Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Your Carbon Footprint

Treating the earth kindly is important for a Black Hills Locavore. There is much talk today about our 'carbon footprint'.

A carbon footprint is a "measure of the impact human activities have on the environment in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide". It is meant to be useful for individuals, nations and organizations to conceptualize their personal (or organizational) impact in contributing to global warming. A conceptual tool in response to carbon footprints are carbon offsets, or the mitigation of carbon emissions through the development of alternative projects such as solar or wind energy or reforestation. The carbon footprint is a subset of the ecological footprint, which includes all human demands on the biosphere.

This is an interesting site that will help you calculate your own carbon footprint. Be prepared to have what you pay for utilities handy.

While I didn't go through the whole process (but I will), there were some questions that relate to eating locally that can reduce each of our carbon footprints including:
  • Being a vegetarian (difficult in South Dakota with our fantastic beef/bison and lamb!)
  • Buy organic food (more and more options all the time; even better -- grow your own)
  • Buy food that is in season (since our growing season is short -- maybe freezing and canning summer produce are options?)
  • Buy only second hand clothes (Being second hand is second nature to me! Sweet Repeat in Spearfish and yard sales are okay by me most of the time.)
  • Buy things with very little or no packaging (Depends on what we buy but something to think about. Bringing a cloth bag when buying groceries could be one example.)
  • Buy second hand furniture and appliances (Not sure about this one. Second hand furniture -- maybe; appliances -- not sure)
  • Recycle or compost everything (We are exploring recycling options in Spearfish that cost $14 per month. I could compost but need to set that up.)
  • Focus on recreation that is zero carbon like cycling and walking (This probably means I should pull my clubs instead of taking a cart!)
  • Do not own a car (Some could do this -- driving to Rapid City which is 50 miles each way would be tough but we could still think about our shopping 'trips and errands' and be smarter about that. Mike could ride his bike to work in the fall!)

These are great ways to reduce our carbon footprint. If we all made little changes, the net result could be a big impact.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Locavore Eating -- Eat what you have!

One of the purposes of this experiment is to remind people to THINK about what they are eating and making smarter choices. Again, I am reminded of the vast quantities of food I have socked away in our house.

This weekend, I scrounged through my freezer and found BBQ pheasant, roasted red peppers I had made last summer, duck stock ice cubes and chopped peppers. I went to the pantry and found green lentils, white rice and wild rice. And I have a slew of spices -- some that I tossed this weekend because they were older than 'several' years. Really we should all toss much of our spices!

Now it's true, I have probably been a locavore even before I heard the word by personal choice. I love gardening, I love to buy food from gardeners and ranchers and local food just tastes better. Cooking is a favorite pasttime and I love to 'make my own' when I can. With this experiment, it's got me thinking about the great benefits of eating local as well as shopping in your own cupboard BEFORE going to the store. This has been an added benefit.

So over the weekend, I made a recipe called Kitcheri which is an Indian lentil / rice / spices dish. This is so delicious and easy to make. I added the pheasant and had a complete meal. Again, shopping AT HOME is a smart move.

Over the weekend, I went back to the Farmer's Market in Spearfish and bought eggs from Sturgis, zucchini and peas from Spearfish (I think), tomatoes from Newell and these pickled jalapenos from ND. Close to local and really hot and fantastic. I also got another loaf of that oatmeal bread. From Runnings we were lucky to get two pints of fresh raspberries -- $12 is a high price to pay but they will only be here for a short period. And they are grown a few blocks away. Now that defines a Black Hills Locavore!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Gardening in the Black Hills

