Filed under: Frugality | Tags: barefoot, basil lemonade, blue moon, cokes, community garden, earthing, frugality, grounding, homemade, Hope Blue Corn, One Acre Cafe, urban
‘Tis the season of backyard potlucks, blue moons and dirty feet, at least in my little world. I managed to get a nasty blister last Friday when I had to wear ‘real shoes’ to a day long food coop meeting with potential investor/partners. Because I live less than a mile from the meeting place, I opted to walk, even though it was crazy hot, because I had arranged to ride home with a friend. When I got almost there, a train was stopped on the track and rumor was that someone had been hit! It wasn’t even running, so I had to turn around and walk back home. The shoes weren’t meant for walking like that, and with bare feet it was no time before I was sweaty and had a blister. The good news is, I’ve gone barefoot all week and love scrubbing reminders of the day off of them at night, just like I used to as a girl. There’s a term for that connection we make with the earth when we go barefoot, it’s called “earthing” or “grounding” and I’ve felt it’s impact all week. I’ve culminated my barefoot week today with cutting grass until my feet were green and watching the moon tonight til it turned blue!
There’s something about being barefoot that encourages me to stay that way, so having to go somewhere that requires shoes not only saw me at home more, it also pretty much prevented me from spending any unnecessary money. It was a fine week friends…
Monday: When life gives you lemons-and basil…We were invited to an outdoor potluck in the evening, with acoustic music and mountains all around us. I took my usual local deviled eggs and my unusual local Basil Lemonade- and went barefoot. It was big fun!
Tuesday: Remember a couple of weeks ago when I told you about the great pasta sauce I’d made in my new electric pressure cooker? When life gives you tomatoes, onions and peppers, make sauce! So, I made another batch and after supper I canned the extra. Because I don’t like to use my canner unless it’s full, I filled the extra space with jars of water to store with my emergency preps in the cellar. Bare feet on a cold root cellar floor in mid summer is a special pleasure!
Wednesday: A group of teens whose parents are migrants are attending a camp at the local university. Part of their week has a service component to it, so I was lucky enough to host a small group of them at the community garden. They worked hard cleaning up the common areas that often get overlooked in such a setting. But it was really neat when the first of my ‘Moon and Stars’ watermelons I’m growing this year turned up perfectly ripe on this day. We split it and passed out sweet, drippy slices right on the spot! Afterwards, One Acre Cafe invited us all to lunch! Good food and good company didn’t cost me a dime. And yeah, I worked barlefoot in the garden but slipped on some flip flops to go in to eat. Those pesky health laws! 😉
Thursday: Barefoot in the Park: I try to support all the good things, both big and small, that are going on in my city’s gradual revival of its’ downtown district: they all add up to a more livable community for everyone. When I heard that there was going to be an unveiling of a newly restored ‘ghost’ Coca Cola advertising mural, along with the opening of a our latest restored train depot-turned-brewery, I wanted to be there. As soon as I hit the park, Coca Cola employees practically came out of the wood work to hand out free tee shirts and cold bottles of coke! They had this ‘booth’ that could print out any name you wanted on a can of coke. It was free and we were each allowed two cans, so I got my grandkids’ names, one of which is pretty ‘obscure’, imprinted and I’ll give them the teeshirts and personalized cans at Christmas this year. Michael chose to have our names printed on his two, and they look so sweet on the windowsill of my red, white and black kitchen!
After the unveiling of the new sign, a local deli that had been hired by the local Coke bottling company offered free lunches of sandwiches, pasta salad, chips and yeah, more cokes, for everyone in attendance! Free tee shirts, drinks, lunch and a wonderful sense of community spirit was there. How much is that worth? It’s priceless!
Friday: Just an ordinary day: I helped my daughter apply for her first home loan, and dropped off some fresh produce to One Acre Cafe’s kitchen. Later we cut the grass, worked in the garden, played some music, took the dog for a walk through the park, and ate leftovers for supper, beefed up with fresh tomato slices and green beans from the garden, and thick slices of garlic bread. After supper I sat on the porch and snapped more green beans. It was a perfect day…
I tried mightily to weave this new-to-me concept of “earthing” or “grounding” into this post, but feel as though the sense of connection to the earth and all of humanity that I’ve experienced this week by being barefoot so much, was lost in the minutia of the days. Regardless, the mundane has become profound at times; from fat, red tomatoes all over the kitchen counters to the 10 foot tall Hopi Blue corn growing in a little patch by the shed, I feel as though all is right with the world. (ha!) I think the stalks look like mythological green nymphs, with hands raised to the sky, shouting “Hallelujah!”.
