Locavores are Less Trashy

Trash and recycling pick-ups have been delayed for over a week throughout Oregon and SW Washington. That would have been a bigger problem before I started the locavore lifestyle. After two weeks, we have the trashcan just full – and that includes the leavings of a Christmas dinner and celebration for my extended family.

The only container overflowing is the can and bottle recycling, because Rich waits till it’s full to put it out and it was mostly full a week ago. He drinks canned soft drinks, while I do not. I stick with filtered water from the refrigerator, coffee, wine, and the occasional beer.

How did we make it through gift-giving without tons of trash? My sister, Verla, has always saved and reused Christmas wrap. In fact, hilarity ensued when she had wrapped a present to one person and tagged it, but the paper still had somebody else’s name in felt pen on the paper. Any large wrappings were carefully folded to go home with her to see another year’s gift-giving. My brother Randy gave mason jars of chocolate chip cookie mix, a lovely homemade idea. I gave cash in envelopes plus had a basket of Mary Kay cosmetics for everyone to choose from. Similarly, Mom had a bag of homemade potholders and pot scrubbers for everyone to choose from. Others like using reusable gift bags instead of wrap. We had very little packaging to recycle. Another fun idea is to wrap your gifts in a reusable scarf – furoshiki. I really should look for close-outs on Christmas-design scarves and do that in future years.

Back in Tualatin, we would fill a larger trashcan to overflowing each week, mostly due to styrofoam takeout meal containers from the Aloha Grill or Panda Express. I’ve reduced our waste stream considerably but cutting far back on takeout. In fact, one thing that keeps me from buying takeout is thinking about the darn containers. I wonder if it’s possible to bring my own reusable containers for takeout? Or order it eat-in and transfer it to my own containers so I don’t ask them to violate any health codes.

Back in Tualatin, the recycling and trash container were inconveniently stored next to the garage door, and the garage was down a hallway from the kitchen. Here, we have the trash and recycling conveniently located right next to the door from the garage to the kitchen. Now I never hesitate to collapse and recycle any cardboard packaging or junk mail. Convenience definitely helps me keep recyclables out of the trash.

I heard on NPR’s Planet Money podcast that the recession may wreak havoc with paper and cardboard recycling. China is the biggest buyer of our paper recycling, because they don’t have their own sources of fiber. They turn it into packaging to send stuff back to us. Since we American consumers aren’t buying much stuff any more, they don’t need our recycling to make packaging.

The Benefits of a Delayed Christmas

I attempted to get to the post-Christmas sales on Dec. 26. I made it a half block to the corner and became stuck in the deeply rutted snow. It was melting, but there was still a foot-high ridge of ice and snow between the ruts. After much forward/reverse, I managed to get moving again and pulled out to a road that had been plowed. Whew. I continued on to Fred Meyer, only to discover their parking lot was in the same poor condition as the side streets. I didn’t stop and kept going. I made it back into the driveway on the second try, having had to circle the cul-de-sac on the first try.

Rich went to work, first taking a bus to downtown Vancouver, then another bus to Delta Park Max station, then Max to the Rose Quarter, then bus 8 up Marquam Hill, but the road to the hospital was blocked by three previous buses, so he had to walk the final 1/4 mile up the hill. Coming home was a similar odyssey. When you have to make 3 transfers to get to your destination, public transit is a poor option.

Walking was also a very poor option, as the sidewalks along major streets were still buried under a foot or more of rotten melting snow and ice. The only place to walk was in the car ruts on side streets, which now were growing slick as they melted.

I stayed holed up until Saturday and the meltdown was in full swing. I was finally able to buy the deeply discounted Christmas decorations I wanted for next year, but could actually use this year for our family celebration on Sunday. While a true locavore might cut her own swags each year, I’m just not crafty, and the branches on our Douglas fir are up over 50 feet, so I can’t harvest them in my own yard. I prefer to go the “re-use” route so I don’t have to buy them each year and recycle them each year. I didn’t buy any lights or lighted ornaments. I liked our “green” non-electric Christmas decor and I think we’ll continue that for next year.

Due to the weather delay, I was able to cook the Christmas dinner for my family today, on Sunday. I used the local organic potatoes I bought at the harvest farmers market before Thanksgiving. They were just starting to sprout eyes. I have enough gravy left that I’ll be cooking up the rest in the next few days.

Everyone in the family had their tales of weather adventures from the past two weeks. Since I ordered a snow shovel online, I doubt we’ll see any such snowfall again in my lifetime.

Another One Rides the Bus

We have a near-record 10-inches of snow, last seen around 1968. I remember that storm in 1968, it was fun if you were a kid with a big backyard in which to build a snow fort and cavort with your giant Siberian Husky named King while being off from school for a week. And we did. But now I have responsibilities to get to work by any means necessary, as medical centers don’t close for bad weather. During our winter blast of 2004, I stayed home because the drive was too far and the buses would have taken 4 hours each way. Now, I had the choice of putting chains on my SUV and driving to work, or walking a little over a half mile to the bus stop and taking the bus. I decided that the bus was the safest option. Although I’ve trained to drive in slick conditions at Pro-Drive, I know that many other drivers have recently moved here from California and other points south and have a lot of guts but little skill. I fear for the safety of my vehicle in their vicinity on the road or in the parking lot. They don’t have the benefit of 18 years of Dad saying, “Drive like you don’t have brakes,” and being a role model in how to drive in ice and snow.

