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Ever wonder how to make garden space in your backyard in the city?

It’s easy! Simply use containers on hand, like leftovers from all the trees you planted last year, or make a raised bed garden with left-over wood from when you built your new fence (or your neighbor’s leftovers), reclaimed or salvaged wood works great too.

Some things to keep in mind when you build your raised bed garden:

  • 3′ wide is plenty wide enough, you need a comfortable reach

  • 6′ long is also long enough to ensure the same comfortable reach

  • 1′ high is okay, but if you do 2′ you won’t have to bend down as far to reach your plants

  • If you build close to your house you will use the heat from your house to help insulate your garden

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Levi into the second year

It may seem quite vain or maybe that we’re putting Levi at a disadvantage by dedicating so much time to him. But, I will justify it that most of his family is over 2,500 miles away, and making these videos is not only fun for me but a way to communicate how he’s growing. I am justified, right? It’s not like we’re one of those parents who literally idolizes their kiddos, because that’s just wrong.

Anyway, here’s another video of Levi because I like making them.

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What is ‘The Natural Step’ framework?

While looking for more secure employment, I have come across a few jobs that require familiarity with ‘The Natural Step’ framework. Considering I took a class based on this framework two years ago, I am now writing about the framework as a refresher course for me and anyone interested in learning more about the framework.

The Natural Step (TNS) framework is a way to frame ‘systems thinking’ and apply it to businesses or community planning. It includes four guiding principles for consideration when addressing policy and planning in business and community planning. The guiding principles of TNS are as follows (taken from James & Lahti):

  1. In the sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing concentrations of substances extracted from the Earth’s crust.
  2. In the sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing concentrations of substances produced by society.
  3. In the sustainable society, nature is not subject to systematically increasing degradation by physical means.
  4. In the sustainable society, human needs are met worldwide.

In addition to the more holistic systems-thinking approach, TNS incorporates the 3Es (Triple Bottom Line) and ideas from the Brundtland Report.

The Triple Bottom Line is the idea that instead of simply measuring our economy as a measure of how well we are doing, we should also add equity and the environment to that bottom line. Hence, creating the ‘Triple Bottom Line’ which includes Environment, Equity, and Economy. If each measure is thought of as having the same importance, one wouldn’t weigh more than another. We would consider economy in the same light as people and the environment, so decisions would have to be fair for all three. We wouldn’t choose, for example, to close a plant because it would raise profits if it meant 26,000 people lost their jobs and would face economic hardships of their own within 6 months. Instead, we’d find a different way.

The Brundtland Report states that Sustainable Development meets the needs of today without compromising the needs of future generations. This concept puts into policy the idea of looking at development in an inter and intra generational mindset. If we know, for example, that in order to power our lives we need x amounts of oil per day, and that amount we are able to extract will be lower as years pass, we would adjust how we extract because future generations would not have the same benefits as we do now.

Taking these additional concepts within the systems-thinking approach offered by TNS means we don’t intentionally harm the earth and all of its inhabitants; we use caution when deciding how to live and work. We don’t sacrifice one group of people over another under the guise that it is for the common good because when one group suffers at our expense, it simply cannot be for the common good. So, in the sustainable society we don’t take more than we need, we don’t pollute intentionally nor do we destroy intentionally, and we are mindful of all peoples of this planet both living now and years from now.

Notes
James, Sarah and Torbjorn Lahti. 2004. The Natural Step for Communities: How Cities and Towns can Change to Sustainable Practices. Gabriola Island, BC, Canada: New Society Publishers. Pages 279.

Oregon Natural Step Network. n.d. www.ortns.org

Savitz, Andrew. n.d. The Triple Bottom Line. www.getsustainable.net

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2007. Sustainability: Basic Information. www.epa.gov/sustainability/basicinfo.htm

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Reflections

Over the weekend, while berry picking, Beth and I were pontificating the Shepard Street House. We reflected fondly that it was the perfect “20-year old house” and quietly considered what happened to our youthful optimism of our 20s as it gave way to increasing cynicism of our 30s.

It’s not that we’re particularly unhopeful about the future, but we certainly don’t have the drive say petitioners have in regards to believing how quickly we could change the world. For example, the single protest in which I participated was a wonderful experience, but a few short years after that protest I realized that I would rather attempt to change things from within, from within the machine, the system, the institution. Not that I believe it to be the best, perhaps, way for change, but because overall we are slow to learn and slow to change so change must come within the institutions.

