Saturday, November 28, 2009

Food coma.

Wow. I have to admit--Thanksgiving dinner was delicious. Two days of prep work combined with weeks of obsessing about our local turkey resulted in a pretty darn scrumptious meal, if I do say so myself. Most importantly--no one ended up in the ER, although I did suffer one minor burn and almost impaled my foot with a carving knife...glad I still have some reflexes left in my aging body!

Here’s our star attraction...

...and our local apple pie...

...and our non-local, non-healthy Pilgrim hat cookies, just for fun.

I forgot to take a picture of the whole spread, but I think my sister hopefully I’ll post that later.

We spent Black Friday pursuing non-commercial activities...I slept in (thank you, Peter), took a long walk, and then battled leaves for the rest of the day, tossing the kids into the piles, which they loved.

I just can’t start the holiday season fighting mobs, and
honestly--I always feel sorry for the people who have to leave their families right after Thanksgiving dinner to work the midnight sales. Plus--I'm missing that “shopping-is-fun” gene. Thank God for the Internet.

Today, we’re planning to work on the foundation of the greenhouse...and I’m hoping to convince my darling hubby that it’s time to put up the outside Christmas decorations. We’ll see how persuasive I can be...

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and are enjoying the long weekend with your family and friends!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Many Thanks.

For the past 12 hours, I’ve been in Thanksgiving Day prep mode. Honestly, with the exception of 15 minutes for lunch and about 45 minutes for dinner, this is the first time I’ve sat all day. I’m actually feeling pretty good about the amount of preparation accomplished today. Last year was the first Thanksgiving dinner that we hosted, and I was seriously stressed. My goal this year is to enjoy the process, and perhaps actually spend some time enjoying the day with my family. Please remind me of this goal tomorrow when I’m running around like a turkey sans head.

My goal of an entirely locally produced Thanksgiving meal isn’t going to be a reality, but I’m trying not to beat myself up about it. Here’s the menu for Thanksgiving dinner at Chez Adolf:

The Star:
20 pound organic, free range, drug-free, sustainably raised turkey from Live Oak Farms. I opted to try this brining thing that everyone recommends. The turkey is bathing in sea salt, rosemary (from our garden), thyme, and broth as I type, and here’s hoping it’s absorbing those spices and juices to create a yummy main dish. Please oh please don’t let me destroy the bird...

The Traditions:
Dressing, made to imitate my parents’ recipe, which they found on the back of a sage can. We still have the can, dated 1967. It’s a family heirloom. (No fear, I used fresh sage.) While not a local dish, it is delicious...toasted white bread, onions, celery, herbs galore...and the best part--giblets. I know you are now completely grossed out, but boy--they are good. You just can’t think about it when you eat them.

Cranberry sauce, Ocean Spray, canned. Sorry, but there are no local cranberries in South Carolina, plus canned cranberry sauce is Tyler’s favorite. Personally, I’m not a cranberry sauce girl...I just get it for everyone else.

Mashed potatoes...again, not local. These spuds hail from Idaho.

Sweet potato casserole. My sister, Becky, is bringing it. I know I could have found local sweet potatoes, but I’m embarrassed to admit--I’ve never cooked them before, except to microwave them to feed to the kids when they were toddlers.

Green bean casserole, courtesy of my sister, Marsha. Not local, but it’s always good. You know what I mean...can of soup, canned beans, water chestnuts, yum.

Waldorf salad. Whew--finally something with local ingredients. The apples come from Nivens Apple Orchard, which is about 10 minutes from our home. The grapes, walnuts, celery, and mayo...from Publix.

Garden salad. I’m hoping to harvest enough lettuce from our new potager in the backyard to serve a homegrown heirloom salad. We’ll see what the status is tomorrow.

Sweet Corn. Local corn from Beechwood Farms. I froze corn at the end of the summer, but I wish I had frozen more. Our supply is dwindling...but my dad always loved corn, so I’m planning to serve it in his memory.

Red cabbage with local apples. This is not a Thompson family tradition but a concession to Peter. He loves red cabbage. As a Swiss citizen,Thanksgiving is an acquired holiday for him...I started making something he really likes as a new family tradition.

Apple pie. Again, local apples, three varieties. Pie crust: Pillsbury. Shame on me. The egg white used on the pie crust for that shiny Martha Stewart look--local eggs from free range hens. The whipped cream is homemade but without local ingredients...I forgot to pick up cream at the farm.

Pecan pie, courtesy of Becky. Mom’s recipe. I looked for local pecans, but the two places I had time to visit didn’t have them. One farmer told me that every other year they have a good harvest--this wasn’t the year. Last year, they had 200 pounds of pecans.

Pilgrim hat cookies. OK, you serious locavores--you’ll probably hang me in effigy now as an hypocrite. Marshmallows dipped in melted chocolate, stuck on top of Keebler fudge striped cookies (striped side down), decorated with white Duncan Hines icing “buckles.” I know, I know...but my kids love them.

Wine. We have a couple varieties in bottles, but I did pick up a cask of the Black Box Merlot. It’s won lots of awards, and honestly--Peter and I sampled it last night. Pretty yummy. At least we have environmentally friendly wine!

So, although I wish we had incorporated more local ingredients and produce, at least we’ve maintained our traditions while still supporting local producers. Our experiment is about baby steps...trying to be a little better to the environment every day. I’m thankful my family is near so that we can celebrate together, and I’m thankful to our local farmers who worked so diligently to produce healthy, beautiful food...I just hope I don’t wreck it tomorrow!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all...may your turkey be tender, your potatoes without lumps, and your family healthy and well. I’ll let you know how everything turns out...please keep your fingers crossed that I don’t burn the bird!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Green girl, interrupted.

Sometimes, in this little game called life, we have to put our goals on the back burner. Sometimes, we throw out rational thought and give in to gut feeling. Sometimes, doing what's right is more important than doing what's easy.

Meet the newest member of the Adolf zoo...Sophie. Peter found her in the parking lot of our company yesterday, starving. You can see every bone in this sweet girl's body. Honestly, by the time I got to the company with a bag of dog food, I thought I was too late. She didn't move when I approached her, until I started feeding her by hand. Then, wow--did that girl put away some serious kibble!

She's about four months old, according to our vet, and has a long road ahead of her until she's ready to run rampant with Chloe and Maxi (the dogs)...and Sammy and Oreo (the cats), but I think she hit the jackpot by wandering to Warptek.
So...I'm still committed to our greening endeavor, but I'm a little distracted today. I planned to write about making Thanksgiving desserts using local ingredients, but I think I'll wait until a little later...

I'm just thankful we found her in time.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Talking turkey.

Two weeks. Can you believe it’s almost time for Thanksgiving? I love Thanksgiving...I love the traditions, the enforced watching of the entire Macy’s Day Parade until Santa arrives. (I’ve been known to tear-up on more than one occasion.) I love making pilgrim hat cookies for the kids from marshmallows dipped in chocolate and stuck onto a chocolate cookie brim. I love sneaking bites of cold dressing, salmonella be damned. I love the pomp and circumstances of presenting the turkey and everyone getting “piecy bites,” as my dad called them, as the turkey is carved. I even remember to count my blessings on Thanksgiving, and I hope we’re teaching our kids gratitude, too.

Last year, though, was the first time I cooked a turkey. My parents always hosted us for holiday meals, working together to ensure their herd was properly stuffed. But when my mom’s Alzheimer’s progressed, my dad became the solo chef, with my sisters and me contributing side dishes. Still, the turkey was his domain.

Although my dad’s efforts were wonderful, he began to take risks with food. Not intentionally, of course, but he was getting older and forgetful, worrying about my mom. He would begin preparing food for our family’s Saturday night gatherings on Wednesday or Thursday. We would find food in his refrigerator that was long expired. Potatoes in the pantry turned to liquid. We were nervous about his health...and honestly, about our health, too.

