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Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Bountiful Backyards Shares “Beautility”

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

As enamored as I am with the entire idea of “food, not lawns”, I’m still intimidated at the idea of caring for a large garden of my own. I managed to get my tomato plants in the ground last week, along with a couple fig trees, but I’m hesitant to take on much more. Still, plenty of my neighbors have abundant “Victory Gardens” and don’t appear to spend hours working in the hot sun – one of my big garden fears. A Crop Mob may be able to give me a communal push if I had a plan, but what my household needs is information, ideas that will fit into our yard and the amount of time we want to commit to the whole process. Where else can I turn?

Enter Bountiful Backyards, a team of designers, landscapers, educators, artisans and motivators who can make any yard (or parking lot or street corner, for that matter) into an edible landscape.

Bountiful Backyards will consult and evaluate the potential of your yard and help you turn it into something that is both feasible for your space and your lifestyle. They will do as much or as little as you need in the areas of design, preparation, installation, education and guidance.They will design to help you grow and yield at your own pace.

By creating a mutually beneficial relationship between you and the environment, you can trade the time you spend at futile attempts to tame weeds and lawns into a way to feed your family fresher, healthier food for most of the year. You will also be improving soil and creating a much-needed friendly habitat for birds and beneficial insects, all while cultivating your own connection to what happens in those rare moments away from streets and sidewalks.

Bountiful Backyards believes in sharing “Beautility”. Besides their professional services, they offer donation-based workshops on things like backyard bee-keeping and outdoor worm composting.

Crop Mob is alive, well – and a blast

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Crop Mobbing is growing (pun intended) in NC, and spreading all over the country. I’d like to call it progress and innovation, but of course, this kind of collective community is what past generations of farmers counted on at planting and harvest times. Sustainable farming was (and still is), labor intensive. People came together when necessary, to make food happen.

Crop Mobbing today hasn’t changed much in theory, though it’s novelty lends it a modern allure. Just watch this video and try to tell me you don’t want to be one of those people digging in the dirt!

Crob mobs are made up of anyone and everyone who understands and is excited about the local food movement – student groups, experienced and inexperienced gardeners, the agri-savvy or simply the agri-curious. They may do any number of necessary tasks, such as weeding, rock-picking, gleaning, planting, fencing and more. The group on the above link is making a boggy field into a rice paddy (in NC!!) – a job that may have taken months for the two farmer/owners, took this mob of smiling faces about 4 hours.

Although the time, place and tasks of each farm encounter is planned ahead, anyone can join in at any time, and the mobbing looks more like spontaneous fun than grueling work. (More likely grueling work is transformed into fun.) No money exchanges hands, but a meal is shared between mobbers and farmers – one that is surely infused with more energy and fresh deliciousness than I can imagine.

NC is known for it’s plentiful mobbing. To date, The Crop Mob has descended upon 15 small, sustainable farms in the Triangle area of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. And, the trend is spreading into city neighborhoods as well, with the growing popularity of urban farms and edible landscaping.

Educational resources are also showing up online and through community workshops for those of us intimidated by what we don’t know about planting, growing, and harvesting food. Me? I like to connect with nature, but I admit to a tiny lazy streak when it comes to the thought of tending a full garden. But even a small plot can provide a lot to a household hungry for local, organic grub. Now, I just have to find a shovel…

Vegan Alternatives VS Real Food

Friday, February 26th, 2010

I left behind my vegetarian/vegan lifestyle slowly but surely over the past several years. I did so by listening an learning to both new information and my instincts. And I did so only after I found and researched local sources for dairy and meat. If only factory-farmed animal products were available, i would not be adding it to my diet. But, happily, local farms are making a comeback in many areas and I was immediately willing to learn about the benefits for my health, for my community and for the planet. (Remember this post?)

