Tennesseetransitions


Ding! Ding! Ding!

 

Image I recently touched on a concept called “The Green Triangle” that was put forth by author, editor, and simple living adherent, Ernest Callenbach. Seems he was able many years ago to put into words a principle that I’ve often used to guide me in my daily choices and decisions concerning my money, my health or the environment. The principle that relates these three points is: Anytime you do something beneficial for one of them, you will almost inevitably also do something beneficial for the other two – whether you’re hoping to or not.

I’ve also written several times about ‘win-win’ situations. Here, here and here for example. The Green Triangle is a ‘win-win-win’ situation in my eyes and as someone who cares deeply about those three things, I find it a helpful tool. I’ve used it so often over the years that I rarely ask myself anymore, “Self? What does the Green Triangle indicate in this situation?” But, it wasn’t- and isn’t- always that easy, so I thought perhaps it might be helpful to you if I could tell you of a few instances when it’s been a guiding light for me.

I long fretted over “Which is best? Local? Organic? Grass Fed?” Where my food is concerned, my health was my first consideration. So with staying healthy as my primary motivator, I felt comfortable with answering those questions by adopting a plant-based diet. Period.  As it turns out, by not buying meats, I’m improving my arteries, while saving money (beans, grains, nuts, eggs and greens are far cheaper sources of protein than meat)  AND protecting the environment from the harm that Big AG conventional meat producers are causing. Green Triangle =ding!ding!ding!

Whenever I walk or ride my bike, I’m putting the Green Triangle into effect. I’m saving gas money and wear on my car, I’m improving  my clogged arteries, and not contributing to the CO2 emissions that driving causes. ding!ding!ding!

Occasionally though, it’s not so clear-cut or even when it is, it’s not so easy to adhere to my own principles. When Michael and I were dating many years ago we had an old, heavy cooler that I couldn’t give away, try as I might. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, we simply wanted to buy a lighter one, with wheels and drink holders and little dividers inside that kept your hummus from touching your lettuce or whatever. I distinctly remember standing in the backyard and Michael saying to me that he felt we are responsible for the things we purchase until the end of that things’ life cycle. That simple statement stayed with me, and  the longer I live with it, the more I see how true it is. We didn’t buy the new cooler then, nor have we ever bought another one, because the karma of keeping the damn old thing boomeranged, as karma does, you know. Years later, a friend was moving and offered us his ‘old’ cooler-and it was just what we’d wanted! We still have the ‘old old’ one, which I use for protecting tender young plants on cold spring nights ;),  as an extra camp seat, and  as storage for camping gear during the off-season. We never did have to spend the $30 dollars a new one would’ve cost us, the landfill is STILL minus one steel cooler, and  I rest easy knowing I made a good decision. ding!ding!ding!

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Before I close, I want you also to understand that making good choices, whether using the Green Triangle or by following the advice found in my fortune cookie, is still really hard. I don’t always make the best food choices or purchasing decisions (did I ever tell you about my weakness for chocolate chip mint ice cream or my Imelda Marcos style shoe collection??), and some days I don’t gave a rat’s a## about the polar bears (ok, that’s not quite true) but being ever-mindful about my consumption of every thing that comes through my life has saved me lots of cash, helps me stay healthy and hopefully, has saved a polar bear somewhere as well. Maybe this Green Triangle thing can help you make better choices too. ding!ding!ding!

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In the ‘Nick’ of Time

Even though the full moon that’s been keeping my kitty-kitty prowling and meowing around the house during the night is postcard beautiful…

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the cold, short days really are cause for prayer and Prozac. For those of us that love to garden this is the time of year that we begin to truly miss kneeling at our weedy altars. The answer to this annual crisis is found in my mailbox, right there with the Christmas cards and end-of-the-year requests for charitable donations. Just in the ‘nick’ of time, the seed catalogs arrive! The colorful, mouth-watering, dream-inducing wish-books can transport me right back to warm days and garden plots.

Today’s ‘crop‘ of catalogs…

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inspired me to get outside and remove the plastic from my hoop houses so I could harvest some fresh kale and parsley… 

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to add to tonight’s soup…

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In my winter hoop house and in the kitchen, kale is king. After some hard frosts, it sweetens up, is easy-peazy to grow, and hearty enough to withstand serious cold with just a little protection. And check out the nutritional qualities of this super food:

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While I was in the garden, I took a peek at another bed that I’d planted with Red Sails lettuce, chard, spinach and some micro-greens called Claytonia and Mache’. Here’s that bed on Oct. 25th:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here’s what it looks like today, Dec. 17th:

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Come late winter, when I feel like I can’t possibly look at another plate of kale, the spinach and chard will be filling this space with their tender sweetness that can’t be duplicated with winter varieties. Just in the Nick of Time.



