Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Food , not Lawns

Each year about this time, I start looking at my front yard and thinking about how much wasted space is out there, covered in grass. I think about how many more vegetables and fruits I could grow if I could only convince Chuck to let me garden in the front yard. His reply is invariably "I like lawns. The back yard is yours, the front yard is mine." Personally, I thought he would jump at the chance to mow less.

Such a narrow point of view. I've always felt that we vote with our dollar- that our purchases in the free market show where our convictions lie. Perhaps we should vote with our landscaping, as well. Who knows how many people passing by my house would be encouraged to go home and plant a vegetable garden or fruit tree if they saw a flourishing crop of gorgeous purple eggplants or bright red peppers in my front yard?

Perhaps the First Lawn could serve as an agent of change. Take a look at this video.

Then visit the websites for White House Organic Farm, Foods Not Lawns, or Eat the View for more information. I'll keep working on Chuck.

*of course, there is the distinct possibility that someone from the homeowners association would be encouraged to tell me I couldn't grow vegetables in the front yard. Another way to be a rebel! Yay!

Friday, January 23, 2009

I've been thinking about the garden

When you going to plant it, when you going to plant it? (to paraphrase the White Stripes).

I don't know exactly when I will be planting, except for potatoes (March 17) but I ordered seeds last night from Baker Creek Heirloom and Botanical Interests. The cool thing about Botanical Interests is that I was able to pick a not-for-profit group from a list to which a donation from my sale would be credited. That was nerve wracking- I had to research the various listed places to see where my donation would be most needed. I finally chose Granny's Garden School in Loveland OH.

From Botanical Interests:
Basil Greek Yevani Organic Seed
Basil Purple Petra Organic Seed
Sunflower Flash Blend Organic Seed
Kale Italian Nero Toscana Organic Seed

From Baker Creek:
Tiger Eye
Shin Kuroda 5 inch
Crowder Peas
Jet Black
Six Week Purple Hull
Thai Round Purple
Asian Greens
Shanghai Green Choy
Black Hungarian
Doux D'Espagne or Spanish Mammoth
Ashe County Pimiento
Winter Squash
Red Kuri (Hokkaido)
Cherokee Purple
Black Cherry
Mary Robinsons German Bicolor

From Johnny's Select Seeds:
Deep Purple and Ishikura improved bunching onions.

I also ordered beneficial nematodes from Bugalogical Control Systems. These should help me control the squash bugs, grubs and flea beetles.

We will also put in potatoes and sweet potatoes, and I may try collard greens again. Last time they didn't do very well, but hope springs eternal.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree...

Chayote and tomatoes in a Panama City Rey store- photo by Bart and Katie Adastra

My sons have always made fun of me because, no matter where we travel or what we are doing there, I have two stops I invariably must make. I have to go to a grocery store- preferably more than one- and if there is a farmer's market, I have to visit it as well. If pressed for time, I think I would choose to visit either of those two places before I would go to a museum or art gallery.

It's not that I don't like history, or art. I do. That's Culture, and goodness knows, I'm Cultured. But when I am in a new place, I want to know about the lives of the people who live there. About culture, with a lower case "c" What better place to learn about how people live than where they buy food?

It's genetic, I think- my dad loves grocery stores, as well. There's a store in San Antonio my family refers to as the "beholding" store, because when my dad walked through it the first time, he kept pointing things out to my mother, saying "Behold!"

Which brings me to these two lovely pictures. My son and his wife just got back from their honeymoon in Panama. While there they did many things- snorkled, petted a sloth, swam, relaxed, went to a discotheque, met people, you know, honeymooned. Most thrilling to me- they went to a grocery store! Bart and Katie, you have made me proud!

Peppers, eggplants and cucumbers in a Panama City grocery store. Photo by Bart and Katie Adastra
What did Bart and Katie learn about food in Panama? they liked it. Lots of seafood, very fresh, lots of fresh fruit. They took pictures of it, too, so maybe we'll blog about that!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What's in a name?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
-- William Shakespeare

I spent the weekend at what may have been one of the best weddings ever. After 8 years, my son and his fiancee were married in a tremendously moving ceremony developed and officiated over by my sister. The ceremony was followed by a blow-out party that reflected Bart and Katie's personalities from every facet. It was a blast.

Bart has always been one to push the envelope, and to define himself on his own terms. Since the moment of their engagement, he has been telling us that they were going to choose a new name for themselves, a name that would identify them as a new family. That's been hard for me to think about, and it has been hard to explain to people.

