Saturday, November 24, 2012

Giving Thanks

It’s the Thanksgiving Tradition—What are you thankful for this year? We circle the table—people are thankful for friends, family, health, a decent job they love….and I—I  am thankful for my neighbors. I am thankful for my neighbors, who show up at council and committee meetings, speaking truth to power, striving to save our commons for our joint future. They step up, state their names and addresses, and speak. Sometimes their voices shake, until they warm to the subject, but they speak.

 I am thankful for Lori, who used powerful visual images to convey the absolute massiveness of a new development, forcing the city council to reconsider its approval and the developers back to the drawing board for the third time. The sticking point?—solar access for a small house across the street. Common goods.

I am thankful for Tom, who raises issues constantly in front of city officials, who was on the front page gesturing towards a parking lot one evening, saying “They want more variances than there are cars in that lot!” He is always there, hanging fliers, talking, listening, writing letters.  What about the rest of us, who live here? What can I do to help? Common goods.

I am thankful for Stewart, who goes to every meeting, shares his huge body of knowledge with the rest of us, and shakes his head vehemently when he does not agree with the speaker. He has taken new activists under his wing, pushing us forward, explaining the intricacies of the city budget. Common goods.

I am thankful for Harry, who raises my food organically, shares his knowledge of farming and writing with everyone, and organizes ballot measures to prevent GMO crops from being raised here in the valley, where they will contaminate not only organic food, but also organic seeds. Common goods.

I am thankful for the long lines of people who show up to fuss at meetings, protesting when a few developers make huge profits by destroying our neighborhoods. And those same people show up on a sunny June morning to photograph every building in the historic neighborhoods around the university, so we know what we are about to lose. Our history, our culture, our unique town. Common Goods.

And I am thankful that I know these people—and all of the others--, who bring their own voices and skills to bear on huge issues, who continue to speak and fight, who teach me, every day, how to become a better activist and citizen. 


Monday, November 19, 2012

Pie Social

            The Pie Social began with the belief that, here in the Pacific Northwest in November, people will gather to drink hot coffee, eat pies, and talk—for hours. It’s been proven true for three years now. The Pie Social happens somewhere around Thanksgiving and is a chance for us to kick off the indoor potluck season with all of our local friends.  It’s easy, too. Bake a couple of pies and find the coffee maker, make sure there is nothing major growing in the bathroom. No huge meals or house cleaning. No pretending to be in a decorating magazine. Everyone invited has been here before, usually when we were in the middle of a project.
            The afternoon was, as always, blustery. Rain gusts came and went, sounding on the metal roof vents. Clouds were low over the hills. The air was brisk— bracing on a quick walk. The house smelled of pie. Cats napped on the window bench. People converged on the dining room, clutching pies, sweeping in with leaves picked up from the pile in the driveway. Soon, everyone had a hot beverage and the conversation began, echoing off of the high ceiling. Peach pie. Two pecan pies, one traditional, one with chocolate. Pumpkin pie. Rice pudding. Cranberry tart. Everyone had a slice of each—some lager, some smaller. Kayli Kitty came out, looking for a lap.
            Outside, the world grew darker and windier. Evening falls quickly in November. Chickens roost at four-thirty some afternoons and this was one of them. The dining room becomes a small stage in the evening, lit from within, the French doors framing the scene. Today, it was a gathering of people, engaged in the ancient art of conversation around a table, littered with the crumbs of pie.

Chocloate Pecan pie filling:

4 eggs
2 oz of unsweetened chocolate, melted
½ cup dark corn syrup
1/3 cup of brown sugar
½ t salt
1 t vanilla
2 ½ cups of pecans

Mix all together. Pour into pie shell and bake at 350 degrees until set and a little puffy on the edges.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fall Leaves

Early November is leaf gathering time. Because we are the only gardeners on our street, we gather all of the leaves on the block—maple, locust, oak, and poplar—in a rolling recycling bin, and then haul them into the back yard. One nicely packed bin covers a 10 by 4 foot bed perfectly. I try to work early on Sunday morning, weather permitting (it is no fun to pick up armfuls of leaves in the rain), but, sometimes, I need to be out later in the day. I lock Lucy the Grey Cat into the bedroom so she does not roll in the street and head out, oblivious to the stares of passing motorists. Rake and pile, rake and pile, rake and pile. The garden beds fill up, back to front. An occasional kale or collard plant pokes out from the cover; the leeks are snugged in all around. I try and harvest the carrots before I cover them because slugs munch the green tops and the root is lost. Once the vegetable beds are filled, I clear out the flower beds, cutting down the fennel and asters, and cover them as well, first with fig leaves, then with red maple.

This year, our neighbor hired a young man to clear out the leaves on the apartment complex across the street. He dropped them all into our driveway while I was at work—it was no more effort, he said, and it saved a trip to the landfill. I came home one brisk grey afternoon to a mound of brown and gold leaves; when I moved them into the backyard on Saturday, they were already starting to steam and break down. A lovely, wine-y, earthy, leafy smell came from the pile. By late afternoon, the garden was put to bed for the winter. For a few months, nothing will happen in the back yard but a bit of chicken prowl, a few bees searching for hazelnut pollen, and tree pruning. It’s good; we all need a break.

German Apple Pancake: This feeds two of us...

First, place a pat of butter into a large cast iron pan and place in a preheated oven-- 375 degrees-- until the butter is melted.


3 eggs
3/4 cup of milk
3/4 cup of flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Beat until smooth, pour in the pan, and place in oven. Cook until it puffs, about ten minutes.

Meanwhile, sautee 2-3 sliced apples in another pat of butter and several tablespoons of brown sugar. Cinnamon is nice.

Put the pancake on the plates, pour the apples over, and eat!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


If I were going to present at the Mother Earth News Fair next year-- a very cool event, I might add-- what should the topic be? What do you all want to learn? I'd have about an hour...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Planting Garlic-- Project Creep

  1. Survey the bed. The corner posts on one side are seriously rotten.
  2. Go inside for a cup of tea.
  3. Shovel out dirt from long side of the bed.
  4. Find the piece of 4 by 4 post left over from the last project.
  5. Find the saw.
  6. Cut the post piece in half.
  7. Find the hammer and long nails.
  8. Place the post—of course, it doesn't quite fit.
  9. Dig some more.
  10. Untangle hair from blackberry bramble for the third time.
  11. Trim the blackberry bramble and put it in the compost.
  12. Dig out the bed a bit more.
  13. Pound on the boards.
  14. Remove rusted nails.
  15. Place posts and hammer into place.
  16. Pick up potatoes unearthed in digging process.
  17. Chase the cat.
  18. Refill the trenches and rake the bed smooth.
  19. It’s starting to rain—again. Find all tools and put them away.
  20. Walk to the Farmer’s Market for garlic to plant.
  21. Plant garlic—60 cloves.
  22. Sow ceremonial wheat in the second third of the bed.
  23. Layer bed with straw and leaves.
  24. Place chicken wire over the entire bed to discourage cat and chicken action.
  25. Chase chickens off the bed.