Friday, March 30, 2007

Grab Bag Friday: Play Pumps: 100 Pumps in 100 Days Challenge

A friend of mine handed me a videotape of this Frontline segment last week, and I was blown away by the simplicity and grass-roots brilliance of the Play Pump. Now if you haven't heard of this already (and I hadn't), the Play Pump was developed by Trevor Field, a retired advertising executive. A regular guy who had done well in life and wanted to find a way to give back. It's basically a merry-go-round that children can play on, but it's attached to a pump, and a reservoir, and while the kids are playing, they are pumping clean water into the reservoir.

Here are some facts from the Play Pumps website:

  • More than one billion people worldwide do not have access to clean water.
  • Water-related diseases are the leading cause of death in the world, taking the lives of 6,000 people a day.
  • Every 15 seconds a child dies from a preventable, water-related disease.
  • 40 billion hours are lost annually to hauling water, a chore primarily undertaken by women and girls.
One play pump can pump up to 1400 liters of clean water a day. That's a huge impact on a community. Plus, the kids are encouraged to have fun and stay in school instead of spending their time collecting and hauling heavy buckets of (often contaminated) water every morning.

How You Can Get Involved
From March 22 through June 29, PlayPumps International hopes to raise funds to provide clean drinking water to 100 communities (250,000 people) in sub-Saharan Africa. If we all do just a little bit, we can make a big difference!
  • Watch the Frontline segment for a good overview, and pass it on to your family and friends.
  • Visit the Play Pumps website to read testimonials, learn about how the pumps work, and learn about how you can help.
  • Use the banner on the side of this page to donate to Play Pumps. The banner will keep track of how much Please Come Flying readers are donating. Let's see if we can really make an impact!
  • Get your kids involved! This is a great project for kids to learn about, and to use some of their allowance money to make a difference in the world. Even $5 will add up if we all chip in. A great way to do this is to offer your kids a "match"...if they donate $10, you'll donate $10. That helps kids feel like they're doubling their impact.
  • Link to this blog, or to the Frontline segment, or to the Play Pumps website. Spread the word!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

How to Compost #2: Choose a System

As I discussed last week in my first post on this subject, Kevin and I are taking up composting this Spring. I'll be blogging here about our progress from beginning to end, using the "7 Simple Steps for Home Composting" I learned from Fred Horch of F.W. Horch Sustainable Goods and Supplies (plus my added first step). Again, I'm learning as I go along, so feel free to comment or help out in any way.

Last week was Step 1: Make it a Priority

This week is Step 2: Choose a System.

Over the next few weeks, I'll address the following topics:

Step 3: Collect Organic Material
Step 4: Mix the Materials
Step 5: Moisten the Mixture
Step 6: Wait
Step 7: Use Your Compost
First: 2 basic concepts I didn't know about composting:
1. You have to let it sit. If you want it to compost, you can't keep adding stuff to your pile. You have to stop adding, and let it sit. Some people have 2 or 3 compost piles going at a time to eliminate lag time between batches.

2. Garbage doesn't compost in the winter. Logical, since heat is a necessary part of composting, but I just hadn't thought of it before. You can still add to your pile over the winter, but it won't really start working again until spring.
CHOOSE A SYSTEM

This is not a difficult concept. Before you start composting, you need to decide what kind of system you will use. But this was a tough one for us. Kevin is a gadget guy, and very sanitary. I'm a perfectionist at heart, and a bit of a cheapskate. Here's what we discovered. Every method works. Every method makes great compost that you can use in your garden and on your lawn. But not every method was designed for us!

SYSTEMS:

1. My kind of town! First things first. Check with your town to see if there are any community or municipal composting projects. Some towns in California are trying out curbside pick-up for compost. Our town dump even has a compost section where you can drop off leaves, grass clippings, and branches. They compost it, and you can come take finished compost from the dump anytime you want.
Our verdict: This is ideal. Simple, easy, and free or mostly free. The downside is that most of these programs do not allow you to include kitchen scraps or paper or anything other than lawn refuse. So if we want to really reduce our waste as much as possible, we need a supplemental system.