In this ongoing process, I found out that my Pitta constitution thrives on raw dairy (cools my firey nature) and that occasional meat (often also raw) satiates me in a way that vegan food never did. I’m happy to support local farmers. But, most of all, I’m happy to leave behind the processed food that served as vegan alternatives. Although I still love to cook with fermented soy products like tempeh and miso – it became harder and harder to look at things like fake cheeses, lunchmeats, “burgers” or egg substitutes as real food. Because in many ways, they are not. I don’t miss the odd taste or the way they left me craving more. Read more here from Grist Food Editor, Tom Philpott.

If you carry through the logic, it becomes obvious that processed food is far from sustainable, including, and maybe especially, vegan processed food (consider the fact that many vegan alternative products contain GMOs). Processing means loads of energy and resource use. It may also mean miles of travel.

The farther you take this logic, the healthier you will be. Raw nuts rather than nut butter? Whole grain cereals like oatmeal or amaranth rather than dry cereal in a package…’s all worth it, your taste buds re-learn to crave what nature serves up best, your wallet will be happier, too.

Remember, when it comes to food choices (and many other things) it’s what you do MOST of the time that matters. Stay informed. Stay open. Stay healthy.

Hidden BPA – canned foods

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

by Tao, Carrboro, NC

While the case against BPA plastics keeps growing, the many sources of it continue to be revealed. While many of us have stopped storing or heating leftovers in plastic containers, switched to stainless steel drinking bottles, not many have considered the plastic lining in canned foods. Yep, the same stuff in our plastic water bottles – BPA – a hormone-disrupting chemical that has been shown to damage our cardiovascular system, reproductive system, cause cancer, diabetes, obesity, and disrupt fetal development.

Unfortunately, even reputable companies offering organic products have not yet addressed this issue. There are only 3 known companies to have eliminated BPA from their cans – Vital Choice, EcoFish and Native Forest Organic. That leaves a LOT of this toxic chemical out there in our food supply, in our bodies and in the environment.

While the evidence mounts, showing especially dire effects from BPA on infants and children, companies making related products are scrambling to take out the BPA of their bottles, cups, and pacifiers (pacifiers???! – ouch). CA legislature is considering a bill to officially ban this chemical in kids products. Progress on this matter is encouraging, yet there is the inevitable stall-out in the food industry, both in the search for alternatives and the fact that companies like CocaCola are lobbying hard against any interference in their manufacturing process.

Once again, it’s up to us as consumers to call the shots and turn the tide. Eating fresh is best, but when you can’t avoid otherwise, buy only canned goods labeled BPA-free, contact your favorite food companies and request their compliance. You can keep up on news and info. at Bisphenol A Free Portal.

Urban Farm Tour – the future unfolding

Monday, September 14th, 2009

by Tao, Carrboro

Did you know that in acres, LAWNS are the largest “crop” in America?? They use up to 800 million gallons of gas to mow – carbon emissions included – and I don’t even want to think about the amount of water used in irrigating something that we just look at.

Grass is not so “green” in my town. Instead, there’s a strong initiative supporting and encouraging backyard – or frontyard – “farming”. The 2nd Annual Urban Farm Tour happened this past Saturday, hosted by Carrboro Greenspace Collective, a grassroots group promoting Community and Sustainability. The Tour left from downtown, via bicycles, and stopped at 15 sites, some keeping bees or goats and all growing food in spaces no larger than an average backyard. (In 1940-something, it was called a “Victory Garden“.) The event included skill-shares workshops like composting, vegetable gardening and honey harvesting and concluded as the cool of evening arrived, with a potluck meal. I haven’t heard the final count this year, but last year, close to 300 people attended.

The ongoing intiatives of Carrboro Greenspace want to make sustainable and healthy practices – like Urban Farming and alternative transportation – more visible and accessible to everyone. They also believe that education will help us join forces for change, so regularly provide free viewing of documentary films at a downtown outdoor space, like the one I saw last night – Food Fight. A great complement to the Tour, the film describes how corporations have influenced and controlled our food sources and contributed to the decline of our health and environment. There was a good turn-out and local, Tom Philbott, Grist Food Editor, spoke afterwards.

