Simple. Fresh. Local

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world." JRR Tolken

Month: February, 2009

Deepening Roots


I was encouraged by my friend Jayne to look into this program called Deepening Roots. She and another girl in my class both experienced the program and apparently loved everything it had to offer.

The program is in La Maurice, Quebec. After completing the course I am supposed to be able to:

  • Implement sustainable agricultural techniques and understand the importance of local community food systems
  • Be strong, influential, service oriented leaders that will influence your generation towards a sustainable future.
  • Teach a two-day weekend workshop in your communities that focuses on sustainable living and community food systems
  • Develop a meditation practice that will nurture a focused, stress-free, calm and contented mindset
  • Understand body function and convey how physical health relates to spiritual, mental, environmental and social health

I am seriously considering applying. There is this picture of a girl collecting strawberries which totally sold me on the entire experience because I love strawberries more than anything. But these pictures suffice to show the grandeur and beauty of the place…

Yes fire is a beautiful thing to me

Yes fire is a beautiful thing to me



I will be posting about more relevant topics to UNR composting and food soon enough but I just wanted to share this program.

For anyone interested, click on DEEPENING ROOTS

And as always, suggestions for other programs are encouraged.


Questioning Happiness


A short and rather morose post, but I want to draw attention to an excerpt from Wendell Berry’s The Gift of Good Land:

There is no want of evidence–some is given in this book; more is available–that the small farm, if properly ordered, equipped, and managed, is highly productive, kind to the land, and economically workable. This being so we may ask why it has so few advocates in the colleges of agriculture, in government agriculture agencies, and in agricultural journalism.

The reason, I think, is a general one, and is to be found both in what we call our economy, and, because an economy is a cultural artifact, in our culture. For complex reasons, our culture allows “economy” to mean only “money economy.” It equates success and even goodness with monetary profit because it lacks any other standard of measurement. I am no economist, but I venture to suggest that one of the laws of such an economy is that a farmer is worth more dead than alive.

A second law is that anything diseased is more profitable than anything that is healthy. What is wrong with us contributes more to the “gross national product” than what is right with us. Let us take a healthy marriage for example: a man and wife who produce from their own small farm or  homestead or town lot as much as possible of what they eat, and provide on their own as far as possible for other needs; who therefore have “home life” and all that that implies. Such a couple may contribute immeasurably to the health of the nation, even to its solvency. But they are  not good for the nation’s business, for they consume too little.

If this man and wife were to get divorced, their contribution to the economy would increase spectacularly. Their household, with all its productive motives means, and energies, would be dissolved, and its members would live by consumption. Their dependence on the industries of food, style, transportation, entertainment, and so on would be greater. So probably would their dependence on the industries of drugs, medicine, psychiatry, counseling, and the like. They would be worth far less to themselves, to each other, to their community, and to the world–but far more to the economy.

I am aware of our consumer based economy, but I was profoundly struck by these paragraphs, especially this statement: “What is wrong with us contributes more to the “gross national product” than what is right with us.” Our society is encouraged to pursue a lifestyle that directly affronts values and practices that bring us happiness. This book invokes a range of emotions; I am angry that so many people did not have a choice or option to ever hold on to a tradition–I never had a small farm with techniques passed down through generations for me to put into practice. I have to relearn everything, I am totally unselfsufficient. I cannot grow my own food, the best I can do is commit to buy from local growers.  This anger gives way to the chills and injustice as I read about the “agribusinessmen” and their inherent disregard for the health of humans, families, communities, and the world. Why are these disconnected and unpracticed THEORIST the ones in charge?! Of course all of the previous emotions melt into an deep sadness, and a longing for the way things were or could be now. I do not want to leave out the silver lining of my emotions, but the hope, passion and inspiration I feel after reading about people who ARE doing it right is not absent from the desolate feelings invoked by the insolent ass holes of todays current industrial agricultural system. I know name calling is not in place  here, I am as disconnected to these farming businessmen as they are from the health of their soils, but new “innovations” and “improvements” are constantly thrown into the industrial food system which undermine any honor in producing food on a smaller and more sustainable scale.

Each of us can only control our own actions and support businesses and practices we deem worthy. Despite this truth, it is rare to consider the worthiness of the company to which we give our money. But, as I am professing responsibility of self,  I am going to refocus my energy on the possibility of finding a sustainable farming program during the summer where I can learn some of the traditions I so entirely lack. Please let me know if you have any suggestions!


Great Video Clip: The Story of Stuff


The worm guy, aka Darren Murphy, spoke in my class yesterday and sold us on vermiculture (composting with worms). I am excited about this because it is something I know so little about. After he spoke to our class the project finally seemed feasible and we were able to begin planning with ease and enthusiasm.

Having a plan and direction is so incredibly relieving because we can all finally focus our energy into one project. Our tasks include: building the worm bins-which means digging several inches below ground, lining the bottom with some sort of mesh so critters cannot get in, and lining it with cinder blocks, finding a way to transport the pre consumer waste (we are starting with pre consumer and hopefully incorporating post consumer at some point), setting up the bins with the worms, finding a carbon source, and then finally dumping in the food residuals. The point I was most sold on is the seemingly amazing ability of the worms to eliminate dangerous toxins and harmful bacteria from the compost. Who knew the magic and fertility of worm castings! No recipe is needed and you can gather the castings every several months to sell, or use on a garden. But most importantly and amazingly it seems as though the worms happily do all the work.

