Show and Tell

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Chelsey Simpson, Food and Drink, Locavore, Tips | Posted on 01-07-2009

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By Chelsey Simpson

You know how it feels the first time you visit a new grocery store—the way nothing you need is where you want it to be and shopping take twice as long because you wrote your list according to the order of your usual store, and that just doesn’t work here? And if you love the new store—if every item calls to you from the shelf like a beautiful, exotic stranger—you will inevitably spend way too much time and money. If you take one of those hot little strangers home (perhaps it called to you from beneath the shower of the produce mister, “buy me, steam me, eat me with butter!”), you will inevitably find that you have no idea how to actually prepare it, and the odds are very good it will sit on your counter and rot.

 

I think the switch to eating local can be a lot like this for many people. If anything, it is far more daunting than an unfamiliar supermarket. First of all, the system itself is different. Instead of aisles there are farmers’ market stalls (which usually only take cash), or in the case of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative there is a website to navigate (and it is helpful to have a PayPal account). Unlike at the grocery store, where every can of beans opens with the same tool, new skills are sometimes required to make the most of local food. Or maybe I shouldn’t say “new” skills, but rather forgotten skills like cooking with whole chickens, baking bread and canning.

 

I have suffered the confusion myself—and I am still learning—but by and large I have converted, so I thought I would take this opportunity to do a little show and tell in hopes that someone out there will find it helpful. First, the “show.” Cropped food

 

A few weeks ago my friend Tricia posted two links on her blog that were very revealing. One is a photography project showing the interior of people’s refrigerators and the other shows families with all the food they typically eat in one week. I was still thinking about the post when I got home from the farmers’ market that week, and I was inspired to take a photo of my own daily bread, which you can see on the right. But first I had to determine what I was going to eat that week beside just the stuff I bought during my shopping trip.

 

I think that one of the keys to eating local is meal planning, so ever weekend I follow the same steps:

1) I take stock of what I have on hand that needs to be used before it spoils;

2) I think about what I have going on during the week that might take away from my cooking time;

3) I think about what is in season and what I might be able to get from the farmer’s market;

4) I make a list of all my meals on one side of a scrap of paper and a shopping list on the back.

There are only two people in my household, so I have to consider the fact that I will have leftovers, and I also plan to have extra food we can take to work for lunch.

 

Because local food (especially meat) costs more sometimes and comes in a more whole form (bones, skin, etc.), I always plan meals so that I can get the most mileage out of everything. For example I cook with whole chickens, but a lot of recipes call for boneless, skinless breasts, so sometimes I cut just the breast meat off of the bird and use it in a stir fry or pasta dish one night then save the rest of the bird to cook whole in the oven, slow cooker or on the grill. Then, if I am really feeling frisky, I use the bones and scraps to make stock. I am afraid I am making this sound like a lot of work, but it isn’t really. And sometimes I just throw a whole bird in a slow cooker for a few hours and call it a day; there’s nothing wrong with that!

 

So here was my meal plan for the week, roughly in order by day:

  • Steak fingers with new potatoes and sauteed Swiss chard
  • Buffalo burgers for a food co-op volunteer party
  • Pizza with tomato sauce, mushrooms, asparagus and cheese (salad on the side)
  • Salad with asparagus, feta cheese, sunflower seeds and green onions
  • Egg frittata with new potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, cheese and greens (salad on the side)
  • Buttermilk pancakes or waffles for dinner with fruit salad if I feel lazy one night
  • Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches as needed

If you look closely at the photo, you can probably make out most of the ingredients. The local things are generally on the right-hand side of the photo, including some Swiss chard from my church’s community garden (isn’t chard beautiful?), andthe grocery items are on the left. Yes, I buy bananas; I like them. And usually we eat a little more meat than this, but somehow this week my husband let me get away with serving him several vegetarian meals.

 

If I had to guess, I would say this is about $100 worth of food, but we won’t eat it all in a week; a lot of it, like the PB and jelly, will live to see another meal plan. According to this estimation, about two thirds of the money I spent stayed local.

