Category Archives: Farmer’s Market

Social currency

Waterboro Reporter

Waterboro Reporter

The photo above was provided by the owner/publisher of the newspaper for which I work. The Waterboro Reporter is a locally-owned, weekly community paper that pays me for the articles I write–many about sustainability, local farmers and business people, local non-profit organization, school news, town government and activist groups. The Reporter is, I believe, an important part of the “local circle.” It is a free-to-read newspaper, with printing costs and content (read: writers like me!) costs covered only by advertising dollars, not readers.

I love the idea of currency circulating from one local business to the next local business via paychecks and purchases. This is the essence of a local economy. It also creates a type of social currency: measured only in goodwill and reciprocity.

Here is a real example: Last month, the Reporter sold advertising space to local businesses and printed up some ads that readers were sure to notice as they read the content of the paper. Then the Reporter collected the advertising money from those businesses. Last week, the Reporter sent me a check for my articles. I cashed my check on Saturday and went immediately to the Newfield Farmer’s Market–where I bought close to $25 worth of stuff. Now, if the market then took out an advertisement in the following week’s paper, the local economic circle would be complete! The money would just continue circulating–maybe going to out to a local antique store or the local supermarket–but eventually, hopefully, coming right back around and around and around.

THIS cycle is exactly what I’ve been writing about/advocating for the past four years!

Over the course of a year, with money earned from my writing gig, I’ve bought local maple syrup, a Community Supported Agriculture membership from a local farmer, and an order for a year’s worth of beef from a Limerick neighbor. I’ve shopped at the local supermarket and had countless lunches at local restaurants like the Clipper Merchant Tea House and the Peppermill. I’ve donated money to charitable causes (guess where I went on Saturday afternoon, after the market? The Limerick Historical Society penny auction.)I’ve bought incense,books, toys and other interesting stuff at local gift shops. My love for Plummer’s Hardware and the Limerick Supermarket is well-known.

Much of this I’ve documented here on Localista and shared with my facebook friends and my email list, which is also free publicity for the local businesses I love. In turn, these businesses provide me with excellent customer service and great products.

The money I spend comes from a locally owned paper whose only income–I will stress this again–is advertising. This is a newspaper that has been amazing to publish all the stories I’ve written with a sustainability slant, promoting the kind of “buy local” philosophy I hold dear. The Reporter doesn’t “sell” newspaper coverage. It covers stories we think are interesting and important whether or not an ad is purchased; however, think about that local cycle a minute. Now think some more…

Readers, please shop locally, and if you shop at one of our advertisers, let them know you saw their ad in the paper. Supporting each other, in a local economy, is the foundation of freedom from corporate control. Be part of the circle!

Spring!

spring!

spring! by localista featuring a straw hat

Dear Reader:

The snow is gently retreating from my northern lawn. The first brave shoots of daffodils have pushed up beside the front steps. And I am planning and plotting my garden–when I’m not interviewing subjects for my newspaper articles or working on my novella or making homemade granola, that is.

Granola is easy: just throw 3 cups of whole oats, some flax seeds, some chopped walnuts, some cocoa powder, some cinnamon, a dash of salt in a bowl. Mix in two tablespoons of olive oil and 1/2 cup of local maple syrup (I love the darker syrup, a little smokey-flavored from the old-fashioned wood-fired pan-reducing process. The syrup I use is made out in an open-sided shed on a wooded property overlooking the White Mountains off in the distance.Thank you Dana Masse of Shady Mountain Syrup Company in Parsonsfield, Maine!)

I put the mixture on a greased pan and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes on 350 degrees, stirring every ten minutes or so. Once cool, add seeds and dried fruits of your choice. This week’s addition of dried cherries from Cornerstone Country Market was SO good with the light cocoa flavor of the oats.I highly recommend both the cherries and Cornerstone.

Garden plans: I’ve convinced Hubby to move his horseshoe pits to a different location which will make room for up to SEVEN more boxes in a mostly-sunny spot just shy of the septic field. That would bring my count up to sixteen 4ft. square boxes. If I can ever figure out the perfect soil to put in them, I should be able to grow lots of greens, peppers, cucumbers, and herbs. Maybe even some cherry tomatoes. But I’m giving up on regular slicing or sauce tomatoes. These I will simply purchase at the farmer’s market or my CSA (reminder to self: fill out CSA form!).

