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Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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The Right To Know

Two states have tried to pass public referenda on the issue to label food that contains genetically engineered ingredients.  Both California and Washington State failed to pass their attempts at labeling, but the votes are getting closer and closer as fewer residents get confused by the big money thrown at them by the GMO proponents.  This November voters in both Oregon and Colorado will deciding if they want food available in the grocery store to be labeled if any ingredients have been genetically modified.top_ten_genetically_modified_foods

You may be unaware that much of the food you have been eating since the the late 1990s have genetic modifications. Some of those are to permit herbicides and pesticides to be sprayed on what you will eat without harming the food as it grows. There are health issues that have increased since that time and because testing is blocked, there is only circumstantial evidence that these new chemicals in our food are the cause.     The government has run no tests on these foods, saying the companies who produced the modifications to the original food should do it, but testing is not required.  Many countries around the world do not permit foods with genetic modifications to be sold.  GMO lab results

There is a huge group of companies that are fighting the referendum, saying everything is safe.The big players arguing against it are involved in the production of the seeds or the grocery store trade association.  They do not want the referendum in Oregon and Colorado to pass because it would mean they would need to label food with genetically enhanced ingredients and once they identify this, they are afraid of a loss of income.

They have begun to pour millions and millions of dollars into advertising to convince voters it is a bad idea. The main argument is that any change in labeling will cause the price of the food to increase “by hundreds of dollars a year.”  What they don’t say is how often they already change labels.

This is just one example of how a food company changes packaging with no change in pricing.

This is just one example of how a food company changes packaging with no change in pricing.

The side fighting the labeling is pouring millions of dollars into both Oregon and Colorado to try to block the referendum. They are concerned that the consumers’ right to know what they are eating will affect their profits.

No matter how you personally feel about GMOs in your food, labeling should not be a problem for you. The public’s need to know about chemicals in the food has been approved again and again for other items. The food labels just got revised again to make serving sizes easier to read, in the hopes people will stick to them. For health reasons, many people want to avoid this unproven technology.

What’s in YOUR dinner tonight?GMO LetMeDecide


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A Great Way to Start

I’m a morning person. Ask me to be up and out the door by 4, I can do it…with eyes open and mind functioning. Of course that means I turn into a pumpkin by midnight.

I have been working on a farm for about six weeks now and have seen some awesome sunrises.

September 7

September 7

September 9

September 9-Mt Hood is the purple bump in the center

 

September 16

September 16

September 19-sunrise through the weeds

September 19-sunrise through the weeds

September 21

September 21

As you can see, the sun was just coming up and I had been at work for about a half hour already this morning. Next week the start time will be 7:30. I really don’t mind setting the alarm a half hour later, but I’ll bet you I will still wake at 5:30!


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Local Food

animal veg mirableWaking up to eating local food as much as possible happened when I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. She tells the story of a year in her family’s life when they moved from Arizona to a family farm that had long been abandoned in southern Appalachia.   The family decided they would eat only what they raised or what could be traded with another local farmer, with the exception of only a few things, coffee and French wine among them.

This got me thinking and I asked Graham to read the book also. The idea of eating locally, in season, was a brand new concept compared to the way we grew up with supermarkets stocking all kinds of foods all the year. Yes, we could buy strawberries in time for my sister’s January birthday cake. Yes, we could get a can of pumpkin to make a pie in the summer.  But might they be more appreciated when they came into season right near where we lived?

This book and then continued reading and discussing with others made us realize how our eating habits were adding to increased use of fuel for transporting food from the southern hemisphere to us, and more important, we realized we really had never thought about who was raising the food we were relying on for nutrition.

fried fishFor the same reason we didn’t particularly eat seafood when living in landlocked West Virginia.  We very much enjoyed eating our fill of fresh fish and seafood when we traveled to either coast.  Some food just tastes so much better when it is fresh.  If you think about it, except for freshly caught trout and fresh water fish, almost all seafood served in the center of the country is fried, the better to mask a bit of age.  In fact, most people will swear they prefer fried fish, and again, that is because most of the ocean fish served in the landlocked states is NOT particularly fresh.Albacore_Tuna

So, speaking of loving fresh fish, when we moved here the first thing I learned to can with a pressure canner was tuna and it is that time of year again! My sister lives on the coast and has a friend whose husband fishes for tuna and she was able to get them at a really good price. 2014-08-17 08.37.19Today Graham started early, trimming 40 pounds of tuna.  After sterilizing all the jars we cut the tuna into chunks, packed the half pints2014-08-17 11.13.09 and then topped them off with a bit of salt, a spoon of lemon juice and some olive oil.

