Where do we go from here?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

First Blast of Winter Inspires Lentil Soup

If I just didn't have to go teach all afternoon, this would be a perfect introduction to winter. The Intermountain West is having an early winter storm, which is bringing snow to ski areas and the mountains in general. Here in the Rio Grande Valley, we'll probably have some snow showers, have in fact already had some this morning, some freezing rain, but not much in the way of accumulation. I woke up to the sound of icy rain on the roof, and went out to cover some more plants, bring in a few more to the warmth of the house. I'm fond of growing potted succulents and cacti which love their outdoor life during the summer, but have to winter over indoors. After plant duty, I was inspired to start a pot of lentil stew, which will warm our bones when Gail and I get home from work this evening. Although I indulged myself a couple of weeks ago by buying Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen, this soup/stew is one I have made for years, using whatever I find in the refrigerator at the moment I decide to make it. Today's pot includes: onion, garlic, red pepper, pumpkin puree, celery, kale and carrots, roasted green chile. This evening when I warm it up, I'll add the leftover rice from the weekend's rice and pinto bean cassarole. As I also have some coconut milk leftover from a Brazilian dish I tried to replicate after we had it at Globalquerque, rice with fish in coconut milk, and as my niece Jessica finishes off her lentil soup with it, I'm going to throw some into this stew. We have some cornbread in the freezer from a batch I made before we went to Delaware for the birding trip, and that will be a fine accompaniment.

The Brazilian dish replication was, BTW, a great success. The folks at the music festival used tilapia, but I found some lovely mahi mahi at La Montanita Co-Op and used that. And, yes, the Delaware birding weekend. I really will get down to writing about the trip as soon as I recover from it. It takes us a while to pull our lives together after being away for a week, and we are now beginning the Thanksgiving Offensive, as we will have possibly as many as sixteen people for the Big Feast. The kids are coming from Denver, and we've invited local friends and neighbors. As long as we're doing it, we might as well do it Big!! The real fear is that this snow, which is much worse north of here and in Denver, may be the start of a winter of weather that closes Raton Pass with frequency. It would certainly result in some major disappointment if it happened again in a month.

350 Species We Could Lose

Last Saturday's 350 Day of Climate Action was an international event of some magnitude, garnering attention from TV and print media alike. You can check out photos from actions around the world at the 350.org's collection on flickr.

But this was more than just one day's activity, it's an ongoing effort to draw attention to the seriousness of this situation and motivate world governments and peoples to take effective action to cut carbon emissions before it is finally too late. One of the most striking ongoing demonstrations of what the results of inaction will be can be visited at the Center for Biological Diversity's website. Called 350 Reasons we need to get to 350: 350 Species Threatened by Global Warming, it is a heartrending display of 350 species at risk of extinction by 2050 if current emissions trajectories continue.

350 Reasons contains a link to a petition to President Obama asking him to take a firm resolve for action with him to Copenhagen's international climate negotiations in December, but its strongest aspect is the interactive map of the USA (and I'd certainly like to see one of the rest of the world as well, but I guess we think globally, act locally, okay) divided by region, with photos of the animals in each region which will , without lowering our carbon emissions, be committed to soon and certain disappearance. With a click of your mouse, read about polar bears in Alaska, monk seals in Hawaii, sea otters in California; bone up on Atlantic salmon in the Northeast, sea turtles in Florida, or corals throughout the world — and hundreds of other species around the globe, big and small, iconic and unknown — that we’re hurting through our lethal addiction to fossil fuels. You can even read about one species that stands to be tragically impoverished by the effects of broader species loss: ourselves, Homo sapiens sapiens.

If you're short on time, you can just go to the map and check out your own region and what your children might not see there in the future. Will I miss the chubs and the pupfish? Well, perhaps not personally, but I will sure as hell miss the burrowing owls, the pronghorn antelope, the Mexican gray wolves, yes the "iconic species." Each of these threatened species, large or small, has its place in the environmental chain, no matter how often, how seldom, we personally experience them. Please add your name to the Obama petition at the Center's site, and share this information with your friends and readers.