We’ll see how the apple tree guild area fared over the winter. I looked at it a little bit yesterday, and the hay and compost and leaves didn’t break down as much as I’d hoped. The remedy will be to top it off with some composted manure and maybe plant some legumes this spring to turn in. I will plant the apple tree this spring, regardless. It is time for that guild. A guild is a grouping of plants that complement each other. This is a permaculture principle. In this case, an apple tree ringed with daffodils and/or garlic, some legumes, maybe some dandelions to bring up nutrients from the deeper soil, some comfrey to work as a natural mulch, etc. I found this idea in a book called Gaia’s Garden. Click HERE to see the apple guild page. I’ll be researching crab apples as I’d like to make more crab apple jelly.

Last project: hugelkultur. I pronounce this hoogle-cool-tour but I don’t know if that is correct. You could say hoogle-culture. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that you can take old logs and branches and blowdowns, pile them up, cover them with soil, and plant on it. Click the link to read more. The idea is that as the wood breaks down, it retains moisture, reducing the need to water, and contains plenty of nutrients to support plant growth. I’d like to do this behind the raised beds, where the south-facing slope of the hugulkulture bed would catch the sun nicely. I’m thinking blueberries and potatoes, but I don’t know if those two plants make good companions. Will do more research.

What are your garden plans for this growing season? Are you itching to get out there with your shovel or trowel? Remember, food doesn’t get more local than your own back yard. Even if you set up a few containers and plant lettuce and some herbs, you are giving yourself a wonderful gift of homegrown food, a fun hobby, time outside in the fresh air and sunshine, and a science experiment all rolled into one. Enjoy your week, Dear Readers.

Economy of the Miniature?

Five Weeks’ “Growth”

Dear Reader:

Okay, so I moseyed on down the road a few miles with my good friend, Sandi, to check out a MOFGA (Maine Organic Farmer’s and Grower’s Association) certified farm stand. Piper’s Knoll Farm in Newfield, Maine exemplifies what I consider an ideal local business. Yes, they are certified organic, but according to their website, farmers Karl and Cynthia Froelich use farming methods that go BEYOND organic…including permaculture and biodynamic techniques, managing natural woodland and wetlands for native species of medicinal plants, and using season-extending methods such as hoop houses for greater productivity (they’ve had carrots already, started in the hoop houses in February! Amazing!).

Karl is a stonework landscaper. Cynthia is a Master Gardener and herbalist, and she also conducts workshops on eco-spiritual topics. In addition to their farm-stand, the Froelich’s participate in the farmer’s market in Saco, Maine. They are diversified…just like their farm.


This week I’ve been reading a new book on sustainable life called SMALL, GRITTY, AND GREEN by Catherine Tumbler. A journalist and historian, Tumbler spent a few years researching and touring small cities, specifically “Rust Belt” cities–the old industrial cities left crumbling and emptying in the wake of suburban development, highway-bisection of neighborhoods and downtowns, and the de-industrialization of the American economy as trade agreements launched the flight of production to cheap labor overseas. Tumbler agrees with people like James Howard Kunstler (author of the New Urbanist book, THE GEOGRAPHY OF NOWHWHERE) who believe that in a post-oil world, our small cities–not our small towns or metropolises–are best suited for a new way of life, one that is sustainable, human-scale, and doable in a low-carbon future.

These cities–in Maine, I think of places like Biddeford/Saco, Sanford, Waterville where the textile mills once ran three shifts a day–still have infrastructure intact that could be used when we inevitably must begin producing things here in the U.S. of A again. These small cities are surrounded by smaller rings of suburban and exurban development than the big metropolises–meaning the farmlands are closer to the urban center. Taking a look at the numbers, Tumbler makes the case for small-scale farming over commodity farming, retrofitting empty retail “malls” and concrete big box structures into sustainability centers–even hydroponic farms and raised-bed crop-raising on top of the parking lots, and the breakdown of highways instead of the constant necessity of maintaining them.

