Land for Tomorrow: A coalition to guard North Carolina’s natural and cultural resources

I ran into a link to this site over at Hillbilly Savants…Go check them out. Maybe they can keep the North Carolina Mountain Dream alive until I get there.

Land for Tomorrow is a statewide partnership of conservationists, farmers, business leaders, local governments, health professionals, and community groups urging the General Assembly to provide $1 billion over five years to protect the state’s land, water, and special places before they are irreversibly lost.

Protecting North Carolina’s critical land will provide:

  • Clean drinking water
  • Clean air
  • Thriving farms and forests
  • Places to hunt, fish and watch wildlife
  • Places to exercise and enjoy the beauty of North Carolina
  • Less damage from flooding
  • Places of historic significance and ecological value
  • Preservation of North Carolina’s natural and cultural heritage
  • Strengthened communities
  • Jobs and a sustainable economy

Source: Land for Tomorrow: A coalition to guard North Carolina’s natural and cultural resources

Local Food – Mountain Style

Yesterday I began reading “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver. It is seldom that I am captured on the preface by the writing style of an author the way this book captured me…

We wanted to live in a place that could feed us: where rain falls, crops grow, and drinking water bubbles right up from the ground.

That is the way my thinking started when my North Carolina Mountain Dream first began to manifest itself. I had just returned from a Colorado trip and decided that I wanted mountains round me when I settled into “retirement”. But the one thing my trip brought home was the relative dryness of the West. As my dream began to form, I realized the Blue Ridge Mountains I had visited for the first time a couple of years earlier were calling. Research on the internet led to the discovery of Valle Crucis and the surrounding area. Once found, it was the story of the place that kept me returning and exploring until initial dram was realized and I brought the family into the mountains to try and share my dream, my vision of a future.

In line with my reading of “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”, here’s the Watauga County Farmers’ Market announcement for this week. If you are actually living my dream, head on over and support your local farmer. It’ll help you, too.

Watauga County Farmers’ Market is open on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. We are at the Horn in the West, turn next to First Citizens Bank on Highway 105 Extension and go to the top of the hill. We will be there rain or shine!

All the good things of summer are becoming available. Farmers will have fresh sweet corn, ripe tomatoes, and there will plenty of fresh cut flowers to decorate the table. Bill Moretz will be harvesting the first of the cantaloupes from his garden, and there will be watermelons as well to help with the summer heat.

Joan Knox of sourdough bread fame is announcing her new bread mixes. She will have 6 varieties available. The mixes come with complete instructions. They are so easy any “sweetheart” can bake fresh bread. Joan will also have no sugar added fried apple pies for customers who have to watch their sugar intake.

The first ever Bamboo Valley Farm Festival will be held this Friday, August 3 at Hickory Lane Gardens. Activities will include live music and a barbecue. Proceeds will benefit the Blue Ridge Land Trust, the High Country Conservancy, and the National Committee for the New River. Call 964-5189 for more information.

The 2007 High Country Farm Tour & Garden Tour is also this weekend, and you can save on admission by buying your button in advance at the Watauga County Farmers’ Market this Saturday. Volunteers are still needed, and volunteers will receive a free button to take the tour on the day they are not volunteering. For more information or to sign up as a volunteer, contact Peggy at 919-542-2402. Volunteer training will take place at this Saturday’s market.

Source: Watauga County Farmers’ Market Message

Missing the Mountains

Last year at this time we were on Nettles Knob south of Valle Crucis making our preparations for the Summer Games on Grandfather Mountain. The one thing that we missed because of the games was the Watauga County Farmers Market. It looks like we’ll be missing it again this years simply because we’ll be missing the mountains themselves this summer.

I do subscribe to Watauga County Farmers’ Market Message so at least I can keep up with what is happening in the mountains I dream of. This weeks message contains this news…

The Boone area has long been known for it’s unpredictable weather, and so far 2007 has done it’s part to keep the tradition. Our farmers have once again proven themselves to be up to the challenge, and a wider variety of fresh food shows up every week. One thing you can count on, the market will be open Wednesday and Saturday mornings – Rain or Shine!