 

So there you have it—a fast and dirty look at one week of local eating! It would be fun to see other people’s weekly menus in the comments section. How do YOU make local work?

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

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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.

Take your sustainability IQ up a notch at the OSN conference

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Community, Current Affairs, Shauna Lawyer Struby, Tips | Posted on 13-03-2009

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by Shauna Lawyer Struby

You’ll get a visionary view of life and a short cut to sustainable knowledge at the Oklahoma Sustainability Network’s 8th annual statewide conference, so don’t wait, register now. It’s scheduled for next week, Fri. and Sat., Mar. 20-21, and is an excellent opportunity for networking, brainstorming and learning. The OSN conference provides resources and information on a variety of topics such as environmentally-friendly building processes and business p

ractices, water resources, farming, purchasing local products and transportation, agriculture, daily living and more.

Register now online at the Oklahoma Sustainability Network Web site.

Friday conference speakers will include city leaders from Greensburg, Kan., who will discuss their green rebuilding efforts after a May 2007 tornado leveled nearly the entire city. On Saturday, William Greider, former Rolling Stone and Washington Post editor, will be the keynote speaker. Greider will discuss relevant and timely topics such as how economic and political forces have brought us to the financial crisis of the day, and how a return to our nation’s core values will bring a better, more fulfilling society. To see the full slate of programming go to OSN’s Web site.

Come learn and share with others about:

  • Energy- speakers include Oklahoma Secretary of Energy Robert Wegener, who will explore the latest developments in alternative energy and coal burning po

    wer plants.

  • Activism sessions will teach you how to incorporate sustainable practices at home and work.You’ll also learn how put your own activism to work.
  • Water rightsand the importance of water quality for recreational use. Oklahoma Attorney General, Drew Edmondson, will discuss protecting water resources. Oklahoma Secretary of Environment, J.D. Strong, will lead a panel discussion on water rights.
  • Agriculture sessions take a look at urban farming, the Community Food Project, and agriculture market concentration.
  • Farmers markets and food cooperatives will be one of several panel discussion topics. Bob Waldrop, founder of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative and local advocate for social and environmental responsibility, will lead the panel.
  • Sustainable daily living featuring Trathen Heckman, founder and executive director of California-based Daily Acts, an organization that promotes and educates on earth-friendly lifestyles for individuals. Check him out at www.dailyacts.org.
  • Transportation including sessions on electric vehicles, transit-oriented development and freight and passenger railroad transportation.
  • Business and nonprofittracks will explore marketing green business, real estate, green building codes, alternative business structures, business pollution prevention and marketing nonprofits.
  • Education topics focus on sustainability and the student body, sustainable university curriculum, the sustainable campus and the Oklahoma Farm to School Program featuring representatives from Tulsa University, Oklahoma State University, Oklahoma City University and the University of Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma Sustainability Network Conference is March 20-21 at the University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, and begins with registration at 8:15 a.m. each day. Admission is $75 for both days or $42.50 for single day registration. The OSN Conference is presented by the Oklahoma Sustainability Network and hosted by Sustainable Edmond. To register or to get times and further information, go here.

Please forward this information to anyone you who might be interested in attending. Hope to see you there!

Soil Are Us; Us Are Soil

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Bob Waldrop, Compost, Home and Garden, Organic Gardening, Tips | Posted on 13-02-2009

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by Robert Waldrop

Soil is fundamental to agriculture and gardening and thus is fundamental to human life. Fertile topsoil is a precious resource, and there is less and less of it all the time. Half of Oklahoma’s top soil is now somewhere at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. I don’t know if it is helping or hurting things there, but the loss of topsoil here at home is critical. If we want to step forward into a more sustainable future, we need to take care of our soil. That way the soil can take care of us.  