Snow on Fourth PlainThe snowy neighborhood was gorgeous in the pre-dawn light at 7 am. It took me about 12 minutes to tromp to the bus stop, wearing Stabilicers snow cleats on my shoes and using ski walking poles for stability. The snow is so deep that you post-hole into it on the sidewalks, so it is best to walk in the street where traffic has beaten down a lane. But this is only safe if there are no cars on the road. There weren’t at 7 am. The C-Tran bus cost $1.30 and it goes directly from the nearest bus stop to my workplace, although I had another couple of blocks to negotiate once I got there. The bus even seemed to come on time, although they run every 15 minutes and it might just have been an earlier bus that was very late.
Photo: At the bus stop on Fourth Plain Boulevard, 7:20 am.

We were dismissed early, at 2 pm and I caught a ride home with a couple of gals from our division. While they had chains on an SUV, the driver had just moved here from Arizona. I almost asked to be let out before we were out of the parking lot, as she was doing a lot of quick maneuvers that are extremely unwise in ice and snow. They kindly deposited me at home safely, but white-knuckled. Tomorrow, it’ll be the bus both ways. Besides, I have errand to run at the shopping center mid-way.

Weird Al Yankovic’s “Another One Rides the Bus” in his first-ever TV appearance. It’s a parody of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.”

My C-Tran riding experience was of sparse passengers, but probably typical. Homeless-looking man in the very back seat. Blind young man in the front seat. Pleasant looking middle-aged gal got on, maybe a crazy cat lady. A couple more typical Vancouver-ites got on, but from the discussion with the driver they probably were, like me, not usually bus riders. All of the women admired my Stabilicers and ski walking poles.

I was reassured that the bus would be a good option for me under many conditions. This bus connects up with MAX in Delta Park, which might be useful for attending events in downtown Portland.

One Year Home

Happy Home-iversary! Last Dec. 20, we got the keys to our new house. We watched it grow from July onwards from vacant lot to foundation to sticks to shell to finished house. We were able to pick out all of the surfaces and colors and fret over whether we would still like them when we saw the finished product. I made a trip from work to the homesite each day and took photos, with the goal of animating them into a cool video. That has yet to be done!

Today I measured the snow at 1 pm and we had 1.5 inches. By 4 pm we had about 2.5 inches. It is dry cold snow, with freezing rain predicted tonight and tomorrow. I shoveled the driveway and porch last night and twice today. Our driveway faces north and therefore doesn’t melt off easily.

I baked cookies and lasagna, and we’ll be having a bottle of Maysara Delara Pinot Noir 2002. The only local ingredients in the cookies are organic brown eggs. For the lasagna, I used Nonna’s Noodles lasagna from the farmers market, grass fed La Cense hamburger, my homemade pesto, and some kale and chard still left from my CSA share. I also still had edible salad greens from the CSA. It’s amazing how much longer those last than commercially packed lettuce. Then settling in to watch DVDs and just be snug and happy.

Snow measurement

Photo &copy Wendy Bumgardner: 2.5 inches of snow at 4 pm, 12/20/08

Portlanders are Weather Wimps

The two farmers markets I listed for this weekend are now canceled due to inclement weather. Portland Farmers Market and Hillsdale Farmers Market will not be open. I guess there won’t be any giftwrapped local organic beets under the Christmas tree this year.

Vancouver has thus far been spared any really problematic weather, other than the pipe-freezing temperatures. The roads have been clear and not slippery. But even the chance of more than a skiff of snow is enough to close down schools and events. In all fairness, I wouldn’t want farmers loading up the truck and risking an accident only to discover they have few customers at their destination. Still, I imagine many people take public transit to the Portland Farmers Market most of the time, and anybody living in Hillsdale must have studded snow tires.

I am reveling in the luxury of being only a short drive from work. But that also means fewer excuses about chancing the commute in foul weather. However, my husband is stuck on the snow route for his bus to Portland, which has meant standing in the cold for 40 minutes when the transfers don’t meet up.

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Last Farmers Markets of 2008

LocalHarvest.org lists two farmers markets this weekend. If the ice and snow don’t materialize, I plan to make it to them. Portland Farmers Market has a Winter Solstice Market on Saturday, Dec. 20, promising potatoes, squash and beets as well as free gift wrapping for your purchases. Seems a little Schrute Farm-y to think of beets as gifts, so that must refer to the items from the artisan booths. The marvelous Hillsdale Farmers Market is open on Sunday for its last market of the year. I would love to make it to that one and pick up some Sweet Briar Farm bacon and some chicken and eggs from Kookoolan Farms.

My husband said he misses salads. So do I, but I was so spoiled by the CSA and farmers market lettuce and greens that I just hate to buy bagged greens at the supermarket. Winco has a good selection of bagged greens, including organic selections. But if I make it to the farmers markets, I hope the hydroponic grower is at one of them to snag some greens from them.

We had two minor mishaps with the cold temperatures this week. Vancouver was spared any build-up of ice and snow in the weekend storm. But my big bows blew off the carriage lights and I’ve brought them indoors. Then the condensation drain line from the furnace got plugged. Luckily, I was able to thaw it as the ice plug hadn’t grown past the elbow joint where it drains from the side of the garage. We hadn’t cleared the barkdust from around it, which allowed an ice stalagmite to grow up from the ground and lead to the ice plug. We dug a hole beneath it now so it should drain freely. Our furnace gives off a quart (liter) of water every hour when it is running! Is this a possible source of drinking water in an emergency? I suppose if it were filtered it would be OK in a survival situation. But it’s hard to imagine a situation that led to the loss of water and not also electricity. I’m happier we have a couple of 5-gallon bottles of Sierra Springs water.

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