So, imagine a small city with parks and mixed-use architecture and Broadways and downtowns. Imagine a bus system, walkable neighborhoods, sidewalks, and fewer cars. Imagine suburbs with community gardens and backyard chickens. And then imagine a ring of fertile farmland cultivated by thoughtful, intelligent people like the Froelichs who provide food and medicine for the people in the city and suburb. Imagine a city without a Walmart but instead a bunch of locally-owned shops–a Plummer’s Hardware, a Betty’s Dress Shop, a bakery, a butcher shop, a bookstore–not just downtown but in many neighborhoods. Imagine a downtown district with a department store, a theater, a park, upscale shops, a music hall, City Hall, art galleries, restaurants…and lots of interesting people to watch when you sit down for a latte at the cafe.

Early Girls

Okay, so I am drifting into a utopian fantasy. Or else I’m reminiscing about a time in America just before I was born, before the rise of the cookie-cutter suburb, the two-car family, the two-income household, NAFTA, GATT, off-shoring, and the shrinking of the middle class.

What about today? What am I doing living in a single-use exurban housing development that is really like living at camp year-round? How can I work toward that other, larger vision? I garden, and I tell myself I am keeping some knowledge alive. Honestly, though? The economy of my miniature garden box garden is really pitiful!

I spent about $100 on “ingredients” for my straw-bale tomato experiment. The bales were pricey, considering. Then I had to add in the nitrogen fertilizer–not exactly organic farming practice there, folks. I bought three heirloom tomato plants, and if all goes well I may actually be able to save some seeds for next year. The other three (Early Girl) are not heirloom, and I have no idea if the seeds are viable or not. If these six plants produce thirty or so pounds of tomatoes all together, I suppose I may break even.

As for the other garden boxes, these are really nothing more than fun. I might as well have planted all ornamentals, since the small (miniature) scale of my garden-box garden will produce nothing more than a few servings of each kind of veggie, even if the plants produce well.

For instance, my peas are beautiful and blossoming, but really I may end up with a pound of snap peas at most. At Piper’s Knoll today, I bought a pound of snap peas for $3. The radishes have been fun, but I could have bought a bunch for $2.50. A large bag of greens was only $4. Sigh. My greens boxes have been the biggest disappointment of all: the spinach went to seed at two-inches tall, the arugula hasn’t even sprouted, the micro-greens did no better than the spinach. There is probably something wrong with the pH balance in the soil (all those pine needles?), though the romaine and green leaf lettuces are still growing if slowly, slowly…

The basil plants look great. The cucumbers are blossoming, and I’m hopeful for a good harvest. And if the zucchini and summer squash don’t end up with that gray mold stuff, I COULD have squashes coming out my ears in another month or so. Let’s hope! But in the end, this sort of gardening will never feed the family. Another $100 for ornamentals and cuke, fennel, basil, cabbage, sage, and pepper starts will, if I’m lucky, provide enough produce to pay for itself. If I’m lucky. Otherwise, I can put it down on the books as “entertainment” or maybe “education.”

Really, economically-speaking, I would be better off putting that $200 toward membership in a CSA farm like Piper’s Knoll. Maybe they’d let me come over and do some weeding now and again because…

I attempt to garden because I want to keep the rhythm of the growing season beating in my heart. I want my daughter to see me digging in the dirt and pulling a round, purple radish out of the ground, grown from a seed I planted. I want her to taste a cucumber right off the vine so she can appreciate the difference between it and the tasteless thing that rode on a truck from Mexico all the way to Maine and landed on a supermarket shelf.

Will I do this again next year? Yeah, I probably will. I’ll also buy as much produce and meat and eggs locally and in-state as I can…because those farmers are the people who will feed us in a low-carbon future. I encourage you to search out small-scale, diversified, biodynamic farms in your area and support them with your food dollars and your friendship. I think you’ll be glad you did.

Farmer’s Market

What does the fashionable localista wear to the farmer’s market? A skirt from Goodwill, of course. Got this one for a mere $4.99. Bringing your own eco-bags is always a good idea.

Farmer's Market

Burberry Brit cashmere cardigan
£349 – farfetch.com

Rene Caovilla flat thong sandals
$750 – neimanmarcus.com

Marc Jacobs zipper wallet
$559 – mytheresa.com

Stone ring
$11 – gojane.com

Vintage jewelry
$17 – etsy.com

Melissa Odabash floppy sun hat
£16 – debenhams.com

Nude lipstick
$15 – vasanticosmetics.com

Body moisturizer
$11 – bathandbodyworks.com

Farmer’S Market Basket, Small Square
$14 – anthropologie.com

Local Season Opener

Spring Daffodillies

Dear Reader:

You didn’t think I was writing about baseball, did you? No, this is my “Spring Season” opening day because the ground is warm enough to walk barefoot in the grass, the daffodils are bursting with golden frilliness, and the rhubarb is sprouting-leafing up through the garden dirt after a winter’s hibernation.