So, to take the pressure off my dad and to ensure the well-being of our family, I cooked Thanksgiving dinner last year. I know that seems like an oxymoron, and I’m sure a few of my family members probably worried for their stomaches with me as head chef. Still, it was time. I was a little embarrassed that I had never cooked a turkey and decided that I needed to step up to the plate. I must say, with the exception of a mashed potato fiasco (ironic, as I usually make pretty good mashed potatoes), I was pretty proud of myself.

This year, I’m sad to say that there’s no battling my dad for control of Thanksgiving dinner. He died in May. Maybe we should have sucked it up and let him cook last year. He was always a much happier host than guest.

Now, I’m in a bit of a quandry. While I would love to prepare a locavore Thanksgiving, traditions are important, particularly this year. I’m not sure that my family is ready to eat Carolina rice instead of mashed potatoes and gravy. Instead, I’m again deciphering the photocopied recipes my mom gave to my sister, Marsha, when she prepared her first Thanksgiving meal. The recipes are faded, and I wish I could ask my mom why she and dad felt the need to get up at 7 a.m. to get that bird in the oven...when we never ate until 6 p.m. While I won’t get an answer from my mom, I’m glad that she’s still here.

Our Thanksgiving meal won’t be a complete showcase of local producers, but I am trying to add some local, green elements without banishing traditions.
Today, we’ll focus on the star of the show:

The turkey.

In our effort to support our local farmers, I’ve ordered a local bird. He’s just down the road at Live Oak Farms (, awaiting his demise. I’m a little concerned, because we’ve always been a Butterball family. You should have seen my sisters’ faces when I told them that we’re eating an all natural, sustainable, pasture-raised turkey. I think Marsha’s afraid she’d be assigned to plucking duty. I can honestly say--if I needed to pluck a turkey, we’d be eating Butterball.

I’ve already had a nightmare about this turkey. I dreamed I forgot to pick it up and found myself racing through Publix, searching for a turkey on Thanksgiving Day at 4:30 p.m....and trying to thaw and cook it for a family dinner at 6. I think I’m getting a bit OCD about the turkey. Then, when talking with my friend Laura, who also ordered a local turkey (from Native, I felt a panic attack surfacing when she mentioned brining. Brining? What have I gotten myself into? Do I need a back-up bird?

Truly, though, why does my family--including me--have such a phobia about a local, all natural turkey? Why is there such pressure for the perfect bird? I know it’s the centerpiece of the meal, the proverbial star attraction...but it’s not like we’re going to starve if I screw it up.

It’s a tricky issue, talking about mass-produced poultry when the holidays are around the corner. I’ve seen and read enough about industrialized poultry to permanently change my purchasing habits, but I’m not going to share the (horrifying) details here. The reality is--plenty of people will buy factory farmed turkeys, and I’m not going to be responsible for ruining your appetite. If you want to know what I’m talking about, check out be warned.

The other issue is--I have no idea what kind of turkey I’ve reserved. I requested a 20+ pound turkey, and a turkey is a turkey is a turkey...right? Well, that’s true for the majority of turkeys--99 percent of turkeys raised in America are from a single breed--”Broadbreasted White.” These turkeys are produced because of their large, white, meaty breasts. Unfortunately, in our quest for lots of white meat, these poor birds are bred so top-heavy that they can’t fly nor reproduce naturally. Without the aid of humans performing artificial insemination, Broadbreasted White factory farmed turkeys would be extinct in one generation, according to the website

I ordered a happy turkey, one that actually lived a nice life outside, scratching around for grubs, bugs and grasses instead of ingesting only grains and antibiotics...but I had no idea the various turkeys that are available when I placed my order. So, to save you some headaches in buying your own happy bird, here’s a cheat sheet for purchasing a turkey:


Think of the masses of turkeys at your local supermarket. These birds are factory farmed, raised in a facility that provides protection from predators and bad weather. Because of the crammed living quarters, factory farmed turkeys receive antibiotics to control diseases.

Conventional turkeys don’t have much of a turkey life--they’re inside for the duration. I promised, though...I’m not getting into the nitty gritty of their sad lives. I’ve definitely eaten my share of conventionally raised turkeys.


USDA Certification is key for an organic turkey. The turkey must be raised on land that has been free of pesticides and other prohibited substances for three years. The food provided to the turkey must be pesticide free. For more information on organic rules and regulations, check out the

Unfortunately, it’s tough for small farmers to receive organic certification. The same individuals who raised organic produce or meats before it became trendy now must compete with lobbyists representing industrial food manufacturers--who also crave the “organic” label to attract today’s green-savvy customer. Organic certification, when run by bureaucrats, is expensive and time consuming. Plus, the factory farms put pressure on the government to relax standards so they can meet the organic certification criteria.

Many small, organic farmers, who actually exceed the USDA organic standards, refuse to invest in the organic certification process. Instead, they promote themselves as “sustainable.” Sustainable is good. I would definitely buy food from a local sustainable farmer, because I know that’s code for organic, humane, environmentally responsible farming.


You’ve heard of heirloom tomatoes...but heirloom turkeys? Heirloom turkeys’ ancestors pre-date the industrial food era and are important for genetic diversity. With the Broadbreasted White factory farmed turkeys, which are genetically identical, an illness could quickly spread through that breed and eliminate it. Heirloom turkeys’ diversity ensures the survival of the species.

The meat is also unique--firm texture, with light meat an “almond” color. These birds take longer to raise, and they are more expensive than conventionally raised turkeys. But--they also live a happy turkey life: they are raised outside, freely roam on pasture, reproduce naturally, and eat a varied, natural diet.
Most heritage breeds are near extinction. Slow Foods USA (, an organization committed to supporting “good, clean, fair food,” works to increase the awareness of heritage breeds among consumers. It’s Economics 101: by increasing demand for heritage breeds, farmers will increase production of heritage breeds, thus ensuring their survival. Check out to find sources in your area for heritage breeds.


Turkeys are raised outside, ensuring they eat a natural diet. Their meat may be richer in omega oils because of their grass diet.

Be careful with the free-range label. Poultry with a free-range label means that the birds are not confined to cages, and the USDA requires they have access to the outdoors. However, as long as one small door provides access to a small dirt or gravel yard, rather than a pasture, these birds qualify as “free-range.” Many producers exceed the limited requirements--but read the labels or talk to your local provider.

Confused yet?

Who knew there are so many turkey options?

I ordered our turkey before I really thought too much about it. My goal was to support a local farmer, and I’m feeling good about that, at least. I’ve e-mailed Allison at Live Oak Farms to find out exactly what I ordered. I’m sure she and her husband will have a good laugh at my turkey trauma. I already e-mailed her a few days ago to find out the specifics...when to pick it up, will it be fresh or frozen? I also shared with her the story of my turkey nightmare--at least I provided her with a good laugh!

Where do you buy your turkey? Have you ever purchased from a local provider and if so, where? For those of you foodies--please tell me, what is brining??? I think I’d better Google that ASAP.

So, my feasting friends...tomorrow I’ll tackle something a little easier...local desserts. I think I can pull off a local dessert without breaking tradition.

Until tomorrow...

Gobble gobble...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Peter's home...

...and I'm off tonight.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

One down, 11 to go...

It’s official--we’ve survived more than a month of our family’s eco-experiment! Here’s a quick review of the highs and lows from the month:

Our increased commitment to composting and recycling reduced our trash production enormously. Previously, our family produced a 13-gallon bag of trash per day--at least--even though we recycled the obvious items like newspaper, plastic bottles, and Diet Coke cans. On average, we now produce approximately two trash bags per WEEK. We could seriously eliminate one trash pick up day, if that option is available.

