Yes, my first visit to the BK Food Swap did not disappoint. My partner and I brought brown sugar whiskey vanilla ice cream and butter cream cupcakes (one set with orange zest icing and begonia petals, the other with chocolate chips, with a chocolate chunk & Kahlua cream frosting). Oohs and Aaahs were overheard in every inch of the room. Unbridled yumminess the whole night long. Brooklyn has some amazingly talented foodcrafters, by the way. I’m also looking forward to perusing the various blogs and sites noted on hand-made tags and labels that came with the various goodies. My stash is quickly dwindling but before it goes, goes, gones, here are some pics from the night…
Maybe I was a little harsh. My last report on my bi-weekly CSA pick up pointed out the meagerness of some of the offerings. I’ve been noting all summer the harsh effects of climate change (f/k/a global warming) on home gardeners across the country. According to an email that I received this week, re-posted below, we are not alone. Larger local growers, as well, have felt the impact of unpredictable weather this season, which has run the gamut from drought to flooding, and has resulted in various pests brought in on the winds of Irene, blight, rot, increased sick days and low worker morale. I just wanted to take a minute to say that I do try to give a fair and accurate picture of this – my first – CSA experience, but it doesn’t always capture the whole picture. This is why I have invited others to tell me their stories, share their experiences, suggest additional alternasources, and, now, why I am forwarding the (very thoughtful) message I received a couple days ago from the organizers of my CSA and the farmers who grow some of the pretty awesome food I’ve been eating this summer.
Recently at a farmers market in Fort Greene, I saw signs from GrowNYC calling for donations to help organic/local farmers whose crops were damaged or wiped out by Hurricane Irene. Their efforts are still underway. One of their suggestions for how to help, in addition to direct donations, is to commit to eat locally as much as possible in September (the “locavore challenge”). I’m encouraging all of you/us to continue this commitment through the end of the year, since it will take more than a month’s effort to help the farmers recover losses from a season screwed up by the environmental mess that we’re in. Please share your stories here and beyond about what you are doing to participate in an extended locavore challenge (if the Occupy Wall Street protesters aim to make it through the winter, so can we). Updates ahead on ways I’ve been putting my CSA treats to work. Please pass along your recipes, suggestions, etc., on where/what/how to advance the local-eating agenda.
Here’s the email….
Chris and Eve have sent an update about the difficulties they’ve experienced this growing season, which I’ve shared below. We’ll be sending everyone an end-of-season survey later on, but if you have any feedback to pass on to the farmer before then, feel free to email the core group at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On behalf of the KWT CSA core group
From the farmers:
This has been a challenging last couple of months and although we were not wiped out by the hurricane the amount of rain has been a huge issue affecting the quality of many crops. Not just with organic growers, as conventional farmers in the northeast are experiencing similar challenges and losses.
Under the circumstance we try to stay optimistic about the situation. All seasons are different and rarely are they void of conditions at some time that will have an impact on quality, quantity or diversity. Farms in the northeast can be impacted by one or more problems like pests, drought, disease, flooding or other issues outside of the farmers control. Other farms even 100 miles away may have a totally different growing experience in a season.
I met with Cornell cooperative extension today to seek professional help (as I do throughout the season) regarding three different crop disease issues and one pest issue tied directly to the wet weather. They believed the steps that we had taken were sound and accurate given the tools we have under the national organic standards. I also learned about the vast damage and loss of crops in our region to conventional farmers who can use chemicals as a tool. That didn’t make me feel better; I just wished conditions were better.
In conclusion, we are disappointed that we were struck with tomato blight this year, that we have received almost double our annual rainfall total (most of which in the last month and a half), that we were hit with damaging hurricane winds and pests and insects that were transported with winds. What does this mean for crops:
Cracking and rotting of root crops like sweet potatoes, carrots, potatoes and carrots. Tomato quality and loss due to blight which kills the plant and cracking and rotting due to excessive rain. This means we have to throw out a lot of produce. Heavy rain and pooling of water leads to leaf disease on all kale, collards, cabbage, broccoli, head lettuce, beans beets and many more. In extreme cases plant roots can suffocate leading to the plant wilting to the ground. That has happened to broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts. Seedlings that wilt off or get damaged by heavy winds and pounding rains. Seeding schedules get thrown off because the ground is too wet to work. Cultivation and weeding schedules are difficult to maintain. Farm help doesn’t want to work and morale is affected and sick days increase.
These are some of the issues that are a result of the extreme weather we are experiencing. We don’t like some of the challenges it has created and we feel grateful that it wasn’t worse for us and our csa members.
Hello fellow revelers,
I’ve been taking my time getting back up to speed on things in my garden and life since a much needed hiatus that involved throwing myself in heart, mind and soul in a writers’ workshop in the wilds of Vermont, with one phenomenal group of compadres, led by the magnanimous Crescent Dragonwagon, cookbook author extraordinaire (as well as children’s book author, poet, instructor, all around phenom, and etc.).