Rhubarb

When we were kids, my sister and I would sometimes visit the rhubarb patch and break off a pink-green stem and chew it, wincing at the tart-sour taste. I wasn’t especially fond of rhubarb pie (strawberry-rhubarb was much better), but now I’m already planning to make a pie as soon as the ‘barb is ready. I even found some REAL lard at The Cornerstone Country Market in S. Waterboro over the weekend. With the whole wheat white flour from the co-op and this lard, my rhubarb and some sugar, I will be able to create an almost totally local pie. Not sure if I could substitute maple syrup or honey for the sugar, but I will look into it.

Speaking of the Cornerstone Country Market, if you live in this neck of the woods, I highly recommend stopping in there. They have a deli counter. They have local (Lyman) beef in the freezer section. Local eggs. Lots of dry-goods. (I heard they had local milk, but I didn’t see any and didn’t ask this particular time). They also carry a dizzying amount of cake decorating products–candies and sprinkles and such for cupcakes, birthday cakes, etc. Baking mixes. Flours.

I purchased some steel-cut oats for my breakfast and a jug of Maine maple syrup since I missed Maple Sunday at Hilltop Boilers a few weeks ago. I would have grabbed some of the beef, but I had just stopped in to Kniffin’s Specialty Meats also in S. Waterboro for “steakburger” and chicken legs for this week’s menu. All of Kniffin’s meats come from Maine farmers. No pink slime here!

Compost Bins In Action

As you can see from the photo, we’ve been busy “harvesting” carbonaceous material (a.k.a. beech and oak leaves) from the lawn to compost. The bin on the far right has been composting for a year or so. The two bins on the left are full of this year’s leaves plus some table scraps thrown in. Beside the right-hand bin is a small, dark pile of nearly-ready-to-use compost that I will spread into a Lasagna Garden later this season over near the rock pile. No, this does not mean I will be growing ingredients for lasagne (eggplant, peppers, onions, oregano, tomatoes, zucchini), though that would actually be cute and fun. Lasagna gardening refers to the preparation of the garden bed through layering of carbon material, nitrogen material, manure, straw, etc.

I am also psyched about the idea of trying Straw Bale Gardening. I ordered Joel Karsten’s pdf manual (easy, easy) and now have all the info I need on a file here on my computer. Hopefully, this will allow me to grow tomatoes on the one part of my lawn that gets adequate sunlight–on the leach bed. I think the straw will lift up the plants so they won’t be in any danger from the leach field, the beds won’t take up much space on top of the field or interfere with its processes in any way, and the extra heat generated by the composting straw will be perfect for those heat-loving globes of red juiciness (heirloom tomatoes? Lead me to ’em!)

On my way back from the meat and lard shopping, I stopped into the antique store to see if I could find a ring or pin with an owl motif, as I’m still recreating my Modern Minerva outfit on the local scene. I scored the red sweater at Goodwill last week. Alas, no jewelry fit the bill, though they had mucho floral pieces I will revisit later.

Moooooo!

However, this adorable creamer pitcher just had to come home with me! Now, I need to start buying raw milk again so I can get some thick, rich, yummy cream into the pitcher . . . and then into my morning coffee.

Speaking of coffee, where oh where is the Green Mountain Island Coconut java this year? It is not to be found in any of the usual spots, not even the branch of the used-to-be-Maine-but-now-owned-by-a-multinational-conglomerate supermarket chain. I once worked for said chain and truly enjoyed the experience. So disappointing to me that it is now part of a multinational . . . and no matter what the advertisements say, shopping here is NOT like shopping “local.” When the profits travel out of town, out of county, out of state, out of COUNTRY, it is not local. Some CEO somewhere is making a hugemongous salary, and he’s not paying local property taxes (unless a Belgian businessman has bought land in south-western Maine and I didn’t hear about it.)

However, to be fair, said supermarket does employ many Maine people, and they pay good wages. The working conditions are very good. I would still work for them . . . and then spend my paycheck at Kniffin’s and Goodwill and Plummer’s Hardware. I’d call it “operation reverse money drain”…sucking money from the conglomerate and dispersing it to the local businesses via my purchasing power.