We will be celebrating Independance Day at the market this Saturday, helped along with the music of a certain local jug band. You won’t want to miss it!

Bill Moretz is planning to harvest the first of his eggplants this week. He expects to offer two varieties to start: Charming with purple stripes and Megal which is a dark purple French variety. Bill will also have fresh raspberries and blueberries at the market. Roger and Don Owens will have more of their homegrown Mountain Spring tomatoes to offer along with plenty of cucumbers and other garden offerings. James Wilkes expects to have fresh cut sunflowers ready for Saturday. James will begin to harvest his yellow squash and maybe some zucchini.

Local cooks are using the bounty in their recipes as well, and Rebecca Kaenzig will be preparing individual blueberry and pecan pies for you to enjoy along with her fresh brewed coffee.

Daylilies are popular with collectors, and many vendors at Watauga County Farmers’ Market have a collection of their own. The coming weeks will bring flowers of different shapes and sizes in reds, purples, yellows in every combination. These hardy plants thrive in our climate in every situation but full shade. If shade is what you have, stop by and talk to Erik Selvey about holly ferns, Japanese painted ferns, and many other plants suitable for less sunny spots. Erik will also have blooming butterfly bushes and blue pincushion plants this Saturday.

The interior of your house can reflect the colors of the season as well, and Megan Long can help with hand crafted soy based scented candles decorated with geometric shapes or North Carolina landscapes from the mountains to the beach.

Buttons for the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association 2007 High Country Farm & Garden Tour will be sold at Watauga County Farmers’ Market up until August 4th, the first day of the tour. This year’s tour features 3 new farms, and 6 of the farms are vendors at the market! The online map of farms is still being updated, but you can test it at http://cfsa.highcountryorganicfarms.org/node/4. Buttons are also available for sale online at http://www.carolinafarmstewards.org/.

You can visit their website at Watauga County Farmers’ Market for directions and updated info.

Missing the Mountains

Last year at this time we were on Nettles Knob south of Valle Crucis making our preparations for the Summer Games on Grandfather Mountain. The one thing that we missed because of the games was the Watauga County Farmers Market. It looks like we’ll be missing it again this years simply because we’ll be missing the mountains themselves this summer.

I do subscribe to Watauga County Farmers’ Market Message so at least I can keep up with what is happening in the mountains I dream of. This weeks message contains this news…

The Boone area has long been known for it’s unpredictable weather, and so far 2007 has done it’s part to keep the tradition. Our farmers have once again proven themselves to be up to the challenge, and a wider variety of fresh food shows up every week. One thing you can count on, the market will be open Wednesday and Saturday mornings – Rain or Shine!

We will be celebrating Independance Day at the market this Saturday, helped along with the music of a certain local jug band. You won’t want to miss it!

Bill Moretz is planning to harvest the first of his eggplants this week. He expects to offer two varieties to start: Charming with purple stripes and Megal which is a dark purple French variety. Bill will also have fresh raspberries and blueberries at the market. Roger and Don Owens will have more of their homegrown Mountain Spring tomatoes to offer along with plenty of cucumbers and other garden offerings. James Wilkes expects to have fresh cut sunflowers ready for Saturday. James will begin to harvest his yellow squash and maybe some zucchini.

Local cooks are using the bounty in their recipes as well, and Rebecca Kaenzig will be preparing individual blueberry and pecan pies for you to enjoy along with her fresh brewed coffee.

Daylilies are popular with collectors, and many vendors at Watauga County Farmers’ Market have a collection of their own. The coming weeks will bring flowers of different shapes and sizes in reds, purples, yellows in every combination. These hardy plants thrive in our climate in every situation but full shade. If shade is what you have, stop by and talk to Erik Selvey about holly ferns, Japanese painted ferns, and many other plants suitable for less sunny spots. Erik will also have blooming butterfly bushes and blue pincushion plants this Saturday.

