The Backyard

The Backyard

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Can Anyone Comment on Not Having Television?

I'd love to hear how folks occupy themselves if they don't have television. Its a distinct possibility come February of 2009, my hubby and I will be TV-less. There's no cable where we live, and when all TV signals go digital, we're done. We already got "the box" and it didn't work. We refuse to take on a monthly satellite charge (min of $30 a month). I'm thinking the Internet will become very useful. Your thoughts?

Paying the Organic Prices - It IS Worth It

My Organic Eggs post prompted a very interesting comment from the owner of Grass Fed Farms In his comment, he said, "Sometimes, then, pricing is relative to quality and a persons willingness and desire to enjoy the very best."

How aboslutely true! For years, maybe 10 or more, I've been searching for organic foods and usually cringed at some of the prices, but I paid it anyway because I knew it was very much worth the quality. Coffee, for example, will always be organic in my house (and has been for years), and yes, I've gotten used to paying $6.00 for 10 ounces of beans and don't seem to mind anymore. I listened to the wrath of hubby last year when I paid $52 for the Christmas turkey. One of the books/articles I read (can't recall which one) stated the prices will not come down until more people pay the prices and the demand increases. You will all agree organic foods ARE more commonplace than 10 years ago, and some of the prices are coming down -- but we need to be careful of that lower-price quality. Is it from agribusiness? Can you be certain it was grown from a sustainable farm? For a little more, its worth purchasing the local food. Or, if unavailable locally, paying the price to have good, quality organics shipped. Contrary to my husband's beliefs, I'm going to have to stick to my principals of paying the prices for quality food - IT'S WORTH IT!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Milk - Should I or Shouldn't I

There isn't a day, or an hour, that goes by that food isn't on my mind thanks to the likes of Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver, and Dean Ornish. What's good and what's not? Who is the authority here? What is best? What am I growing myself this year? How big of a garden can I handle? Sometimes I have to just clear my head and tell myself I'm not thinking about food until tomorrow. Milk is the hot topic of late. Fat-free or Reduced-fat-- Says Ornish. Whole milk or better yet, unprocessed milk - Says Pollan and Kingsolver. This website says don't drink milk at all and take pills to get your calcium. Huh? More processed stuff? Then there's yogurt and cheese. Did you ever read the ingredients and processing of yogurt? There's certainly more than five and I'm sure Mr. Pollan isn't sucking down Smoothies. And the processing of milk and milk products - from cow to the plastic bottles in the grocery store - no wonder Mr. Pollan says its not eco-friendly. When I was a kid, there was a sign on the milkhouse that said "DeLaval Cream Separators". It was a cool, porcelain antique sign and I sold it for $45.00. I never knew what it was until I read this article and saw the exact piece of equipment as on the sign. Modern fat separators spin the fat off the milk. Fascinating -- and non-eco-friendly. Then there's the vegan thang... an easy way to avoid the dairy confusion. But then I ponder, what's the best green foods for calcium? Its pretty darn easy to drink a glass of milk and get a good percentage of calcium. Collards just don't quite make the favorite foods list. But I DO like a couple spoonfuls of Blackstrap molasses every now and then too. Is that too processed? Ornish would think its too much like sugar. ARGH! What would Grandma Wiest do? She'd go in the barnyard, milk the cow and pour a glass for you and me. Now THAT seems like the right thing to do.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Oprah's Eggs? Or Local Eggs? Organic Overpricing