2. The simple life. The easiest thing to do is make a pile in your yard. That's it. Pile all your kitchen scraps and organic garbage (paper, leaves, etc.) in a big lump. After the pile is relatively large, don't do anything to it. Let it sit. After a year, turn it over and there will be compost at the bottom. Repeat.
Our verdict: You couldn't get any simpler or cheaper. But. Since we live in a small neighborhood with many dogs and cats who already like to dig around in our lawn, this was not our favorite option. Also, I know it's a flaw, but we're impatient. A year is a long time to wait.

3. The slightly less simple life. Garbage needs oxygen to become compost. You can make your compost pile work faster if you turn it over with a rake on a regular basis. You can keep some critters away by building a wooden box around it.
Our verdict: Again, cheap. But even still. Our neighborhood cats are agile, and we're a little too lazy (or busy if you care to be kind) to go out and turn over a big heap of garbage every couple days. We know ourselves too well.

4. Bin it: This is basically the same concept as the wooden box, only it's a plastic bin where you store your compostable garbage. Looks like an upside down garbage can. Again, you can let it sit on its own for a year, or stir it with a pitchfork or other tool to speed it up. Bins should keep most of the dog/cat variety of critters out, but they aren't immune to squirrels and raccoons and other crafty animals. Online, most plastic bins I saw ran from around $40-175.
Our verdict: Still pretty slow. Still a little messy. Harder to stir than the piles.

5. Tumble it: These are fully enclosed plastic bins that spin. No more turning over the pile. You put your garbage in the tumbler and spin it, or crank it, depending on the model. This system fully spins the garbage, so it gets plenty of oxygen. And no more critters since the tumblers generally are above ground and fully enclosed. They keep in the heat and the moisture, so you can supposedly make compost within 6-12 weeks depending on the conditions. I saw various versions of these run from about $150-675.
Our verdict: Getting warmer. You still have to stop filling it at some point and let the stuff compost, so we'd ideally need two bins...one to fill, another to "cook."

6. Let somebody else eat it: This is cool. Seriously. You have a container filled with worms. You insert your garbage. The worms eat it and make your compost for you. No turning. No mess. No fuss. It's a great system for kids to be involved with...it's like a mini science project in your home. You can do it with a plastic Tupperware bin. But there is a way cooler multi-tiered system of trays where the worms are on one level composting while you add kitchen scraps to the next levels. When the compost on the bottom level is done, the worms climb up to the 2nd level. You remove the compost from the bottom level, and it goes on and on.
Our verdict: Kevin was entirely grossed out by this. I mean really grossed out. It's never going to happen in our house.

SO WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO? Well there's one more system that appears to satisfy Kevin's affection for gadgets and cleanliness, and my impatience and perfectionism (though not really my cheapskated-ness, but I'm willing to bend on this one.) There's a company called Sun-Mar who have, over the last 25 years, perfected the art of the composting toilet. (Yes, you can compost your personal waste, but we're not quite there yet.) Well, they've come out with a dual-drum garden composter that is intended to give you the ease and speed of the tumbler, but also allows you to continually add new material. The finished compost flows into the inner drum, and you can take it out and use it anytime. These run around $275 at our local green store, and while that's not cheap, if it ends up being a system we'll use, I think it will be worth it over time. Just having free, organic fertilizer at my disposal has some monetary value. Here's a detailed diagram for you gadget-folks out there (click on the picture for a larger view):

Now, the biggest question: Is it too good to be true?

I don't know. I couldn't find any substantial consumer reviews on the Sun-Mar 200 Garden Composter. It seems too good to be true. Yet, Sun-Mar is a highly respected company, and they've been in the composting business for a long time. I would think they know a thing or two about the concept. So this is what we're going to go with. We're going to do a bit more research, but then we're moving forward to Step 3: Collect Organic Materials. If all goes well, here's our potential system:
Sun-Mar 200
Vented garden pail for the kitchen (with a filter)
Compostable bags for the kitchen pail
I'll let you know how it goes next week!