We put my sister friend Linda to work too!

We put my sister friend Linda to work too!

100 minutes later at 10 pounds of pressure we had our first 48 jars, and a second round brought us up to 99.  Canned outside thanks to my friend Jana who loaned us her propane stove and her much better pressure canner.2014-08-17 11.46.27My sister and one of her friends each took a quarter, with Graham and I keeping the rest.  We finished about six hours after we had started, but again, we had to process two batches, each taking 100 minutes. It was a full day and one we will enjoy all year long, when we savor our canned tuna.2014-08-17 14.30.18

So, you say, you can buy tuna fish. And so, back at you, I tell you that you would never eat your favorite, Bumble Bee or Chicken of the Sea ever again….not after you taste what fresh tuna canned at home tastes like!

Eat local is AMAZING!!!2014-08-17 11.13.35

 


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Shopping for a Market

If you’ve been reading this or any of my blogs you know one of my passions is discovering and then sharing access to local food.  After the wonderful experience working with The Wild Ramp Market in Huntington, West Virginia, including writing blogs for it, we made our move west to Oregon and I began to make connections with the local food scene here. Graham was trying to get me more involved with the local wine scene, but that’s another story.

This winter I met a group of people in Forest Grove, a city of about 22,000 an hour west of Portland.  They wanted to have a year-round indoor local food market and, like most people who have never experienced a different model, they were conceptualizing a once a week move-the-outdoor-farmers-market-inside model.  It works pretty well and is used in many areas. Consumers have access to local food, even in the winter, and the farmer has a bit of income that may or may not substantiate sitting around for 6-8 hours.DSC_0012

When I offered to share some information about a different model of market twelve people showed up and we have been working diligently towards an indoor market based on the Wild Ramp  with wonderful nuances because of the location in the Willamette Valley.

mapFor example, with the Wild Ramp we at first thought we might have to go as far as 250 miles to be able to stock the market. We were very pleased once we mapped the farm locations and saw that most were within a 50 mile radius of Huntington. In comparison, though, Oregon’s Willamette Valley is so abundant that we have set a 15-mile radius for our initial contacts with local food producers! We know of a few food products, like seafood and flour, where the distance will be a bit more.

DSC_0261On our recent trip to California I spent the time on a busman’s holiday, visiting other markets.  While in San Francisco Graham and I visited Bi-Rite. Located in the Mission District, this 1800-square foot market is packed with high quality food sourced both locally and worldwide. They strive to find local growers who produce flavorful fruits and vegetables as cleanly as possible. Samples are offered gladly and the staff was amazingly friendly and helpful, and a lot of fun.DSC_0331

One of the produce staff suggested I check out the Monterey Market in Berkeley once he heard I was planning to head that way later in the week. It also offered a lot of produce, much of it local, but something felt missing. It was when editing the photos that I realized I had seen only two staff working in the aisles of the huge store, compared with a stronger and active friendly presence at Bi-Rite.  Customer service is a key component for providing a pleasant shopping experience.DSC_0549

I had long been hearing about Berkeley Bowl from my daughter Lisa who lives in that city.  The two-store supermarket opened as a small neighborhood market in 1977 and based on arrangements made with growers at and since that time, can offer an amazing array of produce, much of it local, at very low prices.  In fact, generally all the prices I saw throughout the store were amazingly low. Since I have a better understanding of what it actually costs to produce healthy food, it made me wonder how the local farmers could afford to wholesale their crops so inexpensively and still make a living in California.  Even organic produce was less expensive than what the conventional produce is priced in the supermarket where I shop.BB

2014-08-02 08.16.242014-08-02 08.16.49While on our trip I saw some great ideas for the Forest Grove Market at other places. For example, Gayle’s Bakery in Santa Cruz is where we ate breakfast one morning. It had an amazing array of prepared foods for breakfast, lunch and supper as well as baked goods and coffees.  The huge staff provided service quickly and efficiently, even to first-timers like us who were a bit overwhelmed with the luscious selection.  A large dining room provided plenty of space to sit and enjoy the selected feast.2014-08-02 08.17.42

After I got back home to Oregon three of us made a trip through the Cascades to the city of Bend where the Central Locavore Market is located. With a business model more like the Wild Ramp, the Locavore helped us see once again how fortunate it is that we live in an ecosystem with more abundant rainfall. The Market extends beyond their locality to offer a full array of shopping needs, including cleansers and paper products made with minimal impact to the environment.