Blue Boat Home

Hello readers! Do me a favor, and listen to this beautiful song while you read this post. Just click on the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtZUM0JhLvc

I’m sitting in the sun on my front porch as I write this, on December 5th, 2013. The temperature is hovering at 70 today. As much as I’ve enjoyed a long walk with a good friend, and working in my garden this morning, all while dressed in a tee-shirt, I know it’s ‘not normal’ for this time of year, although I honestly am not sure anymore what ‘normal’ is on this beautiful planet we call home. I read today about a new study done by some of the world’s top climate scientists that are now saying that “this 2 degree C target that everyone seems to accept now is actually a recipe for disaster.” The study recommended that “fossil fuel emissions should decline by 6 percent per year starting immediately.” http://reneweconomy.com.au/2013/study-debuts-ipcc-calls-severe-emissions-cuts-80088 

Today’s news also informed me that Al Gore has joined his former boss Bill Clinton at the table and has gone to a vegan diet. http://grist.org/food/al-gore-is-a-vegan-now-and-we-think-we-know-why/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Living%2520Dec%25205&utm_campaign=living 

According to the article, the former VP’s reasons aren’t due to health, (although I’m pretty certain  he’ll end up healthier because of his new plant-based diet), but because of his very real concerns about how bad raising meat is for the environment, which really is an inconvenient truth for all of us omnivores, isn’t it? Then, to add to my environmental angst, a friend sent me a link with video of freakin’ glacial caves! That’s right, caves that are being formed UNDER the glaciers as they melt and run away. The photography is stunning and the reality of what’s happening will make you weep, but maybe you need to see it too: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/03/mendenhall-ice-caves_n_4374019.html 

Can you find the two people in this shot?Image

I could go on and on and on about the environmental crisis we’re all a part of, but I’m pretty certain I’m preaching to the choir here, so I won’t. Hearing of the death of that icon of social justice, Nelson Mandela, has added yet another note of sadness to my day today. I’m sure you choir members have already recognized the strong connection between environmental degradation and social injustice and inequality; use Mandela’s life as a model, and use this ‘season of giving’ to make a difference in the world, in your life or in someone else’s life. Please consider embracing simplicity, reducing your consumption of everything, eating a plant-based diet and reducing your personal waste during this time of consumption and spending.  Let’s do what we can to turn this ‘blue boat’ around.



I Have Proof

I haven’t posted here for over 2 weeks…just about the same amount of time I was sick with a virus that I’m pretty sure I picked up from Michael, who’s pretty sure he picked it up while he was in the hospital recently. To say his cancer has kicked his ass-and mine-would be putting it mildly. But we are both doing ever so much better this week and my brain is once again percolating with things to write about.

I use this blog to harp on share with you ideas that we can apply to our lives as we transition to a different world from that which we’ve all grown up in; it will surely be a lower energy future, on a planet with serious environmental degradation and climate change, with globalization a hard-earned lesson from the past.  Two of the best ways that I’ve found to make that transition to ‘the good life’ involve building resiliency through more localized economies and skill sets and through more interdependence in our individual communities. Both solutions are key to creating more livable communities and offering us a more fulfilling and sustainable life, regardless of what our futures may hold.

If you doubt any of what I wrote in that last paragraph, I have ‘proof’ to offer, not just theory. Here’s my ‘story’. Michael and I have been largely self-sufficient in terms of health, finances and most aspects of our daily lives for a very long time. We liked that smug snug feeling of being self-reliant. Then we both got sick and had to ask for help with lots of things-from cutting grass to daily meals. (Not feeling nearly as invincible now.) But somewhere along the way, the magic of community kicked in and we were not only helped but uplifted by our circle of friends and community. That circle of love and friendship held healing power as strong as the cancer treatments themselves! Never underestimate the value of cards, emails, prayers, books, visits, phone calls, jars of soup and loaves of bread to someone in need. Using an overused phrase here: “They are priceless”. 

