Archive for June, 2010

Time for Harvest

Our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share began 2 weeks ago, but we couldn’t get either times due to being on vacation at just the exact days of pick-up.  Happily we picked up our first batch this week and still got a good amount for a “single” veggie share:

  • romaine lettuce
  • red leaf lettuce
  • spinach
  • scallions
  • radishes
  • cilantro

We were absolutely giddy to pick up our share and know that we are not only getting fresh, local food but that we are contributing to our local economy.  Our fruit share doesn’t begin until mid July, but I can’t wait.  Unfortunately we had just picked up a bunch of cilantro and chives over the weekend, so now we have that much more; now we know to wait to see what we get before buying produce! 

When we went to pick up our eggs this week, the guy who we buy them from invited us over to his house (instead of meeting up in the parking lot of the local country store) and we were able to see his chicken run (impressive), visit with his girls and pet goat and also see his garden, which gave me new  hope for a garden of my own some day.  However, the 3am shotgun that my next door neighbor shot off the other night as an attempt to scare of the bear that was peering in their glass door not only scared the living hell out of me, but also reminded me that the bears are still hanging out and thus, I may need to support the CSA indefinitely.

So tell me, what are you growing in your garden this year?  If not a garden, I hope you make an effort to support the local farmer’s market or CSA in your area and help keep the cycle of sustainable food going!

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A childhood introduction into simplicity

When I was growing up, I didn’t live a simplified life – I watched a lot of TV, I lived among conveniences and my dad was always a tech buff.  Life was certainly comfortable.  But my favorite memories of my childhood were not among those lived at home, but the nearly weekly trips we took to the Rhode Island shore.

Almost every weekend from April to October, we would spend the weekend camping at the Charlestown Breachway – a small, non-descript state park that was nothing more that a dirt parking lot adjacent to a beach and a waterway/jedi that lead the ocean water into the inland salt ponds.  Although tent campers were not allowed (no facilities), people still came in swarms with their truck campers and modest trailers to park on small lots with no electricity or hook-ups to enjoy the peace and quiet.

No electricity meant no TV’s, no phones, seemingly no connection to the outside world.  It was as if time stood still.  Time was filled with spending hours at the beach – and not just soaking the sun.  Instead,  we flew kites, swam in the ocean, walked the shoreline in search of cool shells and rocks, went crabbing for bait and then went fishing with said crabs, played in the salt ponds, hid and played fort among the giant boulders, plucked sea roses, caught butterflies and fireflies, ran with cattails, counted shooting stars, and rode bikes up and down the dirt roads.  And I say “we” because there were always a group of  kids camping with their families at any given time and being there by myself with my parents, I was forced to be outgoing and make friends with strangers.

In addition to this campground, we would sometimes venture out into the surrounding towns and get fresh clam chowder or clam fritters at the seafood shacks, take pictures of lighthouses, go to the weekly flea market (where I would buy embroidery floss to make dozens of friendship bracelets), and buy fresh lobster literally off the boats as they pulled into the small ports nearby.

My parents enjoy a good ol-fashioned local seafood platter from a neighboring seafood shack

Breathing in salty air all day made for deep sleep at night, not even including the sound of the crashing waves that lulled you to sleep.  This place was my early introduction into the life of simplicity and learning how to entertain myself with my natural surroundings and for 6 months out of the year, I spent the better part of every weekend there – from the time I was about 5 until I left for college.

When I lived in CT in my adult years, I made the trek down to the shore a couple times a year but once we moved to CO, it became a once-every-couple-of-years endeavor.  Still I have the fondest memories of this place and it holds a very special place in my heart.

The brief but heavy fog that rolled in through the breachway on our first day there

This past week, we had the opportunity to spend two nights camping in the same campground of my childhood, while visiting family in CT for my niece’s graduation…and I fell in love all over again.  Because there are only 75 sites and no fancy landscaping or extensive facilities, it is rarely crowded.  Most people go to the other “prettier” beaches nearby.  This place, however, is my little slice of heaven.  And sure, most of the modest campers have turned into full-blown RVs, a la Tour Bus style, with cars and generators in tow – most of the park is still as it has always been.  And to boot, they replaced the nasty dual stall bathroom with 8 new composting toilet outhouses – which impressed me greatly.