Tumblers & bins vs. piles at CompostGuide.com
Mother Nature News review of various compost tumblers
F.W. Horch Guide to Composters

Missed anything in this series? It's easy to catch up:

Step 1: Make it a Priority
Step 2: Choose a System
Interlude: Nature Tried to Kill My Composter
Step 3: Collect Organic Material
Step 4: Mix the Materials
Step 5: Moisten the Mixture
Step 6: Wait
Interlude: The Lightbulb Change
Interlude: The Yogurt Change
Interlude: The Sponge Change
Interlude: The Leftover Change
Interlude: The Napkin Change
The Sort-of Sun-Mar 200 Review Part One
The Sort-of Sun-Mar 200 Review Part Two
Sun-Mar 200 Compost Update
Sun-Mar 200: Starting All Over Again

Step 7: Use Your Compost
Step 8: Sun Mar 200 Garden Composter Review

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Edie Brickell's "Site for Stray Songs"

In the free song category, Edie Brickell (remember her from the late 80s/early 90s?) has put up a website with a bunch of new songs that you can download for free.

I have always, always been a fan of Ms. Brickell's voice and whimsy, so I had a lot of fun exploring this site. As she describes it in her note on the home page, this is a site for songs and "musical doodles" that will probably never make it on to an album.

The songs range from silly ditties like "The Pond" (where "romances, mimosas, and blue bonnets grow") , to carefree folk-ish songs like "Let it Slide" ("I'm gonna kick this rock on down the road/I'm not gonna carry no heavy load").

There's even a very cool poppy, produced, and catchy "Long Line" from her new project with Harper Simon (Paul Simon's son) & Rene Lopez which is due out this Spring.

Visit Edie Brickell's website for stray songs.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Louis Slobodkin Online Archive!

Ugh. Ever have one of "those" Mondays? I just wrote a brilliant, sentimental, wise, and oh, practically magical post about Carol Reid's Louis Slobodkin online archive, and with one errant click, managed to lose the entire thing. I'm actually surprised this doesn't happen to me more often. Ok, take two. I'll attempt an abbreviated and inevitably less magical version. :)

The short of it is, a couple weeks ago, I wrote a post on one of my favorite books, James Thurber's Many Moons, and I received a comment from a woman in Albany, New York who has been working on an online archive of illustrator Louis Slobokin's work.

This archive is incredibly in-depth and fun to explore. I grew up reading books illustrated by Louis Slobodkin, and it was so fun to browse the site and read excerpts from books I had long forgotten about.

Too Many Mittens, for example, is a charming book about a family who loses a red mitten. They put the word out and one by one, practically everyone in town finds a red mitten they believe must be Donny's. It's a great book about community that I used to love as a child and completely forgot exsisted. You can read the entire beginning of the book and view all kinds of fun pictures from it on the Slobodkin archive.

I already spoke about Many Moons in a previous post, but this book is a terrific example of Louis Slobodkin's imaginative and whimsical artistry. You can read the entire beginning (practically the first half) of the book on the archive's Many Moons page.

Eleanor Estes' entire Moffat series was a particular obsession of mine as a child. I completely identified with Jane, the Middle Moffat. To this day, I still quote one of my favorite exchanges from those books:

"Are you the prima donna?"
"No, just the middle bear."
Carol Reid and her cohorts have built a valuable, fun, and entirely impressive archive. I hope you'll visit and enjoy reading the book excerpts. Hopefully, you'll come across some old favorites and maybe even find some new favorites. If you do, please post a comment, I'd love to hear about your discoveries!

Visit the archive here.

(The information about Louis Slobodkin's life on the Misc page is fascinating too. Who would have guessed one of his sculptures was destroyed at the 1939 World's Fair because of its controversial nature?)

Friday, March 23, 2007

How to Compost for your Home and Garden #1

It's officially Spring!!! Which starts me thinking about sunshine and no winter coat and especially gardening. Now composting is one of those things I've been thinking I should do for a long time, but never really understood it or thought I had the time/energy/tools, so it always just slips off the radar. On Wednesday, I went to a talk by Fred Horch of F.W. Horch Sustainable Goods about home composting, and now I am committed to start this Spring. I'll post a series here on my progress so you, dear reader, can hold me to it. Better yet, if you join in and try the process with me, we can trade experiences and ideas...or if you've been composting for a long time & have tips, you can help the rest of us out. Here are just a few of the reasons why it's high time:

  • Our landfill (and this is a problem everywhere) is filling up fast! That presents our town with the problem (and millions of dollars in cost) of safely closing it up and moving on.
  • Every week, my husband and I bring a carload of garbage to the dump. A small car, but a carload!
  • The average family can reduce their waste by 40% just by composting.
  • Composting not only reduces the amount of waste we produce, but turns it into something useful.
  • It's simple.
  • I'll get great, free fertilizer for my lawn & garden.