A rapid fire survey of the grounds this morning reminded me that a garden needs tending well past the browning of the last cuke on the vine. I’m not much of a fall gardener, but I still have the steadies going: my hot peppers upstairs, the various herbs, the last of my heirloom tomatoes, and that mysterious bush out back that I never did determine conclusively was dogwood or elderberry (the issue became less pressing when the local herbivores devoured the few fruit it produced this year). The pumpkins that I got after a friend’s show at a restaurant in New Haven last year gave the scene bountiful color with its vibrant squash blossoms springing from every vine wound relentlessly up, down, over and under every spare inch in my yard. Alas, I don’t think they’re going to give me a single jack-o-lantern by Halloween. My neighbor from Bangladesh watched as I cut back the wild rose bush that likes to keep sticking its neck over into her territory where her kids like to play. As we were talking, she saw me cut off one of the many pumpkin stems squirreling around the yard. She asked me why I cut it, since it had a small blossom that looked ready to bloom. I didn’t really know. I guess it was because we were in conversation, and as I said before, I don’t really like to talk as I’m gardening. It’s not the kind of multi-tasking that makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something. If anything, when I’m persuaded to talk while I’m gardening it robs me of that little bit of time I get away from the rest of the world. But this is a good neighbor, and I like her company, so I didn’t mind much this morning. But the point is that the talk made me absent-minded, and I plucked a perfectly good vine I likely wouldn’t have otherwise. She asked me for it, and said she’d like to cook it. I thought she meant the squash blossoms but she was talking about the leaves. I remembered a few years ago she gave me a plate of food she had made for Ramadan, and it had fish cooked with leaves from the squash she had growing out back. It was tasty and I’d meant to ask for the recipe then, but never did. This morning, after a few more minutes commiserating over a sad season for fruit trees (she has plum, peach, apple, and cherry in the back to my peach and cherry), she decided she wasn’t going to have time to cook today and handed me back my needlessly interrupted vine. I tossed it in with the other clippings to be put to the compost out back. We agreed that in the next couple weeks, we’ll make a day of picking and cooking the leaves that are now so overly abundant in the yard.
Something I heard several times last weekend at the workshop/retreat was one of Crescent’s sayings, inherited, I believe, from her father, Maurice Zolotow: “nothing is wasted on the writer.” The same, it seems, is true of the gardener.
As I mentioned before, the extent of tending my front yard last year was to toss whatever seeds I had aging in my basement to see if any would take root. As you likely know by now, my approach this year is slightly more steady, measured, and, hopefully, responsible, since that is a goal I’ve set for myself. I am moving toward living a more responsible life overall, one where little to nothing is wasted. Toward that end, I am supplanting my gardening with the exploration of additional paths to self-sufficiency since self-sufficiency is, in and of itself, responsible. Of course we don’t all have the means to “Thoreau” it all away and Walden our days away. For those of us who are revelers of the brick and mortar set (though not limited to this demographic), I am exploring, in various arenas, a practice I have coined “alternasourcing.” As I use the term (and invite others to collude), alternasourcing is the obtaining of goods and services from non-traditional sources, which, in its optimal functioning, provide sometimes less expensive and frequently more environmentally and socially friendly products. Alternasourcing is not just about where you get your goods. It is also about the how you obtain the things you need to live (as well as the things you want, hopefully with an eye to questioning needs/wants in a new way).
Alternasourcing may include, for example, minimizing the groceries you buy from the corner megastore, and supplanting it with regular visits to your local farmers’ markets, using your own space for herbs or whatever you have space for, learning how to forage for naturally grown wild edibles, or getting a plot in a community garden. (An aside: my uber-awesome neighbor/friend/co-gardener I mention frequently, and her partner, were on a three-year wait list in our not-super-hip ‘hood just to get a small triangular not-so-enviable plot in the local community garden.) So, while you’re waiting in line for a patch of dirt down the street, consider new ways to tick those items off your grocery list. It may include participation in a CSA, a venture I undertook this summer for the first time. For those of you who have been following, the journey has had its ups and downs, but summer’s not over, nor are the remainder of my bi-weekly shares. I’ve been chronicling it here, but thought it was time to bring in another voice (of reason, I believe) who has had a more hands-on CSA experience, and whose insight has helped answer nagging questions I’m left with after bagging up my produce (at that same community garden, btw). Long after I’ve bagged up my goodies and have unloaded them on my table to shoot, the questions linger. They usually concern the demeanor of the volunteers (disabusing me of the Pollyannaish notion that all gardeners are revelers). For the answer to this, and an inside peek at what goes on behind the other side of the table….read on my friends in the next post, for a spiffy piece comped by our friend, former neighbor and fellow reveler, Matthew Donoher, who, btw, I ran into on Church Ave. right before Irene hit, as I was vying with the other stragglers to get the last of the should-have-had-a-long-time-ago items, such as flashlights and batteries and radios. Matthew, to his credit, was cool as a cucumber, in search merely of a new baking sheet to try out an oatmeal cookie recipe. I have been blessed in my life with good neighbors.