The new composting "outhouses"

I knew that moving to Colorado would land-lock me for some time – a difficult feat for a girl who practically “grew up” at the shore.  The lure of the mountains helped to offset any pangs for the water at that time.  And for the last 5 years, I’ve been okay with that.  But lately, the nomadic lifestyle is tugging at me and Rhode Island is calling my name the loudest.

A quiet morning on the beach

David and I have lots of places we want to live including: Oregon, Vermont, Idaho, Maine, California, Montana, Canada, Italy, etc.  And so we know that we will not likely ground ourselves in one place for long.  We moved 8 times in our first 7 years together, including 4 cross-country moves – something I jokingly refer to as a sign we are meant to be together if we haven’t divorced yet through all those moves.  However, the current housing market also means that we aren’t going to be leaving anytime soon.

Regardless of an impending move or not, this trip reconnected me to a piece of my past and I was absolutely inconsolable about leaving after only being there for a couple days.  Nonetheless, it was great being back in a simple, beautiful, calm place to remind me where I started on my simplicity journey and it fueled me to continue on the path.

The "lobstah" boats (as they say it in New England) going out/coming in for the day at a nearby port (where we engorged on fresh seafood)

Do you have a favorite “simple” spot?  Please share with me and the readers!

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More to come

I’m traveling right now, but will post tomorrow…

Here’s a little slice of heaven!

Sure, it’s nothing tropical…but lovely and peaceful as can be.  Where’s your favorite beach?

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Living vicariously through youngins’

Here are some of the books I’ve taken out of the library recently; lets see if you can see a common theme running through:

  • Confessions of a Counterfeit Farm Girl
  • Coop: a Year of Poultry, Pigs and Parenting
  • Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer

And this is after the dozens of farm memoirs that I’ve already read.  I don’t know why, but I still have dreams of one day owning a small homestead.  However, I know that reality of running one is far from the romantic notions in my head and it will be much more work than I probably ever wanted.

Even so, I still daydream about harvesting just-laid eggs in the morning, breathing in the wonderful scent of hay that I’ve just laid out and of tending to a graciously abundant garden.  I know that this fantasy is probably 10% reality and 90% blood, sweat and tears (not to mention egregious amounts of cursing).

So you can imagine my absolute exuberance that my niece – who just graduated high school – is pursuing an animal science/equine focus degree program in the fall and her dream is to open up a barn with my husband and I.  Oh such delight!  However, I’m really trying not to get my hopes up too much as I know how college students are – they change their minds often and I certainly was no different.  God knows I’ve already pursued about 5 different career paths before turning 35.

But to live vicariously through her right now is pure joy.  She loves animals, she wants to live on a small farm, she is eager to learn animal husbandry and its a good thing for I have no background in the field, just a desire to learn.  Books are good but I’m thinking her hands-on experience will be beyond valuable.

She also is passionate about photography and whenever we get together, she asks to go on “photo field trips” – so I thought it fitting to take a trip up to her soon-to-be school and take pictures of the farm animals.

Unfortunately we got a late start and ran into major traffic issues, so we missed visitor hours for everything except the dairy barn where the ladies were waiting to get milked and the sweet baby cows were soaking up the sun.  Nonetheless, we still enjoyed our afternoon and the opportunity to be on a working, albeit university-run, farm.

I still have yet to find a small farm to volunteer on – those places I’ve contacted just haven’t returned my inquiries, so I’ll continue looking for a place to get some experience.  Meantime, I’ll live vicariously through my niece’s studies and the various authors of the “I-used-to-be-a-starbucks-addict-and-new-york-city-executive-turned-cattle-rancher-and-chicken-farmer” style of memoirs.  Perhaps there is something to be gained from their wacky transitions, if nothing more than a good laugh.

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Make a wish!

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No Impact Man

Since getting rid of cable, we haven’t reduced our TV watching at all that much.  Truth be told, we found a nifty collaboration between Netflix and Wii where for $9/month, you get 1 movie in the mail at a time (so you get as many as you can quickly go through) and unlimited movie watching through your Wii – usually older or B-rated movies – nothing really popular recently, but still good picks.  There are lots of other options, including seasons of popular TV shows, which we watch quite a bit of, and documentaries which we’re also fans of.

It doesn’t help that we were both sick and lying around lots (doc says I’ve got adult croup!), so there’s no staining of house, landscaping of yard or working on art these days.  We’re eating lots of processed/prepared foods (too tired to cook!) and vegging out to TV.  What can you do?  We keep telling ourselves we’ll do better when we’re feeling better.

