Tuesday, September 1, 2015

It's About Saving Ourselves

It's not just about saving the environment and saving the planet. It's about saving ourselves. Ecology-Economy-Community -Faith! All of these.  These are fundamental pillars of our human lives. We have to keep them all in balance. Yes we have to protect the environment if we want to have a safe, clean, healthy place to live. We do also need to have a working economy, though in our current society we have placed far too much emphasis on this pillar. It has gotten all out of balance as a result.  It has impacted and even threatens to overwhelm and destroy the other three pillars. If this happens it will also destroy us. How can we find the balance? Ironically, it may begin with our economic activities. These behaviors seem to permeate and impact all the other areas of our lives. If we wonder why our society is so sick, why community seems to be collapsing and faith waning, we may need to take a long hard look at our economic activities. Then we need to start asking ourselves some important questions before we flex our economic muscles. 

Before you make a purchase, think about how much life energy it is going to cost you, and ask yourself if it's going to be worth it. Then ask yourself "if I ask myself the same question tomorrow, will I give the same answer?" Next ask yourself how this purchase impacts the environment you live in and also how it impacts the environment of others. Ask yourself how it impacts the economic, social and faith aspects of not only your life, but the lives of the people and the place where it was produced. Often our purchases are controlled more by our current emotional state than by our real needs and in fact even our real wants and goals. At times they are even contrary to our long term wants and goals. Let's live intentionally. Let's keep our long term goals in our minds. Let's ask ourselves the important questions before we make purchases. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Tiny Steps - Turn Off the TV

How can turning off the TV help? Here are 3 ways. Just for starters. 

1. Saves Electricity
2. Saves Time that you can spend: planting a garden, bartering for goods and services, time banking, sewing your own clothes, fixing things around the house. You name it.
3. The less TV you watch the less you are exposed to the advertisements and images which perpetuate our consumer economy. 

So, turn it off, unplug, tune out and enjoy all the energy, time and money you will save. 

And you will feel better too.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Little Steps

found @ http://blogs.haverford.edu/goinggreen/2008/09/

Good Morning all! I'm taking a little bit of a new tack here. Part of what holds me back from making more posts is feeling that i need to come up with some great topic of significance and then often there is time spent in research and certainly time spent in writing and editing a post. And then there are the pictures. I always feel that I need to come up with a pertinent image and that can take some time to find or generate. As I currently work full time and commute to work, it can be a struggle to take time away from my other home and family tasks to do this on a regular basis. 

It occurred to me this morning that you might just be interested in hearing about the small steps that we are taking toward turning our property into a permaculture paradise in the changable climate of New England. I'm calling these posts "Little Steps".  So whenever you see "Little Steps" before the post title you will know it is one of these. As you saw in Self Absorbed we made some real progress this spring in the food forest. Also in that post I put out a challenge for all of us to make a small change in our lives that can help to reduce our impact. Our 30 days are up so I just wanted to see how we all did. My small change is to stop eating processed snack food in plastic containers or bags. It took me a few days to look at my habits and decide this was going to be my step and a few more to reach full implementation, but I made it within our 30 day window and I'm going to keep it going forward.  I hope everyone was able to find some small thing they could do. Feel free to post and share in the comments. I'd love to hear about what you are doing. 

Keeping it 'little'; I'll sign off by sharing this link from Permaculture Principles about using small and slow solutions.  Small steps really can make a big difference, especially when we are all making them together. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Vote! Whenever You Get the Chance

My nephew turned 18 last week. I made him a card that said "Yippee you're 18!" on the outside flap. Lifting the next flap revealed the message... "You can vote." And lifting the final flap revealed some cash and the message "So, can a buy yours?" The fact that I should be inspired to give him such a card is a sad commentary on the state of our political system. We talk about clean elections and claim that other countries have more corruption than we do, when the sad fact is, we have simply institutionalized corruption and bribery through our campaign finance laws and supreme court rulings. Perhaps even sadder though was his reaction, and that of his mother. He said "I'm not going to vote," and she said "I'm not voting in national elections anymore." Both feel that they can't make a difference and there is no point in voting. Too many people feel this way now, and perhaps with good reason. 

So how do we change this trend? And how do we change the system so that people feel empowered rather than disenfranchised? Well I'm not going to lie to you. It's going to take a lot of hard work from a lot of people. It is going to take every single one of us getting really and truly involved in the political process, The first thing we need to do is to remember that ultimately the government answers to We The People.  Next we must take up our right and RESPONSIBILITY as citizens to vote at every opportunity, and to be an educated and informed electorate. We need to ignore the TV ads and look at voting records. We need to vote based on what we know is right not just for this minute and ourselves, but for the future and for everyone. 

