Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Then one day, they just weren't around much. We gave it a day or two and then checked the house. Sure enough, a well built nest was inside, but nothing else.We promptly cleaned out the nest (under instruction from the lady at Birds Unlimited) so mama and papa could start all over again.
And...they got right back to it. All day long, bringing nesting materials into the house. I'd love to be able to get a camera inside to see how they do it. Hopefully next time we'll get to see the babies!
Friday, May 15, 2009
There is a lot of peace once you let go....
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Who's afraid of a little organic garden?
By Barbara Damrosch, published Thursday, May 7, 2009 in The Washington Post
It seems like a pretty innocent idea, doesn't it? Planting an organic vegetable garden in your yard so that your kids can eat fresh, nutritious, safe food. But now that Michelle Obama has gone and done it, big agriculture is terrified that we'll all follow her example. First came a letter addressed to her from the Mid America CropLife Association, which represents the chemical fertilizer and pesticide industries, urging the first lady to give "conventional" agriculture equal time. One of the authors separately told association members that the thought of an organic garden at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. made her "shudder." And an industrial agriculture media group, CropLife, started an online letter-writing campaign to encourage Obama to use synthetic pesticides, euphemistically called "crop protection products," which her effort seemed to impugn.
Such a response might seem comical if it did not highlight so clearly the fear these industries try to inspire to convince us that our world would crumble without them. The association's letter asked Obama, "If Americans were still required to farm to support their family's basic food and fiber needs, would the U.S. have been leaders in the advancement of science, communication, education, medicine, transportation and the arts?" It goes on to explain that nobody has time to grow their own food. The message: Leave food production to the experts.
The fact is, Americans are planting peas, carrots and potatoes in surging numbers, partly out of economic necessity and partly out of dissatisfaction with the nation's commercial food supply. And a lot of these new gardeners are using organic methods. The Obamas' garden is a great example to follow, but it's also just a sign of the times.
Maybe the pesticide ads, with their military rhetoric, aren't working anymore. Perhaps gardeners are taking a wait-and-see attitude about stocking their sheds with an arsenal of poisons. What if we staged a war against the beetles and the caterpillars and it turned out there were no weapons of mass destruction to be found, only the odd nibbling pest here and there to pick off and squish? What if we found that well-rotted manure and homemade compost, patterned on the natural world's fertility program, grew plants better than something sold in a bottle? When gardeners nurture the life in their soil by keeping it free of harsh products that might imperil it, they often find that there is nothing they have to buy except for a few seeds. That's dangerous knowledge.
The great dark secret is that nature is generous and determined to make plants grow. Much of how this happens is still a mystery and a worthy study for our country's best scientific minds. It is also a worthy subject for you, and if you are naturally curious you can learn a lot from your garden. Meanwhile, grow some tomatoes. You're in charge.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
A few years ago, a friend whose family loves chow-mein hotdish and Cheez-its asked me what three things she could do to better her family's diet without triggering a lot of grumbling. She was clear: she was not ready to take on the whole pantry, and neither was her family. Sound familiar? She knew that if she felt overwhelmed, the changes wouldn't stick. But three things seemed reasonable to her. After talking more about her food buying habits and priorities, we came up with this: Buy high quality chicken. Get organic milk. Shop at the farmers market when you can. Now, we live in Minnesota, where small-scale farmers make good meat and quality milk readily available, but the growing season is short. Other places in the country will have a different list of logical first steps. My LH colleagues, for example, live on the Central Coast of California, where gorgeous fresh veggies are available almost year round, but meat and dairy from small farms is a little harder to come by. For people there, just committing to shop at the farmers market or to join a CSA would bring local foods into their diets much of the year. Another regional difference concerns food preservation: neither my colleagues in California nor my friends in the South spend much time canning and freezing. Here in Minnesota, we do, because that is the way to enjoy local produce in the long winter. Getting to know what grows well in your state - and when - is a valuable part of your education as a locavore.
As you begin to dig more deeply into your region's specialties, you will find that some of these cost more money than their anonymous counterparts at the supermarket. If you are one of the many Americans experiencing real financial distress, this may dissuade you from choosing them. But it is important to remember that there are ways to work around price if you have some flexibility in your food budget. For example, you might choose to buy high quality meat and cheese, but eat it less often, and instead eat more lower-cost whole foods like grains, beans, and in-season produce. Check out the LH blog for a close-up look at the home economics of my family's local foods-based diet. Finally, it pays to remember that for most human beings, change is difficult. Food is so fundamental to our sense of well-being that changes in that arena may be met with a lot of resistance. If that is the case in your house, go slowly and look for small windows of opportunity. For example, enjoy lots of local strawberries when they are in their glory. If you can, go out to the farm and have fun picking some of your own. Really pay attention to how good - and how different - they are. Acclimate your taste buds and over time your family may decide that the local ones are worth waiting for. You may even decide to throw a few bags of berries into the freezer for later. And you're on your way...
In sum: Start with whole foods. Don't make it too hard. Study your region's agricultural strengths, and play up to them. Look for ways to be creative with your budget. Be gentle with your self and your family as you try out new habits. Do these things, and you will set yourself up for a highly satisfying adventure in local eating, and a deeper connection to your food.