Monday, May 31, 2010

not forbidden, just forgotten

If we are planting our tomatoes, can apple season be far away?

Here in Sonoma County the gravensteins appear in early August, around the same time that the tomatoes are going full out. Slow Food Russian River has a project to protect the grav, a traditional variety, the best for sauce many of us think. And Slow Food USA, through it's Recovering America's Food Traditions (RAFT) initiative has declared 2010 the year of the heirloom apple.

A very cursory web search did not result in much more information than this - just a lot of opinions about down with Red Delicious, and up with apple variety. I'm rather inclined to say down with Fuji, too - at least based on a taste comparison I did in the fall. They aren't as insipid as the pointy red ones, but they aren't very exciting either, and they seem to be taking over.

What can we do? the best thing would seem to be to plan to seek out local varieties of apples this year at farmers' markets and maybe even in others' back yards! I'm inspired to see if we might not plant (not now!) a rare apple variety or two in the communal area of our community garden.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Just cutting and pasting a heads-up

Faith and Global Hunger Series
A 65th Anniversary media initiative of Day1 in partnership with the United Nations Millennium Campaign and others. In this series of Day1 broadcasts, airing June 13, 20, 27 and July 4, 2010, prominent leaders link faith to the challenge of global hunger, and advocate action via support of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). A special capstone broadcast on Sept. 12 featuring President Jimmy Carter will address the global Millennium Development Goals Review Summit Sept. 20-22 at the United Nations.

Seeding a better future for Haiti

In researching more articles for my fall CALL course on food, faith and sustainability,
I ran across this article on Civil Eats
raising five questions about Monsanto's seed donations to Haiti.

Clearly, now more than ever, energy and resources must go into rebuilding Haitian agriculture for sustainability in the long term. Emergency food aid now and food sovereignty for the long term need to be the goals - not another layer of dependency on imported inputs.

What puzzles me is that the Presbyterian church supports the development of a Haitian seed bank, while Catholic Relief and the American Jewish World Service are advocating aid that fosters local solutions. But where is the Episcopal Church? lame on sustainable agriculture issues again?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Useful guide to gardening and climate change

There isn't much new here, especially for those who have been gardening with an eye toward environmental impacts and sustainability, but it's a great summary of the things one can do to lessen a garden's contribution to climate change.

From the Union of Concerned Scientists

Nestle and deforestation

Maybe it's because Darwin was so fascinated by that orangutan in the London Zoo - but I could get obsessive about the excesses of deforestation for the sake of palm oil and what it's doing for our cousin the redheaded ape.

So here's some good news from Nestle, which is taking the pledge to stop supporting deforestation. Because of their size and scope, when Nestle does the right thing, or even just begins to, it is big news.

Wouldn't a zero deforestation footprint for every food producer be wonderful?

Haitian Sustainability

What a good idea - a way to contribute to long term development in Haiti, and a positive way to counter the actions of Monsanto, which by some reports is using the current crisis to create a market for its GM seeds in Haiti.

What, exactly, do they think Haitians are going to use to pay Monsanto's prices?

But by contributing to get locally appropriate open pollinated corn and bean seeds to Haitian farmers, you improve local food security this season, and support long term development of food sovereignty in Haiti.

I just wish this web site had more links that actually worked and more information. And I wonder why, if the Presbyterian Church is a partner in this effort, Episcopal Relief and Development is not?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

350 Challenge Reflections

I'm in danger of forgetting what I did, observed and learned last weekend if I don't write a note about it soon!

The 350 garden challenge - planting 350 water wise food gardens in Sonoma County last weekend - was a great success by all measures. I haven't been to IGrow site this week to see how many registered, but last time I checked it was pushing 600, and I know from my own experience that the number of gardens and projects was more than those listed.

I was pretty pleased that my little initiative went well. I potted and delivered 11 tomato plants to elders at the two senior mobile home parks nearest Thanksgiving Lutheran where the garden is. People seemed really appreciative. Some were inexperienced or claimed black thumbs, while others make a habit of growing tomatoes on their patios. I typed up an instruction sheet for those to whom growing a tomato, or growing one in a container, is unfamiliar, and gave them my phone number. It will be interesting to see if I get any sos's - or reports of success as the season develops.

