an excerpt from the latest school paper

From my annotations on an amazing book by Frances Moore Lappe, Joseph Collins, & Peter Rosset “World Hunger: 12 Myths“:

The way people think about hunger is the greatest obstacle to ending it

If we view hunger as numbers, they say, then we will look to the answers for numbers too. I think if we were to view hunger as part of a greater story, a theme as part of a greater whole, then we as humans can begin to take ownership of the plot: beginning with pen strokes (growing a crop or preparing soil), leading up to sentences and paragraphs (forming organizations and communities to tackle hunger through food relief and more sustainable agriculture practices), and gradually building up to chapters where political and economic action is taken to remove systems and relieve our fellow people trapped under them.

Sustainable agriculture is a tool – a very important one – but a tool nonetheless, for achieving God’s harmony on earth through uniting all peoples and bringing the growth of the earth back into balance. This is my motivation as a Christian in utilizing more sustainable growing practices in pursuit of social and human justice – and grace.

Grace is not to be forgotten in the midst of the cry for justice, because, as Christians we profess the name of Jesus Christ who took the world’s sin and judgement upon Himself thereby introduced grace from God on our behalf into the world.

May I not become so bent on justice that I miss an opportunity of the Holy Spirit to show grace; may I not become so grace-centric as to become complacent or tolerant in situations that cry for action.



2 Videos on Restoration Through Farming

These two videos, from completely different sources, showcase ways that people are taking the environment and stewardship for the earth into their own hands and being God’s restoration on the earth.

Community-Fueled Agriculture

Back To School (BTS)

And so the adventure continues: I am officially a student again.

Yes, it’s another undergraduate degree.  But I’m OK with that.  Because it is simply a tool for the credentials necessary to follow God’s call and go to Ethiopia.  They (being SIM, an international Christian missions’ organization – see last year’s post) tell me I need a degree in an agricultural program, I find Goddard College, with their self-oriented and created curriculum and I am able to tailor-make my own plan of study within the Sustainable Agriculture course.  They say jump, and I’m a Tigger.

But truly, it’s the right move, and it’s been a fast move!  As of two months ago I wasn’t even seriously considering going back to school.  I was trying to evade academia, actually, and count on God to change the Ethiopian government’s international worker standards (that’s legit, right?)  Instead, He chose to give me a simple connection with Goddard at an art show fundraiser, stir my heart to start thinking about the possibilities of paying and arranging for school (as an added bonus, He even put the school in my backyard – I’m riding my bike 2 miles north everyday for the residency this week), provide some finances and a stellar internship program to complement the degree requirements…..and I’m off!  Student ID card and everything (it’s even a decent picture.)

So here is where I’ll download on you some of the challenges and struggles of being an “adult learner” (per Goddard-ese) in the BAS program, as part of the UGPT umbrella, starting off at a L2 with 11 “dangling credits,” and having to orient myself to using the SIS, the LITS database and the APL protocol. You got all that right?  Neither did I, and I’m in my third day of residency. (There are enough acronyms here to put the military to shame.)

First of all, something I already have a love/hate relationship with, is the ability to design my own curriculum.  Instead of teachers, we have a faculty advisor each semester, who guides us and prompts us in our areas of passion, helping to streamline our focus and build a 15-credit-hour semester with material that we mostly seek out and prescribe ourselves.  They provide narrative assessments of our work and progress, namely looking for how we are developing as a person and life-long learner.  And though I came into the program with a pretty good selection of broad ideas I’m passionate about, whittling those down into titles and definite subjects is the hard part: sustainability as pertaining to agriculture and community life; indigenous farming methods, specifically in sub-Saharan Africa; faith-based approaches to poverty relief and social justice, and; cultural appropriation and sensitivity.  While I do so appreciate the scope of independence I’ve been granted, it’s also a little unnerving to have so much freedom in designing my topics and study plan.  (As an independent thinker, I still appreciate having a ‘box’ from which to gauge whether I’m inside or outside.)

Just like you after reading these few paragraphs, my brain is fried, my eyes are bloodshot and I’m fighting for windows of time to deflate and process.  And we’ve only just begun.

Here’s to 5 more days of residency as the semester kicks off.  Here’s to books on my night stand with titles like,
Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples,” and
Research is Ceremony: Indigenous Research Methods,” and
When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself.

Here’s to Ethiopia. Here’s to Goddard. Here’s to God.