If you need further convincing about the importance of reducing the amount of waste we produce, take a look at the picture on the Rivers to Sea Project website. We produce so much garbage that finds its way out to sea, it's really mind-blowing when you think about it. If each family could reduce the amount of plastic we use, increase the amount of recycling we do, and start reducing the amount of waste we put in landfills...even a small amount per family would add up to a huge change.

So according to Fred, there are 6 simple steps to home composting. I would personally add one preparatotry step: Make it a priority. As I know quite well from experience, unless you do that, none of the other steps will work. So that's my step for this week. Next week, I'll explore Step One: Set Up a System.

One more note: composting is a great project for kids. It's like a science project in the backyard. They can see the entire process and watch how oxygen and heat change gross garbage into something useful and clean. And it teaches the important lesson that their actions have an impact on the world around them.

Missed anything in this series? It's easy to catch up:

Step 1: Make it a Priority
Step 2: Choose a System
Interlude: Nature Tried to Kill My Composter
Step 3: Collect Organic Material
Step 4: Mix the Materials
Step 5: Moisten the Mixture
Step 6: Wait
Interlude: The Lightbulb Change
Interlude: The Yogurt Change
Interlude: The Sponge Change
Interlude: The Leftover Change
Interlude: The Napkin Change
The Sort-of Sun-Mar 200 Review Part One
The Sort-of Sun-Mar 200 Review Part Two
Sun-Mar 200 Compost Update
Sun-Mar 200: Starting All Over Again

Step 7: Use Your Compost
Step 8: Sun Mar 200 Garden Composter Review

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Ella Fitzgerald: Do Nothing till You Hear from Me

It used to be that when I thought of Ella Fitzgerald, her light, danceable, airy repertoire usually came to mind. It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got that Swing or When My Sugar Walks Down the Street. That sort of fun, poppy song dressed up with Ella's signature vocal bells and whistles for flair. Kind of like a stick of cotton candy...a treat, absolutely sticky-sweet deeelicious, but not too much substance, mostly air. (Don't hate me, I was just a kid.)

Until I was home one summer from college, volunteering at a local radio station hosting an afternoon jazz show, and I put on Do Nothing till You Hear from Me from the Ellington Song Books sessions. That's when my view of Ella changed.

Do nothing till you hear from me
Pay no attention to what's said
Why one should tear the seam
Of anyone's dream
Is over my head

I've usually heard this song done at a moderate pace, with a big, bombastic arrangement, sung in an almost accusatory or sly manner. Not Ella. This song is luxurious, soulful, soothing. It's like she's holding the person she's singing to, and putting a cool cloth to their forehead. Shhh. There there. I'm not going anywhere.

The song is almost 8 minutes long. Stuff Smith plays a killer solo on violin. It entirely changed my view of Ella and my view of this song. The words are stunning. The melody is now one of my Ellington favorites. All because the musicians in this particular session take the time to get into them. To feel and live exactly what is going on in the music. Don't take my word for it. Put your feet up on the couch, turn the lights down low, and listen to this song.

The Best of the Song Books: The Ballads on Amazon.com
Do Nothing till You Hear from Me on iTunes

Monday, March 19, 2007

Ernest J. Gaines: A Lesson Before Dying

Last night, Kevin and I watched our most recent Netflix pick, an HBO made-for-tv movie based on Ernest J. Gaines' novel A Lesson Before Dying. The movie was pretty good. It captured the essence of the story, and starred Don Cheadle as Professor Wiggins, so you can't go wrong there. But it left me nostalgic for the terrific prose and the depth of the actual novel. The movie is worth checking out. But the book is a must read.

