Monday, June 23, 2008

I'm taking the challange

, a blog I recently found, is hosting a challenge the month of July throw away less trash in a month then would fit in a standard 32 gallon trash can. Andy was willing to give it a try so starting next Monday (our regularly scheduled pick-up) we are going to clear out all the waste baskets and start fresh and see if we can make it through the month. We guessed that we fill a can an a half or so in a month and we feel pretty sure we can cut that down within the limits of the challenge. With the new baby and Andy being so busy with the school year ending we have been eating a bit more take-out and having coffee from the shop and so there is more trash then we would usually create. I think this challenge will help us be more mindful again. We compost kitchen scraps, use cloth diapers, cloth napkins, rags instead of paper towels and try to keep the packaging down but I know we can do better.

Our trash pick-up is weekly so we'll empty the can on Monday and not bring it out again for 4 more weeks. We will, however, send out the recycling every week because that really builds up quickly. If we were paying for our pick-up (which is included in our rent) we would hire PedalPeople which is a company that picks up trash and recycling by bicycle (and is actually cheaper than the trucking company). It is so inspiring seeing them riding down the road with the trailers - what a great vision of what we can do in the future to conserve resources. And, hey, they certainly don't need to pay for a gym membership with that job! They also empty the cans downtown which makes me very proud of my city for hiring them.

On the re-usable item front, I bought a thermos/mug at a local shop to keep iced coffee and tea in and it has been working fantastically. We make coffee at home a lot, but sometimes having an iced coffee made by one of the local roasters with the tiny ice while walking around town is just a great treat. I always felt guilt about the plastic cup and now I can have my coffee without the worry, and it stays cold for hours. Lovely.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


We have a CSA share and were very pleased to read on the u-pick board "Strawberries - one quart per share". It was a perfect day for being out in the field and all too soon we had picked our share (and eaten our fill as well). We had so much fun, and the berries were gone before bed time so we made a plan for some serious picking this weekend when Andy's mama (Bubbie) was coming into town.

There is a local organic farm that has u-pick but they charge a dollar more per pound if you bring kids (!) so we went to a no-spray farm down the road from my mom. The farm happened to belong to the family of one of Andy's students and so we were able to chat with his dad in the field a bit. They plant different varieties of berries so that they ripen through the year. Ours were Cavendish - apparently they aren't usually sold because they are very soft and don't travel well. That was fine with use because they were pretty much just travelling to our bellies. We made short work of it and had almost 30 pounds in about a half an hour. My mom, Andy, Miryam and I picked while Andy's mom entertained the baby. The weather was perfect (we usually come out on the hottest day in June it seems) and I was impressed with Miryam - she picked the whole time and really had a feel for perfect ripeness. I was worried she would get bored but she was a proper strawberry picker and filled her basket over and over.

I treated myself to a new pairing knife from a local knife-maker because I knew I was in for some work when we got home. The knife is gorgeous, hand forged with a rosewood handle and fits perfectly in my hand. Apparently, with proper care this is the only paring knife I'll ever buy which in fine by me. I have been trying to "buy less, buy quality" and only purchase things that are beautifully crafted, practical and will last for ever with proper care. I remember as a child having visions of a home where everything was hand-made in it - every bowl, blanket and piece of furniture (though I never could figure out how to get a hand-crafted toothbrush...) and that daydream continues now. In theory, all I really want are beautiful, artisan made items but sometimes I feel the pull of the retail-therapy-impulse-purchase that will will bring such little joy after the immediate buzz. We go to lots of fairs and such during the year and I, invevitably, see some of the same crafters over and over and wish I could spend lots of money on them, when I often only invest in one small thing - I really should set aside some money during the year so that when the fair season starts I have some money to spend on some quality tools that I lust after year after year. It's so much easier to grab a cheap-o plastic one when you see it on the rack at the store. It's all about mindfulness and not always doing the first, easiest thing. And having pride in, and respect for, your tools no matter how humble. I'm learning and practicing...

So. Strawberries. I hulled all 27 pounds by hand and fell in love with my new knife. I froze 3 1/2 freezer bags, gallon sized, for future use. Last year I made the mistake of throughing them in the bag fresh (which made one bit lump that had to be chizled to make smoothies) but this year I remembered to freeze them separately first on a baking sheet before adding them to the bag. I'm trying to pick and freeze enough berries for smoothies so I don't need to buy any until the berry season starts again. But with the space those strawberries takes up leaves me thinkin' I need a chest freezer.

I also made jam for the first time (delicious), dipped a bunch in chocolate (hello.), and ate the rest with fresh scones for breakfast.

I have truly experienced the strawberry.

p.s. the pictures are from picking at the CSA. My marathon strawberry day has no photographic evidence because I was so caught up in the experience and covered in berry juice.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

potting up the herbs

Because there isn't enough space for a garden here we have experimented with both container gardening and a community garden plot. The garden gave us the most veg but since Miryam was born it was too tricky to drive up to tend, water and weed with her and once she was in motion she mostly got into messes eating dirt and straying into other folk's gardens. And we found that what is "garden" and what is "path" is not very important to little ones.

So now we get most of our growing vicariously through our farm share at our local CSA and grow a few herbs at home. This year I had a very willing helper for the potting up.

We have most of the herbs we use except for basil which we get, in large quantities, from the farm for pesto later on. New this year is a Sungold cherry tomato in a hanging pot. Apparently they can tumble down instead of climbing up. We pretty much only eat tomatoes that are local and in season so I am looking forward to stepping out on the porch to harvest and munch each day.

Miryam potting up the lemonbalm.

We also have a lemon balm plant which is yummy in lemonade. We also made a bunch of simple syrup and I have my grandma's old juice press just waiting to smash some lemons so we are absolutely ready for lemonade season.

The rosemary looked a bit onely in it's pot so miryam decorated it with some pebbles.

About this time √Čamonn woke but was content to nurse and then lay in the pram watching the wind blow through the maple leaves...

...and fall peacefully asleep.

I'm looking farward to doing some larger scale garden in the next year or two but for now it was great to get my girl out growing food with me. She loves watering them each day and helping to pick what we need for meals. This is a small start in helping her learn about food, where it comes from, and why we are thankful.