Friday, October 23, 2009

350 Day Of Action

If you belong to any environmental organizations, read any environmental blogs or magazines, or pay any attention at all to what's happening in environmental activist circles pre Copenhagen, you are already well aware of what's happening around the world this coming Saturday, October 24th.

Bill McKibben's group 350.org has been planning this day of action to draw the attention of governments and peoples everywhere to the importance of doing something about global climate change NOW before it is finally just too damn late. On the 350.org site you will find the questions you probably have prominently displayed on the first page, the most basic of them being, of course, What does the number 350 mean? And the answer is: 350 is the most important number in the world—it's what scientists say is the safe upper limit for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.Two years ago, after leading climatologists observed rapid ice melt in the Arctic and other frightening signs of climate change, they issued a series of studies showing that the planet faced both human and natural disaster if atmospheric concentrations of CO2 remained above 350 parts per million.Everyone from Al Gore to the U.N.’s top climate scientist has now embraced this goal as necessary for stabilizing the planet and preventing complete disaster. Now the trick is getting our leaders to pay attention and craft policies that will put the world on track to get to 350.As we currently are at 387 ppm in the atmosphere, we have some work to do in order to get things into the minimally safe upper limit.

The next question of course would be: How do we do that? McKibben's group's theory is that we do it by creating the political change to steer us toward 350 FAST. His grassroots movement is all about an international holding of feet to the fire (pun quite intentional) to use Copenhagen to produce a treaty that is strong, equitable and grounded in the latest science. I've been working on this post since yesterday, and this morning came this email from McKibben and company, one last prod to keep me from wanting to sleep in tomorrow morning instead of joining one or more of the many events planned right here in New Mexico:

Dear Friend,Saturday's the day -- October 24, the International Day of Climate Action. So join the nearest 350 action knowing you'll be part of something big.Very big, in fact. This campaign has gone viral--there will be over four thousand events taking place simultaneously in over 175 nations. As far as we can tell, you'll be part of the single most widespread day of political action about any issue that our planet has ever seen.There are too many incredible events to list in one place, but here are some of the highlights:

In Cambodia, citizens from across the country will gather at the famous Angkor Wat to take a giant 350 action photo.In Hungary, hundreds of bathers will jump into the public baths in Budapest and do a 350 synchronized swimming performance.In Nepal, over a thousand young people and monks will march to the Swayambhunath world heritage site temple where they will form a large 350 with traditional lanterns.In the United States, 350 people will dance to Michael Jackson's Thriller in Seattle -- because if we don't stop global warming, we might as well be undead. In Panama, indigenous youth will lead a moonlight vigil in Kuna Yala, their vulnerable low-lying islands off the coast of Panama, forming a 350 at sunrise.

When you're out there marching or rallying, biking or kite-flying, singing or taking part in whatever is going on in your community, take a minute and try to imagine all the other people doing the same kind of things all around the world--every one taking the same basic scientific fact and driving it into the public consciousness.350 is the most important number in the world--scientists have told us that it's the most carbon dioxide we can have in the atmosphere, and now we're making sure everyone knows.

We'll be taking photos from all the events, projecting them on the big screens in New York's Times Square, and delivering them to major media outlets and hundreds of world leaders in the coming weeks. The combined noise from these events will ensure that world leaders who gather next month at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen to create the world's new plan on climate change will hear our call. They will know that when negotiating the fate of our planet, there is a passionate movement out there which will hold them accountable.After your event on Saturday, check out http://www.350.org/, where we will show a glorious slideshow of photos from events in every corner of the earth. Be proud of what you've accomplished.And if you have any doubts about where the fun in your neighborhood is on Saturday, check out this link to find an event near you: http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=NOCZi%2F44zIu8FiHjPF2EK15WuoA8ncELOnwards,Bill McKibben for the 350.org crew

There's bound to be something happening where you are, please please please check it out and be part of this very creative demonstration. Everything you care about may depend upon it.