As we head into the growing season, dear reader, I wish you all the best with your gardening, harvesting, and preparing of early crops. Peas. Spinach. Rhubarb. Strawberries. Don’t forget to visit your local farmer’s markets and roadside stands and berry farms. Consider locating local meat markets in your town or state. The prices may be a little higher, but consider the greater nutritional value. Eat less but gain fewer pounds while enjoying a nutrition-dense product that suports the local foodshed. It’s a win-win . . . Outside the Box.

Day 17: Teeny Shoes & Other Things You Don’t See Every Day

Miniature Shoes at Old Town Shoe & Luggage

Dear Reader:

On Sunday, the Teen and Hubby and I went back to Alexandria, Virginia to while away a sultry late afternoon and snap some pictures of the historic Old Town neighborhood. The Teen and I took the Metro Blue Line to the King Street stop at the top of King near Diagonal Street. Hubby chose to ride to Alexandria on his bike going south on the Mount Vernon Trail.

Vine-Covered Pergola

The top of King St. is more “modern highrise” than “quaint Colonial,” but both the Teen and myself were drawn to this pretty pergola at the intersection. A few tables and chairs had been placed beneath the shade, and the Teen commented, “You only see nice things like this in a city.”

I replied, “It’s pretty, isn’t it.” Outside, I was nonchalant. Inside, I was secretly doing a happy-dance because my off-spring was finally letting go of her resentment and instead showing some interest in the scene around us. Not only noticing, but comparing and analyzing similarities and differences between the places she knows and the places she is discovering.

Used Book Store on King Street

I wanted to pop into the Book Bank bookstore, but we were supposed to be meeting Hubby half-way down King Street. A couple of twenty-somethings exited the store as we strolled past. The Teen said, “Get a whiff of that book-smell!” Then she went back to practicing texting on her cell phone and walking at the same time.

Town Houses

The buildings here are a mixture of retail, office space, and housing–one of the major signs of a vital, thriving, workable community neighborhood.

Horse Statue in Old Truck

The Teen was full of playful quips this afternoon. She saw this horse statue in the back of a vintage truck in front of the Hard Times Cafe and said, “You don’t see that every day.” Indeed, you do not.

Old Town Storefronts

Painted in vibrant or subdued paint, the various storefronts and shop doors lend color and interest to the street scene. I was struck, once again, how much more you can see on foot than on wheels. There is no better way to get to know a place than by walking it.

Old Town Movie Theater

The Old Town theater was built in 1914 and used to have a vaudeville stage on the first floor and a dance hall on the second. Now it shows movies on two screens and fits right in with the restaurants and shops on this end of the street.

Market Square

The closer we get to the Potomac, the quainter and more colonial the street becomes. The shops and restaurants seem a little more narrow, the sidewalks a little more crowded with cafe tables. We stopped at Market Square to take pictures in front of the fountain and listen to a street performer thumping away on his drums.

Market Square Fountain

There is a farmer’s market here on Saturdays, so I will have to come back again to pick up some weekend goodies and to browse that book store, too. I also want to find a locally-owned coffee shop. I’m becoming too dependent on Starbucks grande iced mocha coffees.

Visitor's Center

Here’s the Visitor’s Center where you can sign up for guided tours or pick up materials for self-guided walking tours of the notable historic buildings in the Old Town neighborhood. You often see guides dressed in colonial clothes standing with a group of tourists here. A bunch were about to go on a “graveyard” tour when we snapped this picture.

A Typical Street View

We strolled down the lower end of King Street toward the waterfront.

Waterfront Plaza

Down on the plaza overlooking the Potomac, people sat on benches or fed the ducks or listened to the street performers or watched a couple artists sketching portraits. Standing at the railing, we caught glimpses of huge catfish opening their wide mouths around pieces of bread thrown into the water. The sight of the boats bobbing at the moorings made me homesick for Maine.

Waterfront Restaurant and Boat Tour Area

As the sun was about to set, we knew it was time to walk back to the Metro station.

Sailboat

Hubby picked up his bike and sped off down the path toward home. The Teen and I took a last look at the water, and I put away my camera for the day. Instead of viewing King Street through a lens on the walk back, I decided to simply absorb the vitality and hominess and beauty of this wonderful section of the city.