A Lesson Before Dying won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1993 and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Set in Louisiana in the 1940's, it is a thoughtful, eye-opening story about a young black man, Jefferson, who is sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit. In the trial, the defense lawyer trys to sway the jury in Jefferson's favor by arguing that a black man doesn't have the mental capacity and capabilities to commit such a crime with intention and malice. His crucial argument is, "What justice would there be to take this life? Justice, gentlemen? Why, I would just as soon put a hog in the electric chair as this."

The jury votes for Jefferson's death anyway, and what enfolds is the story of a young black professor, Mr. Wiggins, who comes to the jail each day to try to teach Jefferson how to die with dignity. Like a man.

What I love about this story is the truth of it. Things are not simple. Professor Wiggins does not want to go to the jail to help Jefferson. He's not one of these characters who is out to change the world. He doesn't actually think there is anything he can do. He doesn't even think he knows what it means to be a man. Yet, he goes because his aunt asks him to, and he feels that no matter what our situation in life, we owe something to those who love us.

I won't tell you much more because I'd rather you enjoy it in the beautiful prose of Ernest J. Gaines. But it's one of those books that will stay with you. It's one of those books that goes beyond the time period and the characters with which it's concerned. It will make you think about the world just a little differently, and your family, and your thoughts, and your faith. And if you're like me, it might make you cry. But that's ok. Because in a world of so much sugar-coated, formulaic media, it's good to be moved by something every once in a while. A great film. A symphony. A painting. Or a good, solid story written with supreme style, empathy, and grace.

Ernest J. Gaines biography on Wikipedia

Friday, March 16, 2007

Grab Bag Friday: Recipe for Turtle Bars

Here's a weekend treat for you. This is a super easy recipe I got out of Real Simple Magazine. It's a great one to make with kids (they can easily help pouring on the layers), and it is deeelicious! Hint: keep them in the fridge...the cooler & more set they get, the tastier they are.

Turtle Bars

2 cups flour
½ cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 large egg, beaten
1 t. vanilla
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped (I use walnuts because they’re cheaper)
¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup toffee-and-chocolate baking pieces, such as Heath or Skor (you can find these at the grocery in the chocolate chip section)

Heat oven to 350. Combine the flour, powdered sugar and butter and beat until a crumbly dough is formed. (This is cool. You beat it & it turns just to crumbles, and then all of a sudden in one instant it turns to dough. Don’t eat all the dough even though it is *yummy*.) Press the dough firmly into a greased 9x13 inch pan. Bake until just golden. about 13 minutes. Whisk together the condensed milk, egg and vanilla. Pour the filling over the baked crust. Sprinkle the nuts, chocolate chips, and toffee pieces evenly over the filling. Bake until the filling is set, the edges are golden brown, and the toffee is melted, about 25 minutes. Cool completely in the refrigerator, about 2 hours.

Enjoy!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Gillian Welch: Orphan Girl

There are some songs that sound like they've been around forever. The melody and lyrics are so simple and pure, they could have been written 200 years ago. They're perfectly crafted, indestructible, timeless. Orphan Girl from Gillian Welch's 1996 album Revival is one of those songs.

I am an orphan
On God's highway
And I'll share my troubles
If you'll go my way
I have no mother
No father
No sister
No brother
I am an orphan girl
This song could easily have been written alongside Red River Valley (circa 1896) or the traditional American spiritual Wayfaring Stranger. Add Gillian Welch's clear, riveting vocals, and David Rawlings no-frills guitar, and you have a classic that I, for one, will listen to for decades to come.

Download Gillian Welch's "Orphan Girl" on iTunes
Download the Emmylou Harris version

Gillian Welch Official Website
Gillian Welch on Wikipedia

Monday, March 12, 2007

James Thurber: Many Moons

If you know of James Thurber, it's probably because of his hilarious stories and cartoons in the New Yorker, or maybe from his multiple collaborations with colleague E. B. White. But did you know that he wrote an absolutetly sweet, endearing children's book?

Many Moons, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin is a charming, whimsical fairy tale with Thurber's signature goofiness and humor. My sister used to read it to me whenever I had the flu or a cold, and it always brought a smile that made me feel better.

