Gaithersburg, Md Sunday, February 17, 2013 By: Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin Concern for one’s environment moves people to take action in a variety of ways, and for Ken Bawer it is getting rid of invasive plants that otherwise would drown out native plants in Montgomery County Md. parks and trails. Bawer is …
By: Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin Gaithersburg, Md December 14, 2012 Cheryl Kollin was selected as the Green Gaithersburg.com December environmentalist of the month. Kollin came up with an innovative program called “Farm to Freezer”, a way to reduce food waste by freezing excess fresh organic vegetables and having the veggies then incorporated …
Gaithersburg, MD January 20, 2011 By: Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin Jennie Howland is improving the local environment she lives in. Over the past year, Ms. Howland has helped set up and run the Muddy Branch Alliance, a new non-profit in Gaithersburg, Md. …
By: Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin Gaithersburg, MD Gaithersburg is a city that takes climate change seriously, thanks in large part to resident Karen Rainbolt. Rainbolt was moved to action in by reading about cities throughout the United States that were adopting climate change policies and enacting gas emission standards laid out …
This is a different sort of post for me as it will be a little bit of this and that.
First of all, I wanted to let you know that I will be flying out to California later this week and returning on September 20th. So, there may be a longer pause in my postings than I would prefer.
My mother does not have a computer, or WiFi, or any of the technological conveniences that many of us are accustomed to these days. Fact is we are becoming almost helpless whenever we find ourselves in a location or situation where we are not able to be connected 24/7. I could get off on that topic… but will save it for another day. … Continue Reading
If you are anything like me, reading or listening to the mainstream media can really be a downer.
It can actually be pretty paralazying, especially in a presidential election year.
Yes, our country has “issues”… who and what doesn’t? I have found though, that all this focus on problems and negativity is not very helpful at all when it comes to actually solving issues. Not surprising really. How can people move toward solutions when they are depressed and feeling so hopeless for the future?
When I decided to intentionally focus my mind on the positive solutions instead of just “the problems” it not only made me hopeful for the future, it actually caused me to fall in love again with my fellow human beings.
We humans, when we feel empowered, can do some pretty amazing things. In fact, it is this spirit of creative problem solving that has been the human race’s most glorious trait. So, let’s stop all the worrying and whining and start looking at what’s going right and add our own mental force for the good to the challenges we all face.
I really believe that whatever we focus our time and attention on is what we make stronger. Once I reminded myself of my own lifelong philosophy, I decided to consciously turn off all the mainstream doom and gloom and choose instead to seek out stories about people who have simply decided to get going on creating that better tomorrow themselves… in whatever way they can.
The well-known Gandhi saying: “Be The Change You Wish To See In The World” has always been a guiding light in my life. I have been so pleased to be reminded that this wisdom is being practiced by so many other people, right here and right now. Examples of this are all around us, if we will just look at our day-to-day lives through a more positive and hopeful lens.
So, here is a list of just a few of the most wonderful magazines and books I am reading and have read that are energizing me and giving me genuine hope and enthusiasm for the future.
This book will give you a very good appreciation for how much is actually going on all across this county, at the community level toward building a locally-based, organic and sustainable food system. I cannot recommend this book enough if you want to learn about all the changes that are happening for a better, healthier tomorrow all across the nation and just how easy it is to join this movement and help make it grow right here in our own communities.
Currently I am reading very intriguing book called: “The Vertical Farm – Feeding the World in the 21st Century” written by Dr. Dickson Despommier. I had the personal pleasure of hearing Dr. Despommier speak at a recent program about urban farming hosted at Brookside Gardens. Dr. Despommier spent 38 years as a professor of microbiology and public health in environmental health sciences at Columbia University. He has addressed audiences at leading universities, including Harvard and MIT, and has also been invited to speak at The United Nations. In addition, he has been asked by the governments of China, India, and Korea to work on their environmental problems. I feel quite privileged to have heard Dr. Despommier speak and to have had him sign his book to me. I believe that this book will be of keen interest to anyone with a more fact-based scientific view of the world, or any young high school or college student thinking about possible courses related to sustainability ways to solve our many environmental, food and water issues for the future.