Filed under: Food Cooperative, Liveable Communities | Tags: Climate Change, Farmer's Market, Food Co-ops, frugal, Income Inequality, Livable Communities, One Acre Cafe, recycling, Resource Depletion, the good life, transition, Waste reduction
This is my 200th post on this blog but I feel like I’m just getting started. Some of those posts may have you rolling your eyes by now (growing food, building community and frugality are my personal favorites) but today’s post covers all of those topics in one! I am a recently elected co-chair of the local Livable Communities Group, a group that’s been meeting for about ten years, but has recently partnered with Community Partnerships, another group that was originally established under the direction of the Washington County Economic Development Council. Recently we’ve become re-energized by all the good things that are happening in our town and have adopted a long range plan to address some of the issues that Johnson Citians that attended the Economic Summit in 2011 felt were key in making our community more livable and lovable. Not surprisingly, green spaces, hiking and biking trails, public safety, expanded public transportation options, community gardens, farmer’s markets and a more localized economy topped the list. One answer that stood out in the survey was to “grow and connect to our local foodshed”, and that drumbeat seems to be growing louder and louder.
It was announced in the local newspaper last week that the city doesn’t have the funds available to do the site preparation work for the long-promised new Farmer’s Market, and conversations that I’ve had recently with the market manager (he’s also the market board president-isn’t that a conflict of interest???) lead me to believe that if we really want to ‘grow and connect with our local foodshed’ the time has come to consider other options. And THAT is what the Livable Communities meeting being held tomorrow morning at the One Acre Cafe will be about. We’ve invited the director of Appalachian Sustainable Development to speak with us about the possibility of forming a food co-op; a worker-owned, community-based cooperative effort to help our residents be able to make that connection. I’ve been told that if our current Farmer’s Market vendors had a venue for selling their stuff during the colder months, that they’d be more willing to extend their growing seasons. This sounds like it might be a doable solution for that problem, allowing the summer-time market vendors to have a year-round income while allowing us eaters to have AFFORDABLE fresh locally-grown produce in addition to meats, cheeses, kitchen staples, home brews, and canned and baked goods, all in one location, all the time. If you eat, you’re part of this conversation.
I’ve been a member of two different food co-ops. The first was in the late 70’s. I joined a worker-owned co-op that operated a store front which became like a second home and provided me with affordable, healthy foods like natural peanut butter and rice cakes, whole grain flours, eggs, oil, honey, cheeses and so much more. Four kids can go through a lot of that stuff you know. By paying an annual membership fee you got the food at a reduced price, but if you volunteered to work in the store a couple hours a month, you got an even larger reduction! Everything was ordered in bulk then divided up once it was delivered to the store. Our family refilled the same peanut butter and honey jars and Tupperware containers (remember Tupperware?) over and over and over, keeping endless amounts of trash from the landfill in the process. This was before curbside recycling was available-hell, this was before bottled water! Which makes me wonder if the ease of recycling now is truly progressive or simply relieves our conscience? But I digress…
The second coop I belonged to never had a store front, so the food was delivered to a remote parking lot, and was then taken home by members to divvy it up before it landed in the proper kitchen. The truck was always late, the orders always had something missing, and it was not ideal by any means. I don’t want to do that anymore.
After the ASD presentation of different co-op models, we’ll break for lunch at the cafe, then our group will be taking a tour of a possible location for such a store, right downtown, just a couple of blocks from the not-gonna-happen ‘new’ Farmer’s Market. If this is something you’re truly interested in, feel free to join our group at 10 AM Monday, June 9th for this information gathering meeting.
Last, but not least, keep in mind that I write this blog to offer you what I hope are resilient and creative, if not challenging, solutions for living well while transitioning to a world that holds the triple threats of climate change, energy and resource depletion and the ever-growing income inequity in the US and our globalized world. But after 200 posts, I’m just getting started!
Filed under: Eliminating Hunger | Tags: beans, Bread, frugal, growing food, leftovers, One Acre Cafe, plants, The Hungry Time, Waste reduction
If you or someone you know eats, you’re part of this conversation. Native Americans referred to this very time in our annual trip around the sun as ‘The Hungry Time’; that period between the last of the stored fall provisions and the beginnings of the new spring bounty. For all of wildlife this is that time. It is believed that many of the early Pilgrims, already sick and weak, finally starved during the Hungry Time in this strange, new land. Many beekeepers will often successfully see their hives make it through a long cold winter, only to have them succumb to starvation now since there is very little available for them to eat, and all of their stored honey from last fall has been eaten.
