27.2.11

Sunday Morning Seeds

Every year has been a garden adventure for us.  After last years CSA experiment, we are actively dialing things in so that we can accommodate more families and reduce the performance anxiety a little.  B and I have spent our sunny Sunday morning referencing and cross referencing what seeds we have, what we need, how many to plant what beds to plant in, are there enough beds, how many days until each plant matures, and how to best time succession planting.  Whew!  This plan is like a dance, and not an elegant waltz, no it's like a head spinning polka.

So what we have ended up with is designating individual rows or for high yielding varieties a number of plants per family participating.  Then we will plant separately what we know we need for ourselves for fresh consumption, processing and storage.  We have decided upon 25 different types of produce subset into 45 different varieties.  This does not include the onions, potatoes, or lettuces that will also be planted.  I'm not sure whether to be excited or overwhelmed!  For many of the plants we will begin seeds in the basement this week.  Living as far North as we do and with the uncertainty of warmth in our summers, we are going to utilize some black landscape fabric to try to boost the possibility of having a good season for those warm weather plants.  With any luck, all of this planning will result in a full and prosperous season.  Now off to order seeds!  Have a great Sunday!

23.2.11

Green washing

White wine at sunset
I find shopping frustrating. Truth be told, I don't like it. There is so much to think about: food miles, production location, fair trade, fair wages, child labour, organic/not organic, company owner, packaging, etc. And sometimes in the back of my mind a remembered trade sanction, did it end, is it on going, was there a new one? Phew. So much to think about in order to make each of those purchases count. I am a child of the 80s. I really want to believe that what I buy matters and that each choice somehow is a little vote for how I want food and other items produced.

The other day while looking for an organic white from Europe (because of food miles, I try to buy European wine while I am living in Europe), I noticed a new sticker on the bottle. It said: "Feel Green" (in English not Danish) and had a nice leaf on it. I reached for it thinking it might be an organic sticker I wasn't familiar with but it wasn't. It was to "certify" that the wine had carbon neutral delivery. Hmmm..This seems to have added another dimension I need to account for while shopping and I think might also be an example of green-washing.

It turns out that being carbon-neutral is something that some wineries are thinking about. Some are trying to make their whole operations carbon-neutral and there are apparently carbon-neutral retailers too. But, try as I might I haven't found this "feel green" carbon neutral delivery on a list of ecolabels and nothing about carbon neutral delivery certification. See, the carbon neutral delivery part confuses me. Whose delivery is certified? The winery to the bottler? The supplier warehouse to the importer's warehouse? I know it can't be the supermarket's delivery since not all the wine bottles had this sticker on it and why would they certify some brands and not others. And what advantage does a winery think they get when they certify carbon neutral delivery of a non-organic wine? And why just delivery why not the whole winery or the whole wine making process?

So, while it does appear that I should try and support those wineries that are carbon-neutral (and I will try to!), it also makes me think that some green-washing is going on here. I think a little clip from the absolutely wonderful This Hour Has 22 Minutes  helps to explain green-washing.

11.2.11

how many miles are too many (food) miles?


i have what i can only characterize as a capricious relationship to the concept of food miles.  i tend to choose organic over just about any consideration and thus, can justify organic tomatoes from spain in my grocery basket, despite the distance they travel. i can also justify organic coconut milk that comes from an undoubtedly very long distance away, because hey, there aren't any coconuts in denmark and one must have one's curry. on the other hand, i can resist a mango from peru or an avocado from chile - on the grounds of the distance it had to travel to get to me. tho' oddly i can justify an avocado from south africa because it's in the same time zone as me (and possibly also because i love south africa).

others have argued the arguments for and against the locavore lifestyle much better than i, so i won't try to duplicate that here.  but i will delve a little bit into my reasons for, on the whole, wanting to eat a more locavore diet, but also what i consider local.

as with anything, there are pros and cons. cons for one who lives as far north as i do is that if you ate entirely locally-produced foods during winter, you'd have pork, pork, bacon and pork and a few root vegetables. you would have very little green. and i can't get along without green. so my local horizon actually extends to southern europe...spain and italy, predominantly. if the only tomatoes available came from a greenhouse in holland, i skip them, but if there are succulent little italian ones, they're going in my shopping basket.

the biggest pros for me in wanting to eat food that was produced close to where i are live are flavor and support of the local community. locally-produced means it can be picked closer to the time when it's ripe and perfect and not weeks before and then transported in a container on a ship for several weeks before it gets to me - that's hard on the taste, as well as on the environment (tho' shipping via sea is one of the least CO2-emitting methods of transport).

but it's also because i want to be able to stop at a little roadside stand in my neighborhood in season and buy strawberries or apples or potatoes. it feels good knowing that the food goes from field to my table on the same day. that strikes me as healthier and more in tune with nature. and i'm pretty faithful about it with the strawberries - i don't often fall for those pretty red, but tasteless ones you see in the grocery store year-round. if you don't shop locally, there won't be anyone local who produces these things, so it also benefits the community.

so when i go to the store, i'm very aware, especially with produce, of where it comes from - happily here in denmark, everything is marked. lately, the leeks have been from belgium and if there are danish leeks available, i'm sure to choose those - so i buy with an awareness of food miles.  however, i have been choosing spanish cucumbers over the danish ones, which are produced in greenhouses, on the grounds of those being so tasteless and bland. cucumbers need some real sunshine and they get that in spain. the greenhouses can also be quite guilty of environmental crimes and misdemeanors, so i feel ok with my choice. we have a member of this household who simply couldn't do without cucumbers, so i have to make choices.

i am looking forward to next summer, when we'll have lots of very locally-grown produce from our own garden. because that's the best kind of all. i intend to put up as much as i can - canning and freezing, for next winter, so hopefully we can change our consumption and cut back on the food miles. but until then, i'll just try to make wise and thoughtful choices on that front.

how do you decide how many miles are too many food miles when you're at the grocery store?

