Sunday, December 13, 2009

Precycle! The "Stop & Think" method of Saving the Planet.

Free Clipart

Never heard of Precycling? Well it's easy and you are probably already doing it. . . Precycling is remembering, before you buy, to consider what's going to be left when you are done with the product and choosing to purchase the least amount of packaging possible. It might mean buying a huge container of shampoo or dish-soap instead of 4 or 5 smaller ones over time. Or, it might mean taking the 30 minutes to cancel all that junk mail. It could also mean purchasing your honey "bulk" and putting it in your own container or buying a product in a recyclable or reusable container rather than one wrapped in plastic, or choosing to forgo the plastic bag for your onions.

Speaking of plastic. I have decided to follow a "no plastic for Christmas" policy. This means that I will not be giving gifts made of plastic. Not even gift cards. I get that this is much easier for me than for someone with small children. But not impossible, I hope.

Here's another precycle idea: Read magazines and books online. I used to get a magazine. I actually cancelled it because I didn't like throwing into the recycle bin when I was done with it. I don't read it online, either. Clearly, I don't really miss it. I have to confess that I don't enjoy reading the newspaper online. I generally will only read the breaking news. It makes me wonder if my attention span is getting shorter. . . and, I don't have, or want, a Kindle.

I like to hold a book. I like to turn the pages. I also like the way they smell. . . especially in the stacks at the library! I am committed to using the library. I have a cute brightly colored library card designed by a local preschooler named Chloe. I check out books for me and for Mr. Green from the tiny branch library across from my place of work. We have four out right now. I have two more on order. I use the online reservation system and it's easy. And I like giving them back.

And, of course, remembering your re-usable shopping bags is a big part of precycling. I am getting better at it, although I'm far from perfect. I look a little bit like a bag lady most of the time. And I still turn up without the damn things 30% of the time. Mr. Green finds it just a bit annoying when we walk out of our local co-op with both our arms full because I forgot to bring a bag and refuse to take another one home.

Shopping at the farmer's market is another way to pre-cycle. Put all that fresh produce right into your re-usable bags and Voila! no packaging! Just another reason to Buy Local.

Precycle! It's Fun & Easy! Pause and consider the planet before you buy.

What do you do to save the planet? Leave your suggestions!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Carbon Offset Choice

Remember back in October when I wrote about Saving the Planet? I said I would find a local organization that I could donate to in order to offset our annual CO2 emissions from our car, house and air travel.

Well, I've found the one. The Marin Carbon Project. I don't pretend to understand the science, so I won't try to explain what they plan to do in anything more than the most basic terms. They have figured out a way to sequester carbon in the soil and are working with land owners to do just that. Here is the big explanation of the project.

I used the carbon offset calculator at Terra Pass to determine my carbon output (carbon debt) for the year.

Our car put 12,227 lbs. of CO2 into the atmosphere.
Our house put 11,483 lbs. of CO2 into the atmosphere.
Our airline trips (5 round trips in all) put 2,569 lbs. of CO2 into the atmosphere.

According to the calculator, I can donate $160.65 to a carbon offsetting project and be carbon neutral. Although I don't believe this makes my life carbon neutral, or lets me off the hook. I do like the idea of some sort of reparation for my consumption of resources and CO2 output.

I don't even know if the Marin Carbon Project will take my donation. But I do know how to contact them and I will. I learned about them from my friend Tara, owner of Tara Firma Farms. She has met the leaders of the project and believes in what they are doing enough that she may allow them do test plots on her land.

I'll be purchasing a little Christmas present for myself. And it won't be made of plastic.

What will you do this month to work toward your sustainable future?

Do something. Anything.

It's Easy & Fun!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Grow Your Own!

We did it! We planted a winter garden. The seeds have been in the ground for two weeks tomorrow and there are a lot of seedlings pushing up through the soil.

Back in September Mr. Green and I had a conversation with our farmer friend Elijah from Tara Firma Farms about how we could make our garden more productive. He offered to take a look at our space. One beautiful Sunday in early October Elijah came to the city and saw our garden. He loved it! He said it was enough space to feed 20 people!

Yikes! Who knew?

He suggested that we orient the whole thing differently to waste less space and said we needed soil amendments. Our poor plants were being choked by the sand. He said, "Find a friend who has cow manure and get a lot of it." Now, I have friends who have, or can get, cow manure. Lots of them. They all live in Idaho. Shipping really isn't an option.

Craigslist is the next best thing to someone you know who has what you need. I signed on later that evening and found a listing for "aged organic horse manure" for fifty cents a bag. . . fifty cents a bag? That fits right into my budget. I sent an email to Victoria's Fashion Stables ordering up six bags and "Voila!" they would be left outside the gate, on the appropriate day, just for me.

The soil was a different story. Tons of "dirt" or "fill dirt" available. . . immediate concerns about contamination. . . I don't want to sully our clean growing space. We were very careful in the spring to keep it "organic". So. . . I invested in six bags of organic planting mixture from Sloat Garden Center. At eight-something a bag, it was a bit much, but worth it, I hope.

We now were driving around with six fragrant bags of horse manure in the back of the truck and six bags of soil stacked in our garage. I was looking forward to the next weekend!

Earlier in the season, about a week after we had pretty much given up on our summer garden - having pulled the tomatoes, and harvested every bit of produce except the carrots and artichokes, it rained. I was ignoring the garden at that point. Nothing new going on. We were waiting for advice.