Gardening, canning and storing food in my pantry or root cellar increases the personal food security of my family and makes it easier for us to eat well year ’round. But for someone that tries to eat seasonally as often as I can, this can be a time of ho-hum meals made from the last of the butternuts and spaghetti squash that we enjoyed so much from November to March, the last of the beets, sweet potatoes and parsnips and the over-wintered kale and spinach that we fought to keep alive in the garden rows throughout the deep freezes! Looked at from the perspective of a hungry bird or a starving Pilgrim though, I am rich indeed. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re not hungry either. I’m thankful for that, as I know you are too.
But what about those that are hungry, and getting hungrier? Their growling bellies are loud, but their need is silent. The price of food and gasoline is creeping upwards while many of them are still struggling to pay those February and March heating bills that are overdue. Undeveloped areas for wild animals are being displaced by mega-malls and soccer fields, while farmers are spraying their fields to kill every living thing in them so they can plant their GMO crops of corn, soybeans and cotton yet again this summer. Is there any help or hope for the hungry ones? I know this problem up close and personal and have come up with a few ideas that might help all of us survive and thrive during ‘The Hungry Time’ and beyond.
1. Start at home: Vow to STOP, not just reduce, your food waste. It’s simple really: plan your menus before you shop (and then eat or share your leftovers). This one practice saves me more time, money and waste than any other single thing I do in my life.
2. Plant some milk weed, bee balm and sunflowers for the butterflies, birds and bees this summer. Your pretty petunias in a pot on the porch and the stale bread you throw out on the lawn don’t offer any nutrition for them. While you’re at it, put in a birdbath and feeder.
3. Plant a backyard (or a front yard!) garden, and in there, ‘Plant a Row for the Hungry‘.
4. Volunteer at One Acre Cafe, a local not-for-profit restaurant that is making big strides in our community to see that ‘everybody eats’. If you don’t live in NE TN, find a similar place where you live. A soup kitchen, a community garden, or food pantry would all welcome your help and help someone that’s hungry sleep better.
5. Consider a fast fast. That’s not a typo. This is simply done by eliminating one meal a week from our diets and instead, giving the food or money we would’ve spent on that meal to someone that’s hungry. And please know that even though Second Harvest and other pantries will lovingly accept your food donations, they have the purchasing power to feed 4.3 meals for EVERY DOLLAR YOU DONATE.
6. Give food as gifts. I suspect many people could use the food but are ashamed to make that known. In place of yet another can of car wax or tee shirt, consider restaurant or grocery store gift certificates. Cookbooks, kitchenware, cooking, canning or gardening lessons, bags of worm castings or organic compost, potted herbs or seeds would all make thoughtful gifts that can help with hunger. Such gifts also cut down on consumer waste and unwanted clutter.
Growing, planting, donating and fasting are all effective ways to reduce hunger, but of course they won’t eliminate the problem. What would? If I was Queen of the World, I’d start my reign by teaching every child how to grow some food and then cook what they grew. From scrambling an egg to cooking dried beans to grilling some veggies, if they know how to grow and cook it, it would open doors for them all their lives. Many people have never been taught, nor had the opportunity, to learn how. The unknown is scary. Those of us that are lucky enough to have these skills take it for granted that anyone can cook. Not. Make it less scary by teaching someone to do this. And did you know that folks that receive SNAP benefits can purchase food plants and seeds with SNAP? I don’t believe it’s so much a factor that they WON’T buy those things with their benefits, I believe most of them DON’T know what to do with a cabbage or tomato plant or seed once they get them home. And before I get dethroned? I’d require every school yard and park in the country to have community gardens. If they became as plentiful as grocery stores, it would become second nature. The last thing I’d do before they pried my tiara off? I’d outlaw GMO’s and Bayer’s famous neonic pesticides, making what foods we do have safer for all of life on this planet. But then again, that’s probably why I’m not the Queen. But at least my subjects wouldn’t be hungry!
