Haiku Friday

Summer Jam
The plum tree arches heavy over the fence, ripening in my yard.

Ball Blue Book

"You want to what?"

"I want to can."

"I heard that, but WHY do you want to can."

"Look," I said, "it's weirder to me than it probably is to you, but I just want to."

"I hate canning," my aunt said before hanging up and after promising to send Auntie Alice's, Ball Blue Book - Easy Guide to Tasty, Thrifty Canning and Freezing.

The book arrived yesterday. It's bound with three staples and a display of plastic fruits and vegetables doused in water to convey freshness. The book was published in 1974 and it's like new.

My great aunt, Alice, made notations by the pickled beets and mint jelly. The jelly for the lamb Uncle Henry raised I'm sure.

There are tips on destroying molds, yeast, bacteria and enzymes with cartoon illustrations that do nothing to reassure me.

There are recipes for marashino cherries, pear mincemeat, dixie relish and a victoria sauce made with rhubarb that call for alarming amounts of sugar but set my imagination whirling none-the-less.

I will not be making carrot jam or rummage relish. But I do like the sound of a kumqut marmalade. It's poetry if nothing else.

The cute guy likes the recipe on the back cover - How to Preserve a Husband .... sweetened with love and seasoned with kisses.

There are conversion tables, troubleshooting spreadsheets. There are tips to can without sugar or salt, instructions for freezing which I've already negated (they call for scalding). There's a chart for altitude, a list of vocabulary words, canning time references.

There is everything except Grandma or Auntie Alice in the kitchen stirring and explaining. Yet they'll inform the canning more than the Blue Book. An invisible circle is being drawn and while I move forward I'm also stepping back for inspiration and instruction.

I've even convinced my aunt who hates to can to do it with me for a day. "It'll be fun," I keep telling her. Grandma and Auntie Alice would get a kick out of it. That's for sure.

Iceland Poppies

The Muse brought me a bouquet of iceland poppies on Sunday morning from the farmers' market. Each blossom was crimped in it's egg shaped hairy shell. The first orange blossom hatched by noon.

Three days later they are continuing in shades and combinations of pink, yellow, cream and more orange. The prickly skins drop to the table, the flowers opening like cups and bowls and maturing into flat saucers, the inner pod an Alice in Wonderful cup with sugary stamens surrounding it.

Tonight I carried them through the house, from the kitchen to the living room, to the table and back again. Wherever I was, they were too. I set them in the late light, approached them from every side. But the cute guy captured them best - all fuzzy stems and papery petals.

Iceland poppies have always been one of my favorites in the garden but I've never had an entire bunch in the house. They're such decadence I nearly need to pinch myself to be sure I'm real.

Uncertain Peril: Genetic Engineering and the Future of Seeds

If I were to change one thing about the book above, which I read as part of the be a bookworm invitation from Green Bean Dreams, it would be the title.

Last night a friend audibly groaned when I told it to her in response to what I'd read recently. The conversation paused and turned to the weather but inside I was scrambling for a way to turn it around, to make genetic engineering and yes, the future of seeds, a breezy conversation. In the end I let it go.

But I'm excited about this book and I've never before considered the seed. I mean, a seed. What's the big deal? The author, Claire Hope Cummings, however infuses the book with a passion and knowledge of the seed and all things around it. It's impossible to not be ignited.

While Michael Pollan lifted one veil to the realities of industrial food, Claire Hope Cummings, lifts another to the realities of the industrial seed market. Take this line from the first chapter:

... the GMOs that are on grocery store shelves today have never been tested for human health hazards.

It's scary you know what but not without pockets of great hope. That is after all her middle name.

The tale of seeds and the immediacy of their impact on the future of our food moves steadily forward and is grounded in places that provide a recognizable map.

It begins with the seed heritage of Iraq and the controls on seed saving that were ordered upon America's occupation. It moves to Hawaii and the experimental open-air field testing of GMO crops grown there. The extent of all this is new news.