Now that I’ve seen first hand the value of communal care, I intend to work harder at being an advocate and practitioner of the concept. As a society it seems we’ve gotten so far removed from ‘knowing thy neighbor’ and feel we don’t have time or energy  to develop the friendships and relationships that can be so helpful and valuable to each and every one of us, in good times or in bad.  So when I hear about a community-based effort to enrich my life, I intend to share it with you. My hope is that the sharing will inspire us all to look for ways to build our own communities whether they be with neighbors, coworkers, church groups, gamers, gardeners or simply the gay couple next door. There’s strength in numbers.

Now I want to let you know about a new entrepreneur in my neighborhood. Tyler Selby lives in the next block down from me and has started baking and selling artisan breads at the Farmer’s Market in Johnson City. They are fabulous, healthy and go a long way towards making our soups and other plant-based meals filling! I know $6 a loaf may seem a bit high but consider this: Cut into 12 thick slices and then frozen to keep it fresh, we’re able to enjoy the loaves Tyler bakes for 6 meals.  Not so bad eh? Of course supporting his efforts will hopefully help his business grow. I’d lots rather walk down the street to get a fresh-baked loaf of bread from someone I know than to get it anywhere else. Kinda like they do in the rest of the world. In a world without refrigeration or electricity, daily bread baking is the norm. (I hear there’s another nearby neighbor that sells fresh fried fish sandwiches out her back door on Fridays but I haven’t found her yet. But I digress…) Tyler plans to apply for a plot in the Carver Peace Gardens next year so that he can grow some specialty grains for his breads. Since he lives only half a block away from the gardens, it seems a perfect fit. The community gardeners, the bakery, and my neighborhood all stand to benefit from Mr Selby’s  plans. My secret, long-term plan for that community garden has always been to build an outdoor, wood-fired  bread oven so he has tapped into some of my own life blood with his little bakery. I’ll keep you updated on any progress made and perhaps the idea of a community oven may actually come to pass. In the meantime, look for The Selby Bakery at the Farmer’s Market!

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Another lovely example of community building popped up online this week.  A friend of mine has created a website that highlights some of the natural and beautiful places that her family enjoys visiting in our little corner of NE TN, with the hope that others can use the resources she’s compiled there to find those wild places as well. I smell the makings of a  hiking club and family friendly outings in the air! Here’s the web address: http://freshairfamily.weebly.com/ This same friend also took her windfall of organic apples to the community cannery in Telford yesterday where she and her son and a friend processed the fruit into jars and jars of applesauce. Using community resources to enhance our lives is one of the many rewards of all this!

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 All this is to simply say: Michael and I are living proof that sometimes community is NECESSARY to get things done, to heal, or just get by. Just don’t wait ’til the going gets tough to create those necessary communities-do it today. Hilary was right: It takes a village!



Frugal Friday August 30th

I’m on a writing roll friends, and since I didn’t get around to it last week, today is the day for… FRUGAL FRIDAY. It’s been a difficult week for my husband and consequently, I’ve wanted and needed to be home with him as much as possible. I walk the dog for a half hour each morning, and that’s about it. That said, when you don’t start the car, go out to eat, go into stores or out with friends, YOU DON’T SPEND ANY MONEY! I don’t recommend this forced method of saving however, because it can lead to…writing too many blog posts.

I rescued another stamp this week that had arrived in my mailbox uncanceled and used it to mail a card to a sick friend. I don’t go to many yard sales and thrift stores, but when I do, I always look for cards and stationery. I have a nice assortment of both now, and rarely have to buy an appropriate card at full retail price. Of course, using ‘recycled’ postage stamps to mail them makes the endeavor practically free. I really do enjoy sending cards and letters to folks, but felt it was wasteful of Earth’s resources, since most cards are thrown away within a week of receiving them so this practice of buying second-hand allows me to indulge without being wasteful . Here’s the latest stamp that came to me uncanceled-on my birthday earlier this month- which was like ‘frosting on the cake’ so to speak.  ;D

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Speaking of greeting cards… a ‘ritual’ that began quite unexpectedly has turned into an annual reaffirmation for me. Four years ago Michael gave me a beautiful and sentimental anniversary card. I told him it was perfect and that he could just give it to me every year after that. So he does, adding a new inscription to it each August. I still love it, and look forward to its yearly return. Savings: who knows?  but it’s priceless to me!