The interior of your house can reflect the colors of the season as well, and Megan Long can help with hand crafted soy based scented candles decorated with geometric shapes or North Carolina landscapes from the mountains to the beach.

Buttons for the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association 2007 High Country Farm & Garden Tour will be sold at Watauga County Farmers’ Market up until August 4th, the first day of the tour. This year’s tour features 3 new farms, and 6 of the farms are vendors at the market! The online map of farms is still being updated, but you can test it at http://cfsa.highcountryorganicfarms.org/node/4. Buttons are also available for sale online at http://www.carolinafarmstewards.org/.

You can visit their website at Watauga County Farmers’ Market for directions and updated info.

Friday Morning Muse

For all who came by looking for these musings yesterday, I am sorry for the lack of focus. I find myself in a position of having other things on my mind at the moment. Right now I am still processing. I am sure I will figure this out shortly, until then I’ll try to at least put something out here so you will know I haven’t dropped completely of the edge of the earth.

I did notice yesterday that Kate over at Cider Press Hill is thinking of taking on a new challenge. I do not envy her if she does. Living in Texas we seem to have big commutes, not so much because we try but more because they just happen. The 50 gallons of gas per person per year part of the challenge…Not gonna happen here unless I give up the job and go to hanging around and growing all of my own food. I am going to mull this challenge over a while and try to formulate a plan(?) of attack…

Back to my regularly schedule weather muse…The temperature this morning is a rather mild 69 degrees and the humidity is in the soupy 95% range. Texas mornings are great for showers…oops, there goes my daily water allotment. Speaking of water I see this weeks US News has their cover story on the subject. I have to say the headline is grim but probably true…”Why You Should Worry About Water…How this diminishing resource will determine the future of where and how we live.” I haven’t read the article yet, and they are speaking to the choir here, but I’ll be checking it out this weekend.

It’s getting late so I better go check the morning’s emails…I’ll let you know if anything is interesting…

I always find Eugene Robinson’s columns interesting but the following paragraph from today’s just sings…

When I look at what the next president will have to deal with, I don’t see much that can be solved with just a winning smile, a firm handshake and a ton of resolve. I see conundrums, dilemmas, quandaries, impasses, gnarly thickets of fateful possibility with no obvious way out. Iraq is the obvious place he or she will have to start; I want a president smart enough to figure out how to minimize the damage. – Eugene Robinson

“Gnarly thickets of fateful possibility with no obvious way out.” Now isn’t that one of the most descriptive sentences of world conditions you have ever read? If you have a moment, go read the rest…But, after 8 years of dumbed down expectations I don’t hold out much hope for Eugene’s ideal President.

Happy Birthday Norma Jean…

Well, it’s time to head to work…Catch ya later…

Back Early

My hiatus was shorter than promised. Now I am back, on light duty for the weekend with a sore throat and permission to eat ice cream…What more could a overweight middle aged man ask for? Before anyone asks, I have been having a persistent hoarseness over the last few months and the wife finally convinced me to have it checked out. The ENT specialist found some very tiny lesions on my vocal cords. Today he did a slice and dice for a biopsy and we will get the results next week. Due to my weight and sleep apnia there was a very good chance that I would be spending the night. Turns out it wasn’t required, so I am home and under doctor’s order to take it easy, rest my throat, and enjoy some Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla.

While I am sitting here catching up on my reading I came across the following op-ed that reminded me of a story on the Pacifica Station here in Houston that I heard yesterday as I drove to my pre-op appointments.

Sometimes thinking small can get things done. To bring artificial light to an isolated village or refugee camp could require building an enormous hydroelectric dam, followed by laying hundreds of miles of cable. Or it could take the donation of a $10 solar flashlight.