While our trash heading to the landfill significantly decreased, we still produce lots of waste that needs to be recycled. While I consider that a better alternative, I’d like us to reduce our amount of waste overall so that we’re not contributing so much energy consumption for recycling.

Eco-produce bags. Love them. Love the perplexed looks I get when the cashiers ring up my veggies and I can explain to anyone within ear shot about reducing plastic bags. I also feel less hypocritical when buying beautiful, organic produce at Farmer’s Market--we’ve basically eliminated plastic produce bags from our lives.

I’m consuming (i.e. produce bags, Sigg bottles) in order to become more environmentally friendly. Such an oxymoron...

I’m learning to cook...and actually enjoy it, most of the time. I’ve always cooked the basics, but I resented it. I’ve fought hard to avoid becoming the stereotypical suburban ‘50s housewife, since I always aspired to greater things. We’ve spent a lot of time and money eating out. Honestly, though, what’s more important than feeding my family healthy (most of the time) food?

Now, I’m beginning to change my relationship with cooking. There’s a fabulous quote from Barbara Kingsolver’s memoir, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, the story of her family’s quest to eat locally for a year. Kingsolver visits a Lebanese market and begins a conversation with a cheesemaker about the techniques to produce Middle Eastern cheeses. The cheesemaker is puzzled by her interest, until Kingsolver admits to making cheese at home.

“‘You make cheese yourself,’ she repeatedly reverently. ‘You are a real housewife.’
“It has taken me decades to get here, but I took that as a compliment,” writes Kingsolver. Like Kingsolver, I’m beginning to value my inner domestic goddess.

Trying to find local foods at Whole Foods. During the official No-Impact Week challenge, we blew the challenge to eat locally. Well, we ate LOCALLY at Fuddrucker’s...but I don’t think, somehow, that was the intention. The next day, I was determined to prepare all of our meals from local food and providers. Unfortunately, I had missed Farmer’s Market the week prior, so off I ventured to Whole Foods, certain I’d find plenty of local options. $187 later, the only truly local food I found was zucchini, squash, and cucumbers. The meat options included “regional” foods that had traveled at least 3+ hours. If I was only after organic food, I would have been set...but finding organic and local was impossible.

I made sure to visit Farmer’s Market the following Saturday.

I love supporting local growers and producers. Knowing the people who produce our food is a fabulous feeling. Plus, people who grow things, whether it’s cabbage, sunflowers, or sausage, are just nice people.

It takes planning to prepare a local meal. I’ve always been a convenience shopper. Out of lettuce? Run to Publix. Too tired to cook? Let’s go out. Now, I need to think about our meals. I can’t just run to the store for chicken. (Well, I CAN, I’m just trying not to.) I need to visit Native Meats at the Farmer’s Market or pre-order from them for delivery. (Which is an amazingly cool option they provide. Place an order for a certain dollar amount--I think about $45--and they’ll deliver your order to your home. Love it.

My other issue is--I’m seduced by the beautiful produce grown by Parson’s Produce. I’ll stock up on three different eggplant varieties...then have no idea how to prepare them. Produce moldering in the refrigerator is not eco-friendly nor respectful--toward the person who grew it, toward my family for wasting money, and especially not toward people who don’t have enough to eat.

So--I’ve once again made a purchase: Eating Well in Season, a beautiful cookbook with delicious seasonal recipes. I’m hoping it helps me turn into Julia Child of the locavore movement.

Great ideas for environmentally friendly Halloween treat bags.

Painting 35 recyclable paper bags orange. I don’t think I’ll pursue that fine idea next year.

We are raising little environmentalists. Kristen and Michael both identify the recycling symbol on the bottom of containers. They remember to use the compost bowl for food scraps that aren’t meat (the dogs get those), they know not to throw out paper but to put it in the recycling container, and I’m even beginning to win the battle to get them to turn off the lights when they leave a room. Granted, they knew all of this before...but because we’re pursuing our project together, as a family, it’s turn into a game instead of a nagging chore.

Isn’t that the goal of becoming more environmentally responsible? We’re working to preserve the environment so Kristen, Michael, and Tyler’s kids will have the chance to enjoy hiking and playing in nature as much as our kids do...

I’m willing to learn to cook and haul away recycling if it means my grandkids have a chance to play in clean oceans.

There is no low.

OK, back to work! Let’s see what surprises the next month will have for us...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Good dirt.

It’s beginning to feel like fall here in South Carolina. Last night, I covered my newly planted strawberries and lettuces in case we had a freeze. Leaves completely cover our yard...we must have a hundred trees, easily. The jack-o’-lanterns are moldering on the front steps. Don’t you just love when those gorgeous, orange works of art turn black and smooshy? It's not very festive. We so rarely use our front door that I often forget about the pumpkins until they become a very unwelcoming addition to our welcome mat.

I’ve always felt a little blue, tossing the pumpkins in the trash the week after Halloween. Maybe it’s because the kids worked so hard designing their jack-o’-lanterns. Maybe I feel guilty, since it’s wasteful to carve them for Halloween and throw them away a few days later. Maybe my angst is more psychologically driven--tossing the pumpkins signals winter coming--at least, to me. I’m not a happy winter person.

Until recently, I never really worried about throwing the pumpkins in the trash. Honestly, the pumpkins get nasty, the big plastic garbage bag comes out, I hold my breath and roll the disgusting decomposing orbs into the bag, pray
ing that the bag doesn’t break on the way to the trash can.

Think about it, though--why is it OK to throw pumpkins into the trash when yard debris isn’t allowed? In fact, some communities, such as Loveland, Colorado, offer recycling services for pumpkins. My community doesn’t offer standard recycl
ing pick up for newspaper or bottles, so I won’t hold my breath for them to pick up moldy pumpkins.

Still, you can recycle that pumpkin. Compost it.

We’ve been composting for a long time...unofficially. We’d ju
st pile up leaves and grass clippings in the forest, turn it occasionally, and end up with great compost after about a year. Now that we’ve begun our eco-experiment, I’ve become compulsive about composting to reduce our trash output. You know what? Between stepping up our composting and recycling efforts, we are producing only about two 13-gallon bags of trash per week. I’m pretty proud of our reduced trash!

Composting is a fantastic alternative for turning yard and kitchen waste--and even paper--into rich “black gold.” Tiny organisms--bacteria, fungi, and protozoa--break down kitchen and landscape waste into dark, rich, decomposed org
anic matter. Compost improves soil--add it to clay, it helps break up the heavy soil and enriches it with nutrients. Add compost to sandy soil, and it helps the soil retain water and nutrients. Improving soil is the best way to ensure healthy plants.

Take a look at the new garden I’m working on--a potager, aka French Kitchen Garden.

See the soil I’m dealing with? Can’t grow anything in that red clay. Now take a look at what we added:

We’ll be eating well with that rich soil.

I know that not everyone is as obsessive about gardening as I am...but even if you only plant pansies around your mailbox or marigolds in your window box, you can benefit from compost. If you don’t garden at all, you can still compost to reduce the amount of trash you contribute to the landfill--and offer your compost to your gardening neighbors or advertise it on Craigslist or Freecycle. Or send it to me, I always need compost!

I know what you’re thinking: composting is a huge project. It’s expensive, it’s time-consuming, it stinks, we’ll have rats in our yard, the neighbors will complain...I know. I also thought those thoughts.

I was wrong.

Composting is as simple as collecting leaves, grass clippings, and food scraps in an open pile in your yard...or as complex as building a three-bin compost system, with a companion leaf-mold collector. You can invest hundreds of dollars on composters offered by companies that advertise “black gold in as little as two weeks!” Or you can pick up pallets free of charge and construct your own rustic composting bin. There are even composting systems available for apartmen
t or condo dwellers.