The story revolves around Princess Lenore (age 10 going on 11) who is in bed sick. The king, beside himself, calls in all his wise men to heal her. Each one has a different, equally thorough, equally scientific, and equally useless analysis of the situation. Enter, of course, the Court Jester.

I won't tell you the rest of the story, because I don't want to spoil the fun. Suffice it to say that this book is highly recommended. Even as an adult, reading it never fails to bring a smile. And reminds me that many things in life are simpler (and more lovely) than we think!

Friday, March 9, 2007

Grab Bag Friday: How to Run a Business that makes Customers Happy

This made me laugh.

CD Baby has to be one of the best, wisest, on-top-of the curve online businesses out there. And it's not just because of their savvy technology, or their innovative, grass-roots ways of thinking about the music business. It's mostly because of this: they make their customers happy. Pretty simple.

Kathy Sierra from Creating Passionate Users said last week, "Most companies would never outsource their sales reps, but we all know what happens with most tech support." Right.

Check this out. It's a great example of what a difference a small, human gesture and sense of humor can make. Plus, it's kind of a riot:

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Lullaby: I See the Moon

Photo by Jamelah.
On Monday night, driving home from the studio, the skies were completely clear, and there was the most beautiful, just-past-full moon. It got me humming one of my favorite lullabies, "I See the Moon."

This old song has gone through many variations, and transformations (including the well-known rhyme I see the moon and the moon sees me/God bless the moon and God bless me) but according to Mudcat, one of my favorite sources of information about traditional music, the closest to "original" goes like this:

I see the moon and the moon sees me
Down through the leaves of the old oak tree
Please let the light that shines on me
Shine on the one I love
I love this song, not only because of the melody (which is on one hand very pretty and sing-songy, and on the other hand, very melancholy), but also because of these lyrics. They're so simple and true. When we're far away from someone we love, we try to look for the little things that connect us. It's somehow comforting to remember that the same moon that's shining on me as I go to sleep will be shining on you when you go to sleep, even if you are hundreds of miles away.

Kids, especially, get this. I've used this song in some of my workshops for kids, and they immediately have a list of distant friends and relatives they want to sing this song to. It's relevant to their lives.

And that, of course, is the coolest thing about a song like this. It was written in a completely different century, and it is still immediate and relevant to our lives.

You can listen to or download a free mp3 of my version of "I See the Moon", and read the full lyrics in the Listening Room at SongwritingForKids.com.

You can also click here to listen to the Stargazers hit musi-comedy version from the 1950's. This is the first version I ever heard of "I See the Moon," and it is certainly an experience. I came across this impassioned post from the blog Popular on FreakyTrigger.co.uk where Tom Ewing reviews every #1 single ever to hit the UK pop charts (he's currently up to 1972). His word for the Stargazers version: excruciating. Well, let's see what you think...

Monday, March 5, 2007

Steve Almond: Candyfreak


One of my sisters recently pointed out to me that I remember important moments of the past based not on the actual events that took place, but based on what delicious food (most likely dessert) I happened to be eating at the time. She's right:

  • My first terrifying bike ride on the highway: To the "Little Store" to buy Caramellos, Skor Bars, Chewy Sweet Tarts, and Jolly Ranchers
  • Visiting my grandmother in Idaho: Mountain Bars and Idaho Spuds
  • Studying abroad in Budapest: kakaos csiga (chocolate snail), dobos torte (carmel-topped cake), and some spirally, cinnamonny, doughy confection that I have no name for, but will be on the lookout for the rest of my life
  • The night I got engaged: Puff pastry in the shape of a swan filled with homemade ice cream, and an actual gazebo built of chocolate!

Smaller, but no less important events are marked by chocolate mint bars, PB Max's, vanilla walnut fudge, ice cream for dinner...I'd best stop before I feel compelled to go bake something!

Which is, of course, why I loved Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America. This hilarious and informative book is a testament to one man's lifelong obsession with candy, as well as the fascinating (really!) history of candy-making in the United States, and the sad decline of small, regional candymakers.

