Meandering Thoughts from inside the Heatwave

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Books, Family, Robbie White | Posted on 24-07-2009


by Robbie White

I live in an historic neighborhood, so I to think about our connection with those who lived before us in our home. I often think of how things were “back then." Our house was built in 1903. Most of our neighborhood came along in the decades around statehood. These past days have sparked many thoughts on how things were different before air conditioning. 

I think of trying to sleep in a house with no relief form the heat. Then, I look at the lovely windows in my home. If those windows were opened, a nice cross breeze would cool each room of this house. A walk around the outside with this thought in mind reveals yet another reason for nurturing that huge pecan tree that has shaded the house for so many decades. In fact, most of our bedrooms are shaded in one way or another by trees, or else they are on the north side. I wonder if this house had a sleeping porch, screened from bugs but open on all sides. These days, we have so many places to cool off during the days—the library, a movie theater, church, the mall, etc. But we still have to sleep at night, and I sleep better when it is cool. 

I recently read the book, The Help by Kathryn Stockett. The book is set in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960’s. Electric air is a new thing for the residents of the Southern town. In one scene, the main character is trying to sleep in her parents’ plantation home, which had been built in the late 19th century. She eventually ends up on the back porch remembering how many nights she slept on a cot out there in summer. In this and other stories of days before air conditioning, the heat becomes a force that shapes the lives in the narrative. How close those people lived to the natural world. 

My kids and I hid from the heat most days this past week. We stayed inside where it was relatively cool. We watched movies, read books and worked around the house. We could be oblivious to the heat if we chose. It’s like that with a sustainable lifestyle. It’s easy to let the car idle in this heat because it is so uncomfortable or drive the car instead of bicycling on an errand. It is a challenge for me to step away from all that technology and be one step closer to the way things ought to be. 

How do you make your life more sustainable? In what ways are you closer to the natural world? Do you grow your own vegetables or compost your lawn and kitchen waste? Maybe you attended the local food fair at Harn Homestead last week? Or perhaps you support local farmers? I look forward to your ideas. 

Let’s celebrate our choices together on Fresh Greens!

Nosh, nibble and buy local goodies at the Local Food Fair today

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Community, Direct Farm Sales, Family, Farming, Food and Drink, Local News, Locavore, Oklahoma City | Posted on 14-07-2009


Sample delicious food, shop, chat and gab at the Local Food Fair this evening. No admission!organic-food-mmwwo-001

A Local Food Fair

Tuesday, July 14

6:00 – 8:30 p.m.

Harn Homestead

1721 North Lincoln Blvd.

Oklahoma City

Local foods, plants, flowers & wine vendors and live music!

Come ready to:

  • Shop for locally-grown food & wine (please bring a reusable shopping bag).
  • Learn how easy it is to make more sustainable food choices.
  • Sample fresh locally-grown food & get to know the people who produce.

Sponsored by:


Ode to Mrs. Hogg

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Family, Home and Garden, Ron Ferrell | Posted on 28-05-2009


Growing up in a small western Oklahoma town was a blessing for me in many ways.  Rural living, huge families, big gardens, riding horses was an every day event, and being witness to the rural family farm before corporate mono-cropping with chemicals became the normal way to farm, and the school system. 

My brothers and sisters, along with all the neighbor kids, rode the school bus about 10 miles to and from school daily and the road we traveled we called the ‘ridge road’ because it ran along the south rim of the vast and beautiful South Canadian river.  The big creeks that were the river’s tributaries ran through all the prairie and farm land where I grew up and created an endless playground which I explored on horseback every day of my childhood. 

We always had a few horses in the pasture, so I had my pick of which one I wanted to ride.  Television shows of the 1950’s were this wanna- be cowboy’s recipe for fun…a real western adventure right in my back yard.  Of course, I always wanted to be the Indian, so I fashioned bow and arrows out of tree limbs, and covered my front and back side with Mom’s tea towels, stuffed into my underwear. I was a fair skinned Indian, but what great fun I had exploring the rolling prairie, creeks and south Canadian river on horseback to my young heart’s desire. 