And suddenly, there was oxalis! We hadn't really seen any since we sifted all the sand and took out all the bulbs in the spring. It wasn't as bad as it was last fall, but it definitely was making itself known. We weeded. The damn stuff is impossible to pull up completely. It breaks off so easily and then comes right back. If it flowers and goes to seed, it's everywhere. We weeded some more.

The morning of beginning the winter gardening, we weeded. . . then the fun began.

We drug and carried the six bags of manure and six bags of mulch through the 1st floor hallway into the back. Then we stripped the earth of everything except the two artichoke plants. We turned it all over once with a shovel. I don't know where the eight bags of mulch from last spring went, but the soil was very sandy.

We poured out two bags of poo and two bags of mulch, mixed it up with the fork and shoveled it out onto the garden. We did this three more times.

It may not seem like a lot of work reading it, but it was. The garden is mostly in the shade in the winter because it's on the north side of our three story building. This was a good thing that sunny day. After the "amendments" were evenly spread, we turned the soil over again. Twice.

Then we raked a path down the middle, leaving a large bed on each side, and lined the path with some of the bags that the manure came in.

Mr. Green mixed up some of his magic "adobe" to pack on the sides of the beds - this combo of sand, mulch, compost and water mixed to create mud, we discovered, keeps the dirt contained and doesn't allow run-off, creating our poor-man's version of raised beds.

By this time it was late in the day and cooling off quickly. I was exhausted but happy to have the garden ready to plant.

On Sunday we planted.
peas peas
artichokes carrots
turnips lettuce
radishes spinach
beets garlic
broccoli cauliflower

And garlic planted along the edges of the garden about every two feet to keep the bugs out. But not by the peas. Peas and garlic are not friends. The way I planted (as listed above) is companion planting. all these plants like their neighbors and, because they do, we are supposed to get a higher yield.

I have never companion planted before. I'm excited to see if it works. I found a handy dandy chart on a site called Gardens Ablaze. Just a matter of plotting it out once I knew which plants are friendly with which.

Again, another exhausting day, but fun work. We planted, watered the seed, cleaned up the mess, hung the tools and called it a day well spent.

I tagged each area that I planted with the date and what is growing. Mr. Green made worm tea and sprayed the whole thing the next day.

At this point, two weeks later, we have a bounty of seedlings. The turnips and radishes are up and crankin'. Almost everything is popping through except the carrots, beets and garlic. . . I'm sure they will be up by the end of the week. Awesome!

I doubt that we'll be feeding twenty people, but there will definitely be food to share. Assuming that we don't end up sharing it with the snails and bugs. . . we have plans for them if they show up. . .

We do this because we can. I like growing my own food. Between the farmers' market and our garden, we keep it local most of the time, supplementing with a trip to the co-op or regular grocery a couple of times a month.

I like to think that more and more of us are on the path to sustainable living. I'm not there yet, but I'm working on it.

I'm sure you are, too.

Do you grown your own? Would love to hear about your winter (or summer) garden!

Friday, October 23, 2009

350 - About Climate Change

Brighter Planet's 350 Challenge

Tomorrow is an important day.

It is the International Day of Climate Action.

One man, Bill McKibben, came up with the idea of uniting the world around reducing carbon emissions to actually cause climate change. And now, there will be 4641 different actions taken in 177 different countries around the world.

I'm impressed.

Here is the mission statement from the website:n (Written Version) is an international campaign dedicated to building a movement to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis--the solutions that science and justice demand.

Our mission is to inspire the world to rise to the challenge of the climate crisis—to create a new sense of urgency and of possibility for our planet.

Our focus is on the number 350--as in parts per million, the level scientists have identified as the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere. But 350 is more than a number--it's a symbol of where we need to head as a planet.

To tackle climate change we need to move quickly, and we need to act in unison—and 2009 will be an absolutely crucial year. This December, world leaders will meet in Copenhagen, Denmark to craft a new global treaty on cutting emissions. The problem is, the treaty currently on the table doesn't meet the severity of the climate crisis—it doesn't pass the 350 test.

In order to unite the public, media, and our political leaders behind the 350 goal, we're harnessing the power of the internet to coordinate a planetary day of action on October 24, 2009. We hope to have actions at hundreds of iconic places around the world - from the Taj Mahal to the Great Barrier Reef to your community - and clear message to world leaders: the solutions to climate change must be equitable, they must be grounded in science, and they must meet the scale of the crisis.

If an international grassroots movement holds our leaders accountable to the latest climate science, we can start the global transformation we so desperately need.

You, too, can Take Action!

You can also participate in a 350 Action near you. Go to the 350.0rg website and see what is happening in your neck of the woods. You might be surprised.

A friend of mine, Jay Trainer and his organization Artful Change are holding a free carbon neutral on-line funndraiser concert tomorrow to raise awareness and funds for San Francisco based environmental causes.

This is just one example of thousands.

I'm going to ride my bike to work, again, today.

What will you do?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Saving the Planet

I saw the premiere of "The Age of Stupid" here in SF. We went to a theater that had a live feed to the premiere in NY. This is the same little bit of technology that allows people to see live opera from the Met in New York in their local theater. This technology is amazing to me. One could, in theory, link the world through local theaters to all see the same broadcast at the same time. Very 1984. I digress.

The movie is set in the future, post disaster, after we have done nothing but talk about global warming. It is a disturbing film that follows the stories of six people living now and their struggles with the global warming question. Here is a review of the movie, written by Mr. Green and picked up by a blogger named piece 2.0:

The movie left me feeling overwhelmed and wondering what I could possibly do to stop being a contributor to the problem. How do we really buy out of the oil pipeline? Like Really. Without sacrificing things that are important to us and without it becoming some sort of weird obsession.

