My last post for Bitch Magazine is as follows.  Many thanks for Bitch Mag for hiring me as a contract blogger!  I had a good time!  But now the season is started full-force, and it is time to concentrate on the farm.  Stay tuned for my updated herbal workshops!

Sometimes—often—the news and media can get you down.  For the ecofeminist, news can be downright devastating.  Climate change is frying our cities, affecting the poorest people first, the majority women and children.  Food deserts are rampant in these poorer areas.  The government doesn’t seem to be slowing down subsidized crop worship, unwilling to help the small organic farms who actually grow food fit to eat, helping the subsidized crops do many other crimes against the earth.  Chemical companies are polluting air and water, but people are seemingly not slowing down from buying toxic materials produced by these companies to decorate and clean their homes with. 

Legal scholar Angela P. Harris wrote in 1990, according the anthology, The Fire this Time, “As feminists begin to attack racism and classism and homophobia, feminism will change from being only women as women to being about all kinds of oppressions based on seemingly inherent and unalterable characteristics.  We need not wait for a unified theory of oppression; that theory can be feminism.”  I would also include environmentalism in this string of oppressions.  These issues overlap, and become stronger and more powerful when aligned.  Feminism needs to be elastic enough to carry all of its combined weight.    

So what is an eco-minded feminist to do amidst this world of depressing destruction?  All I can advise is:  get out there.  Educate yourself.  Do something and know you did that something.  Education and awareness about systems of oppression are more crucial than ever.  It is up to us to be eco-warriors, for the sake for feminism, for the sake of all oppression in the world.  It is not only about buying “eco-friendly products”, which, in terms of greenwashing, people need to be wary of anyway.  It is about not buying new, if we can help it.  It is about lifestyle choices and doing what you can:  make it, buy it used, buy it new if you must, but know what materials are in it, who made it, etc.  It is about powering down at home.  Walk and bike more, make wise food choices, harvest rainwater, hang your clothes up to dry.  And get out into the community.  Work in a community soup kitchen, or start your own.  Participate or start urban farming.  Plan a renegade food forest, permaculture-style.  Become increasingly self-sufficient, and less dependent on chemical-ridden corporations, even if they are little things you do—you’ll feel better and more powerful.  These are not always easy choices, or sometimes even possible ones, but they are a start to get the mind thinking and consciously aware.  There are plenty of books for inspiration and organizations you can volunteer with to find unity and community. 

Making drastic lifestyle choices are scary, but can be done.  My boyfriend (now husband) and I quit our jobs in the hopes that we could make it as organic farmers, though we had no farmers in our family, no real encouragement, and no land access.  We now rent land, and, though I haven’t made so little money owning our business now as I did when I was in high school working at a library, we are making it work.  Starting a business, or having a “green” occupation that is helpful to society and the earth isn’t for everyone, but if it is in you, then go for it.  The earth has your back.  The fairies are listening.  The woodland creatures are on your side.  The plants and trees have hearts and eyes, and they are fighters too. 

Thanks to Bitch Magazine for letting me be one of the many voices of ecofeminism.  Being able to see the world, including media, through an ecofeminist lens is important.  Everything is related, and everything can be dissected.  I’ve had people around me that call me “too sensitive”;  can’t I just buy that  Starbucks iced coffee without thinking of it not being fair-trade and shade-grown, and without thinking about the plastic cup it’s in, its plastic straw and with the straw’s paper cover?  Can’t I ignore the factory-farmed milk it has in it, the sugar in it that is grown in a non-eco way (because all sugar cane is not very sustainable)?  Can’t I just drink the coffee and lighten up?  Well, when you put it all together, it does sound like I’m crazy.  But unfortunately, I’m not crazy; the world is what has gotten so messed up, so deformed in light of humanity’s quest for wealth, personal gain, thoughtless pleasure and material possessions, that it’s the world that’s gone haywire.  I wish it wasn’t all like this, but it is.  I wish I could snap my fingers and it could be different, but it won’t be.  We live in this world, and we have to continue living in it, doing our best to mend its wounds, even in what seems to be impossibly small ways.  Collectively, I really believe all of our actions mean something.  Keep fighting the good fight, and let’s make our uphill ecofeminist battle soar.