Filed under: Alternative Energy, Biking, Buy Local, Climate Change, Community Building, Community Gardens, Creating Community, Energy Savings, Global Warming, Growing Food, Liveable Communities, Peak Oil | Tags: Fracking, growing food, One Acre Cafe, sustainable energy sources
Let me begin this long rant by saying I already miss Pete Seeger and I’m quite tired of freaking five degree temps, so maybe that’s colored my usually optimistic outlook on things. I should also tell you that the provisions put forth in the new Farm Bill are confusing, and that I voted for O’Bama. Both times. I think his State of the Union address last night was beautiful oration, and I did like a lot of what he had to say, but I totally disagreed with his call to retrofit our economy for natural gas. He’s going to make it easy for businesses to open factories that run on natural gas, by cutting governmental red tape. He never mentioned that 90% of the oil and gas wells drilled in America today are fracked — there could be no oil and gas boom without it. Everyone knows that there are no easy answers to the problems of Peak Oil and the fact that we’ve, well, peaked. However, he did say “… the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.” Thank you Mr. President for that acknowledgement. But shouldn’t the conversation from our nation’s leader at this point include at least some mention of alternatives to an energy-dependent future besides “In the coming months, I’ll (build on that success) by setting new standards for our trucks, so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump“? By God, if we had to pay the true costs of gasoline at the pump we’d ALL be riding our bikes, taking a bus, a train or walking! Our pump prices don’t even begin to reflect the environmental costs of that fuel. Just sayin’… And our food prices don’t reflect their environmental costs either, but I’m digressing here.
WHERE is the conversation about plans for mass transit and alternative transportation systems? WHERE is the conversation about retrofitting older buildings and factories and homes with simple systems like insulation, solar panels and windmills? WHERE is the conversation about our nation’s cities and towns converting public lands and commons areas to growing spaces, to food forests and community gardens? WHERE is the conversation about Americans needing to learn the skills needed to produce the foods and goods and tools and services we need to become self sufficient? Those conversations really do take place on millions of websites, in magazines and living rooms, but they’re never spoken of by our government. Well, I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!
In the last year or so I’d begun to feel somewhat hopeful that maybe the economic and financial experts hadn’t gotten it quite right, and that maybe our economy IS recovering. I’d also begun to feel that maybe the energy experts hadn’t gotten it quite right either and maybe we haven’t reached Peak Oil-yet. But as O’Bama said himself: “climate change is a fact”, and those of us lucky enough to live in First World countries can not ‘carry on as usual’ and expect that to change. I truly fear for my grandchildren at this point. I fear that they won’t have enough food, clean water and air to live healthy and productive lives. The government is paying some growers in California to not plant again this year because of lack of water. Let me say that again: The government is paying growers in California to not plant again this year because of lack of water. The ongoing drought in our nation’s breadbasket is so very serious and when I hear our President speak about ‘setting new (MPG) standards for our trucks’ it makes me angry.
You ask, “So, what are you gonna do about it?” I’m going to keep on writing about, talking about, and working for, the changes I think need to take place. But I’m going to write a little longer, talk a little louder and work a little harder. I’m going to continue to grow and preserve as much of my food as I can and teach others to do the same. I’m going to walk and carpool more-the walking keeps me healthy and doesn’t add to our environmental problems. I’m going to support local organizations like One Acre Cafe and The Livable Communities Group that are working to make a difference in our community, not by offering handouts, or asking for them, but that are “leaning in”, to use a new catch-phrase, to find out first hand what’s needed to make lives better. I’m going to learn new skills and share them with others whenever I can. I’m going to get more involved with politics so that the type of leaders we need to make big change get elected. I’m gonna write letters to the editor and sign petitions. And that’s just for February folks! I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!
The ‘About’ page of this blog, written exactly two years ago states: “If we collectively plan and act early enough, we can create a way of living that’s significantly more connected, more vibrant and more fulfilling than the one we find ourselves in today. Now is the time to take stock and to start re-creating our future in ways that are not based on cheap, plentiful and polluting oil but on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being. This blog is simply about my attempts to visualize and help create that new way of living!” I still believe in this statement fervently. I hope you do too.
Filed under: Biking, Climate Change, Closed Loop Systems, Community Building, Contributionism, Liveable Communities, Peak Oil, Resilience, Uncategorized, Urban Living | Tags: economic development, fitness trail, One Acre Cafe, rails to trails conversion, Tweetsie Trail
I’ve attended several meetings this week, all aiming to make our community a better place to
love live. Before moving to this area, I’d raised a family and worked a full-time job, with little time or energy left for civic affairs. Perhaps every town and community is as focused as mine on making life better, but I can’t really say since this is the only place I’ve lived that I’ve liked enough to get involved. (Something within me though tells me that MY town is special in this regard.) Over the last couple of days I’ve witnessed over 150 different people come to these meetings straight from work, while on their lunch breaks or during their dinner hour to show their support for initiatives in this area that are important enough to them that they take the time to show up and contribute. Some of us have time, some have special talents, others have lots of energy, a few have money, but we all want to contribute in some way to make our community better. It’s not all altruistic of course, since we will benefit individually as well as collectively from our efforts.
