‘Tis the Season…

…for Compost2theMoon to remind you about some simple ideas to help make the holidays greener!

  • Get a real tree. Ideally, one grown locally as opposed to say… shipped to a Home Depot near you. Not only will your home smell like lovely pine without any artificial sprays or candles, but you are contributing to a business that is good for the planet. I know, I know: Instinct dictates that cutting down trees = bad. But that isn’t exactly the case in the business of Christmas trees because higher demand = more trees planted.  Christmas tree farms are a big business. We’re talking about 56 million trees bought each year that grew and absorbed carbon dioxide for 5-16 years before getting tied to the roof of your car. Read all about it a previous post, “Purchase the Pine, People.” (By golly gosh, those are some cute sisters in that picture!) Of course, purchasing the tree – roots and all – to be replanted after the holidays is the absolute greenest of the green but not everyone has the land for that.
  • Re-use ribbons, gift bags, paper, baskets, jars and everything else from last year. If you didn’t hang on to them, be sure to do so this year! Simply pack them away with holiday decorations and you’ll be amazed at how little you have to purchase next year.
  • Make your own gift tags from last years holiday cards. This is our FAVORITE tradition. If you don’t think you’ll have time to make them on your own, feel free to donate them for next year’s re-purposing promotion. Email me for details and mailing address.
  • Buy local! Supporting local artisans, small business, farmers, grocers and organizations is a great way to keep wealth in the community and reduce the footprint of large manufacturers and shipping. For great gift ideas in our region, check out Foodshed Magazine’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide.
  • Give food! Yummy holiday treats rarely go to waste.
  • Consider purchasing gifts that give back through organizations like the World Wildlife Fund. Not only will you be donating to an important cause, you’ll get on the mailing lists for similar organizations that send out holiday-themed return address labels and wrapping paper made from recycled materials (and a request for a small donation).
  • As far as online shopping, Amazon is one of our favorites because of their eco-friendly, frustration-free packaging. If you can’t find what you are looking for on there, be sure and sign up for an account on your favorite sites so that you can save items in your cart until all your purchasing is complete and can be sent in a single shipment. Save yourself the shipping fees and save the packing materials and shipping miles.
  • Brighten your home and tree with LED lights and be sure to put them on a timer. If you aren’t fond of the bright-white, grab a colorful strand instead.

If you’ve got any tips for the season, please tell us about them in the comment section.

A Little Mistletoe History

The Facts: Botanically speaking, mistletoe is a ‘hemiparasite,’ which means it’s capable of producing its own food by photosynthesis but often/also sends out roots that penetrate the branches or trunk of the host tree in order to steal nutrients. Because it’s an evergreen that cozies up in deciduous trees, we notice it more often in the winter time once host tree leaves have fallen. The seeds are spread through bird droppings – sometimes it is so high up in trees it gets “harvested” by shotgun! .

The Folklore: So how did a parasite become a symbol and tradition during holiday festivities? Some say the answer lies in Norse Mythology. In ancient Scandinavia, if enemies met by chance beneath mistletoe in the forest, they would lay down their arms and hold a truce until the next day. This custom went hand-in-hand with the Norse myth or Baldur, whose mother, Frigga, made every object, animal and plant promise not to harm her son except mistletoe, which she overlooked. After a Norse god killed Baldur, with a spear fashioned from mistletoe that brought winter into the world, his mother declared the plant sacred. Baldur was eventually resurrected and Frigga ordered that any two people passing beneath it must celebrate Baldur’s life by kissing.

The Footnote??: In more recent history, Washington Irving wrote about a now often-overlooked aspect of the mistletoe tradition in a footnote of “Christmas Eve”

“The mistletoe is still hung up in farm-houses and kitchens at Christmas, and the young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under it, plucking each time a berry from the bush. When the berries are all plucked the privilege ceases.” 

Those berries, by the way, probably shouldn’t be eaten. Quite a few sources say they are poisonous despite the fact that they have long been considered an aphrodisiac.

Turkey, Tofu or Pheasant?

Happy Thanksgiving Week, folks. While we are preparing for several feasts in the coming week, we’ve been wondering where all our friends stand on the matter of a “main course” for the grateful table. In case you are still debating your shopping/hunting/processing/eating list for Thursday, we thought we’d get down to the meat of the holiday here on the blog. Here are a few ideas:

Heritage Turkeys: For Slow Food Friends and Historical Preservationists

These gobblers are the ancestors of the common Broad-breasted White industrial breed of turkey you will find in most grocery bins and their breeds (including the Standard Bronze, Bourbon Red, Narragansett, Jersey Buff, Slate, Black Spanish, White Holland, Royal Palm, White Midget and Beltsville Small White) have been preserved alongside their quality of life. Raising heritage breeds is more costly and time consuming for the farmer but better for biodiversity, the turkey and the consumer. Supermarket turkeys grow to an average of 32 pounds over 18 weeks. Often times they can’t even walk and their narrow genetic base leaves them highly susceptible to disease. Heritage birds, on the other hand, take 24-30 weeks to reach their market weight and live their lives with far more dignity. Read more about Heritage turkeys here. And click here to browse the Maryland Department of Agriculture’s Turkey Farm listings.