The Terroir of Seattle

Zeitgeist: 1)The spirit of the time; general trend in thought or feeling
2)Coffee shop in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood

Coffee: 1)A beverage consisting of the decoction or infusion of the roasted, ground or crushed seeds of the two-seeded fruit, the coffee berry
2)Known to the early church as ‘the Devil’s drink,’ (until the Pope actually tasted it, and changed his mind)

Arabica Coffee: A tree, Coffea arabica, of the Madder family, and the chief coffee tree of commerce (aka, the Good kind)

Rustica Coffee: Anything else (or, the not-good kind, aka, instant/Folgers/Maxwell House)

Seattle: The most caffeinated city in America (though not in the world, the Dutch apparently have us beat 3:1)

Coffee Crawl: An entirely pedestrian tour through the heart of Pike Place Market and the greater downtown area, put on by Seattle by Foot


..dancing in and out of the beans of a neon mug..

So began our Seattle Sunday tour, under the neon mug of Seattle’s Best Coffee in The Market.  Ten of us on tour, seven coffee shop stops, six tastings, three manhole covers (more on that), two hours and one free bus ride.  That’s what  it takes to know Seattle coffee culture and history just a little bit better.

For instance, did you know that Seattle’s Best Coffee began in 1971, by the Stuart Brothers as an ice cream shop, and is now owned by Starbucks (a Seattle original; claim to (in)fame), has just changed its logo and is being offered in such fine establishments as Burger King and Subway?  In all fairness, the ice cream-style counter in the Market location is super cutesy, and the double chocolate salted toffee mocha is real Arabica winner.

Sirens bid the sailors in to their death. I'm just saying

Moving on down the market, we come to the original Starbucks (ok, ok, so technically not the original: the real original was one block down, but had to be evacuated because the building was being demolished, but the counter, shelving, tables, chairs and equipment were all saved and moved to the ‘new original location’.)  What’s the best way to tell it’s the “original”? Note the bare-chested mermaid above your head (times 3) and you’ll recognize where the nation-wide (and decidedly less risque) logo got its inspiration. There’s even a Pike Place Reserve blend of beans (that boasts the bare-chested siren) available only on location.

Moving away from the waterfront, you cross over 2 streets and….wait, this is where we come to the manhole cover explanation.  Seattle is an incredibly artistic city – bedazzled tiles line buildings, glass lights are implanted into the sidewalks, public art is a given and the hatch-covers atop the city’s underground are functional maps of the city complete with “You-are-here” stainless steel beads showing your location among the cross streets.

Coming back to coffee, if you’re looking for a bold, dark and aromatic cup, Caffe D’arte would be an excellent

Just sharing the love, with my first attempt at latte art

choice, especially if you want the rich notes of smoke and chocolate to linger in your mouth.  They receive their Italian roasted blends every week and offer 5 different espressos on tap. They specialize in latte art, things like hearts, roses, swans, and even squirrels and otters.

To speed things up, we hovered around an indoor coffee kiosk – residing in the ticket booth of an old theatre near Westlake Mall – where you get a discount if you ride up on your bike, but get charged more for talking on your cell phone while ordering. There’s also a prominent sign threatening charges for asking where places like Banana Republic, the Gum Wall or the nearest Starbucks are.  Oh, and this Monorail Espresso has proudly been in business since the year 1 B.S. – Before Starbucks.

Now for the true coffee snob, I mean, connoisseur we will travel to single-origin land; where Papua New Guinea, Colombia and Barundi represent for the day.  As one of the only independent coffee shops IN THE WORLD to own and brew with a Clover, Trabant Coffee and Chai baristas receive fresh roasted beans and formulate – through daily tastings – how many grams of coffee and how long of a brew time and what specific temperature compliments a particular origin’s terroir.  *Single origin coffees appear to be the trend (zeitgeist) in coffee culture these days, and most are roasted more lightly so as to show off the fruity, herby and floral notes of the coffee berries.

A definitive Seattle tour? Perhaps not.  A tour centered around what defines Seattle? Perhaps so.  In any case, it will leave you to ponder the local trend of the times at the appropriately named 3rd place (assuming the 1st is your home and the 2nd is your place of work, this 3rd being your coffee shop): Zeitgeist Coffee.