I find myself looking more cynically towards things that 10 years ago I may have interpreted as “signs” pointing me in one direction or another. I find myself more cautious of those I would like to fraternize, no longer as needy as I was 10 years ago. I figured out that I prefer the Rolling Stones over the Beatles and that spicy food, while tasty, is something I can only handle in slight moderation. I still like red wine, but I’ve moved on (quickly thank God) from white zinfandel.

I’ve always been a cautious, quiet person, but lately I have found that I appreciate more thinking before I speak. I’ll be called out on this I’m sure when my sister reads this. Pondering and digesting rather than spouting off an opinion, as I may have been quicker to do 10 years ago.

It’s interesting what a decade brings. I was searching for love 10 years ago with no thought that I’d ever be a parent and wondering when I’d finish school. 10 years have gone by and now I’m married with one adorable kiddo and a B.A. (finally!) under my belt. It makes me wonder what another 10 years will do. Will I fall into more cynicism, or will I see a rebound of that youthful optimism that drove me so passionately when I was slightly younger?

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Gender Roles

Generally speaking, I do enjoy doing the ‘domestic thing’ to take care of my family. I like vacuuming, I enjoy a clean bathroom, and I can’t ‘breath’ unless my kitchen is clean. I really enjoy preparing food, and folding laundry often appeases my meticulous side. Comforting children, especially our little bug, comes naturally as does offering comfort to others. Given this perspective, it’s easy to understand why women are often the ‘care givers’ and men the so-called ‘providers’. But, I’m also wired such that I need recognition for the work I do, and sometimes thank you isn’t enough. Re-realizing this about myself makes me wonder about all the women out there, the feminist movement, and why some women elect to keep a not so clean house.

Other thoughts that spiral through my mind when seeing what I need or would like to help motivate me to do these sometimes mundane tasks makes me understand why my mother is always so quick to help another woman in the kitchen at group events, like Thanksgiving. Her understanding or perspective of dislike for dish chores motivates her to relieve others from the task. She may not be the best cook, but she will ensure your dishes come out of the wash spotless.

Is this perspective a reason why women congregate in the kitchen? After keeping house for some period of time, one becomes quite familiar with what needs to be done to get the meal on the table. A generous desire for helping people, fraternization, and community are maybe the ingredients to the recipe. I’m sure many of us have visions of the women in children in the kitchen during these family gatherings while the men are around the boob-tube watching the latest NFL game or outside sipping their beers and smoking their cigarettes and cigars. Is it simply knowing what needs to be done that keeps women in the kitchen while ignorance of what needs to be done keeps men out of it?

There are men I know who are more at the ready to help in the kitchen and offer help than other women I know. If it’s simply familiarity with the task that divides who stays where, then that could serve an answer. Is there a deeper role that we play? This is certainly a question that philosophers have pondered in varying forms (gender roles, occupational roles, etc.) and I certainly don’t hope to find all the answers. Although, I am interested to hear differing perspectives.

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Where can I find local fruit (food!)?

Here, in the fertile Willamette Valley, we are spoiled by great harvests. A question that seems to interest people, especially in the summer time is, “Where can I go to get good, local (and organic) fruits and vegetables (food)?” My family, in particular, is in interested in cutting food costs without sacrificing nutrition. So, how can we do that?

Monique Dupré has created her own system of how to do that by buying locally, making arrangements with local meat, dairy, and fruit/vegetable suppliers all with a mix of some internet shopping. She brags that she only spends $65/month at the grocery store. To learn more about how she does things and to sign up for a workshop, visit her website ‘Sustainable Living on a Budget‘.