(<<<My favorite Urban Tour Tee!)

A locally-grown lifestyle is the way to feed a healthy future. Be involved. Be aware. Be ready.

Eat to Live or Live to Eat – ? Spring cleaning for your diet and the planet

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

By Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Maybe we fall somewhere in between on this one. But when it comes to moving towards sustainability and our health, eating to live may be the Yin to the Yang. To me, this simply means considering one thing with every bite – why am I eating this and what am I supporting when I do? Yes, food can and should be about celebration and enjoyment, but if the short answer doesn’t involve nourishment and a certain consciousness, you may be making your food choices more difficult and less healthy than you realize.

The biggest and most welcome change I made in my diet years ago (even more than becoming vegetarian) was to get over the idea of eating imaginary foods. You know what I mean – the things that may have started as a food, but have been processed into something entirely different – and empty nutritionally. The obvious? Soft drinks, processed salt and sugar, white flour and processed fats. Those are the absolutes – as in, we absolutely don’t receive nutrition from these foods and they in fact are harmful to your health.

Then there’s the borderline foods which aren’t much better – things like boxed cereals, cheese crackers, pita chips, soy cheese, or “sports bars”. Also beware of relying on the term “organic” as a shopping guideline. Sure, you can find “organic” versions of cookies, waffles, even jelly beans, but organic junk food is still junk food and not any kind of answer to sustainability issues. The big truth is that relying on processed and out of season foods means junking the environment, our health, family farms and more.

It was a huge relief to me to finally pare down what could be confusing choices to one category – real food. Even coffee, tea, wine, beer, chocolate, sea salt, maple syrup and other natural sweeteners all fall into this group! I’m definitely not suffering from lack of enjoyable eating experiences – in fact, I’m discovering new foods every day, like the jerusulem artichokes I tried at the Farmer’s Market this past weekend. And no, I really don’t miss bagels, pasta or soy bologna.

Keep in mind that many small farms cannot afford to become officially certified as organic but are aligned and committed to growing practices that are not exploiting our health, the animals or the environment. Local is usually a more sustainable, socially conscious, and healthy choice than buying organic products shipped across continents. Once you start thinking about the real things, it’s easy, fun and delicious. Each season, you can look forward to what is naturally available in your area. Delicious and wholesome whole grains can replace flour products. You may feel satiated for the first time in your life, while participating wholeheartedly in the joy of eating without conflict.

(After writing this, I found this topic covered beautifully by Mark Bittman, author of Food Matter: A Guide to Conscious Eating”, in the NYTimes this morning. Enjoy!)

Grid-Free and Off the Beaten Path – a journey

Monday, July 28th, 2008

by Jeannie Newell, Crested Butte, CO

This just in:

Less is more!
Also, more is less!

I’m feeling really inspired right now.  I’m sure I sound like a raging idealist on this blog, but really I’m still somewhat pessimistic and cranky.  I am happier, though, I must admit.  These less & more’s are making me that way:

More work
Less pay
Less meat
More butter
Less car
More aspen trees
More eco-daydreams

