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My eyes are bigger than my refrigerator. Right now it’s packed with greens and other fresh from the farm goodies. It was pretty stuffed for starters and then the first delivery of the CSA came. There seems to be a green market on every corner. It’s strawberry and rhubarb time. And the spinach is sweet and in season. If I truly want to eat local next winter shouldn’t I be starting to package and freeze some of that abundance. But I don’t feel like I have the time.

Everything in my life is shifting right now. My job. My kid’s school. My health insurance. My childcare solutions.  I feel like I’m walking on a rubber raft in the middle of the ocean, I have to work so hard to hold myself steady, otherwise I’m going to fall down flat and drown. No wonder I’m exhausted. I’m too tired to even write a proper blog. So instead here are a few random pieces of good new. Enjoy!

Random good news:

  •  They’re taking out the Styrofoam take out containers in CA! California Senate  has voted to ban Styrofoam containers  “Restaurants and other vendors will no longer be able to package food or drink in the material starting January 1, 2014.”  Hopefully this will be a trend the rest of the country will follow. via ecogeek http://www.ecogeek.org/preventing-pollution/3523
  • Paper straws! Today at Whole Foods I got an Agua Fresca and they gave me a paper straw. It was definitely a one slurp item. It got soggy by the time I was finished. But it wasn’t plastic, so who cares!
  • I’m getting my meat delivered!  I finally started to use the CSA extra section. I’ve been running around like a pastured chicken with it’s head cut off. And for some reason I didn’t realize I could get grass-fed beef right from my CSA via Lewis Wait  Farm. http://www.csalewiswaitefarm.com/default.aspx.  Next Tuesday, they will literally deliver my roast, steak and a dozen eggs practically to my doorstep. Ok, it’s across the street from my house. (Sorry Fleishers) I think I eliminated this option because the first time I investigated it felt expensive. But in reality, it’s very affordable. In fact, using London Broil as an example,  it’s cheaper than the Inwood Greenmarket by a few dollars a lb.
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I need to make another confession. I love potato chips. No, I mean I really love potato chips.  No offense to ramps and spinach and delicious spring strawberries, but super processed potato chips kick ass. Unfortunately, I’m not going to make a case for how potato chips are healthy or particularly sustainable. (They are not!) I’m just going to point out that sometimes (albeit very occasionally) I buy them — and other foods that come in industrial grade plastic bags.

When I first started to look at the garbage my food was making I cut out a lot of processed convenience products. I cut out cereal barsin  their shiny mylar wrappers. I cut out boxed macaroni and cheese. I cut out all frozen fruits and veggies. I cut out packaged cereals. I cut out packaged snack foods like pretzels and tortilla chips. Then life kicked in and I had to bring some of it back. So now, we have packaged snack foods about once a month – mostly pretzels or corn chips, and occasionally we even have potato chips.  And, after a few disasters with granola, we brought back cereal.

I flip between organic packaged cereals that have boxes and non-organic bagged cereal that claim to be greener and the super sugary EnviroKids brand, which if you buy in a bag is both.

Ironically, we have been taught to toss the plastic bags that come from industrially packed food. But in reality, those bags are tough. They are way more reliable that Ziploc bags. And with the help of a simple office clip, they are just as reusable.

I reuse the milky plastic bags from cereal, frozen vegetable bags, Ziploc bags other people give my kids snacks in. Basically, if it’s not greasy or been used for raw chicken, I use it again.

The beauty of those industrial bags is that they are strong. The cereal bags in particular are great. They are durable, clean to start and very versatile. I use them to the freezer and they are particularly great to use to pack for picnics.

One day I will wean the kiddies off the boxed cereal (today B ate my homemade Muesli!) but until that happens, the least I can do is keep the garbage out of the landfill for as long as possible.

Chicken crossing

It started with a quest for an egg. Not just any egg, a Knoll Crest Farms egg.

Knoll Crest Farms has been my go-to egg farmer since I went local. In a world where everything is confusing and difficult –it’s local, it’s organic, will it make garbage, when can I get it — the Knoll Crest Farm eggs are my simple solution. They are pastured and local and I can get them every week in Inwood.

Probably my first case of sustainable sticker shock was around the cost of pastured eggs. When you think about how often places like Target give eggs away for free, $4.50 a dozen seems pretty exorbitant. My friend Cathy, also a Knoll Crest Farms enthusiast always said that she got her eggs upstate for less  – I thought she had meant at the farm. So when she invited us upstate for a Memorial Day barbecue I knew I had to make a visit to the actual Knoll Crest Farm .