School was a world that I didn’t take so keenly to.  There were books, schedules, rules, social structure which was totally foreign to me, and the teachers that made it all work.  I liked most of my teachers, all these women who were married to local farmers, and probably provided the only stable income their family enjoyed.  The lunch room cooks were also farm women, and let me tell you, the food was made from scratch and wonderful!  Those ladies made hot rolls, cinnamon rolls, deserts and the like for all of us kids.  The food was so good that I worked in the lunch room doing dishes through the noon hour in order to get special favor from the cooks, and all the wonderful food I wanted. 

School was a mere extension of my family at home, and any adult at school or in the public at large had my parent’s permission to discipline us if we were out of line.  And they did.  My uncle put me off the school bus about half way home one day for being a nuisance and made me walk home.  I got an ass whippin’ from my Dad when I finally got home, and then had to walk to my Uncle’s house and apologize to him for being a jerk.  It worked!  I never pulled that again. 

One teacher in particular totally captured my exotic interests.  Mrs. Lorene Hogg.  Mrs. Hogg never had children, so she could afford to spend her frivolous money on such things as an aquarium for our class room and at home she had peacocks, exotic pheasants, fancy chickens, plants I’d never heard of nor seen and in a green house no less, with the open heart to share it all with us 6th graders.  She taught us to propagate angel wing begonias for our Mom’s, how to grow colorful salt crystal gardens, the importance of hand- made cards for holidays and the fun side of public education in addition to book learnin’. 

Her flower garden collection was big and impressive to me, as I’d only known about cotton, feed grains, hay and growing vegetables.  Her pea-foul freely roamed the property and I thought that was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.  HOW EXOTIC!  She had cannas, Iris of many colors, elephant ears and I don’t really remember what else, but it seemed like the botanical gardens of a foreign land to me.  She very patiently showed me around her farm answering all kinds of questions.  I would beg my Mom to take me there for a visit because her place was an exciting and foreign place for me to visit and imagine how all that stuff would look at our farm.  But, alas, it was not to be.  We were farmers, not flower gardeners. 

Never taking no for a final answer, I did amass $35.00 from somewhere and bought my very own pea-foul family.  There was the incredibly beautiful peacock, the peahen and 4 babies.  My dad was furious and screamed something about those “noisy bastards”, but soon came to love them as much as I did.  They would follow him around for feed and attention, and at one time he had several grown males beautifying our monochromatic farm. 

Mrs. Hogg and her husband have been gone for 20+ years, and with no children to continue her legacy, their farm has fallen into a sad, quiet decline.  Their home still stands, and to this day it has never been emptied of their possessions.  Peeking through the window it looks as if they went to town on Saturday and just never returned.  A life-time of effort by Mr. and Mrs. Hogg slowly dissolving into oblivion. 

Springtime, 2 years ago while visiting my sister who lives just up the road, the Iris were making their annual effort to grow and bloom.  I asked my sister what was to become of the place, and she said the nieces who’d inherited the place hired a cousin of ours to come ‘round a couple times a year and mow everything flat – denying those Iris the wonder of colorful spring blooms. 

This news was so sad to me that I took about a dozen grocery bags and a shovel to Mrs. Hogg’s now silent homestead and dug samples of Iris from all around her yard.  Were they allowed to bloom, I could have perhaps chosen many colors, but random is as random does.  I took what I thought might provide a big variety. 

Along the driveway at my new homestead, the only place soft enough to dig was the filled in trench that OG&E dug to put my electrical service underground.  Sorry, hard clay soil, but I planted my samples and top dressed them with compost, gave them a drink and hoped for the best.  Now in their second year, Mrs. Hogg’s Iris are again in their glory.  There are about five different colors that have been in bloom for the last two weeks and they have quadrupled in number.  The purples are beautiful, but one bunch of very tall, very yellow Iris surely were Mrs. Hogg’s pride and joy. These flowers make my heart happy and I know Mrs. Hogg would be giddy in the knowing that I still think about her influence on my life whenever I look down my driveway at her wonderful, almost forgotten Iris.  