My favorite chapter, set at the University of California, Berkeley, reads like a crime mystery -

In an old laboratory that looks like a museum exhibit on the science of the past, there is an old wooden bench strewn with beakers and rubber hoses. Under the bench, in a wooden drawer, is a plain manila folder, which I was shown. In that folder was a photograph no one's supposed to see. It depicts something that no one is even supposed to know exists. It's a picture of .....

From the revelations in Berkeley the book takes off to America's Heartland to see who owns the seed being farmed today and the affects that corporate ownership has. Then in Vietnam it looks at who owns the rice and the politics of feeding the world, which is surprising in it's starkness -

Famine is a function of how food is distributed, and that is always a political issue.

Next it's Norway and the Doomsday Vault or Noah's Ark for agriculture, the newest and most innovative seed bank in the world, she says, before providing a view inside seed banks everywhere. She likens one seed bank to a church and for a moment I am standing there too.

Then she travels through local food systems starting in Fort Collins, Colorado at the Fort Knox of seed banks and ends with this quote I like by the philosopher Eric Hoffer,

"in times of profound changes, the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists."

The last third of the book set in Iowa, Mexico and back to Hawaii focuses on the work being done to preserve and generate heirloom seeds and along with them the stories and food of all our cultures. It's the good news and the hope.

Uncertain Peril finally ends in the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, exploring the link between the narrative of creation and agriculture.

And while it's usually cheating to give away the final sentences of a book, in this case it's not. The last lines are an invitation to enter the world of seeds, to encourage native crops, support local farmers. They're an invitation to share the map of what grows in our own gardens and to know what is on our plate.

The story of seeds is also our story. We can be guided by the way of the seed and by knowing that what we do to seeds, we do to ourselves. One thing is certain: the future of seeds in our hands.

Haiku Friday

6:45 AM

Late for the first bus
watering backyard peppers
one pot at a time.

Herbal Hair Rinse

Did you ever make mixtures when you were a kid? You know, perfumes or lotions, magic remedies? I started with mud pies but moved on to mixing perfumes and lotions from powders and water to make myself pretty for make believe tea parties.

Not a lot has changed except the tea parties are less make believe. These days I mix herbal rinses for my hair which I learned from the Herbwifes Kitchen blog. She said, use anything you want. Really. Use anything you want. I know how to do that, I thought, except I didn't believe it would work on my hair.

She mentioned rosemary. I used rosemary. My hair was smooth, snarl free. Then I sprinkled in dried lavender from the pantry. Next time lemon thyme from the backyard went in with the rosemary snipped from the neighbors hedge. And the time after that it was only thyme and lavender.

I tried scented geranium leaves with the lavender. It smelled nice. I put them with rosemary, with sage, with mint but I never noticed the color of the rinse. Could that be possible?

Tonight I poured it from the tea pot and it was red; jewel, berry, ruby red. Rosemary and rose scented geranium leaves steeped in hot water did this? I took the lid off the pot to investigate. Leaves. The answer was yes.

The rinse made my hair pink. Not really. But it did tickle me pretty.

The Wild Edge

A while back I heard a panel of women talking about gardening. The head gardener at Green Gulch, Sara Tashkar, talked about the wild edges of the garden. She'd picked the nettles there that day that had been made into a nettle pesto and was being served with fresh baked bread. The wild edge, stayed with me. I wanted one. It was the challenge, the suprise and the mysteries of a garden all wrapped into one.

I was reminded of all this Sunday as I was crouched down at the flower bed that is both the edge and the garden in my backyard. I was half covered by arching branches of spirea. Two four foot lillies were reaching for the sun between it and the fence. A leggy pot of mint was quietly getting bigger to my right. Chartruese volunteer fever fue that had escaped the bed was thick beside me and a rose scented geranium had morphed into a snake. It coiled from beneath the spirea. I bent my head under the branches and that's when it struck me.