9.2.11

Crafty upcycling

Although not as beautiful or useful as the chicken feed turned into farm produce bags, I had a go at some upcycling. We needed a garbage can for the bathroom and I was reluctant to spend money on either a crazily expensive desginery one or a cheap plastic one. And I need to floss my teeth more so there really had to be one to stop the floss accumulating on the countertop waiting to be transferred to the kitchen bin.

Inspired by this bin, I started folding magazine pages.I followed the instructions for the base which was simply fold magazine page into strips and wrap this around each other to make a flat base. Pretty simple although there is lots of glue involved and as it gets bigger it gets harder to keep it tightly together. I found squeezing it between my knees useful for applying pressure to make the glue stick. (And there was the added advantage of the hilarity that ensured from having sticky knees.)

I then started to make the little circles. This was tedious because it involved folding, making the circle, gluing it shut, holding it shut with a paperclip, waiting for it to dry and then trying to figure a way for it to be glued to the base and each other. Without a hot glue gun, I just couldn't see how it could be done. Too many steps. And I don't like waiting for things to dry.  So here I kind of went off roading with my crafty project.

Instead, I rolled the magazine pages up tightly (easier than folding) and stuck them into the edges of the base and secured them with more glue and the a few extra wraps of paper around the base. The I started weaving folded pages through the uprights. It took me a while to find the rhythm of it and certainly I will never again say that something that is easy is like basket-weaving. Because basket-weaving is flipping hard! Here it is at the beginning of the weaving part:

Once I had had enough, I mean once I got it to a height I liked, my husband folded down the uprights and weaved those together. And here it is:


It looks great in the bathroom, it used up at least one magazine and it is recyclable itself. So now I have no excuse for not flossing. 

--- Jude

3.2.11

Upcycle

279/365 Busy
My husband B has spent a great deal of time trying to come up with different projects for upcycling.  Ultimately, his dream would be to salvage wood from old, falling down barns and make it into furniture.  Since the flood that all but destroyed our other house 2 years ago also took out his wood shop, those ideas have been put on hold for the time being.  Enter phase two...

What is upcycling?  "Upcycling is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upcycling

With my dedication to learning to sew and quilt last year I got a nice sewing machine for my birthday.  B learned the basics of sewing when he was a kid and brainstormed the perfect re-usable bag (not a new idea) out of our chicken feed bags (his idea).  This is his project 100% and I'm so proud of him! He made a prototype bag as a gift for a close friend at Christmas.  It's completely sewn and very sturdy.  Last week he spoke to the feed manufacturer whose assembly person was more than happy to talk to him and give him information on how they ensure strength in the bags.  So what does he do in a blizzard?  Work diligently on the handles and forms of 8 bags that we can use to hold produce for our farm box families! 
Upcycle
What Ideas do you have for re-purposing everyday stuff??

1.2.11

Stuffed with stuff

Man, those January sales are tough. 50% off, 70% off. It's so tempting to buy more stuff! Whenever I feel overwhelmed with that message to buy, I try to recall this video: 



It ties in well with a book I just finished reading called, "Cities for People" by Jan Gehl. Jan is a well respected architect in Copenhagen who was largely responsible for Copenhagen's pedestrianization and bike lanes. It was an okay book, the ideas were largely nice but unchallenging but it read like it was made from Powerpoint presentations. One part I thought was interesting was the change of time of residential areas. Overall, "new residential areas are sparsely populated. A century ago, seven times more people lived in the same amount of space." And here is a very interesting chart he had:



1900
Old areas
2000
New city areas
(high density)
2000
New city areas
(low density)
2000
New city areas
(suburban)
Average size of household4 people1.822.2
average dwelling area per resident m2/sq.ft10/11060/65060/65060/650
floor to plot ratio200%200%25%20%
number of dwellings per hectare475155218
number of residents per hectare2,000 persons2804217

Isn't that amazing to see how much more space we need now. I am certainly not suggesting we return to super crowded old city life but do we really need so much space now? We have smaller families but we need bigger houses? And what is that space for? For stuff!
In the US, according to the National Association of Homebuilders, "the average American house went from 1,660 square feet in 1973 to 2,400 square feet in 2004." And the fastest growing part of the building industry was self-storage units. Apparently, one in 11 American households rents a storage unit.
Oliver James in Affluenza has argued that all this stuff is making us very unhappy and we've had great posts with some wonderful suggestions to manage all that stuff. So, now that it is February hopefully those sales will have eased off and the temptation of stuff will subside! 
All the best,
Jude