On the periodical front, two magazines in particular have been thrilling to read because they deal exclusively with the people, products and services going on right here in the DC region when it comes to local and sustainable food.
I hope that you will check out all of these suggestions and that they will inspire you and your family and friends as much as they have inspired me and mine. When we focus our attention on all the wonderful things that are already happening to make that “Better Tomorrow”, I hope that it inspires us all to add our own talents energies to this growing movement.
Then, before we know it, we will be living in that more hopeful and sustainable tomorrow.
Have you ever tasted yellow grape tomatoes? When was the last time you wandered rows of vegetables where you could have your pick of red and yellow grape tomatoes or green striped tomatoes? Do you know the sensation of biting into a warm tomato? The liberating feeling of eating from the vine with no worries of washing off pesticides? How about a garden taste test of basil – lemon basil, cinnamon basil and Genovese basil?
Did you know chickens love to eat bugs? Have you ground soy bean in a century-old feed grind and fed chickens from your hand? Have you ever collected eggs from a chicken coop?
Have you seen three sisters farming? It’s the method of farming native Americans used when they planted corn with beans and squash. The beans climb up the tall corn stalks and the broad leaves of the squash plants keep the moisture from evaporating from the soil underneath. All three vegetables thrive in this permaculture.
My sons and I experienced all this and more during our two hour visit to Brickyard Educational Farm(also known as Nick’s Organic Farm) this weekend. As we were preparing a bed for planting by pulling old kale plants and discovered a hoard of Harlequin Beatles, one of my boys asked “why don’t we bring the chickens over since they love bugs?” Guess what we did next? When we left Brickyard, the five chickens and one rooster were happily scratching and pecking the former kale bed in a newly placed pen under a shady canopy. We weren’t the only ones on a lucky field trip!
I knew my boys and I would enjoy a Saturday afternoon Brickyard family tour and work day, but I was surprised by how much we learned and experienced in such a short time. Brickyard Educational Farm is a rare treasure. Not only does Brickyard welcome visits for education and enjoyment, but it harvests all of its organic corn and soybean (save a bit of feed for its small family of chickens) to sell as organic seed stock which it sells to farms around the country. Brickyard Educational Farm in Potomac, Md, is isolated from other farms and potential cross-pollination with genetically modified corn.
You may have heard there is a legal battle over the fate of Brickyard Farm. The county-owned lease is up in a matter of days; and MSI Soccer is counting them because they intend to build the county’s 502nd and 503rd soccer fields there.
I hope we get to visit Brickyard Farm again. Our family already talks about pesticides and organic food, but now my sons are inspired. On our ride home, my oldest son, a middle school student, was talking with me about genetically modified corn and asking about relevant college programs. My younger son, a fourth-grader, asked why everyone just doesn’t have a farm and grow their own food. It’s a lot of hard work running a farm, I explained. My oldest son replied “Maybe there wouldn’t be so many fat people.” Hmmm. Food for thought! I then launched into a conversation about the simultaneous rise of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and the popularity of processed food!
Pretty impressive produce from one afternoon of physical activity and whole foods at Brickyard Organic Educational Farm. If you are interested in learning more about Brickyard Educational Farm and supporting the effort to save 32 years of organic soil in Montgomery County, visit these links:
Farmer John Ledgard talking with Muddy Branch Alliance’s Nicole Condon about how to transplant trees. Darnestown, Md
August 11, 2012
By: Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin
A Montgomery County farmer, a local watershed group, and a local environmental activist are joining forces and starting a free tree planting program so as to reduce water runoff into the Muddy Branch stream in Gaithersburg, Md.
Muddy Branch Alliance’s summer interns Nicole Condon and Cally Deppen, along with Muddy Branch Alliance founder, Paul Hlavinka, created this project as a way to better protect the waterways water quality by reducing the amount of water that runs off people’s lawns and private property. The year old non-profit organization Muddy Branch is in Gaithersburg, Md. Its mission is to make people aware of the local waterways and helps organize events to get people actively engaged in improving the water quality of the Muddy Branch stream.