I'd found my wild edge.

It smelled like roses and there was a stillness, a cricket in the bamboo above me, a spider hanging on the fence, a stillness that I suspect is still there even though I'm not.

I'd introduced all the plants at one time but it was clear as I rested in the tangle of scent and leaves that they were now co-existing in their own way. They were claiming this once almost manicured spot as their own.

In this tiny yard hidden from a busy street they were going wild. And I'll be the last person to put a stop to them. In fact, I may add some nettles.

Reducing Our Carbon Bite - Everywhere

,Sometimes I leave a lot of people out of the local food movement and I'd like to apologize and invite everybody in. I know we can't all shop at the farmers' market or eat totally local for a universe of reasons. Regardless, we all have the ability to vote for a more sustainable food future and we all have the ability to take action to reduce our carbon bite.

There are as many ways to make a difference in the aisles of the grocery store as there are in the aisles of the farmers' market or even the rows of a side yard garden. And they're all the same. I don't know why I couldn't see this before.

I've made a list of actions, which aren't anything new but they do have a different flavor when applied to the grocery store, the farmers' market or the garden.

- Choose fruits and vegetables grown as close to home as possible.

- Say no thank you to farmed salmon and shrimp.

- Buy what's in season.

- Choose organic when you can or every once in awhile.

- Pick seasonal flowers grown as close to home as possible, preferably not grown in a hot house.

- Eat one locally grown food or meal a week.

- Don't waste food.

- Drink water from the tap instead of disposable plastic bottles.

- Say no to bags when they aren't necessary.

- Take a canvas bag.

- Try a new fruit or vegetable - the purple tomato, the red carrot, the heirloom variety you've not heard of before.

- Choose the produce that isn't boxed in plastic.

- Reuse plastic bags.

- Use cloth instead of paper napkins or towels.

- Choose GMO free.

- Compost.

Every action toward a food system that makes more sense counts. For all of us.

Two For One

We were having company for dinner. And I wanted flowers for the table.

But I was wavering after splurging on too many organic cherries.

Then I picked up a bunch of onions for the meal. It took a minute to connect the flying object in the air to the onions in my hand.

But once I did I had flowers for the table.

Definitely a good find from Marin Roots Farm. And the onions were inspiring too.

Bay Area Farmers' Markets

I decided I needed a list of farmers' markets as the season is upon us. There are great lists on the internet but there wasn't a single list that encompassed the bay area markets I go to, with the markets I occasionally go to, could go to or the markets I would like to go to.

Here it is.

Let me know if there's a bay area market you would like added to the list. I'll keep it growing.


10:00 AM to 2:00 PM - Year Round
San Francisco Ferry Building

2:00 PM to 7:00 PM - Year Round

3:30 to 7:30 PM - June 10 Through TBD
Mill Valley

4:00 to 6:30 PM - June 3 Through October 28

4:00 to 8:00 PM - Through September 30

5:30 PM to Dusk - Through October


9:00 AM to 1:00 PM - Year Round
San Mateo

12:00 to 5:00 PM - Year Round
Corte Madera

4:00 to 8:00 PM - Through September 24

4:30 to 8:00 PM - June 11 Through August 27


8:00 AM to 1:00 PM - Year Round
San Rafael Civic Center

11:00 AM to 3:00 PM - Year Round
San Francisco Crocker Galleria

3:00 to 7:00 PM - Year Round - All Organic

4:00 to 8:00 PM - Through October 16

4:00 to 8:00 PM - Through September
Los Altos

4:00 to 8:00 PM - June Through September

4:00 to 8:00 PM - Through September 11
San Carlos

5:00 to 8:00 PM - Through September 25
Downtown San Rafael


7:30 AM to 12:00 PM - Through October
St. Helena

9:00 AM to 12:00 PM - Year Round (Except 4th of July Weekend)