As Will Connors and Ralph Blumenthal reported in The Times recently, the entrepreneur Mark Bent, through his company SunNight Solar, has developed and manufactured a solar-powered flashlight that gives up to seven hours of light, before recharging, and can last close to three years between battery replacements. The flashlight retails for around $20 in American stores, but corporate donors have gotten them for aid groups at half the price, a deep discount but still a profit for Mr. Bent.

Source: Lighting the Way – New York Times

Pacifica had Mark Bent on their program as his company is located here in Houston. His BOGO Light is amazing, and the distribution method is a work of art. BOGO stands for Buy One Give One, and for every light bought for $25 one light is delivered to Africa and distributed. Lights are also sold at discount to organizations for distribution around the world. And the amazing thing about these lights is they are ecofriendly.

It seems that the NY Times did an article on the lights earlier in the week that has generated an enormous amount of curiosity (and emails to Mark). From the Bogo Light website the following info was gleaned…

The BoGo Light is a scientific, eco-friendly breakthrough that is making an impact worldwide. From Cairo to Cape Town, from the Caribbean to the Amazon, it is improving the lives of individuals, families, and entire villages by replacing costly kerosene, candles, and disposable battery flashlights with an affordable, long lasting, solar flashlight.

Two billion people living in the developing world rely on kerosene lanterns, candles, and single-use battery flashlights for light at night. Not only are these options expensive, dangerous, and harmful to the environment, they also negatively impact health, education, and security.

From the radio yesterday and the company’s website it sound as if they are about to bust out. Mark Bent is a former US Diplomat having spent many years in Africa. They are partnered with the World Bank, and the UNHCR.

The Future – The task light is just the first step in our effort to change the world. Here are some of our exciting plans for the future.

  • We have nearly finished development of a room illumination system based on the same components as our task lights – a photovoltaic panel, double AA rechargeable batteries, and light emitting diodes.
  • Much of the developing world lacks access to clean water, so we will begin developing a solar powered water purification system.
  • Too many newborns in the developing world die from conditions easily preventable with proper lighting. We will shortly start researching and developing a solar powered light that can help newborns suffering from jaundice.
  • We want to help build a self-sustaining Africa: Africans helping Africans. To this end, our parent firm (SunNight Solar Enterprises) will partner with African small businesses and entrepreneurs to sell our products abroad.
  • We will continue to expand our present philanthropic efforts, supporting individual orphanages and schools in Africa, South America, and the Caribbean.

Looks like I am going to be investing in some solar lighting for my home…Why don’t you look into it yourself?

Later Folks…

Saturday Morning Web Wandering

I slept in a bit today and I have to go in to work this afternoon to take care of a project we ship tomorrow, but this morning after reading my email I went link wandering. Here are some of the things I found I feel I should pass along…

Somehow I didn’t keep up with the schedule for the return of Bill Moyers to PBS so I missed his documentary on “The Buying of the War”. Somehow the regular schedule for his new show on Friday had permeated what I call my brain, and the fact that the special would be on Wednesday didn’t…Oh well, I’m sure it will be replayed at some point.

In my wandering this morning I did stumble on a site that is new to me, COA News. This led to a link to an Amy Goodman interview with Bill Moyers on Democracy Now this week, which led me to this quote…

Bill Moyers – “I would like to be nice about it. I would like to be diplomatic about it. But the fact of the matter is there’s a cancer eating at the heart of democracy, and it’s money in politics. If free speech means you have to buy it, then only those who can afford it have free speech. And that’s contemptible.”

If you have the time the video is very good.

Source: Independent News Portal COAnews: coanews.org : How the U.S. News Media Helped the Bush Admin Sell the Case for War

The link that led me to CAO News was an article about Local Foods by Brita Belli of The Environmental Magazine.

Local is the New Organic

It used to be that organic was enough. That organic label told consumers their food was safer, fresher and more likely to have come from a small, reliable farm than a mega-farm-factory. Then, last year, Wal-Mart started selling organic products. Suddenly, organic didn’t seem so special.

