CSA Update- Week 1

When I received my first delivery from Boston Organics I didn’t think there was that much in the box.  I had ordered the smallest box after all.  It included the following:

  • 2 zucchini
  • 4 apples
  • 1 bag of carrots
  • 1 head of lettuce
  • 2 kiwi
  • 2 bananas
  • 1 avocado
  • 2 pears
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 lemon

“No problem” I thought.  I can get through all of this in a week.  Well, I was wrong.  I gave the carrots to a friend, had another friend over for dinner and ate more fruit than usual, and still had a lot left by Wednesday afternoon (the day before my second delivery)  I found myself scrambling.  What would I do with a full head of lettuce, 2 zucchini, a cucumber and a lemon?

Thank goodness for the internet and a comment from a CSA savvy friend who had made a comment about lettuce soup a few weeks ago.  Lettuce soup you say?  Yes, lettuce soup.  Sounds pretty terrible, but tastes surprisingly good!  A quick Google search brought me to a recipe that sounded pretty straight forward.   The result was a green soup that tasted like a combination of potato and cream of brocolli.  As I said, tasty.   Okay, the lettuce was taken care of so I moved on the zucchini.  A quick and delicious batch of zucchini bread fixed that problem.

Next I had to figure out how to eat all of this soup and zucchini bread since my next veggie box had arrived! Well another friend over for dinner solved the soup problem, and zucchini bread freezes well.   Hopefully this will be the last time I face this problem since  I cut down my order frequency to every other week…

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My Green Gurus

Well its been about a week since my last post, but I have a good excuse.  My aunt and uncle were in from out of town and I had the pleasure of hosting them and showing them my version of Boston.  In addition to the Arnold Arboretum and the Mt. Auburn cemetery, we went to Harvard’s Museum of Natural History to see the glass flower exhibit and took a day trip to the Cape.  It was a great visit!

It was also a good test of my “greenness” since my aunt and uncle have been doing the green/sustainability thing since before it had a name.   In fact they are my green gurus, and much of what I know about sustainability I learned from them as a child, when my sisters and I spent summers with them.

They live on the West Coast in an area that was very rural until very recently, and was filled mostly with hippie transplants from other places when they got there in the early 1970’s.  They built their first home themselves, and lived there for years without running water or electricity.  Only after the birth of their second child did they move to a modest home on a small farm with a well and a septic system.  They reuse, recycle or compost almost everything.  They grow their own fruits and vegetables, raise their own chickens and sheep, and drive a hybrid.  Their washing machine is a front loader and their hot water heater is tankless.

Because they live on a farm with only well water, they are extremely conscious of their water consumption.  They were the first to introduce me to the concept of “If its yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.”  As a city kid I was horrified that there were people who didn’t flush the toilet every time they used it, and quite frankly even today I would rather save water in other ways.  I also couldn’t understand their obsession with shutting off the lawn sprinklers, until they were accidentally left on one night and we didn’t have water for a couple of days.

So when they asked if they could stay with me I was very excited to show them how much of what they had taught me I actually adopted.  The first thing I did when they arrived was give them the eco tour of my apartment, pointing out the counter top compost container, the compost bin the yard, the organic milk, eggs and vegetables in the fridge, the bowl filled with organic fruit on the dining room table, the CF light bulbs.  I was a little nervous.  Would they approve?  Had I done enough?

Overall, I think they were happy with what I had done, but my uncle pointed out my areas of improvement.  He followed me around the house shutting off lights that I had left on, and suggested that I put all of my electrical appliances on power strips and turn off the power strips when the appliances aren’t in use.   I thought those were great suggestions for next steps.  I have a long way to go before I get to their level of greeness, and I don’t ever picture myself living without plumbing and electricity. (To be fair though, at this point neither do they.   I think we would all agree that  home powered fully by wind and solar would be nice. )

I feel very lucky to have had them as such a strong influence in my life.  Everyone should have such great mentors to help walk them down the path to a green life!

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It’s Maple Sugar Time

A couple of weeks ago a blog post came through on TreeHugger talking about the effect of climate change on the maple syrup industry in the Northeast.  According to the post, tree migration, warmer weather in the winter months and shorter “cold recharge cycles” are to blame.  I would like to add severe weather to the list, since Western Massachusetts was hit with a huge ice storm this year, which devastated trees of all kinds and also devastated the maple syrup industry in Massachusetts.

These developments are really sad, and upset me on a very personal level.  Every year a group of girlfriends and I make the trek to Western Mass or Southern Vermont for our annual “Maple Weekend.”  We have a core group of five, and periodically there are guest appearances by other friends or family members.  This year we had our first outing with a baby, when one of my friends brought her 8 month old daughter for her first maple experience.

