Archive for May, 2013

May 27, 2013

by Cynthia

S1-photo (2)

Princess with her head stuck through the fence. Again.


This is my little goat, Princess, who really does believe that the grass is greener, and tastier, on the other side of the fence. Never mind that she has ten acres of good grazing at her hoof tips. Perhaps she was lured by the faint scent of wild honeysuckle growing along  the fence row in the next field. Maybe she spotted some poison ivy, a goat delicacy, creeping up a sumac and she couldn’t hold herself back. She never learns.  God love her little bitty goat brain. She acts surprised every time she gets stuck, crying out to her buddies who nonchalantly look her way and keep on chewing. Our Great Pyrennes, Harry, has begun to ignore her. When she was younger,  he would do his good goat dog duty and go sit beside her until Tim or I arrived to wrangle her free.  I think he has finally developed compassion fatigue.  Princess gets herself into this predicament so frequently that we have moved her into a pasture with electric fencing.

The problem really isn’t that she sticks her head through the fence, it’s that she can’t keep on going. She can’t get her whole self through.  She sees something she wants, she heads in that direction, then she gets stuck.  Princess is a walking metaphor for what we psychotherapists call Ambivalence.  She has lots of desire, but not enough follow through.  Trapped by her own bulk, she is unable to move forward.

I realize I have my own ambivalence about being a better citizen of the planet. I decide to drive my car on a day when I could easily take the train. I order a chicken dish  in a restaurant that has Tyson written all over it.  I get enraged by the squash bugs annihilating my zucchini, and I buy some Sevin, “just this once.”

These petty environmental crimes won’t have a big impact on the environment, but neither will my efforts to live green and eat clean. Global warming is bigger than all of us little organic gardeners out here no-tilling and composting and recycling and picking bugs off our plants at sunrise. But we are making a difference.

Growing your own food reduces your carbon footprint in at least two ways. Think about this finding in a recent study of organic versus traditional farming methods;  “Recent studies of the US food system have shown that most (50–70%) of the average households‘ carbon footprint for food consumption comes from farm production and subsequent processing, with transport accounting for only an average of 11%, respectively, across all sectors or food products.”   Sustainability 2011, 3, 322-362

The more food we grow in our back yard, or buy from our local organic CSA,  the more we reduce our carbon footprint.  And we get much better food.

Maybe, just maybe, if enough of us are passionate about the planet, and we make enough noise, the rest of the world will pay attention. Maybe our collective ambivalence about making the kinds of changes that DO impact the environment will begin to shift. Then those folks who refuse to believe that humans are negatively impacting the global climate might get on board. They might realize they are not as smart as they once thought, might second guess their assertions about hard science and recurring patterns.

Meanwhile, the garden is planted and the fruit trees are full of tiny apples and peaches and cherries and pears. The berry bushes are heavy with green fruit. The animals on our farm are making us lots of rich fertilizer and we are moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle. I will get stuck now and then. Caught in my laziness, or ignorance, or ambivalence. Seduced by a Big Mac. If you see me, give me a push



May 19, 2013

The New Food Economy

by Cynthia

2012 (62)

It’s the middle of May and by now New Year’s resolutions are a thing of the distant past. Like diets, New Year’s resolutions sound like a great idea and they actually make you feel better about yourself for a while. This will be the year you really do it. (Lose ten pounds, learn to speak French, stop smoking, etc…….) Then a little slip becomes a little habit and there you are, late at night, standing in front of your refrigerator with the ice cream calling your name. You are only human, after all.  I don’t make New Year’s resolutions for this very reason.  I make intentions. Intentions give me more wiggle room. I don’t RESOLVE to do something; I merely INTEND to do it. The inevitable failure is softened this way. Each year, come January, I intend to make sure the pantry is empty and the freezer cleared out before next June when the vegetables start coming in. This is no small intention. My husband and I live alone, and while we are big eaters, we usually go into the summer months with remnants of last year’s bounty untouched.

I feel intimated when I open the freezer door and realize how much is in there. Green peas from the previous spring. Peaches, tucked away in the deepest corner, collecting freezer burn like cockleburs. Bags of blackberries, raspberries, blueberries. Dried herbs. Garlic scape pesto. A whole unplucked duck? Bags of casserole ready sweet potatoes. Sliced strawberries. Assorted packages of goose flesh. A quiche made with spring onions and fennel. A container of gumbo my husband made last March. And a twelve-pound turkey I had planned on cooking for Christmas until I got excited by a recipe for vegetarian lasagna made with kale and fontina cheese.

Unlike most people in the world, I never wonder if I will eat, only what I will eat. When Tim and I moved to the farm nine years ago, opting out of the suburban lifestyle was one of the motivators. Opting out of what Micheal Pollan calls the Big Food economy was another. Growing our own food isn’t just about avoiding GMOs and industrial fertilizers. It’s about having choices about what we eat. As less and less American soil is devoted to farming, those choices get more precious. President Obama lost me as a fan when he signed into law H.R. 933, an appropriation bill which included the Monsanto Protection Act. A republican senator from Missouri ( headquarters of biotech giant Monsanto) co-authored the portion of the bill with Monsanto execs  that protects Monsanto from being sued if any of its GMOS are proven to have caused harm to the millions of consumers who are eating it’s genetically modified foods. The provision also strips the USDA of the power to stop the sale and planting of potentially hazardous genetically engineered crops even if “in the course of its assessment the Department finds that it poses previously unrecognized risks.” (The corn syrup in your Coke is made with Monsanto GMO corn, just so you know).

Due to significant protest and activism on the part of people who are outraged at this free pass to Monsanto, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), plans to introduce an amendment that would repeal the section that protects Monsanto and other Big Ag companies. GMOs don’t scare me nearly as much as the Big Ag companies who can buy the political power to do whatever they want with our food supply. The growing food movement includes seed savers, home gardeners, small farmers; anyone who cares about the quality of the food they eat and the health of the soil that provides it.

More and more of our friends who live in urban or suburban environments are joining CSAs. Like having a small chicken coop in your back yard, being a member of a CSA or shopping at the farmer’s market is trendy. Like driving a hybrid, it’s a statement that you care about the environment, that you’re a conscious person. As another person who cares about the environment, I’m happy about that. But what if all those folks went out into their back yards and planted a garden? Got a little dirt under their fingernails? What if local parks devoted space for communal gardens? What if the “new food economy” were something that more Americans could participate in as a way of life?

I realize how lucky I am to be sitting in the midst of such bounty. Acres of green pasture and leafy woods. Clean air and the sounds of birdsong. And a freezer full of food. This year perhaps we’ll have a big party and cook as much of what’s still left from last year’s harvest. We’ll empty the pantry shelves, throw open the freezer. What we don’t eat will go home with our guests like party favors. Who wants strawberry jam? Lima beans, anyone? How about a duck?

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