Archive for the ‘Green Living’ Category
It’s not often we get to see what we eat outside of our homes and the grocery store. In September, a few of us had a chance to get up and personal with our peppers and onions during a tour of the beautiful Grindstone Farm in Pulaski, New York. Many Smock employees have CSA shares from Grindstone, and it was enlightening to get a good, hard look at what goes into creating our tasty, organic produce.
We spent a long time talking with Vic and Dick de Graff about what it’s like running a small organic farm in the snow belt of upstate New York, where snow comes early and often, and the local food movement is just catching on. They have adapted to the weather over the years by growing many of their vegetables in hoop houses, like the one featured above, in order to extend the growing season into November.
While Grindstone farm may look like an idyllic place to live, farming is anything but easy. One mistake, like forgetting to cover the lettuce before a potential frost, can ruin an entire crop for the rest of the year. As a farmer, your backyard is your home office, and there is always more work that should be done. But just like our love for creating beautiful, sustainable letterpress goes beyond the normal 9-5, the farmers at Grindstone choose this life because of a passion for growing and providing food for friends and neighbors, and because they want to spread the idea that feeding the world can happen one small plot of land at a time.
Interested in finding a farm like this near you? Check out localharvest.org for CSAs, U Pick Farms, Farmers Markets, Grocery Co-ops and more! Want to see more photos from our trip to Grindstone Farm & our CSA pick-up spot here at Bella Figura? Check out this slideshow!
Got the back to school blues? This DIY is an adorable way to spruce up your school books (or any other books, for that matter) and it’s super easy! You will need:
- Your favorite Smock gift wrap (our picks from the left: Pageant, Plume, Jade, April, and Beetle)
- A ruler
- A pen or pencil
To start, you’ll need to measure and cut your sheet of gift wrap to fit your book. We recommend giving a 3-4-inch margin on either side of the (open) book, and then a 1-2-inch margin above and below the book.
After you’ve cut your gift wrap, fold up the top and bottom of the sheet. Be sure that the folds are not shorter than the book. Use a few pieces of tape in the middle to keep everything straight.
Next, with the book inside, fold the paper in half, making sure the sides are even. Then, take the top part of the gift wrap and fold it neatly under the book’s cover. Repeat this step on the bottom.
After you’ve made even folds, carefully slip onto the book, securing the book’s cover into the little pockets that the folds create. Secure with tape.
Tada! We are loving the end result. And since our gift wrap is double-sided, you can alternate patterns – perfect for prettying up a set of books to display at home!
One more reason to eat local and fresh from your farmer’s market or a CSA….turns out most canned food, even organic canned food, has substantial amounts of BPA, which has been linked to reproductive abnormalities, heightened risk of breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, and heart disease – ugh! BPA surfaced for anyone with young children a few years ago, when it turned out sippy cups & bottles (and even the hard clear hiking Nalgene bottles) often contained BPA. This new report on canned food + BPA came out recently through Consumer Reports and there’s really no excuse for companies to still be using this harmful material (other than the bottom line, I suppose).
We just joined our local organic farm’s winter CSA last week, so we’ll be getting local veggies through the end of December – meaning our stock of canned food has gone pretty much untouched of late. One of the many wonderful things about eating local is you know where the food has been (a farm, a truck, then you). Plus this winter CSA has already made me appreciate vegetables that I used to shun. Who knew there were so many ways to cook cabbage! And butternut squash! And potatoes! And more cabbage! And look, there’s more cabbage! Though we have two young kids at home, we’ve managed to make cooking local a priority this year by cooking massive amounts of CSA & farmer market veggies on the weekend, and soaking and boiling a pound of beans too, maybe broiling a pound or two of tofu, and making a few easy grains (barley, quiona, brown rice, and millet have been favorites). Maybe add one easy veggie soup too. Then the meals during the week are mixes and matches – a grain, some veggies and either beans or tofu for lunch and then a different variation of the same for dinner.
My love affairs with cook book authors goes in waves, but right now the guy who holds the key to my cooking heart is Mark Bittman (How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and Food Matters are his two books on my shelves and his blog, Bitten, turned me onto the BPA article. He also writes the Minimalist for the NY Times). His recipes are simple, easy, and full of variations – I love how he says “use more or less” or substitute away depending on what’s in the fridge. Perfect for those who have a negative amount of time to cook.
Here at Smock, we are avid believers that small changes are the first step toward making a big impact so we wanted to share some tips on incorporating a little green into your life. In honor of Earth Day, our office manager Carrie, one of the most eco people we know, has shared some of her tips for adopting a greener lifestyle. Little steps can add up to big change, especially if you continue looking for ways to be more eco-friendly in your habits.
- Substitute 1 car trip a week by walking or biking instead
- Opt for paper egg cartons as they can be used to sprout seeds and then planted directly into your garden in the spring
- Recycle your plastic bags, whether they be from the grocery store or the bag that comes with your newspaper to keep it dry in the rain. These days, most every grocery store accepts shopping bags for recycling.
- Switch to reusable shopping bags. Not only is it more eco-friendly, but an increasing number of stores actually offer a small discount for providing your own bags, although you may need to ask for it when you checkout.
- Try to buy products of a high recycled content and/or look to make sure you’re choosing items that are recyclable in your area
- If certain kinds of plastics can’t be recycled in your area, reuse the contatiners around your home as storage containers or as planters
- Instead of tossing junk mail, reuse the backs of paper for scratch paper, making shopping lists, or even to use in your printer for everyday printing at home or at the office. At the very least, recycle junk mail instead of throwing it away.
- If you’re in the habit of doing so, quit buying bottled water and instead buy a reusable BPA-free aluminum or plastic bottle, some even come with water filters to remove the taste of chlorine
- Avoid large grocery purchases that might lead to wasted food – most people would be surprised to know how much energy goes into food production. Make smaller trips more often so you can use what you buy, which also saves money!
- Look into local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. Smock subsidizes CSA memberships for all employees through a local organic farm which means we get to enjoy delicious produce that doesn’t have to be shipped to us during the summer months.
- Try to make purchases that incorporate recycled or reused materials. These days you can find a ton of options for handmade jewelry, clothing and accessories either locally or via Etsy and similar online marketplaces
In addition to these great first steps, Carrie will be sharing more insight on how you can make green living a greater priority in your life as a part of Smock’s latest blog feature, Green Living. Let us know if you have any specific topics you’d like us to cover and we’d be happy answer your questions!