Bart was raised by hippies. Or at least, people heavily influenced by hippies- hippie wanna-be's, let's say. And, according to him, these evil hippies had but one goal-to make his life a living hell, starting at birth with his name. Our family has always been one with 3 last names- his, mine and theirs. When Chuck and I were married in the late 70's, I didn't change my name, and when Bart and his brother were born, they got hyphenated last names- mine and their dad's. The reasons for this were many, and on any given day some are more true than others.

My dad was an only child, who had only daughters. Of the five of his children, three of us chose not to change our names when we got married. There was an element of "carrying on the family name" in my choice, but it was small.

A larger part of my choice had to do with following societal rules. I was (still am) a rebel, albeit a lazy rebel, and not changing my name was a very easy way to make a stand against the forces of the patriarchy without, you know, really doing anything.

"To name oneself is the first act of both the poet and the revolutionary. When we take away the right to an individual name, we symbolically take away the right to be an individual. Immigration officials did this to refugees; husbands routinely do it to wives."
-- Erica Jong

But the larger part was that I just couldn't imagine answering to anything else. My name, all of the parts; first, middle, last, is my name. I'm not fond of my first name, but even the times I have attempted to use my middle name instead feel contrived and awkward.

So, I kept my name. Before Bart was born I asked Chuck if he would be interested in hyphenating his name; I would hyphenate mine and we would all three "match". He said "Hell, no." I responded in kind, and for 30+ years we have been explaining our choices to people. Just last year, in fact, I had a conversation with my niece about addressing the envelope for her college graduation.

When the boys were younger, we knew quite a few people whose had done the same thing, and we knew a lot of "hyphenated" children. There was a lot of concern from traditionalists about this. They would ask "What if your boys want to marry a girl with a hyphenated last name? What will they name the children? Will they just keep on adding names?" I always said "That's their choice and their problem- I did what I wanted to do and they can do what they want to do." When our younger son was married a couple of years ago, his wife chose to change her name to his, and when my granddaughter was born this past June, she got it as well. I was dumbfounded that my daughter-in-law would want to change her easy-to-spell last name for one that promised a lifetime of required explanations, but it was their choice, not mine. (They gave my granddaughter that easy-to-spell last name as her first name, setting up a new generation of name complaints!)

But Bart and Katie made a different choice. At first, it was a blow. I didn't understand how they could feel comfortable with a different name. Then there was the process of arriving at a new name- how would they choose? There were various thoughts about how the name would be selected, including a scheme with a website where all the names they were thinking of would be listed. People would come on the site and for a dollar donation, indicate which one they thought should be chosen. The revenue generated would help pay for the wedding.

I was discomfitted. My sisters were bemused, and my mother was upset, saying she felt terrible for Chuck. "Bart is getting rid of his father's name. How must that make him feel?" If Chuck was distressed, he didn't say anything, and chances are, he wasn't bothered much by it. Chuck has a talent for not being stressed over much.
"We don't know when our name came into being or how some distant ancestor acquired it. We don't understand our name at all, we don't know its history and yet we bear it with exalted fidelity, we merge with it, we like it, we are ridiculously proud of it as if we had thought it up ourselves in a moment of brilliant inspiration." -- Milan Kundera

When we arrived on Thursday before the event, they told us they had chosen Adastra, from the Latin "Ad Astra", meaning "to the stars". While I am not sure how it will be easier to handle than what he had before, it's OK. And somehow, by Saturday, when they were introduced to relatives, friends and neighbors gathered to see them become a new family, I was OK with it. It began to seem right to pick a new name for a new family, a name without baggage. After all, we raised Bart to think outside the box, to push the limits and to be himself. What better sentiment with which to begin a new family?

"Beyond the stars--what? Is it the beginning or end you see? For beyond the stars--what?" Anonymous

For the Wikipedia page on Ad Astra, click here

Monday, January 5, 2009

Back to the Blog

It's been just over 18 months since I last wrote anything here. As I said in that post, my new job was wonderful, but was monopolizing all of my time and all 18 of my brain cells. No fears anymore, though- the job fell to the economy, and I have joined the legions of unemployed Americans.

However- when I can ignore the feelings of dread that come from being unemployed in this economy, I am aware of some good things that have come out of this. For instance, I had plenty of time to enjoy the holidays with my new granddaughter. Here she is enjoying some local mashed sweet potatoes. We're starting her out right! (Although I am clueless about that Eagles bib came to be on her. Must be her mother's family- I know our side of the family would have her in either a Chiefs or a Rams bib.)

Another good thing- This morning, I didn't have to get up and drive over the mountain in the ice storm. Ice storms are always more beautiful when you don't have to drive in them.

For those of you who had to drive in the ice- hope things went well for you. Wish us luck tomorrow as we start our cross-country trek to our older son's wedding.