Living in Portland for 5 years has taught me the following:

  • Uncle Paul’s (SE 23rd & SE Hawthorne Blvd) offers year round local produce in his open-air tent at great prices.
  • Sauvie Island farmers offer many U-pick fields where you can purchase your fruits and vegetables at a fraction of the grocery cost.
  • We picked 6.25 lbs of blueberries from Sauvie Island Farms Saturday for $10.15. This yielded over 20 cups of blueberries, 18 of which is portioned in 2 & 3 cup bags in the freezer, with the 2 remaining cups divvied into pancakes and snacks.
  • Sheridan Fruit Company is going green, and they are still the best place in town for grains. Visit them for discounts when buying in bulk, especially flours and oats.
  • Cherry Sprout Produce (formerly Big City Produce) on N Albina & N Sumner
  • Co-ops around town including Food Front, People’s, and Alberta
  • Fruit stands around town… keep on the lookout! Two I know of off hand, SE Foster & SE 80th across from Fred Meyer & SE 28th between SE Steele & SE Bybee.
    • Farmer’s markets… not only do farmer’s markets serve as a great place to gather good food in one place, most of the markets give out free literature including recipes and why buying local and hormone free is important. If you can stand the crowds, visit, learn and eat tasty treats.

    When shopping for food, it’s important to remember that buying local is actually better than buying organic. “Why?” you may ask.

    Well, I’ll tell you why. It’s more evident now with rising gas costs, but one reason for buying local is to ensure food security. If something were to happen to our transportation system (such as exorbitant gas prices) and food couldn’t be shipped the 1500 average miles food is currently shipped to get to our plates, what would we eat? We need to ensure demand for local food so that we will have local food to eat.

    Secondly, buying local keeps money local instead of shipping it off to Kroger or the Walton’s. It’s been said that for every dollar spent locally, it puts two dollars back into the local economy supporting jobs and simply people.

    Third, we have more control over local food. Remember what happened to Tribal Sun a few years ago when they didn’t use organic tomatoes but said they did? New Seasons quickly pulled the product from the shelves, and the product wasn’t on the shelves for about 12 months until they seemingly remedied the problem. If Kroger’s brand of organic doesn’t really use organic vegetables, how quickly do you think the items would be pulled from the shelves?

    Eating great local food is often as simple as walking around your neighborhood to see who’s selling what. I would love to hear comments from people who have other ideas on how to save on primary sourced foods. Email me with your suggestions!

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    One Year

    Last year, July 19, 2007, my family was rudely awakened to the horrors of domestic violence.

    Peter and I were barely working between the two of us, he had been laid off and with struggles feeding Levi I was barely pulling 5 hours a week. We were at the DHS office applying for food stamps when Peter got the call that yes indeed TriMet was offering him a job. We had been at the DHS office since 7:20am and we finally got home close to 10:30am. We barely set our things down, relieved that there was more money in our future and we could at least buy food for our small family when the phone rang. It was my mother. It was one of those phone calls where you just know something is wrong, and how wrong it was. She asked if I was sitting down, and I think I sat down. She didn’t wait to tell me and simply said, “Cristi is dead.”

    My sister. Step-sister to be truly accurate, my sister who is the same age as me, only three months younger. My sister who promptly finished college to begin teaching children who have difficulty learning was dead. She had no health problems, so we all knew the story was only going to get worse. Her boyfriend, Joseph Frees, killed her. Their bodies were found in the bedroom that morning after Cristi failed to show up for volleyball practice. Her mother was phoned and prayed the entire way to her house, “God, please don’t let me find what I know I am going to find.” The lights were on and the cars where in the drive, but of course no one answered. Cheri used a cooler to climb through the kitchen window, and she was the one to find her daughter murdered and the boyfriend dead too.

    Joe and Cristi worked together. Joe served as the athletic trainer while Cristi taught and coached. It’s not surprising they found common interests. I hate that I have no good memories of him. Others do, and I suppose that is some comfort. But, for me, it’s one of those situations where I knew he was no good for Cristi.

    A murder-suicide in my family. Such horrid violence that one usually only hears about on T.V. while watching an inflated drama like that of S.V.U. has waded itself into my family. I couldn’t believe that Domestic Violence would be a part of my family. It’s something that only happens to other people right? This time, though, the other people was us. My family splashed on the front cover of the local newspapers in Grand Rapids. My family’s story for all to read. It couldn’t be a private event because Cristi affected so many.

    After we got home, I met with a local shelter group to discuss ideas for planning an event. Soon, though, I realized that with school commitments that I would not have the time to arrange something that I wanted to be on a grand scale to raise awareness about Domestic Violence. But, then I pledged to myself that I would attempt it for another year. So, the new goal became by 2009. The initial idea was to raise money and split the funds between shelters in the Portland area, and then the idea expanded to paying off Cristi’s debts.

    This goal needs to be revisited.