Old Town Alexandria Public Square

Days 11 & 12: Concert In The Park

Blue Hat

INDEPENDENCE DAY

Dear Reader:

Ah, the time-honored tradition of an outdoor concert down at the local park. A white gazebo sits in the center of the square. The town band plays John Philip Sousa marches while the townspeople laze around on blankets and eat supper out of wicker baskets. Kids run around with sparklers in hand. People snooze and read and talk and maybe even dance around a bit when the trumpet player really gets his groove on. Dusk falls, and if it is Independence Day, the sky lights up with fireworks while everyone oohs and aahs and declares later that this was the best display yet.

Quite a Crowd

Now take that image, blow it up about 7000 times, and you’ll have a rough idea what the atmosphere on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building was like on Monday afternoon and evening. We arrived at the National Mall around 3:10 pm, lugging our bags of water, snacks, books, and sunscreen, and made our way up toward the Capitol building. The gates opened at 3:00 pm, so we thought we’d get there in plenty of time to find a great spot looking right down the mall toward the Washington Monument.

Unfortunately, many people got there ahead of us, and the prized center spots were taken. We walked past the Capitol steps and onto the lawn and spread our blanket out to the left of center.

Water Bottle

Water was a necessity as we had a four-hour wait ahead of us. All around us groups of people talked and played cards and read and napped and . . . sweated. Once in awhile the tiniest breath of air would waft over the lawn, cooling us all just enough to keep us sane. The couple next to us where obviously pros. They brought nothing but two lawn chairs, set them up, and then left for three hours. They came back with trays of hot-dogs and good humor, and I suspect they had found a nice, air-conditioned museum or pub in which to while away the hours. We didn’t talk much, but I offered him my sunscreen when he mentioned to his date that he should have brought some. Later, he pointed out Steve Martin’s bright white hair walking through the crowd.

Patriotic Manicure

We sat in the heat and read. I’m in the middle of this wonderful memoir by Phyllis Theroux, THE JOURNAL KEEPER, one of the books I picked up in Adams Morgan the other day. The book is comprised of chunks of writing from the author’s journals over a six-year period of time and full of wisdom and keen observations about life and writing and taking care of a loved-one and friendship.

Theroux inspires on every page. For example, “The air was full of dampness, chestnut smoke, and stars, with the soft verges of grass along the road smelling of nipitella mint and rain. What I need is some poetry to let me rub the moments between my fingers and release the scent.” I love that!

M&M's

Of course we had snacks.

Capitol Fourth Stage

All the while, we looked down at the stage as preparations for the concert went on. The host, Jimmy Smits, came on and practiced his opening lines. We practiced clapping for him. The clouds filled back in, relieving the heat. The event organizer announced a warning about the canon testing. Ten minutes later, BOOM! BOOM!

The canons were working just fine.

Dusk fell, cameras zipped into place, and the organizer said the concert was about to begin. Energy zipped through the crowd. People stood and cheered and waved flags. Countdown. We went live. Cameras panned around the crowd. People whooped and cheered.

We alternately stood and sat, danced and sang, laughed and cried (me, of course) as Steve Martin, Josh Groban, Jordan Sparks, Little Richard, Matthew Morrison, and others took the stage. The most moving moment for me was when the crowd stood together singing God Bless America.

Thousands of people from all walks of life joining together to sing a common song.

Beautiful.

As the symphony played, the fireworks went off behind the Washington Monument. The colors lit up the sky.
The photos didn’t come out but click my YouTube video to watch a thirty-second video of the fireworks I shot with my camera.

When it was over, we walked back to the Metro, the streets crowded so tightly I was afraid I would lose Teen and Hubby in the crush of people. We made it, though, and looking out the window of the train, saw some fireworks off in the distance beyond the Potomac.

Happy Birthday, U.S.A.!

From the Farmer's Market

FARMER’S MARKET AND TRIP TO THE ALLERGIST

Yesterday was Crystal City farmer’s market day. Determined to have a local meal, I bought pork and raw cheese, a very generous quart of fresh green beans, a sweet pepper, cherry tomatoes, some cucumbers, and a pint of luscious apricots. The pork, while delicious, was half bone and fat, and I ended up with two pieces of meat the size of a deck of playing cards for ten dollars. The green beans were a much better deal at four dollars for over a quart. The cheese was yummy, a sharp-tasting baby swiss.

