- How pretty to peek inside my CSA box!
CSA. Usually stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Or, in my case , it might mean “Couldn’t Scribble Anything”. I’m coming back to this blog after a 3 1/2 month absence to declare that I finally made the plunge and signed on for a CSA box. CSA. Sounds official. And it sort of is. I signed up and pledged to spend my hard-earned money on weekly shares of whatever the farmers are growing this week. That means a couple of things. Firstly, I have to actually remember to pick the box up. Secondly, I have to figure out a trillion ways to cook squash. But, I’m making this sound complicated, and actually it’s well… fun.
This box comes from Grow Alabama and combines food from farmers all over the state. Last week it was peaches, squash (of course), cabbage, brocolli and…shoot, I’ve already forgotten. The fun is opening the box! It’s so pretty! The challenge is cooking this lovely harvest before it goes bad, getting creative with the recipes and resisting the urge to go out for tacos on a night when you’re too tired to open the refrigerator door. If you’ve never eaten only what is growing fresh and local, you may not realize that your diet can become a mite restricted. For instance, in Alabama, in summer, yellow squash is prolific! Easy to grow, easy to pick, easy to cook. So, you’d better be prepared to get creative!
No matter that I’m not a gourmet cook. My mama taught me about cornmeal, salt and pepper. Now I’ve added Olive Oil to my arsenal and I swear, I can cook about any damn thing. (And yes, its’ pretty tasty)! Plus, I don’t have to traverse around the grocery store wondering what on earth I’m going to buy. I just take what I get in Tuesday’s box and It Works. Just like Steve Jobs just told us about iCloud. “It just works”. There’s merit there, you know. Less decisions to make. A healthier, more frugal menu and those beautiful veggies are not being trucked in from all over creation. Less fuel, fresh taste. Hmmm. You think that could be someone’s new slogan? Well, maybe not.
All I know is tonight for dinner I had fresh organically grown brocolli, yellow squash (of course), locally made bread and (not so locally grown) shrimp. Pretty easy. Pretty tasty. Good for the farmers and your own personal economy. What ‘da ya think? Give it a try? If you do, please…. share the recipes for the yellow squash!
June 13, 2011
First place winner in the Gamblin Torrit Gray painting competition 2010
Green is the color of the earth, peaceful and harmonic, but some days I just feel Torrit Gray.
Each year Gamblin Artists Colors give away tubes and tubes of artists’ oil paint. In one color. Torrit Gray. If you’re the artsy-craftsy type then you already know that art supplies, as a general rule, can be pretty toxic stuff. As artists, we have to take precautions with our materials, but imagine if you were the manufacturer of these materials and had to deal with the large scale handling and disposal of the toxic chemicals that go into making the stuff of our dreams.
With this is mind, I’d like to say kudos to Gamblin Artists Colors, a manufacturer of artists’ oil paints. Based in Oregon, this privately owned company does a fine turn for artists, their employees and the earth by capturing and recycling pigment dust that is created all year long through their manufacturing process. Rather than toss the toxic pigments into landfills or the water stream, Gamblin uses their filtration system to capture pigment from the myriad of oil paints that they manufacture each year. The filtered pigments are then recycled into a new paint and distributed for free. Yes, FREE. Each spring, in celebration of Earth Day, Gamblin gives away tubes and tubes of Torrit Gray.
Why is the paint gray?
Every artist knows that when you mix all of your colors together you’ll inevitably come out with one singular color… gray. The hue may vary, based on the colors that are mixed. That is why, Gamblin’s recycled paint, named Torrit Gray (after its filtration system) is always gray, but never the same shade. The color of gray depends largely on which colors were produced the most that year. Gamblin now codes the paint tubes by date, so that artists can collect the different years and shades of paint.
Paint with Torrit Gray for Challenge and Competition!
Gamblin offers a competition for painters who accept the challenge of painting only with gray, black and white. Monochromatic painting, or a painting executed in values of one color hue, is a terrific exercise in skill and creativity. Artists who compete in the Gamblin sponsored competition can win a stash of art supplies as well as national recognition. Some of the previous years paintings are pretty outstanding. I am not an oil painter (barely an oil paint dabbler), however, I think this year it would be fun to give this a try. (In my spare time, right?) Would you like to join me? To get your own tube of free paint visit your nearest fine art supply dealer. In Birmingham, I believe Forstall Art Center is offering “buy a tube of Gamblin and get a tube of Torrit Gray free”. So, come on…. give it a try. I’ll post mine, if you’ll post yours…..
