Saturday, May 31, 2008

Local Food: The Chickens of Kauai

“Nothing that came to Hawaii arrived here easily,” says James Michener in his great fictional history, Hawaii. Except for the chickens, that is.

I had the good fortune recently of being invited by a dear friend, a travel agent, to share a week long trip to Kauai that she had won in an industry contest. Given that Seattle enjoyed the coldest, most miserable spring on record it was a real treat, despite the my guilt about our enormous carbon footprint (subject of a future blog). We hiked the Nepali Coast trail, traversed the gorgeous rim of Waimea Canyon, and picked our way along many a rocky seacoast. We kayaked the Wailua River and toured the National Tropical Botanical Gardens. It was fabulous. Everywhere there were chickens.

The chickens are important because Hawaii seems to lack local food. I’m planning to spend July through September eating food produced within 300 miles of my home in our glorious and abundant Pacific Northwestern climate. If I lived on Kauai, that distance would include pretty much the whole island, not to mention a great deal of ocean. And yet, sadly, there’s not much local food on offer and the seas are depleted. My friend at I shopped at several grocery stores along the route to stock our luxury condo (guilt alert). I planned to find good, regional food as I would do at home. How hard could this be? Hard, actually.

All the dairy food came from Wisconsin, New Hampshire, or California. Okay, dairy isn’t a tropical kind of food and I can understand importing cheese from the upper Midwest. I did my best and chose Tillamook Cheddar, not exactly local to the Sandwich Islands but from a 3oo-mile radius of Seattle anyway. Every vegetable I could find was grown in central valley of California; this supports my Cousin Barbara’s family ranch in Stockton but not the families of Lihue. Can’t these people raise spinach?

Then there were some real insults. The Maui potato chips were manufactured in Pleasanton, California. The strawberries and blueberries and most other fruit flew in from Mexico. Hardest of all, a carton of orange/pineapple juice I picked up was stamped Florida! The honest truth is that the only local food I could find was 99 cent mangoes (69 cents at Top Banana in Ballard) and 59-cent a pound pineapples.

Michener says the “boat plants”, the food staples that the Polynesians brought with them from Bora Bora included taro, a sturdy root that grows easily in the climate and feeds the hungry. For a thousand years the staple taro was grown by the Hawaiians until it was replaced briefly by the rice fields of the Asian immigrants. Those fields now support beef cattle. The Polynesians also brought the chickens who went native immediately.

“What about farmers’ markets?” you ask. There is one every weekday on this small island, called Sunshine Markets. Being a huge fan of such events, I dragged my friend to the Saturday market in the little town of Waimea. This turned out to involve six tiny stalls in a dirt parking lot of a school, with six cars backed up and tiny Asian women selling their produce on card tables. Of course, their leeks and tomatoes and papayas brought us great joy (especially the papayas), but the stock of the entire market might feed my boys and their friends for ten days if I stretch it.

In five years, when gas is $7.00 a gallon and only the super-rich can be tourists in Hawaii, the California-raised Safeway food will be prohibitive to the average Hawaiian. They are going to have to eat those chickens. The little Asian women will emerge as the power-house producers that they are. Taro and its fascinating derivative, poi, will come back in fashion. I was worried about the lovely people of Kauai not having local food to eat as we reach peak oil because the carbon footprint of groceries in Hawaii is huge. My prediction is, however, that the ancient Polynesians are going to keep on giving and those boat plants and animals will save the day.

In 2020, dinner will be chicken, poi, farmer’s market leeks and Chinese broccoli in papaya sauce. It’ll be great, especially the papaya sauce.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Make a Choice, Change the World

Last week, I blogged about the online series entitled, Extreme Consumerism. In the final part of the series, the author offers some Consumer tips for making a difference. I thought I'd share with you a few highlights and maybe you'll find a new way to make a difference that you hadn't tried before:
  • Cook food in a more energy-efficient microwave or toaster oven, instead of your conventional oven, to reduce energy use and your bills.