I've been mulling this over for a while now. I've decided that, as I explore the options for personal sustainability, I'll share them here. I already do quite a few things to make my earth footprint smaller. I ride my bike, garden, sort my trash, eat local food, dine in restaurants who seek out local ingredients, turn the light switch off, keep the heat at 68 degrees and I don't buy a lot of stuff.

We'll start with one of those. . . I bike to work at least 3 days a week, weather permitting. I take the bus home more often than not.

This does not mean that I'm never in the car. Mr. Green drives me to work probably once a week, on average, depending upon what I'm doing. Sometimes I need to run errands for myself or work. Sometimes I just don't want to spend an hour on the bus. Take today, for example. It's pouring rain. Mr. Green will be driving me. Will he drive me home? Possibly. I'll decide later this afternoon.

How inconvenienced am I willing to be? That's the real question, isn't it? I get that right now there are people screaming "Stupid Spoiled American!" at their computer screens. It's true. I am. I have the privilege of access to a car. Could we choose to use it smarter? Absolutely.

We won't be getting a more fuel-efficient car. We own the truck. It gets about 15 miles to the gallon in the city and 20 on the freeway. This isn't great, but it is what it is. We paid it off last winter and, unless someone hands us a set of keys, we'll be driving it for a couple years longer. Of course, there are great fuel-efficient choices out there. And, if you are like me and are not in particularly impressed by the body style of the 3rd generation Prius (can you say Ulgy?). You could always drive a Tesla. Now there's a midlife crisis car that's all about sustainability! Saw one on the street over the weekend. Boy do they go zoom-zoom!

We don't really drive a lot now. Comparatively speaking. But there is always room for improvement, right?

Here is what I am willing to do:

Work from home? Would LOVE to! Definitely in my future. With my current job? Possibly. Could probably make the case for one day a week. Never hurts to ask. . .

Ride my bike as often as possible. This can be up to five days per week and also to the Farmers' Market on the weekend.

Batch our trips. If I am going to ride to work in the truck in the morning, we will run all errands that we need to do that day during that trip. Which means anything we forget gets put off until next time. Will take some planning.

Consider using Muni, biking or walking instead of driving the truck Every time we leave the house. This may seem small but I can tell you there are many times that I can recall when we've been driving around downtown looking for parking and have agreed that we should have taken Muni.

Pay an annual carbon offset fee for the miles we drive. This is a grey area for me. I don't think that sending money to someone to grow a tree should let us out of making better choices. . . but, there's also no getting around the fact that som
etimes I will be riding in a car. Yes. I will do this.

I consider it a privilege tax. No different than entertainment tax. There are lots of carbon calculators out there. TerraPass, Carbon Fund and Sustainable Travel International are all good ones.

If carbon offsetting is new to you, here is a short definition from A carbon offset represents a reduction in emissions somewhere else - like a renewable energy or a reforestation project - to balance out the emissions you cannot reduce. Basically, you send money, based on info you enter into a carbon calculator, to a carbon reducing project. With some sites you can choose which project your money will support. With most, you support a portfolio of projects. Here is a more in depth description of why one would do this with some pros and cons.

I want my fee to be used to offset carbon locally. There are a few choices. I like the idea of the Chino Basin Dairy Farm Biodigester. I don't really want to give through one of the websites. I'd rather see the project and hand the project manager a check. For me this is the same as buying a chicken from a farm that I have visited. It makes sense. This will require more research. I'll keep you posted.

What are you doing to save the plant? What are you willing to do? Please leave your comments and suggestions here.

Coming up next. . . Grow Your Own!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Winter Garden

I get that this photo doesn't seem too impressive, but it is. These tomatoes were grown in the Outer Sunset in SF. Something everyone said couldn't be done. And, they are not the specially formulated "fog" tomatoes, either - which I hear don't taste like much. Ours, being smaller than usual, are like the dry land Early Girls that are now available at the Alemany Farmer's Market, full of intense tomato flavor. Yum.

This is the handful I picked yesterday. I ate them sliced on toast - one of my favorite breakfasts! We've had probably four or five other handfuls of tomatoes. . . not much fruit considering how big the plants are. Next year we will definitely trim them back. I've never trimmed a tomato plant in my life, but, considering our small garden space, it makes sense. The plants got absolutely giant this year, shading the peppers we planted in front of them. Not good. The peppers aren't going to produce squat.

We have already started our winter garden. I had visions of the summer garden being over, reworking the whole space and then planting the winter garden. Actually, there is overlap. The tomatoes aren't done yet and the sunny months are just coming on. I don't want to tear them out. We have beautiful carrots on their way (the 2nd batch) and lettuce, too.

We did tear out the zucchini and summer squash plants. We had beautiful zucchini. We ate it as-is and in a variety of recipes including zucchini bread. Made a loaf with almonds for Mr. Green. It was interesting. I'm not a big fan of nuts in bread - or nuts in anything, really. He liked it, I think. He didn't rave about it, or complain. It got eaten. The Zucchini Orzo recipe from Animal Vegetable Miracle is definitely a fav. We made it twice!

Summer squash didn't do so well. For some reason the squash would come on and then rot starting on the end before they were big enough to bother picking. Too bad. We threw away alot hoping that the next round would be OK. Not sure what to do about that. Skip it or fix it. Maybe if we spray the plants with worm tea earlier. . .

I'm so excited about being able to grow food in the winter! I've been in San Francisco for a year now. Looking out the window at this moment, the sun is shining in the Sunset today! A rarity, but I wouldn't trade this for anything! It's great fun being in a large city and our tiny garden is part of my new Urban Experience.