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I answered a posting on Freecycle this week for an offer of 3 vials of the same vet-recommended flea and tick medication (read: EXPENSIVE)  that I was already applying to my dog each month, and was so grateful to be chosen to receive it. Savings: $36.00 hmmm maybe I’ll send that Freecycler a thank you card with my next recycled stamp ;D (Here’s Junie showing off her stash)

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I picked up a book that was on hold for me at the library this week. Not only do they call me when it’s ready for pickup, they send me a complimentary email reminder when it’s due too!  Since I walked over to get it, I didn’t even use any gasoline! Public Library Privileges: PRICELESS! And see here how beautiful my library is:

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I enjoy making a meal out of essentially ‘nothing’ and put this one together initially because of the four potatoes I’d failed to harvest earlier: I stir fried the chard leaves and diced potatoes with the onions, cooked the green beans with the dill, and threw the beets in the pressure cooker for 15 minutes while the rest of it cooked. I sliced the tomatoes just as they were, had some leftover cornbread and apple mint tea with it, and it was more than enough for two meals. (I added the ‘Appalachian Grown Certified Local’ twist tie to the picture  just because it came on a bunch of kale I’d bought at the Farmer’s Market in early spring and I thought it was kinda novel- and it was appropriate for this local food too. I’m easily amused these days, can you tell?)
Savings: I don’t know…what would that organically grown produce cost me? Three or four dollars I’d say!

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Hope your Labor Day Weekend is anything BUT laborious!



Focus on Tomatoes

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It’s now mid-August, and I’m feeling the effects of a late summer  garden bounty, weekly grass cutting chores, clearing and preparing garden beds for fall replanting, making pesto, drying herbs, planting seeds and a long list of summer projects still undone; the frequent rains have  messed up plans for everything from painting the porch to preparing a black-and-blue berry bed. Even though those projects are important to me, my highest priority is my husband’s cancer treatments and recovery. We’ve had to make choices that support protecting his health, and healing his spirit, and letting go of anything that doesn’t achieve those things.

I’ve still found time to do a fair amount of canning this summer, including some pint jars of tomatoes today. Why do I add this time consuming job to an already too-long to-do list? Let me count the ways…

  • Canned and cooked tomatoes are rich in Lycopene, long thought  to prevent cancer. New research shows that it may only be useful in preventing prostate cancers. Michael has colon cancer, so tomatoes and all the wonderful dishes that include them will always be featured on our supper table. I mean ALL he needs is prostate cancer now, right? Just sayin’…
  • Putting food by is a skill, an art, and an act of resilience and sustainability. If this blog is about nothing else, it’s about those things!
  • My favorite brand of canned tomatoes recently jumped from 50 cents a can to 75 cents a can. That’s a 50% increase folks! When I save and replant my own seeds, make my own compost and reuse my own reusable canning lids to seal the jars,  my tomatoes are essentially FREE. If you’re a regular reader of this blog , you know that being frugal is a priority of mine, one that allows me the freedom and luxury of living very well on a small income.
  • Lastly, a well-stocked pantry offers me a sense of security, allows me to eat healthy, organic, good-tasting food every day of my life- not just during June, July or August- and gives me a tremendous sense of well-being.  I don’t look at preserving food as simply ‘another thing I need to do’, but as a CHOICE and a blessing. I think that last part is what makes it fun and easy for me to face basketfuls of fresh fruits or veggies every day or so in the kitchen. It’s a mindset.

Speaking of mindsets… I grew up in a home/religion/time that taught me that “Idle hands are the Devil’s handiwork”, and even though I don’t believe that shit for one minute, the lesson stayed with me, and now, sixty years later, I have trouble being ‘still’. Or just ‘being’- not doing. To help remedy that, I’ve gone back to my old daily meditation practice and am reminded once again why it’s called a ‘practice’. 😉 But then again, many things in life require practice. Take these tomatoes, for example. I’ve been canning for almost 40 years, but today, when I opened the canner after the timer went off, I was greeted to floating tomatoes all over the top of the water! Not only did one jar not seal, it must not’ve been screwed down at all because the ring, lid and rubber were all floating. I assume it’s because I wasn’t being mindful, and simply failed to screw it down. That’s where my mindfulness practice of mediation becomes helpful. With a full regimen of cancer therapies added to my daily rounds, I’ve found myself being careless or mindless more and more often. This is NOT how I want to spend my days, and so I sit, cross-legged, eyes closed, just focusing on my breath. And all.those.tomatoes.