One small step for reusable bags …

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Family, Food and Drink, Robbie White, Tips, Waste Management | Posted on 27-03-2009


by Robbie White 

I believe in small steps when changing behaviors. My latest battle has been reusable bags. It all started for me when I started riding my bike to the grocery store on occasion to bring home a few items. 

I feed three growing kids, so provisioning my kitchen is no small chore. The bulk of  my grocery shopping cannot be done on a bike. Neither, however, can it be done well at a big box store. It is a subtle balance of healthy and sustainable. I have written about this before in my Fresh Greens post, Mothering Sustainably.

As I stated then, I do spend a good deal of time on the issue of feeding my family — like all mothers and fathers since time began. In addition to theactors of cost, health impact, organic quality, hormone/antibiotic presence, and environmental impact, by riding my bike to the store, I add in the space factor. How much can I pack onto my the baskets of my bicycle? Besides all of that, it makes me smile to ride to the grocery store! I feel a sense of joy in a menial task as well as the satisfaction of my car sitting in the garage!

The biggest change our family has made is to stop buying two weeks worth of groceries at once. Instead, we focus on a few days

worth. When my husband and I ride our bikes to the store together, we can pick up enough food to last a few days. We have to be thoughtful and avoid too many impulse purchases but it can be done if you pack the groceries into reusable bags of the right shape to fit right down into the baskets on our bicycles. For me, that means canvas totes from the Oklahoma Food Cooperative. They are sturdy enough to hold anything and they fit into those baskets perfectly. You can even tie the handles over the top to secure the food inside for the ride home. 

A couple of weeks ago, I rode my bike to the store. I had a short list of things my family needed and the weather was absolutely beautiful. I set out with two tote bags. What I did not

realize was that my son had given me a list of snacks he needed for a club meeting at school (three bags of chips and two boxes of cookies). I eyed the growing bulk in my basket uneasily. What was I going to do with those huge bags of chips? I braved on thinking that I could make two trips if needed. The light was fading fast, however. So, I packed up my purchases and wheeled them out to my bike. I wish I had a picture to show you but many of my neighbors had a good laugh that lovely evening as I rode home with three bags of chips tied on top of two tote bags on the back of my bike—thank goodness for those long tote bag handles to secure them. The pile rose well above the baskets swaying with each revolution of the pedals. I made it home, chuckling at how pleased I was to have made it home in one trip with all those bulky chips. I did make a mental note to bring along one of my children for extra bicycle storage space the next time I am asked to buy snacks! 

The point of this silly story is that trying to accomplish this short ride to the store with thin disposable plastic bags they give out at stores these days would have been a disaster! The reusable bags are the right tool for the way I shop now. It is that simple. When I am not limited by the number of bags I brought with me, I buy more stuff than I need. It is the same when I drive to the store. I just buy more when I know that I don’t have to fit it all into my bicycle baskets. There are times when that is appropriate. 

The challenge with reusable bags is having them with you when you need them. I have begun keeping a few in my car for quick stops at the drug store or wherever.

My best tips for actually using the reusable bags are:

  • Put them where you actually need them (in the car, on the bicycle, etc…)
  • Go back to the car to get them when you forget (this is hard).
  • Be really nice to the hard working cashiers and sackers who struggle with the myriad shapes and sizes of reusable bags.
  • Smile when you use your bags!!
  • Be sure to get yours from the Oklahoma Food Cooperative.

Green Valentines

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Family, Holidays, Robbie White, Waste Management | Posted on 06-02-2009


by Robbie White

I have been pondering the last-minute mindset that marketers and retailers have cultivated in our culture. For example, we all know for 365 days prior to February 14 that we will be expected to participate in some form of Valentine’s Day celebration. Whether that participation is elaborate or simple is determined by our individual tastes and situations. Marketers and retailers would like us to rush out on February 13 to our local superstore and purchase the most expensive, over-packaged, sticker ladened, and trendy set of valentines for our classmates/lovers/family members/co-workers heedless of the resources we consume and the costs we pay. This isn’t really a question of how much to spend because valentines are CHEAP! Each one may even come with an envelope, a card, a sticker and even a piece of candy. Sadly, valentines rarely get looked at twice. They are opened, admired and pilfered of sweets, finally to be thrown away by parents at the earliest possible moment. It has bugged me for years that this practice is so wasteful. One year, my five year old was asked to bring over 50 valentines individually signed. He was part of an open area classroom with four classes! I am still amazed at the huge bag of cards he brought home that year! It was a dizzying display of conspicuous consumption.