In Idaho this is the time of year when we glean the garden for anything even remotely ready to eat and hope the killing frost holds off for a few more days. It is such a joy for me to be able to bike to work and walk out of my office at lunch to stand in the warm sun. And I love the thought of looking out at a green garden all winter. Of course, the rain will come, but not for a few weeks longer. . .

Speaking of rain, it is my hope that we will use very little water on the winter garden. Mr. Green has already prepped the dirt for the next round of planting. He's worked in another round of compost and worm tea where the squashes, carrots and radishes were. Over the next couple of weekends we will put in shell peas (these are delicious and hard to get at the Farmers' Market - very short season), broccolini (I like it better than the regular), turnips (Mr. Green likes these), cauliflower, and garlic. We've already planted spinach (the second round), cabbages, carrots, lettuce and artichokes.

We planted three artichoke plants. There were all exactly the same to start with. Now two are thriving and more than a foot tall. I swear the other one hasn't grown since the day I planted it. It's still green but has only one set of leaves past it's seed leaves. At first I figured it would come along. Some plants do better than others. Now I've decided it's just a dud and I'm going to replace it with another one. The only thing I can figure is I was too rough on it getting it out of it's container. I'll be very careful with the next one.

Interesting phenomenon in our garden - we noticed that the plants in the front of the rows are taller than the plants further back. This is not the norm, which would be the opposite, and we puzzled over it briefly while we weeded a few weeks back. Were we being so careful to water the front that the plants were doing better? Did we work in more mulch or compost in the front?

Actually, it is the cement wall that is the front of our garden. It gets hot when the sun shines and then keeps the soil warm over night. The plants do better that are closest to the wall. Mr. Green says he's going to cover our fence with reflective material that will turn the garden into a tropical paradise when the sun shines - or at least heat things up a lot more. I'm envisioning something along the lines of those tanning sheets we all used to lay in the sun on back in the early 80's - before we knew better.

A novel idea, don't you think? I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Saturday Brunch at the Market

I used to consider eating prepared food at the Farmers' Market a cheat. After all, I was there to buy fresh fruits, vegetables and other ingredients for the week. I should just go home and make something!

After three out of four of my last restaurant dining experiences ended in a stomach ache and not so pleasant case of what I can only assume was mild food poisoning, I have come to appreciate Brunch at the Market. It is a delicious dining experience that works for both body and soul.

The Alemany Farmers' Market now has Food Row. I like the new arrangement, with all the food carts, coaches and booths along the South side of the market and tables at both ends, much better than the previously haphazard placement with all of it sort of piled in the middle. There is something for everyone among the various and tasty delights available, and now you can see them.

Here are some of my favorites:

All Star Tamales (fondly known to us as The Tamale Guys)

These are by far the best tamales at any Farmers' Market. I know there are folks out there with flashy marketing selling at the fancy market, but let me tell you, their tamales Pale in comparison to All Star's.

I eat the Vegan Tamale. The masa is perfect and not too thick. The ample stuffing is made up of black beans, green beans, carrots, cauliflower, corn, roasted red peppers, and spinach. This tamale does not need cheese. You can taste all the vegetables and the roasted pepper imparts a little smokiness with each bite. The tamale is wonderful by itself or with a squirt of the green salsa. I am not a big fan of hot, so I stick to the mild.

The Tamale Guys serve 14 different kinds of tamales from traditional to unusual. They are made with NO lard and are available either cold, to take home and eat later, or hot to be eaten on the spot. They have green salsa and a couple of kinds of red salsa, varying from mild to burning hot, to add as you see fit. I recommend you try a few bites without adding anything just so you can appreciate the variety of flavors in these truly delicious tamales.

OK, so I haven't actually eaten from this booth, but they have the most beautiful breads I've ever seen! Ralphie, the owner, and his crew, supply bread for over 200 restaurants and hotels in the Bay Area. In addition, they also have been vending bread at the Alemany Market for the past fifteen years.

While I was chatting with Ralphie and Mr. Green was taking pictures, a young woman with a threeish-year-old child walked up. Ralphie turned to me and said, "See?" "I've know her since she was a teen!" "Now look at her!" "She has a husband and this beautiful child!" The woman smiled and said "I'm here almost every week." I could see and feel the connection. Beautiful.

Panorama is also at the Alemany location on Sunday during the Flea Market. I'll be trying their bread soon!

Spring Hill has a lot of different kinds of organic cheese. And when I say a lot, I mean it. It is all from their cows who live in Petaluma so it is Estate Cheese. The ingredients are simple: Grade A milk, enzymes and salt. That's it. And their rennet is vegetable rennet. Since I'm not a cheese maker, I'm not sure exactly what that means, but I can tell you that all the cheeses I've tasted are good.

My favorite, so far, (one can only eat so many samples of cheese at once) is the Yellow Jersey Cheddar. It's smooth, tart and creamy. Not hard, not squishy, just firm and palatable. I thought for sure I would love the Garlic Cheddar or the White Cheddar, but not so much. The basic Yellow Cheddar is the one. I have no idea what the difference between yellow and white is. To be honest, I've always thought it was food coloring, but it must be something else, because the white cheddar and the yellow cheddar taste totally different.

The other item that Spring Hill has is Butter. This is butter that is meant to be enjoyed on a cracker or on a breadstick or on a slice of your best homemade bread while it's still warm. It's sweet and delicious and so good that you could serve it on a whole grain cracker as an hors d' oeuvre! There are samples. just ask for a taste. Now that I think of it, this butter on a slice of Panorama bread would be perfect!

