Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bling Don't Sing in a Recession

Everyone's hip to the fact that ostentatious displays of excess are vulgar in a depressed economy. I've been to the dentist this week, who just happens to be in Beverly Hills, and I noticed that you could shoot a cannon through most of the stores and not hit a single soul.

There are still a few desperadoes trying to shop their way to happiness, but for the most part, establishments are hurting for business.

Cafes, on the other hand, are bursting. People commiserating, confiding stories of financial woes. A surprising development, because no one is ever supposed to admit hardship in Hollywood. Alas, the veil has lifted. The whole country is in the same boat.

Overhearing conversations as I passed by confirmed my personal decision to embrace frugality years ago. I saw this coming and knew it was vital to seek a new approach. Less stuff, more DIY. Cook from scratch, plant an extensive vegetable garden, embrace preserving, exercise delayed gratification, buy fewer clothes of better quality that will last and repair items showing signs of wear before they break. Motto: a stitch in time. It's all been immensely satisfying.

I revel increasingly in things that come for free. Food from my garden and furniture castoffs that I refurbish. Finds!

It's amazing what you can do with an upholstery stapler, some remains of fabric, a sander and Elmer's glue (a secret ingredient for cheap shabby chic paint refinishing.) I scored a beautiful farm table two months ago that would bring a pretty penny in an antique shop. It awaits my sander.

Occasional splurges still occur, but now it's a great cheese or a specialty salt. Food is the new bling.

Proselytizing about the joys (and wisdom) of these efforts no longer brings scorn, but rather, interest. Necessity is the mother of invention. More friends are growing food now and repairing instead of replacing. Even a skeptical family member, who let a spectacular crop of apples rot on the ground for three years running, has begun harvesting and sharing his bounty.

I planted that seed by encouraging him to save a bag of fallen apples for me. Cooked a dutch apple pancake with them, photographed it and emailed him the photo. What scrumptious apples they were.

He suddenly saw the value of his bounty, proudly emailed a photo of his son enjoying one of his now-prized apples, and began trucking them off to other relatives who are canning them for pies and sauce.

A shelf full of apple pie filling? Now that's what I call bling!

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Great Unfolding

I was having lunch with an old friend this week and we were discussing the general state of affairs: disastrous global economy, hopeless job market, general malaise taking hold amongst the people. I've never known so many overstressed people personally.

A quote by renowned conservationist, Wendell Berry, came to mind: "It may be when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work, and that when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey." ~ Wendell

This economic crisis is, in a strange way, an opportunity for personal growth. It's the great unfolding. Both as a nation and as individuals we are being stripped of the protective outer leaves to reveal what's underneath. I know there's something good and decent inside. It's a lesson from the garden.

And it's okay to reveal our true selves. We really don't need all the smoke and mirrors anymore, do we?  I really wish the media would stop feeding it to us. Our heads are filled with ideals of the "show lives" we are supposed to be living. Then we are inundated with doom and gloom reports that crush our spirits and pacified with utterly mindless fluff about the lives of ersatz celebrities. How can anyone get their footing on that rocky shore? You have to get quiet. Connect with your inner spirit. Ignore all the minor ravages of insect attacks on your outer leaves and remember who you are at the core. It's about what you love, and who.

I read a lot more poetry these days than I have in recent years. I'd like to share this Rilke poem I heard Joanna Macy recite on NPR's "On Being."

On Being: "Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower" by Rainer Maria Rilke | A Wild Love For the World with Joanna Macy

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Good Food Festival and Conference Sept 14-18

Lots of things to see and learn at the Good Food Festival and Conference in Santa Monica, California this weekend.

Felt grow bags utilize vertical space.

The focus was on sustainability, local organic farming and of course, eating well.

Planting a pizza garden

This sort of an event wasn't on anyone's radar a few years ago. There is definitely a C change happening. The recent contaminations of our food due to mono-agriculture and centralized processing has everyone on high alert. People want change and are getting involved.

I couldn't attend the whole conference due to some unforeseen circumstances, but there were several informative panel sessions on Food Policy & Public Health and the challenges of Organic Farming vs Conventional Farming. Some sessions were better attended than others due to the heavy competition from the many farmer's markets that have sprung up in practically every neighborhood now. Not to mention the great weather.

"So You Want To Be A Farmer" Panel with
Michael O'Gorman, Al Courchesne, David Karp and Romeo Coleman

Worm Composting, Beekeeping, Backyard Chickens and Pest Control sessions were held in the folksy Hay Bale Classroom. There was a wonderful give and take between instructor and all participants. I was delighted to learn just how many people are keeping backyard chickens now. No one was in competition at this conference. The atmosphere was 100% cooperation. Participants wanted to learn from one another, connect and share insights. And isn't that what community is all about?

Everyone left with plenty of food for thought about what they could do personally to get involved and effect changes in both their own gardens and with policy makers.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Every morning this little gift is left on my thyme bush. Possum poop.

I dispose of it, and the next morning I find the gift refreshed. Why the possum has chosen my thyme as its personal outhouse is a curiosity, but it seems to prefer this same spot.

Unfortunately, my thyme is now unusable. No amount of washing could possibly make it safe to eat. Thankfully I have a second thyme bush in a raised container. I'm glad I double planted because we use a lot of thyme in our cooking.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Natural Remodeling: Book Recommendation

Natural Remodeling for the Not-So-Green House: Bringing Your Home into Harmony with Nature (Natural Home & Garden)This may be the best $20 you'll ever spend. Natural Remodeling for the Not-So-Green House by Carol Venolia and Kelly Lerner is a book that covers it all from soup to nuts. Water, heating, insulation, gardens, lighting, design, climate considerations and building strategies are just a few of the topics in this 2006 primer from Lark books that helps you think differently about creating a greener and more harmonious home. The authors guide you in effecting changes in your own home starting from where you are right now. Extremely informative with pretty pictures too. Add it to your home library.