 

Memorial Day, a day of remembrance for fallen soldiers, is also thought of as mostly a day of shopping by many Americans, according to Time Magazine.  According to analyses from social media sites, most people were excited about shopping, not barbecues, this past Memorial Day weekend.

Many of the articles and media segments seemed to aim their shopping advertisements ideas towards women and the purchasing of clothing.  If you live in the United States, is apparent that our consumer culture runs deep:  Christmas seems to be the most obvious in its ludicrousness, with people tripping over each other after Thanksgiving to buy a tickle-me Elmo doll or find the best deal at Wal-Mart.  Whether it is TV commercials, shows with product placements (or not-very-well-disguised ads scripted into many of them), or celebrity gossip magazines, consumer culture does not seem to be halting any time soon.

Things that are hopeful, however, are out there:  websites like buynothingchristmas.org, Reverend Billy and his film, What Would Jesus Buy?, and the Simple Living Institute all advocate more simple living, less material possessions, and less shopping.   The advertisements for Memorial Day Sales, however, still manage to depress me.  Not because I think we should all be sitting around sulking, but in American culture, to have a holiday usually includes something shiny and new.  That might be exciting for a few moments, but where are the peace rallys, the tree plantings?  They’re out there, but where is their coverage?  I don’t expect Good Morning America to do a complete 180 and have them cover money-free events happening  on Memorial Day, skipping Ann Taylor dress sales altogether, but with more and more consumerism happening, the crimes against the earth simply trickle-down, and it is the media’s job to start bring awareness into the limelight.  We have been creating a temporary, pop-up economy.  And besides the earthly destruction it creates, it doesn’t make us any happier.  Statistically, depression is on the rise.  Consumerism works to fill empty voids with air, making one think they need more and more stuff in a never-ending cycle.  Memorial Day (and other holidays) can be about much more, creating memories that people are able to have forever, unlike that new coffee maker that simply replaces your old, albeit not-in-the-best-shape-but-still-works one.

I am not saying that we should darn all of our old socks instead of buying new ones (although you could!).  But shopping just to shop, and buying new shoes that make your butt tighter just because Kim Kardashian says you should, does not make one happy or fulfilled.  It feeds the heartless capitalist model of profit and being top dog.  Memorial Day Sales may seem harmless on the surface, like a girl jumping in the air on a sunny day in a JC Penny’s ad, but like Inga Muscio might say, maybe we should be celebrating love rather than encouraging destruction, sweatshops and manufacturing chemicals.

 

Tomorrow is the deadline for submitting testimony to the House Committee on Agriculture for the crucial Farm Bill of 2012. I know what you might be thinking, but this bill doesn’t just affect men in their sixties wearing overalls and a John Deere cap. It also affects young organic farmers, women farmers, refugee farmers, and basically everyone in the nation who cares about climate change and eats, drinks, and breathes.

Among the programs threatened to be cut by Congress’s metaphorical scissors is the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). This program has paid farmers to keep delicate and erodible land out of production, including forests, prairies, and wetlands. It’s been important in that it has sequestered carbon, keeping it out of the atmosphere. Putting land into a conservation program like CRP also encourages cleaner water, cleaner soil, and protects habitats for wildlife. It’s imperative for battling climate change and for protection of the some of the natural world.

Approximately seven million acres are currently at risk of being taken out of CRP, which will lead to a massive amount of stored carbon being released into the atmosphere. It will do major damage in destroying ecosystems and wildlife, all for the sake of tilling it under in order to plant every inch of ground in chemical-laden crops, like soy and corn, only to be fed to suffering factory-farmed animals and make environmentally damaging ethanol.

