Ardent Eden

Ardent Eden is a place to explore my thoughts about the interdependence of life - humanity and nature - and to engage with others for collective problem-solving.

Monday, July 24, 2006

After 5 days away...

...the basil looks divine:

And the zucchini keep getting bigger. We also picked our first tomatoes of the season and a bowl of the most intensely flavorful blackberries. The weeds and Japanese beetles were also busy while we were out of town. We're pretty beat from the car trip today, but we weeded from the time we put the Bean down for bed until the sun went down to try to make a dent.

I also wanted to share a photo of the lovely and creative produce bag I received from Melissa at The Color Green. I can't wait to fill it at the farmers' market. The first time I took my canvas bags to the grocery store in town, I was greeted with a completely blank look from the teenage boy packing my groceries. I promptly reported to Matt that the grocery shoppers in Boston were much more tuned in to the simple practice of bringing their own bags. So the next time I went into the store with my huge canvas bag and a few smaller ones, I was prepared for a similar reaction from the teenager bagging that day. Instead, he exclaimed "cool bag!" and the checkout girl said that "everyone" was using them that day. Somehow I think she was exaggerating given the number of people I saw walking out with paper bags inside double plastic bags. I have to keep working on making sure that I have my reusable tools (canvas bags, cloth napkins, coffee mug and travel mug) with me when I need them.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

R & R

Our family is in need of a little respite from the pace we've been keeping. Tomorrow evening we're going to travel up to Maine for a visit with family in a lovely cottage on the water. I'm looking forward to some of the free therapy that Mother Nature offers!

Oh, and getting out of the triple digit heat for a couple days won't be bad either. Our house has central A/C, but it hasn't been on since the day we closed. I grew up in a brick house that was surrounded by mature trees and had ceiling fans in the bedrooms. We didn't have A/C, and we didn't miss it. Matt's family had A/C but seldom used it. I figure that if I made it through last August's heat while 9 months pregnant, I can hack a few sticky nights now! Our bedroom does have a ceiling fan, and the family room has two of them. They really do help. We set up a standing fan for the Bean's room and bought a small baby pool for her to splash around in to beat the heat. After she's done, we just collect the water into our watering cans to give the plants a drink.

I'm off to finish packing, put my wineglass in the dishwasher and hope that the thunderstorm knocked a couple of degrees off the temperature in the bedroom.

Photos: black-eyed susans and day lillies post-bloom in one of our front beds and the zuchhini plants that could feed the world

More after Maine...

Monday, July 17, 2006

Feed the Good Wolf

The title of this post is my new motto based on a story I read in the Elizabeth Berg novel, The Year of Pleasures:

There is a story about a Navajo grandfather who once told his grandson, "Two
wolves live inside me. One is the bad wolf, full of greed and laziness, full of anger and jealousy and regret. The other is the good wolf, full of joy and compassion and willingness and a great love for the world. All the time, these wolves are fighting inside me." "But grandfather," the boy said. "Which wolf will win?" The grandfather answered, "The one I feed."

*I'm aware that a photo of a wolf would be more appropriate, but I cut these black eyed daisies from my front bed this weekend and have been enjoying them on the table since them. Maybe the good wolf is hungry for some beauty this week.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Smattering of Photos

Entrance to the garden. The asparagus bed is off to the right, and the berry bushes are on the left and back perimeter. These are all plants that the former owners established.

The view from the back deck (those grass clippings are waiting to be raked up and put in the compost bins or used as mulch):

The compost bins. Note the zuchhini plant growing out of the one side. We've harvested some fruits from the former owners' cast off scraps from last summer. Isn't nature an amazing provider? That's one of the six grape plants in the foreground. You can also see some of the blackberry plants creeping over the garden fence.

Future home of fruit trees:

More later...

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Homestead Happenings

Today marks our second week as homeowners. Amid the 90+ degree heat, we've gotten the family room painted, (some) furniture purchased and finally straightened out our cable internet access issues. It's been amazing to look out at our two acres and think about the possibilities. We have a lot to learn about caring for the land and our house. We want to become much more self-sufficient. It's slowly starting to settle down around here so we can get back to our place on the path. I have to constantly remind myself that we're on a journey, not a race. There's time to set up our household, plan the gardens and generally try to save the world (just kidding....sort of). It's funny: when I sit down to write about it, I feel overwhelmed with ideas. It's difficult to sort through my thoughts and impose some sort of order to the internal chaos. It's even harder to slow down and be mindful of the task at hand - whatever that may be- rather than trying to check another item off the to-do list.

Today was nice though. We had some breakfast, and worked on getting the office and computer set up. I then headed off to the local grocery store and got lost in the cavernous aisles. Does anyone need 5 shelves worth of barbecue sauce? Is anything local and/or organic? Add writing a letter to the store manager to that list of things to do.