A (un)Just Food Conference

The highlights of my weekend:

-Taking an awesome road trip with a good fellow farm gal
-Great road trip soundtrack (think Amy Grant, The Duhks, Celine, Fiona and DC talk)
-Visiting a wonderful friend in Portland over pots of steaming chai tea
-Being able to check off Oregon as one of the states I’ve visited
-Getting incredibly inspired by our Eugene hosts’ home garden (complete with backyard chickens, a worm composting bin, high tunnels on over-wintered beds, some of the fattest turnips I’ve EVER seen and a greenhouse made completely out of recycled materials.


Not-so-high lights of my weekend:

-Being disappointed in a Food Justice conference that skirted around anything practical we could do as communities to get real, fresh, whole food to those without
-Being disappointed that far-removed government policy-driven mindsets were the bulk of what said conference had to offer
-Being especially disappointed that said Food Justice conference – where the buzzwords of the weekend included equity, availability and access – would choose to throw a fabulous dinner party complete with a host of organic and sustainably raised produce and meats and local beer and wine, and offer it as ‘invite only’; excluding many attenders in the process

And so this past weekend, with most people having that extra day off of work, the University of Oregon in Eugene held their Food Justice Conference complete with art displays from numerous artists, 3 days of speaking sessions and workshops, open visits to the Urban Farm operation and Vandana Shiva as keynote speaker.  What was set up in my mind to be an outstanding conference, paled in comparison in reality.

As speaker after speaker gave their talks, it became more and more apparent that problems were the focus of the discussion and no one had any real solutions to present.  Most speakers hinted at policy reform and government legislature, and sat behind shiny place-tags with their names and credentials in bold print, emphasizing their expertise and specialization.  But after speeches incorporating such large words as to lose much attention from the willing audience and to be more fitting for a Masters thesis than an honest look at how to get true food from point A to point B, I was already beginning to feel the first heaves of disappointment.  And these were only encouraged as religious and political jabs were made multiple times when agriculture and farming practices were    the topics of focus and politically-correct semantics were courted time and again (it’s not “global warming,” it’s “climate change.” No wait, it’s “climate instability”).  And an entire speech centered on ‘the deliciousness of food’ (which skipped from the definition of ‘delicious’ to the fact that many people are ‘super tasters’ and some are ‘non tasters’ to the fact that organic strawberries taste better than their chemically farmed counterparts to what does our sense of taste say about the nutrition of a certain food) wound up only confusing the majority of listeners and causing our graduate-degreed speaker to admit she needed to do more research in certain areas (especially when a front row-seated Shiva corrected her on what the flavors of foods mean in traditional Ayurvedic philosophy.)

Overall, I was struck by the realization that academia (and politics) have very little to do with sustainability, agriculture and truly living out justice in our very un-just world.  Being so far removed from the reality of growing food, planting seasons, garden work parties, human needs and rumbling bellies, higher education can philosophize til it’s blue in the face, but until anyone in higher positions will decide to move into the projects or trailer parks and start a community garden, give up a meal for someone in need who is hungry, or become a better neighbor to the underprivileged by spending time and effort on their well-being (not just on charitable donations, food bank giving or policy-reform jargon) they will be stuck arguing about politically correct terms with which to categorize said neighbors and their socio-economic potential towards nutrient-deprivation and ignorant cave-ins to mega-corporations’ unethical advertising schemes.

If being a Christian has taught me anything, it’s that we need to walk the talk.  We can’t set out with agendas to convert as many people as we can to our way of thinking or believing, even if we honestly believe it would be the very best thing for them.  The best way to love someone and show care for their well-being is through forming a relationship with them.  Non-Christians don’t want evangelical nuts all up in their face anymore than fast- and processed-food eaters want organic health nuts up in theirs.  And the ‘underprivileged’ and ‘undernourished’ that speakers at the conference had in mind, just might care more about being invited over to supper or given a chance to harvest from a neighbor’s garden, than being presented with a graph recording their chances of contracting a diet-related disease if they don’t get enough of A, B or C in their diets.

But where does the line between being a ranting action-less philosopher and a radical health-Nazi fall?  Perhaps somewhere in the vicinity of caring neighbors and real relationships.  A person’s health is much more than what calories they consume, just as a person’s spiritual life is much more than whether they sit in a pew once every 7 days.

Are we willing to live out our beliefs by example and relationship?