The first rule is do no harm. No noxious chemicals on your soil or plants–no herbicides, pesticides, or  chemical fertilizers. Yes, its true. Even Miracle Gro will damage your soil over the long term. It is not nice to poison Mother Nature. We shall indeed reap what we have sown, and if we continually sow poison, that is what we will harvest. Do No Harm!

Next, cultivate an attitude of loving stewardship towards whatever land you are responsible for, whether that be a 1/7 of an acre city lot or a thousand acre farm. The ground you walk on is a vital resource. To let it just wash down the river is like flushing money down the toilet. (We do that too, but that’s another column for a later day.)

If you have any bare soil, mulch it. Bare soil is eroding soil. Cover it with a nice layer of grass clippings, shredded leaves, chipped tree limbs, whatever you happen to have handy–several inches at least. Mulch decomposes, so its like a compost pile. The floor of a forest is always covered in mulch. That’s one way that nutrients are cycled, but please don’t buy bags of “cypress mulch” as that is made by chopping down mature cypress trees and shredding them. 

Nutrient accumulator plants gather up nutrients from soil and make them available to other plants. Areas with perennial food producing plants like fruit trees and berry bushes will benefit from the presence of nutrient accumulator plants like comfrey, dandelion, fennel, lambs quarters, thistles, vetch, plantain, alfalfa, burdock, caraway, dock, lemon balm, sorrel, or pigweed. Yes, many people consider some of these weeds, but one person’s weed is another person’s valuable nutrient accumulator! One time someone showed up and wanted to help with my garden. The first thing they did was reach down to pluck up a dandelion.  I am afraid I actually screeched, “Don’t pick the dandelions!” They were very confused until I explained the importance and many uses of "weeds."

Nitrogen fixing plants take nitrogen from the air and with the assistance of beneficial bacteria in the soil, make it available to other plants. These include all the legumes (peas, beans), all the clovers and vetches, alfalfa, and some trees (black locust, autumn olive, Kentucky coffee tree, mimosa, mesquite, wisteria). 

Do not till. Once you start to plow or till, you open the soil to erosion. I have never tilled my annual garden space. I keep it constantly covered with mulch, so there is a steady compost process going on all the time, just like the floor of a forest. I never walk on the garden beds, that way the soil doesn’t get compacted. When I set out plants, I simply make a little hole in the mulch, scoop enough dirt out to accommodate the plant, and put it back in place. Planting seeds, I follow the same procedure–make a little hole in the soil and plant the seed. The only seeds that I have to actually remove the mulch for are carrots, which I typically mix with sand and broadcast. After they sprout, and I thin them a bit, mulch goes back on the soil. Nature doesn’t till the soil, but even so plants manage to take root and grow. Tilling not only exposes the soil to erosion, it hurts earthworms and other micro flora and micro fauna in the soil, mixes up soil layers, buries organic matter in the soil, and is a lot of hard work. So let’s invest our hard work in other areas where it is needed and skip the tilling this year in favor of deep mulch. Let the earthworms do the work! 

Happy soil grows happy plants, and that leads to happy gardeners. So let’s all take better care of our soil this year, so that the soil can continue to care for us and our children and our children’s children for generations to come.

Getting To Know My Inner Little Red Hen

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Books, Food and Drink, Locavore, Shauna Lawyer Struby, Tips | Posted on 12-01-2009

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by Shauna Lawyer Struby

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I have a confession – I’ve never been very good at making yeasty-type bread. Try as I might, bread-making efforts in my 30-plus years of cooking have resulted in heavy loaves that more closely resemble bricks. I’ve suffered great guilt about my lack of yeasty prowess, and over the last few years, as sustainability has turned our minds to learning how to do things for ourselves again, or ‘reskilling’ as it is sometimes called, I’ve dreaded the day when the next thing to do on my self-sufficiency to-do list would be learning to make bread.