More people need to start voting with their conscience than their pocket books. We need to be writing to our elected officials and telling them exactly why we are voting for or against them. Perhaps some of those letters should even be shared with the press.   We need to push for congressional term limits to reduce cronyism & the power of wealthy special interest groups. We urgently need to pass a law that will overturn citizens united.. Perhaps we need a constitutional amendment that states the corporations are NOT people and they cannot donate to campaigns. 

I think that only citizens should be permitted to donate and that candidates should be prohibited from know who donated to their campaign.  Any time that a politician is placed in a position to feel beholden to any group other than the citizen constituents of his home district, there is a chance that his policy decisions will be influenced more by the wants of big corporate donors than the needs of his constituents and the nation as a whole.  I suspect we are a long way off from getting these reforms put through. Perhaps many feel that we can never achieve these goals. What I know is that we can never achieve what we never attempt. And these goals are certainly worth working for. 

Most importantly if we want our government to be accountable then we need to hold ourselves accountable for our political action or lack thereof, and then we need to hold our elected officials accountable by exercising our right to vote! If government does not serve the people then it must be served notice by the people. If our elected officials will not exercise the will of the people, then the will of the people must be exercised through their votes to elect new officials!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Self Absorbed

Here I am again after another long absence. I've had a lot of thoughts about the drought in California, about the permaculture principles, about alternative economies, about building community, but I haven't taken the time to sit down and write, because I've been a bit self absorbed lately.  I would love to tell you that I've been very busy with extremely important things. And to some degree I have been. Check out this link to see what I've been up to. However, there have also been evenings when I just came home, and after dinner I flopped down in front of the TV exhausted and vegged out until it was time to crawl off to bed with this nagging feeling that I should be doing more. But each new day comes and I repeat the cycle, like a hamster in a wheel. 

And then it struck me that isn't this a big part of how we have gotten into the situation that we are in economically, environmentally... socially. We have grown accustomed to looking out for number one, of taking the easy way, of doing what seems right at the time, of avoiding challenges, of finding excuses for putting off change. In fact we have grown so accustomed to it that we no longer even realize that we are doing it most of the time. I'm not saying that this is all of us, all the time. Many of us work hard and regularly to make this world a better place for everyone in the future, but as a society in general, we Americans tend to think more about our immediate gratification than of our long term good or the long term good of others or the planet. And the sad thing is, we are spreading this ideology to the rest of the world. 

My challenge to myself and to all of us, is to think of one thing we can do in the next 30 days to reduce our impact on the environment, to implement that goal and to share our success with at least 1 other person. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

From Market and Pantry

So, here I am again the prodigal blogger, back from another long hiatus to report on how our experiment worked out with eating only from our market finds and our pantry for 21 days. In a word, failed. But that is too simplistic an assessment, because we learned a lot from the experiment and in that regard it was a huge success! So what did we learn?

Plan ahead: One of the primary reasons that we only made it to day 9 was because we ran out of a staple (butter) and had to go to the store for it. Once in the store, Hubby saw several other things that appealed to him. He arrived home with 2 full bags.

Plan ahead: Yup, that again, and this time I mean with regards to your meals. Taking some of your free time on a day off to prep a few things ahead that keep well or can be frozen and defrosted quickly will save you from those temptations that occur on the days when meetings run late, traffic is snarled up or for one reason or another you arrive home late and/or exhausted and just don't feel like preparing a meal. This is where we ran into downfall #2 on day 11 when it was my turn to cook and I just didn't have it in me. So a quick pop into a convenience store on the way home yielded a rising crust pizza. I consoled myself with the fact that it was at least vegetarian. 

These next few are going to sound a bit trite, but they are true and applicable. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Don't give up if your attempts to eat local run into some stumbling blocks. This is bound to happen. You may get a sudden urge for pineapple and, after all, who ever saw a pineapple growing in Maine, or many of the other places in the world where you may find yourself for that matter?  Which leads to the next cliche, 'every little bit counts'. If every person ate one locally sourced meal per week we could reduce oil consumption by millions of barrels and carbon emissions by tons! Every week! And also, 'everything in moderation'. There is no substitute for fresh local food in season, but you do have to eat in winter when there isn't much of that readily available, and you also want to develop a lifestyle that is healthy for your body and your mind. If you are driving yourself nuts over all the things that you CAN'T eat or consume, that's not going to be good for you either. It also needs to be something you can sustain and not give up on after 2 weeks or 2 months. So find yourself some Caribbean,  free trade, shade grown, organic, locally roasted coffee and cut back on your overall intake. Enjoy it knowing that this small change in your lifestyle is making a difference to your health and to the health of the planet. 