  • Swap out red meat for eggs or chicken one day a week to reduce your carbon footprint and save some money. Why stop there...give up red meat entirely...or give up meat all together...or become a vegan!

  • Go to and request that your name be removed from catalog mailing lists. You’ll save trees and reduce your temptation to pull out the credit card.

  • Instead of heading to the mall the next time you need an item of clothing, look online to see if there is an American-made equivalent for a reasonable price.

  • Save money and the planet by visiting local thrift stores or consignment shops instead of the mall.

  • Go through your own attic or basement – or those of your parents or grandparents – and see if you can find dishware, pots and pans, silverware or other items before buying new ones. That free item may also be made domestically.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Choose reusable...or at least compostable!

Summer is a fabulous time to live in the Pacific Northwest. Very few bugs, warm days with low humidity, gorgeous views of mountains and water…And although I realize we’re technically not quite there yet, summer activities are sprouting up on every corner.

There are picnics in the park, outdoor concerts, and family gatherings at the lake. These are all wonderful ways to enjoy Creation! However, we must continue to be mindful of our impact on the earth.

Over Memorial Day weekend I spent a glorious afternoon at Seattle’s Folklife music festival. There were great concerts and cool arts & crafts and…TONS of trash! In one instance I saw a concert end and as people moved to their next venue there was a trash-covered lawn in their wake—a sea of plastic bottles and disposable food containers.

While the main problem in this situation is littering, it occurred to me that even once all that trash was placed in the appropriate containers the problems of overconsumption and reliance on disposability remain.

The good news? Environmentally-friendly alternatives exist!!

It may take a while to get food vendors at local festivals to change to compostable alternatives (although the Mayor’s proposed foam food container ban should help!), but you can certainly make the switch when you plan your own picnic or buy goods for a family get-together.

The BEST way to go would be to use your regular dishware or the reusable containers you already own. But if you’re concerned about breakage or need to serve a large number of folks, look for compostable plates, bowls, cups, and “silver”ware at your local grocery store. PCC and Whole Foods have a variety of earth-friendly options, and I’ve even seen compostable tableware for sale at Staples, an office supply store. The simple, unwaxed paper plates you can find at almost any grocery or convenience store are also compostable—if you live in Seattle you can simply add those items to your yard & food waste collection cart!

As always, bring your own reusable water bottle along on hot days, and encourage your friends and family to do the same!

Enjoy the warm weather—just don’t forget to live lightly on the land.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Household Toxics, Part II

In my last blog, I took on the thrilling topic of household hazardous waste – what it is, and most importantly, where to take it when you need to dispose of it.

But wouldn’t be great if we didn’t have toxics in our house in the first place? Exposure to toxic chemicals is one of the greatest threats to human health and the entirety of God’s creation. Children, the elderly, and women are particularly at risk. People of color and low-income communities are disproportionately exposed to environmental pollution. As people of faith, we are called to do our part to reduce our contribution to the excess of toxic chemicals in the world today.

The good news is that there are alternatives. Here in Seattle, King County has a comprehensive website with links to healthier household goods and services, alternatives to toxic chemicals, recipes for safer cleaning products, and natural yard techniques.

Washington Toxics Coalition’s website is a great resource for families seeking to find safer children’s products.

Our partners at the National Council of Churches have put out a great resource on environmental health called “Mindful Living: Human Health, Pollution, and Toxics”. This publication gives congregations the tools to maintain the sanctity of our bodily temples and to ensure that the environment remains healthy for generations to come.

And of course, there is always Earth Ministry’s own “Caring for All Creation: In the Home” curriculum that guides congregations in developing healthy home habits that respect God’s beloved creation.

We have an opportunity to choose mercy and justice for all of God’s children by eliminating toxic health threats to those least able to protect themselves and to help restore creation.