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Finally, when in Bend we visited the Newport Market, an upscale specialty market with a lot of local ingredients. I was particularly impressed with their produce display and would love to copy it somehow!DSC_0142

We are narrowing down the possible locations for the market in Forest Grove and then will start the fun task of designing the layout and taking our imagination of the decor and using the elbow grease to make it a reality!


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Making Connections

Graham and I have been in Oregon for almost a year. We arrived September 1, moved into our rental house about a week later when the truck arrived and I made my first new friend here when I posted our  boxes to be picked up on Freecycle.  Jana needed a few boxes to store books and we sat on the porch rockers for about an hour sharing stories. Hearing I wanted to learn to can, she invited me to her farm and under her tutelage, I learned to make and love tomatillo salsa. DSC_0012

Shortly after that Graham’s high school buddy Charles (they reconnected on Facebook a few years ago) who lives in Salem hooked us up with another friend and Tina taught us all how to pressure can tuna. I was very much enjoying the bounty that this area offers!

Shortly after that I attended a meeting of farmers in a nearby town and started making connections with this region’s complement of wonderful farmers.  And so it went. Over these past 11 months we have made some wonderful new friends and our circle continues to grow. But it never would have happened if we didn’t take a first step out. DSC_0001

This past Thursday we attended a gathering of people primarily because we knew the host. One of the farmers we have gotten to know and love, Ranee Solmonsson of Sunshower Hill Farm was hosting an event. She said she would be speaking about her farm and Heidi Lindell of Yamhill Valley Grown also would explain how the farmers in this area connect with consumers.  I work with Heidi, visiting farms and writing the Yamhill Valley Grown blog.

It turned out to be a great evening,   organized by Om Sukheenai of Chehelem Insurance Associates as a way for people in the community to network  The people who attended were people who have businesses in the region between McMinnville and Portland and wanted to share their passions.   They included Nicole SensabaughBookkeeper, Cristina YenA Yen for Chocolate,  Mary Beth Mac NultyStudio 601,  Paola RoselliTravel Agent/ Alpaca Rancher,  Jeanne BiggerstaffBiggerstaff Vitural Business Assistance,   Carr BiggerstaffOwner of Biggerstaff Vitural Bussiness Assistance,  Heidi LindellYamhill Valley Grown,  Lynn DeraniaPolar Bear Yogurt,  Maggie YuSherwood Family Practice,  Saj JaivanjeeArcher Vineyard.  Vida IceArbonne InternationalGraham told about CreationsByBG and his woodworking and I spoke more about my passion to share information about the bounty the local farms produced and get more consumers on board.

DSC_0003DSC_0006We gathered first on Ranee’s deck where she presented a few edibles prepared from food her farm produces, and a bit of wine. We then enjoyed the evening by sitting in a circle on the grass, enjoying getting to hear about each other passions and then to share.

The synergy I saw, the connections being made was amazing. Here we had 15 people; some knew each other a bit, some not a all. By the end of the two hours we had several connections being made for new business opportunities, and more importantly, for new friendships.DSC_0007

So many people comment about the fact that we have made so many friends here already. The secret to replicate that is to GET OUT. Leave your house and act on your passions. Find people with similar interests and make time to make the connections. Talk and listen, share in the knowledge and excitement about life. DSC_0012


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Blueberry Bliss!

You ought to have seen what I saw on my way 
To the village, through Mortenson’s pasture to-day: 
Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb, 
Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum 
In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!
And all ripe together, not some of them green
And some of them ripe! You ought to have seen!
Robert Frost
BlueberriesDSC_0021

You know that much of “blueberries” that are in processed foods are not real???? There is no excuse to be eating some chemical wanna-be when the REAL DEAL is fresh and ripe and ready for you most places in the U.S. right now!!!