Another important part of the farm bill that is threatened with deep cuts is the 50 percent cut to the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program. This grant program affects training programs for new farmers including minority, immigrant, and women farmers. The cut would affect programs like Empowering Beginning Women Farmers in the Northeast through Whole Farm Planning, and New Roots for Refugees, which has given immigrants land access they would otherwise never be able to have.

And that is just the beginning. The farm bill instead focuses on subsidy crop production (soy, corn, rice, cotton and wheat) that impact the earth with toxins, and ignores…well, most things, like the planet’s health, the health of endangered wildlife, poor people, and the future of life on earth in general. As is, it is devastating. The current draft of the Farm Bill has been recently approved by the Senate Committee on Agriculture, but it may still be able to be fixed. Please take a minute now and tell the House committee what you need in the next Farm Bill. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a farmer—you are a person who lives in this world, and you care about this world’s future.

This bill is not just the Farm Bill. It is the Food Bill, the Planet Bill, the Poverty Bill, the Climate Change Bill. It is all interconnected, and it is important for everyone to speak up for.

Sweet Stinging Nettles!

April 11, 2012

Image

I love stinging nettles!  Because of the warm weather (i.e., because the earth is going to melt soon because of climate change and the horrible environmental destruction and fossil fuel overuse oh god is it over yet because i feel sick thinking about it), (ahem) nettles came early this year.  I love stinging nettles because it is such a wild, untamed beast of a plant.  It says, “screw you, you think I’m broccoli or something?  Spinach?  I am stinging effing nettles.  You can’t control me!  I will cut you!”.  Actually, it will sting, and my nettle patch at our farm is extra stingy.  Our plan is to plant a lot of nettles to give to your CSA, once we get our own land, but we will have to use caution, because they hurt…for this particular batch, I harvested it very carefully with gloves…and then it stung me through the bag!  I did ask permission to harvest it (yes, I am one of THOSE herbalists…not my fault, it’s how I was trained!) and told it I was using it to heal.  So maybe the sting could have been worse. 

Anyway, I made a delicious nettle omlette this morning that Huck and I both ate.  Nettles have a weird texture when cooked (which you have to do, just a light steaming, to make the sting disappear), so I was unsure how it would go down for Huck, but he liked it?  I think. 

Here’s is my “recipe”:  you need a (gloved) handful of nettles, which you will wilt with a tad of water in a pan, then pour some whisked eggs in.  I capped it.  Salt.  Pepper.  Ya know.

We planted our nettles, a little patch that comes back every year, but many times nettles are just…there.  I found a patch outside our apartment, right by the railroad tracks.  If you have a tiny bit of space or a container, plant a tiny bit.  They’re a nutritive herb, and full of good stuff!

We will be speakers on the Young Farmers panel for this awesome-sounding event at the Plant.  For those that do not know, the Plant is a radical organization/building that is planning to be entirely off the grid, with a vertical city farm, education space, and more!

For more info on the event:

http://www.plantchicago.com/events/

Hello, everyone!

I am doing a *special* herbal workshop on Saturday, December 3rd with the upcoming holidays in mind!

Edible Herbal Bodycare and Beauty Products

Want to learn how to making more natural, herbal based bodycare products?  Maybe you are looking for creative gifts to give this holiday season?  In this workshop, you will learn to make a homemade lip balm, tooth powder, deodorant, salt scrub, bath salts, and more!  You will make a few items to take home with you!

Date: December 3rd, Saturday, 9-11:30 am

$20 Radical Root Members, $25 non-members

 

Please register as early as possible, as space is limited!  You can send checks made out to Radical Root Farm to:

Radical Root Farm

147 Westerfield Place Apt. C

Grayslake, IL 60030

Please indicate what classes you are signing up for!  Questions?  Email me, Alison, at: radicalrootfarm@gmail.com .

Herbal Workshops!

June 3, 2011

People, it’s finally happening.  My herbal workshops are starting this July!

I’ve been working and preparing to make them as good as they can be!  So join me, won’t you, in the journey to good health!  Learn what you can do for your family to keep everyone healthy and feeling good.  You will learn, you will eat and drink, you will make things, you will have fun!