In the Northwest, Earth Ministry Outreach Coordinator Beth Anderson is available to lead congregational workshops on toxics, environmental health, and faithful alternatives. Contact her at for more information.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Earth Ministry on Facebook!

Dear friends,

When Earth Ministry started a blog, we knew it would be fun and hoped it would be well received - and indeed it has! But the fun doesn't end there. We have taken our venture into the cyberworld even further and have started an Earth Ministry Group and Cause page on Facebook!

If you have a facebook account, we invite you to join the Earth Ministry group and while you're at it, join our cause! By joining our online community, you make a statement to the world - people of faith care about all of God's creation, human and non-human.

You can even make a donation to support Earth Ministry through our Facebook Cause page! When you donate $35 or more ($20 for students and low-income), you become a member of Earth Ministry. One of the benefits of membership is a one-year subscription to our quarterly journal, Earth Letter.

We hope you will join us in spreading the word about the good work of Earth Ministry using your social networks in Facebook.

The Earth Ministry Staff

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Made in America?

Amongst environmentalists, the topic of "buying local" food has been around for some time. Yet, it took the global food crisis to really make a dent in popular culture to think about buying American or shopping locally. That's why I was so intrigued when, the homepage for my web browser, had a headline asking me to take a quiz, "American or Foreign Brands?" . Needless to say, I was intrigued. Who doesn't like a good competitive quiz?! I mean, I'm no newbie to buying locally; I look to see where my fruits and vegetables were grown from when shopping in the grocery store. I've even found errors between what the sticker on the vegetable says and the sign posted by the grocery store. Not that the workers cared when I noted the discrepency. However, sad to say, I only got about 30% of the questions right. I highly encourage you to take the quiz, see how you fare. But here's a hint...products called America's Choice, not so much made in America.

Maybe we should be asking ourselves, the FDA, and congress why foods aren't labeled to tell us where they're made. Afterall, shouldn't the good ol' US of A care whether or not we "buy American"? The sad truth may just be that like car manufacturing, an "American" brand is only just that, a brand. It's quite likely that the parts came from China and were assembled in Mexico. Ah...globalization.

The quiz was part of a larger series called, "Extreme Consumerism". This is an interesting and informative look at how Americans are spending their money, especially in a global economy. If the topic of slowing down and making more informed and throughtul consumer choices from a faith perspective is appealing to you, you might want to consider reading Earth Ministry's book, Simpler Living, Compassionate Life. This book is also ideal for study groups. Simpler Living, Compassionate Life is available for purchase on Earth Ministry's secure website.

If we each do a little bit, together we can do a lot!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Won't You be my Neighbor

For the first time since getting my driver’s license, I’ve had to live without having easy access to a vehicle. For me, moving out to Seattle last fall meant I would have to be without my car. Until now, I’ve always lived in an area with at best, unreliable public transportation. For the last seven months, I’ve commuted almost entirely by foot, bike, or bus.

At first, I was a little nervous about taking the bus. I have a terrible sense of direction and bus routes were not exactly intuitive for me. However, when it’s the only way to get around, you learn quickly. Right now, I’d hardly call myself even an amateur, but I’ve certainly learned the routes that get me to the main spots.

For the most part, I don’t mind taking the bus. Instead of cursing my way through traffic, I can get on the bus, read a book, listen to music, or watch the scenery. I still get frustrated by longer commutes, late buses, or inconvenient transfers. However, a few weeks ago, I had a bus ride that far outweighed all the cons I’ve stacked up for taking the bus.

I was leaving the Olympic Sculpture Park and heading up the hill to the bus stop. Another woman was right behind me, as we both approached the stop to read the schedule for the next stop. She looked at me and asked if we were looking at the same schedule. We were and she asked me where I was headed. We continued talking and realized that we only lived a block from each other. I’m embarrassed to say, that I hadn’t met that many people in my neighborhood. We continued chatting, and the bus (which was very late after getting caught up with the Mariner’s crowd) showed up in what seemed like no time at all.

