Trisaetum Vineyard Grand Opening

Trisaetum ArtTrisaetum Vineyard held its grand opening this weekend. It is an organic and biodynamic vineyard specializing in riesling and pinot noir. It is located in the Ribbon Ridge AVA, just east of Carlton, Oregon and north of Dundee. We learned of this event through a co-worker who is an in-law of the Frey family who own the winery. In fact, she met us at the entry as she was restocking the paper towels in the restroooms. Business was good and they needed her help.

The winery was lovely, with the gates and drives laid out nicely. Inside, abstract impressionist art graces the walls, most of it the work of owner James Frey. The wines are produced in small batches, with two of them produced just for their wine club and the opening event. First stop was the riesling table. We love a nice riesling and this one was one of the better ones. Next, we had the first of three pinot noirs, each one crafted differently. Rich and I preferred the first one with the fruity notes we love from this region – black cherry especially. But the next two pinots were also excellent. Even though they were 2007 vintages, each was drinkable in its current young state. Back upstairs, we had a late harvest pinot blanc and enjoyed the art work. Trisaetum is definitely a winery to watch for the future.
Photo © Wendy Bumgardner

Oh Local Christmas Tree?

Christmas treeThroughout my life, there have been Christmas tree farms within just a few miles, often selling gorgeous Douglas fir for under $10 or Noble firs for under $20. Oregon is the cut Christmas tree supplier to much of the nation. Christmas tree farms are usually located on land that isn’t good for farming other crops. The thin soils around Tualatin, stripped by the Bretz floods at the end of the last Ice Age, were really only suited for the minimal needs of the trees, not the greedy roots of food crops. Grandpa said Tualatin was like farming on a doorknob, and was happy his farm was on the good soil of the Tualatin Valley instead.

You can find local Christmas tree u-cut farms through PickyourownChristmasTree.org. and locate farms that sell wreaths through LocalHarvest.org

Each year while living in Tualatin, I’d travel all of two to three miles to one of many u-cut tree farms and saw down my own tree, strap it to the Subaru, and home again jiggity-jog. Each year I would discover that the tree stand didn’t fit and I’d have to buy a new one. One year I got a mighty Noble fir (any tree $15) that ended up about 16 feet tall and weighed too much for both Rich and I to pull upright. Somehow, I had managed to drag it in the patio door myself. We had to saw 4 feet off the bottom to eliminate the bottom branches so it could be uprighted, and even then was enormous. That puppy would have brought over $100 retail.

Then the housing boom hit and the urban growth boundary was expanded and most of the tree farmers sold out to developers. I was unwilling to go further afield to source my trees and began to buy from the church lot or even the lot at the grocery store. The trees were still fresh because they were local, but far more expensive. I didn’t like spending $50 for a tree that used to cost me $10-15.

Finally, I tossed it in and bought an artificial tree at the after-Christmas sale. I loved helping to support the local tree farmers and the boy scouts who would come by to recycle the old trees. But that era had passed.

My ornaments were another factor. When I travel, instead of buying t-shirts or heavy stuff, I would buy an ornament of some sort to remind me of the trip. Many of them were too heavy for Douglas fir branches and required a Noble fir. Noble firs cost too much at retail prices. An artificial tree has no problem supporting the heavier ornaments.

The Christmas tree reminds me of what our area of Oregon and Washington used to be, the land of Christmas tree farms. How many of those overpriced houses that replaced them are now in danger of foreclosure or can’t be sold? It’s a different world. I want to support keeping local farms alive, but it will have to be with a wreath or some other sort of holiday product.
Photo © Wendy Bumgardner

Holiday Local Farm Events

I use the LocalHarvest food and farming events calendar to be alerted to happenings of interest. You can enter a zip code and enter a distance radius of 25, 50, 100 or 500 miles.
Calendar of Events for Portland 100 Mile Radius

For December, there are Christmas craft fairs, a workshop on making your own wreath, Christmas trees to harvest, and even a getaway to stay at a local farm for the experience. Since I spent many a night at my grandparents farm, I’ll skip that one. Farm work convinced me I was cut out for something indoors and away from animal dung. I honor the farmers, and people think I’m nuts to prefer working with human bodily fluids in the medical lab, but that was my choice.

Thankful to Avoid Traffic

This is the first Thanksgiving in the new house, living less than five miles from work and having a wide variety of commute routes home. The traffic on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is always the worst of the year. Before, I was 24 miles from home and it sometimes took 2 hours to get there. I began planning to see a movie after work to wait for the traffic to die down before going home.