Anyhow, one of the movies available online through Netflix was No Impact Man.  I’ve heard of this guy several times before, most recently while reading “Sleeping Naked is Green: How an eco-cynic unplugged her fridge, sold her car, and found love in 366 days,” by Vanessa Farquharson (a cute book where she takes on a new green habit every day for a year and documents the trials and tribulations).

So of course, I queued the movie up!  My husband and I both enjoyed watching this family (really, it should have been called No Impact Family as his wife and daughter fully engage in the project) and seeing how they gave up electricity, made zero garbage and utilized their resources (they are in NYC which makes it convenient) and the surprising pushback they received.  And while David and I strive to live green and have made lots of changes in our lives (that could be a whole ‘nother blog post), we were inspired by the movie to do more.

Afterward, we came up with a list of some more things we’re going to try working on:

  • reducing processed and/or overly packaged foods (I need to get back to my DIY food experiments)
  • order worm composter – we’ve talked about it for over a year; now we’re ready
  • cancel all catalogs/junk mail and don’t renew the Sunday paper or any magazines
  • reduce plastic wherever we can – we already are conscious of this, but slip every now and then when we get a soda craving, as an example
  • use up bulk ingredients we have on hand and make more meals from scratch (I’ve slacked on this)
  • watch our energy usage and maybe start using candles some nights?
  • eat more vegetarian meals

In the movie, Colin – the No Impact Man – says that his goal is to get other people to think about their impact on the earth.  Generally speaking, he’s singing to the choir here, but he still reminded us to do more without being preachy.  I suggest you check it out (or the links above which take you to his site and blog, same for Vanessa’s).  He also has a book under the same name.  Check for his and Vanessa’s stuff at your local library!

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But the hummingbirds still came out to play!

We have a ton of hummingbirds around here and yet, I’d never seen one in person before moving to Colorado.  Now, they often duel to get to our feeder.  And on dreary days when the flowers are all closed up, they visit us that much more.

It’s only 45 degrees today and a chance of snow tonight!  Crazy weather I tell ya, but perfect for snuggling up under a blanket with flannel PJ’s when you’re fevered.  This unusually cold and wet weekend is a welcome reprive!

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Have the sickness, will make bows

So I have the crud…like I’ve never had in my adult years.  I used to get bronchitis/sinusitis all the time as a teen and in college (as in several times each year), but after that, my immune system got a bit stronger and I would get a bout once a year.  Since I left work and have been comfortably holed up in my mountain home, I didn’t get a cold at all this year and thought I escaped it (it’s June after all!).

Well David got it first and I’ve never him so sick before.  I seriously thought he had swine flu because his fever was so high, his chills so bad and throwing up is never good (doc said “the flu” is no longer around?).  So imagine my fear when I developed symptoms last Friday!  Luckily, I seem to have a wee bit lighter version than he developed and I swore I had strep throat in addition to my other symptoms, but when the culture came back negative and the doc just said, “it’s viral, you just have to wait it out,” I knew that it was all I could do.  So while it feels like I’m hacking up a lung and I’ll spare you the gory details of what I’m coughing up/blowing out of my nose, let’s just say its bad.  Real bad.

Though most days I’ve been miserable and trying to sleep lots (hard to do when it’s been really warm and we have no AC), some days I have a little more pep, though not enough to go into full crafting mode.  So I’ve been making bows.  The process is rhythmic, doesn’t require much energy and helped pass the time as I’m getting sick of TV.  So I have several dozen made.  Go figure!

Can’t wait to get better and back to the real artsy stuff.  For now, I’m reminding myself: Patience Grasshopper.

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Out with the old, in with the new(er)

This poor thing, could barely make it up our driveway and road with the gas pedal floored and was burning through gas (not-so-enviro-friendly anymore); was a ’99 and we were hoping we’d be able to keep it for another couple of years,  but alas, the green monster had to be put out to pasture:

If you're wondering where this picture was taken, it was on the road up to Mt. Evans, not too far from where we live - it has the highest road in the US (going up to 14,000+ feet in altitude!) and this is what the snow banks look like in May when they open up the roads!

But then we picked us this used beauty, great price, low miles and AWD which is a requirement where we live (looks like new, but no new vehicles had to be made for our purchase!  We even got out with a positive sales experience to boot – no smarmy car salesman to be had):

Yeah, yeah, I need to get weeding! Steps and yard are looking a bit rough!

Now if only we could usher out our colds! :)

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