On Saturday, when we went to the farmers market I stopped by the Knoll Crest stand.

“We’re going upstate tomorrow,” I told the man who gives me eggs every week.

“Oh good,” he said

They were out of eggs but I didn’t care, I knew I would get them tomorrow. He told me that the farm upstate had a store. And we smiled a lot, feeling all warm and fuzzy about my visit to his farm.

Sunday morning, we were packing to go upstate. I forgot to check the egg carton for the address. No worries, I thought, we’ll google the address from the car. It sounded like a pretty good plan but it turns out when we googled them two locations showed up.

One of the farms was very close to Cathy’s house. We called, but no one answered. Since it was on the way, we figured we’d stop by. We turned off a country road and drove up a sloping road winding around the bend til we saw a sign that said “Chicken Crossing.” It was kitsch and cute but clearly faded hanging on by a proud thread  on to a  weathered and locked down farm red building. Across the overgrown road, a line of broken down chicken coups but no chickens. We drove to the end of the road, and turned the car around in a dead-end between a graceful sweeping country house and a swamp.

“Maybe that’s where the egg farmer’s live?” one of the kids said.

Maybe. But I figured we must have gone to the wrong address. But as we drove back toward the main road, we stopped to ask a man washing his car about Knoll Crest Farm.

“Oh yes,”  he said, “that’s a working farm up there. Just up the road.”

“It looked closed,” I said.

“No,” he said, “it’s a real working farm.”

We turned the car around and drove back to the chicken crossing sign. This time we got out of the car.

The kids were anxious as John and I started down the overgrown road.

“I don’t think we should do  this,” B said, “his is like that movie Spirited Away.”

“Don’t eat anything,” Z cried, “I don’t want you to turn into pigs.”

As we rounded the bend we approached a large structure with a big garden in the back. Chicken were moving freely between the building and the fenced in yard with a garden. It was not super pretty but it was clearly working.

The not-prettiness of it sort of got to me.

“What did you think mom, the chickens were going to live in some fairytale.”

“Like Mother Goose?” John added.

I didn’t say anything, but I thought, shit yes. But happy chickens don’t necessarily have to look like storybook chickens.

We walked back up the hill and the dirt road led us back to the main road. We got in the car next to the “Chicken Crossing” sign and drove off the Memorial Day Barbecue.

Monday morning, we ate breakfast at the Schultzville General Store. Turns out that’s where Cathy gets her eggs. At $2.85 a dozen, they were a bargain. As I put my score of three dozen eggs into my cooler to drive them back to the city, I thought about those scruffy chickens. They were clearly happy. And that morning, so was I.

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My memorial weekend plans are a little up in the air — I know we will be heading upstate at some point, but not sure when or where. I do know that we will be heading toward my  my fellow blogger and friend Cathy of What Cathy Eat place for a memorial day party. Can’t wait to enjoy some of Cathy’s delicious heart – healthy recipes – without having to do the cooking.

Somewhere in my rambling I was planning on stopping at Fleisher’s in Kingston – partly to pick up a few packs of their yummy hot dogs for the BBQ, but also just to pick up some meat for the freezer. We haven’t had bacon for a long while and I am still salivating over the roast I bought from them for New Years.

But starting in the fall, I will be able to go south for my pilgrimage to my favorite sustainable butcher.  Fleisher’s Meats just announced they will be opening a store on 5th Ave in Park Slope (right across from Bierkraft) next fall.  I wasn’t surprised, co-founder Josh Applestone’s grandfather was a Brooklyn boy — according to the site — the original Fleisher’s Meats founded by Wolf Fleisher was located in Kensington at what we believe was 4159 18th Ave.

Hey Josh and Jessica, haven’t you heard that Washington Heights is the Park Slope of Manhattan? If you’re looking to open another metro NYC location, can we be next?

For more info on Fleishers in Brooklyn check out this article  on Eater. com and this Village Voice blog ForkintheRoad.

This Saturday, the day the world was supposed to end, was bright and lush and green. The sun was out and the city glowed, gilded like the crown on Jesus in a medieval text. We drove past happy tourists walking from the Cloisters as we made our way toward the green market in Inwood. It was 11:40 and I was barely paying attention to the gorgeous weather. I was so focused on getting there before the compost truck left. I’d missed the market last week, opting for a disappointing trip to Fairways instead.  Fairway’s has affordable grass-fed milk, bulk 7-grain cereal and roasted on the premises coffee and potato chips – a special treat for B’s 11th birthday sleepover.  The cart was packed by check out.  As I was scooping sunflower seeds from the bulk bin (which I didn’t need by the way) a woman sampling super expensive organic skin cream said, “You win for the healthiest cart of the day.”