9:00 AM to 1:00 PM - Through TBD

4:00 to 8:00 PM - Through September

4:00 to Dusk - June Through October
Occidental Bohemian


8:00 AM to 12:00 PM - Through Mid December
Palo Alto

8:00 AM to 2:00 PM - Year Round
San Francisco Ferry Building

8:30 AM to 12:00 PM - Through October 28

9:00 AM to 12:00 PM - Through November 29

9:00 AM to 1:00 PM - June 21 Through November 1 - All Organic
Pt. Reyes Station

9:00 AM to 1:00 PM - Year Round
San Mateo

9:00 AM to 1:00 PM - Year Round

9:00 AM to 2:00 PM - Year Round
Oakland/Grand Lake

10:00 AM to 2:00 PM - Through October
Larkspur Landing

10:00 AM to 3:00 PM - Year Round

2:00 to 5:00 PM - May 24 Through October 25


8:00 AM to 1:00 PM - Year Round
San Rafael Civic Center

9:00 AM to 1:00 PM - Year Round
Menlo Park

9:00 AM to 1:00 PM - Year Round
Mountain View

9:00 AM to 1:00 PM - Year Round
Palo Alto

9:00 AM to 1:00 PM - May through November 18

10:00 AM to 1:30 PM - Through November

11:00 AM to 3:00 PM - Year Round
San Jose Santana Row

Haiku Friday

Iacopis Sugar Snap Peas

"These are good," the bus
driver said after he ate
a few from my bag.

One Green Thing

For years now the Muse and I have dinner every third Wednesday. It was her idea at some point in the conversation to talk about one green thing we had done in the space between dates that helped the environment.

She'd already given up paper towels for cloth napkins. She sent her daughter to school with wax sandwich bags instead of baggies, a thermos of tap water instead of a purchased plastic bottle of water. She cut up real carrots for crying out loud and no longer used double ply Oh So Soft Charmin, choosing a recycled brand instead.

I on the other hand bought a plastic bowl at the Soup Company because I ate there five days a week and they gave a $.25 discount each time. I used the bowl for the boxed cereal I ate at my desk before lunch. I cleaned up spills with free napkins and bought Charmin for the Muse's husband on his birthday. I gave him two rolls to be respectful but he say an opening and went home smiling with the entire pack of 12.

It took years before I began to notice opportunities for small green actions. I put canvas bags in the car and remembered to use them. I threw away less food, turned off lights when I left the room. I turned the shower down, sometimes.

And then the books by Mr. Pollan, Ms. Kingsolver and the Plenty couple woke me up to a whole world of green action. Here I am with barely any garbage and a third green eye.

Some days it's blinding to see all the green actions I could or should be taking. I use too much paper printing at work, buy too many coffees at Starbuck's. I bought a box of plastic for a five year olds birthday, ordered shoes on line and returned them when they got here.

And I still have the conversation with the Muse. But now I'm having the conversation with all my friends. I go through the whole story like I just did. "Tell me one green action you've done recently." I go first if they hesitate.

"We're collecting cold water in the shower that used to go down the drain while we waited for it to get hot." I flex my muscles before adding, "I carry it downstairs to the garden." By then everyone has realized an action they are doing that is good for the environment.

They are walking back to their car for their canvas bag. Not letting the water run while they do dishes. They are dumping old bottled water on their house plants, volunteering at shelters, walking to work. They are cancelling their catalogs, planting tomatoes, giving up plastic bags. They are using their leftovers and looking for local in their grocery stores.

Everyone has a story and when I listen it wakes me up to my own. I realize the places I've been asleep or learn something new. I become recommitted to my own stories of working for the environment.

"Thanks for asking," more than one of my friends have concluded.

"Thank you," I always respond. And I mean it.

Worm News

The worms are having babies. A lot of them. I saw them clustered in groups on the ridge at the top of the bin. I'm so relieved.