This is so different and diverse than anything I have ever done before I am so excited to work towards building the composting site and watch the little guys work their magic. Also Darren was enthusiastic about working with us which is incredibly encouraging. His business is called Sierra Worm Solutions, they look better in black and white and covered in dirt..., they look better in black and white and covered in dirt...

I want some worms for my own compost now. It seems like a far better solution than my current pile. I could inexpensively build something that would maintain a warm temperature and then the process would be less labor intensive, and a huge plus is that the process requires no added water.

On a different and also exciting note, the first green cafe meeting for this semester is on Friday at 4:30 in room 523 in the Library. I am really excited to plan events and see who else we can get involved in the project. I am happy to finally have a Friday when I am actually here, though they are few and far between.

Getting Dirty

I went through the excruciating process of making my compost heap. Okay, it wasn’t excruciating but I was planning on taking pictures throughout the transformative process but if you have a weak stomach at all I would not recommend looking at or smelling food scraps that date a few months. The first half of the residuals stunk to high heaven and the rest had started decomposing together with some hay I had the foresight to throw in there a few months ago. I know I was supposed to be deciding which method I wanted to take to compost but my bucket was full and alas it was time to ACT! And I did it with no shovel, rake or any other type of tools. I used a piece of plywood which I would not recommend and my gloves are covered with decomposing slime…


I think I am going to build a compost bin or get a tumbler eventually but for now I went for the use what you’ve got approach, which pretty much amounted to my compost looking like this:

It looks so innocent covered with hay and leaves

Tips are always welcome...

DIY Composter!

I’ve been peeking around at contained compost tumblers…they seem ideal except the price tag which runs somewhere above one or two hundred dollars and beyond depending on the model.

They look like this:

This particular one costs $199

This particular one costs $199

Luckily my boyfriend is handy and happened to make his own.


12 ft. 4 x 4 (found mine in the back of Home Depot for Free!)
4-6 ft. of 2 x 4 wood (also free at Home Depot)
four right-angle metal plates for attaching
two 6 inch x .5 inch screws with bolts
regular wood screws
food container from army surplus (any cylindrical container with tightly closing cap)

Total Cost:
roughly $20

Method of construction:
Cut the 4 x 4 into four pieces. Create two “T” like structures using the right-angle plates.   Drill a hole at the bottom of each “T” big enough to comfortably fit the 6 x .5 inch screw with ease.  Using the same drill bit, drill two more holes into opposing sides of the container.  Turn both “T” shapes upside down and place container in between them.  Nail or screw wood scraps as support rods to connect both “T”s together.  Lift the container off the ground to desired height and place 6 x .5 inch screws through each “T” and through the holes in the container.  Screw on bolts inside the container.  If air holes do not already exist, drill a few in the top of the container.

How well is it working?
Initially we put far too many food scraps from our kitchen and not enough dry material.  For it to work efficiently, make sure to have the correct ratios.  Once we realized this, we were composting in less than three weeks.  Every time you add something to it, just give it a couple of rotations.

Nap while the homemade composter does all the work?

Nap while the homemade composter does all the work?



twin city surplus reno

Supplier: twin city surplus reno

Top view

Top view

On a different note, last night we had a class meeting where we discussed and decided to research in vessel composting vs. windrow composting. The scale of these in vessel composters can get pretty large…but Ohio University chose an in vessel system because:

An in-vessel composting system will allow us to accelerate the decomposition process by controlling temperature, moisture, and aeration. Additionally, because the system is enclosed, all food waste (including meat and dairy) can be composted without fear of attracting rodents. Purchasing a system also enabled us to use a biofilter, which reduces odors at the site.

Windrow and static pile systems require a relatively large area, long composting periods, and significant ongoing staff time. Further, they can present nuisance issues which limit siting options.

The decision to use bio ware at the student center also significantly influenced our decision to purchase an in-vessel system. Although other schools have had success with breaking down bio ware in windrows, we wanted to ensure that our bio ware would break down quickly.

On the other hand, Craig adamantly recommended the windrow system to create QUALITY compost.

The ideal solution to composting at UNR would be to work with Craig or someone in Reno who wants to open a composting business. This would ensure an economically sustainable company that does not die when we leave. There are, hopefully, a couple of options here which we are investigating. It would be great to help someone start another composting business here in Reno. This project seems utterly overwhelming otherwise so I am hoping to find a feasible option soon!!

Hard at work at our first meeting at Seven Tea Bar, by the way check this place out it has amazing teas and a great vibe!

Katrina diligently taking notes

Katrina diligently taking notes

Delia lost in thought

Delia lost in thought the hell are we going to do this! the hell are we going to do this!

Good point Katrina

Good point Katrina

There are so many examples out there of composting and food systems on campuses that work really well. Composting our food and providing local and organic food on campus through an organic farm run by students is not a new or outlandish idea. But to make this a reality we need to change the attitude on our campus. Being sustainable and actively participating in environmental projects takes a ton of commitment and, more importantly, passion for the environment. Without increasing this passion on our campus the feasibility of these projects starts to look incredibly daunting. The prospect of budget cuts and the economic crisis do not help, but instead of remaining stagnant during these difficult times, we should at the University of Nevada feel inspired to find ways to save money by doing the RIGHT thing, that is to reduce the amount of food residuals and green waste we are dumping in landfills, support our local economy by eating local food, and join with the community to improve the situation in Reno both emotionally and environmentally. I hope if anything our projects can inspire this passion in people and encourage the level of environmental activism we so desperately need on our campus.

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