Having a garden is an important part of being a Black Hills Locavore. It's true that our growing season in Western South Dakota is short so you really have to work to take full advantage of it.
Here's my garden today. Most of the bounty now is herbs which I love to cook and season with. That's mint to the left and some volunteer huge sunflowers. I do plan to try roasting sunflower seeds this year.
We continue to 'find' things at home going along with my rules. I've learned that the Farmer's Market in Spearfish sells local eggs for $3 a dozen from Sturgis. Still no luck on the local dairy products so we bought organic half and half (Safeway brand -- $3.59 quart) this morning. The important part is that because we are focused on local foods or organic we find we are not spending as much with every trip. This is good and helps our carbon footprint all the more.
This weekend is Festival in the Park in the City Park in Spearfish. We are volunteering and look forward to seeing the art and hopefully finding some new local goodies.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Y2K Food

This seems to be taking a different spin than being 'just' a Black Hills Locavore. So much of this first week has been focusing on eating things that we already have. I don't know about you and your family but we have a TON of food socked away in our pantry, freezer, cupboards and in our basement. We even have Y2K food when we thought the world would end when the ball dropped on 2000. Crazy, yes. But we have quite a bit of freeze dried food that I really have not looked at, well, since nothing happened with 2000! It does however, have an expiration date of 2010 but fits in nicely with my rules.

My garden is looking great with quite a few herbs really going to town. In fact, I brought some mint and tarragon to Roma's in case Leigh wanted to try something new. It's fun to share!

I also visited Staple and Spice in Rapid City and picked up some quinoa flour which is an ingredient in a gfcf pizza crust recipe. On Sunday, I made Jack some muffins with a new recipe and they were fantastic! Often with wheat free, dairy free, soy free, artificial free baking, there is this weird aftertaste. But not these muffins! Of course, Jack already ate them all so I will be making them again. I'll share the recipe later.

We did run out of milk and have yet to find a local dairy so we purchased some organic non-fat milk at Safeway (the O brand) -- $5.79 on sale. That's more than the regular milk but I figured if we only buy local or organic or just eat stuff at home, there will be some savings. Or maybe not. I felt good about it anyway.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Local Farmer's Markets

Saturday found us exploring some local markets and veggie stands in the Spearfish area. I know, it is a bit early but it was the first time I had an opportunity to get out there.

We first went to the Good Earth health food store on Main Street. This is a beautiful store with high ceiling and hard wood floors. Being that our son is on a special diet, we are very familiar with the store but this was the first time we looked at products from a local angle. They do not have a website (yet).

I found strawberries grown locally by Moonrise Mountain Enterprises in Spearfish www.localharvest.org/farms/M1609! This was a good find especially since there was only one pint container. I snapped it up. What made me laugh was that these are tiny berries -- most maybe an inch long. Compared to the gi-normous strawberries from Watsonville, CA, these looked liked mouse sized. But don't let their size fool you -- they were sweet and delicious. $3.75 for a pint. I have some of these berries in my garden too but only got about 10. There were a few other items in the produce section that had local growers names on them. This is cool and a good option but I prefer to buy as 'direct' as possible.

Then we headed down to the Farmers Market which shares property with one of the finest microbreweries, Crow Peak Brewery www.crowpeakbrewery.com. I have so much to say about Jeff's fantastic beers (and I am sure you will be hearing about them this summer) but our focus on this visit was to check out the the produce. I was really delighted to find lettuce, tomatoes, Kohlrabi and homemade bread. The lettuce is grown right in town on Ray Runnings (on Evans Lane) land and I saw it being picked this morning. Not sure where the tom's and kohlrabi came from. I'll asked next time. The honey whole wheat bread comes from Wild Goose Bakery http://www.wildgoosebakery.com/ which is the same bakery I got my bread from last week at the Rapid City Farmers Market. I've read on their site that you can order a certain type of bread and pick it up on Market Days. Nice.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Rapid City Farmers Market

These are volunteer sunflowers in my garden. I am going to try and roast later this summer.

Today, my work lunch meeting was canceled so I was in search of a 'local' lunch. At Family Thrift (that used to be Albertson's), I asked if they carried any local produce. The gal just gave me a blank stare and said that 'there's a farmers market somewhere in town". Then I rephrased it asking if THEY (Family Thrift) carried anything grown local and she got it and said, "Oh no, we don't do that". Here's the deal. We need to keep asking that question of all food markets, big and small.

