a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Archive for January, 2009

Heirloom Grains – Historic Taste

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

I have to tell you more about Anson Mills. Last night I ate a dish of Anson Mills Antebellum cornmeal – nothing like I’ved tasted or felt in my mouth before. Certainly not a “foodie” of any kind, yet I’m still thinking about it.

This goes beyond organic – Glenn Roberts, founder of Anson Mills in Columbia, South Carolina, had a bigger mission in mind – to grow, harvest and stone mill near extinct varieties of heirloom corn, rice and wheat. It all began in 1998 with a rare corn, frozen-milled with native granite mills. The taste and nutrients are preservedd with this original cold-milling process. Word first spread through renowned chefs in all parts of the U.S.. I was enthused by the idea of actually being able to consume a close-to-local grain, but the taste of everything I’ve ordered has blown my mind.

Anson Mills now offers grits, cornmeal, Carolina Gold Rice, graham and biscuit flours, Japanese Buckwheat, French Oats, Italian Farro and works with 30 organic growers in 6 states.

We’re rediscovering our health, sustainability, taste and Art in our foods. Another step to wholeness.

Winter Thrills and Chills. More Cycles, Still Locally Led

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

It’s that strange time of year in Mid-Winter -  a time that brings in and up feelings that seem to exist both inside and outside. One day the cold feels exhilarating, the next day it just feels, well, cold. One day the possibilities of change and new encounters seem endless and the next day, it’s just, well, Winter, and everything radiates stillness.

Being from Minnesota, I still have an equally strange love affair with this time of year – and by definition, that includes the tendency to be thrilled, annoyed, infatuated and disillusioned with the whole ordeal. But, it also means that I’m in it for better and for worse, in sickness and in health. And there’s a lot of health in Winter, if you keep looking – and lots of it is still LOCALLY produced!

Our local and commuity Farmers are still growing and raising. Chickens are laying eggs and I’m still enjoying the milk from the CSA. In my attempts to maintain my diet of mostly local foods, my intake of greens is now limited to kale and collards, but it’s not a bad way to go. I had ventured from vegetarianism to occasional consumption of local meats, but then found more mental and physical comfort sticking with the abundance of local dairy products I have access to and am back to a mostly meat-free diet.

Other local choices this Winter – we stocked up on the Anson Mills grains from South Carolina before Winter set in, as well as pounds of raw butter that I keep in the common freezer in my community. Local honey is still in the cupboard and I’m ready to tap into my first home kombucha brew this week, though I’m still stuck with purchasing my sauerkraut from the co-op until I get down to more fermentation projects of my own.

I hear so many people speak of the Winter blues, or of the “waiting” they are doing for Spring, when they will go back to the way of life they are more comfortable with. Of course, as I’ve learned, there’s not much to be learned or lived where you are only “comfortable” and there’s something to be said for the challenges we face in Winter. Ask the Farmers. They will tell you all about it.

All we have to do is think about it. Stay tuned in to the cycles and to your community.

Every Little Thing – Pants Dry, Trees Die

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

In terms of health and balance, Ayurvedic philosophy tells us that it’s the daily routine that is most important. You know, the little stuff we do every day – “habits” of conscious and deliberate choosing that keep our brains and body committed to the cycles of life. It’s important to first notice what we have a “tendency” to do and then ask ourselves what we would like to change. Then start the process and keep practicing. These rituals and patterns can serve us individually and as a whole community. So, take a look at what you do each morning, each afternoon, each evening – ways you honor, supplement and nourish yourself and the planet – or not.

A friend and co-Changer said she thought of me when she took this photo. I don’t know how she knew, but yeah, I’m a “dry by the seat of my pants” person when out in the world of public restrooms and papertowels. Just like my byob efforts, it started as an evaluation of what I tended to do vs what I could choose to do instead. I try to keep my bandana on hand, but this turned into the easiest option in some cases and now it’s just an everyday habit.

Why did this reach my change list? I’ve written about paper towel use here. They are astonishing facts easy to store away for our convenience, but that’s what started this whole thing in the first place, so I advise against that tactic.

I would love to see these signs in every bathroom, everywhere, where it appears that each person uses not just a paper towel but a stack of them to dry their hands after washing (napkins, ditto). The old/new handblowers are a good alternative – maybe we can even solar power them. But, in the meantime, shake your hands and use your bootie.

How To Re-Imagine The World

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

This is the title of a book I’ve had for awhile. It was written by Anthony Weston, a Professor of Philosophy at Elon University, here in North Carolina. The moving images of the inauguration this week prompted me to start reading – something inside of me finally believes that anything and everything is possible. But I also know that President Obama needs our help on the local and community levels. The world has been in transformation even with everything working against it, so there’s no limit to what can happen now!