Perhaps, it’s an odd way to meet my neighbors, but it makes perfect sense. Taking the bus not only reduces our carbon footprint, but can build community at the same time. My neighbor and I got off at the same stop and continued talking on our walk home from the bus stop. She told me about her children and I told her about Earth Ministry. Not only did I meet one of my neighbors, it was one of the quickest bus trips I’ve ever had.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bike to Work, Worship, Wherever Month

If you're an avid follower of the Earth Ministry blog, you'll know that I gave up driving to work for Lent and I actually managed to bike to work once during Lent (give me a break, it was February for heaven's sake!). I even managed to bike one more time since Easter (come on, it snowed in April!). I plan to bike a lot more once the weather perks up here in cold and dreary Seattle. In fact, it will be sunny starting today (though proof of this rare occurrence has yet to emerge at 11am). Tomorrow it will be sunny and in the 80s, perfect timing for Bike to Work day.

That's right, May is National Bike to Work Month and that tomorrow is Bike to Work Day. What a great concept and it need not stop there. I recently met David from Bellingham and he is taking the Bike to Work Day concept to his church and is promoting Bike to Worship Day. I propose we have National Bike to Wherever Month!

Since the weather's looking mighty fine, get out there and ride! Dust off that bike, pump up the tires, put on your best fluorescent shirt and pedal yourself to work, worship, or wherever! Your body needs it. Your mental health needs it. The planet needs it!

Now I know some of you are saying, but I'm nervous about biking. I don't know what to do on the road, it's unsafe! Well, a little education can cure you of that. The Seattle Times has a great article in today's paper with lots of juicy information on how to safely bike to work. One of my favorite resources are bike maps. And because I'm a big fan of bike safety, I'm going to borrow from one of their resources, Pedal Power Tips and give you a few pointers on how to ride in traffic.

  1. See and Be Seen - use a headlight, wear bright clothes, and always keep your eye out for bad drivers.

  2. Don't get Doored - ride far enough to the left of parked cars so you won't get surprised by a sudden door in your face.

  3. Shun Sidewalks (I love riding on sidewalks when the street is narrow, oh well) - though riding on sidewalks is generally legal, cars won't see that you're about to enter traffic at an intersection and may turn right in front of you (ouch). If you insist on using the sidewalk, be sure to walk your bike across intersections.

  4. Keep Your Lane - swerving bicyclists are unpredictable and could result in car-bike predictable and consistent.

  5. Watch for the right hook - cars often turn right without looking for a bicyclist coming up behind them (sadly, I've done this - I'm sorry Mr. Biker!). Make eye contact with the driver next to you at intersections or stop behind cars in line, don't ride up to the front using the bike lane.

  6. Use Care Passing - If you're forced to ride in the traffic lane because there's no room on the side of the road, be bold and assert your right to be there so that cars don't squeeze you out and cause you to lose control or, and this is my personal favorite, find a calmer street (but beware of people not expecting bikes on quiet back roads and zoning out at free-for-all intersections).
Lastly, let me just say that at least in Seattle, there are perks to biking to work beyond the physical and planetary health benefits. Throughout King and Snohomish Counties, vendors have set up stations for bike commuters to pick up t-shirts, water bottles, snacks, maps, and so much more. I'm planning to make a few stops myself. See you on the street!
DISCLAIMER: These pictures were taken in Munich, Germany on vacation last summer. I am not wearing a helmet because the bike rental place didn't have any. Please do not take this blog as a prescription for biking without a helmet. Quite the opposite, always wear a helmet when biking!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I Am Ready to Follow You

I am going to Japan this summer to research Japanese environmental organizations that especially focus on Christian view. Then I will come back to Seattle three weeks later. This plan is something that I had never expected to happen a month ago. Let me explain..

