel and energy bill of clothes from the clothesline all winter!

After thinking more about my wrinkly shirts, I can see them as an environmental statement: I care enough about the future of the planet to look like I slept in these clothes! Am I really ready to say that? After all, pressed, neat shirts are just a part of the uniform of professionalism, just a social expectation. I've flauted these before. The hard part is that people judge you in nanoseconds by your appearance, and first impressions are hard to overcome with reasoned arguments. Even if I explain why I'm wearing a wrinkly shirt, in their eyes, I'm still a crackpot slob who doesn't know how to iron!

Perhaps I'll start by wearing the wrinkly ones on days without meetings, or Fridays when there are few people around at work. Perhaps I could throw several shirts in the dryer just long enought to "de-wrinkle" them. Am I caving in? How committed am I? Damn, it's tough being so far ahead of the curve!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

We were there!

The girls made the "350" signs all on their own!

I was only four when Woodstock happened, but it feels all tingly to be a part of something so much bigger than one's self. We were in the "3", buffeted by a cold rainy breeze. "This is weather, not climate" they told us. Still, we were there!