Praise to the Goddess of Yeasty Muses, fortunately for me a couple of bright folk, Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François, of Minneapolis, found a way to make bread that makes my bread-making deficiency moot. For about the past three weeks I’ve been using their Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day method (also featured in the December 2008/January 2009 issue of Mother Earth News magazine). As Hertzberg & Francois note, the secret to their method is amazingly simple. Here’s what Hertzberg says about it in the Mother Earth News article:

“It all came down to one fortuitous discovery: Pre-mixed, pre-risen, high-moisture dough keeps well in the refrigerator.”

As a result of their discovery, I am happy to report I can now make beautiful, crusty loaves of bread that look like they belong on the cover of Bon Appetit magazine. Beyond the looks, the bread is moist on the inside and has that delicious multi-dimensional flavor so prized in bread-making. As an added bonus, the dough which is mixed and stored ahead of the baking process, can be used to quickly make pizza crust and a whole host of other delectable meals, breads and pastry delights, making it a great kitchen aid for busy folk with little time for meal prep.

So far I’ve only experimented with the bread and pizza, and at every holiday outing where I lugged either item, both brought rave reviews. But here’s the real icing on the cake (uh, bread) – the method’s authors estimate the cost is about $0.50 per loaf.

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The method is easy, simple and really does take very little time. There’s no kneading or punching. The five minutes a day refers to the actual time you’re actively involved with the dough shaping and getting it ready to bake. The bread is easily made with equipment any kitchen has on hand, although I did purchase a food-grade container to keep my pre-mixed dough in the refrigerator, and my guess is the recommended baking stone and pizza peel would take the final product to the next level. The article in Mother Earth News gives you the basic recipe and process but there’s also a book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking, which goes into much greater detail with tips and techniques, and a bundle of recipes for peasant loaves, flatbreads and pizzas, and enriched breads and pastries.

 To add some sustainability to this process, last week I took organic hard red winter wheat berries I purchased from GOOrganic Whole Wheat through the Oklahoma Food Cooperative and ground the berries in our coffee grinder using the espresso setting which rendered a fine wheat flour. I doubt this will work for grinding large quantities of flour long-term, but until I settle on a wheat mill, it will do.

And about the Little Red Hen – I think she was on to something. Eating this bread is not only a pleasure-filled tasting sensation, but it brings a dimension of wholeness, comfort and security to our lives. Comfort in the aroma and taste of baking bread, wholeness and security in knowing our bread is made from healthy ingredients. Here’s to finding your own inner Little Red Hen.

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

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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!

Microbial Life in the Garden

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Compost, Farming, Home and Garden, Homesteading, Organic Gardening, Ron Ferrell, Science, Tips | Posted on 21-11-2008

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by Ron Ferrell

I’m always on the search for more information about how to grow food, and lately I’ve been exploring YouTube for related topics. Two processes that I’ve discovered on YouTube involve the introduction of effective microbes into the composting and gardening process. I’ve felt for a while that something was missing in my compost and gardening process, and after some research I think EM (effective microbes) may be the key to a great garden. I would encourage you to do your own research, but since I talk to lots of people about gardening and effective microbes have never surfaced as a topic, this may be new to you as well.

BOKASHI:  Japanese for fermented organic matter. There are a few good videos on YouTube, and if you google this topic, there are many instructive articles. Basically the Japanese figured out how to kill the smell of your compost bucket with the introduction of effective microbes. It’s a simple recipe once you get the correct ingredients, and this greatly enhances your garden, via the compost pile.

I made my first batch of Bokashi last evening. It has to age for 2 weeks before use, but if what I’m reading holds true, then I plan to introduce it into my composting toilet to aid decomposition, reduce smell of any waste byproduct, and add healthy organisms into my garden. 

COMPOST TEA:  This almost speaks for itself, but the YouTube videos also include the effective microbes and Arctic or Alaskan humus to introduce a wide array of microbial life into your garden as a foliar spray and or fertilizer. There are kits you can buy to do the aeration of water and use their brand of effective microbes, but you can easily shop for the components elsewhere. 