What if we did things differently? At our church, there is a fabulous event every year marking the beginning of Advent. During season of Advent we prepare for the birth of the Christ child on Christmas. The main feature of the Advent Festival is the crafts. There are several dozen different crafts to make. The planning for this event begins in January after the ladies in charge carefully pack the leftovers away into a designated closet. Then, they scour the stores for the best late-season discounts, purchasing materials for future festivals at 75%-90% off. These bargain buys are all stored until September when they begin to organize in earnest. There is very little waste with this event because of the thoughtful way the organizers use resources. This year, they made snowmen out of recycled smoothie bottles. In many previous festivals, they made snow globes out of recycled baby food jars. Old Christmas cards have been cut up to make any number of different crafts.

This event inspires me to think more carefully about the stuff I use.

Laura is a good friend of mine with whom I plan mission projects for the children at our church. She is an excellent steward of resources! Laura has spent many years volunteering in various ministries and community groups, and she has learned how to make the most of what’s available. Recently, she planned to provide the kids with materials to create handmade Valentine’s cards for the homebound members of our church. First, she went to the office staff to ask them for envelopes leftover from other projects. She managed to get about 5 dozen envelopes that would otherwise have been tossed—all the same size in excellent condition. Then, she went to the supply closet to choose paper. She chose construction and craft paper from our existing supplies and cut the paper to fit the envelopes. In our supply closet, there is a huge box of stickers sorted (by volunteers like Laura) into themes, from which she chose appropriate stickers.

Most people would have gone to the store and purchased new envelopes, new paper and new stickers, but Laura was intentional in her use of resources. The project was completed by the children in two phases which included 1)addressing of envelopes and 2)creative work of making cards. Of course, there are a myriad of steps that go into any such project, such as the gathering of names and correct addresses, sealing and posting the cards and cleaning up afterwards. For the cost of postage and Laura’s time, the children created unique personal greetings for the members of our faith family who are not able to travel to the church building anymore. The blessings were abundant!

For me, the best part of this project was the lesson I learned in simplicity. Not every need requires that stuff and/or money be devoured. Some needs are best filled by our time and thoughtfulness. You can apply this lesson to Christmas or any event that requires participation or giving. We have a choice—do we allow the retail/marketing industry to define our level of consumption, or do we choose to save resources with careful and creative planning?

I may not be able to get out of providing valentines for the my children’s classmates. However, with a little planning, I can do it with as little environmental impact as possible—recycled materials, small sized greetings, stamps instead of stickers, or perhaps a card that folds into its own envelope? The possibilities are endless. I am energized by the sense of empowerment this choice gives me!

I’d love to hear from all of our Fresh Greens readers— how do you infuse green into Valentine’s pink and red?

Gardening Feats and Dirty Lies

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in David Brooks, Family, Home and Garden | Posted on 30-01-2009


by David Brooks

One thing we know for sure about Americans: we
are a competitive bunch. The last big political race took aggressive
competition to a new level. Anyone OU plays in any sport brings out the
competitive juices of fans and non-fans alike. Banks are competing for
big bailout money. Car manufacturers are doing the same. Advertisers
are trying to win the title of Best Superbowl ad. All of this so
people, or groups, can declare themselves “winner.” It is also clear
that sometimes those in the competition may tell a little white lie, or
possibly huge, over-the-top, outright lies. Democrats and AIG
executives seem to be the worst. (Just kidding, put down the hothouse

Thank goodness for gardening. Happy people enjoying
the fruits of the ground would never see their work as a time for
competition. How could a lie ever invade the solitude and beauty of a
back yard garden? Tilling the earth is a way of showing peace and love
to each other, the soil we work, and possibly the new administration.
So, it is safe to say that gardeners rise above the cheap, tawdry
competition the rest of the world is locked into. Gardeners show the
world how honesty and compassion really works. Gardeners are truly the
Salt of the Earth. Sure!