It was great that all the materials were donated. I did buy a couple of cages, but the pots, plants and mix did not cost me anything. I'm still kicking myself that I did not bring my camera to Country mhp on Fulton - the office manager loaded up the potted plants in his golf cart to take them around to the folks who had ordered them. It was a lovely neighborly sight. Best, of course, is that I carried forward my Dad's tradition of supplying potted tomato plants to folks who would like a real tomato at their back door.

The other project I was involved in was moving the berm at TLC. This will be our commons - for berries and pollinator attractants, etc. I did take some photos, and will see if any are worth posting. I think this summer we will just load this raised area up with compost and plant it to the roaming cucurbits. (We got a donation of 10 yards of compost as part of the Challenge.) Then when it's time to put in canes and other perennials in the fall and winter we will have the conversations about exactly what they will be. The one discouragement about this project is that only one of the younger folks who was so eager for it came to do any shoveling and hauling. But who cares - there's a sense of power in realizing what a bunch of middle aged and middle aged plus women can do!

On Sunday evening when I returned from work I planted some of my own garden before heading out to the 350 celebration. I was late and brought no food, so didn't eat. These are not church folks - just as well because there was not enough, instead of the mountains of leftovers at church do's. Is this generational, too? Church folks, and especially church cooks, are older, and imbued with the tradition of casseroles and substantial salads and sides. The people in attendance, in spite of the cold, were great, though. I met several new folks with whom I will definitely follow up.

It is interesting to see generations working together on things like the 350 challenge. There is more of a "let the plan emerge" attitude among the young. This is fine - but if there is a deadline and a goal, it seems to me you do need some structure of coordination for what emerges to fit into, to be accountable. Some of the volunteer organizers delegated, then did it themselves; sent out questions without reading the email they had received which provided the answers already; called me on my cell phone, even though I made clear that that number was to be used by arrangement, and is not my main number. And these were not all young folks. There is a certain potential for frustration in volunteering to help when you are and organizer working for organizers without organizing experience. I suppose it frustrated me also because I am used to organizing based on volunteers' gifts and skills, not just their willingness with no instructions or coaching given.

This week I was back at trying to finish planting my own plot. This is not a really happy thing to be doing, given how cold May has been so far, but I feel under pressure to get things planted with a bit of time to settle before family doings take my time in early June. I must say it's better to be gardening when it's a bit cold than to be attending outdoor parties - two last weekend was enough! And the weather has been great for the lettuce and other cool weather produce. I always forget about the little dividends in the spring garden - the garlic scapes, fava beans, beet and turnip thinnings, etc. They give a new twist to the lingering foods of winter.

Now the question remaining would seem to be - to what extent did the 350 challenge really help people connect the dots between local food production, water conservation, and climate change mitigation? I do hope those organizers plan a return engagement for the fall at the usual time for 350 (ppm CO2) actions.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

community gardens and plant therapy

Tucson Botanical Gardens - Michelle Conklin, Juliet Niehaus, and other folks - helped us make the connection last week between community gardens and horticultural therapy - may be there is some thing there for us as a congregation - a ministry involving plants and people who can no longer get easily to church, or other community activities... hmmm...

Meanwhile Christine Sine has got us all thinking about community gardens in Edmonds - she's advising the Church of the Beloved on starting a garden at Rosewood Manor - where they meet...

And together with the Beloved, St Alban's people are planning a springtime celebration next weekend, the Little Feast

Wondering how other folks have made connections between community gardens and other services to the community...


Friday, May 7, 2010

Resources from industry

Here I am with a little found time between finishing my desk work, organizing bits and pieces for the 350 Garden Challenge, and heading out to the garden for this evening's work (planting beans).

So I checked out these sites.

Meals Matter is brought to you by the Dairy Council of California. It's a bit biased in the animal foods direction, but has all sorts of tools you can use for planning menus, working on nutrition, organizing your pantry and shopping, etc.

The recipes are all reader contributions, something I feel one has to read critically - but there are a ton of them. Someone who likes fiddling on the computer could learn a lot about meal preparation here.

The egg farmers are at it, too. You can pledge to eat well and do good, and they'll donate an egg to a food bank. This site is more about production than consumption - and a bit glossy in places, I think - but there are some interesting factoids. There are almost as many layers (285 million) in the U.S. as people.