March 19, 2011
Simple pleasures. From my yard, I brought in a spritely yellow dandelion and popped him in a small vase. A twig of spring. I kept him for days and I watched him shrivel and rebel against his indoor prison. But I kept him anyway. I thought he was dead. I contemplated how I would sketch his scratchy petals and went to bed.
When I got up, to my surprise…. he had shed his cloak of death. His small pods lay dormant at his feet. In their place, new fluffy heads of down, defiantly springy and soft. Thank you, spring.
March 3, 2011
- Turkey Creek, Pinson Alabama
There’s a little snatch of memory I have, a bit of a dream, where whorls of color and screams of delight intertwine with splashing, wet rocks and a summer day. That scene is the first memory I have of Turkey Creek. My father had driven my sister and I past the creek in the hopes of convincing us that the move we were about to make to the “country” was idyllic… a daily diary of tanned young bodies, new friends and lazy days. While our move from the city to the country wasn’t quite as smooth as he had, perhaps, hoped, that memory of Turkey Creek has always lingered in a favorable way, just on the outskirts of my mind. Particularly since, not too many years later, I revisited Turkey Creek only to find it overrun with a rougher type of crowd, hypodermic needles littering the glittery rocks and suspicious stares replacing those open faces we had first encountered. Mind you, that was probably 30 years ago.
I recently revisited Turkey Creek. I’d been meaning to, for Oh… I don’t know, forever. I’d been hearing about how the land had been cleaned up, thanks in large due to a grass roots initiative to protect the area. On the day of my visit the creek was roaring and clear. I’d like to post a big shout out to the Eagle Scouts who painstakingly prepared a pleasant trail that now ambles by the side of the creek. My daughter, sister and I meandered about, poking and looking, watching for small wildlife and observing the other people, of which there weren’t many that day. What a worthwhile restoration! Restful benches, marked trails, dotted the hill but didn’t intrude on nature’s landscape. To be there on the creek bank is to feel that you are, indeed, in a remote part of the state; when, actually you are only 20 minutes north of downtown Birmingham. My daughter exclaimed, “I didn’t even know this was here!,” even though she has haunted that part of the state since she was small. I’ll bet there are many folks in our city who would say the same.
So, what IS so great about Turkey Creek?
Well, here’s a few things to start:
• Turkey Creek is home to 3 varieties of endangered fish, the Watercress Darter, the Rush Darter and the famous Vermillion Darter, which exists nowhere else on earth. That’s sort of cool, right?
• Turkey Creek has some historical significance. It’s the site of the home and mill of David Hanby, who was an early industrialist entrepeneur. (I think its funny that he holds a place in history for the way he ripped coal out of the bottom of the river, yet, he had to give the coal away at first, because people were distrustful of his methods. You just never know right?)
• Of further historical interest is that Turkey Creek is the site of Mount Pinson Ironworks, which was built in 1863 and supplied horseshoes to the Confederate troops mounts. The troops may not have had shoes, but apparently the horses did.
But to me, the very, best thing about Turkey Creek is that it is beautiful. It’s so close to the city, yet you can get so close to nature so darn fast! And, its such a testament to the rebirth and preservation that can occur when people pull together for a common goal. I hope you’ll go. Take your family. Even the dogs are welcome. Enjoy and keep our earth at her best!
Want more info? Check out these links:
The Southern Environmental Center
Freshwater Land Trust
Alabama’s Forever Wild Program
generations have carved their undying devotion here
March 1, 2011
Creative outdoor living is on my mind. I’ve just painted my Adirondak chairs fabulous shades of purple and green. You could call them Mardi Gras colors I suppose, but in my mind I see Eggplants and Okra. They are now fun, earthy colors with a little pop! This was a project I could easily finish during this short little spring tease we’ve been experiencing. And as I wait on the next little warm respite, I’m pondering the side yard (that’s right, its Still Not Finished)….
I ran across this wonderfully creative garden gate from Cartwright Designs in Oregon. My bicycle is sitting unused, perhaps there is new life in it yet! Oh, that’s right, exercise is also on my spring list…..