The YouTube videos show incredible vegetable gardens, almost too good to be true, but once again, I researched as best I could on Google to find related or corresponding articles.  Very exciting. I want to hear about your discoveries.

In regard to harmful additives, I’m concerned, because I haul in tons of horse manure (stall mix as I call it), about the horse wormer and its effect on earthworms and red wiggler worms. I don’t have an answer, yet, but considering I’ve hauled in many truck loads of stall mix over the past year, it’s not as if I can back up now. So I’ve been studying the information found on Google in regard to this. There are several reports and studies, and I will let you come to your own decision as to its use. I think all is not lost for me, as the reports for its continued use are cautiously optimistic.  

The wormer topic also holds true for sheep, cattle, and most all livestock, so inform yourself and beware of what you’re putting into your compost pile. I started hauling in all this free manure, and didn’t do my research on the front end. I’m hopeful it’s not too late. Since I have plans to introduce microbes into my garden/composting process, I’m hopeful that these effective microbes will also help to rehabilitate any horse wormer induced destruction. I now plan to inoculate every truck load of manure with approximately 5 gallons of EM compost tea, hot compost for at least a year before introducing into the garden, aerate the pile well, expose the pile to as much sunshine as possible and pray for healthy worms.

Do You Have Post-Petroleum Stress Disorder?

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Current Affairs, Energy, Shauna Lawyer Struby, Tips | Posted on 17-11-2008

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by Shauna Lawyer Struby 

"And so I’ve come to conclude that all the predictions—both good and bad—tell us absolutely nothing about what is possible. Trends and events can only relate to what is probable. Probabilities are abstractions. Possibilities are the stuff of life, visions to act upon, doors to walk through. Pessimism and optimism are both distractions from living life fully.”

            —Tom Atlee, author of Crisis Fatigue and the Co-Creation of Positive Possibilities, Co-Intelligence Institute

Over the last couple of months, in private conversations with friends, I've increasingly heard these words, "I feel overwhelmed," usually uttered in hushed tones within the context of discussing the constant drumbeat of our Trifecta of Emerging Crises—economic tsunami, peak oil, and climate change. The sentiment that usually follows is, “It’s scary.”

The comments come from people with a wide range of perspectives in all walks of life. Regardless of who they are, I can relate in this age of unending what-ifs—what if there’s a global pandemic, a catastrophic interruption in oil supply, food supplies, nuclear terrorist attack, hungry hordes of people roaming the streets. I’ve watched my mind jerk from one worst case scenario to the next over the last few years, in fear for my life and that of my children, spouse, family and friends, trying to decide whether to run for the hills or hunker down and hope for the best while refining and tweaking my lifestyle for whatever comes my way. 

Plenty of magazines, books, websites, and experts give us advice about how to downsize our lifestyles, live more simply, or just survive, but trying to manage this humongous data stream from experts and pundits, some days my mind just shuts down. The reality: the enormity of transitioning from an instant gratification lifestyle baked in cheap energy and topped with unsustainable supplies of credit is a big task comprising not simply changing a lifestyle but changing the heart and mind as well. Therein lays the challenge. As author Rob Hopkins notes in The Transition Handbook: From oil dependency to local resilience, “ … the process of deciding to change and then changing … is more subtle and sophisticated than that.”

Untitled2 Hopkins writes that enabling change has always been the Holy Grail of the environmental movement, but that it’s remained frustratingly elusive. His theory: we’ve failed to engage people on a large scale,  and certainly not on the scale needed to address peak oil and climate change, and not because we don’t understand the problems. We do! Rather, we never really understood change, how it happens, what it entails.

In our well-intentioned push for change, we try to engage people in action by, as Hopkins notes, “ … painting apocalyptic visions of the future as a way of scaring people into action,” with the result being many people experience what Hopkins calls ‘post-petroleum stress disorder.’