(Crossposted from The Blue Voice.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Community Supported Agriculture

After mentioning in my previous post that Los Poblanos Organics is our area's largest CSA, it occurred to me that perhaps not everyone knows what those three letters stand for. They are the abbreviation for Community Supported Agriculture, something that is no longer the innovation it was some years back, is in fact coming to be an institution all over the country. A basic definition from Local Harvest, "Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a "membership" or a "subscription") and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season."

This section of Local Harvest will give you not only general information about CSA's, but everything you want to know about local family farms, organic groceries and co-ops, restaurants, and help you locate them in your area into the bargain. It's a great site for anyone wanting get in touch with locally sustainable food sources.

Frying The Tomatoes

It's still too dark to go out and see if any of my bumper crop of tomatoes are ready to be picked; but it's now or never for them, I'm afraid. We leave tomorrow for a week, with a ton of fat green globes hanging on the vines. In a previous post I fretted about a killing frost happening while we're gone, but in fact the opposite will be true. The forecast is for sunny dry days with highs in the mid to upper seventies, lows as warm as mid fifties. Perfect tomato ripening weather. I've asked our house sitter to please water the plants, then harvest and enjoy any that ripen while we're gone, and I can only hope she values good eating enough to do so. But, if there are any greenies still on the vine when we return, I'm going to try out this recipe from Los Poblanos Organics weekly newsletter.

Los Poblanos is our largest CSA in the Albuquerque area, with a farm in the North Valley and one in the South Valley. Although I discovered this wonderful outfit researching the Albuquerque area on the web, well before moving out here, I haven't joined up. I did join the local Co-Op, La Montanita, which has incredible produce, much of it local; and there are many Growers' Markets in the city, where local farmers bring their produce in to sell. And, of course, this summer our own backyard supplied us with most of our salad fixins, and salad is about all we could bear to eat, it was so constantly hot through the summer months. A couple of our friends have joined Los Poblanos, and find that they get more food than the two of them can eat, so perhaps we'll go in with them and share a weekly box. If there isn't too much cauliflower I'll be okay. Few are the veggies I don't like, but that's one I've never managed to get into. If it was a weekly mainstay maybe I'd learn to love it. Anyway, here's the way to deal with the green tomatoes:

Classic Fried Green Tomatoes


  • 3 medium, firm green tomatoes

  • 1/2
    cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/4 cup milk

  • 2 beaten eggs

  • 2/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs or

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper

Cut unpeeled
tomatoes into 1/2 inch slices. Sprinkle slices with salt and pepper. Let tomato slices stand for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, place flour, milk, eggs, and bread crumbs in separate shallow dishes. Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Dip tomato slices in milk, then flour, then eggs, then bread crumbs. In the skillet, fry for 4-6 minutes on each side or until brown. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

October Musings

If April is the cruelest month, as per TS Eliot, October has to be the exact opposite. Though, in fact, it was the loveliness of April that occasioned that Eliot line, I think. The beauty of October is still the opposite of April's; Instead of the heartbreak of new life, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, it's the heartbreak of knowing any day now we'll be greeted by the results of that first killing frost. Right now everything in the yard seems to be at its most vibrant, full of life and color. Here, of course, I'm speaking of the perennials, the maximilian sunflowers, tithonia, salvia leucantha, and all the other salvia, goldenrod, ruellia, desert marigolds, several different flowering sedum, all the wonderful creeping things that have finally taken hold on the new berm, even the pink Mexican primroses are stunning right now. The weather is still glorious, blue skies/golden and warm during the day, just chilly enough for great sleeping at night. We have even considered laying and lighting a fire the past two nights, but ended up getting caught doing other things until it was too close to bedtime. It's my favorite time of year, always has been any place I've ever lived. Well, maybe not Dallas, it's often still too much like summer there in October, and this year it seems to be raining all the time.