February 24, 2011
Driving home from work today, I spotted a neighbor that I haven’t seen in a while. It’s hard to tell from this photo (taken with my iPhone) but this guy is quite a grand bird. He is our neighborhood red-tailed hawk, the largest specie of hawk in the state. I have often seen him swooping through the woods in the back of my house. With an average wingspan of four to four and a half feet, he earns the title “raptor” by looking positively prehistoric. I’ve never seen him with a mate (or even a good friend), although according to Outdoor Alabama’s blog, Red-Tailed Hawks are thought to “establish permanent pair bonds”. Hmmm… I guess that means he’s just not ready to settle down? Well, whatever his dating habits, I’m glad to see him back in the ‘hood. I’m wondering if he has had to travel farther to find food this winter, and perhaps that is why I haven’t seen him lately. Or… it could be that I tend to hibernate my-own-self when the temps drop toward freezing. Looks like he and I both are ready for spring!
February 23, 2011
My favorite new yard fixture... the clothesline!
Do you have dreams of a small suburban garden in some small corner of your neatly manicured lawn? Dreams of coming home from work and picking fresh veggies to saute up for dinner? I, too, had a dream. It began in March with the first hint of spring. The warm weather went straight to my brain and I came down with a severe case of spring fever. Fever of the kind that renders you completely stupid. It was during this time that I began work on my side garden, in a portion of my yard that is on a steep slope, covered by shade overhead and carpeted with thick, red clay underfoot. If I had a kick-wheel and a kiln, I could make my own cookware from the clay that passes for dirt in my yard. But, somehow, a vegetable garden in this area seemed completely logical and sane. And so, it began.
Formulate a plan, but don’t ask advice from anyone you know.
The side yard before I started my upgrade in March
This seems like a no-brainer. But, somehow, I always think I have all the answers. If I had taken some time to ask for opinions from a few people I would have had a much more solid plan in the beginning. As it was, I put my plan on paper and proceeded to look for help with the physical labor for my project. The result: very confused laborers, muddled pricing and in the end, a decision to do the work myself. But, still, I was able to get my first goal accomplished: a clothesline. A pretty simple endeavor, but for someone with no building skills, even this little project had to be farmed out. I enlisted the services of “Andy on Call“, a local, franchised group that specializes in small construction jobs. I have to say this turned out well. They were attentive and quickly set up my clothesline just the way I imagined it would be. Ah, now, if only I could wade through all this gravel to get to it!
Another view of the side yard before beginning restoration.
While you’re not asking any advice, go ahead and plan your garden based on where the sun hits your yard IN THE WINTER.
From January to March I would intermittently stride around the yard, purposely tracking how the sun hit the yard at different times of day. After all, those veggies would need lots of good sunshine to grow. I even kept a sun diary for a short time. But, I was positive that I could remember from the summer before how that sunshine lay. Umm. NO. The location of those raised beds I was planning has changed dramatically, along with the size of the beds. I have even decided to eliminate some of the beds because the shade has become so dense.
Working on it.
Plan your project for the busiest month of the spring, and proceed to plan to do it all yourself.
Yep. After getting pricing from a couple of different sources, I decided that I could do it all myself and save a boatload of money. Never mind that planting season was only 4-5 weeks away and I had two kids graduating from college and high school, relatives coming to visit and projects galore going on at my day job. I figured I’d work on it in the afternoons after I got home. WHAT was I thinking? I purchased the rock and sand and gravel to get started, and there it all came to a screeching halt. I’m sure to this day my neighbors curse my name when they look out their windows at my beautiful bags of gravel and stacks of wood and rock. I told myself that I wouldn’t mind if the project took a little longer than I had projected. Again… NO.
It's starting to take shape a little.
Assume you are strong enough to lift a 1000 pounds and leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Although I am in my 50′s, I couldn’t see any reason that I couldn’t lift a ton of slate. I figured it would just mean less visits to the gym. Also, I ‘ve actually gotten to lift a lot of that same slate several times, since the plan that I started with has become beautifully fluid and changed daily, depending on my outlook for the day. (Remember the sun diary?) My only excuse is that I must have still been delusional from all that spring fever.
Go ahead and purchase your plants, because it will motivate you to get this project finished!