Last fall, an outbreak of E. coli bacteria in California- grown organic spinach that left three dead and hundreds sick shone the national spotlight on the question of where food comes from. Most produce people eat, organic or not, travels thousands of miles to reach the shelves of their local supermarket. The journey exacts a huge toll on the environment as refrigerated tractor-trailers packed with green tomatoes and bananas crisscross the country, burning diesel and spewing pollution and greenhouse gas. And the potential for unsanitary handling and nutrient depletion exists at every stop along the way.

I have been linking to posts like this for some time. It appears that the local food “movement” is on the verge of reaching viral status around the country and the world. If we have many more food disaster’s like the ones from the last year where we are beginning to understand that the people we once thought were protecting the safety of our food aren’t, for whatever reason, we will have to protect ourselves. You can’t do that if the food you are buying come from across the country or around the world.

Source: Independent News Portal COAnews: coanews.org : Local is the New Organic

Sustainable Forestry?

I have been following Fred’s posts on sustainable forestry (links here and here)the past week or so, so when I say a link to the following on The Appalachian Voice Front Porch Blog it forced me to follow the story…to Greensboro, North Carolina. Eric Schaefer wrote the story for the News & Record there.

“Why not selectively cut?” I asked, “That way you leave the canopy at least partially intact and preserve some of the integrity of the forest as well as its beauty. There is not too much uglier than a fresh clear-cut.”
They explained to me that the problem was twofold: First, to a timber company, selective cutting means taking out the most desirable trees and leaving behind crooked trees or species that aren’t marketable. If you go that route, what you’re going to have left is a forest that is never going to produce marketable trees. Second, it is expensive and sometimes impossible to find someone to selectively cut.
Part of the job of the Forest Service is to produce forest management plans for private land owners, and Tate and Gibson told me they would gladly come up with any kind of plan the land owner wanted. If a land owner wanted forest that would be attractive to warblers and not cowbirds, woodpeckers and not starlings, trout lilies and not dandelions, they could do that, but if you want to have your land assessed as forest you have to have a timber production plan. And since they can’t recommend selective cutting because of the consequences for the future timber production, you must clear-cut to get a forest assessment.
A forest assessment, similar to an agricultural assessment, means that the land in question is assessed differently than residential property and can mean big tax savings. If farmers were assessed the same as other land owners, many of them would go out of business. So to ensure we don’t lose our farms, farmland is assessed differently and the same is true for forest land. However, you must be actively engaged in farming or forestry to get these assessments, and what that essentially means for forest land is periodic clear-cutting.

As you can read from the story, it’s easier for the lumber companies therefore

  • the Forest Service won’t recommend any other form of timber management.
  • without the Forest Service timber management you don’t get a forest assessment.
  • without the forest assessment you don’t get the lower tax rate.

What’s wrong with this picture? Essentially, the Forest Service is forcing landowners to have their forest clearcut. Go read the article…From here it looks like another holdover from the turn of the past century is still making it easy to strip the resources off the earth… This whole story reinforces what the Healing Harvest Forest Foundation is trying to do.

To first take out the injured and dying trees, the introduced species making room for the more valued trees to grow. And doing it in a way that doesn’t destroy what you leave is the very essence of sustainable. It just takes time and above all patience.

Source: News-Record.com – Greensboro, North Carolina: Sports: Clear-cutting question really isn’t clear cut

Spring brings thoughts of gardens…

“Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake.” – Wallace Stevens

Barbara Damrosch has a new column out. It seems to be timed to remind all the gardeners out there to start thinking tomatoes. Particularly the small pop’em in the mouth kind.

Cherry bombs, the exploding kind, must have been named after cherry tomatoes, the edible kind, which burst in your mouth with a charge of candy-sweet juices. Pop one in and another must follow, whether you’re raiding the shopping bag in your car or gorging your way down a garden row. The outdoor route is pure luxury, when the little orbs are warmed by the sun, their vitamin C at magnum force.