For the last six weeks it seemed as if the primary life in the bin were silver winged bugs whose main purpose was to fly in my face. They're still there but tonight I was happy to see a black spider has also moved in.

The last time I fed the worms it was lettuce gone to seed and pulled from the backyard pots. In a display of tenacity however, the plants refuse to decompose. Two of the plants have lifted their heads, roots completely bare, to push on the dark roof. They startled me more than the flying bugs.

I've decreased feeding in a novice attempt of controlling the bugs and have taken up making contraband drops at the community garden compost piles. I doubt anyone who cultivates chard or sugar peas is going to ask me to take my compost and leave. But I've yet to find a gardener to ask if my contribution is truly appreciated.

For now, I consider the deposits random acts of greeness.

Haiku Friday

Using It All

Golden turnip greens
chopped and tossed in the soup
promising dinner soon.

Early Apricots

There were apricots at the farmers' market today. From the central valley.

"They're early? Right?"

"Right on time," the farm man said. I'd never seen him before. I bought two. I didn't plan on liking them.

"They're expensive," a co-worker said as I handed her one.

"You pay three times more for a latte." She was unconvinced. I tried again. "You pay twice as much for a cookie."

"It's a piece of fruit," she said. "It's expensive." And then she took a bite. And two more without saying anything. "That was good." She held the pit out for emphasis.

I shook my head in agreement and she added, "I guess it was worth it."

I agreed for the second time. It will be a week before I can get them again though.

Flower Talk

I remember being a kid and knowing that flowers were the most magical thing on the planet. I talked to them, hid in them, stole them out of other peoples yards.

I started buying and selling them before I was able to vote. And then they started talking back.

Those were heady years. I was in love with every season. The growers pampered and grumbled at me in turns. And I adored them and their harvests. But I bought on personality, on mojo. The flowers winked and said, "buy me." And I did. They were an easy sell from there.

Now I have my favorite growers at the farmers' market; Rose, who sells raspberries in the summer had the best spring anemones I've seen in double digit years. And Devoto Gardens has fine field flowers. "Our guys have worked for us for twenty years," he once told me. It shows. Their flowers laugh, they grin, they pick you up and twirl you around.

But a lot of flowers don't have the spark they once did. A fresia that looks and smells like a fresia but doesn't flirt isn't really a fresia at all. The same with an alstromeria lily. If it's color isn't as saturated as a home grown tomato something is wrong.

The flowers I see these days in stores are imported. And they're old. I wish I could get tell you the formula but it's an instinct learned over time.

Next time you're at the store or the market though, ask a bunch of flowers if they want to dance. You may hear the answer before the question is even fully formed.

If they say yes, I'd say you've got yourself a bouquet. Take those poppies home because they're magic.

Pepper Garden

I'm in trouble. We've run out of peppers.

The peppers I'd put up in the freezer are gone and the Happy Girl Kitchen is out of their Wildly Spicy Pickled Peppers. "They'll be back in August," the Happy Girl man said. I felt woozey.

He didn't understand I needed peppers now and his Mildly Spicy Pickled Peppers didn't count. The six varieties of dried peppers and chili flakes in the cupboard don't count either. How could I have let this happen.

This is my latest observation on eating seasonally. While it's a practice of being present in the current season, appreciating and using the available harvests, it's also necessary to keep one eye looking back and another looking forward. That is if there's a food like peppers, which I'm not sure I can live without.

I let my attention get out of balance though. A few hot days fooled me into a false season where peppers are a market away. The reality is they are a lot of markets away. I should have made the peppers in the freezer last longer.

And in the present I didn't think to ask the Happy Girls if they would run out of spicy peppers. I'm used to endless supply. Anytime I want it. Twenty four hours a day. I could still go to the grocery store and buy peppers from another part of the world but I know I won't.

Looking forward however, I'm in good shape (knock wood). I've planted ten pepper plants in terracotta pots on the back deck; three padrons, two jalapenos, three serrano and two cayenne.