When I heard the farm where I purchase my organic eggs was going to be part of a story on animal confinement and conscious choices on Oprah, I was elated. I blogged about it back then. But the past few weeks have me thinking a bit differently -- on cost of those famous eggs AND the costs of organic products - mainly meat. I guess I should say, MY HUSBAND, is quick to remind me of costs every time I purchase organic. He won the battle over the holiday turkey (much to my dismay, but its really not about me at Christmas now is it?! I don't even eat the turkey) Natural Acres charges $3.50 a dozen for their famous organic eggs. My dear old dad turned me on to our local Amish hardware store, who has a chicken coop in the backyard and HIS eggs are $1.25 a dozen! No, they aren't certified organic, but the birds are running free and having a good time pecking and scratching - how bad could their feed be (non organic?). Curious thought, but for now I think I'll stick to those $1.25 cage-free eggs. Trying to stay in-tune to the local thing and sticking to grass-fed/pasture-raised meat, my research uncovered some astounding price differences in grassfed vs organic meat. Our local organic meat producer fetches $1,325.00 for a half of a certified organic black angus beef. Yup, that's almost $9.00 a lb for 160-165 lbs. Their grass fed "natural" beef is also salty -- $925 a half. In comparison, my mom's friend butchers their grass-fed beef each spring and sells to my mom for $1.90 a pound! Yes, I'm on that bandwagon. I'm not sure why organic producers are overpricing their products -- it can't be helping their business. Grass Fed Farms in Indiana gets nearly $25.00 a chicken for organic whole chickens. I'm sure its some of the tastiest chicken around, but is it really worth $25.00 a bird? I told my husband I'll stick to vegetarianism before I pay some of the prices organic producers are fetching. Why are they charging so much? All in all, I like Cindy Burke's idea in To Buy or Not Buy Organic of sticking to local and sustainable. Talk to your local farmers -- you might be surprised that they too have organic, they just don't advertise it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

All About Farm Sanctuary

My Christmas Gift, Mr. Pickles, prompted me to explore not only chicken raising, but also his home a little more -- The Farm Sanctuary, in Watkins Glen, New York. Mr. Pickle's story is here in a press release. The Farm Sanctuary started in 1986 and after reading story after story of rescues such as Hurricane Katrina chicken victims (stranded and abandonded in poultry "warehouses"), I started to cry and couldn't read anymore. They started the Adopt-A-Turkey Project which encourages folks to eat something other than turkey at Thanksgiving. They hold an annual Walk for Animals each year in numerous cities across the United States to raise awareness of factory farming and the cruelty subjected to the poor things. Suffice it to say, the Farm Sanctuary is a credible organization that's been featured in numerous stories by major media networks. Read some of their press releases. And my pet chickens? After a little research, until retirement in two years, I'm not so sure I'm ready to take on chickens as pets with all I have going on already. Well, mostly my HUSBAND isn't ready -- he's already saved me AND him from 15 years of farm animal collecting! If he left me do what I wanted over the years, I'd have sheep (for shearing wool and grass mowing), goats (for goats milk and grass mowing), a cow (for milk, grass mowing, fertilizer), geese (just cause I like them), and of course chickens have been on my list for a long time (for eggs). I tell him all the time, "Honey, we have 7 acres that should be used for something other than raising beneficial insects in the weeds (which is also a good thing!) But I sure like the idea of adopting them and donating to organizations such as the Farm Sanctuary to continue saving them. I especially like their statement on the latest Agriculture Secretary appointment -- it reiterates what many folks are saying -- Vilsack may not be the ideal candidate, but we'll give him a chance.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Proud Parent of Mr. Pickles

I'm pleased to introduce to you, Mr. Pickles. Mr. Pickles comes to me as a Christmas gift, complete with adoption papers, pictures and his story. He comes from The Farm Sanctuary, an organization that rescues animals from being victims of agricultural production or exploitation. In many cases, the animals are left on the "dead piles" outside farm factories, and caring folks save them. Mr. Pickles story is he and 48 of his friends would be dyed every imaginable color and sold at Easter in Brooklyn, New York, even though chicks are illegal to sell in New York. He now lives dye-free (he molted away his dyed feathers) his life on a farm with his friends, scratching, foraging, and pecking in the barnyard. He's very, very happy and I'd love to visit him. The farm is located in Watkins Glen, NY (just over the PA border!). Ironically, I just read an interesting blog this weekend about a gal in the UK that has pet chickens and one of them is a rescued chicken. They live in "Cluckingham Palace."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Buying Seeds - Too Many Catalogs, Too Many Varieties

My friend, Kera, has jumped on the grow-it-yourself bandwagon and has delved into seed-starting. She made a comment that I think warrants a little Seed Starting 101 for those just getting on the seed-starting bandwagon. "It's overwhelming" were her words when she opened the FEDCO seed on-line catalog to purchase a couple packs of seeds. And I can't agree with her more. How do you pick the best variety? How do you know how one-vs-another tastes? Which is the best for storing? How do you even decide which of the 100 catalogs too choose from? It can be mind bogglin. So let's break it down a bit to make life a little easier.