“ We want to have native trees planted near the watershed because it holds the soil and acts as buffer vegetation between homes and developed areas. The less sediment and runoff also helps storm water management. Trees also provide more shade, cool the water,and provide good natural habitats,“ said Condon, one of two Muddy Branch interns who have organized the project. Condon has worked at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after she finished her Masters in Environmental Science at American University in D.C.
The idea of planting trees is also part of a bigger project in Montgomery County. According to Muddy Branch co-founder Paul Hlavinka, Montgomery County reached out to Muddy Branch Alliance to help reforest areas as part of a state mandate for a storm water permit. According to Hlavinka, the county will reforest county lands but needs support in reaching out to citizens to plant trees on private property.
25 native trees including black cherries, red buds, tulip poplars, Easter redlands, and sweet gums are being donated for the free tree planting project by local Potomac environmental activist Rosina Perthel. Perthel has grown these seedlings at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Potomac, Md. Perthel developed a “no mow zone area” so as to create long grass habitat for songbirds to lay their eggs. In the process, the surrounding trees dropped their seeds and lots of seedlings started to pop up. “ This is the cheapest way to get trees. Find a seedling, transplant it into an area where it can have room to grow” said Perthel.
The seedlings will be brought to Good Life Farmin Darnestown, Md. Owner and farmer John Ledgard has donated space on his land for the young seedlings to rest until they find a home. Ledgard donated space for this project because he knows the importance of trees as a way to keep soil in its place. Ledgard is a member of the newly formed Montgomery County Food Council, a group of private and public entities organized by Montgomery County whose aim is to “ promote a local sustainable food system.”
Muddy Branch Alliance members will promote the free tree planting project at the upcoming Montgomery County Fair in Gaithersburg, Md, August 16th and 17th at a Muddy Branch booth. According to Condon, the objective is to have 10 trees planted this fall. People can sign up for a a free tree and for a free tree. The Muddy Branch Alliance will help plant the tree and provide information as to how to take care of the tree once planted.
I am here to report back on Montgomery County’s Farm Tour weekend. It was a wonderful experience and was made even more so by the camp-style bus ride organized by Bethesda Green.
We first stopped by theBrickyard Educational Farmon Brickyard Road in Potomac. Farmer Sophia Maravell explained to us how she and other young farmers have been teaching children in the area about growing food and raising chickens on the farm this summer.
Some of you may have heard about this controversial farm, also know as Nick’s Organic Farm. For the last fifteen months I and hundreds of other concerned citizens have been fighting to save this unique treasure for the benefit of all students in Montgomery County.
The farm sits on taxpayer supported Montgomery County School Board land. In my opinion, and I am far from alone in this thinking, this land should first and foremost be kept and used for outdoor educational programs. At least three separate pieces of legislation have been passed in Annapolis, Md requiring this sort of outdoor educational experience. Yet sadly, this land is on the verge of being turned over to a private soccer organization to establish two, four pay-to-play, elite soccer fields.
And Montgomery County citizens were left completely out of the decision that farm land be turned over to the soccer organization.
This will remain a controversial issue and one that certainly will not get settled in a blog post. I promise to re-visit this topic and update you all on the fate of the Brickyard Educational Farmin future posts.
For now, I simply want to express my deep appreciation to Bethesda Green for including this very special farm in their tour route last Saturday. Bethesda Green included two farms that were not listed on the official Montgomery County Farm Tour weekend maps.
The other farm was Calleva. When we arrived at Calleva we were treated to pumpkin raviolis and fresh, still warm bread made for us by Ben, the resident chef and person in charge of the garden and the “Dirty Dinners” that Calleva hosts three times a year. Check out the link above for more details on Calleva and all the various programs they offer. After we all enjoyed our this locally sourced and prepared snack, Ben took us on a tour of the garden and showed us the chickens, pigs, cows, and even a donkey. I look forward to returning to Calleva to experience it in different seasons throughout the year. They even host a very scary haunted forest that is not for the faint of heart. This is precisely why I will be skipping this particular offering. But, if you have, or are a teenager, or older and are into being scared, then I hear it is a must-experience activity to celebrate Halloween.
Our next stop was The Rocklands Farm. We had the chance to partake of some of the food they produce right on the property. I enjoyed a juicy grass-fed beef burger. There was a vegetarian offering as well as an Italian sausage option. Check out Rocklands link to learn more about all that they do and offer and when you can stop by to enjoy an afternoon on this very pleasant farm.