Farm-Grown Neighbor Birds: For the Locavores

Some Heritage and Pastured turkeys can come with a higher price tag than your average bird and while not everyone finds it in their budget to purchase one, a lot of folks are willing to shell out a little extra to know their turkey farmer. Find one near you via the Local Harvest website. And while you’re there, check out the listings for 2013 CSAs!

 

 

Pheasant and Small Game Fowl: For the Hunters

Those of you who stay basic and dine on self-caught meat get the award for being the most sustainable. John Manikowski, the creator of the Wild Fish & Game Cookbook, wrote a wonderful essay for the Global Gourmet back in 1996 that is a great how-to as well as why-to for those of you plan to dine on pheasant or another kind of small game fowl. We highly recommend reading it.

 

 

Tofurky: For the Vegetarians

Having spent quite a few Thanksgiving holidays as a vegetarian, I think it is safe to say that even a conventional store-bought feast offers more than enough for a great “side item sampler.” But of course I realize that our vegetarian hosts out there may want to have that main dish in the center of the table so in comes the notorious Tofurky. Kudos for the fact that no animals were harmed in the making of your meat-substitute, but please remember that the Tofurky requires quite a bit of processing and input and is probably not the most sustainable choice.

 

Turducken: For Heaven’s Sake, How Are You On This Blog?!

Visited Wikipedia for this one. Their definition is as follows: “A turducken is a dish consisting of a de-boned chicken stuffed into a de-boned duck, which itself is stuffed into a de-boned turkey. The word turducken is a portmanteau of turkey, duck, and chicken or hen. The thoracic cavity of the chicken/game hen and the rest of the gaps are stuffed, sometimes with a highly seasoned breadcrumb mixture or sausage meat, although some versions have a different stuffing for each bird. The result is a fairly solid layered poultry dish, suitable for cooking by braising, roasting, grilling, or barbecuing.” Our definition: For the most part, these are gluttonous dishes consisting of too-much meat shoved into one another that may have some historical and traditional relevance to the very wealthiest of 18th century diners but now caters mainly to the growing obesity epidemic in America (not to mention heart disease and many other health problems associated with a western diet). So if you’re into that, got for it. But we’re hopeful that most folks nowadays are opting for a sustainable table instead!

 

Place Your Thanksgiving Turkey Orders Soon!

Can you believe Thanksgiving is less than a month away?! Neither can we. If you are going omnivore, this means it is time to get your orders in for birds. Local Harvest‘s Turkey Locator is a great way to find a free-range, heritage, natural, organic or whatever-your-fancy bird near you.

The honorary Compost2theMoon turkey, who we are calling Collin (after the famous chicken from the  “Is it Local?” Portlandia skit), is coming from our friend Farmer Tom in Reisterstown, Maryland (unless our snuggley-sides get the better of us and pardon him). Farmer Tom gives his happy birds twice the recommended space to grow and lots of water, yummy feed and and fresh air daily. Processing begins just five days before the holiday. The birds are fresh water-rinsed throughout the entire process and then packed in ice to guarantee a fresh, moist bird.

Great Content on FoodMyths.org

Our friend Mark Stewart, Senior Project Manager at the University of Maryland Office of Sustainability, turned us on to a great website this morning: FoodMyths.org. If you haven’t visited the site before, it is most definitely worth a lunch-time browse.  It is filled with resources, facts, suggestions, tool kits and ideas for getting involved in positive transformations of the food system. Here’s a video from their “Mythbusters” section, Hunger & Food Security, that gives a taste of what the site has to offer:

Maryland Dining Services Commits to 20% Sustainable Food by 2020!

Big news out of the University of Maryland today! Compost2theMoon’s very own Allison Lilly has been working hard to improve the sustainability of the food system within Dining Services and it is paying off in a big way! The department has created and launched a Sustainable Food Working Group, comprised of students, faculty and staff, which will collaborate to create a more sustainable and healthy campus. They will also be launching a Far-to-School series of planned activities including special dinners in dining halls, sponsored workshops, on-campus visits with local farmers, and off-campus farm tours.