Seed Catalogs - Ditch them all except seed-savers exchanges and organic seeds. Why? Because the 10 largest seed companies dominate over 50% of the market AND many of those seeds come from the GMO giant, Monsanto. Monsanto controls 70% of the tomato seed market, some say that's higher. Why not Monsanto or other Chemical Co seed? Because the seeds are hybridized and bred to make a profit - they grow bigger, faster, and often sacrifice nutrients AND have pesticides bred into them in some cases. You also can't save a GMO seed from year to year. Those 10 packs of seed for a buck at the grocery checkout? They are likely hybrids and you may not have luck with them.
Hybrid? Heirloom? Open-pollinated? I touched on hybrid above - if you save seeds, hybrid won't help you. Hybrid is basically a modern seed that is sterile (not all, but most). Hybrids were primarily developed for the commercial seed industry in the 40's. Prior to that, there was nothing BUT heirloom and open pollinated seed. I like to compare heirloom vege seeds to my beloved heirloom and antique roses -- they require no pesticides, no fungicides, smell better, look better, and grow like weeds. Vegetables are the same - but they TASTE better too.
Varieties - how to pick? This is a tough one that comes over time through trial and error, or you read reviews of plant varieties from places like Organic Gardening Mag. I'm STILL trying many types of varieties and have yet to settle on one, specific variety of any plant (although I really liked the peach and black krim tomatoes, and Waltham Butternut Squash last year). I first relied on reviews by other gardeners, the seed catalog's "best sellers" are usually good choices, but there's nothing like trying a variety and deciding for yourself. Yes, that takes many years, but the end result is a vegetable that your family will love, AND you have the fun of trying different things each year. READ THE SEED DESCRIPTIONS. They tell you a lot -- like radishes. Do you want traditional red or white varieties? Tomatoes - do you want slicers? Canners? Dryers? The descriptions tell you what's best for what situation.
Grow for your Region - make sure you pick a variety that grows in our region. For Pennsylvania, we have to pay attention to short-season (unless you live in southern PA - you might be able to get away with some longer-day/season varieties.) Short-season vs. long-season is the days of warmth without frost. We certainly can't grow 130-day peanuts in a climate that is frost-free for only about 120 days (although you could certainly try!).
Grow what you love and what matters most - Its so easy to get 20 packs of tiny seeds, but try growing 20 types of plants -- that's a big garden! Don't be like me and let your eyes be bigger than your stomach. Start small and grow what your family likes. That may be only greens, tomatoes, peppers, and onions, but thats a good, manageable garden. Take it from there... but remember each variety you add is a little more work.

My choices? My favorite seed catalogs are on the sidebar - FEDCO tops my list. And I honestly can't recommend specific vegetables -- I'm still discovering new varieties after 15 years of trial and error. They were all good!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Obama's Choice for Agriculture

I now follow Michael Pollan's thoughts on food... and below is one of reactions on Obama's pick of Vilsack for Agriculture Secretary (not a good pick). Why do I follow this? Because I loath factory farms, confinement of animals, the fast food industry, chemicals, greenhouse gases (1/3 caused by agri-business) and like the idea of rolling green pastures and cows and chickens feeding on the grass. It so serene....

Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008 12:25 EST
Michael Pollan reacts to Vilsack at Agriculture
About two weeks ago, some prominent activists for agricultural reform, including Michael Pollan, wrote a
letter pleading with Barack Obama to break with tradition on agriculture policy. Noting this letter, in which Pollan et al. suggested some potential appointees Obama could choose, I pointed out that they were fighting tradition, as “the job of agriculture secretary is often a token post for a Farm Belt politician, who presides over a department largely interested in the interests of agribusiness.” Well, now Obama has chosen former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack for the post, about as Farm Belt politician as it gets. Here’s what Pollan told Salon about the appointment: Am I thrilled? You know look, if I missed something, he didn’t use the word food in his comments this morning. His focus is very much on production and agriculture. His record in Iowa does not give much one much reason to believe he’s going to bring a reformist agenda to the Department of Agriculture. Though there are some glints of light in that record. He’s shown some interest in developing local food economies in Iowa, which is encouraging. He’s in favor of capping subsidies in a serious way and moving the savings to conservation. The fact that he’s Tom Harkin’s pick gives me some grounds for hope. But, Pollan noted, Vilsack presided over a huge expansion of confined animal feeding operations, and is very close to the biotech industry. He was biotech governor of the year. And he has very close relations to Monsanto. As with every other pick, the focus is on the Nixon-in-China scenario, the hopeful fantasy, which is that these people will be able to drive reform in their bureaucracies -- that's the story of this Cabinet. Whether that comes true or not, we’re just going to have to wait and see.
― Gabriel Winant

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Still Squashing?

Believe it or not, its 3 months since I picked the last of the butternut squash before the first frost in September, and I'm still baking, mashing, pureeing, whipping, and spreading squash! I've found more ways to use squash than O'Bama found ways to get folks to vote him in for President. There ARE a lot of squash recipes out there, but I actually found more ways to use it using pumpkin recipes. Rather than pumpkin butter, I made squash butter. We've been eating squash pies nearly every weekend for 3 months. I made squash bars, pureed butternut squash soup with leeks and fennel (luscious), Squash with Pear soup (doubly luscious), mashed squash with brown sugar, cubed squash with chipolte peppers and white beans (yum), squash drop cookies, and even tried raw squash cookies but screwed them up. I baked the squash first and you were supposed to use shredded raw squash. Doh. I may try that one again. Anyway, the point I'm making here is "Waltham" variety of Butternut Squash is a very, very good keeper. I've been storing the squash at a temp of about 60 (ideal is 50) and they've been holding up quite well. I'm sure I'll be able to use up the last of them in the next month. Awesome. Rick and I both love it, so its a keeper to grow year after year. Its so much more manageable than pumpkin which takes up too much space AND what do you do with all those huge pumpkins. Butternut Squash is the ticket.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Monsanto Drops Milk Growth Hormone Business

It appears chemical giant Monsanto has lost their milk hormone growth battle and have sold their Posilac business. For several years, retailers have slowly stopped carrying milk coming from cows treated with hormone growth, a.k.a. rBGH. The beef with rBGH? Many farmers and animal advocates believe this growth hormone is harmful to cows and many mothers worry that it might actually cause cancer in humans — all this just to get cows to pump up their production of milk by one gallon a day? Starbucks, Walmart, -- other countries banned the usage of the treatment. All the while Monsanto battled several states -- Pennsylvania being one of them -- over milk labeling issues asking states to put on labels that there's no difference between the two m ilks (Huh?). I guess when Walmart dumped them, they decided that's a battle too big to be won, and they gave up. But buyers beware... the reported buyers are the makers of Prozac and Cialis - Eli Lilly. Here's their "vision" of the product from their press release. Wanna play it safe? BUY ORGANIC MILK!!!!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Interesting Writing on Seeds

I said it before, and I'll say again and again and again -- the book Depletion and Abundance has SO influenced me and many of the things the author, Sharon Astyk, writes about are happening today (financial crisis, economy failing, etc.). She just posted an interesting article on seeds whereby we could see a shortage as more and more people start growing their own food. She too orders from FEDCO, one of the aboslute best seed companies in America! The nice thing about FEDCO seeds is many of them are open pollinated and you can save the seed from year to year - thus, even less cost to growing your own food.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