Odds and Ends

With some new posts formulating in the background, here are a few shorts to keep you interested:

Since my second post I haven’t returned to the subject of kombucha brewing (except for a brief nod sometime about mid-Kansas) but in spite of the lack of attention it’s been getting, my kombucha mother has remained by my side and afloat in her jar of tea. In Kansas she paired nicely with green tea and orange; in Colorado, chai spice had her going; in Canada she was fashionably BCBC (British Columbia Black Cherry), and in Washington she’s had some great herbal-root brews (burdock, yellow dock and dandelion). And all the ‘babies’ she has produced have gone to either friends, people who attended my home-brewing kombucha talk or to making more batches on my counter.

Mama sank

So, a few tips on keeping her happy and ease of kombucha brewing in general:
– If you have to travel with her and you’re in the middle of a batch, pour a little of the liquid off into another, smaller jar with a lid so that the large jar won’t slosh out all over the car, or; brew your batch in a gallon-sized pickle jar and hold onto the lid, just remember to give her some air every few hours.
– Try to keep the temperature as stable as possibly. Mine really likes temps around 75F.
– Don’t use Earl Grey tea. I haven’t figured out why yet (though experts say this too), but it won’t ferment right and the kombucha you’re going for won’t be the end result; something in Earl Grey inhibits the mother from spreading. (Perhaps some raging anti-fungal properties of bergamot?)
– She doesn’t like Montana for some reason.
– If your mother sinks instead of floats, don’t fret. Some mothers work from the top down, others work from the bottom up. Either way, you should have a healthy skim of a ‘baby’ on top when the kombucha is done.
– For that really carbonated type of kombucha, gently pour off the finished brew into serving-sized bottles and cap (not too tightly, though) and let sit a couple more days at room temp. This introduces a bit of anaerobic fermentation which really gets the bubbles going. At this point you could also add some juices to flavor or color; but beware, grape juice is known to cause spewing in fountain-like jets – something to do with their natural yeasts.
– For all you Lindsay Lohan fans (or should I say ex-fans if you ever were to begin with?) fresh kombucha may contain a small amount of alcohol, but even then only about the same amount as non-alcoholic beer – although when it’s been sitting in bottles on the shelves for longer periods of time, even refrigerated, it will slowly, anaerobically ferment to the point of turning some of the sugars to alcohol. So drink it fresh (and the best way to do that is to make it yourself!)

But baby's happily floating

– Try some cool infusions if you want: when you pour the tea in the jar add some rosemary sprigs, lavender petals, dried fruit, fresh ginger root or other spices. The mother will pick up some of these flavors, but not enough to taint your next batch. *Also beware, just like Earl Grey has fermentation-inhibiting properties, so might some spices like cloves or cinnamon or turmeric. I haven’t tested them personally, but just consider it.
– Need a cheap Christmas present idea? Brew a batch and give the gift of a “baby mama.”

Some of you may know about my being enrolled in an online school; since May 2008 I’ve been working on my B.S. in Holistic Nutrition. Well, good news and bad news: I’m finishing up my final project to conclude my degree program (I should be the proud owner of a Bachelor’s come Christmas time) but the school, Clayton College of Natural Health, took a blow in the (semi) recent economic downturn and had to cease its operations. Thankfully, they are able to offer independent teach-out options for those who are close to finishing and I’m able to still send in my tests, projects and essays to a faculty person.

What will I do with this freshly printed degree? Beats me. Though I am considering starting a consultation practice on a freelance basis, helping individuals who want to find out what their natural health options are and how to live a more natural, green and sustainable health life. I also love to cook for others, and a catering, meal-planning, or cleanse-planning route may be down the road. Any questions, ideas or suggestions?

It’s a commonly held belief that winter is the hardest month for ‘locavores’, but with some ingenuity and networking one can find many and diverse recipes for these dormant days. One great resource is this site’s annual challenge. And I’ll be posting seasonal meals as I make them and winter preservation techniques as well.

And finally, there are a plethora of topics I’ve been covering lately in my personal writings, as with winter sneaking in there is less for a farm gal to do outside. And after talking with some locals here in PT, surfing the web for freelance opportunities and approaching some great friends with a publishing business, I’m excited to be working towards getting some pieces published in the local paper and perhaps a few magazines, as well as venturing toward a book (or two). Stay tuned for more info about these endeavors. A welcome winter respite that pairs nicely with a mug of tea and a crackling fire (to grossly over-romanticize a writer’s day in the life), huh?