I bought a few herbs and stuck them in the ground, just as a little salve to ease my hurt at not having my garden ready to plant. Then, I was at the nursery and I came to the realization that all of the vegetable plants were going to be SOLD by the time I was finally ready to plant. So, I went ahead and bought a couple of tomato plants and a couple of squash plants, figuring surely I’d get enough ground prepared to put at least this paltry offering in the ground. Well, they are in the ground. But, not where I had anticipated, plus… they were near death by the time I finally dug the grave, oops, I mean garden area. We’ll see if they survive.
I did get my blueberry bushes in the ground!
So, this is where I stand now. One really nice clothesline. A partially implemented garden plan. A couple of sickly plants in the ground or in pots. A lot of work left to do. It’s OK, though. I’m patient. Now, I’m just looking at this as prep for next year’s garden. And, I’ll be supporting local farmers ALOT at the market this summer. So, it can’t be all bad. I’ve learned a lot and am determined to keep going. As long as there’s Cutters for the skeeters and I can work after the temperature drops to 90 degrees in the afternoons, there’s still hope. Be sure to stay tuned for posted updates.
June 8, 2010
As large and fragile as a leaf, as still as the night, a visitor came to my window the other night. I was feeling overwhelmed. Things I had planned were not coming together as quickly as I wanted. I felt frantic and harried. And, then came my visitor. I looked into the black kitchen window, and highlighted there on the window pane was the first Luna moth of the summer. It was still and calm and quiet. I have read that these giant beauties are not endangered at all, but it seems I see them so infrequently, I would have thought the opposite was true. So seeing this one now, I felt like I had been handed a cherished gift. The site of it stilled my thoughts. A little member of nature’s wild society had been thrown on my suburban window. It made me smile and remember: I can plan all I want, set goals all I want, but ultimately I’d better be ready to change course, and with a cheerful heart. I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of summer brings.
May 27, 2010
It’s Monday night, and the only post I can think to write is to lament, whine and carry on about how I haven’t been posting to this blog lately. I could blame it on my day job, but that really takes place in the day, I could blame it on my kids, but really they are self sufficient. I suppose I’ll place blame where its due, squarely on myself. I must guiltily admit that lately I’ve lost motivation to post because my efforts at discovering new, creative ways be more sustainable have stalled. And, honestly, I’ve been overwhelmed with Media Green. You know, all the public service messages, commercial messages and editorial sludge telling us all how great it is to be green. How cool you will be if you buy these green products, recycle your garbage and drive a hybrid car.
Not that I’ve given up on living more sustainably, quite the contrary. It’s just that it has become commonplace. And, isn’t that the idea? Even success, really? Daily I try to take quicker showers. I turn off the water while I brush my teeth. I don’t eat meat on Mondays. I recycle diligently. Green has become boring, and that’s a good thing, because that means it is becoming second-nature. Not that I don’t have fun, new things in the works. As a matter of fact, I’ve been quite busy, but, these things aren’t quite ready for show and tell. Soon, I’ll share with you all about my new clothesline, my raised vegetable beds and my composting area. I’ll show you the fun things I’ve found at garage sales, and talk about art shows and music I’ve been listening to. But, until then, know that I’m still out here, simply living a little better than I did almost a year ago. Turning off lights, shopping organically when possible and well, just sort of living a life. TTFN
April 26, 2010
Meatless Monday is really a challenge for me. There are days where I mindlessly realize that I’ve eaten no meat. But, when I try to Make It Happen, somehow it seems harder. I thought ahead a little this week. Tonight we’ll be having Spinach Enchiladas. If you’re looking for a good meatless main dish that’s easy to fix and really tasty, give this a try. Pair with some cut up fruit, like pears, mandarin oranges and avocado spritzed with Balsamic Vinegar and you’ve got it made. Enjoy!
Jenny’s Spinach Enchiladas
1 pkg. flour tortillas
1/c cup sliced green onion
1 Tbsp. butter
1 (10 oz) pkg. frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 cup cottage or ricotta cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 (10 oz.) canned enchilada sauce
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In saucepan, saute onions in butter. Add drained spinach and cook until all moisture is evaporated. Stir in ricotta cheese, sour cream and 1 cup of shredded cheese. Spoon 1/4 cup of spinach filling in each tortilla and roll up, folding in ends to keep the good-stuff from oozing out. Place rolled tortillas in greased 13 x 9 baking dish. Pour enchilada sauce over the tortillas and top with remaining shredded cheese. Bake 15-20 minutes are until heated through. Serve with sour cream and green onions.
March 22, 2010