“Really?”  I asked. “You can’t see the potato chips and pretzels under the mushrooms.”

“Even still, “ she said, “You win. It’s a little game I play to pass the time. I only tell the people who are in the winners circle,” she added with a little smile.

Fairway’s has what I need, more or less, but it’s such an unpleasant experience. Hellish, you might even say. It’s crowded and everyone always is in a bad mood. The people who work there (except the olive oil guy who is knowledgeable and very helpful) and the people shopping crammed together in the tight aisles. The butcher told me that no there were no Murray’s Chickens without Styrofoam. And he was clearly annoyed that I was bothering him. He didn’t have to say,  “You want it or not?” I could hear it in his tone. Thanks but no thanks.

The market Saturday morning, on the other hand felt like a paradise. After we dropped off the compost, I noticed one of the farmer’s from last summer was back. I was overwhelmed by the abundance of gorgeous spinach, mustard greens. parsnips and radishes. I was overwhelmed with the choice. I literally felt bowled over. We bought honey and buckwheat and leeks and tons of greens.  We bought buttermilk and yogurt from Hawthorne Valley Farms. B picked out 7 cups of lemon-flavored yogurt which on special cost $7.50. At Whole Foods, Stonyfield Farms costs about $1.25 cup. I said to the man, “I don’t want you to raise the price, but you might want to make a sign that point out your special makes you competitive with the grocery store.”

Z went off to play in the “woods.” It’s what they call the wooded hill next to the market. Normally, there are a handful of kids they know from the neighborhood or school zipping up and down the path and playing games with sticks.  B stayed with me to help me carry the groceries – a chore that was paid with a cider donut. B and I chuckled as we passed the grass-fed beef vendor at the top of the market, next to the organic bakers. At the bottom of his chalkboard he wrote: “Check out our end of the world specials!”

Since it was Saturday, May 20, everyone was talking about the Harold Ramping and his predictions of the rapture. The word was out and people were talking. It’s no wonder. According to Jack Kinsella on a website called Raptureready.com:

“Camping’s supporters have shelled out millions of dollars to advertise the Rapture, including financing some twenty-two HUNDRED billboards proclaiming the Rapture on May 21st.”

As we say in the business, good advertising works. Ridiculous? Well, we are still here, so yes.

But I kept thinking Saturday, as we made jokes about how the end of the world hadn’t happened, that I am actually the same as these doomsayers. Except what I am worried about has nothing to do with God’s words. It has to do with pollution and global warming and destruction of our natural resources like water.  And sometimes if feels a lot like faith, my believe that my religious trips to the farmers market, my composting, riding my bike instead of driving and my being obsessed with not making garbage will save us.

It’s ironic that so many were willing to believe the world will end based on the word of a radio preacher, when so many in the Christian right actually believe that global warming is a hoax.

If the Christian right wants an apocalypse, unfortunately unless we start to make some tough choices and change how we behave, we’ve got one coming.

Want a quick overview of whose doing a really good job at spinning the global warming is a hoax fairytale, check out this Rolling Stone Article — 12 Executives and Politicians Blocking Progress on Global Warming.

Here’s the list:

1. Robert Murdoch,  CEO News Organization
2. Charles and David Koch,  CEO and Executive VP, Koch Industries
3. Sarah Palin
4. Gregory Boyce, CEO Peabody Energy
5. Tom Donahue, President US Chamber of Commerce
6. Rex Tillerson, CEO ExxonMobil
7. Tim Philipps, President, Americans for Prosperity
8. Ken Guccinelli,  Attorney General,
Virginia
9. Senator Jay Rockefeller, Democrat, West Virginia
10. Rep. Darrell Issa, Republican California
11. Bjorn Lomborg, Author “Cool It”
12. Rep. Fred Upton, Michigan

The weather hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been good enough. The weather is no real excuse. The truth is,  I’ve been procrastinating getting back into riding my bike to work habit. But luckily, lots of other people are better at sustaining this great habit. This month is National Bike to Work Month. This week is National Bike To Work Week. And tomorrow, May 20, is National Bike to Work Day!

I’m working from home, but I pledge to get my tires filled and set to make the trek from the heights to midtown next week!