It’s a great pleasure to work local. I filled my gas tank today at $1.89 a gallon – a price we never thought we would see again. But I use far less gas at any price nowadays. I’ve gained time to spend on something besides driving 50 miles each day.

Living in a Food Desert?

The Oregonian had a feature article on a family living in a food desert neighborhood in Portland. Once a month they take a long bus ride to the Winco in Clackamas, based on the low cost of the food and that they can get there without transferring buses. The grocery stores closer to them are far more expensive or can’t be reached without a bus transfer. I found the article very interesting on many levels.

The article says a lot of energy has gone into getting farmers markets in more locations.
I love farmers markets, but they are not a bargain solution and you can’t get a full range of products at most of them. Veggies and fruit, yes, sometimes bread, rarely meat, fish, eggs or milk products (and always very expensive). Even a complete vegan would have trouble building a balanced diet as there are rarely beans or other protein.

Winco, on the other hand, has a full range of products at great prices. The one near me has a good organic produce section, and their regular produce section, bulk food section, and milk aisle beat even many of the boutique stores for selection. I hate shopping there because it is crowded during normal hours. But I discovered that at 7 am you have the place to yourself, they are stocking but have good selection.

As a walker who subscribes to a CSA, this summer I’ve been basing my diet around the CSA produce and farmers market produce, supplemented with meat from Costco. I make the 1 mile trip on foot to Winco when I need bread or canned goods I can carry back in my backpack. I do that as a fitness activity. Now with bad weather, the farmers markets and CSA down for the winter, I’ll be driving.

The Portland Transport site has a good discussion of the article. Naturally, a lot of folks who try to live car-free post that the family should shop more often on foot or by bike. They shouldn’t put single/couple grocery expectations on a family. I can get by with one or two bags that I could carry 1 mile from Winco, but a family of 4 or more will have a huge load even if they have staples at home.

I grew up in the farming country around Forest Grove. Despite having our own large garden, fruit trees, home-canned fruit and veggies, and beef from grandpa’s steers, we still had to make a weekly trek to the grocery store and fill up the station wagon with bags to feed a family of 6. We were a family that never ate out and didn’t buy prepared packaged food. But it was still a LOT of groceries, every week.

The nearest bus stops to my house are a half mile away and have frequent service, which is a big improvement from living in Tualatin. But that is still a significant distance to carry or wheel any load. Something to think about if age or infirmity ever limits my ability to drive.

Cost vs. Locavore Ethics?

I’m quaking in my boots after listening to a couple of weeks’ worth of NPR’s Planet Money. Maybe we aren’t headed for a new Great Depression, but we are very likely to have a year or more of deep recession. I have been saving a lot of money by cooking at home and basing meals around the produce from my CSA subscription and farmers markets. It is a whole new lifestyle where I’m not stopping at the grocery store or restaurant every night to pick up something for dinner. While the items I buy at the farmers market cost more than similar items in a discount grocery, the overall savings have been huge.

Tom Turkey at Maysara WineryBut what to do about the turkey? I priced locally grown, organically fed turkey at Fred Meyer. It was over $3 a pound, so my bird would have been $45. For that, you basically get the same turkey that has been genetically engineered for decades, but fed stuff that might be more ethically acceptable. These are not true wild, free-range turkeys. Barbara Kingsolver covered that well in “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” Today’s turkeys have even forgotten how to breed or hatch their own eggs. I suppose the right answer would be to have something different for Thanksgiving, like a true free-grazing local chicken.
Here is an actual pastured turkey grazing at Maysara Winery. Photo © Wendy Bumgardner.

But once a year, I want our own turkey and stuffing. I went to Winco, a local discount grocery store chain, to stock up on basics. It had been at least two months since I had driven there, mostly I’ve been walking the mile there and back and just buying a couple of carryable items. The fresh robo-turkeys were 98 cents a pound. But the big deal was with the frozen turkeys – they were only 22 cents a pound if you bought $50 or more. A 20-pound turkey would be under $5. My decision was made. $45 or $5. Unless I truly believed that non-organic feed was going to kill me, it’s not a contest. I think a 20-pound tofurkey would cost a lot more than $5.

I left Winco with a cart load of basic items that will allow me to cook for the next two months. Chicken broth, frozen and canned vegetables, etc. The total cost was under $100. Yesterday, I spent $32 on handmade pasta at the farmers market that will last 5 meals but could have cost me $5 or less. I pick and choose my local food expenses. I really believe the handmade pasta tastes better, and that is the big difference.