The recently formed Rails to Trails Task Force has been charged with overseeing the conversion of an old railroad system into a 10+ mile long hiking and biking trail by Labor Day of next year. The ‘Tweetsie Trail’ will bring many new visitors and their dollars to our community, while giving those of us lucky enough to LIVE here a free fitness trail that just happens to offer us lots of natural beauty while we get fit and have fun. My city has committed $100,000 to jumpstart this project, that after investing $625,000 to purchase the land itself. The task force meets monthly and manages to get lots of homework done between meetings. All volunteers. All contributing whatever they can.
One Acre Cafe is a soon-to-be-opened restaurant that will be located between our downtown area and the college campus. It will use a nonprofit status and a ‘Pay It Forward’ concept of making sure that everyone eats. If you can pay a bit more for your meal, any extra will go towards buying a meal for someone who can’t afford to pay. If you’re one of those, you can work for an hour at the cafe to earn your meal, all while learning valuable kitchen skills that might eventually earn you a paid job in the food service industry along with that meal. This whole plan is run by volunteers and is operating entirely via donations. It’s been a tremendous undertaking but is becoming a reality due to many, many volunteers contributing. (there’s that word again)
Last but certainly not least, a joint meeting was held yesterday between the Washington County Economic Development Council and the Liveable Communities group to explore the possibility of combining our forces in hopes of being able to make a better contribution (ahem…) to making our region a nicer place to live. A city/county entity combining with a civic group- is that sweet or WHAT? It’s part of contributionism, that’s what.
When I first began thinking about the purpose of this blog, I wanted, most of all, to provide my readers with positive alternatives to the present reality of Peak Oil, Climate Change and an oil-based lifestyle and economy that is unsustainable. I am convinced that a new, clear, vision is what is needed to re-create our future in ways that are not based on cheap, plentiful and polluting oil but on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being. If you too are interested in these things, simply pick a project that you care about and contribute your unique gifts to it. Our gifts of contributionism will manifest themselves into even more generosity from those affected and will help see us all through times of turmoil. In contrast to the age of oil and money where we can pay for anything and need no gifts, soon it will be abundantly clear: we need each other.
Filed under: beekeeping, Community Building, Resilience, Transition Towns | Tags: Farmer's Market, food insecurity, honey, master gardener program, Master Gardeners, old time music, One Acre Cafe, pantry shelf, worker bees
I’ve finally completed this year’s requirements for my Master Gardener certification, and if I can stick with it, in two more years I’ll be eligible for lifetime status. I’m far more impressed with the honeybees lifetime commitment to making honey. The worker bees only live an average of a few weeks in the summer, because they literally ‘work themselves to death’ flying from morning til nightfall gathering pollen and nectar and doing their share to keep the hive alive. The hours that I put into the Master Gardener program pale in comparison. Look at that honey on my pantry shelf-it really is liquid gold-and I try not to waste a single drop. The young couple that bought our old house this summer wanted my hives as part of the deal, so I’m grateful the ‘girls’ got to stay in their old digs, but I miss them a lot. Anyone wanting a hand with extracting their honey, or with helping prepare their hives for winter in exchange for a bit of honey? As a gardener and a slightly crunchy environmentalist, I always like helping our pollinators! Plus, such an exchange of labor for gold would be a su-weet deal for both of us! Let me know if you’re interested…
Speaking of a sweet deal: One Acre Cafe is coming to downtown Johnson City! This is a newly formed non-profit program whose mission is to address the issues of food insecurity experienced daily by an estimated 20 percent of East Tennessee residents by providing sufficient, safe and nutritious meals in an environment where all members of the community can “eat what they want and pay what they can.” Let me repeat that: “eat what they want and pay what they can.” Pay.It.Forward. in action.
Like the new Farm Cafe that recently began operations in nearby in Boone, N.C., the new One Acre Cafe will focus on three key elements, job training, volunteerism and community cooperation.
Diners could be me or anyone who comes in to see what’s up in this community or it could be an individual who cannot afford a meal at all but can work one hour at the cafe in exchange for their meal, according to a recent article in the Johnson City Press.
To eliminate food waste, the cafe will offer meals in three proportions, at prices ranging from $5 to $10 that those who can afford to pay will know is going to positively impact the life of someone less fortunate.
Everyone will be welcome to eat at the cafe regardless of their ability to pay and will be given an opportunity to gain job skills and experience in food service and restaurant management.