Our composting system evolved, from the open pile hidden in the forest, to a fabulous design of Swiss precision and engineering. When I mentioned to Peter that I wanted an official compost bin, thinking we’d use some spare pallets fr
om our company and slap it together in an hour...little did I imagine the result:

“Slapping together” is not really in Peter’s personality. He gets his perfectionism honestly: many years ago, right after Kristen was born, his parents were visiting. We had just remodeled our unfinished basement, and I mentioned that we needed a handrail for the stairs. I thought--go to Lowe’s, buy a piece of wood, slap some paint on it--voila!

You should see the handrail crafted by my’s a thing of beauty. I think he painted at least 10 coats of varnish on it.
Anyway, those Swiss men don’t do half-assed work. I wanted a compost bin, and by God--I got the premium version.

Your system needs to fit your personality, your needs, and your neighborhood. If you can shake hands with your next door neighbors from your bedroom window, then you might want an enclosed system located near the back of your property to preserve neighborly peace. If you live on a farm or have some acreage, an open pile might be fine for you. If you garden as much as I do, a three-bin system is perfect: one bin contains compost that’s ready for use; the second bin is compost that’s almost done cooking; and the third is the active pile where we deposit our scraps and such.

So, first of all...

What can go into the compost pile?

  • Leaves, pine needles, grass clipping, flowers and garden plants.
  • Kitchen scraps--fruit and vegetable peelings or cuttings, crushed eggshells, tea bags, coffee grounds and filters.
  • Shredded woody yard trimmings, small amounts of sawdust--but add a pound of nitrogen per 100 pounds of sawdust.
  • Paper towels, shredded newspaper--although I often save my newspaper to layer as a weed barrier under mulch.
Composting no-nos:
  • Clippings treated with herbicides or pesticides should not be used in a vegetable garden.
  • Meat, bones and fatty foods--no oils, cheese, or cooking oil. Those will attract critters.
  • Pet waste or human waste. (Really? Don’t want to grow your tomatoes in Fido’s poop?) Although, if your pet is a herbivore, you can add its waste to the pile--and it enriches the compost.
  • Weeds that have gone to seed or plants that are diseased. Technically, a compost pile should get hot enough to kill those seeds or insect-infestations...but why risk it? It can be tough managing the temperature accurately enough to eliminate problems.
Green + Brown = Black Gold
Ready for biology class? No, me neither. Here’s the basic information that you need to make sure that your compost has the right levels of carbon and nitrogen to ensure those little microorganisms thrive and the scraps break down quickly:

  • Leaves, straw, and sawdust are high in carbon--”browns”
  • Grass clippings, manure, and vegetable scraps are higher in nitrogen--”greens”
  • For the organic materials to decompose easily, the microorganisms that do the work need about 1 part nitrogen for every 30 parts carbon.
  • If the carbon to nitrogen ratio is too high, it will take a long time for the matter to decompose.
There’s a great chart that shows the average carbon to nitrogen ratio in organic materials, plus extensive information about composting:

How big?

Bigger is a point. The larger the surface area, the faster the microorganisms can work to make matter decompose. Chopping or shredding yard waste, such as leaves, helps increase the surface area.

An ideal size for a compost pile is at least 3 feet x 3 feet x 3 feet. Piles smaller than this can’t hold in enough heat for decomposition, and piles larger than 5 cubic feet don’t allow enough air to reach the center of the pile and the microbes. It’s also hard to turn a pile that’s too large...and you’ll need to turn it more often. Stick with a manageable size.

Turn, turn, turn.

Turning the pile is essential to supply oxygen to the composting organisms. Without adequate oxygen, you’ll have a smelly pile of material that can be potentially toxic to plants. If your compost pile smells rotten--it might not be getting enough air.

Water, please.

Moisture management is also an important element in composting. Too much water and the microorganisms will drown. Too little moisture will result in slow decay, meaning you’ll be waiting a long time for rich soil. You’ll want the compost pile to feel about as moist as a wrung-out sponge, according to the Clemson Extension website. (Which, by the way, is fabulous. You’ll find answers to all sorts of gardening dilemmas.)

Hot enough?

The center of the compost pile will heat up as the material decomposes. The interior temperature should range between 90 and 140 degrees. Yes, there are special long-stemmed thermometers to measure the temp. Do I own one? Nope. We've still managed to make great compost without the gadgets.

Is it done yet?
Just like any recipe, the final product is the result of its ingredients. Depending on the coarseness of the materials, size of the pile, amount of air and moisture, your compost can be ready in as little as a month--or it might take as along as a year. Honestly, our compost--which is turned minimally and basically left on its own to decompose--is typically ready in about 4-6 months. It’s good stuff...loamy and full of worms. Yum.

Now what?

Use compost to amend your soil, top dress lawns, enrich soil around trees and shrubs, or--as we do--create new raised beds. You’ll want to separate any large chunks out of the compost. You can even use the chunky compost to make compost tea--a weak nutrient solution that can be used to fertilize young plants. Put the compost into a cloth bag and allow to soak in a 5 gallon bucket of water for approximately two to three days. The resulting liquid should smell sweet and earthy. If it smells sour or rotten--do not use on plants. Return it to the compost pile. Free, non-petroleum based fertilizer...don't you feel greener already?

Final advice:

When you collect your kitchen scraps, you’ll definitely want a container with a lid. You’ll also want to empty it. Often. I, unfortunately, learned the hard way that kitchen scraps, like skin from pears or over-ripe tomatoes, can quickly lead to a nasty fruit fly infestation. Seriously, get a can with a lid. You’ll thank me.

Better yet, keep your container outside if it’s convenient. I have a bowl that I use during food prep to collect scraps, which I immediately dump into the container on our porch. I usually empty the container into the compost pile at least three times per week. Just don't let an open container sit for too long. Fruit flies are a pain to get rid of.

Also, remind your husband/significant other that he/she shouldn't bring the large container into the kitchen after it's been sitting outside with scraps in it to, oh, make it easier to dispose of pumpkin guts. I couldn't figure out why we had a swarm of fruit flies in the kitchen--until someone confessed (after a few glasses of wine) what he did. Argh.

So get ready! Except for the fruit flies debacle, composting is an easy, non-smelly, non-rodent attracting, eco-rific way to reduce your trash output, build fabulous soil, and enrich the environment with your selfless efforts.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It’s the Green Pumpkin, Charlie Brown...part 2

Sometimes I amaze myself. In fact, I’m amazed that I didn’t foresee that I would be painting 35 treat bags this morning. I thought it would be a fun family project--until I remembered that we don’t have time for fun family projects on Wednesdays. We pick up Kristen at the bus stop, drive to piano lessons for both kids, race home, change clothes, and head out to the stables for her horseback riding lessons. We eat out at some non-organic, non-local-food place, like last week’s Fuddrucker’s fiasco. When we finally get home around 8 p.m., Kristen finishes homework, then baths for both kiddos, then reading...and finally, bedtime. There’s no time to paint environmentally-correct treat bags, unless I do it. So guess what I’ve been doing for the past 45 minutes? Sadly, I’ve only painted one the bags need to dry so I can finish them later and stuff them tomorrow. ARGH.

I also amaze myself by assuming Kristen’s teacher would be really excited about an eco-friendly Halloween craft for the kids--without checking with her first. Her teacher was less than enthusiastic about a scarecrow invading her classroom. My friend reminded me that since our kids are now in third grade, gone are the days of elaborate parties and parental involvement. We can send snacks and the kids will have a game day--Kristen is very excited about taking her Nintendo DS.