The Rapid City Farmers Market is on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday off of Omaha where the fish sculpture and sand volley ball courts are.

I was really excited to go to check out more local items. Well, it's a little early in the season but I was glad I stopped by because I bought some of the more delicious homemade bread. It was oatmeal bread. I got over there around 12:30pm and there were four stands. I saw the chalkboard listing different types of breads but the table was empty and the couple and their cute new baby were packing things up. I asked what he had left and when he said, "one loaf of oatmeal bread", I said, "I'll take it!". It was $4.00 and was a regular size loaf-pan loaf and really heavy. I couldn't wait to have it for lunch! The market opens at 9:00am and I am guessing they sell out quick. The next table had a great assortment of jams, spreads and jellies. I loved the jalapeno and jalapeno with habanera and would have bought some but they had food coloring in each. Next time I see the jam girl, I will ask her to consider making either without food coloring and I will buy it. It was hot and fantastic. She also had several live herb plants for sale and I bought a lime basil for $1.75 which really smells like lime. All of her basil looked very healthy so I may buy a few more plants. Mine are not looking too good in the garden.

The third table had more jams, some sewn potholders and the fourth offered meats with no hormones or drugs. Cool but I did not have a cooler and I have a freezer full of beef from the quarter we purchased a couple of months ago. Which BTW is from a local SD cow. Anyway, she also had pickled eggs which, well, I thought were a bit weird but when I got back in my car, I wished I had one to go with my bread. Oh, about the bread. It was not sliced so I just tore off a hunk of it and enjoyed it that way. It was heavy, flavorful and a little sweet. Fantastic!

This weekend we are going to head off to some of the local veggie stands and see what's happening there. I've seen signs for tomatoes and I think they are from the green house in Newell that does them hydroponically. Bring them on!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Do you realize how much food you already have in your house?

You may open your refrigerator, look in the cupboards, peek in the pantry and exclaim: There is nothing to eat!

When in reality, there is a ton to eat but it's just not what you might want at that moment. We all know this but it really hit me tonight as I was making dinner for myself.

I opened everything and then whined (to myself because no one was around) that there was nothing to eat. Then I remembered that I am a Black Hills Locavore and what I have in my house is like a gold mine, a treasure chest and something I shouldn't take for granted because when it's gone, it's gone.

So I made myself a big bowl of nonfat yogurt with a sliced mango, some Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal and a handful of sunflower seeds. There is one more mango left and mangoes do not grow in South Dakota. Cinnamon Toast Crunch will not be on the 'list either. BUT did you know that South Dakota is also sometimes referred to as the Sunflower state? I am in luck there. Now I just have to wait until later this summer. And seriously need to start looking for a local dairy!

Next time instead of seeing 'nothing to eat' -- look at it as a gold mine. When our cupboards are full, we are so blessed.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The last lemon

July 8, 2008

Here's my garden as of June 3. That's mint on the left -- peppermint, spearmint and chocolate mint. I thought mint wouldn't make it through a South Dakota winter. I was wrong.

The garden includes strawberries, various tomato and pepper plants, celery, lettuce, radishes and a lot of herbs which I love to cook with -- chives, mint, oregano, tarragon, thyme, chervil, cilantro, lemon balm and lemon verbena and lavender. Some are for eating -- others just for smelling! When I planted this in June, I did not consider how important it might become.

There are still nectarines in the refrigerator and for dinner, I made salmon which we already had as well. I did, however, add a local flavor of using tarragon, lettuce, chives and chervil for our salad. I put two huge sprigs of tarragon in with the salmon along with lemon then wrapped in foil and cooked for 15 minutes at 425. Really delicious. That was my last lemon! Not a lot of citrus in the Black Hills.

I also had some bulgar in the freezer with some roasted tomatoes from last years garden so we had those too. If I had not started this, I may not have even thought to look for the bulgar. So I think that's good.