Estrallita's Pupusas

Ahhhh. . . the Pupusas! A Salvadorian treat! These are delicious and so worth the wait. Cooked as they are ordered, these maize flour dough wonders are grilled to perfection, then served plain or with a pile of cold slaw on top and a ladle of mild or hot sauce.

The best way to understand what they are is to watch them being made. The woman who makes them takes a little ball of dough and flattens it out on her palm by patting it and turning it. then she puts a generous amount of filling in the middle, gathers the edges up and seals them, then flattens the whole thing out again and puts it on the grill.

The result is a savory mix of flavors with the smoothness of a mild white cheese all nestled in a browned crust that is heavenly. A perfect example of umami. Deliciousness that can't be described. Makes my mouth water just thinking about it. I like the mushroom and cheese and I get it "with everything".

And, by the way, pupusas are by far the best prepared food buy at the market. For only $2.50 each, they are a steal of a meal and a generous gourmet treat.

Malaysian Lacy Crepes

Azalina, the owner and chef at Malaysian Lacy Crepes has been working as a public and private chef for over fifteen years. She is from Malaysia and has been living in the states for seven years.

These crepes are different than the typical thin pancake with stuff inside. The crepe is actually lacy and full of holes and ends up on the bottom of the container with the "filling" on top. I love this because it makes the filling the feature - as it should be.

I tried the vegetable curry, which is completely different than Indian curry. Malaysian curry is mild which meant I could taste the vegetables, including pumpkin, which I love. The combination of sweet and savory is wonderful in this dish, and the pieces of crepe are the perfect, slightly spongy, accompaniment for the vegetable mixture.

The other item that is absolutely To Die For that Azalina makes is Chai Banana Fritters. These deep-fried blobs of heaven are the best dessert at the market. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, the dough is the flavor of mild chai spice and is enhanced by the pieces of warm banana nestled inside. Amazingly tasty!

After I tasted mine, a woman was debating with her friend about whether to get some or not. I said I highly recommend them. I saw her later and she thanked me profusely and referred to them as "phenomenal".

Azalina and her husband are new at the market and are educating people about Malaysian food. As soon as people figure out how good it is, there will be a huge line!

The Hummus Guy

Mohamed is the Hummus Guy! He is from Tunisia. He is friendly and honest about who makes the hummus. His sister and his mom do. He gives them full credit for all the delicious flavors. He says he's just the sales guy - and he's good at it. His favorite flavor is Artichoke. Mine is Garlic and Chive. He says I won't get any kisses eating that and I better get Mr. Green to try some, too! The plain is also good.

I love this hummus because it doesn't have any weird unpronounceable ingredients. Just garbanzos, olive oil, tahini, garlic, lemon & the herbs or veggies that makes each kind special. It's great on toast. It's great on carrot sticks. It's great on a spoon! And, of course, it's great on pita, which the Hummus Guy also sells.

OK, so I haven't eaten at this booth, but I love the idea of Grilled Watermelon! I also love the thought of a delicious pulled pork sandwich for breakfast. I'll be trying it soon for two reasons. First, because the smell of the meat cooking on their grill is scrumptious and second, because all the people I asked who were eating from Good Foods said it was "Fantastic".

Their food display was such a beautiful pile of comfort food, I couldn't not include them.

These guys drag a 1700 pound real wood-fired brick oven to the market each week (slightly crazy!). And the make amazing pizza! The oven itself is a reason to stop by. It's a functional work of art. Beautiful on the outside and hot on the inside. Their pizzas cook in two minutes!

I love thin crust pizza and this one is a good one. The owner, Tom, gets his flour from Giusto's, which is an organic flour mill located here, in San Francisco. The pizza crust is perfect. Crispy on the outside and slightly chewy toward the center of the slices.

I have eaten this pizza twice and enjoyed it both times. The sauce tastes fresh, slightly tart, and has a good hint of basil in it. It's light and just tomatoey enough to show off the flavors of the toppings, whether you choose traditional meats or a variety of veggies.

Uncomplicated is how to order this pizza, which is why the menu recommends two toppings. You want to be able to experience all the flavors from the crust to the cheese without muddying it up with too much on the top. There are a variety of topping options available. I like roasted garlic and mushroom or spinach and tomato. Mr. Green enjoyed the pepperoni.

Of course, what makes this pizza is the oven. Pizza cooked in a wood-fired brick oven has a taste that you just can't get with a conventional oven. The crust finishes slightly smokey and brown, as does the cheese. Delicious!

Tom uses as many local ingredients as he can find. He also makes and sells these ovens and will bring one to your place and cater. How fun would that be?!

I love brunch at the market! There are so many great food choices. There are many more choices than the ones I have written about. These are just the ones I like best. I dine first and then shop for produce. It's a wonderful way to start my Saturday.

To be honest, I would like it more if I could get it on a real plate with a real fork. I'm seriously considering taking these items with me. And maybe a cloth napkin. And possibly a split of champagne with a stemmed glass. That, and a seat at one of the tables, would make my Saturday Morning dining experience complete!

To view the rest of the pictures we took of the food vendors, see Mr. Green's photo album.

Thank you so much to Mr. Green for being my photographer, technical whiz and fellow foodie. . . kisses.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


*cartoon by Nataliedee
Here is an article about "green" impulse buys. It bothers me. I don't think buying more stuff is actually Green. Do we need more stuff? Even if it's green? And it's women who make these purchases. . . I don't know what the items are, but they must be pretty tempting.