Regardless of the destination, the trip consists of making the rounds from one sugar shack to the next.  This year we had a light year, visiting only 3 or 4 shacks on our one day outing.  In past years we’ve done two day trips  and visit up to 5 shacks per day.  We even have a theme song that we listen to as the expedition gets under way (courtesy of BV): “Maple Syrup Time” by Moxy Fruvous (a cover of a Pete Seger song).

Red Bucket Sugar Shack

Red Bucket Sugar Shack (That's steam from boiling the maple sap!)

The one thing that all of the shacks we visit has in common is that they boil their own syrup, other than that they are very different.  We usually start the day at a shack that serves a solid breakfast complete with all the maple syrup you can eat.  One year we went to a place where they gave out shots of maple syrup.  Yumm!!!

Next we move on to a place with maple cotton candy and maple roasted nuts.  They even have maple kettle corn.  After a couple of additional stops we end the day at Scary Jerry’s, where they make the most amazing maple bakes beans, cole slaw and sugar on snow (you guessed it, maple syrup served over actual snow).  You can only imagine what its like in the car home with 5 of us all hopped up on  maple sugar!

The sign inside Scary Jerry's

The sign inside "Scary Jerry's"

This weekend is one that I look forward to every year, and the years that I have missed have been very sad for me.  I can’t imagine what it would be like if the maple industrydisappeared from New England.  While I would be sad for myself and my friends, I would be even more sad for the people who have dedicated their lives to maintain this age- old tradition.  I don’t think any of them are getting rich as it is, and if they didn’t have maple sugar to rely on for income, I’m not sure what they would do for work.  The areas they live in are quite rural and I don’t think there is much opportunity for work outside agri-tourism.

In the meantime, I plan to do my part to stop climate change by buying local and supporting these great entrepreneurs!  Here are some of our favorites:

New Favorite This Year:

Hanging Mountain Farm
(and they are open year round)(Amazing Oatmeal & Egg Bake)

413-527-0710

188 North Rd, Westhampton, MA 01027
hangingmountainfarms.com

Old Stand Bys:

South Face Farm Sugarhouse

755 Watson-Spruce Corner Road
Ashfield, MA 01330

413-628-3268
http://www.southfacefarm.com/

Red Bucket Sugar Shack

413-238-7710

584 Kinnebrook Rd, Worthington, MA 01098
(great variety of products including kettle corn and cotton candy)

Windy Hill Farm (Scary Jerry’s)
West St, Worthington, MA 01098
(savory lunch stop and Sugar On Snow)

High Hopes Sugarhouse
413-238-5919

1132 Huntington Rd, Worthington, MA
(don’t eat her but stop for the photos)

Happy mapling!

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Now I know what to do with my old cell phone…

Last Fall I was doing some organizing around the house and found three or four old cell phones.  I knew I shouldn’t put them in the trash, but really wasn’t sure what else to do with them.  I had heard that you could donate them to charities but wasn’t sure how to do that.   A few weeks later, a friend sent me a link to the Women’s Funding Network, a group that connects over 130 organizations that fund women’s initiatives globally.  Areas covered are include health, human rights and education.

The group has a list of online actions that people can take to help the cause of women and girls across the globe.  One of these actions is donating your old cell phones.  Great!  I went to the page where you can request a mailer and filled in my information.  Within a few days a self-addressed, postage paid box was delivered to my door.  Now I had to find enough cell phones to fill it!

I had a few cell phones of my own, but that was not nearly enough to fill the box.  I spoke to the IT department at work.  They were in the process of upgrading Blackberries, and were able to contribute several additional phone to the box.  It’s been a few months and my collection efforts have stalled a bit.  I’ve decided to pack up what I have and sent it off tomorrow.  A dozen phones saved from the landfill are better than none!

If you decide to request a mailer, I would suggest the envelope rather than the box, unless you have a huge amount of phones to donate.  I have about 12 in the box and it is not even close to being full.  Happy recycling!

cell_phone_recycling

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Organic Fruits and Vegetable Delivered Right to Your Door

Home delivery service for organic fruits and vegetables has to be a good thing, right?  I’m not entirely sure…

Yesterday I signed up for Boston Organics, a local service which does home delivery of organic fruits, vegetables and other products.  I found out about the service at the D2E Expo I went to a couple of weekends ago.  Seems like a great idea and was reasonably priced.  How can it be bad, right?