OK, sorry, enough of my ranting. I’m feeling a bit Kermit-like today--“it’s not easy being green.”

It’s interesting, though. When I started researching ideas for the greening of Halloween, I felt hypocritical. Let’s face it...I will never be the mom who hands out the following recommended treats, gathered from a variety of “green” websites:
  • 100% Honey Sticks
  • Dried veggie chips
  • Organic agave sticks
  • Or, my personal favorite--toothpaste. (A handout that will get you a smashed pumpkin for sure.)

I’ve already admitted my quandry...a compostable treat bag that’s filled with individually wrapped, non-local, non-organic candy. My friend Dana and I faced the same dilemma...we want to include some fun treats, but when checking out the plastic crap at Target...we both walked away. So, what are a mom’s alternatives?

Here, in no particular order, are some ideas for treat-bag fillers that will not relegate you to “weird” mom status (well, at least, I hope). I’ve included some websites and stores, and I’ve limited the items to things that won’t break the bank:

  • Mood pencils with the message, “Happy Hallogreen!” Just like the rings, the pencil changes color depending on your “mood.” $8.50 for a pack of 25.
  • Fair Trade Milk Chocolate Spooky Balls--$4.99 for approximately 22 balls.
  • Tops created from recycled plastic.
  • Pirate eye patch.
  • Bead necklaces from recycled plastic.
  • Worry Dolls. According to legend, Guatemalan children tell one worry to each doll when they go to bed at night and place the dolls under their pillow. In the morning, the dolls have taken away their worries. I stumbled upon this site, which offers a box of 6 worry dolls for $.60 or a colorful bag of 6 for $.45.
  • 52 Tricks and Treats for Halloween--card deck, $6.95. Include one or two cards per treat bag. There are lots of other card deck options--look for question and answer type decks and divvy them up.
  • Friendship bracelets or hemp bracelets.
  • Small coloring books or word searches made from recycled paper.
  • Seed growing kit. Cute kits for $1 at Target.
  • Individual popcorn bags. The paper bags can be recycled.
  • Candy in boxes, like Junior Mints or Nerds. The boxes can be recycled.
  • Mini boxes of raisins. Personally, I would have been annoyed to receive raisins when I was a kid, but they are good treats for the little goblins.
The last three items are also cost-effective for handing out to trick-or-treaters.

What else? What creative, eco-friendly fillers will you add to your treat bags? I’d love to know, so please share your ideas!

Now, what about in-class snacks? For Kristen’s class, I’m providing “Dirt Cupcakes”--you know, cupcakes with icing, dipped in crushed Oreo cookies for the “dirt” effect, with a gummy worm stuck in the middle. I know, I know--there’s nothing organic, local, or healthy about the cupcakes. Still, kids like them, I’m minimizing the trash output by baking them in paper cupcake liners, and I’m sending them in a reusable container. Plus, there’s that whole subliminal message about taking care of the Earth that goes along with the dirt cupcakes, right?!

Of course, it would be better to serve local apples...which can easily be dressed up with a healthy dose of caramel for party festivities. Yum. We’re definitely making caramel apples at home this weekend.

I can’t send in celery sticks or hand out dried veggie’s not in my nature. I want to be good to the environment, I do. I want to be a steward for healthful, local eating. Honestly. But I can’t sacrifice cupcakes. Or caramel apples. Everyone needs a little sugar on holidays, right? (OK, all anti-sugar readers...please don’t tar and feather me. Growing up, my friend Marie wasn’t allowed to eat any junk food at home. Know what she did? She came to my house and gorged on Hostess Ding Dongs and Cheetos. It’s all about moderation...unless someone has a serious health issue.)

Finally, for a small activity--since Kristen’s teacher doesn’t want anything elaborate--I’m sending a reusable jar filled with candy corn. The students can guess the number of pieces of candy in the jar, and whoever is closest to the correct number will win.


Late-breaking development. Instead of game day, Kristen’s class is now watching Old Yeller during the party. What teacher thinks that Old Yeller is festive for a Halloween party? Kristen sobbed when she read the book, and with her animal obsession and soft-heart, I’m afraid she might be psychologically scarred--I know I was an emotional mess when I read the book many, many years ago.

To top it off...our puppy was hit by a car last Halloween. You have no idea the amount of emotional devastation that occurred for several months in our home. I’m not being dramatic--we were a mess. I was hoping we could just make it through this Halloween without a major relapse. Ack--what to do? Should I pull her out of school a little early? What’s your opinion?

OK, on that happy note...I’d better wrap it up for now. There are treat bags waiting to be painted, horses waiting to be ridden, and laundry moldering in the washing machine. Until next time...please share your green Halloween tips and ideas here. I can’t wait to hear how you’re going green for Halloween!

Tomorrow...we're going to talk about what to do with that pumpkin on November 1.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Orange + Black = Green?

Ghosts and goblins and ghouls, oh my! ‘Tis the season for haunted happenings, which our kids look forward to almost as much Christmas. Honestly--what child isn’t excited about eating copious amounts of sugar, staying up late, scaring her siblings, and partying at school?

Can you blame our little pumpkins?

I’m guilty of fueling the kids’ holiday enthusiasm. I love holidays. Halloween isn’t my favorite, but it’s still an excuse to celebrate. I’m such a sucker for elaborate costumes, overflowing treat bags, and cupcakes with gobs of icing...mmmm, cupcakes.

So, after failing last week’s Official No Impact Week experiment, I thought I’d get back on track with our family’s original project: to minimize our impact on the environment. For those of you who are kind enough to check in here on a regular basis, you might have noticed that the posts trickled off regarding our progress during No Impact Week. You know what? It was too much, to
o soon for us.

We tried. We ate more local food, we discarded less trash, we upped our composting, we traveled less. We’re honestly pretty good with watching our energy and water consumption--we buy Energy Star products, I use drip lines for watering the garden (and only when it really needs it), we’re going to invest in rain barrels, we wear sweatshirts inside instead of cranking up the heat.

The last two “project” days, I’m ashamed to admit--I couldn’t pull them off.

Saturday, we should have participated in an activity to “give back” or make a positive impact on the Earth...but Kristen had a five-hour Pony Club Halloween party. It was a really cute party--very environmentally-friendly. The girls bobbed for apples (but the horses went first--yuck!), dressed up the ponies in costumes, ran three-legged races, hopped in used horse feed bags for sack races, played hide-and-seek in the
barn, and took an after dark, “spooky” walk along the trail. A great day, but not exactly what was slated for No Impact Week.

Sunday was to be an “eco-Sabbath,” a day to reflect on our week-long activities and determine what we did right...and not so right. Instead, we frantically cleaned the nasty house to host my sister’s birthday dinner.

I didn’t even serve local food.

Anyway, we’re back to our original family project now...looking at our daily lives and trying to figure out how to be “greener” without losing our sanity. Since we have a major event at week’s end, let’s chat about greening Halloween.

Today, I’m pondering parties.

Traditionally, I’m the obsessive-compulsive room mother...over-scheduling the class Halloween party to ensure that frantic fun is had by all. Last year, for Kristen’s second grade class, we made a bat craft (all elements bought at Michael’s, with nothing remotely recyclable), played a game where the kids turned each other into toilet paper mummies (not recycled), served treats such as a plastic “glov
e” filled with popcorn, plastic bags filled with individually wrapped candy, and drinks served in plastic cups--not recycled.

I’m trying to think of ideas for a less “plastic-y” class party without minimizing the fun quota, and here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

The first item on my list is the plastic treat bag. I’m not doing it this year. Instead, I’ve decided to enlist our kids to help create treat bags that can be recycled or composted after their guts are depleted.