According to National bike commuter data, provided by the American Community Survey, lots more Americans are biking to work – a whopping 44 percent increase over the past 10 years. According to 2009 American Community Survey — Bike Commuter Data, New York is not doing bad as a city of bikers. In 2009, an estimated 22,619 bikers made up of 0.6% of commuters. 75% of these free-wheelers were men and  25% were woman. I’m sure the number has gone up in the last two years.

The number of bikers is about to go up in our household, too. I scored 3 new old bikes from my father’s shed over the last two weeks.

The red bike in the front is a vintage Schwinn racer. So rusty. So cool. It was my brothers when he was in high school. (If you’re reading this David, you can’t have it back!) The two ten speeds belonged to me and my dad. The gold one was the bike I took to Nova Scotia on an American Youth Hostel Bike Trip when I was 16. It’s inconceivable to me now that my mother sent me off to another country at 16. Remember kiddies, we didn’t have cell phones back then. Early on in the trip, the bike leader got hit by a car. We were somewhere outside of Portland Maine. That left eight 16-year-old’s on our own in a campground in Acadia. We were ridiculously boring while we waited unsupervised for our new group leader.

The white bike was my fathers. It’s the bike he was riding the day he stopped to help some lady find her husbands finger. The guy had accidentally cut it off mowing the lawn. My father helped locate it and put it on ice. Then his wife rushed it to the hospital. (Yes, we made jokes about the guy my father gave the finger to.)

Sure, now these dusty, rusty relics are crowding up B’s room. But soon we will all be able to hit the bike path along the river and in Central Park. Maybe National Bike Month will morph into Family Bike Summer. Sounds pretty good to me.

The first foreign word I ever really learned was poubelle. I was 22 on a bus from Paris to Athens. It was the year after I had graduated from college and my college roommate and I met in France two days before Christmas. She was studying in Poitiers. I was about to start 6 months of backpacking across Europe.  It was before there were cell phones, and since we weren’t sure exactly when my plane would get in, we had a plan to meet in front of the Eiffel tower, every hour on the hour until we met up. Miraculously we found each other. We didn’t have a plan, just a map and desire to go somewhere sunny. We opened the map and found the most southern place a bus could take us. That’s how we ended up on a 2 day bus trip to Athens.

By the time I rode that bus, I had already taken years of high school Spanish. I had even had a few semesters of college French. So poubelle wasn’t the first bit of foreign language that had been put in my head. It was the first word I discovered on my own.

I learned poubelle from a little girl. She was maybe two and she was sitting in the front of the bus with her mother. I think we were somewhere in Italy when I remember hearing her chirp the word, which despite it’s meaning, was melodious and lovely. She repeated the word over and over in her tiny baby voice, which only made it more charming waving the wrapper from a piece of gum in the air. Finally, her mother brought the trash can over and she deposited it with delight. That’s when it clicked in my head. Poubelle means garbage. And making that connection – learning that word – changed how I understood and come to use language in a fundamental way. It was, as they say in the dusty halls of academia, a seminal moment.

Twenty years later, its slightly ironic that garbage has become a pivotal point in my day-to-day life. I think about the world in terms of the garbage I am making. Garbage no longer has a fixed meaning. And some things that used to be garbage are now something else. (I’ll go into details in the next few posts)

When I first started to think about eating sustainably, I watched the documentary No Impact Man and I kept every bit of garbage I couldn’t recycle or compost. Even though I was being so mindful about what I consumed, the amount of refuse I created was overwhelming.  That image of the pile of plastic and Styrofoam, I couldn’t recycle has stuck with me. So for me, limiting the amount of garbage I create ( and goes into the landfill) seems a very tangible and visible way to reduce my impact on the world.

Now, although I do throw some things out, I am very careful. And in my household I have some guidelines I’ve developed to help minimize the amount of trash that gets put in the landfill. Over the next few days (or weeks) I’m going to outline what I do. But here’s my quick top five list.

  1. Think about whether it will make garbage before you buy it.
  2. Don’t assume it should go in the garbage.(This means batteries and electronics but also the amazing things I have come to reuse)
  3. Don’t buy stuff that comes packages.(I’m not always good at this, but I do.)
  4. Compost food scraps
  5. Don’t take the plastic bags. (That means in the grocery store, at lunch, for the bag of apples –wherever they try to pawn those suckers off on you!)

Note: This is part of the That’s How We Do It: 2011 series of blogs which give a top line overview of the “sustainable basics” or measures I am taking to live sustainably in NYC.

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