This stress disorder can exhibit itself in a variety of ways—see if you recognize any of these symptoms below (more on each the symptoms here):

  • clammy hands or nausea and mild palpitations
  • a sense of bewilderment and unreality
  • an irrational grasping at unfeasible solutions
  • fear
  • outbreaks of nihilism and/or survivalism
  • denial
  • exuberant optimism
  • the 'I always told you so' syndrome

How can we cope with change, with the “dark nights of the soul” within our own hearts and minds? Hopkins recommends that we:

    1)    Be aware of the feelings and realize they are natural.

    2)    Seek to generate what Chris Johnstone calls “inspirational dissatisfaction,” where the feelings generated motivate us to make changes in our lives. Acknowledge the change we want to see starts with us, and see this as an opportunity to rethink basic assumptions.

    3)    Finally and probably most importantly, don’t rush it! Change occurs in increments or stages. Take some time to sit with awareness and realizations as they are revealed to you. It may feel uncomfortable, but as Hopkins notes, within the feelings lies “a call to adventure,” one that with time, you will come to see as a positive transition in your life.

I encourage all of us, myself included, to help ourselves and others by:

    1)    Checking out The Transition Handbook and at the very least reading the chapters covering the psychology of change.

    2)    Harnessing the power of a positive vision (see chapter seven of Hopkins’ book).

In his book, Hopkins includes a long quote from Tom Atlee. I opened this post with part of that quote and include more of the same to close it. His words eloquently speak to this pivotal and hopeful place where we find ourselves.

“I think the emerging crises transcend such false end games like optimism and pessimism … I think the call is to act like a spiritually healthy person who has just learned they have heart disease: We can use each dire prognosis as a stimulant for reaching more deeply into life and co-creating positive change.”

For more information on Transition Culture, Rob Hopkins and The Transition Handbook, go here.

‘Tis the Season…Already?

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Family, Finances, Lindsay Vidrine, Tips | Posted on 14-11-2008

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by Linsay Vidrine

Lately we’ve been bombarded by dismal reports about the economy, and every newscast comes armed with a “special news series” on how we can stretch our dollars further.

Other Fresh Greens contributors have discussed great strategies for saving money, so I don’t want to belabor that point. That said, I would like to take this opportunity to talk about ways to celebrate the upcoming holiday season while also staying within your financial means.

I come from a ridiculously large family, (eight grandparents alone, not to mention my husband’s equally large family) so the holidays typically involve a lot of gift giving. Over the years we’ve had to get creative with expressing our love through gifts, while not breaking the bank. One strategy that helps is drawing names instead of buying a gift for every individual. We’ve found this is a great way to get in the giving spirit without the stress (financial or physical) of buying for everyone.

Another helpful tip is thinking outside the box—as in the big box retail store. I have to say some of the most memorable gifts I’ve ever given or received have not come from the mall. For example, one year my aunt put together a three-ring binder with family recipes for all of my siblings and cousins. It was so simple and inexpensive in design, yet extremely meaningful for us. Each recipe noted the family member whose kitchen produced it and a family tree so that future generations can make the connections. Even those of us who are not particularly crafty could pull this off smoothly.

Over the years, other great non-traditional gifts have included making a charitable donation in someone’s name and “adopting” a street, whale, or other animal on behalf of a relative. And don’t forget much-needed contributions to food banks or clothing and toy drives.

For those hard-to-buy-for types, I pick up some tasty handmade treats from the Oklahoma Food Coop or a Made In Oklahoma company. With so many wonderful baked goods, jams and even wines, these goodies are sure to please while supporting local producers. I also like to give the gift of Oklahoma through gift certificates to one of our state parks or a subscription to Oklahoma Today magazine. At just under $15, these Okie t-shirts are another one of my favorite things this holiday season.

This year I’m also brainstorming how to make our son’s first Christmas special. At only four months old, he won’t really understand gifts, so I think Santa can skip our house this time around. Instead we’ve discussed planting a tree to mark the occasion. Then each year we can take his picture next to the tree as they both grow.

