Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Summer Pleasures

Gosh, where to start? The chickens are fat and happy, the garden is blooming, and my ds sees it all with these new eyes, not missing a trick and helping me to take it all in. Every morning he wants to go to the tomato plants with me and point out the new growth: "baby 'mato, mommy 'mato, daddy 'mato" for the small, medium, and large fruits on the vine. He loves our evening walks when he spots the first firefly and encourages me to catch it. He then holds it on his little finger and lets it go. Then he looks at me and says, "More fireflies, mama!" and off I go to capture the next one.

We went to New York City last week and had a lovely time. We sublet a small apartment in the East Village which made a perfect jumping off point for many wonderful adventures. Mostly we appreciated the perfect microcosm of the city within a 4 block radius, where we spent most of our time shopping at the market for food, eating at restaurants and, best of all, playing in the Sesame Street-style, circa 1970's, playground. Seriously, we think we recognize it from one of ds's Sesame Street musical dvds. And there were none of the safeguards you see in modern playgrounds - the ground was hard asphalt, the juggle gyms consisted of towering metal ladders leading to slides with no protective covering. Ds insisted on climbing all by himself and standing *on top* of the small metal railing on the side of the slide. The swings seemed to go impossibly high and he would be happy only if we gave him a "Big Swing!" like the much older children. One of the best parts was a sprinkler, more like a fire hydrant spray, that all the kids would circle around. Ds would then quickly strip and join in the revelry - the perfect antidote for a hot, sunny day. Sadly, but perhaps not surprisingly, the other mamas at the park talked of plans this Fall for a complete tearing down and "renovation" of the park. I think we will come back next year to find a park that is safe, but perhaps not so fun.

One of our express intentions was to get to see and just hang out with family (my younger brother and the adored uncle) and friends. It was wonderful to have so much unstructured time in such a vital and enchanting city. Our big excursion out of our adopted neighborhood was a trip to the Bronx Zoo. Ds delighted in the camels (and even got to ride one!), lions, monkeys, and giraffes. We also got to ride the "bug carosel," and with many different insects to choose from, he chose, of course, the Pennsylvania Firefly. And that is the picture you see here.

In the last week I have been fairly obsessed with Barbara Kingsolver's new book, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," in which she documents a year of her family's adventure in eating only local food. Each family member chose one "luxury" from outside their community: coffee, dried spices and fruit, and chocolate. I think those would be my choices, as well. For dh it would be tea. For ds? He is not at all picky. And loves vegetables, especially those just-picked-from-the-farm. He would probably want more fresh fruit. Especially shudder-to-think-of-the-farm-workers-conditions grapes. Because, again, "organic" just means not-chemically-produced, and says nothing of the conditions on the farm. And because profit is always king for these producers, the conditions are probably pretty grim for workers and livestock.

As the zeitgeist would have it, earlier this Spring I already had begun to form my own closer relationship with the food I eat. The chickens arrived in March, I planted my vegetable garden in May, and we started to receive our weekly share from local, organic Full Sun Farm in June. After reading this book I've become practically evangelical. My first official conversion: no more apples from New Zealand (I love their Pink Ladys!) when I live next door to one of the apple capitals of the world. The case of the apple is an interesting one, I think. I would buy them from our local "whole foods" grocery and choose the organic variety I liked, not thinking much about from where they came. Barbara Kingsolver points out that eating organically grown produce is all fine and well, but if it comes from half way around the world, with the necessity of petroleum for transportation and refrigeration, it is like drinking a quart of motor oil with every bite. Yikes. Looking more closely at where my food comes from is very sobering. It seems that the emphasis in my store is very much on the organic, and not at all on the local. Again, we are not talking bananas here, but apples - and on my most recent visit there was not one local choice among the 6 varieties on display. Most were from Chile and New Zealand. There was only one domestic variety - from Washington! From now on I will *at least* choose local apples, acquired from our local farmers market. They will not be "certified organic" and mostly likely the best they could be is "low spray", but I am going to bank on them as, truly, the healthiest option for my diet and my planet. I'm not quite half-way through with the book. I'll let you know about any other future conversions.

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