Final stop of the day was at The Button Living History Farmwhere we were greeted by Tony Cohen. Tony is a historian and founder of The Menare Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization that runs this farm and is dedicated to the preservation of Underground Railroad history . Through assistance and training, Menare works with individuals and organizations to preserve the Underground Railroad legacy using history as a resource for community revitalization, race dialogue, and cultural growth.
Tony told us about plans for developing this farm into an 1850’s living history experience. We were shown the working vegetable garden where they are growing and preserving seeds from the earliest days of this country. They also produce “heritage” animal species, the latest additions being the “Cotton Geese”. Tony explained that the geese were used by plantation owners to weed between the rows of cotton, especially after they could no longer use slave labor.
Tony then sat us all down in the outdoor pavilion and gave a captivating history lesson. He told us about and demonstrated a device that slave owners used to prevent slaves from escaping.
In the photosyou can see this device and the young woman who offered to be the stand-in slave in order for Tony (with two other assistants) to show us all how this device would have been screwed around the neck of a slave. This “collar” weighs about twenty pounds and with its barbed hooks at each point would have made escaping a virtual impossibility.
Tony has retraced the Underground Railroad path from Georgia to the Canadian border. He thought of doing so part of the way while wearing this device, as some slaves still attempted escape even while locked into such a device. Tony decided against it when because he could easily break his neck with the device on.
To say that this was a sad and sobering lesson would have been an understatement. Tony explained that there had been other more tortuous devices created in attempts to prevent slaves from escaping.
My thoughts turned to all the historic films and mini-series I have seen in my life and museums I have visited where I can’t recall ever seeing or hearing about these barbaric and inhumane devices. While this is still a painful shared history in our country, I urge you all to make a visit to The Button Farm and learn more about The Underground Railroad and 1850’s farming from a true expert.
The tour left us with a lot to think about.
On Sunday, my daughter, Andrea and I were determined to get some farm fresh, just-picked peaches. This hunt took us to Heyser Farms, Inc., 14526 New Hampshire Ave., Silver Spring. Our mission was fully accomplished and then some when we left with not only white and yellow peaches, but jars of pickled asparagus, vanilla peaches, tomatoes, and various other farm fresh goodies. It is peach season now, so if you and your family love peaches like I do, then I urge you to head over to Heyser Farm and stock up before it’s too late.
Happy exploring and eating over the remaining days of summer.
The back roads around Harrisburg, Nc still have working farms and a few surprises. Just down the road from University of North Carolina’s Charlotte’s campus is Patterson’s Nursery. Down the driveway and on the porch of an old brick colonial home sit the tomatoes that are sold per pound on the honor system. The system works like this: bring some change, weigh the tomatoes, then put the change that you owe in the box on the table. According to my mother, the old farmer says people always pay and do not take the money on the table!
Honor system tomatoes sold at local nursery stand in Harrisburg, NcPay for Tomatoes by Honor System
Pay for Tomatoes by Honor SystemTomato sign showing the way to tomatoes displayed on a porch.
Checking out the tomatoes and how to weigh them.Pay For Tomatoes by Honor System
Weigh your tomatoes, sign in and tally tomato weight, then pay per pound. Leave your dollars on the table. Pay for Tomatoes by Honor System
Pay for Tomatoes by Honor System3lbs of fresh, locally grown tomatoes!
I will be meeting outside the offices of Bethesda Greenearly this Saturday morning to join other folks on a bus tour of some of the great farms in the county. It reminds me of school field trips or summer camp. It is a really fun way to get to enjoy the day while also getting to hang out with like-minded people.
Calevameans “where the paths cross.” Their mission is to get people of all ages outdoors, providing an educational and challenging environment that promotes personal growth, group cooperation and leadership skill through outdoor activities. For nearly 20 years, Calleva has built a reputation for excellence and innovation in outdoor education and outdoor adventure programming.