Warning: this book will make you laugh outloud and fill you with the desire to share endless nostalgic candy-related memories of your youth. Do you doubt me? Check out the archives of Steve Almond's website...there are insane numbers of posts by people who just had to share a fond, funny, or random story about their favorite candy or candy-related incident. You can even post your own "testimony" here.

Candyfreak and Steve Almond online:
Read an excerpt of Candyfreak
Steve Almond Official Website
Steve Almond has joined the ever-popular league of newbie parent blogs with his Baby Daddy blog, devoted to his lovely (and well-named) new daughter, Josie.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Grab Bag Friday: Community Supported Agriculture

Here I am, snowed in on March 2nd, with at least a full month of winter spread out in front of me, and I'm happily dreaming and scheming about Summer! That's because I just received an email from Hatchet Cove Farm, a local organic farm that we purchase a CSA share from. Lots of farmers will be gearing up for their summer CSA programs over the next few weeks...here's what it means:

CSA is Community Supported Agriculture. It means what it says. I, as a community member, buy a "share" from a local farm. In return, I get a big bag of fresh, delicious, organic vegetables delivered every week for 18 weeks during the summer season. Here's why it's great:

I get to...

  • Eat healthy, nutritious food all summer long
  • Try new things (I'd never had bok choy before...it's delicious in stir fry!)
  • Know the farmer that grew my food
  • Support local agriculture
  • Keep my money in the local economy
  • Eat fresh, unprocessed veggies
SIDE STORY: My husband, a Los Angeles native, had never had a cucumber that wasn't bought at the store. We got our first CSA with cucumbers and he crinkled his nose, "I hate cucumbers." Until...he tried a real, fresh cucumber. He was stunned that it tasted so good! He thought cucumbers just naturally grew with a bitter, waxy buildup on the skin, never realizing that that is actually added to the cucumber to make them look more appealing and last longer in the store. Thanks to Hatchet Cove Farm, we snacked on yummy cukes all summer long!

Here's an example of how it works. I'll use our CSA, Hatchet Cove Farm, as my example...the details of other CSAs will, of course, vary:
  • Share price: $270 for eighteen weeks of vegetable deliveries (mid-June to mid-Oct) is for a "two-person" share. If you love veggies or have a larger family, you may want to purchase two shares. I think $15 a week for fresh, homegrown veggies is a terrific deal!

  • The Vegetables: you receive a selection of in-season vegetables every week, including (but not limited to!) mesclun, spinach, and other early greens in the early summer. Peas, beans, broccoli, and early potatoes in the mid-summer. Zucchini, onions, peppers, and tomatoes in the late summer. Melons, corn, kale, and chard in the early fall.

  • Pickup/Delivery: There are a few options for getting your veggies. Hatchet Cove Farm makes deliveries to the Rockland Unitarian church at 11am Sundays for people in the Rockland area. On Monday afternoons, they deliver shares to Waldoboro, Damariscotta, and Nobleboro. On Tuesday mornings, they deliver to Woolwich and Brunswick/Topsham. On Thursday afternoons, they deliver to members in Friendship. And pickup at the farm in Warren or Friendship is always availiable. If you do not want your share on any given week, the folks at Hatchet Cove will be happy to donate your share to the Area Interfaith Outreach Food Pantry in Rockland.

  • Newsletter/Recipes: Every week, along with your veggies, you receive a letter telling about activities and news from the farm, as well as recipes to help inspire you to use up every last vegetable.

  • Hatchet Cove Farm Meat: CSA members get first dibs on purchasing farm-raised lamb and chicken!

  • Hatchet Cove Farm becomes your farm, too!: Members are welcomed at the farm to volunteer or just to visit, and a potluck/garlic planting day happens every fall.

Sounds great right? So, how can you join a CSA?

You can find out about CSAs from local farmers by keeping an eye out on bulletin boards at your local grocery store, library, church, or community center. You can also do a quick online search for farms in your area at the Eat Well Guide (Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals). If you live in my area here in Maine, you can contact Hatchet Cove Farm by email: hatchetcovefarmATverizonDOTnet (you'll have to de-spamify that email address, of course).

Ah, summer dreams...