I was raised by a gardener. My dad
actually bought a house because it had a 20’ X 40’ greenhouse behind
it. The previous owner raised geraniums for a retail group called
TG&Y. Some of you may actually remember their stores. My dad went
through the OSU Master Gardener program and graduated summa cum laude
and was valedictorian of his class. There were only five in the class,
but we let him gloat.

I had an uncle in Houston named Murray
who was going through the same type of training in a Texas program that
was very similar to the one my Dad excelled in. Both set out the same
summer to plant their first “Big” gardens.  Daddy in the greenhouse,
and Uncle Murray in the backyard. It did not take long for something to
peek through the dirt of both gardens. Naturally my dad’s somethings
were greener, stronger, taller and better in every conceivable way.
That is until Uncle Murray called to let Dad know that his plants were
the greener, stronger, taller and yes, better of the bunch. It was on!
A fist fight held over the phone with Turnips and Tomatoes used for
gloves. The first year was civil, but by year three it was all out

And then the lies started! Over the phone a description
is as good as you can make it. However, one day Uncle Murray sent a
picture. It was a Polaroid of a head of cabbage the size of a
Basketball. This was easily proved because a basketball was in the
picture. It took years for Uncle Murray to admit it was a youth
basketball about 2/3 regulation size. The competition then moved to the
height achieved by the okra plants. While I was doing homework one day,
(maybe not) my dad came in and yelled, “Bring the Polaroid camera and
follow me.” We went straight to the Okra rows planted outside the
greenhouse. There at the end of the row was an impeccably dug one foot
hole. My dad proudly stepped into the hole and faced the camera.  His
instructions were to take the picture from just under the knee so it
would not look like he was kneeling. After 3 or 4 attempts we got the
shot he wanted and shipped it off to Uncle Murray.

A few days
later came a Polaroid of one of the biggest Tomatoes I had ever seen.
Uncle Murray put a dollar bill in the photo to show the size. That
tomato was a beauty. Daddy was fit to be tied. My aunt admitted years
later that he was able to achieve such a huge tomato by buying it from
a gardening pro at the farmers market outside Friendswood, Texas. 

competition between these two lasted more than a decade. Both men are
gone now, but the legend of their lies lives on. Both men bought new
houses late in life based solely on the size of the yard and the
gardens they would hold. Daddy and Uncle Murray lived into their 70’s
with gardening, competition, and a few good whoppers leading the way to
happy retirements. Both had roadside stands where they sold the
abundance of their gardens, and, of course, they lied about how much
they made. One year daddy sold a bushel of Okra for $600.00. Naturally
Uncle Murray beat it with a 3 foot ear of corn that brought over
$1000.00 and is now in the Smithsonian. I fully intend to grow a garden
this year that will beat them both. Since they are not here to defend
their honor, I know my garden will beat them both.

Death of a Community

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Community, Family, Farming, Finances, Homesteading, Ron Ferrell | Posted on 16-01-2009


by Ron Ferrell

The topic we all are really uncomfortable talking about is our pending, inevitable demise. As a society, we don’t do a very good job of incorporating the dying process into the living process. Most everything we see and hear feeds our obsessions with staying youthful, (anti-aging, a face as free of wrinkles as a baby’s behind) all of which really translates to, "I DON’T WANT TO DIE!"

Well, die we will. It may be premature and sudden or ugly and prolonged, and there is no graceful way to face the ultimate challenge. Death. The challenge falls to the caregivers and the loved ones left behind to deal with the aftermath of a life gone before us. 

As I stood in a rolling prairie cemetery last Saturday at my mother’s funeral, it dawned on me how utterly amazing it was that the early settlers to this county ever survived their first winter in this bleak, desperate place.  It was grassland that needed to be destroyed in order for these wayward people to grow food for their survival and eventually thrive as a community called Rhea, Oklahoma.

I wanted to say to all of my nieces and nephews and everyone who came to pay tribute and lay to rest a woman they loved, that at the top of this hill stands a marble tombstone honoring another woman who came to this hillside in the late 1800’s desperate to claim something of her own in order for her family to survive. My Great Grandmother Martha Ferrell, along with her 3 sons, and not much else, parked a covered wagon in the middle of the section so that each wheel touched the corner of a 160 acre plot in order for the 4 of them to collectively stake their claim to a section of land…the very land where I was raised. 

These new settlers to Indian Territory lived in, or perhaps more accurately camped at, this spot for over 2 years before having the resources and the will to build a one room, half dugout with logs cut on the banks of the Canadian River a couple miles away, and then dragged to their property with teams of horses. Their water came from the spring fed creek, carried in buckets to their camp site. 

Looking north from the cemetery up a wide spring fed creek stands a small white farm house that my parents built for their new family. Standing beside that house is the house that my Grandfather and Grandmother built for their family before it. 

Silent beacons to every family connected to this same prairie landscape are the hundreds of tombstones telling small bits of family histories, all connected to one another in many ways. Family and community were synonymous terms for those early settlers. Every family’s survival depended on the commuity’s collective success, and second only to shelter, food was the key to staying alive. The ability to grow food and preserve food was probably the biggest challenge facing these early settlers. 

One of my parent’s biggest challenges in raising 8 kids on a red dirt hill was growing enough food to keep us alive for a year at a time. We used the same row-crop equipment to grow food that we used to grow cotton and feed grains. Other than salt, sugar and some other staples, we grew and preserved most everything we ate. 

A successful garden demanded full participation from every family member, and your neighbors. I remember my mother canning vegetable soup with one of our neighbor ladies. We had home grown vegetables for every meal in those days, eggs and meat that we raised on my great grandmother's homestead farm. 

Our Mother, like most Mothers in our community, cooked 3 full meals, everyday. It was just what they had to do to survive, and they did it with skill.

So in this uncertain time, wondering what we'll do if times get tough, we need to pause for a moment and reflect on what those who have gone before did to survive. They sustained each other as a community, and now we are burying that community, one wonderful soul at a time.  

Sustainability is a word invented to describe our worst fear: that we cannot sustain our current trajectory without some major hardships, if at all.  Those early settlers faced the same fear daily. But they did survive, with grit, determination, and lots of hard work. Are we up for the task?

2009: The Year of Sustainability

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Family, Food and Drink, Lindsay Vidrine, Locavore, Waste Management | Posted on 09-01-2009


by Lindsay Vidrine

Every year, with the tick of a clock, we ring in a new calendar year signifying a fresh start and clean slate for our lives. For many, this New Year comes with strings attached in the form of resolutions – some realistic, some lofty.

This year, I’m choosing to step up the focus on sustainability in my life in several tangible ways. My mother always told me to write down my goals to help hold myself accountable and stay the course, so here it goes:

Resolution #1: A renewed focus on what my family eats.
This includes using my new Made In Oklahoma cookbook Tastefully Oklahoma to come up with delectable recipes stuffed with locally-grown ingredients.

I will also buy food from the Oklahoma Food Coop to make recipes from Clean Eating magazine which focuses on “consuming food in its most natural state.” Each recipe includes nutrition information to help create well-balanced meals while also helping to cut out preservatives and additives that seem to have become a staple on grocery store shelves.

My last tactic for this resolution is to make my own baby food for our four-month-old son. It’s amazing how setting aside just a few hours one Sunday afternoon can provide safe, chemical-free food for weeks at a time. I plan to become a fruit and veggie steaming, puree master to help stave-off food allergies and create a nutritious palate for our little man.

Resolution #2: Ditch plastic bags once and for all.
I never seem to have my canvas bags with me when I hit the check out line and by the time I get back home, I’m too focused on other things to remember to stick them in the car. This will soon change thanks to a set of Envirosax renewable shopping bags. These adorable bags roll up to the size of a cell phone and are an easy and inexpensive way to make sure a reusable bag is always on hand.

Resolution #3: Use less stuff.
Have you watched the video The Story of Stuff? It’s well worth the 20 minutes of viewing time and will put into perspective how most of the stuff we “need” typically ends up in the landfill in 6 months or less. So before I make a purchase, I’m resolving to stop and take a hard look at what I’m buying.

Resolution #4: Don’t let baby gear take over my house.
This is closely related to resolution #3, but the world of baby toys and products is never-ending. Parents and children are constantly bombarded with new gadgets to make life easier. The catch is, many of these products are only used for a brief period of time (especially for infants) and before you know it your child has outgrown it and baby gear is taking over your house. So, I’m pledging to take preventative measures before we get to that stage (and I have a total panic attack). This is going to be tricky – especially when it comes to filtering through all the things people give as gifts that have a short life-span – but I’m up to the challenge.

What are your goals for 2009? If you think about it, I’m sure there are ways to incorporate sustainable practices in some form or fashion. Don’t forget, small changes add up to make a big difference, so keep that in mind when things seem to get overwhelming.

All You Can Take With You

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Current Affairs, Family, Film, Finances, Food and Drink, Nancy Love Robertson | Posted on 19-12-2008


by Nancy Love Robertson  

Part 1
Sometimes little gems of truth come at me from unexpected places. Take this quote for example: “All that you can take with you is that which you’ve given away.” This quote hangs below a picture of Peter Bailey, the founder of Bailey Brothers Building & Loan.

“Who’s Peter Bailey?” you might ask. For those of us who cherish film and consequently hang on holiday traditions through movies, Peter Bailey is the father of George Bailey, the protagonist in It’s a Wonderful Life.

I surprise myself every year about this time. Somehow in all of the busy-ness of the holiday season, I find the opportunity to steal 130 minutes, time I’ve decided to climb off of the merry-go-round and indulge myself and my family in a bit of nostalgia and sentimentality. In fact, I never tire of re-living the life experiences of George Bailey and the goodness of his guardian angel, Clarence, who finally earns his wings after helping George through a profound life crisis. Even though I know how the movie ends, I always cry when all of George Bailey’s friends extend themselves to a man who has given selflessly and loved large.

Last Saturday night was our night to watch It’s a Wonderful Life, and the quote – “All that you can take with you is that which you’ve given away” –jumped off the TV screen, demanding my attention.

What does this mean? How will this notion manifest itself in my life when it’s time for me to take something with me?

Part 2
My brother-in-law, Rod, held a family meeting via e-mail back in October.  The father of four grown daughters and grandfather to a 2½ year old Mighty Mouse named Cal, I consider Rod the steady hand in my family, and when he speaks, I listen. His message was simple: Given the economic crisis that is gripping our planet, let’s let Christmas 2008 be about family, friends, good times, love. The subtext was, “No presents.” It didn’t take me long to speak for the Robertson-Short side of the family. “We’re in,” I cried, in my best e-mail voice. It was a dog pile from that point on and unanimous! There is no stress of holiday shopping, only cooking problems to solve, which, to me, is the best kind of holiday stress.

Part 3
So far, this is the best holiday season I’ve experienced in years, perhaps the best ever in my life. I have a partner I adore, and family and friends I’d throw myself under a bus for. I dig the notion of not acquiring more stuff, as well, and I relish the idea of not contributing to the commercialism that has plagued this time of year for too long.

So, it’s back to the basics for the Robertson-Short, Warner-Welker-Ellingson-Holton, Robertson-Farha-Patrick households. Rather than root around in search of more stuff, I’m responding to e-mails about what’s on the Christmas Day menu and whether to bring champagne or full-bodied cabs as well as which game we’re going to play as a big ol’ family. (Pictionary is becoming a holiday favorite, by the way!)

Part 4
As I was sharing the It’s a Wonderful Life quote with an out-of-town friend last night over dinner, I identified what the quote means for me: I’ll be taking love with me. Like George Bailey, I’m the richest person I know. I feel so much love for the people in my life, and I don’t ever want a day to come when those closest to me ever wonder whether I love them because loving them is the most sustainable thing I’ve ever done. Besides, when you’re the richest person you know, who needs more stuff to take with you anyway?

Why Food?

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Chelsey Simpson, Community, Family, Food and Drink, Home and Garden, Locavore, Volunteering | Posted on 24-11-2008


by Chelsey Simpson

With Thanksgiving this week and the Oklahoma Food Cooperative’s delivery day last Thursday, I’ve found myself contemplating a very simple question: Why food? Of all the things in the world to care about, when and why did food become so interesting to me?

I asked myself this question on Thursday as I left the Food Co-op’s Edmond pick-up site after four hours of frenzied volunteering. Even though I completely understand when other volunteers burn out or have more pressing obligations, it would never occur to me to quit or leave early. Why is that?

Or consider the fact that I was really excited about my plans last weekend, which included learning to render lard with my friend and fellow Fresh Greens blogger, Tricia. I’m in my mid-twenties—why I am excited about lard on a Saturday night?

And while we’re at it, why is making a meal plan my favorite Sunday chore? Why am I considering learning to butcher and dress a chicken when I can’t bring myself to kill a spider without asking its forgiveness? Why do I get such giddy satisfaction when I realize that everything on my dinner plate is local?

I wasn’t always this way. I used to buy big bags of boneless, skinless chicken breasts at the big box store just like everyone else. But at the same time, my current obsessions didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. I’m still doing some self-analyzing and trying to get to the bottom of the issue, but these are my best guesses at “why”:

1. I don’t care about food; I care about people.

I have that “Longhouse Gene,” remember? I really like the community aspect of food. I enjoy speaking to people about the Oklahoma Food Co-op through my job as outreach manager, and I love the chaos and camaraderie of delivery day. People are the reason I volunteer time and again. Besides the people I see, there are the people I don’t see, the ones who are able to make more money off their family farm because I am their occasional advocate and food distributor.

On a larger scale, I like food because it’s a universal connector. People come together for food; the kitchen is the hub of every happy household. Even when I am alone, I can conjure comfort with my mother’s corn bread recipe. And because I buy locally, my cupboards are filled, not with eggs and flour, but with the names and faces of people I know, people I think of when I use their products. My husband even asked if we could send a Christmas card to the makers of his favorite product, peanut butter, because he loves it so much, and he wants them to know. That never happened when I still bought Jif.

2. Food is impossible to ignore.

You can blow off the rainforest, the dolphins and even starving children in Africa. You can ignore calls to recycle, use public transportation or spay and neuter your pets. But you have to put at least a little bit of thought into food every day, or else you will die. Not only does the elemental nature of food attract me, it forms the basis for a very accessible obsession. Anyone with a mouth can form valid opinions about food, and if one meal isn’t so great, another opportunity will come along in four or five hours.

3. I have a history with food.

I might have started my adult life buying from a big box store, but there are plenty of things in my childhood that pointed towards conversion. First of all, I grew up on a farm. We didn’t grow anything organic or sell at any farmer’s markets, but I knew where my food came from and fiercely believed in preserving the small-farm way of life. I also had a mother who cooked from scratch and occasionally had a garden. Sometimes we canned things. I’m afraid that if I don’t learn these skills, they will be lost to future generations.

4. Food is fun.

I think my generation of sustainable foodies is sometimes faced with the fun but daunting task of reinventing the wheel. We don’t have to create the process of pasta-making for example, but because most of us didn’t grow up watching our grandmothers roll out sheets of dough by hand, we have to teach ourselves. Discoveries like that can lead to very satisfying moments of “look what I made!” Three-generations ago, making butter was a chore, but for me it is a novelty, a fun craft I really want to try. A day might come when we need to know these things, but for now we can just play.

5. “Food, well … yum!”

Enough said.

Happy Thanksgiving!