Category Archives: farmer’s market

Day 200 – 202: MLwC and the New Continent of Synthetics

 

Over at Strange Maps, there’s a new map for the Continent of Synthetics. It’s quite intriguing, a geography of artificially created materials with poetic, if not sort of nightmarish descriptions:

• “Petrolia is the land of the new synthetic rubbers.”
• “Cellulose is a great state, something like Texas, with many counties, all of which grew out of old Nitrocellulose (Celluloid).”
• “Rayon is a plastic island off the Cellulose coast, with a glittering night life.”
• “Vinyl-land, a fast-growing new country of safety-glass (…) and rubbery plastics, will probably subdivide soon.”

All of which makes me think of farm fresh food. As our local Tomato Wars continue (turns out Neighbor Susan isn’t all that much ahead of our harvest of tomatoes), we find ourselves swamped with a vertible cornucopia of fresh tomatoes which we are busy turning into fresh sauce for this winter. We lightly bake them with fresh basil and oregano and then freeze the resulting gumbo in dinner size plastic bags for a deep January taste bud extravaganza reminding us that spring and summer are around the corner. You don’t find tomatoes like this in Petrolia!

But how I got on this topic…I read an article in The Grist about local vs. long distance food resources. This article was based on an article in the NY Times by James McWilliams debunking the idea that local food is better for all concerned and easier on the environment in general. He slices and dices the data and presents some interesting ways of looking at the issue…but I come down squarely on the side of The Grist:

Purchasing locally grown food, as Maiser observes, “is fodder for a wonderful story. Whether it’s the farmer who brings local apples to market or the baker who makes local bread, knowing part of the story about your food is such a powerful part of enjoying a meal.” Buying local builds relationships, almost organically forcing the consumer to become aware of the plight of the producer and the producer to become familiar with the needs of the consumer.

Author David Morris then explores issues of equity to small farmers who depend on foreign buyers of their goods, etc. All good points. There’s undoubtedly a middle ground here where local is the best path for many reasons including community, relationships, importance of story and connectedness–those might seem like “soft” arguments but they’re important to me. And then there are other markets globally that depend on foreign participation to stay afloat. What I’m not thrilled about participating in is the global agri-business that puts local-everything out of business and has little to no accountability, not to mention “story” or community.

Cherry tree

That said, neighbor Susan and I had a discussion the other day about buying local and here’s the rub: I’m such a fruit freak. I mean, if there were such a thing as a fruit gourmet, I might qualify. AND I live in Seattle, Washington. I mean, in the winter, there’s not a lot of fruit. Apples, apples, apples. And then Apples. Come Spring and Summer, things open up a bit, but I would do back-flips to get some of the fruit I grew up with in Southern California, and baby, that stuff ain’t local. So, if push came to shove, I guess I’d move. I’d move to a place that grows good (I mean Good) watermelons, for example, and Santa Rosa plums.

So, anyway. It’s the harvest time of the year. I hope you’re enjoying the fruits of the season!

Daily Stats: (Monday, Tues, Wed)
Car: 0
Bike: 8
Ped: 4 or 5 miles
Bus: 0

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Day 168-171: MLwC and that memory thing

Here’s the scene: we’re biking our way to the West Seattle Farmer’s Market, it’s a beautiful morning and I’m thinking about peaches and Santa Rosa plums–the kind I grew up with but you can hardly find anymore but for a few weeks in August.

paniers for more info see seacat.wordpress.com

And then it hits me: I forgot to put the paniers on my bike and have almost no space to carry things home. We’re almost to the market and it’s too late to turn back. My partner remembered hers so we just keep going…but it will impact what we can schlepp home.

Another scene: I’m in a hurry, have a long to-do list but need to grab something to eat before heading out for my next appointment. I take a half a bagel from the freezer, slap a slice of cheese on it and toss it in the toaster oven. I race off to get my stuff ready to go and come back, anxious to get the bagel and split. But noooooo–the toaster is not plugged in, because we’re trying hard to remember to unplug unused electrical items, so the bagel is still frozen.