I was supposed to go back to Japan after I complete my degree in environmental studies at Seattle University. I really wanted to tell my family about Jesus, so I was kind of in hurry going back and share things about Jesus to my family and friends in Japan.

But, about a month ago, I started thinking of staying another year. I knew it was not good choice for my family because they also want me to come back as soon as possible, so I tried not to
change the first decision I made.

I had been struggling a lot since then. Should I stay here or not. The reason I wanted to stay here is that I felt that I did not complete things that I needed to do in Seattle or in the States. I came to the Unites States to study the relationship between environmental issues and religion. I wanted to know the solution through religiours point of view. As time goes by in Seattle, I became a Christian and realize the way Christian people need to picture nature from Christian point of view from my heart.

However, there are still many other worldviews that see nature differently. For them, there should have another way to think the solution of environmental issues. I would like to study these things.

Also, I am not ready for reaching my family and friends for Christ. My family do not believe in God. They still think that I should not follow Jesus after I go back to Japan. In Japan, 0.2% of population is Christian. My family think that it will be difficult for me to live as a Christian in Japan. I need more strong faith to be able to stick what I want to do by the time I go back to Japan.
I also do ministry for Japanese people. I believe that many Japanese people need Jesus in thier lives. My faith has been growing through the ministry where I talk about Jesus to non-Christian people. With many friends who support each other I always feel the existence of Jesus.
These are the reasons.
There are some difficulties that I need to overcome in order to stay, but God knows what I need to do and which way I need to go. I am ready to follow Him whereever I go.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Voices of Wisdom

Yesterday I led a hike in Discovery Park to honor mothers and women, our Mother Earth, and the voice of the Wisdom of God through the ages. Due in part to the unpredictable weather, we were a small but jovial group!

We each took some time out of a busy Sunday afternoon to explore our connections to each other, to the whole of Creation, and to our God. In celebration of Pentecost, a day to recognize the many voices of the Spirit, I offered readings from some of our spiritual mothers in the Christian tradition.

I would like to share one of the readings we reflected on as we walked through the glorious grassland and forest to the edge of the bluff overlooking Puget Sound and then back through the fascinating trees and plant life—the following passage is from the writings of Hildegard of Bingen, a 12th century Christian mystic:

“I am Wisdom. Mine is the blast of the resounding Word through which all creation came to be, and I quickened all things with my breath so that not one of them is mortal in its kind; for I am Life. Indeed I am Life, whole and undivided -- not hewn from any stone, or budded from branches, or rooted in virile strength; but all that lives has its root in Me. For Wisdom is the root whose blossom is the resounding Word....

I flame above the beauty of the fields to signify the earth -- the matter from which humanity was made. I shine in the waters to indicate the soul, for, as water suffuses the whole earth, the soul pervades the whole body. I burn in the sun and the moon to denote Wisdom, and the stars are the innumerable words of Wisdom.

I am the Supreme and Fiery Force who kindles every living spark.... As I circled the whirling sphere with my upper wings (that is, with Wisdom), rightly I ordained it. And I am the fiery life of the Divine essence: I flame above the beauty of the fields; I shine in the waters; I burn in the sun, the moon, and the stars. And, with the airy wind, I quicken all things vitally by an unseen, all-sustaining life. For the air is alive in the green plants and the flowers; the waters flow as if they lived; the sun too lives in its light; and when the moon wanes it is rekindled by the light of the sun, as if it lived anew. Even the stars glisten in their light as if alive.”

The Holy Spirit as Caritas, St. Hildegard von Bingen,
translated by B. Newman
Hildegard's illustration of Sophia, Wisdom of God

Friday, May 9, 2008

A Quality Report

This week, my house along with the rest of Seattle residents, received one juicy piece of mail. Some of you I’m sure tossed it directly into your recycling, but I hope many of you, like myself, decided to open the pages of this thrilling little report.

Seattle Public Utilities released its annual drinking water quality report this past week. If you cracked open the pages, I bet you would have found it quite the “quality” reading. Well, I might be exaggerating, but I did find a few details interesting.