The newest department goal, to reach 20 percent sustainable food purchases by 2020 (with a focus on local food), has grown from the Green Dining initiative – originated with DS Facilities Maintenance several years ago. The initiative also includes piloting recycle and compost programs in campus dish rooms and building gardens on the roofs of campus dining halls. Dining Services’ sustainable food commitment includes the following benchmarks:

  • 1 to 4 percent annual increase in sustainable food purchases
  • Annual, incremental increases in sourcing from local growers, with special emphasis on Maryland growers and harvesters
  • Annual, incremental increases in sourcing unprocessed, whole goods – 20 percent sustainable food by 2020

“Dining Services’ goals for sustainable food are well aligned with the University’s strategic plan and the President’s Climate Commitment. The Sustainable Food Working Group is a wonderful example of innovative cross-campus collaboration,” says Wallace D. Loh, University of Maryland president.

In addition to all this awesomeness, the gang at Dining Services will continue its participation in four on-campus vegetable gardens and the Farmers Market at Maryland.

Click here to learn more about UMD’s Dining Services Sustainable Food Commitment.

Way to go, Allie!

 

Celebrate Food Day: October 24th 2012

Food Day is “a nationwide celebration and a movement toward more healthy, affordable, and sustainable food, and powered by a diverse coalition of food movement leaders, organizations, and people from all walks of life.” It takes place annually on October 24 to address issues ranging from health and nutrition, hunger, agricultural policy, animal welfare, and farm worker justice. Several priorities provide the common ground for the the food movement and simultaneous events nationwide:

Last year, we celebrated in conjunction with the Public Health Garden’s First Annual Harvest Festival. This year we would like to encourage our friends and family to take the Eat Real Quiz and spend a little time reflecting on your score. Were you surprised by the positive or negative impact of certain aspects of your diet? Were there any categories that you scored poorly in that could easily be improved?

While the ultimate goal of Food Day is to strengthen and unify the food movement in order to improve our nation’s food policies, we think it is also about raising personal awareness. Vote with your fork!

Re-Purposing Around The Farm

In preparation for the first frost that came through on Friday night (October 12-13), we were busy bees harvesting the last of the tomatoes, squash, sweet potatoes, okra and ristra peppers. But busy as we may be, we are always making the absolute most out of the materials and extras.

Here are a few great ones:

Saving Sunflower Seeds

Our sunflowers kept the bees happy all summer and as they dry up and go to seed, we are leaving some in the fields for the birds to snack on now and harvesting and cleaning the seeds out of others in order to feed the local birds through the winter.

Okra Stalks Saved For Compost Aeration

Okra stalks, like okra that has been left on the plant too long, are very woody. Sure, we could just toss them in a compost heap but there is an even better way to use them in compost: as aeration. Laying them down as a base where you intend to pile compost aids aeration, which is necessary in high temperature aerobic composting for rapid decomposition and the reduction of initial moisture content.

Thinned Beet Greens (and other mixed greens)

Just like Allison pointed out in her recent post Planted Too Many Greens?, we sometimes need to thin crops after a direct sow. But that doesn’t mean they have to go to waste. So many of them are edible and incredibly delicious.  At Willowsford Farm, we saved, trimmed down and washed all our thinned beet greens for market and they were a hit!

Garden Shed and Tables Built From Local Lumber

Willowsford Farm is growing at the center of a new community that is also growing. As the developers have had to clear trees in areas where houses are being built, they have cleaned and saved the lumber for use in community buildings. The “Farm Garden Shed,” now home to our Wednesday and Sunday Market, was built with this lumber. So were the picnic tables (inside the shed in this picture). Pretty cool, huh?

Dine Out for Healthy DC Schools

Working in my own garden and reading the Nature Principle by Richard Louv has really got me excited about expanding gardening and “greening” opportunities for others. It could also be the start of the fall season with all its apples, cider, and winter squash. And of course the beautiful colors of our tree canopy. Whatever the reason, October is a great time to support community gardening initiatives and the development of a healthy food system. There is no better way to improve the food system than to provide education, healthy & sustainable food, and gardening experience to school-age youth through programs like Growing Healthy Schools Week.

Growing Healthy Schools Week celebrates school gardens and farm to school programs throughout DC. During the week, school staff will work with local non-profits, farms and chefs to coordinate inspiring activities aimed at engaging the broader community, increasing environmental literacy, building program capacity, and connecting students to their food.  You can volunteer with the program – or support the initiative by having dinner out with friends, family, or co-workers.

To celebrate the Kick Off of Growing Healthy Schools Week, the EatWell DC Restaurant Group is running a restaurant fundraiser for DC Greens and the DC Farm to School Network (which is a program of DC Greens) on October 15th. Through their GiveWell DC initiative, EatWell DC will donate 15% of all purchases made between 4 pm and 10 pm at any of their 5 restaurants: Commissary, Logan Tavern, The Pig, The Heights, and Grillfish.

Share the event on facebook and schedule a date, happy hour, or dinner with friends, family or co-workers. It’s an easy way to support a fantastic program.