Classes are as follows:

The Herbalist’s Kitchen

In this workshop, learn what common ailments can be treated using common kitchen spices, wild plants you can find in your yard, and vegetables from your CSA box or farmer’s market!  Learn what it is to have food be your medicine, and learn about both treatments and prevention.  We’ll then cook a meal together using Radical Root farm-fresh ingredients, putting together what we learned!

Thursday, July 21st, 5-7:30 pm

*New date added*!   Saturday, July 16th, 5-7:30 pm  (cancelled due to lack of enrollment)

Meets at Prairie Crossing in the Yellow Farmhouse in Grayslake, IL

Cost: $25,  or $20 for Radical Root CSA members

Making Healing Fermented Foods

Learn the amazing healing benefits to fermenting vegetables and other foods.  Learn about the whys and hows of incorporating herbs, and make your own kim chi or saurkraut to take home with you!  We’ll be using Radical Root farm-fresh produce to make your own personal healing concoction to take home.  Please bring a mason jar to class.

Thursday, August 25th, 5-7:30 pm

Meets at Prairie Crossing at the Yellow Farmhouse in Grayslake, IL

Cost: $25,  or $20 for Radical Root CSA members

Making Healing Fermented Drinks

Learn to make delicious, healing, fermented drinks.  Learn how to incorporate herbs.  We will learn and make and taste healing brews of all kinds, such as Ginger beer, mead, medicinal wines, kombucha and more!   Bring two mason jars to take home two starters to get you going, you herbal brewmaster, you!

Date and Time TBA

Meets at Prairie Crossing at the Yellow Farmhouse in Grayslake, IL

Cost: $25,  or $20 for Radical Root CSA members

Cold and Flu, The Herbal Way

Make this winter a healthy one for you and your family.  Learn treatments and prevention with food, common culinary spices and wild plants.  Learn about making syrups and teas to keep everyone healthy, and learn to make ‘fire cider’, an herbalist favorite, to take home with you!

Date and Time TBA

Meets at Prairie Crossing at the Yellow Farmhouse in Grayslake, IL

Cost: $25,  or $20 for Radical Root CSA members

Please register as early as possible, as space is limited!  You can send checks made out to Radical Root Farm to:

Radical Root Farm

147 Westerfield Place Apt. C

Grayslake, IL 60030

Please indicate what classes you are signing up for!  Questions?  Email me, Alison, at: radicalrootfarm@gmail.com .

So here we are.   Winter is here once again, with its snowy sleepy landscape outside our windows.  I am once again breathing life back into this blog.  (Sorry it went on such a hiatus…I had some things happen this past season that made life a little, er, hectic).   But we are back and getting excited for growing in 2011!

This winter we are doing some heavy reading, and I am doing a lot of food reading.  This includes books on food politics (currently: Diet for a Hot Planet by Anna Lappe) as well as on cooking (currently:  Mark Bittman’s Food Matters).  I always think about food a lot this time of year, because the question of “what should we eat for dinner/lunch/breakfast?” is always a part of our day, and because it is winter, it is limited.   We barely ever go to the store, so before winter hits, we do our best to preserve as much as possible.  This fall we: froze broccoli.  Canned tomatoes.  Made saurkraut.  Made kimchi.  Froze pesto.  Stashed away a lot of winter squash.  Froze some bread from the market.  Froze sliced bell peppers.  Dried hot peppers.  Made pickles.  Stashed away plenty of frozen meat from the market.

We are running low on some of these things now, however.  We are down to our last bag of frozen broccoli and almost out of the hot peppers.  And I am trying not to get antsy about having a salad anytime soon!

Breastfeeding has also made me think a lot about food.  Everything I eat I think of Huck eating.  I try to get the most nutrition possible for him.