First off, pictures always catch my attention quickest. In this case, it was a graph of growth of population and water consumption. Since 1990, the population that Seattle Public Utilities services has grown 15%. Despite predictions of a concurrent increase in water needs, the total amount of water supplied since 1990 has decreased by 17%. Way to conserve water, Seattle!

After my distraction by the pictures and pretty colors, I actually spent a little time reading what the report found. Annually, Seattle tap water is tested for levels of contaminants, metals, and disease-causing micro-organisms. None of these threatening compounds were found, giving what Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels is calling, “…the ‘gold standard’ in water quality,” It is this finding that is leading Mayor Nickels to launch a campaign encouraging residents to drink tap water, instead of buying bottled water. Seattle residents drink about 354,127 pints of bottled water each day, which adds up to 40,719 barrels of oil and 5,439 tons of greenhouse gases each year. Just think about the difference we could make by just always carrying around a reusable water bottle.

It may not be the page turner you're looking to read over your coffee, but as a concerned citizen we ought to know what's coming out of our faucet. You never know what might spark your interest when doing just a little reading.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Don't Throw it in the Garbage!

We all have our dirty little secrets, tucked away in the bowels of our basement, gathering dust in the garage, or sleeping quietly in our garden sheds. You know what I’m talking about. Household toxics.

Household toxics can include old household cleaners (drain and oven cleaners); lawn and garden products (snail bait, pesticides, fertilizer); oil-based paints and stains; automotive products (antifreeze, engine additives, motor oil); pool and spa supplies; mercury-containing fluorescent light bulbs, and batteries of all kinds.

I know, I know, some of these date from the previous home owner or were needed for a specific project. But now they’re sitting there, nearly but not quite empty, and you’d really like to do a spring cleaning. Whatever you do, don’t throw it in the garbage!

These household toxics must be disposed of properly, for the health of our communities and the Earth. The good news is that in Seattle/King County, there are lots of options for safe disposal.

Households Hazards Line: 1-888-869-4233

South Household Hazardous Waste Facility: 8105 5th Ave S, Seattle
Open Thurs-Sat, 10am-4pm. No appointment needed.

North Facility: make appointment through Household Hazards Line.

Bellevue/Factoria Facility: 13800 SE 32nd St, Bellevue
Open Thurs-Sun, 9am-5pm. No appointment needed.

In the next few weeks, the mobile Household Hazardous Wastemobile will be collecting waste free of charge in these two communities:

May 9-11 – Shoreline Aurora Square Sears
1577 11 Aurora Ave N, 98177

May 16-18 – Renton Fred Meyer
365 Renton Center Way, 98055

Nationally, you can look up toxic waste disposal locations through your city or county government, or by going to Earth 911’s website and entering in the item you need to dispose of and your zip code in the search box at the top of the page.

Stay tuned for future blog postings on what happens to your items once you drop them off at the Hazardous Waste Facility, alternative products that are available, and other exciting information about household toxics!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Three Months, 300 Miles

Don’t tell the boys yet!

As the spring grows redolent with late cherry and apple blossoms, and the tulips fade while irises appear I think about the bountiful blessing of our local agriculture: the wonderful asparagus already in our kitchens, the fabulous tomatoes we will soon see at the farmer’s markets. I’m tired of food from Peru and China, or some processing plant in the Rust Belt. I’m longing for fresh; my spirit needs the sustenance and my body needs the anti-oxidants.

Because I do everything Sustainable Ballard tells me to do, last year in August I took the 100-mile challenge and for one whole month ate only foods grown within the Northwest region. Here’s what happened:
  • My food budget dropped by 25%; I don’t know why but local was cheaper for my pocketbook.

  • I lost five pounds, not that you’d notice.

  • The two EarthCorps internationals living with me (both from South America) hardly paid attention because it turns out that this is how they had eaten their entire lives.