I am reminded at times like this of the great selling advantage of Easy. With a car, you barely have to think–just hop in and step on it, and anything you buy you can throw in the back seat and go. Leaving things plugged in, in all the homes across the globe, accounts for an enormous waste of electricity, but on the little-ol-me scale, it’s simply a whole lot easier.

Easy is just…well, easier than remembering stuff. Remembering to plug the toaster in, remembering to put the paniers on your bike, remembering to bring your canvas bag to the store, remembering to re-use your plastic bags…on and on.

But, it’s all just habit. It really is a habit to head out in your car with little more thought than getting up in the morning–you’re just used to it. If plugging in the toaster oven were perceived as a normal part of using a toaster oven, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. It’s all habitual. So, we’ll stay the course (thousand points of light ;-)), and try to change the way we think about our appliances, our trips to the store, and stuff.

Santa rosa plums from seacat.wordpress.com

By the way, the Santa Rosas were in (Thanks, Tiny’s!) and my summer is now complete. The peaches from Rama Farm are as heavenly as ever–and at least as expensive. But the harvest is coming in and now’s the time to visit your local Farmer’s market, if you don’t already.

Daily Stats (Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun)
Car: 20 miles (2 people, 4 tasks)
Bike: approx 16 miles
Ped: 9 miles
Bus: 0

Day 155 & 156: MLwC and a wee bit more on Chinatown

Interestingly, after the post the other day re Green Films, New West offers another story that sounds chillingly like the Owens Valley rip-off that was the true-life basis of the fictional noir film Chinatown. The story, entitled “Water again,” (the infamous quote from detective Jake in Chinatown) takes place in Southern Idaho and follows a proposal to take millions of gallons of water out of the Snake River every day in order to sustain housing and development in the Idaho desert south of Boise….Hmmm, I wonder where I’ve heard that before.

Cadillac Desert chronicles what happened to the Owens Valley farmers and the vast, fruitful agricultural areas that supported local economies and provided fresh food for the whole region. When the water was siphoned off for L.A and the San Fernando Valley, those farms dried up–literally–and became part of history.

I wonder if Idahoans will allow the creation of their own Cadillac Desert, lining the pockets of Mulholland type developers who have purchased desert land on the cheap, hoping to turn it into an oasis–on the backs of tax-payers, local farms, and the eco-system at large.

Daily Stats: (Thu, Fri)
Car: 0
Bike: 0
Ped: approx 7 miles
Bus: 0
Desk: miles and miles deep into the early morning light.

Day 143 & 144: MLwC and the way we were (less efficient was perhaps better…)

My partner and I were riding back from the west seattle farmer’s market today, transporting precious cargo in our panniers and the little stow-away on the back of my bike: rainier cherries, fresh pasta, tomatoes, bibb lettuce, red onions, spinach.

As we peddled home I started thinking about when I was a kid and how my mom got food to our baby-boomer household: once a week, a trip to the store and our local farmer’s market and back home again with a load of food for a family of six. That was pretty much the regime. We didn’t get in the car again for days.

If we ran out of something, we walked to the nearer store–not as big, not as cheap, but a nice walk and easy to do.

The deal was: we didn’t jump in the car for everything. We just didn’t. And I grew up in Southern California–it’s not like I didn’t grow up in a car culture, I did. But using a car was sort of a big deal back then–it was expensive and also, walking and bike riding were more common. When I stayed at my grandmother’s house in Los Angeles, we rode the bus everywhere–it’s just what you did.