First thing on the list is finding a local dairy. We are almost out of milk.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Starting Off -- What about coffee?

Monday, July 7

It's funny that when you start something new, there is excitement about what lies ahead. That's how I feel right now as I officially start my experiment. I am not sure what the financial result will be -- will we save money, spend more money, keep things the same? That will bring about interesting thoughts and ideas, I am sure.

For day one, I see it's going to be easier as long as we have food in the house but I am now very thoughtful about the choices I make. I started a list of common breakfast foods that I need to source out locally. A creature of habit, my breakfast usually includes oatmeal, raisins or fruit, nuts, coffee, sugar and cream. So what about coffee? Very important for many, including yours truly. Okay, one of my rules is looking for organic, fair trade options but already that seems like a cop out.

Because I work in 50 miles away, I plan to stop by Sam's Club on the way home which would be a typical shopping trip. I ask Mike what else we need beside detergent and a few items for our son. Mike says, "Oh yeah, get a bag of the medium tail off shrimp". Just like that! I just stare. He then says, "I guess shrimp really isn't local food, is it?" His enthusiasm is already waining and it's just day one!

One thing about buying local is that you are not as tempted to put something else not on your list into your grocery cart. This worked at Sam's Club as there is not much local anything going on there that I could see. I did read that Walmart plans to start carrying local produce and am interested to see how that will work. I am not sure how I feel about that yet.

Coffee was on my list and I first sought out organic coffee at Sam's and remembered Dark Canyon Coffee on Deadwood Ave. which is right on my way home! Eureka! I stopped by right before they closed and bought a pound of Highlander Grogg for $12.50. Comparing this to the Sam's Member Mark coffee of 2.5 pounds for about the same price, I am thinking we could be spending more. BUT, the coffee shop smelled sooo good, they were very friendly and they put the coffee in a cute yellow bag. It was the experience that I enjoyed. Is that worth more than double the price? We will see.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Vive La Locavore in the Black Hills

These are chives. I can eat these because they are in my garden and well, they are good. Even the purple flowers are edible which may come in handy as I learn what it's like to be a Black Hills Locavore.

What is a locavore you may ask?

The word locavore is something new and defines someone who eats LOCALLY. Locally can be defined in many ways. Some people say it's within a days drive or 100 miles or within their town. For me, I am using the 100 mile parameter to define my locavorism. With new words, you can make up words like that.

There are many reasons that someone chooses to eat locally. The price of gas to get places to buy food, the cost in both fuel and air pollution to get that tomato trucked from Mexico to South Dakota in winter, wanting to support local farmers and, frankly, food that is grown locally doesn't have far to go and usually tastes better. Sometimes it's more expensive though but when you think of the whole process it may be slightly more expensive in the short run but in the long run it's a better choice for the earth, the farmer and the consumer.

On Monday, July 7, 2008, I will embark on my Black Hills Locavore experiment and here are 'my rules':

1. Search out food and drink that is grown, raised or 'put together' within 100 miles from Spearfish. For example, Crow Peak Brewery makes their beer on site in Spearfish with products that are grown elsewhere. This works under my rules because, well, they are my rules.

2. I will try and incorporate the whole family in this but our son is on a restrictive diet and only is able to eat a few items already. We get most of his food from our local health food store and will continue to consider local options. Hubbie Mike says he'll try too.

3. If there are some items that are not grown, raised or made in our area, we will search out organic, fair trade products when possible.

4. Anything that is already in our house is fair game and available. No need to be wasteful and throw out my turmeric and that Napa Cabernet but when it's gone, it's gone!

Sometimes I wonder why I would willingly restrict food choices. It may seem silly but I hope to learn more about my local food options and share these with others interested in supporting our local growers, ranchers and community. I read somewhere that for every dollar that is spent locally, it circles around and results in three dollars of revenue for the town it's spent in. I am not sure I understand that but I am willing to be open to the possibilities this experiment will create.

I expect to explore local food sources and report on my experience. This will be fun!