Michael is in a major art phase right now. Last night, he told my sister how much he loves to paint--but that he only gets to paint at school, not at home. Hmm. I guess I’ve been a bit lax in the arts and crafts department here. Poor third child. So, to satisfy his artistic cravings, Mikey and Kristen are both going to paint tomorrow. Lots of orange paint...

We’re creating pumpkin treat bags out of recycled and recyclable/compostable brown paper lunch sacks. To create our pumpkins, we’re painting about 3/4 of the bag orange--on all sides. We’re leaving the top 1/4 of the bag plain brown for the “stem,” then tying the bag closed with
green raffia (the “vine.”) All parts of the bag, including the raffia, will break down into compost. Here’s the sample that I made this morning...

Unfortunately, the treats inside are still individually wrapped candies. I hate the packaging waste, but I also understand the need to give out treats that the kids will be allowed to eat. The world is a little too scary to allow our kids to eat unwrapped candy or other treats from strangers. I actually considered the option of buying Fair Trade candy...but balked at the cost to fill 30+ treat bags. Sorry. If you want to hand out Fair Trade candy, let me know, and we’ll be knocking on your door. In fact, I’ll tell you a bit more about a cool reverse trick-or-treating program involving Fair Trade chocolate...tomorrow.

So, I’m feeling a little better about eliminating the plastic treat bag
s. Now what else can we do to “green up” the party?

For a fun activity, I’m going to propose that the class work together to create a scarecrow mascot for the room. Every year, I plan for our family to make homemade scarecrows out of recycled materials--and we’ve never done it. Yes, our two standard, assembly-line scarecrows are currently guarding the mums and pumpkins in the front yard. Still, I think it would be a fun project to make a scarecrow “reading buddy” for the classroom...crafted from all recycled materials. Here’s what we’ll need:
  • Old clothes. Not a problem. I have plenty of clothes in my closet that, unfortunately, don’t fit. Long-sleeved shirt, overall or jeans, socks and/or boots, garden gloves, topped with a classic straw hat...I know we have all of those things cluttering closets here.
  • Newspaper to stuff our friend.
  • String or twine (to tie the cuffs closed).
  • An old pillowcase for the head.
  • Safety pins, to help hold all of the parts together.
  • Pencil and markers for the face.
To assemble a scarecrow, tightly tie closed the ends of the pants and sleeves on the shirt. Stuff the clothes with newspaper. Stuff the socks, tie closed, and tie or pin onto the pants. Stuff the gloves, tie closed, and tie or pin onto the bottom of the sleeves. Tuck the shirt into the pants.

Draw the scarecrow’s face onto the pillowcase with pencil, then color with markers--preferably permanent ones if you plan to put it outside. Stuff the pillowcase and fasten it to the shirt/body.
For finishing touches, add the accessories of your choice--bandana, hat, belt, whatever items you no longer need and can recycle for your scarecrow. Then, when you’re done--please send me a picture, and I’ll post it on the blog!

So, we have the treat bags and craft covered...we’re getting a little bit greener already. Now, what about snacks and a game? Hmmm. I think I might need to raid the treat bags for some sugar-fueled inspiration. Stay tuned for part two of:

It’s the Green Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

And please--share your great green Halloween ideas here...I'd love to hear your ideas!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Redemption...Local Foods, Part 2

Yesterday, the heroes of our story failed their eat local foods, support local farmers, know the origin of every bite consumed, and reduce their carbon footprints in the process. After succumbing to the evil-but-tasty cheeseburgers of Fuddrucker’s, our heroes pledged to fight back end their dependence on big, bad, agri-corporations and search out local alternatives.

And search I did. This morning, determined to find local fare to feed my family, I disregarded the No Impact Week challenge of using less energy and drove 25 minutes to Whole Foods, land of clean eating. I was thrilled--I had two hours until preschool pickup, so not only did I plan to stock up on organic, locally farmed produce and meat, I’d also have time for pansy shopping.


Whole Foods is a sensory pleasure. From the gorgeous mums outside the store to the
artfully arranged produce to the funky wines and olives, I absolutely relish shopping at Whole Foods. Don’t get me wrong--I think the people at Publix are wonderful, and I’d rather shop at Farmer’s Market for all of our meal necessities...but since I missed FM on Saturday, I felt a trip to Greenville was mandatory. After all, we needed to replenish our local meats and produce so we could redeem ourselves today.

Not only did I miss pansy shopping, I almost missed picking up Michael.

I spent more than an hour and a half searching for locally raised food. I read labels, I scoured signs, I asked helpful salespeople...

And I spent $187 for a couple half-full bags of “regional” food. The only local food I found was yellow squash, zucchini, and Carolina rice. The rest hailed from North Carolina or Georgia.


I thought finding local produce and meats at Whole Foods would be a no-brainer. Yes, I found delicious, gorgeous organic food...but none that was grown within 100 miles of our home. So, I decided to at least support regional providers, including a North Carolina wine that I can’t wait to try.

Local eating was a bust again today...but I must say, our regional dinner was pretty scrumptious. Here’s what was on the menu:
  • Free-range, organic roast Poulet Rouge Fermier (a heritage breed chicken from Joyce Foods, North Carolina) with sea salt and rosemary.
  • Carolina Rice
  • Sauteed local zucchini and yellow squash, organic, with Parmesan melted on top
  • Homemade apple pie--apples from Niven’s Apple Farm, crust from Pillsbury...oops. Sorry, but Pillsbury just makes really good crust.
While I did stock up on some regionally produced meats today, I can’t wait to visit Hub City Farmers’ Market on Saturday. The Market provides a more financially reasonable alternative to Whole Foods.

You’ll find numerous vendors at the Market, but there are three farmers that I always visit. Parson’s Produce consistently provides gorgeous, seasonal, sustainably raised veggies--including many heirloom varieties, which means exceptional taste and interesting presentation. I buy produce from Daniel Parson as often as possible, and he always displays some funky veggie that he has to tell me how to cook. Plus, he often passes along gardening advice, which I really appreciate.

Native Meats is an excellent provider of locally raised meats that are drug free and sustainably raised. I wished I had stocked up at the last Farmers’ Market --we bought some yummy brats and chicken breasts to try, and we were really happy with the quality. Native Meats offers a fantastic service--they’ll deliver to your home. With many mixed-box options that can be ordered at a much more reasonable price than the meat I purchased at Whole Foods. I’ll definitely be visiting Native Meats on Saturday.

The third vendor that I always visit is Ed at Field and Flower. He’s the sweetest flower farmer with absolutely gorgeous and reasonably priced bouquets. I always pick up a bunch of sunflowers ($6) that lasts almost two weeks. His mixed bouquets are casual but beautifully designed--he also provides flowers for weddings--and at $7-$10, I never feel too guilty buying myself a treat. He’s also so much fun to talk with, especially if you love gardening and flowers.

The Hub City Farmers’ Market is wrapping up on October 31 for the season. I’ll be there this Saturday, stocking up. Anyone want to join me? In the next few days, I’ll fill you in on other local sources besides the Farmers’ Market that can feed you through the winter...

Since today’s experiment involves reducing energy consumption, I’m going to turn off the computer now and open the bottle of our regional wine. I’m slipping into an organic food coma, I’m afraid...


Can You Supersize It?

Day 4 of the Official No Impact Experiment.

Today’s challenge: Food.

I love food.

I love local food. I adore the Farmer’s Market, the sense of community, talking with those dedicated folks who eschew the big bucks in lieu of a more meaningful life. People with amazing knowledge and tough jobs--sustaining our families with fresh, healthy, drug-hormone-pesticide-free food.

I grow heirloom vegetables. Take a look at one day’s harvest this summer:

I sell heirloom vegetable plants. I’m a composting, seed-obsessed former PR girl turned farmer-wanna be. So today’s challenge to eat locally was a piece of cake, right?