Then I got to thinking about the price of gas now compared to then and thought driving was probably so much more expensive then. When I got home I checked out the price of gas adjusted for inflation and here’s what I found:

pump price from then to now

Turns out we were paying per gallon back in 1960 about the same price we’re paying now. What happened, how come We’re driving like fifty times more! Upon more investigation, what happened was this: in the late 70’s and early 80’s, gas prices soared, we were in the midst of ongoing crisis in the middle east and the government called for more efficiency and less reliance on middle eastern oil. Car companies responded by making more fuel efficient vehicles–compared to the cars we had when I was growing up, the Country Squire station wagon we had, for example, these new cars were wildly efficient. The old cars had terrible mileage–like 6-10 mpg, making everyone very careful about when and how they drove. So, enter the age of the fuel efficient car.

station wagon promo pic

Does the fuel efficient car help us use less gas, make us less reliant on ME oil? Hell no! It helps us drive wherever, whenever, and in the largest-ass car we can get anytime we want. We’re using per capita way more oil now than we were back then when cars were completely inefficient. So, was the drive to efficiency (no pun intended) a good thing? Not so much, looks to me.

Anyway, back to my ride home….I recognize that I’ve reverted to that earlier model now. I’m going to pretend that my car gets 6 mpg and that fuel is more expensive than water. And I’ll be calmer, happier for it. Cars are incredibly addictive–I know I’ve said this before, but I was just marveling at it again today, so it’s on my mind. I’m feeling sort of old fashioned, in a weird way, and I like it. Simpler. Calmer. Easier.

Daily stats: (Saturday, Sunday)

Car: 0
Bike: 6.2 miles
Ped: approx 3 miles
Bus: 0

Day 133: MLwC, food and the 4th

Here’s what the 4th of July looks, smells and sounds like in my neck of the woods:

seattle fireworks pic

Wall-to-wall people camped out at the beach from early morning on in order to have a good spot to watch the fireworks over Elliott Bay and Queen Anne.

Traffic backed up from the bridge all the way to and from the beach all day and until the very early morning hours.

The twin smells of barbecue and wood fires, combined later with sulpher from the fireworks themselves.

Boom boxes blaring, kids running around laughing, squealing, adults talking over too much beer and sun…but all having a pretty good holiday.

And food. Chips, hotdogs, hamburgers, pizza, take-out chicken, store-bought cherry pie…a cornucopia of processed american food.

Which brings me to the Slow Food, an international organization with over 80,000 members started in 1986 as a reaction to McDonald’s and other american fast food enterprises. They focus on the intersection of community, farming, food production, taste, health, and the pure enjoyment of real, unprocessed food. Their mission statement:

We believe that everyone has a fundamental right to pleasure and consequently the responsibility to protect the heritage of food, tradition and culture that make this pleasure possible. Our movement is founded upon this concept of eco-gastronomy – a recognition of the strong connections between plate and planet.

Anyone who gets their food at a local farmer’s market is part of the slow food movement, whether they realize it or not. Anyone who takes the time to prepare their meals, who cares about what goes in their body, or who enjoys real, unprocessed food, or prefers restaurants that use local fresh and organic produce is part of the slow food movement. Because in our culture, it is much easier to just buy a bag of chips, pick up some hot dogs or burgers, grab a mass-produced pizza and knock back a six pack of fast-brewed beer.

We have come to expect so little from our food. In a fast food world, it’s all about quantity, not quality. In a slow food world, those values are reversed.

So, anyway, I spent the day with pals (so great to hang with your girl gang, Di!) and had lunch at the Pike Place Market. Later I rode home to spend the evening with some more friends; we had slow cooked spicy black beans, rice, guacamole, corn tortillas, salad, and a fresh fruit crisp with cherries from our own pie-cherry tree in the backyard…and man, was it good! How was your 4th?

Daily stats: (Wednesday)
Car: 0
Bike: 15 miles
Bus: 1.5 miles
Water taxi: 2 miles
Ped: approx 2 miles

Day 107: MLwC, comment from B2, and the loneliness of the long distance business traveler

Supa dupa comment from B2 yesterday, if you get a chance. A snippet:

“The 2 years I didn’t own a car in the mid-90s (before I got married and had a kid), I was biking everywhere….