Over the holidays we stayed with my parents, who grocery shop a lot.  My mom and sister happen to really like Trader Joe’s, and I was offered to have some chai tea from a mix.  It was Trader Joe’s brand.  I knew when my sister offered it to me she was testing me, because I’m known as a sort of food snob among much of my family.  “There’s nothing bad in it!” she told me, somewhat defensively, before I even gave my answer.  I picked up the cylinder of mix and read the ingredients.  They included: nonfat dried milk, powdered black tea, malodextrin, sodium something or other, dy-glycerides, dextrose, corn syrup solids, and more.  A lot more.  “What do you mean there’s nothing bad in it?” I asked back.  And cue my family’s collective eyeroll.

I do really love chai tea.  Here is my very basic recipe that I make at least three times a week:

Cooking Chai

And just so you know…I am a cook that never measures.

Cinnamon Sticks

Ginger (chopped into slices or chunks)

A few cloves

A few cardamon pods

A little bit of black peppercorns

Black tea bag

Take all herbs (except for tea bag) and cook with some water in a pot with a lid.  Let it come to a boil and then lower it to a simmer.  Instead of tea, it is making what herbalists call a “decoction”.  (Really just a fancy word for soup.)  Simmer on low for up to an hour, then shut it off and leave it steeping for as long as you like.  Ladle some in a cup with the black tea bag for a couple of minutes.  Remove tea bag and sweeten with raw honey and organic milk.

I usually make a medium pot and just keep ladling it out for myself and whoever else.  It’s full of very warming herbs for the winter, and also great for the onset of sickness.  (The cinnamon and ginger, while anti-inflammatory, are also anti-viral and work as diaphoretics, so they will make you sweat it out.)

Also, have you seen our updated website?  Check it out!: www.radicalrootfarm.com

Yes! CSA! Join it!

Dreaming of Greens,

Alison

WiLd grEEnS!

May 12, 2010

What is a farmer to do when all of the delicious green vegetables in the fields are on the verge of being plucked off the plant and steamed, but are still too small for harvesting?!  She is dying, that’s what!  Not really.  But I refuse to buy kale or spinach or lettuce from the store, shipped from California.  Greens are one of those vegetables that are really best to always eat locally.  Not only for sustainability issues, but also for nutrition.  Those Earthbound greens in the store were picked maybe six weeks ago, thrown in bleach water for lord knows how long, and stored in a refrigerated area until shelved in stores.  So the nutrition in these greens?  Not so great.

Not that I NEVER buy them, but I rarely do.  This is why I make so much saurkraut during harvest time so I can have all those vitamins and minerals in the winter that I do in the summer when my beloved greens are around.  (Shameless plug:  We will be selling our very our Radical Root Sauerkraut and Kimchee this year, later in the year!  All raw and fresh and fermented in glass and chockfull of nutrients and pro-biotics!).

But anyway, greens.  As much as I love saurkraut, I have been missing eating greens.  The other day Alex and I visited the store to buy a few things, and as I walked around the produce department, I noticed bunches of dandelion greens for sale.  Not that I’ve never noticed the selling of dandelion greens, but I have been noticing they had been looking very lush at our farm lately.  I picked up a bunch and inspected it.  I had thought about harvesting dandelion greens for a while to eat, and the ones around our farm looked exactly the same as these ones being sold for 2.99.  I am not really sure why I hadn’t really paid much attention to them before this year, but I figured I should try it now, especially since Susun Weed (acclaimed New York herbalist) recommends it for pregnant women.

So that evening we went to the farm and I harvested a bunch of dandelion greens.  One thing about dandelion greens is that they do get more bitter as the spring goes on, so I knew I’d have to cook them as opposed to eating them in a salad.

Dandelion Greens, Harvested and Rinsed

So I cooked them.

And I dressed them in an oil and vinegar dressing with salt and pepper.  But I must warn you, dear readers, I did not cook them enough.  Dandelions are very bitter this time of year.  I cooked them only a couple of minutes, but I’d recommend doing it longer.  Susun Weed recommends boiling them in water for at least 5 minutes.  I should have done this, because while I like bitter, I could have used alittle less so.   The last few bites I actually sort of had to choke down.