2009 Growing Season Begins

The seed and plant order is placed with FEDCO. Being sick the past two days gave me an opportunity to study the catalog and decide on what's going in the garden. My mother used to always tell me growing up that my eyes were bigger than my stomach. I wonder if that's the case with my spring plantings?? New this year are potatoes, dried beans, celery for drying, and strawberries. I nixed the wheat idea -- way too much to harvest and mill for the little need I have for flour, which I can get spelt flour locally which is working out nicely. Also, there's no flowers which is unusual for me too. I have some flower seeds left over from last year that I'll stick in here and there (mostly flowers to attract beneficial insects - sunflowers, zinnias) and I always seem to have a couple volunteer sunflowers come up. So here's next year's plantings. The bottom may drop out of the economy, but Rick and me (and maybe some of my family) will be eating well! The plan is to can, freeze, and dehydrate a good bit of food next year. I'll keep you posted.

Black Valentine Bush Green Bean
Cannellini Bean
Tiger Eye Bean
Red Kidney Bean
Midnight Black Turtle Bean
Spring Treat Yellow Sweet Corn
Pennsylvania Dutch Butter Flavored Popcorn
Oregon Giant Snow Pea
Black Zucchini
Waltham Butternut Winter Squash
Sugarsnax Carrot
Early Wonder Tall Top Beet
Bulls Blood Beet
Misato Rose Radish
Purple Top White Globe Turnip
Space Spinach
Jericho Lettuce
Forest Green Parsley
Arcadia Broccoli
Champion Collards
Red Russian Kale
Safir Cutting Celery
Swallow Eggplant
Long Red Narrow Cayenne Hot Pepper
Revolution Sweet Pepper
Amish Paste Paste Tomato
Early Girl Tomato
Genovese Basil
Purple Ruffles Basil
Zefa Fino Fennel
Stuttgarter Onion Sets
French Fingerling Potato
Larouge Red Potato
Blueray Blueberry
Jersey Blueberry
Earliglow Strawberry
Honeoye Strawberry

Monday, December 8, 2008

Organicgirl Produce Response - Not From China!

Here's Organicgirl Produce's response to my inquiry on where their greens are grown. My hunch was INCORRECT and they aren't from China.

Miss Jill-

I apologize for not getting back to you sooner, I was out on Friday and just this morning got back into the office. Thanks for emailing me your concerns about our growing practices at organicgirl. I want you to know that we absolutely support American farms, drawing from a vast network of certified organic farmers to grow the very best organic product possible for organicgirl good clean greens and good fresh veggies. We are farmers ourselves, and understand first and foremost the importance placed on a quality pool of farmers to harvest the best possible produce for organicgirl, which is why we farm in both the United Stated and Mexico. We draw from multiple specialty vegetable organic growers with an ideal climate and soil suited for certain veggies.

In addition, there are many decisions that affect where we grow our organic produce, the most important being Mother Nature herself. We grow in premier growing regions that are best suited for our organic vegetables, which vary by specific vegetable, by time of year, and by climate, to name the most compelling reasons. Some vegetables, for example, require a certain temperature and soil nutrients for optimum growth, and these regions are found in the United States as well as Mexico, sometimes in both growing regions at the same time, sometimes only in Mexico, and sometimes only in the United States. Again, this varies by season, by climate, and by veggie.

On another note, our Mexican facilities are of the same caliber as our domestic facilities, following U.S. regulations and independently audited by certified third parties on a regular basis. I can understand your hesitance with non-domestic growing and processing facilities, but the same care that we place on quality control standards in the US apply to all our operations, regardless of location.

In addition to growing in both the United States and Mexico, we process in Salinas, CA, Yuma, AZ, and Mexicali, Mexico, with a workforce of about 200 employees. organicgirl has been, and continues to be, a progressive company when it comes to employee welfare. organicgirl is unique in providing quality child care and educational services to our Mexico employees for three decades, our proudest accomplishment as a company by far. organicgirl children are provided child care in a safe and clean environment, we well as classroom instruction from Kindergarten through 6th grade, all in an organicgirl sponsored on-site facility. In addition, daily nutritious meals are provided for all the children enrolled. We’ve been doing this for decades and continue to do so, because we believe change starts from within.