One interesting thing that happened was that … Non-bicyclists would often strike up a conversation with me, and almost invariably I would hear two things from most of them: 1. “How far do you go in a day?” and 2. “Oh… I could never do that.”

And… I got to thinking about why people kept bringing up these 2 particular points, and here’s what I thought: their focus on physical distance is very rooted in consumer culture; the journey itself often had very little value in itself, and they were more focused on getting to a place rather than on the process of getting there, which is actually the most enjoyable part of any trip for me — probably because they were going too fast and thus were feeling too stressed to really enjoy the process of getting there. The very act of slowing down to 10-15 miles per hour on your bike REALLY makes you see the landscape differently and to realize how much of it you miss when you whiz through in a motor vehicle at 60mph.”

I think you have something there. There’s just something about being in touch with the actual trip itself that keeps you present in a way driving just skips altogether.

And speaking of trips…I am on a project in Chicago for the better part of this week. Kind of blows my stats, don’t you think? But I have long thought that I wanted to balance out my business travel, not just in carbon usage, but also in the grand disconnect when you are a body traveling through space and character-free airports, staying at business focused hotels. So, I do–by living a very different lifestyle at home.

Lots of biz people like myself will always have to travel some–there are a lot of things you just can’t do remotely. It’s just not possible, for example, to do effective team trainings, motivation, work process observations… stuff like that which is pretty hands-on. How do you think biz travel will evolve as the availability of fossil fuels become more scarce?

Of course, biz travel is more necessary now that we have massive companies with centers and sites all over the place…Makes me appreciate even more the local hardware store and the West Seattle farmer’s market. Makes me swoon with appreciation, in fact.

Okay, Daily stats: (Monday)
Car: 0 (or about 25 if you count the carpool)
Bike: 0
Bus: 0
Air: about 1400 or so.

day 83 & 84: My life w car *and* Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

My Mom called and said, “you have to get this sauce: Frank’s Red Hot.” Why? Because cayenne will cure just about anything and it’s the best hot sauce she’s ever had. Hmmm. She said it’s curing her arthritis–and that has some basis in fact, apparently.

franks-red-hot.jpg

They don’t sell Frank’s at our local organic food store, couldn’t find it at the other market we frequent. But they did sell it at Safeway–a store I never frequent for lots of old, Chavez days reasons–so we picked up two bottles and tried them tonight.

The weird thing: Frank’s Red Hot has got the most basic ingredients you can imagine. Cayenne, vinegar, salt, water. That’s it! So how come my back-to-basics grocery store doesn’t stock it? And also: it’s cheap! Maybe that’s why–they don’t give away shelf space for nothin’.

What else is going on? John Lombard wants to save us from ourselves: he’s single handedly trying to raise awareness about the degradation of the Puget Sound, the destruction of salmon habitat. I’m still really unclear about how come salmon is a common dinner entre when its numbers are diminishing at an alarming rate, but here’s a site that explains how to eat salmon if you are inclined, while still protecting the environment.

Saw “My Name is Rachel Corrie” at the Seattle Rep the other night and was blown away by it. It’s closed now in Seattle but has already hit the road and is making a wave in EU international tour. This is about the young American woman who was run over by a bulldozer and killed in Gaza in the Palestinian camps. She was a writer with wonderful journals she kept from 5 years old on–the play is based on those journals, right up to the last 5 minutes of her life. Wonderful, amazing–one woman show. The pamphleting outside the theatre seemed a gross continuation of the same politics that killed this young woman and kills young innocence the world around. Made me sad.

What else? We just put organic compost on all the beds in our yard (we have a lot of yard) so spring must really be here even though the temperature is so abnormally low, the evenings still dropping to the high 30’s. Also, the local Farmer’s Market started–paltry pickings, it’s still too early for much produce, but it’s a great thing to have it back! Support Your Local Farmer’s Market!

p1010194.jpg

And I think that’s all for now.

Daily stats:
car: apprx 35 miles (2 people, about 9 tasks)
bike: zip
bus: zip
flexcar: zip