Rocklands Farmis located on a historical property in Montgomery County, Md, thirty miles from Washington D.C.. It is one of the first farms within Montgomery County’s Agriculture Reserve, adjacent to Seneca Creek State Park and the Potomac River. It is conveniently located just off River Road, a main road from the metropolitan area used by destination seekers of open space and scenic farmland.
The Button Farm Living History Centeris set on 60-pristine acres inside Seneca Creek State Park, and is Maryland’s only living history center depicting 19th century slave plantation life. The site features a Civil War-era Barn, historic outbuildings, livestock pens, a museum garden, and a slave cemetery. It is home to The Underground Railroad Immersion Experience, a dramatic re-enactment of the journey from slavery to freedom.
Whether you decide to sign up for the Bethesda Green bus tour, or go on your own, I hope that you are able to spend at least part of this coming weekend exploring the many joys that await you.
If you do go, I would LOVE to hear about your experiences!
If you haven’t already heard about Green America(formerly Co-Op America), then I urge you to check them out. I think you will see what a fantastic resource they are for serious green/sustainability news and actions.
Green America is a treasure trove of information about better ways to green up your buying habits, including an annual “Green Pages”, a phonebook-style national directory of deeply vetted businesses and services.They are one of the most serious groups fighting for legislative solutions in the halls of the U.S. Congress.
So often we hear how horrible this-or-that company is. That dire message isn’t followed by a suggestion or two of the better, greener, and more sustainable option/company out there with an alternative, similar product. Green America helps you with this “part two” that is so often lacking.
This month’s issue (July/August 2012) of the membership magazine focuses on Green Fashion. I got me thinking about thrifts shops. While this article points out how clothing is produced and brought to market, they helpfully break it down into a “good”, “better”, and “best” rating. Can you guess what the “best” option is?
Second-hand clothing! Things do not have to be thrown out or made from scratch and travel the globe and back again. What could be greener, when you think about it? Not to mention the fun of an amazing “find” at far less cost than if you went straight into a first-run retail shop or department store.
Thrift shops are usually locally owned, which means that there is likely to be someone there to ask questions of and interact with, unlike many department store shopping experiences these days. You will also be helping the local economy and, in many cases, a local non-profit all at the same time. That is what I call a win/win/win!
My youngest daughter, Candice, got into thrift store shopping when she was in college. Recently, she insisted that we go shopping around here in Montgomery County. I was somewhat hesitant, but really enjoyed it. To this day I get compliments on my best find; a woven purse that I picked up for $5.00!
Naomi’s new purse
I bought three pairs of jeans an an outing to another thrift shop. I love them all. I don’t think I spent more than $8.00 for any of them, including the grey DKNY pair that I adore.
Naomi’s DKNY jeans
I hope that my musings have gotten you excited about checking out some of our local thrift shops options for yourself. And even better, that you find some real gems, like I have, that will convince you to make a habit of checking out the thrift stores first.
I have provided several links on a wide range of shops below (something for everyone) that I hope will only be the beginning of your own adventure.
A good friend, Denise Clark, sent in this vegetarian seasonal recipe. 1 3 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1″ cubes (5-6 cups) 2 tablespoons of olive oil 2 teaspoons of kosher salt Pinch of freshly ground pepper 1 tablespoon butter 1 large onion, diced 1 tablespoon …
From Chef John at allrecipes.com Ingredients Original recipe makes 6 servings 1 cup mashed, cooked butternut squash 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1 pinch cayenne pepper 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese 1 egg yolk 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese 1 (16 ounce) package round wonton wrappers 2 …
July 22, 2013 Gaithersburg, Md By: Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin I was so pleased to find out that Montgomery County Council has officially endorsed Meatless Mondays, a nationwide effort to choose more plant-based foods. For more information about this news read Compassion Over Killing’s website. Also, Naomi Bloch sent in a Meatless …
This recipe sounds delicious and I am going to try it tonight because I have a cauliflower sitting in my fridge and I need to cook it! Will let you know what it tastes like!- Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin Recipe is from BonApetit Ingredients Roasted Cauliflower 2 1/2 cups dry white …
Here is a vegetarian recipe for an Onion tart. I just read up and now understand that a tart is made in ribbed dish, the bottom part of the pan can come out, and the tart can be all sorts of shapes vs. a quiche is in round pie dish… …
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