Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Power of the playground

I was thinking yesterday about how lucky I am to live in this neighborhood. I realize now, how important a strong community is, and how it is missing in most of America. In the car-centric culture of suburbia, we have no need of neighbors. A person can pull up to his garage and never meet anyone on their block.

In northside, with side walks , a central school, and strong churches and preschools, a person can really get involved with people living only a few blocks away.

Now back to my point. Almost everyday, a large group of parents can be found letting the children play together after school. And what do we parents do while the kids are occupied? ,, we network. This simple activity is part of the glue that makes our neighborhood so great. It is not a bunch of separate family units all playing on there pre-fab backyard swing sets, it is real people forming real relationships.

I have met several business contacts here, I find out about the new farmers market in town, I hear all the dirt on local happenings, and we have some very spirited political arguments. It always stays civil, because we are neighbors, and face to face, all of our differences do not seem as important.

The simple act of letting the kids run around for a few minutes after school, has rooted me to the area, educated me, and brought new local business contacts.

So tomorrow when little Johnny asks to go to the playground, just say yes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

It has been crazy around here, the new garden beds are in, and are waiting a liner and some dirt.

My current project for the week, has been to try and grow some sprouts for a stir fry. Did you know that a pound of broccoli sprouts, has thirty times the anti oxidants and nutrients of an equal amount of broccoli heads. My first attempt was not so hot. I put too many seeds in the jar and they outgrew the container. It is important to have room for airflow. Tomorrow begins attempt number two.

I got this idea from " Fresh Food From Small Spaces" by R.J. Ruppenthal. It is a good book for creative ways to grow food in small areas. It is not a very good how-to book, but more of an idea book. It does however provide plenty of sources for the more reading on the ideas that strike your fancy.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

One Meal at a Time

I find lately that cooking is a lot more fun, when I try to put an environmental slant on it. Lately I have been trying a lot more vegetarian dishes, and sourcing more local foods. Going to the grocery store has become a scavenger hunt, trying to trim the miles that my food has traveled. Our local chain (Ukrops) is good about labeling the Virginia based produce.

Here are a few hints:

Buy the choice farmed closest to home

Buy the least processed item, ex. whole wheat versus bleached white flour

Try to buy in season, if it is not is season, then it had to of been trucked in from California or Florida ( if not another country)

Minimize Meat consumption- I am not ready to give up meat, but I do buy organic meat from Virginia's farms when I can. ( I can highly recommend the Ground Bison from Georgetown farms in Northern Virginia)

Do not be afraid to experiment with new recipes. Once a week I make some new dish we have never tried, So far this year we have had Chick Peas Romescu, Quinoa and Cashew Stir Fry, And a new Broiled Tofu just last night. For those of you looking for a little inspiration, try the new Veginomicon cookbook. It is really well written and has tons of recipes. There has got to be something in there for everyone.

If you have kids, let them help pick the menu. You do not want to overwhelm them. Give lots of praise for trying all this new stuff with you.

Take full advantage of local Farmers Markets, the food is always in season and fresh at these venues.

For some information on our current food system pick up a copy of Omnivore's Dilemma and Animal,Vegetable, Miracle

Now get out there and change the world with your eating habits, one meal at a time.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Welcome to my little backyard project. For the last year I have been moved by the "change" mantra. I have been slowly trying to move to a more sustainable lifestyle. Through this blog, I am going to try and chronicle the changes and maybe inspire a few of you out there to try something new.

Most of what I have done is cheap, easy and actually saves my family money. Over the next year I have plans to expand the garden and adopt small changes that add up.

First, a little about me. I am a work from home artist living in the Virginia. We made a decision many years ago to live in the city. This gave us the ability to walk and minimize our use of the car. My neighborhood has plenty of sidewalks, and I walk the kids to school everyday.

My studio is in the backyard, so I walk to work also. In the next few days I will post about some of my projects and see where to go from there.