One of my goals lately has been to go a whole week without stepping into a regular store. We get our food from various farmers' markets or from farmer friends and if we plan well, we only need to go to a larger store for other perishables (like toilet paper and dish soap) a couple times a month. I also have the privilege of Mr. Green doing most of the shopping, which totally works for me. Somehow, not shopping gives me a sense of freedom. Freedom from consumerism. I don't need anything. I have clothes. We have a home. We have all the creature comforts necessary to live a comfortable life.

And now this idea of not really needing anything has a label and a vocabulary, thanks to Lynne Twist, the author of The Soul of Money. It's a great concept. It works for me. It's the concept of "Enough".

While on vacation in Ketchum, Idaho, Mr. Green and I purchased a CD by Lynne to listen to on our long drive through Nevada back to San Francisco. It is called Unleashing the Soul of Money. I haven't read her book, The Soul of Money, but Mr. Green has and he's been considering a re-read.

Mr. Green was driving, two days later, when I put the CD in the player. Lynne is pleasant to listen to and the subject matter was certainly engaging. I don't remember everything about the CD but I do remember the part that "stuck". It was this concept of "Enough".

At this time, in the U.S., people are considered consumers. We "consume". That is our purpose according to mass media, the banking system, our government, etc. Everyday we hear about the consumer index and whether or not we are buying - buying homes, buying cars, shopping, shopping, shopping. It's a bad day if no one buys anything. This has always bothered me. Makes me feel like a locust. One of the many.

Yes, I do buy things. And some of the time they are things I don't actually need, but just want. And I don't think there's anything wrong with that. What bothers me is senseless buying. Buying with out consideration or thought. I've done it. I've come home from the grocery store and taken something out of the bag and thought "What the Hell did I buy THIS for?!"

And yet, I gave up on being a super-consumer a long time ago. Long before I got rid of the huge storage room of extra "belongings" that I had amassed through raising two kids and moving three times, I decided I didn't need any more stuff. Looking at the stuff in my storage actually used to make me feel sick. I would get queazy and headachy in anticipation of dealing with all of it and at some point deciding was important enough to keep. I hoped it would all just disappear.

Unfortunately there was no act of god and when it became clear that my stuff was overstaying its welcome in it's free home in the basement of a building that belonged to a friend, I finally went through it and got rid of about 75%. I gave it to good will. Books, furniture, clothes, nick-nacks, gee-gaws, yard tools, sports equipment - you get the idea. Do I miss any of it? Hmmm. Let me think. NO.

Lynne mentioned that we used to be called "citizens" instead of "consumers". Citizens are responsible. They take care of, and care about, their country. I'm never a fan of stepping backward to some idealized time. It feels like regression to me. I believe that the concept of being a citizen has a new meaning now. Think about it. Not only do we care about our country, we care about our world. And there are a whole pile of us who want to take care of our world by not consuming it.

Next Lynne started talking about considering the possibility that what we have right now is enough in a different way. That we are enough, what we do is enough, who we know is enough, what happens around us is enough. That it's all enough. Whoa! This startled me. If what we have in this moment, in this bigger concept, is enough, what is there to strive for? Why bother to go to work in the morning? Why create anything new? If the universe meets my needs, exactly, right now, what's the point of doing anything besides laying in bed all day waiting for the universe to provide what's next?

I was totally resistant to this idea that it was All Enough. I kept listening but the little voices in my head had grown huge and were screaming, "No!" "It Can't Be Enough!" "You Will Die!" I could barely hear the world around me. I kept listening to Lynne and to the voices and I have no idea what she said, but suddenly I got it.

It's not about there not being enough. There is plenty of everything for everyone. Yes, the portions are screwed up and that's something to work on, but there really is no scarcity on the planet. We can choose to frame it all differently. Right now in this moment. To put it in the context of contribution and passionate living. Everything we do, we do because we want to. Not because someone told us to. Or, because of the almighty dollar.

I can spend my day working in non-profit making a buck, or I can spend my day working in non-profit being a contribution to the mission of the organization. Let me tell you, the latter makes the work much closer to play and much more rewarding. All those phone calls? The outcome is what it will be. The contribution is making the connection with another human who also wants to be passionate about the choices they make.

I already knew this. I've worked in non-profit for years. What is new for me is holding the context of Enough everyday. It's changed the way I make choices. It has lowered my stress level. It has shifted the lens through which I view life. As odd as it may sound, it's made my life better. Easier. More focused on passion and acceptance and caring. I'm more thoughtful about the choices I make.

This concept is important. It will change the world. If it's all enough, why would we want too much? Why would we hoard anything? We won't. We will share. We will put our resources where they are most needed: to support our families, our communities and our world.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Guerilla Gardening in Portland

A friend of a friend posted the story below on Facebook. Mr. Green wrote to him and he was kind enough to lend this version of it to us to post. It's a true story, well written and worth the read. . . Enjoy! And, thank you David for sharing the experience.

A block from my downtown Portland apartment, there’s an easement about five feet wide and half a block long, which divides a parking lot from the sidewalk. Recent city ordinances call for such an amenity around all new lots, but of course most of them are older than the ordinance and comply only partially, if at all.

For most of the four years I’ve lived in the neighborhood, this one has been nothing more than a strip for weeds, trash, and dog poop. It got cleaned up a little earlier this year, and some bark was laid in, but that was all.

