Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Lucky for us this Christmas Eve that this is what the front yard looked like.........late last week. The southern Willamette Valley has been spared the snow and ice blessing the rest of the Pacific Northwest.

We had our Christmas dinner Sunday with my my football playing nephew. And he made it safely home to Portland Monday. His dad works for Sysco in Wilsonville. And luckily Sysco is close to I5. I honestly don't know if he was able to drive his car all the way home of if he parked his car and rode home with his dad in the family's big ass Ford. SUV's do have their place. The kids have between one to three FEET of snow at their place.

This is not normal for this part of the country, even for this time of year. IN this part of the country snow is usually measured in inches; not feet. Especially on the valley floor. We’ve lucked out because there are hills south of Salem and I think the coldest air just couldn’t make it this far south. You have my sympathy up there, but frankly I wouldn’t trade places.

Seattle has been especially bad because so many of the hills the city is built on are pretty steep and as of this morning Portland was chain up or else. And we really wish you'd just stay home and avoid the ruts in the ice on the roads. And I'm not telling Lisa anything she doesn't know. I do pray you guys don't pick up any more snow tonight.

Anyway, the unfortunate marriage of Pacific rain and extremely cold air leaking through the Great Northwest Wind Tunnel has made for one unholy mess north of Salem. The Eastern Oregon folks weren't planning to come down because of some health problems anyway and our possible plans to go East were tanked by the weather.

Now all the Portland contingent has to do is get Jon to PDX on Christmas Day so he can fly south to join the team for the Holiday Bowl. At least it'll be warm in San Diego.

So it's a nice, quiet Christmas Day at home for Mom, me and the cats. Thank heaven for telephones and instant messaging. At least the goodie box we sent east by UPS made it to Umatilla before I84 was closed over the weekend. When semi's can't make it; you know it's bad.
So, I hope everybody is safe and warm tonight. Hug everybody extra close even if you have to do it in your dreams.

Monday, December 8, 2008


School gardens aren’t a new idea. Upscale Montessori and Waldorf classrooms have incorporated hands on learning for decades. But, until recently, you didn’t find very many school gardens in big city schools.

The path to this edible schoolyard starts in Berkley’s Chez Panisse restaurant. Co-founder Alice Waters is one of the pioneers in the use of fresh, local, in season ingredients. The restaurant models its offerings around the small French eateries with menus that reflect what was available in the local markets that morning.

Add a local middle school principal less than happy about a story in the local paper that quoted Ms Winter’s remarks about the appearance of grounds around his school and you get……fresh veggies. In 1993 Martin Luther King Middle School had nearly one thousand students from widely divergent economic and ethnic backgrounds. The school cafeteria was closed; it was too small. Students could buy microwaved or package items at a location in the parking lot. The school was nearly surrounded by blacktop.

The principal wrote Alice a note. She asked him to lunch. When the idea for the school garden was broached “she was already at step ten.” It took nearly two years but part of the black top has been replaced by a one acre organic garden. The students incorporate what they learn in the garden with their science, math and language classes.

The cafeteria has been renovated and is also a class room. The kids learn how to prepare what they’ve grown, cook it and serve it. Approximately one third of the schools students prepare and share what they’ve grown each week. They sit down at tables with tablecloths and flowers and share what they’ve prepared.

Along the way the students learn where their food comes from. Their garden is a little oasis in the city. They learn there is a cycle from worm to soil to food to the kitchen and back again.The kids even build simple fences and arbor type structures with their teachers. Each ninety minute garden class is followed the next day with journal entries. Many of the class room lessons are ecology based and may include studying the effects of pesticides, composting, or growing earthworms.

Link to the Edible Schoolyard website. Includes information about the garden, lesson plans, and some recipes.

Cross posted in Women On.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…..wait that’s another story; but it seems almost that long since I took chemistry in high school. That’s where I first learned all about calories. Not the calories in chocolate, but as a unit of measurement. A calorie is the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of one cubic centimeter of liquid, in the lab it’s usually water, one degree centigrade. That energy is stored in the fuel you’re using and a calorie is a calorie whether it’s stored in chocolate or oil.

If the calorie you’re interested in happens to come from a steak it may have taken up to fifty four fossil fuel calories to create the one calorie in the steak that you can actually benefit from. That fossil fuel was used to plant, harvest, process and ship the grain used as cattle feed, usually a feedlot. The fancy term is CAFO, or concentrated animal feeding operation. Then more fossil fuel was used to transport the critters to the feed lots, process them and ship them to market. Then we drove to the store and bought the beautifully shrink wrapped cuts of beef, but that fuel almost looks like a drop in the bucket.

One pound of conventionally raised feed lot beef may have used up to forty five thousand fossil fuel calories by the time it reaches your plate. At approximately thirty one thousand calories in a gallon of gasoline, do the math. And that’s just one pound of beef. According to one source on the internet Americans consumed more than twenty seven BILLION pounds of beef in 2005. While the calorie counts for beef may vary by the cut, that’s still a hell of a lot of fuel just to put a piece of prime rib on my dinner menu. And that’s just the beef. I haven’t added chicken, turkey or pork to the mix. And I love good beef. It's just that the steak looks awfully small next to all those barrels of oil.

Cattle, pigs, chickens and turkeys were designed to eat grass, bugs, weeds, acorns etc. I have this sinking feeling that switching everybody to the one hundred mile a gallon Chevy Volt (if it ever gets to production but that’s another story) won’t help much as long as we keep raising grain to feed to the critters that feed us.

Information obtained on the net and from Frances Lappe’s Hope’s Edge


Has it really been over four years since Lisa over at Coming to Terms and Women on encouraged me to become a citizen in the land of the Blog? Granted I haven’t been posting much lately. Work and then not work. I’m in good company; over a half million of us lost our jobs last month.

I spent the better part of a month fighting off some bug or another. Not enough to knock me out just enough to leave me feeling “bleah.” But, what I really had was a colossal case of writer’s block. I couldn’t figure out how to work what I was reading into either of my general journals. I toyed with the idea of starting another journal. Yah right, girl you can’t keep what you’ve got active, plus keeping up with Women On.

So, Cottage is getting a new name. Things are looking pretty hopeless right now, but I’ve been reading about people who are chipping away at that hopelessness one garden, one farmers’ market, one seed bank, and one micro loan at a time. So, I’m going to see if I can tell some of their ories. So, welcome to Walking With Hope.

Pandora wasn't supposed to open that damned box, but she did. And when she worked up the courage to peek inside again she found the one thing that hadn't escaped before she slammed down the lid the first time. She found Hope and she set it free.

I welcome anyone with similar stories to tell to join the Walk.