Before the holiday season gets into full swing, I hope you’ll take some time to think about unique ways to give without stressing yourself out or breaking the bank in the process. I’m sure many of you have other great ways to give green without spending a lot of green, and we welcome these ideas in the comments section.

Next Up? The Food Crisis

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Bob Waldrop, Current Affairs, Food and Drink, Home and Garden, Locavore, Organic Gardening, Tips | Posted on 07-11-2008

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by Bob Waldrop  

First came the oil crisis, followed by the financial crisis.  Will a food crisis be next? The conventional food industry is at risk of the various credit woes plaguing the industrial economy.  Pilgrim’s Pride, the nation’s largest poultry producer, is on the verge of bankruptcy, but they can’t find debtor in possession financing for Chapter 11 (reorganization). They may thus be forced into a Chapter 7 bankruptcy where production stops and assets are liquidated. Large wholesale inventories could then be tied up in bankruptcy court.  The financial press  reports problems in arranging financing and payment for large international food trade shipments. I’m hearing news of shut-downs of poultry CAFOs along the east coast.  If something does happen with the food system, just like the energy and financial crises, it will happen quickly and for most people, without warning.

Now is  therefore a good time to review the seven elements of home and community food security:

(1) prepare meals from basic ingredients; (2) buy local foods; (3) grow some of your own food; (4) food storage; (5) home preservation of food; (6) eat with the season; (7) frugal supermarket shopping.

(1) Prepare meals from basic ingredients.  Many, if not most, of us are short on time.  Take-out or frozen supermarket entrees often seem like a good idea. But such “convenience” comes with a high cost – money, nutrition, and taste. My Better Times Almanac internet edition has lots of info about preparing meals from basic ingredients..

(2) Buy local foods.  If we want a more sustainable, just, and humane agricultural system, there must be a market for the products of a sustainable, just, and humane agricultural system. Purchasing local foods does several good things: you get nutritious and healthy food that tastes very good, you help grow a local food system, and you support rural families and communities.

(3) Grow some of your own food.  Gardening is less work than most people think, and is best compared to growing money in your back yard. Fall is the time to get ready for your spring garden.

(4) Food storage.  Store what you eat and eat what you store. Keep some of your household savings in food – at least 3 months, and more is better. Besides food security, “investing” in food storage makes good economic sense. Grocery prices are fluctuating rapidly—food storage can insulate you from price-mood swings at the supermarket. 

(5) Home preservation of food. Buy and grow extra vegetables, and preserve them for good eats during the winter.  Contact your county extension office for scientific information about home food preservation.

(6) Eat with the season.  Eating the same foods 365 days a year is actually a boring diet. As the seasons change, so should our menus. Summer greens are great for summer, but out-of-season greens are hauled long distances and produced with hazardous chemicals and poisons. During winter, look for innovative salads made from root crops and cool season veggies.

(7) Frugal supermarket shopping.  The local food market at present is not big enough to supply all food here, so some supermarket shopping is necessary.  Supermarkets, like casinos, are designed to separate you from your money. The more times you go to the store, the more money you will spend, so minimize shopping excursions. Always shop from a list, and beware of impulse buys.  Eat before you shop. Carry a calculator with you and do the math (price per ounce, pound, quart, gallon, etc.) to ensure you get the best package size. Often, generic and store brands are as good, and sometimes better, than brand names.  “Made in Oklahoma” brands support the local economy. The Best Choice, Always Save, and Clearly Organic label foods come from a cooperative of independent grocery stores, and that helps support a diverse local retail and wholesale food system.  In Oklahoma these labels are typically available at the locally owned stores. See my article, “Winning at the Supermarket Casino,” for more ideas.

Family and community food security doesn’t just happen. If this is new to you, develop a plan and start making incremental changes on a set schedule to increase your family’s food security.  If you have been working on a program like this for some time, keep up the good work! Remember what my grandmother Opal Cassidy used to say, “Y’all get the right eats, you hear?”