More like a Twinkie.

Here’s what the Adolfs ate today:

  • Farm-fresh, free-range organic eggs--the yolks for the dogs, the white for us. So far, so good.
  • Biscuits. Before you nominate me for Mom-of-the-Year, you need to know--they were from a can. Pillsbury. I'm not sure how many miles those biscuits traveled, but they sure weren’t from around here. (“I know where my breakfast came from,” said Peter. “Our oven. How much more local can it be?” Ha, ha...what a funny guy.) I suppose we could have gone to Krispy Kreme, watched them make donuts, and eaten them “Hot and Ready Now.” Our breakfast would have been just as local, I suppose...maybe more so.
  • Pear for Kristen. Not local, I’m sure--although it was from our local Publix.
  • Diet Coke for me...yep, still haven’t kicked the habit, but I haven’t gone back to the wicked cans.
Lunches for Kids:
  • Sliced cheddar cheese--nope, not local.
  • Cookies...damn, there’s that Pillsbury again.
  • Cheez-Its. Now, that’s healthy.
  • Applesauce in a plastic cup for Kristen, mixed fruit for Michael.
  • Not one bite of local food in those lunch boxes.
Lunch for Peter and Me:
  • Wednesdays are our “lunch dates”--I work with him at our company in the a.m. while Mikey’s at preschool, then we go out for lunch. We really tried to find a restaurant serving local food. Really. Instead, we ate at a new Mediterranean place, Sahara. Nothing local there, but it was yummy. Lamb, hummus, rice...mmmmm.
Snack for kids:
  • Leftover homemade apple pie made with (you guessed it) Pillsbury Crust. Fortunately, the apples originated at Nivens’ Apple Farm, only about 10 minutes from our house. Whew.
  • Fuddrucker’s.
  • Yes, you read that right--big, fat, greasy cheeseburgers, hotdog for Mikey, chicken tenders for Kristen. Fries for all.

What happened?

Just this week, I bragged about my homemade pesto created from the last of our basil. I’ve made three batches of tomato sauce from our more than 80 heirloom tomato plants. I shop at the Farmer’s Market. I search out local producers, we pick berries and freeze them, I drive to Woodruff for free-range chicken and eggs, I own a food mill, for goodness sakes! How did we screw up so badly today?

Here’s my epiphany:

It’s hard work to eat locally.

I hate to admit it, but it’s true.
You need to get your butt out of bed on Saturday mornings to visit the Farmer’s Market. You must learn to cook seasonal food--some of which might be outside your comfort zone. Did I know how to cook Thai eggplant before my farmer friend gave me some tips? Nope, I didn’t even know what that funky little veggie was.

If you’re not a vegetarian--and we’re omnivores at our house--you need to track down local providers of sustainably raised, humanely treated, drug-free meat...and not think too much about those chickens looking at you. You’ll also be shelling out more money for this food. The good news is--your local farmer actually gets to keep some of this money to reinvest in sustainable farming, rather than your money disappearing into the mega agri-corporations that shortchange farmers and hire lobbyists so they can continue to produce sub-par food.

Once you’ve gathered your produce and hunted for your meat--you’re still not done.

You have to cook it. You need to create a meal.

We are creatures of convenience. It’s become a necessity. Most families consist of dual career parents with kids that are scheduled to the max--schoolwork, soccer, ballet, piano, religion classes, baseball, football,’s a finely-oiled family machine that ensures everyone gets to their activities on time. Of course, it’s easier to eat at Fuddrucker’s after a busy day of work, piano lessons for two, horseback riding for one...especially when riding ends at 7 p.m. Should we head home (a 40-minute drive), start preparing a lovely, locally produced meal and feed the kids at 8:30 or 9 p.m...or cram some crap into them so they can get to bed at a decent time?

Well. You know our decision.

I’m not proud of us today. The thing is--I only work outside our home one morning per week. Sure, I have plenty of work with my heirloom plant business, but at least I’m home--where I can multitask, cooking local food while ordering seeds. I can get the family fed with healthful, local food and still get the kids in bed before midnight.

I have the time to hunt and gather.

Still, I remember too well the stress of working full-time and trying to feed a picky-eater. Tyler’s diet during those days consisted of hot dogs, Kraft Macaroni-and-Cheese (in various shapes for variety, like Pokemon), and chicken nuggets. Oh--and ketchup. Surprisingly, he turned out to be a pesto-eating, bruschetta-loving healthy young adult.

I suppose the point to this rambling is...

We’re having a do-over. Tomorrow. We’re going to eat locally if it kills us. As my faithful sidekick (aka husband) pointed out today, we’re taking part in the No Impact Experiment for a year, not just this week. Hopefully, Wednesdays will be our only blip in the local-food endeavor.
Also, we’re just muddling through and trying our best.

Today wasn’t our best effort. But it’s life. We’ll be better tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow--I’m going to post some terrific local producers for you to check out. Some you can meet at the Hub-City Farmer’s Market, some you need to take a field-trip to find...but you’ll be glad you did! If you are ga-ga over certain local farmers, please share your faves here!

Until tomorrow,

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Are We There Yet?

Boy, did I wake up on the wrong side of the bed today. For no particular reason, I caught a bad attitude overnight. Too many late nights? Too many early mornings? Too daunting of a task that challenges our family for a Tuesday? Yes to all of the above, because today is:

No Transportation Day (at least, not of the fuel-guzzling variety).

I knew this challenge would get us kicked off eco-island.

I love the idea of walking and biking for all of our travels. I would love to walk the kids to school. I think a basket on my bike for toting home produce from the Farmer’s Market is so picturesque.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid we’d become roadkill on the way to school, since we’d need to walk along a 50 mph, four-lane road with inconsistent sidewalks, while cell-phone chatting drivers race one another to school/work/Dunkin’ Donuts. Plus, the Farmer’s Market is 8.1 miles away...and my bike is the same blue Schwinn ten-speed that my parents gave me for my sixteenth birthday. Oh--and I can’t remember the last time I actually rode a bike. I need some serious training before I even attempt the hills in our subdivision.

So, today is a bummer. I’m ready to admit defeat. I’ve already driven Mikey to preschool, which is just about a mile from home, but it’s also located on the above-mentioned crazy road...and it was 38 degrees this morning. Since we’re always late for preschool, walking didn’t seem viable--we’d show up just as the teachers dismissed the kids. Kristen does ride the bus home from school, so I’m feeling good about that. But that’s our only “mass transit” option in our area. And--she has violin lessons today, which requires a 30-minute drive to the college, and another 30-minutes home.

Sorry for the negativity. Sometimes I miss living in a community where it’s possible to celebrate “Walk to School Day” by actually--walking TO school, not AROUND its perimeter after the parents drop off their kids.

On a positive note:

I consciously chose to stay home this morning to avoid driving. I turned down Peter’s offer to meet at a nursery to buy pansies. Anyone who knows me understands this is a very big sacrifice. The nursery is in Greenville, which would require another 30+ minutes of driving each way--for both of us, since he’s out running errands. (At least he’s driving the Prius.) Ah, such self-sacrifice for the sake of the Earth!

In more good news--yesterday’s Trash Day went really well. We still haven’t filled even half of a reusable shopping bag since Sunday. You should see the mess in the garage that’s awaiting recycling, though--but, as you know, I can’t drive it to the recycling center today.

Trash Day was also pretty easy for us because we compost. Due to my gardening obsession, Peter built a three-bin compost site about a year ago. I love it. Composting is a fantastic way to dispose of food waste (just no meat or oils, you don’t want to attract animals), grass clippings, and leaves--even newspapers and paper towels. We keep a compost bucket (with lid) on our porch--we tried to keep it inside, but fruit flies became an issue. When it’s overflowing, like right now--we take it to the compost bin. I garden organically because the composted soil is so rich and full of nutrients that I don’t need to buy petroleum-based fertilizers. In the next few days, I’ll post info about building a compost bin and the steps to make great soil.