Health Insurance



Z Cakes and Chow Chow

I read other blogs and often get good ideas and recipes from them. Some are so good I then want to share them with you. My attempts to make appealing food for Michael while his appetite is so severely affected by his chemo treatments, and yet still keep our meals healthy, local, frugal, and easy for me to prepare, set a pretty high bar. But Zucchini Cakes definitely made the cut. When I was cooking them, Michael was not feeling well (or hungry) but I tempted him with one and it worked its’ magic on those compromised taste buds of his and he ate that cake and then another! This makes great use of a good-sized zucchini (and I’m always looking for solutions to that wonderful dilemma!) and used up the last bit of buckwheat pancake mix I had left in a bag in the freezer. These Z Cakes are good for any meal, but for breakfast we ate them with fresh peaches and homemade bread toasted and spread with some of the strawberry jam I made recently. We ate the remaining cakes with Potato/Leek Soup for lunch but I plan to make some more soon for supper, with corn on the cob and a cold pasta salad. That’ll keep Michael coming back to the table I’m sure!

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Here’s the recipe: (you’re welcome)

Savory Zucchini Pancakes

2-ish cups grated zucchini  (blot or drain to remove excess moisture)

2 eggs, beaten

Approx. 1/4  cup chopped green onion (or any onion can work)

About 1/2 cup grated cheese (a dry, flavorful one like Parmesan is good)

Roughly 1/2 cup pancake mix (I used buckwheat. But, you can use flour plus 1/2 tsp each salt and baking powder)

Optional: cracked black pepper, sour cream garnish

Mix first three ingredients together. Mix cheese and pancake or flour mix together separately, then add to the first bowl, stirring just until moistened.

Fry large spoonfuls in hot vegetable oil, flattening with spatula to get the right pancake thickness.

Here’s one final tip for making Z Cakes: If you’re overwhelmed with zucchini right now, grate it and freeze in 2 cup portions in freezer bags. thawing just long enough to be able to stir into to the cake batter. GREAT way to have your cake and eat it too. 😉

Last weekend, my friend Katie ‘gifted’ me with a 9 pound cabbage and a recipe for her aunt’s ‘Chow Chow’, which is a Southern condiment made of shredded cabbage, green tomatoes, onions, peppers and spices that can be made as sweet or as spicy as you like. After the veggies have sat in a salt brine overnight, you make a spiced syrup to mix into them, then seal it in jars for Christmas gift giving or eating on soup beans or however you like it best. Or, you can set the jars along the fence and just admire them…

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Not only does this food fit my requirements of being frugal and seasonal, it earns extra points in my opinion for using easily available locally grown foods (no matter where you live!) and for being so very healthy. I’ve just begun learning about the health benefits of fermented foods. They introduce helpful probiotics to our guts. And even though Michael’s chemo and radiation treatments are (hopefully) killing his body’s cancerous cells, at the same time they’re killing his ‘normal’ cells too. Enter Chow Chow. Even though this particular recipe is not a true fermented product since it uses vinegar, rather than TIME, to ferment, it’s still good food, packed with antioxidants. Just don’t give me any of yours for Christmas, I’ve got plenty of my own now.

Aunt Elizabeth’s Chow Chow

  • 4 quarts green tomatoes (about 30, sliced)

  • 6 pounds cabbage

  • 2 quarts onions. (5 lbs)

  • 3 hot peppers

  • 12 green peppers (3 ½ lbs)

  • 1 ½ cups table salt (non iodized)

Cover all of these ingredients and let stand overnight. (It all fit perfectly in my 4 quart slow cooker.)

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Next day, (after you’ve had Z Cakes for breakfast!), drain well. Then…

Combine and boil for 5 minutes:

  • 2 quarts vinegar (I like Apple Cider, but you can use your favorite)

  • 5 pounds sugar (I only used 2 ½)

  • 6 tablespoons dry mustard

  • 5 tablespoons celery seed 

  • 2 tablespoons turmeric 

  • 6 tablespoons flour

Add the chopped vegetables and bring to a boil until slightly thick. Pour in sterilized jars, covering the veggies. Seal. Can this Chow Chow just as you would other pickles in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Makes 10 pints; crisp and delicious.

I promise my next post will NOT be about food.




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