In regards to our growing practices, our growers are cognizant of, and have reduced the use of high water cover crops, leading to a reduction in overall water usage. Our crop rotations are purposeful, returning much needed nutrients to the soil, and supplementing with natural soil amendments to maintain soil quality. Because we grow organic, we embrace practices with Mother Nature in mind. We utilize laser and GPS during field preparation to maximize use of land and water, further reducing and at times eliminating unnecessary cultivation. Maximizing field leads to minimized bed preparation thus minimized diesel use. In addition, we utilize drip irrigation as much as possible on our crops, and encourage our growers to do so as well, to better utilize and closely monitor precious water resources. Even our tender leaf crops (spring mix, spinach, etc.) that require sprinkler irrigation are watered at night or very early morning out of the wind to reduce wasted resources. We also utilize refrigerated trucks in the field to maximize product quality and minimize the number of hauls from the field to the cooler, eliminating dead trips with empty trucks and wasted fuel, resulting in overall decreased costs.

I hope helps with any concerns you may have about our growing practices here at organicgirl.


On a Roll - Organicgirl Produce - Where Does it Originate?

I'm determined now... just where does this company grow their organic greens? If you saw one of my earlier posts, I broke down and bought organic produce from Walmart. It bothered me ever since and I'm now on a quest to find out where its from. I've e-mailed the company twice (no response). I also posed the question to Walmart via product comments AND through an e-mail to customer service (no response). I now found the phone number to the company and plan to call them. I'll let you know the answer.

Organic Food - What You Need to Know

To Buy or Not To Buy Organic by Cindy Burke is yet another book filling up my appetite of book consumption lately. This one took the last two books - In Defense of Food and Deep Economy - a step further than building local, sustainable food economies, and dug a little deeper into the world of organic food production. The author sited specific foods you should ONLY buy organic, and others that are OK to purchase conventionally. Her listing is the same as the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen, but she has a more comprehensive listing filling 20 pages of the book. She then goes into where to find organic foods and lists organizations/websites in support of organics. But before she got there, she talked a lot about what organic food really is (no chemicals/sustainable growing practices, etc), and where its going or is already there -- i.e., agribusiness buying into the organic movement and defeating the purpose of "sustainable" local farming practices. That's the part of the book that hit home. Many small, sustainable organic farmers have been undermined by the big guys slapping the USDA organic sticker on their food and selling that organic product for a much cheaper price. You and I have seen it at GIANT and WALMART, and yes I was very happy to finally see organics at the grocery store. They now carry organic products at relatively affordable prices. But my eyes have now opened up to the reality of grocery chain organics. The big guy's main concern is bottom line income and pay no attention to the environmental issues surrounding organic food production on a large scale. The USDA organic sticker does in fact mean the food is certified organic -- it's certified organic seed and certifiably grown without pesticides and in the case of meat/dairy/eggs, no hormone growth drugs or antibiotics used in the animals. So you are safe in buying organic if all you are concerned about is no pesticides or drugs in the food. What the USDA doesn't regulate with organics is where the food comes from (shipping costs from China or other countries), large scale production (i.e., Dole still uses really big tractors and oil consumption to produce that organic spinach), and in the case of milk, they do not regulate if the cow was raised in a feedlot never seeing the light of day - the cow simply has to be fed organic grains and not given any antibiotics. And the other sad part of organics going large-scale? It's now just another governmental bureaucracy. I've seen and read the USDA standards for organic certification and it would take a full-time employee just to keep up with the standards. And that's precisely what many of the smaller farms are experiencing -- the paperwork is dismal, bureaucratic red tape, not worth the certification. It is costly (certification cost is based on your income), and you have to renew annually AND allow the inspector to poke around your farm each year to assure you are meeting the standards. So what does a consumer do - what do they buy? Sustainable, locally grown produce. Apparently, local sustainability is the latest buzz and you will find many, many local farmers at farmer's markets that practice sustainability and do not use pesticides. But they can't call themselves organic because they aren't certified as such. Little did I realize, that's what I've been doing for years. Last year, I had thought when I retire in two years I'd get on the USDA certification bandwagon and be certified organic. After reading my last three books, my thoughts have changed (even before I read this book when I downloaded the USDA "book" on standards) and I think I'll keep doing what I've been doing for 16 years... composting, crop rotation, IPM, hand weeding (mulch!), planting herbs for the good bugs to kill off the bad bugs -- all the ingredients for sustainability. Bottom line? Buy locally. If you can find organics locally, even better. Buy into a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). I'll just bet they are organic. The cost to the environment to purchase that China-grown organic spinach simply isn't worth it. I'll go without until spring.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Falling Off the Wagon a Bit

