‘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.

Turkey Shortage in Maryland

Rex Lisman, Flickr

Uh oh, loca-omnivores. The Washington Post is reporting a turkey shortage in Maryland. In a way, this is good news because it verifies residents interest in supporting local farmers. But on the other hand, for those of you who have not yet started gathering the goods for your feast, it could lead to a side dish of feedlot remorse.

Act fast and you may still be able to procure a Maryland turkey via Maryland’s Best. And keep in mind, you could always off-set the footprint of your chosen meat by serving up produce from a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), most of which still have winter shares available.

For more suggestions on the meat of your feast, read last year’s eco-Thanksgiving tips in Turkey, Tofu or Pheasant?