How about you? What are ways that your life has changed in response to global climate changes, or economic turbulence, or just your own desire to live more efficiently/responsibly?
Go ahead… gimme the dirt!
I’m emptying my basement of everything in it. I figured it was getting to be a fairly expensive storage space, given what rents go for today. I hate that there is so much I’m throwing away but I also recognize that to repurpose, reuse, sell, or even donate all the items I no longer need would require additional time that I’d really rather spend doing other things – like gardening.
Although I may freecycle a few items (I’ve used it before for other things I let go of, and was fairly happy with its usability). I clutterbust somewhat regularly though. It’s a healthy purging, I find. Inevitably good things (note, not “stuff”) come from it. So usually I just set as much out in front of my house as I can, without using any space on the sidewalk. This can get tricky because there’s not a lot of excess real estate in Brooklyn, even down to front gate space. That’s why I love things I can hang on the fence, like hangers! At about midnight, I put a small store’s supply of various plastic and wooden hangers, no wire ones (yes, mommy dearest), and within minutes a neighbor appeared out of nowhere. As we started talking, she collected up the plastic hangers, stringing them across her arm. As it turns out, she is married to a gentleman down the street who has been very encouraging about my little garden plot, stopping by every so often to ask and admire. I’ve loaned him a wonderful little crazy rake I have that tills the ground in no time. Once again, I found myself talking with someone who I have lived near for more than ten years and had never met before. I hate to say this but I honestly don’t even remember seeing her before — I feel like I’ve been wearing blinders for a very long time now. Gardening is showing me that good things happen when you just put a little effort into it.
There is no question in my mind, as I sit here sweaty and spent, that gardening and all that goes with it is absolutely like raking through the things in life – concrete and otherwise – that bog you down. This has been a difficult process because my mind was trained to think I “need” more than I do. It is helpful though, too, as I’m thinking about what more I want to do (and, more importantly, not do) with my garden for the remainder of the summer, and am also feeling grateful that once this is done it will be one less thing to pull me away from my gardening.
QUESTION: Do you have to give something else up to make space for something new? Will you be adding or subtracting anything from your garden this season?
Ah, New York, my sweet. What’s not to love?
My partner started making ice cream this summer (poor me, right?). The first stash from the CSA had some lovely lavender that constituted the flowers portion of our pick up. All I had to do was stick it in the fridge instead of a vase, and the next thing I knew, voila, dessert! This last visit to the CSA landed me some gorgeous deep purple blueberries now in the icebox waiting for the fairy dairymother to whisk them away. So many reason to love New York this week.
But with some good news comes some bad. Heard in the media-stream this week is that grocery stores are pushing back on consumers’ increased use of coupons with greater restrictions on coupon use. The whole CSA experience, while a wonderful experience, may still not be the best value for folks looking to disrupt their regular food sourcing. I’m still wanting to do a comparison of the options, from the traditional grocery store to home gardens to farmers markets and foraging. While I can understand a company’s need to plug the bucket, so to speak, now might not be the best time to kick the consumer where it counts, considering that our flirtation with alternasourcing seems to be deepening into a more serious relationship. Grocery stores may have even more competition ahead from innovations to their traditional model by store owners starting to think outside the box (Austin is expected to have the first packaging-free grocery store in the near future).
As for me, I will continue to report on my CSA experience, and hope that someone takes me up on my invitation to compare theirs (looking for someone signed up in the City with a different CSA, and someone from outside NY – maybe one of my Madison friends?). (I am doing the full half-share, which means I pick up a full share – vegetables, fruit, eggs, flowers – every other week @ $550 for 24 weeks, which works out to be about $45.00 every pick-up, but would like to do a comparison with anyone doing a CSA this summer, regardless of what you’re signed up for). I’m also looking to hear more on another …
QUESTION: how have your food collection and sourcing habits changed? What percentage of your meals comes from sources other than the traditional grocery store? Are you getting any staples from your garden? Of the home gardeners, do many of you can to make your stash last after the season’s over? How many of you are keeping the garden going indoors over the winter? What have you got growing indoors after season? Anyone else out there who’s getting their groceries outside the box? Of those who forage, would you say that you’ve incorporated the wild edibles onto your every day plate? With apologies to any skin-thinned freegans, have we got any garbage eaters out there? Any other urban foraging? Anything I’m leaving out? Go ahead … gimme the dirt!