“This book How to Re-imagine the World a Pocket Guide for Practical Visionaries, outlines a way to step up to the challenge: the way of creativity.” You will find tools and techniques to re-invent the world and prepare for the future – specific, focused and shareable – and yes, CREATIVE and visionary.

An excerpt that speaks of what we just witnessed on Tuesday: “Deeply resistant in some directions, the system can also be surprisingly responsive in others. The world is a fluid, dynamic, intricately interconnected whole. Certain distinctive tipping points, vectors and dynamics emerge that make unexpected openings for creative change-making.”

Chapter titles like, “Seeds”, “Sparks”, “Stretches” and “Twists” and, yes, Chapter 21 is entitled, “Tao of Change” !! This one’s got the big and small pictures of a future that we can create together.

Happy Inauguration Day

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

We did it – turned the world on it’s head!

As they say,

If you want to succeed at something, try hard. Then try harder. Then try again.

Congratulations, America. Now let’s get back to work!

Renew, Reflect, Re-ACT – Day[s] of Service

Monday, January 19th, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

When I was a kid, national “holidays” that fell during the week, like today, were a welcomed day off school. I remember that stores had special sales and some adults were thrilled to stay out of work but beyond that, I don’t remember being given much opportunity to reflect on just what it really all meant.

As I grew up – figuratively and literally, it seemed to me that something should be happening – something beyond a sale or a parade – something that created a bond to history, past events and people whom I really knew little about. Instead of “vacating” our jobs and studies, shouldn’t we be taking the opportunity to learn and do something outside the ordinary?

Perhaps today, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, one day before the inauguraton of President-Elect Obama, will begin a just such a trend. Obama has urged us to recognize this day not just to contemplate history, but as as a call to service – a chance to spend a day in service to your community and beyond – to take action towards change. Now we’re talking!

Obama issued a statement declaring, “King’s was a life lived in loving service to others. As we honor that legacy, it’s not a day just to pause and reflect — it’s a day to act.”

“If we’re waiting for somebody else to do something, it never gets done. We’re going to have to take responsibility, all of us. This is not just a one-day affair.”

Visit to join or host a service event, or simply to share ideas and stories about the many ways we can participate in service individually or with a group. says we can “Renew America Together”. I say we can renew our hearts, minds and lives at the same time.

And the Winner is…Biodiesel by a Bug

Friday, January 16th, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Sadly, I’ve been driving more over the past 6 weeks – you know, the leg thing – I’ll be back on my bike soon, but in the meantime, each time I walk out to the parking lot, I look at the Prius and the Bio-Beetle and wonder which one I should take. (I also remember to be grateful for the fact that I’m lucky enough to have the choice.)

As a member of Piedmont Biofuels, I’m a supporter of local fuel production, mostly from used oils, so I’ve got that issue out of the way. But it’s been cold enough here to mean our B100 had to be mixed to a B80, so am I still in the carbon emmissions “black” with the Bug? Umbra’s recent column on Grist was really helpful since she, coincindentally, chose to compare the carbon footprint of a Prius and a used Diesel VW Beetle here. It looks like the Biodiesel still comes out on top, but….

Except for one 30 mile drive to Raleigh each week, I am usually driving only about 3 miles each way for my other work and activities (which is why I can easily ride my bike). Since most of the emissions are released in the first minutes of a car warming up, am I still best to skip the Prius?

Ok, am I nitpicking? I could be sounding like one of those extremists. Really, I’m not. If I was, I would be jumping on the bus instead of driving more during my recovery. But, man, the bus still requires a mile walk to and from the stop with lots of bags to carry and well, this limp is making me nuts right now. See, I’m darn human and not so happy about it.

That was a bit of a tangent. The real news is that bio-diesel is becoming more available, more popular and more local. Consider your driving options AFTER you consider driving less. And if you’re into the numbers of both cost and emissions, it can be pretty interesting. Here’s another post on the matter here.

Happy Friday. Happy Winter. Stay warm, Stay green as you can. Tao

LOVE – one size fits all

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

This one got me – ok, I admit it, most of them get me….stories of unlikely love and caring. Stories like a mother dog nursing orphaned infant squirrels, a cat befriending a mouse and carrying him around on his back, swans falling in love with sailboats, and recently, the unbelievably touching reunion of Christian the lion and the two men who rescued, then raised him in London before releasing him in his homeland.

I usually cry, then laugh, then feel a little more hopeful for the rest of the day. If you need a day like this, here’s another one for you. Two inseparable friends at an Elephant sanctuary – a stray dog and an elephant. The dog becomes paralyzed and the elephant stands vigil during his recovery, stroking him with his trunk and even rubbing his belly with one really, really big foot. See it on CBS news here.

Remember to LOVE in UNLIKELY ways.

THE TAO OF CHANGE [the way of a better world]

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