Sunday, March 25, 2007

Hog Heaven

LutheranChik links to an ecological footprint quiz here. See how you fare. If everyone lived like Progeny'n'me, we'd need 3.8 planets, chiefly because of our food consumption. I gave up meat for Lent this year, which is not that difficult for me to do personally but is difficult for me to do domestically, because Progeny is a major carnivore (don't look at me--I've never encouraged him to eat meat, although I've given up active discouragement because it just doesn't work). I just decided that if I had to make two dinners every night while I ponder my relationship with eating other animals, I would. And it's not actually that hard. Progeny has always been willing to eat mac and cheese and quesadillas and occasionally pasta (as long as there's no marinara involved), so we eat the same thing a few times a week, and I spring for fish or chicken for him for the rest. Over time, we'll work this out.

In the meantime, we're eating ourselves out of planet and home.

For shizzle

Progeny and I went out yesterday to the local public stables (how cool is that? public stables!) and bought two plastic trash bags of manure--or dung, as six year-old Progeny prefers to call it, proud of his scatological vocabulary--for $10. A couple of teenage boys shovel it into the bags for you, tie it up securely, and lift it into the back of your car. The proceeds go to buy a biological fly control for the stables, and you get all the sh-- your garden can use. My compost pile is now steaming in the 75-degree heat; I'm sure if compost piles can be happy, mine is doing the compost dance.

Progeny to his father this morning: How come you don't go to church, Daddy? Father: Oh, I have a few things I need to get done. Progeny: What's more important than praying?

On the agenda for next weekend: buying the cheater car, so that I don't actually have to fulfill my promise.

Friday, March 23, 2007

I don't even know where to start

with this story that ran yesterday in the New York Times. On the one hand, I have sympathy in mass quantities for anyone who tries to control their consumption of fossil fuel, and these people are clearly doing a much better job of it than I am. On the other hand, the fact that they find going without toilet paper a better lifestyle choice than giving up their Eames furniture (and while getting to keep the Fifth Avenue apartment and the book contract) seems nothing short of precious. I don't know of a single local food activist who thinks it's important to go without salt or cinnamon--trade in spices and condiments has a much smaller impact on the environment than several of the Beavan-Conlins' practices and has a millennial history. Sheesh.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Was I a good American?

Rebecca Solnit asks that question here.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

More songs about food and buildings

I am the queen of incomplete thoughts. It's a kind of verbal ADHD. Anyway, one of the link-ups missing from my previous posts is why I'm always talking and thinking about food, beyond some crappy privileged view that eating organic is my right and more pleasant to boot--in other words, how it manifests itself for me as an ethical rather than simply an aesthetic issue. Where does the rubber meet the road?

Let me go on record as saying that everyone deserves to have food that is not covered in toxic waste (not to mention that the people who plant and pick and process food deserve not to have to handle said toxic waste). Everyone deserves to eat (read: to be able to afford to eat) food that is fresh, nutritious, and yes, pleasing to the taste. Everyone, meaning everyone in every place on earth, deserves to have dignified and adequately compensated work. These three principles are intimately connected, although some would have us believe that one needs to pick and choose.

While I understand that not everyone is a gardening dork like I am, that some may prefer not to grow their own food, I do think that local farming/gardening and local markets are the answer to the issue of fair eating. Local means that African cotton farmers do not have to compete with American subsidized and commodified cotton (OK, so cotton isn't a food; but substitute grain and you'll get the picture). Local means my community has some control over the practices that produce our food. Local means that the peaches that I eat in the Peach State are not picked green and trucked in from California at the expense of huge amounts of fossil fuel. And yes, it means no out-of-season grapes from Chile or apples from New Zealand or, strictly speaking, bananas at all, unless I grow them in a passively solar-heated greenhouse. It means probably not all Americans should pile into the water-starved southwest, or pave over vast tracts of midwestern farmland to make more Suburubia (guilty as charged). But local food is also the means to see that communities remain more or less in control of their own food supply rather than falling prey to government commodity schemes (70% of all U.S. commodity payments go to 10% of the farmers; most farmers are never eligible) or, globally, to punitive or variable humanitarian "aid" sources.

I'm always a little bit of a pontificator (no, really, Simpleton, tell us how you feel), but I'm particularly on a rant today because I watched a Bread for the World video regarding the Farm Bill up for reappropriation this year. See it, and call or write your congresspeople.

Random simple thoughts

I've spent the week making good on my promise to look at new used cars. I would really like to get a hybrid, but they hold their value too well. (Euphemism alert: they're too fireplacin' expensive.) So I found a list of the ten vehicles with the highest fuel efficiency and am extrapolating to cars of the 2000-ish vintage.

Frankly, car shopping isn't nearly as interesting to me as daydreaming about planting some apples and blueberries next year. Or reading blogs for that matter. Two about food: Chews Wise and The Ethicurean, both short and sweet, à la

Probably this blog would be more entertaining if I had photos of this pilgrim's progress, but I don't have a digital camera. How's that for simple?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Schpring is in zee air

I am officially, but not technically, on break. I still have a paper to finish, but I took the day off to buy dirt (it's dirt cheap!), plant 25 strawberry plants, and do a little judicious pruning. Tomorrow, the Progeny and I are going to participate in a Hunger Walk to benefit the local community food bank, so I wanted to get some gardening in while the gardening was good.

My current obsession is with the idea of permaculture, specifically with a couple of books describing a permaculture approach to Suburubian-sized lots such as mine. Tony Hemenway's Gaia's Garden is probably the most useful for U.S. audiences. He comes in for some criticism for using invasive exotic species (he's a little fanatical about nitrogen fixing), but I trust that his audience can make decisions that don't involve planting, say, kudzu as a ground cover and still get something out of his approach.

You may well ask: why is The Simpleton so fixated on gardening? I thought her deal was just spending less time in the car? The first answer is that hopefully the garden will let me spend less time in the car. For the last three years, I belonged to a CSA that let me taste the pleasures of local food, but I had to drive an hour round-trip in rush hour traffic every week to savor those veggies. Moving back in time through my train of thought, local food itself is an important contribution to climate health, since the average food item in this country travels 1500 miles before it lands on your table. Add in the energy costs of, for example, freezing (and keeping frozen) and your Amy's spinach pizza looks a bit less appealing.

In truth I just like puttering with plants, and I'm a bit of a closet foodie. It seems to me as if simplicity really is about finding those things that give genuine pleasure, that fill you up, so to speak. I get a little extra frisson from feeling that my choices are also part of an integrated life--that I will see where my food comes from, that its manner of raising will also benefit wildlife and soil health, that I will waste less and enjoy more. I'm a little bit of a freak that way.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Brought to you by the Stephen (King) ministries

All work and dull play make Jack a no girl.

Dull work and Jack play make no an all girl.

Jack work and girl play make all a no dull.