Healthy Local Dinner

I also braved the public transportation system to get up to the Ballston-MU area for a visit to my summer allergist. I took the blue line to Rosslyn, hopped on the orange line to Ballston-MU, and then waited for the #51 Metrobus to take me up to the hospital. The area near the hospital is full of glass-sided highrise office buildings and has a downtown business district feel to it. Once you leave downtown, the office buildings make way to nice, family homes near the hospital. My allergist’s office was easy to find, and everything there went as expected. I only had to ask a question about where to catch the bus back to the Metro station, and I returned home feeling a renewed confidence in my ability to get around an unfamiliar place.

Today we are going to check out the Museum of the American Indian. Thanks for reading!

Day 5: History . . . Naturally

View from 2nd floor rotunda

Dear Reader:

Another hot and sunny day in D.C. After a morning workout, the Teen and I ventured over to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History to see the lions and tigers and bears and . . . the Hope Diamond.

What every girl "hopes" for

The Hope Diamond has a fascinating–if mythologized–history. It is said to bring bad luck to its possessors, possibly because it was stolen from an idol of the Indian goddess, Sita. According to at least one website, Sita is a goddess of tolerance, so I have a hard time believing she would curse anyone who possessed her pretty blue stone, but there you have it.

Before making our way to the second floor where we found the blue gem, we went on safari in the Hall of Mammals, where we saw some animals that were quite familiar . . .

Moose

. . . and some that were not. This tiny antelope is just a little bit larger than a rabbit.

Kirk's Dikdik

Many photographs later, we took a trip back in evolutionary time in the Hall of Human Origins. Here we viewed some cave paintings, a prehistoric flute, and skulls and replicas of Neanderthals and other human ancestors. We learned that all modern humans share 99.9% common DNA. In fact, the concept of “different races” is an idea that is facing extinction. The museum is offering an exhibit and programming called Race: Are We So Different? I encourage you to click HERE and see what science tells us about our concepts of race.

Replica of cave painting

For me, throwing away our old schema of “different races” and embracing a schema of “one human race” is a powerful step in the right direction. Maybe once we get that roadblock out of the way, we can begin in earnest the hard work of maintaining our environment, reducing population, developing renewable energy systems that work as well or better than the old petroleum economy.

The “Humans Change the World” area of the “What Does It Mean to be Human” exhibit was a powerful reminder of how we humans affect our environment. Between 1959 and 1999, the human population doubled from 3 billion to 6 billion people. If we keep up at this pace, we will be at 9 billion by 2042. Can you imagine the consequences of that on our planet? On our food and water resources? On health care resources?

Prehistoric flute

Talk about “paying the piper!”

Leaving prehistoric humans behind, the Teen and I headed upstairs to see the diamond, the “bone” exhibit, and a beautiful gallery of nature photography–the Nature’s Best Photography Awards 2010. These were fabulous photos. My favorite was Land Crab by Cristina Mittermeier from right here in Washington, D.C. If you go to the link underlined above, you can view the photos. Better yet, send in some of your own great nature photography and enter this year’s contest.

"Four-sided Pyramid" by Sol Lewitt

I had to stop by the outdoor sculpture garden beside the museum. This one is directly across from the Hirshhorn’s. There are free outdoor jazz concerts in this garden on Friday nights. Hope to catch one or two before the end of the summer.

Farmer's Market Booty

Since the Crystal City Farmer’s Market didn’t open until three p.m. I waited for Hubby to get so we could bike together over to 18th street to see what was being offered. Jackpot! Farmers were selling everything from goat cheese to eggs to heirloom tomatoes to cherries to basil to bison. We settled for some veggies and a loaf of honey-wheat bread and some super-sweet Queen Ann cherries from a nice guy from Pennsylvania. When I told him we were from Maine, he said, “You guys are probably just getting into strawberries up there.” “Ayuh,” I said, and I felt a momentary pang of sadness to be missing out on strawberries from Dole’s Farm.

Somehow, though, ripe tomatoes in June helped ease the pain.

Not sure what’s happening on Day 6 other than trying to find my allergist’s office by Metro and bus. Maybe a trip to the local library? A dip in the pool? Doing some sketching/writing in the park? Tune in tomorrow to find out what we did . . . Outside the Box in D.C.