I have taken on another job and now I work almost 60 hours a week.  No, I am not trying to make partner at anything.  I now have a gig as housekeeping assistant (heh) at a fantasticly cute little bed and breakfast in town, called the Cristiana Guesthaus.  The assistant job is more fun than being a housekeeper, which I don’t know if I could do.  This is actually a widely varied and super busy job.  I don’t stop moving from the time I get here to the time I leave.  Part of the point of off grid rent-free living is money savings that I really want to maximize at this point. I want to keep living the hiking / biking / camping life of leisure, but I have some credit card debt I really want to knock down.  This second job will help me do this quickly because my low-paying 30 hour a week job has been easily covering my no-rent lifestyle (student loan and cell phone / credit card payments included.)  My job at Mountain Earth pays almost $10 / hour less than I was making at my last real full time job.  So I’m working 7 days a week, but I am not working from 9am to late in the day.  I have big breaks during the day and two days that I don’t start until 2pm – which means plenty of sunshine.  At my last well-paying, full time job I would longingly stare out the window from my desk at the beautiful Durham days and wish for a tire swing I could lounge on in bare feet.
I have not resigned myself to working menial jobs for the rest of my life, and at 34 I get a little twitchy about my current lack of professional work, which I’m told is really the societal mirror talking – that is, my perception of what society thinks I should be doing.  Which, theoretically, is where people go wrong – because they choose their work to define / esteem themselves instead of really listening to themselves.  For me, for the time being, more jobs and less pay = more motion, more action, less sitting at a desk, less screwing around aimlessly online and a general feeling of purpose and happiness.  I have been reunited with the high school side of me that learned to perform even the smallest tasks with pride.
I eat meat.  I am not entirely convinced that humans should live without meat, even though I do agree that perpetuating the need for killing animals is sort of an act of violence.  My sister Anne (and one of my favorite people) gave me a book to read on the move out to Colorado, and the chapter on slaughterhouse practices – current slaughterhouse practices, not those from the days of Upton Sinclair – had me crying through half the state of Kansas.  Why would I want to be part of the gluttonous machine that drives that need for horrible suffering?  Eating less meat means I can afford to buy meat that is truly raised and slaughtered humanely and not a lot of it.  The kind of meat that is raised in such a way as to not destroy the environment.  Nancy told me three Colorado winters living in a yurt showed her very quickly that she needed meat to stay warm.  (Notably, after living in the yurt she designed the coolest and most beautiful hexagonal straw bale home for herself that she has lived in for the last 12 years.) Thanks to Steph and Nancy who made me some wonderful veggie based meals this past week, I have really rekindled my passion for making healthy food.  Armed with a little chicken broth and tamari, I’ve done some pretty good work.  When I use meat and cheese, I’ve been using them to season meals, while using salt, butter, and oils a little more liberally.  On vegetables, not on a piece of meat with cheese slapped on top.  I don’t guess the really fatty traditional butter is bad is if you’re having a little on a big old bowl of sauteed kale.  For me right now, more veggies, more fruits and less meat, more butter, more salt, less bread, less pasta = really great food that feels good to my soul.
I’m working on ‘less car.’  I’ve slacked this week because I’ve been working so much.  I’m renewing my commitment to riding back and forth now that I think I’ve adjusted.  I still have time to go on 3 or 4 hikes a week, taking in the aspens and  wildflowers that abound here.  I have to be careful, because sometimes too much biking and hiking in one day and I’m exhausted at work.  I can report that I am addicted to the biking now, because it’s like a big old happiness fix everytime I do it. (biking’s got to be the new prozac)
I’m having some trouble with the solar panel, that I’m keeping an eye on.  I’m not at the camper as much so I haven’t been minding the frozen water bottles in the fridge and if I’m not careful about what I buy, the food will go bad (I hate that!) I have less time to find for laundry and showers and I’m trying to stay on top of those things.  I take more baths in sinks these days and wear my bandanas more!  People tell me I smell fine, whenever I ask, I hope they’re not just being nice.  I still nurture my eco-daydreams, and wonder what life would be like if everyone composted, recycled paper, plastic, cans, or even better – thought about whether they really needed that drink in the plastic bottle, and only bought one when they really wanted it.  They’re something to be said for having the regular things in your life become treats. *sigh.  Someday people will realize that conservation is a happiness fix, too.  Caring for things beyond yourself has been proven time and again to improve a person’s self worth.
There’s also something hugely satisfying about falling out of your shoes at the end of the day, having the energy for nothing but a glass of wine, reading before bed while snuggling with your dog – then passing out at 9:30 for the rest of the night.  it’s been a long week!

Also, I think all this talking about myself in one fell swoop is making me a better listener.  Maybe a possible side-effect of blogging.  Peace and love,


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