Several weeks ago, my wife and I noticed that someone had planted vegetables along a portion of the strip. There were several tomato plants, some beans, a chili pepper, a jalapeno, an eggplant, possibly a cucumber -- about sixteen in all. Although I took a similar number of non-food-bearing plants nearby for part of the same plot, it turned out they were not connected to the guerilla planting.

We gave the vegetable plants less than a 50-50 chance of survival: most likely, the homeless people in the neighborhood would steal the edibles and trample the plants before they were ripe, we thought.

The weekend of July 25-26, I noticed the plants had grown, but were looking pretty dry, and in some cases flattened. They didn’t appear to have been watered at all. Record heat was forecast for the coming week; three days later, temperatures hit 107 and remained in three digits -- rare for Portland -- for several days straight.

I decided to help ’em out. I borrowed a key from my building’s maintenance guy and filled a pair of my own buckets, repeatedly, at one of the exterior spigots along the outer walls of our building, and walked diagonally across an intersection to get to the parched greenery. It took five trips, with 2-1/4 gallon buckets, to water all the plants in the strip -- maybe a total of 22 gallons.

I’ve never had much of a green thumb, but I had been laid off my five-year-old job the week before, so I had plenty of time on my hands. For two days I watered the plants. On the third day I found the first sign that somebody else cared about them: the tomatoes had been staked so they now stood up to two feet in the air.

There were also several printed paper signs among the plants that had the parking lot’s logo at the top and read:

“Dear Enthusiast,

“This area is not intended as a vegetable garden. Please remove all plants by Monday, August 3rd. If you fail to do so, we will be forced to remove them.

“Thank you for you [sic] cooperation.”

Would be “forced” to remove them? Because the strip had been despoiled after being so attractive and productive before? Because someone was stealing invaluable soil nutrients that until now had provided an exquisite cushion for litter and animal waste? Was the owner worried that someone might eat the vegetables, get sick, and sue; or, worse, sell the goods at a profit?

I had to admit it was refreshing to see “enthusiast” employed as a pejorative term.

I still had no idea who planted the vegetables. I thought it might have been someone from the church that abuts the lot. I rather indignantly watered them a third time on that hottest day of the year, and a fourth time the morning of the fifth day.

Having just read a new biography of Camus, I was primed to view the situation as a classic illustration of an existential response to the absurd: no one seemed to want to take responsibility for the situation, and the end was foreordained.

There was no sign of a planter who might move the plants to a safer location, but a Big Brother warning set a hard deadline. Thus, my choice to water the plants was an “acte gratuit” -- a senseless move in the face of certain doom.

Still smarting with indignation, I wrote up an account of the situation and fired it off to the op-ed team of the Portland daily, The Oregonian. The online op-ed editor, charmed by the Camus reference, requested a photo of the plants (I made certain to include the warning sign) and put the piece online that very afternoon, July 30. It garnered some lively comments that were mostly supportive:

The print edition the following morning called attention to my piece, and directed readers to the online essay.

As I continued my one-man bucket brigade, passersby had told me they’d been worried about the garden and were happy to see me watering “my” plants. They were astonished when I responded that they weren’t my plants; I didn’t know whose they were.

A homeless man making his way slowly by saw me pouring buckets of water on the plants and said, “Doin’ it the hard way … whatever works.” A moment later, almost approvingly, he added: “You might get a tomato.”

It was only late on the evening of the sixth day that I heard from the original “perps.” A student wrote me an email praising my online essay and revealing that kids from the local college had planted the vegetables. They were members of a summer class devoted to the topic of “revolution and radical social change.”

He asked me not to identify the class or even the college, because most of the students (and even the instructor) were worried about potential legal and academic effects upon their careers if they were to be identified.

I responded that I would have failed each and every student in the class who did not wish to have their activities and the course publicized, for they evidently hadn’t learned the first thing about revolution and social change. It doesn’t happen unless and until you put your ass on the line, and risk something.

If the instructor felt the same way, then he shouldn’t be teaching the course, I continued. To take action without being willing to take any responsibility for it was a violation of revolutionary principles; it’s precisely what has made so many would-be revolutionaries a laughingstock throughout history. The class’s action seemed to me as funny as it was pathetic.

I asked what the class had intended to do -- or not do -- with the plants. Was planting the garden and not bothering to water it part of the point? Were they just trying to see whether anyone would notice?

I didn’t receive any answers before the Monday deadline. When that came, it was over quickly.

My fear had been that I would be too late. I was afraid the property owner, having noticed that someone had seen what was going on, would send out an employee to tear up the plants in the wee hours of the morning in order to avoid confrontation and further publicity.

But when I got up the morning of August 3, I could see from my sixth-floor apartment window that the plants on the next block were undisturbed. Preparing for a long day, I packed a folding deck chair, books to read, some munchies and a thermos of ice water, and a digital camera to record whatever was going to happen.

I swung by the Starbucks downstairs and fumed silently in a line of caffeine addicts as the clock ticked up to 8:00 a.m. By 8:03 I was on site. Everything was undisturbed.

By now, though I had not planted the garden and it certainly wasn’t on my property, I had a proprietary interest in the plot (in more than one sense). Over the preceding week, I had lugged an estimated 115 gallons of water -- in buckets, by hand -- about 80 yards from my block to the garden.

I decided to take photos of each of the plants at their (possible) zenith. There were beans showing, a few green tomatoes, tiny jalapenos, and a tiny but richly purpled eggplant.

I was only halfway through photographing all the plants when a young woman in a white shirt and black trousers arrived and informed me that she had been tasked with tearing them out. We left signs saying people had until Monday to remove them, she informed me. Most of them have blown away, but here’s one, she said, pointing to a paper sign I had carefully preserved on a tomato stake, and around which I had watered, the past four days.