Luscious sweet juicy blueberries. Some of the early varieties are ripe. Earliblue bushes at the Beach Family Farm in Sherwood, Oregon are loaded!!!  So are the 3-year-old Duke bushes.

EarliBlue

If you’ve never picked blueberries before it is very very easy.  You pick the (ready for this?????) the BLUE berries.  In the photo above you can see some are light green (not ready), some are white (not ready), some are light purple (not ready) and some are blue (READY!!!)

It doesn’t take long to pick. At the Beach Family Farm you are given a bag lined bucket and a web belt to hook around your middle. It has a grommet which holds the bucket clip so you have both hands free for picking and the bucket is easy to reach. More berries in the bucket. None on the ground!! Maybe one or two in your mouth.  $2/pound is the same price they have charged for three years and less expensive that the other UPIck farms in the area.

Daily hours are 9:00-4:00, Wednesday through Sunday. The Beach Family Farm is located at 27626 SW 147th Avenue in Sherwood, Oregon about a half hour southwest from downtown Portland.  Anyone who lives in the southwestern suburbs are within a very very few minutes of yumminess.

Blueberries, by the way, are one of the easiest fruits to save. You can pick a bunch, eat some fresh and freeze the rest for later use. The people at the farm will be glad to give you instructions.DSC_0001

http://www.beachblueberry.com/                                                                                                  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Beach-Family-Farm
(503) 625-6314
9:00-4:00, Wednesday through Sunday                                                                                                                                                     27626 SW 147th Avenue in Sherwood


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Snow in June

IMG_3345No, not to worry. Our weather continues to delight us. My first year in Oregon’s Willamette Valley is almost complete and we are very much enjoying the climate.  After spending almost 20 years in the heat and humidity of Tennessee and then in West Virginia’s warm spot of Huntington, I find the cooler temps in Oregon much more comfortable. While y’all are roasting, we will have a high near 70 with some light rain. The crops thank you. The body can wear a jacket with a hood and manage just fine. Only visitors use umbrellas. IMG_3347

However, as a newbie I am still discovering the many new things that grow in this abundant land. IMG_3349

I learned this is called Meadowfoam and the seed produces a cooking grade oil that will not go rancid and oil for use in cosmetics. I’ll try to get some of the cooking oil and see how it compares to other kinds.


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Cupping a Cuppa

Having recently moved to Oregon, we are happily finding that we are on many of our friends’ summer vacation itineraries.  We take our job as host of the Rankin B&B seriously and try to thoughtfully plan our visitors’ time here to not only show highlights of the area but match those destinations with our friend’s  interests and hobbies.

We have a family coming soon who has no interest in tasting wine or any of the other alcoholic beverages this region offers.  That set me back for a moment or two but I polled my local friends and added their suggestions to my list of locally prepared foods with tasting rooms.  I am now sure we will have more places to visit than we will have time when they arrive!2014-06-13 09.47.39

One friend who lives in Newport told me that one of the local roasters runs their business a bit differently. On Fridays at 9:30am Caravan Coffee offers the opportunity to blind taste two coffees in their weekly public cupping activity.  We were offered to first smell the freshly prepared grounds and describe what nuances we could sense. 2014-06-13 09.42.47Then the hot water was poured over the grounds and we waited a few minutes for the grounds to release their flavor. 2014-06-13 09.52.48 Finally, a third table had been set up with see if we could distinguish between the two coffees.2014-06-13 10.01.35

We were given the opportunity to taste coffee from Brazil and another new one from Thailand. The distributor was there and told us how the Thai government had recently restricted cutting of the teak forest, which the locals had been doing to sell the wood as well as clear the land for rice planting. By introducing shade grown coffee his organization is helping to stimulate the local economy.Caravan-Info-graph-700x1024

Caravan Coffee is one of many coffee roasters in the Northwest but their statement of sourcing is a bit different than most:

  • A member of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (Since 1998).
  • 100% Arabica coffee.
  • Only source Specialty Coffees.
  • Certified Quality Grader & Certified level 1 & 2 Roasters Guild whom only chooses ethically sourced coffee for our roasting.
  • We have direct-relationships with some of our farmers and are actively pursuing more.
  • Certified Fair-Trade coffee.
  • Certified Organic Coffee by USDA.
  • The Proprietor and Roastmaster have personally visited several farms from which their coffees are sourced.