Trash Day also led to a pretty yummy dinner--with minimal packaging waste. Monday night, we had our first frost for SC. Luckily, my friend warned me about the impending cold, and I harvested the last of the summer’s basil. I spent three hours making five small containers of pesto--how can so much work result in so few meals? Anyway--we ate free-range, drug-free chicken from Live Oaks Farms in Woodruff, mixed with the homemade pesto and pasta. The kids, of course, ate plain pasta with plain chicken. You’d think we were murdering them by forcing them to try three noodles with pesto. Yeesh.

So, Trash Day was a success, I think. And--I’m going to readjust my attitude about Transportation Day. When we started our little experiment, I lovingly named it “No Impact Man-Lite.” We’re not going to go off the grid, and we’re not going to forgo toilet paper. We’re just going to try to improve our relationship with the environment. I suppose I shouldn’t beat myself up now.

Reprieve! Kristen’s violin teacher just called and canceled her lesson! Weird. If I leave now, I could even walk to Mikey’s school to pick him up. Hmm.

Maybe today won’t be as tough as I thought...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Will DSS Take My Children Away Due to the Piles of Trash Intentionally Left in the House?

Today is Trash Day. Ummm...actually, I was a little confused and thought trash day began yesterday, so we’ve already started saving our trash for the week. Full disclosure, though--there are some things that are NOT going into the week-long trash collection bag. Sorry, but I’ve always said our family’s experiment is “No-Impact Man-Lite”--there are some things, like the packaging from chicken or any meat, that are going straight to the dump. Safety first.

Did you know that the average American generates 4.6 pounds of trash every day? So, our family of 5 contributes an average of 23 pounds of trash per day, or 8,372 pounds of trash per year. I can believe it, and I wonder if it isn’t actually more--considering that we have two dogs, two cats, a bunny, and two aquariums. I wonder how much trash a dog generates each day? Of course, if all dogs were like Chloe, our year-old pup--we’d have no trash, because she’d eat it all.

Now there’s an interesting solution for reducing garbage...

Please check out the No Impact Experiment project manual for terrific ideas to waste less. I’ll share a few here, but remember--I’m basically plagiarizing. Colin Beavan and the No Impact Foundation generated these great ideas, which can be found at
  • If you are playing along, look at the contents of your special trash bag. Remember, we were supposed to save all the trash we generated yesterday? Now, divide the trash into two piles: stuff you used for more than 10 minutes, and stuff you used for less than 10 minutes. Shocking, isn’t it? Put it back in the bag to continue your trash collection for the week.
  • Compile a no-trash travel bag--reusable cup for hot or cold drinks, handkerchief, Tupperware for leftovers, reusable produce bags.
  • Don’t make trash. Follow the three Rs: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. But don’t throw it away.
Some of the ideas posted on the website are pretty easy for me to implement: my lovely, organic produce bags arrived Friday; I have a stockpile of reusable shopping bags; I pack the kids’ lunches in reusable containers, not baggies; and we steer away from items with too much packaging. (Kind of ironic for a former marketing girl to shun packaging, hmmm?)

Paper towels and Kleenex are my downfall. I know I should use cloths and handkerchiefs, but I don’t. In fact, in a typical morning of making breakfast and lunch for the kids, I can use five paper towels. The good news is--I compost them. Still--from a resource and energy standpoint, I should limit my use of them.

Handkerchiefs are an interesting concept, because Peter uses handkerchiefs. All I can say is: you’ve got to really love a man to wash his handkerchiefs. Yuck. (Actually, I just kind of throw them in the washer and hope for the best.) So--he is our anti-Kleenex champion for the family.

Kristen and I, however, should give handkerchiefs a try. We can easily blow through a box of tissues in a day or two with our nasty perhaps I’ll try to find some pretty little handkerchiefs for us. Mikey just uses his sleeve unless I can catch him in time. And somehow, I just don’t see Tyler incorporating hankies into his college-dude lifestyle.

I can also tell you quite honestly--while I want to better the environment and reduce our trash contribution--there will be no DivaCup or The Keeper happening for me. What, you may ask, is a DivaCup? Go ahead and Google it--you ladies can let me know if you would be willing to use that. I will personally make an eco-trophy for any woman who embraces it.

Also, for anyone interested in purchasing reusable produce bags, I received a coupon for 15% off a purchase, with the offer open to friends. I'm not endorsing this company, because I haven't tried the bags yet--but they look good. The web
site is, and the promo code is "EBS09."

So, my friends--it’s time to start the challenge and see how much trash we can avoid! Good luck to anyone who is playing along, and tonight I’ll let you know how much trash the Adolf family generates today.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Compulsive Consumers.

Well, Day One of the official No Impact Experiment week was--hopefully--a blip in our family’s journey toward environmental enlightenment. Frankly, we sucked. For a day when we were supposed to curtail our consumption, take a look at our results:
  • Lowe’s--four pressure-treated 4x6x12 pieces of lumber to build the foundation for my greenhouse. Also two tools Peter needed for the greenhouse project.
  • Home Depot--rented a fuel-guzzling pick-up truck to transport lumber home. (It was kind of sickly funny to pick up the wood from Lowe’s in the HD truck.)
  • McAlister’s for lunch--because we were starving and wanted to eat quickly to get back to work on the greenhouse project.
  • PetSmart--a pack of chew bones for the dogs, since Chloe decided to chew a blue marker this a.m...and we now have blue marker all over the carpeting throughout the house. Why couldn’t she just stay in one spot to chew the marker? It would have been annoying...but so much less so.
I hope, if you are playing along, that you consumed less than we did today. I did keep all of our trash in a reusable bag for tomorrow’s portion of the experiment. Stay tuned...

On a happy note...I planted lots of heirloom garlic today, and I harvested the remaining basil tonight, since we might have frost. Tomorrow, I’m making a boatload of p
esto...and I must say, my hands already smell delicious.

I’m taking my consumerist self to bed and hoping for better success tomorrow...Trash Day.

And we're off!

Here is it...the beginning of the official No Impact Experiment, A One-Week Carbon Cleanse. Today’s challenge:

Consumption (aka Don’t Buy Stuff!)

Did you know that:

“...ninety-nine percent of the stuff we harvest, mine, process, transport--99 percent of the stuff we run through this production system is trashed within six months.”
Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff

Frightening. When I think about the amount of items I purchase and what ultimately happens to those items I urgently “needed”...I personally contributed to that statistic. It’s not just the impact on the landfills as we junk our purchases--but think about the amount of petroleum needed to produce and transport those quickly trashed items.

Our hero, Colin Beavan, No Impact Man, shares a terrific list to get us started on our journey. Be sure to check out the project website ( to read the manual--you’ll find great ideas, like:
  • Type a list of the stuff you “need” to buy, and figure out what you can do without this week. Cross off those items. Borrow, buy used, or make your own items that you can’t live without this week.
  • Track your trash. Keep a reusable bag handy, fill it with your trash, recyclables, and food waste from today. Take a bag with you if you leave the house and put your trash in there. Take a look at what you accumulate throughout the day.
  • Do you need to shop? Can you think of anything more fun or productive to do with your shopping time?
If you plan to play along this week, please leave a comment so we can all support one another! You can also sign up at the official No Impact Experiment website, where you’ll find great ideas to get you through the week.

I’ll check in tonight to let you know how the Adolf family survives Day One. (Shoot...why did I just eat that Special K cereal bar? Now I have to add the wrapper to my bag of trash.)

See you tonight!