But, here's the thing, a few months back we foolishly jumped at the chance to register for a three day birding weekend back at the beach in Delaware (where, up til Memorial Day 2006, we lived), on the temptation of an email sent us by a friend. Well, we miss the ocean so constantly that Peg's siren song just caught us at a weak moment. And now that weekend is upon us.

We leave from the Sunport this coming Wednesday and will be gone for a week. We've arranged a housesitter to keep all the living things alive while we're gone, that would be the cats and the gardens, but will she pay enough attention? As I mentioned in the previous post, the tomatoes and peppers are still producing, all the herbs are in full swing. I need to get out there this weekend and cut some of the herbs and dry them for use during the winter months ahead. I've bought frost blankets to cover the incipient cool weather crops that are coming up: lettuce, chard and spinach, and when I look at the ten day forecast it looks like this indian summer weather will continue until we come home, so maybe I should stop worrying. If I hold my mouth right the entire time I'm kayaking and birding and eating fresh fish (which I haven't yet managed to transition away from, though it's hard to find fresh fish here in the desert) the frost blankets can stay unneeded in the cupboard. And we will have the wonderful opportunity to enjoy October's glory in two of our favorite places: the mountains and the beach.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Where I Seem To Be Going

As the name of this blog suggests, I've been looking for a new direction, a new raison d'être as it were, ever since moving to New Mexico. I now see that some of the previous posts in the blog give a hint as to what that direction might be. Although it's been well over a year since I wrote anything (anything that I actually published, that is), the clues to where I am going are there. It's not really a new direction, just more of a focus on one in which I've always been headed.
I've pretty much given up on the political blogging over at The Blue Voice, as have most of my fellow Voices, with the big exception of Bruce Miller. And yet, the urge to chronicle something somewhere remains strong. As the things consuming my interest currently are gardening, food, environment, wilderness, and in some way the conjunction of all those things, I guess they will be the subjects of my chronicling.

While still teaching English to Spanish-speaking employees at UNM, I have spent the past six months mostly in my yard, gardening up a storm. I've always been a gardener, any place I have lived; as the child of two ardent gardeners, it's been in my blood forever. But the model I followed until now was that of my mother's gardening loves: perennials and herbs. Though I'll never abandon those loves, this growing season I embarked on my father's path, growing things we can eat. My father, a career military man, established a big vegetable garden in in the yard of any place we ever lived, whether military quarters, rented homes in towns or country, or ultimately the home where we settled, near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, his last posting.

Transitioning to vegetarianism, living in a place with terrific farmers' markets, getting into Slow Food, and growing many of our vegetables - these things seem to have emerged organically in a slow simultaneity. In the spring I planted radishes, mesclun and lettuces, which with a lengthy cool spring, lasted well into June and provided us with über healthy daily salad eating. I have quite a few herbs growing here, things I planted as soon as we moved in, plus those I've added in the past four summers. The tomatoes, peppers and squash were slow to mature and ripen, due to that same long cool spring, but the basil that I grew with the tomatoes supplied material for many a pesto for us and our friends. For some reason, the cucumbers developed a bad case of failure to thrive, and were a total bust. It's a challenging place to garden, my backyard and New Mexico in general. The cool cloudy spring included lots of wind, and was followed by very hot dry summer months, without any monsoon rains to speak of. Much of my growing was done in containers, as my hardpacked clay soil most resembles adobe, and takes long and backbreaking work to make ready to nurture any growth.

Well, time for the evening walk, then dinner, which is the second go-round for the results of a recipe I found on Deborah Madison's blog: Cabbage and Potato Gratin with Sage. This, with a salad of greens, avocado and tomatoes, has proved a most satisfying and delicious meal. So, having made this fresh start at picking back up the art of blogging, I hope to be back with more very soon.