  • My then 17 year-old son hated it: local food means no processed food, no pizza, and no chips. He complained every day. Tough!

This year, we have a young man from Namibia living with us, and he likes meat and pizza and food more to Brian’s taste. Also, like most young people from the south, he’s an avocado-a-day man. So this year, I’m going to have a hard time telling the both boys my plan: three months, 300 miles.

That’s right. Sustainable Ballard got me going. Then we at Earth Ministry worked on the Local Farms/Healthy Kids legislation this year and I learned all over again why local food is better for so many reasons. If it was only that local food is cheaper, healthier, and good for the local economy and the environment and is more fair and just to local workers, I might not be so in love with it. It’s the beauty and delight and fun and neighborliness of local food, it’s the thrill of twenty versions of lettuces or cucumbers that you would never see in a big store. It’s the flower ladies from Southeast Asia; the buskers signing their hearts out while you select oysters from Shelton or cheese from Linden. It is knowing your producer is also a concert cellist or has a kid at Oxford. It’s full-catastrophe living and it makes me happy.

So I’m initiating our own private regional foods 3-month challenge this summer: July, August, and September (take that, Sustainable Ballard!). We at 1806 are going to eat regional, not local food, because it is more honest. It lets us have wheat and bread and veggies from Yakima, salmon from BC and shrimp from Oregon. That’s why we extended the jurisdiction to the whole region, which still keeps our foodprint pretty darn small. It still means no bananas, rice, and processed food besides ice cream from Tillamook Oregon. Iggy won’t get his avocadoes, and my poor Brian will have forgo his pizza-a-day habit and eat, God help him, a vegetable.

We will all be healthier, closer to the source of food and of life. I will take in less fat and the boys will take in more nutrients. Our wonderful local producers will get our business and chat with us about their lives. We will eat what the seasons offer and no more. You, cherished reader, will hear stories about local farms, good meals, major rebellions in the household, and the dogs’ waist measurements.

We’ll do this in July, August, and September. Ask your own household about it. Join us! Make comments on the blog. Decrease your food-print and your waistlines while connecting with the beauty of our region and God’s gifts from Creation. I must be getting old, because this is my idea of a really good time.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Tis the Season! (For Gardening)

Like Kaitlin, I have farming in my blood, but it's much farther removed. My paternal grandfather did some farming in Minnesota, but passed away in 1954 - "long before I was a twinkle in my father's eye." My maternal grandfather attempted farming in Indiana, but soon left for a brighter future in California where he spent more time operating heavy machinery for construction than farming. But his last years were spent tending a beautiful garden at his home in Northern California. It is his example more than any other that drives me today to grow my own vegetables.

After I was married, I guess the nesting instinct kicked in and I was suddenly determined to grow vegetables in my front yard. We were renting at the time so the best I could do was to plant three plots measuring 3'x6'. I was so proud of my brocolli - an easy 8" in diameter - and an overabundance of cherry tomatoes! It was so easy and created an impressive bounty for the quality of the soil. When we bought our first house, a sizable yard was a must to accomodate my thirst for gardening. Once my husband and I decided where to put the garden , I killed off an 8'x24' section of our lawn - about three times the size of our first plot - and prepared the soil. That first year, I packed it full of vegetables!

There is something undecidedly fulfilling about growing your own vegetables. Gardening keeps me sane. It melts away most of my stress in an hour or two and I feel ready to conquer the world again. Tilling the soil and eating of the bounty keeps me more connected to the earth in an age where most of our food comes in boxes and plastic wrappers. And the vegetables just taste so much better straight from the garden.

I think we need a revolution of home vegetable gardening. We'd save money on food and kids would learn about nature and feel more connected to the earth and their food. It just makes sense, so get out there and start a garden today! Even if you can't grow your own vegetables because you don't have the space, at least consider supporting small, family-owned farms by shopping at farmer's markets or by joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). You can find one here: