A Moment of Reflection

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Current Affairs, Jennifer Gooden, Politics, Social Justice, Volunteering | Posted on 26-01-2009


by Jennifer Gooden

Occasionally, everything comes together in a way that triggers my reflection and gratitude. I had one of those days today and thought I would share this moment with our Fresh Greens readers.

It began this morning at work at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, where we had the first meeting of our green team. The food bank has already made admirable strides toward energy efficiency and environmental stewardship, including efforts as sophisticated as lighting and energy management systems to practices as hands-on as organic gardening and vermiculture. Still, there is more we can do, and our nascent team met this morning to plan for future improvements. I am so happy to be a part of an organization that has broad vision and an ethic of constant improvement.

Today, Monday, January 19, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, was also the day that Michelle Obama called upon our country to engage in volunteerism, suggesting we give up our lunch money and lunch hours to donate to and volunteer at food banks. Our building was filled with people today, all helping sort food and assemble backpacks for our Food 4 Kids program. We regularly have volunteers at the food bank—15,000 a year, in fact—but it was a busy day for us and a great opportunity to come together as a community to feed those in need.

Connected to this day of service is a day of anticipation. Tomorrow is the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States. I have never seen so many people in our country so full of hope, so aware of the significance of this moment in history, and so proud to be part of this collective celebration of our nation. 

So this day closes with gratitude and optimism. In the spirit of progress and the many ways in which we can come together to craft a brighter tomorrow, I savor this moment and look forward to the years to come.

Winter Garden Dreaming

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Home and Garden, Homesteading, Jennifer Gooden, Organic Gardening, Tips, Urban Gardening | Posted on 05-12-2008


by Jennifer Gooden

With last week’s freeze, I finally gave up on extending the growing season for my tomatoes, green beans, and other warm weather plants, at last giving in to winter. I still have a mix of cold-hardy greens out there, my chard, radicchio, mustard, and kale, but they take care of themselves. And so my 2008 gardening season is over. (Sniff, sniff.)

One thing I love about winter, though, is the time to plan next year’s garden. In my winter eyes, blinded by the cold and darkness, next season’s garden is always lush and abundant. There is endless variety—far more than my five raised beds could dream of supporting—and a complete absence of pesky mosquitoes, munching caterpillars, and digging squirrels.

It may not be realistic, but it gets me through the coldest months.

This winter, I have two gardening projects in mind.  First, I am going to put together a calendar for next spring. I plan to find a calendar to hang in my garage, right next to my garden tools. There’s a reason for this calendar. Despite my fondness for winter garden dreaming, somehow February and early March escape me, and I rarely get my seeds started as early as I could. This year will be different. Organization to the rescue!

The most significant date in spring garden planning is the average date of last frost in spring. I found that the estimates from different sites varied by as much as a month. I settled it by looking up the NOAA historical records for our area. The actual historical dates of last frost did vary, by a lot. In the past 40 years, the date has swung from March 9 to April 15; going back a hundred years, you can add an extra month on either side of those dates. Thankfully, a linear average of the last spring freeze is clear: March 30.

March 30 it is.

Given the importance of that date to all spring planting, the rest of the calendar falls right into place. My early spring calendar, February through April, is below. Note that my plants have been selected for a small urban lot, so you’ll find an absence of large plants like corn and okra.

•    February 15: plant onion sets
•    February 22: sow peas and spinach; start leaf lettuce indoors
•    March 1: sow radishes and turnips
•    March 8: sow beets; plant potatoes; start peppers and tomatoes indoors
•    March 15: transplant leaf lettuce seedlings outside
•    March 22: sow carrots and chard
•    March 30: average date of last spring frost
•    April 12: sow green beans
•    April 19: start cucumbers, summer squash, and melons indoors
•    April 26: transplant peppers and tomatoes outside

My second garden project is to collect more reference books. I currently rely on information gleaned from the internet, seed catalogs, and Square Foot Gardening, but I would like to know more about season extension, food preservation, perennial vegetables, fruits, pest management…you name it. There is much I don’t know.

This is where I need help. If you have a great gardening reference book, one you couldn’t live without, please respond to this post and let us at Fresh Greens know.

Thanks, and happy winter garden dreaming!

Sustained Finances

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Bob Waldrop, Community, Current Affairs, Food and Drink, Home and Garden, Jennifer Gooden, Organic Gardening, Tips | Posted on 17-10-2008


by Jennifer Gooden

I, like everyone else it seems, have spent more time than usual thinking about the economy over the past few weeks. As I write (Monday 10/13), the stock market is rallying after a week of freefall, and photos of i-bankers looking relieved abound on internet news sites. 

I wish I could share their optimism. Instead, I think further tough times are on the horizon, so I have turned to two sources for advice: Bob Waldrop, an admired local advocate and fellow Fresh Greens blogger, and the Survival Podcast, a resource to “help you live the life you want, if times get tough, or even if they don’t.” Since financial stability is essential to sustainability and self-sufficiency, I thought I would pass along the advice I have gleaned from these sources.


Bob Waldrop, known to many interested in sustainability in Oklahoma, has become a trusted source for many in our region. We’re lucky to have him. Bob’s publications are charming in their old-fashioned wisdom, and his messages of frugality and compassion are more important than ever in our current environment. 

I found the Survival Podcast a few weeks ago and have become a fan. While I disagree with the author on some key issues (particularly climate change and politics), I have found the podcast to be a good source of information about practical planning and preparedness. Over the past two weeks, listening to the podcast has become part of my regular routine.

The Recipe

I find it reassuring that multiple sources, based on different perspectives, point to the same solutions for prosperity in times good and bad. In a nutshell, here’s the recipe for financial sustainability:

1.    Curb spending. Keep track of all expenditures for a month or two, and evaluate what can be cut without forfeiting your quality of life. 

2.    Eliminate debt.  Pay off all debt, and enjoy the freedom that comes from being in the black. The Survival Podcast lauds Dave Ramsey’s “debt snowball” strategy. I concur.   

3.    Keep three months of food in the house. On Bob’s advice, I have been purchasing extra flour and grain from the Oklahoma Food Coop every month, which I use to make bread.  Following Jack’s advice, I have added a variety of grains, legumes, pastas, and canned and frozen vegetables to my stored food. I eat a lot of these foods anyway, so I just buy extra when I go to the store. I find that having an abundance of food in my household makes it more fun to cook and pushes me to try new recipes. 

4.    Grow a garden. I began with the principles of Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening and went my own way from there. Anticipating even greater demand for the food coop’s limited fresh veggies next year, I recently added four new garden beds; one is planted with fall greens while three are lasagna gardens, which trick worms into doing the hard work for me. 

5.    Build community. Both of my sources emphasize that it is difficult to build trust during times of crisis. The time to get to know your neighbors is now.

I would be interested to hear what strategies others are following to prepare for uncertainties in the future. If you have more “ingredients” to add to the recipe above, post a comment to let us know what is working for you.

A Question to Ponder

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Community, Jennifer Gooden, Social Justice | Posted on 01-09-2008


by Jennifer Gooden

I sat down to write a post about social justice and sustainability in an attempt to tie together my experiences working to alleviate homelessness and volunteering for a sustainability organization. I expected that I could draw the two together fairly easily, given that 1) sustainability purports its three pillars to be economy, environment, and social justice, each carrying equal weight, and 2) I spend a lot of time thinking about them both.

Disappointingly, I wasn’t able to tie together social justice and sustainability, at least with the time and resources I had available on a Sunday afternoon. I found I couldn’t make an argument that withstood scrutiny.

Here’s the crux of the problem. To sustain something means, essentially, to keep it going. If something is unsustainable, then it can’t be kept going. To say that social injustice can’t be sustained is, well, false.  Sadly, social injustice has been sustained for centuries, likely millennia.

I should clarify that the question of whether social justice and sustainability are connected is a separate question from whether either of them is right or wrong. I think it’s widely accepted in our culture that both social justice and sustainability are concepts that are virtuous.  But we cannot fall into the trap of assuming “sustainable” and “right” are synonymous.

Since I was not able to answer my own question, I would like to throw it out to our Fresh Greens readers:

•    Why do you think social justice is described as a necessary and required component of sustainability?
•    We know that social injustice is wrong, but is it fair to assume that social injustice is unsustainable?

I look forward to hearing your answers. In the meantime, if I come across any convincing arguments, I’ll post a response to share the good news.

Happy thinking!