That’s fine, I said. I’m just going to take pictures of you while you do it. Assuring her they were not my plants, I asked for a contact phone number for her employer, which she gave me. She said “the church” had also requested the plants be removed.

That surprised me. As I said earlier, I had initially thought the planters might be members of the congregation of the neighboring church. If they hadn’t planted the vegetables and probably didn’t own the lot, why would they care that someone else had?

As the woman bent to her job, she said, “I really don’t want to do this. It’s a damn shame.” I settled in my deck chair with my vanilla latte and blueberry scone. As the woman gently pulled up the vegetables and placed them in a black garbage bag, I took a few photos.

When she had finished and turned to leave, she said (rather grimly I thought), “Have a good day.” It was all over by 8:15. No friends had come by, no passing cars honked, no TV crews showed up (though I had emailed the local stations about this late the night before).

Somewhat happily, only the vegetables were gone; the other plants were apparently not part of the guerilla garden and were allowed to stay. I found out later they are probably part of the property owner’s compliance with city ordinance.

I went home and made some calls. A heavily accented gentleman at the abutting church said nobody knew anything about the vegetable garden, and he did not think anyone there had requested it be removed.

A friend who works for the city did some digging and found that taxes on the property are paid by a different, much larger church that sits on the next block to the north of the parking lot and soil strip. The number the employee had given me rang at the offices of a huge downtown parking and development company, which presumably manages the lot on behalf of the church.

When I finally heard back from my contact in the class, he explained that the vegetable plot had not been a “class project.” The students and instructor had designed a curriculum together at the start, and agreed to act and approve projects by consensus. Everything had to be legal and ethical.

Apparently, the class had not approved the vegetable garden project; I think the proposers may have asked the church’s permission up front and failed to receive it. They went ahead and planted without the approval and support of their classmates and the instructor, as well as the church.

My email contact admitted that he had scoffed at the garden proposal -- how could planting a vegetable garden in famously green and eco-friendly Portland constitute a radical act? -- and had been taken aback by the attention it had gotten.

He personally agreed with pretty much everything I had written, he said; the word he chose for his classmates’ behavior in trying to duck recognition was “craven.” But since he had contacted me (also without consulting the group first and obtaining permission) and thereby brought unwanted attention to his classmates and the instructor, with potential legal and academic repercussions -- still pretty small, in my and his estimation -- he was now being regarded as a Judas by his fellow students.

They did not want me coming to their class to speak, which he had proposed the week before -- apparently because it might blow their cover. It was very amusing to me to be treated like a bomb-throwing anarchist with a mile-long FBI file when all I had done was . . . water some plants and then talk about it.

Meanwhile, the print edition op-ed editor for the Oregonian had called me and requested a 500-word summation of the caper for the print edition. That ran on Wednesday, August 5, and again garnered many reader comments, mostly in support:

It’s easy to hate the property owners, but I’m not convinced that anyone came out of this with clean hands. Even though the vegetable garden was a lovely revolutionary act, much applauded by the public to whose attention I brought it, the planters acted against the consensus of their group (another common violation of revolutionary principles), and I have a hard time seeing what they managed to accomplish without my intervention.

Several months ago, the manager of my apartment building acquired a third dog, a lovely dachsund, to go with his two basenjis, when he witnessed someone abandon it in the nearby park. People have been breeding dogs and trying to sell the puppies on Craigslist, he told me, but when the animals get too big, they just dump them.

What the college planters did looks pretty much the same to me. They seem to have abandoned the plants. Knowing the property owner was likely to come after their work, and having been informed roughly when it would happen, they didn’t appear to have devised any strategy to witness the deed, let alone rally support to stop it.

Plenty of folks, both strangers on the Oregonian’s Web site and Facebook friends who read my reports via that venue, applauded my efforts, but no one stepped up with a solution. I suspect if I had beat the bushes and pleaded, someone might have come up with a safe plot to which the plants could have been moved. But that was part of the point I wanted to make: if we’re going to be a community, everyone has to contribute ideas and labor. And they weren’t my plants.

On the other hand, a friend told me this morning that if it had been a 20-year-old tree -- something with more of a history -- she might have made more of an effort to find an alternative lot for it. Also, situated where they were, these vegetables would likely have had a high lead content. Another friend directed me to an essay by an longtime gardening activist who decried folks that attack guerilla gardening with good intentions and verve but virtually no gardening skills:

And I? Well, I was guiltily pleased that I didn’t have to sit out in the hot sun all day but could return to my air-conditioned apartment and go back to looking for a job. I got some published writing and quite a few strokes from friends and strangers out of the deal.

There’s a maxim from Tertullian regarding faith: credo quia absurdum est, which means (given that faith cannot be proven or justified by reason): “I believe because it is absurd.”

My attitude as illustrated by this caper would be somewhat similar: “I take action because it is futile.” My college roommate, a classics major, emailed me that the Latin version might be ago quia futile est.

That encapsulates my perspective at many levels, whether it’s watering the guerilla garden, my little, brief life on this planet, or the survival of the human species and the rest of life as we know it.

With so many powerful interests working hard to make us into mere consumers and spectators (at worst, voyeurs), it’s important to act and speak up, even if it’s only to give others a chance to teach you where you’re wrong.

Otherwise, you’re not learning and growing; you’re just opening your mouth for someone else’s spoons.

The story and photos above are by David Loftus who is an actor and writer living in Portland, Oregon.Samples of his writing and voice acting work may be found on his Web site at