The Eat Local Challenge in October was a learning experience -- a concept reiterated in In Defense of Food, Abundance and Depletion, Deep Economy and many other books out there on the shifting economy and food sourcing. A gal at work talked about watching a show, the Lipstick Jungle (I'm embarrassed to say I never saw or heard of it until now!) and how the girls were going to attempt to eat Thanksgiving Dinner locally. She got a kick out of this...but thought it was a good idea - and of course it struck up a conversation about it. While some things I learned about "stuck" like the elimination of boxed, processed cereal, most meat (although I'll do an occassional local organic piece of meat), many processed food items or food with more than 5 ingredients in it, and weekly trips to the farmers market for local apples/vegetables, etc. Other things I love were much more difficult in keeping it local. The local milk made me fat, so I gave it, cheese, and butter up. Thus, soy milk is processed and not local along with organic vegetable margarine. So there's my first trip-up. Pasta -- I missed it immensely and start buying east coast-made pasta (Ohio). No, its certainly not local, but at least I'm trying to keep it regional. And the worst one of them all, I've been craving fresh greens for a salad and was sucked in by this product -- organicgirl. After spending nearly an hour trying to research the source and the supposedly "compostable" container, I've come to the conclusion its from China the compostable container really isn't compostable - you have to take it to a commercial/municipal composter -- it won't compost in the backyard compost pile. I e-mailed the company asking where their product is grown and of course I got no reply. I sent a second e-mail and I'm waiting to hear (I told them I'm not purchasing from them anymore and will tell others to do the same if they don't reply). The only tiny thing I found out was the owner was under another company name and the CEO had an oriental name. Hmm. Buggers. So always, always be wary of any product that is pre-packaged and claims to be organic. Now the hard part is getting back on that wagon. Eating local is not an easy task in winter! Can't wait until next spring, summer, and fall, to grow, grow, grow and harvest, harvest, harvest, and can, can, can. It'll be a busy year next year.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Feeling the Pinch - But Not Really - Yet

Depletion and Abundance was a book that at first I viewed as radical -- using solar stoves to cook? Getting ready for a depression? Ha! I thought. My view was (note I said WAS) that government would never let that happen. thoughts are changing as the economy continues to spiral in a downward momentum - especially now that it hit home yesterday when the Governor froze my salary. I'm ok with that now after I got over the initial shock (I'm still very gratefully working unlike my hubby who is sitting on pins and needles awaiting the feared unemployment announcement - its not definite, but he's concerned as are his co-workers). BUT, it did make me think a whole lot more about how to conserve the money I have AND it really made me think about the future and where we are going. I'm sure I'm like millions and millions of others who are really tightening the belt and as we do so, we're adding to the downturn of the economy. But it can't be helped... its a vicious cycle that doesn't appear to be ending anytime soon. We stop spending, businesses go under, more people get laid off, more comes out of our pockets and we stop spending even more and even more companies go under, etc., etc. This is the exact path that Sharon wrote about in one of her chapters in Depletion and Abundance -- the Depression. (The book focuses on "peak oil" whereby be run out of oil and how we live after that -- but she relates it to the great depression and how they survived). The scarier part is that this recession we are currently in has just started and will grow. During the Depression, rock-bottom of 25% unemployment and food lines didn't hit until 3 years later. So my dear friends, tighten your seat belts - we're in for a ride and major changes in how we live. Read the writings of Sharon Astyk -- it'll amaze you how she's on the money. She also shares some really good ideas, albeit radical, on how to cut back, save some money, and survive it all. It may even be fun she says. Huh?