So if you’re living in the city and if you know of a place that is definitely not sprayed, I’d harvest some dandelion greens!  Some may have even planted themselves in your pots (if you have potted plants outside) or if you have a small box garden.  Then experiment!  Dandelions are very high in vitamins A and C as well as many detoxifying minerals.

Another weed that you may see, especially if you have a small garden or a small yard or, again, a potted plant outside: chickweed!

Chickweed is a sweet little plant that makes a great salad green (I top my bean and rice tacos with some sprigs) that is also high in vitamins.  Sorry this picture isn’t better..if you are unsure what it is, I’d look in some plant ID books.  A nice thing about chickweed is that it is not bitter and actually just tastes like a greener salad green.

And meanwhile, our greens are coming!  Even though it’s been a little chilly, the rain has really invigorated the plants.  I cannot wait to make my first batch of kale of the season!

Swearing off Restaurants.

April 14, 2010

Alex and I are thrifty people.  Very thrifty.  Partly because we are anti-consumerist ecofreaks and partly because we are–well–cheap.  I decided recently that since we work such long hours during the season, we need to have a little fun time.  So I suggested having a date night, and it will ideally happen twice a month.

I picked a Saturday for this month’s first date night, and we combed the internet reviews looking for a restaurant to eat at.  We are new to Grayslake, as many of you know, so we wanted to try some place close by.  However, our track record with restaurants has not been good.  The town we were at before had horrible, fast food-tasting restaurants, and most of them we had tried.  But we always searched for that restaurant we could come back to, some place we could take friends.  Plus, I always like the idea of restaurants…I like the idea of taking a night off from cooking, I like experiencing new atmospheres…it always seems like a good idea to try them out!

Listening to some rave internet reviews AND listening to a few people in Grayslake swear it to be good, we picked an Asian restaurant that will go unnamed.  We had high hopes.  Alex ordered his dish, I ordered mine.  And when it came to us….well, let’s just say I was having some de ja vu.

This has all happened before, I thought.  Sure, the food smells good, and looks kind of good, but the flavor just tastes cheap.  I ate half of the veggie and sickly-sweet spicy noodle dish and immediately starting feeling like crap.  Eating restaurant food without much thought has been something I have done before, but just then it felt impossible to do so.  My mind was reeling:  how was this cooked?  What oils did they use?  What country did these bell peppers or ginger come from?  Is it one of the countries where it’s still legal to spray DDT, and if so, how much of that am I ingesting right now?

Oh, the agony!  What happened to the days where I could eat at any given Thai or Mexican restaurant and not give a freak?  I could ingest all of the oily vegetables and rice I wanted and not even think about it, the plate’s grease a distant memory forgotton with a swig of beer.  I was so carefree then.  Now I am constantly tortured by my consistent upkeep of food politics.

Of course, my nonenjoyment of date night was driving  Alex crazy.  He was hungrily wolfing down his basil noodle stir-fry.  He seemed to be enjoying it ok, so I tried not to let my dissatisfaction ruin it.  I yearned for the days where I could enjoy food like this, greasy Asian noodles that were alittle too sweet and possibly laced with MSG.  But alas, I could not.  I kept thinking, I could have cooked something better than this at home!

At least then I could have used a good, organic oil to cook it in, I’d know what ingredients I was using, and it would have been a heck of a lot cheaper of a date night.  We could have even eaten outside at our small patio table, an option not available to us at this restaurant.

We walked out, Alex feeling too full, me feeling sick and annoyed we had spent so much money on my feeling sick.  It was then that I told Alex I was swearing off restaurants.

Now, maybe not all restaurants.  You can go to Chicago and see restaurant owners and chefs that really do care about ingredients, cooking methods, etc.  Chefs periodically email us looking for organic vegetables and ask if we can sell some to them.  These restaurants are worth seeking out and perhaps worthy of our date night.  Maybe we can save up for these restaurants and eat a meal at them once in a blue moon.  Until then, date night might just be limited to eating in our little kitchen or on our patio outside followed by an evening walk.  I guess I’m just a cheap date.

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