That should get us through the summer. With time to make a plan for putting up peppers for next winter and all those false summer days of spring too.

I'm A Bookworm

I am so excited. Green Bean is hosting a book party for the month of May and has invited everyone to read a 'green' book and write about it.

I've made a stack of all my 'green' books so I could write about all of them.

I'm starting the month reading Uncertain Peril - Generic Engineering and the Future of Seeds by Claire Hope Cummings who I saw speak last night in Pt. Reyes with Percy Cummings, a Canadian farmer who won a court case against Monsanto.

I was not going to buy this book. The title was off putting. Good for a scientist, I reasoned, but not a book I would enjoy. I was wrong. I am loving this book.

And a slew of writers I respect or adore either blurbed the book or are acknowledged in the back, including the biggest surprise, Anne Lamott, who I'm a crazy fan of.

Here's my stack of already read (or in some cases not read) green reads in no particular order but how they stacked up --

Undoing the Silence - Six Tools for Social Change Writing by Louise Dunlap

I haven't read this book but I did a workshop with her that was quite moving. I intend on reading the book. Someday.

Foodfight - The Citizen's Guide to a Food and Farm Bill by Daniel Imhoff

Reading this was like driving in another state without a map. Not everything was unfamiliar but I had no idea where in the hell I was. What I learned is that the Farm Bill is impossible to put into a box. Or on a map.

Tassajara Cooking by Edward Espe Brown

This book is from 1973, the days when books only had one title and was given to me by a friend untouched after 35 years on her shelf. The recipes are honest, simple, forgiving.

In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

My expectations were too high to really appreciate this book.

real food - What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck

I saw her speak and bought the book. She was lovely, inspiring, smart. I've never cracked the book.

What to Eat by Marion Nestle

I love Marion Nestle because she has such big compassion for everyone that eats. And I love hearing her voice on the radio. I had great enthusiasm to read this cover to cover but only made it to the section on milk.

Eating Fossil Fuels - Oil, Food and the Coming Crisis in Agriculture by Dale Allen Pfeiffer

Dire title and I've never opened the book. The goods news - it's a small book.

Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

I've read everything by Ms. Kingsolver except the book about miners in Arizona or something. This book propelled and convinced me to eat local to cut my carbon bite. It's a keeper and the Friday night pizza recipe is delicious.

California Home Cooking by Michelle Anna Jordan

This was a surprise gift during the September Eat Local Challenge. The book is dog eared, familiar and completely without pretension. Just seeing it in the kitchen makes me happy.

Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan

This was the first so called green book I read. And it changed my life in terms of how I eat and think about food in the world. And consequently how I think about everything else in the world too.

An Unreasonable Woman - A True Story of Shrimpers Politicos Polluters and the Fight for Seasdrift, Texas by Diane Wilson

I loved this book. The Cute Guy loved this book. I love Diane Wilson.

Deep Economy - The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future by Bill McKibben

I finished this book three days ago. After the middle section where the author ate local for a year in Vermont I was reluctant to keep going but always enjoyed what I read once I got the book open. Bill McKibben is as warm hearted as he is intelligent.

Earth Democracy - Justice, Sustainability and Peace by Vandana Shiva

I saw Vandana speak last week in San Francisco. I was on fire after hearing her and ready to follow her around the world. I bought the book and have no connection with it whatsoever. I'm so disappointed because I know she has a lot to say.

Plenty - One Man, One Woman and A Raucous Year of Eating Locally by Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon

The authors are present day pioneers not to mention a bit kooky and I routed for them with with every turn of the page. It's with fondness that I remember thier dresser drawer full with potatoes and the bugs they studiously picked from locally found flour.

If you aren't participating in the bookworm party at Green Beans but reading something green I'd love to know about it. I'm always on the look out for a good read.

And now I've got to get back to my book.

Haiku Friday


The cans on the shelves
have expired while we've been
eating local foods.