While my Mom was playing with the Bean this afternoon, I set to work making a Pennsylvania-Dutch coleslaw for dinner with the remaining 1/4 head of monster cabbage I bought at a farmers market in Lancaster on the 4th of July (organic and just $1.50 -- this head of cabbage had fed many people at many meals). I tried to be mindful of each task, and it didn't seem like work at all. (I love cooking, but I don't like cramming it in among a million other activities). Next I prepared some zuchhinis stuffed with a mixture of spinach, ricotta and fresh herbs. My brother-in-law, sister-in-law and nephew were coming for dinner, so I wanted to do something a little more special than usual. I made some tomato sauce to spoon over the stuffed zukes, and fettucine with lemon cream sauce. We had a lovely meal with good company, and scrumptious chocolate peanut butter brownies baked by my sister-in-law for dessert. It was just what I needed to quell the inner treadmill effect. Tomorrow's another day.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Good Stuff

We're in the house! It's wonderful, and we're feeling so blessed and fortunate. More on that later. In the meantime, there's plenty of complaining about the fact that we don't have internet access yet (hence, the lack of updating, commenting and photos of the garden/yard/various works-in-progress). It's scheduled to be hooked up tomorrow. Thank goodness! I'm itching to get back into the swing of regular posts as it seems like there is so much material. Anyway, my Mom is visiting now and has been a great help with watching the Bean, lining shelves, cooking meals with the loads of zucchini that keep coming from the garden (think zucchini pancakes with salsa verde; zuchhini muffins with fresh currants from the garden; lasagne made with long strips of zucchini in place of the noodles; zucchini and ricotta penne pasta…you get the idea; please send favorite zukes recipes my way!!), and generally just being helpful in the way that only a Mom can. Matt's parents were here for week beforehand, and were also really great with suggestions about the land and plenty of snuggle-time with their youngest grandchild.

Instead of diving into all of the thoughts swirling about my head about the house, the garden, open spaces, local farming, community, what I've been reading and the like, I thought I'd tell you about two nice sustainable businesses in downtown Philadelphia. I was heading back to work from a business lunch a few weeks ago when a sign for fair trade, organic coffee caught my attention. In need of some afternoon energy and some beans to take home for the morning, I strolled over to the independently-owned Joe Coffee Bar (11th and Walnut) this afternoon and was delighted. Joe's is an eclectic little space selling whole beans, the standard coffee drinks, and assorted munchies. The helpful clerk told me about the organic and local foods that they serve, as well as the fair trade coffees. She helped me pick out some Mexican beans too. And, because I bought 1 lb., I got a free cuppa coffee (with soy milk- a big plus for me). Shame on me for leaving my travel mug back at the office - -bah! Joe's has a reciprocal relationship with the fair trade non-profit Ten Thousand Villages which has a store a couple of doors down on Walnut St. so that if you show your receipt from Joe's at Ten Thousand Villages, you get 10% off and vice versa. The purchases don't have to be on the same day so you can save the receipts for when you need to do some shopping or some coffee drinking. I hopped over to Ten Thousand Villages and found some cloth napkins that were 75% off, so it only cost $8 for a set of six. This will be my third set of cloth napkins, and I still think we could use more. I am committed to reducing/eliminating our use of paper napkins and paper towels (except for the yuckiest spills), and I think that we need to have a bunch of napkins on hand so that they're at the ready for all of those good ol' fashioned community-building potlucks and casual meals we've already started having around our new kitchen table. Good stuff.

Oh, and I was pleased as punch to open up my email today and see that I won a handmade cloth produce bag from Melissa at The Color Green. Can't wait to get it! Another step in the quest to reduce plastic bags in our house.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Seven Stars Farm

I haven't been able to make a batch of yogurt in awhile because my yogurt maker is buried somewhere in our storage space waiting to move into our house. I usually mix some yogurt in with the Bean's daily breakfast of oatmeal and pureed fruit. Because buying little containers seems wasteful for that purpose, I've been buying Stonyfield Farm's yogurt because it's the only one I could find that was made with organic whole milk (best for babies) and in a plain variety (I figure the Bean gets plenty of natural sugars from the mangoes, cherries, bananas, peaches, and other fruits that we serve her with the yogurt). I'm not sure what to think about Stonyfield. I'm skeptical about the sale of the company to Dannon. Anyway, when I ran into Whole Foods today in search of yogurt, I was pleased to see whole milk plain yogurt that's organic (biodynamic even) and local. I grabbed some Seven Stars Farm yogurt, and mixed some in with the Bean's dinner of lentils, avocado and green beans. It was a hit with her and tasted delicious to me too. Seven Stars Farm is located in nearby Chester County on 350 acres that are owned by the Kimberton Waldorf School and protected from development. The couple that farms the land produces the yogurt in small batches and, as far as I can tell from this story, exemplifies caretaking of the earth.

PS - We close on the house on Wednesday! We move on Saturday! Yes, that's worthy of many exclamation points! It may be a little while longer until we get the internet situation sorted out, but I promise that more frequent posts are coming along with some writing for a new venture.