I can remember a time not many years ago when I couldn’t help but wonder at my lack of luck with these little ruby colored jewels of the garden. My plants were beautiful, flowered profusely, even set little green fruit in large numbers. For some reason though, there were never more than a handful of ripe tomatoes. Then one day I spotted youngest son in the garden by the cherry tomato plants, and as I watched he stripped all the ripe ones off the plant to eat right there in the garden. I quit wondering then and there and the next year I planted more plants…

Source: A Stalk on the Wild Side – washingtonpost.com

Reading Barbara’s column led me back to her and Eliot’s website
where I reread Eliot’s “Authentic Food – Authentic Farming” article from The Mother Earth News.

The label “organic” has lost the fluidity it used to hold for the growers more concerned with quality than the bottom line, and consumers more concerned with nutrition than a static set of standards for labeling. “Authentic” is meant to be the flexible term “organic” once was. It identifies fresh foods produced by local growers who want to focus on what they are doing, instead of what they aren’t doing. (The word authentic derives from the Greek authentes: one who does things for him or herself.)

Eliot goes on to lay out specific standards for the term “Authentic” to be used as a descriptive label for food products. He has spent a lot of time in the Organic movement and a lot of thought has gone into his standards. He closes the article with this statement…

“Authentic” growers are committed to supplying food that is fresh, ripe, clean, safe and nourishing. “Authentic” farms are genetically modified organism-free zones. I encourage all small growers with local markets who believe in exceptional food to use the word “Authentic” to mean “Beyond Organic.” With a definition that stresses local, seller-grown and fresh, there is little likelihood that large-scale marketers can steal this concept.

Go spend some time with Eliot and Barbara, it’ll be time well spent.
Source: “Authentic Food – Authentic Farming”

Spring brings thoughts of gardens…

“Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake.” – Wallace Stevens

Barbara Damrosch has a new column out. It seems to be timed to remind all the gardeners out there to start thinking tomatoes. Particularly the small pop’em in the mouth kind.

Cherry bombs, the exploding kind, must have been named after cherry tomatoes, the edible kind, which burst in your mouth with a charge of candy-sweet juices. Pop one in and another must follow, whether you’re raiding the shopping bag in your car or gorging your way down a garden row. The outdoor route is pure luxury, when the little orbs are warmed by the sun, their vitamin C at magnum force.

I can remember a time not many years ago when I couldn’t help but wonder at my lack of luck with these little ruby colored jewels of the garden. My plants were beautiful, flowered profusely, even set little green fruit in large numbers. For some reason though, there were never more than a handful of ripe tomatoes. Then one day I spotted youngest son in the garden by the cherry tomato plants, and as I watched he stripped all the ripe ones off the plant to eat right there in the garden. I quit wondering then and there and the next year I planted more plants…

Source: A Stalk on the Wild Side – washingtonpost.com

Reading Barbara’s column led me back to her and Eliot’s website
where I reread Eliot’s “Authentic Food – Authentic Farming” article from The Mother Earth News.

The label “organic” has lost the fluidity it used to hold for the growers more concerned with quality than the bottom line, and consumers more concerned with nutrition than a static set of standards for labeling. “Authentic” is meant to be the flexible term “organic” once was. It identifies fresh foods produced by local growers who want to focus on what they are doing, instead of what they aren’t doing. (The word authentic derives from the Greek authentes: one who does things for him or herself.)

Eliot goes on to lay out specific standards for the term “Authentic” to be used as a descriptive label for food products. He has spent a lot of time in the Organic movement and a lot of thought has gone into his standards. He closes the article with this statement…

“Authentic” growers are committed to supplying food that is fresh, ripe, clean, safe and nourishing. “Authentic” farms are genetically modified organism-free zones. I encourage all small growers with local markets who believe in exceptional food to use the word “Authentic” to mean “Beyond Organic.” With a definition that stresses local, seller-grown and fresh, there is little likelihood that large-scale marketers can steal this concept.

Go spend some time with Eliot and Barbara, it’ll be time well spent.
Source: “Authentic Food – Authentic Farming”