When you do go to the grocery store read the labels, even on the produce, especially on the produce, and choose from those things which are sourced from as close as possible. If you live in Pennsylvania, cheese from Michigan is at least more local than cheese from Germany. We also learned that groceries, even large chains, are starting to recognize the demand for more local produce and that if 10 people ask the produce manager of the same store to bring something in, they will, because they know that for the 10 who asked there are another hundred who wouldn't ask, but would buy the product. Another thing about shopping in the grocery is avoiding highly processed foods. These foods represent the most food miles, the most processing and the most packaging which taken together result in the most carbon emissions and the least healthful products to consume.

I had promised you recipes, but we have found that when sticking to the market and pantry we make simple, mostly vegetarian meals of salads, steamed and roasted vegetables and vegetable soups and home-made bread which we just whip up without recipes. When we do use recipes, we simply search by ingredient on Allrecipes.com. This is a great resource and ties in quite nicely with a modern lifestyle. It's also great for finding ways to prepare that interesting new veg from the farmers' market like giant kohlrabi. 

To sum it up, I guess I would have to say that the over arching lesson is that when it comes to eating locally, it doesn't have to be an all or nothing approach. That isn't going to get us where we need to be. Because few of us would be able to achieve and maintain over the long haul a lifestyle of 100% local eating, and the alternative of nothing is not an option. We need to find a sustainable lifestyle that most of us can achieve that will result in a large portion of our foods coming from fresh, local, organic sources. In this way we can make a real impact on the overall health of the planet and of course, our own health as well.  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

10 Reasons to Eat Locally

Here are 10 great reasons to eat locally provided by Slow Food Seacoast.

1. Taste the difference: At a farmers market, most local produce has been picked inside of 24 hours. It comes to you ripe, fresh, and with its full flavor. Did you know that on average your food travels 1500 miles to get to your plate? Also local food varieties can be bred for taste rather than their ability to withstand long journeys and a long wait in the grocery store before  being purchased for consumption.

2. Know what you are eating: When you buy from the farmer you have the opportunity to discuss what their farming practices are, whether they used chemical fertilizers, genetically modified seeds, Were the animals fed a healthy diet and raised humanely  without pesticides, hormones or antibiotics.

3. Meet your neighbors: Studies show that people who shop at farmers' markets have 10 times more conversations than their counterparts who shop at supermarkets.

4. Get in touch with the seasons: When you eat locally, you eat what's in season. You'll remember that cherries are the taste of summer. Even in winter, comfort foods like squash soup and pancakes just make sense- a lot more sense than flavorless cherries from the other side of the world.

5. Discover new flavors: Ever tried sunchokes? How about purslane, quail eggs, yerba mora, or tayberries? Count the types of pears offered at your supermarket. Maybe three? Small farms are keeping alive nearly 300 other varieties.

6. Explore your home. Visiting local farms is a way to be a tourist on your own home turf, with plenty of stops for snacks.

7. Save the world: A Study in Iowa found that a regional diet consumed 17 times less oil and gas than a typical diet based on food shipped across country the country. The ingredients for a typical British meal, sourced locally, traveled 66 times fewer "food miles."

8. Support small farms: In areas with strong local markets, the family farm is reviving. That's a whole lot better than the jobs at Wal-Mart and fast-food outlets that the globalized economy offers in North American towns.

9. Give back to the local economy: A British study tracked how much of the money spent at a local food business stayed in the local economy, and how many times it was reinvested. The total value contributed to the local economy was almost twice the contribution of a dollar spent at a supermarket.

10. Be healthy: Eating local usually means more vegetables and fewer processed products, a wider variety of foods, and more fresh food at its nutritional peak. Eating from farmers' markets and cooking from scratch, you'll never feel the need to count calories.

During our visit to the farmers' market today, Hubby and I were inspired to "put our money where our mouth eats" and not make a visit to the grocery store between now and the next farmers' market. We are going to work on eating up the things we canned and froze from our garden, foods we have in the pantry, some of which where gifts from other farmers and wild harvesters and some of which came in our CSA or from our local health food store and local foods market. We are very fortunate to have a market less than 10 miles from our house that sells local produce, meat, and even locally prepared foods such as jams, jellies, granola, candies, coffee roasted locally and more. But even this we will avoid for the next 21 days. We'll have some pretty interesting meals in the mean time, and we'll share photos, tips and recipes.  Tonight:  roasted kohlrabi with old bay seasoning on a bed of greens with local bread from Leaven, falafel and eggplant fattoush from Karimah's Kitchen.