Well I was feeling very proud of myself after signing up and updated my Facebook status with the following:

“Just signed up for Boston Organics. What’s better than organic fruit and vegetables delivered to your door?”

Here are some of the comments I got:

“be careful – it is a good thing for a few weeks and then suddenly you are trapped in your apartment by kale and strange citrus fruits which seem to be multiplying in your refrigerator every time you turn your back on them!!! Or I guess I could actually cook my deliveries…”

“I agree with the comment above – you hit a certain point where you get strangely psychotic when faced with yet more vegetables, and you do crazy things like holding a giant parsnip to your forehead to be a vegetable unicorn! No….more….veggies…..”

Now I’m a little scared.  I ordered the smallest box available, so let’s hope I’m not over-run with produce.  I’ll also have some out of town guests next week, who will hopefully help me eat all the veggies.  I guess if it’s too much I can cut down to every other week.  I’ll have to wait and see.

My first delivery is next Thursday.  Wish me luck!

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Cultural Differences

I kind of take it for granted that in this day and age everyone recycles.  I take the time to separate out all of my glass, plastic, paper and aluminum.  I even compost.  However, it’s become very clear to me recently that not everyone does.  It seems that there are what can only be described as “cultural differences.”

This became abundantly clear to me in regards to the women who clean my house.  Over the time that they have worked for me, I have noticed more than once that my recycling has ended up in a trash bag and left neatly by the door for me to take out to the trash cans outside.  When I catch the error, I take the recycling out of the trash bag and put it back in the recycling bin.  I’m rarely home when they come to clean, so there is little opportunity to talk to them about it in person and even if I did I’m not sure I could convey my point effectively because English is not their first language, and it is the only language I speak .  Instead, I remain vigilant and rescue the recycling whenever possible.

The situation reached a new level of ridiculousness last week.  I (finally) purchased a counter-top compost container, lined it with a biodegradable plastic bag, and diligently collected my food scraps to be taken out to the compost bin in the backyard. I forgot that the cleaning people were coming that day, and so therefore didn’t take out the compost before they got there.  When I was cooking dinner later that night I went to put some food scraps in the compost container and realized that it had been emptied and in place of my food scraps was a fresh, bio-bag.  Ughh!  Then the search began.  I opened the trash bag left neatly next to the door to find all of my compost scraps neatly tied  up in their bio-bag.  I pulled  them out and took them straight to the compost bin in the backyard.  Ordinarily I don’t like picking through the trash, but this time it was fine since the only other “trash” in the bag was my paper recycling!

I can only imagine how this must all appear to the cleaning ladies.  They probably think I am so lazy that I can’t be bothered to put the trash in the trash can, even though it is right next to the recycling bin.  Either that, or they think I have some strange hoarding disorder where I must compulsively stack all of the wire hangers in a little caddy (to be returned to the dry cleaner, and yes this has ended up in the trash bag, too).

A friend suggested that I put labels in their native language on the recycling and compost, asking the cleaning people not to touch them.  I think that’s a great idea.  A simple, yet brilliant solution that I wish I had thought of myself.  We’ll see if that helps to  overcome our cultural differences!

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Times, They are A Changin’

A few days ago I wrote about my experience last Fall trying to find a contractor that could source green materials.  I figured that my experience would be the same while dealing with caterers for my father’s upcoming birthday bash.  I’m glad I was wrong!

My father is turning 80, and we want to celebrate in style.  My mother decided that we should throw him a big party and invite everyone my father cares about and who cares about him.  We’re renting a place and getting outside caterers, which is way more effort than my family has put into any party in a long time!  My job is to work with the caterer to handle all of the logistics.

I called the caterer my mom chose this morning.  We were discussing table linens and dishes and she gave me my options: china or premium plastic.  Hmmm.  China is more fancy than we need for this party, but I just can’t in good conscience order the plastic.  I mentioned this to the caterer, and started talking about other options.  Unlike the contractors I dealt with for my home repairs, her response was “Wait, there is another option. There’s stuff that’s, um, what’s the word that starts with a C?” “Compostable?” I ask.  “Yes!” she says. “We’ve had some vendors come in to talk to us about them.  Let me talk to my boss and see what we can do.”

I can’t tell you how happy I was!  Having a little more time on my hands these days, I was ready to source the plates and cups myself.  (A simple Google search returned several vendors including:  www.ecowise.com, www.MyGreenSupply.com. and www.biodegradablestore.com.) However,  it was a great surprise to find I didn’t have to.  Next time I talk to her, I’m going to bring up using only organic, locally grown produce.  We’ll see how she handles that.  Based on our plate conversation, I’m very optimistic.

Times they are a changin’!

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