The coffee is available at the shop and tasting room at 2750 East 9th Street in Newberg and online individually or as a member of the Coffee Club.  If you are a serious coffee drinker, this may be worth your time checking out!hand_picked_club_subscription-510x600


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The Fine Line

McMinnville caught our attention as a place to live when we were doing our research for a number of reasons. Graham first read about one of the local chefs who had spent several years in Italy learning how to make charcuterie and now runs the Fino in Fondo salumeria….he makes salami. Then Graham became aware of how this region excels in making pinot noir wine and as one who suffers gladly from oenophilia, he was happy to try to meet the challenge of the 100+ wineries in this county alone. east to cascadesMeanwhile, my research determined that this region of the Willamette Valley is truly a garden; among the vineyards and farms growing grass for seed and others growing most of the nations’ landscaping plants, there are many many farms producing food.  I hoped to replicate my involvement with The Wild Ramp in some way.  In addition, as a city planner, I appreciated the effort that a group of people in McMinnville had made to turn the downtown around. Once a strip of many vacant stores in the mid 1980s, the street now is tree lined and vibrant with boutique shops and services, almost all locally owned and operated.Dec 6a

McMinnville doubled in size since the 1970s and more people continue to move here. A license plate perusal in the parking lot during the Saturday morning breakfast served by the Cooperative Ministries identified many out of state cars. In talking to one family, one of the church members was told that the news that McMinnville serves free meals every day has spread, and many homeless people are finding their way to this town.

This creates a bit of a dilemma.

I am on a small committee investigating ways to help the business owners on our main street, NW 3rd Street, with the “loitering” problem that exists.  Some hang out on street corners, panhandling. These people are well known to locals, as they have had their spots for years and their stories are known. One Vietnam Vet just waits until he collects about $20 and then buys his wine and rambles back home.   Some hang at the library, but many have no interest in the benefits of what a library offers, so a lack of proper behavior gets them banished. Some hang around downtown, blocking shop entrances, making comments to young women, and smoking any number of substances.

St BHeart2Heart foodIt truly is amazing to hear the services that are available in this county for people who need assistance. There are meals available every day of the week, for example.  The St. Barnabus Soup Kitchen serves dinner four evenings a week; it is not unusual for over 300 people to be fed.

Meanwhile, one of the farmers I have met, Tyler of Heart2Heart Farms, has made a tremendous effort to collect edible  fresh produce from area sources and have it available for free for those in need. He just collected enough through crowd sourcing to buy a large truck to help collect and transport the food to his farm. All he asks is a few hours of volunteer work in exchange and he tells me that few offer to help.

My concern is that we have forgotten how to teach people to fish and we are providing fish dinners so often that many have no desire to learn the skills to manage their own pathway. In our effort to provide a hand and a safety net the actual message, as spoken by the California man in the Cooperative Ministries parking lot, is McMinnville is a place to go to be taken care of.

It’s a fine line between helping and enabling.

fishing4

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ADDENDUM: A friend has suggested that this post seems to be a bit judgmental about the homeless. That was not my intention.  At an earlier time of my life, when I was home with the baby and my husband suffered a stroke while undergoing surgery for brain cancer, I was in a tough spot. No income. My landlord was the amazing spirit in those days, telling us the last thing we needed was to worry about the rent. He permitted us 6 months free rent until the social security disability kicked in and we could once again start paying. I have no idea what it did to his own finances; I just know without his offer, we would have been out the door.

The blog, however, is a bit judgmental about the programs offered here in McMinnville. I believe what began as a way to help people through a bad time may have become a regular routine for many. I believe the need is still there. I just think there has to be another way to help people out of the hole they are in.  Some of the people who take advantage of the meals offered in this town may never be able to have anything close to a lifestyle where they can support themselves, but there are others who were working, became unemployed and for a number of reasons  have not found another job. Those are the people I think might be able to be helped with a different kind of assistance. There are plans underway to do just that; it is just some time off in the future before it becomes active.

 


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Time Off

Thanks to my sister Laura giving me a special gift to celebrate 60 years, Graham and I enjoyed a brunch cruise on the Willamette River in Portland.We’d been on a dinner cruise a few years ago on the Ohio River out of Huntington, West Virginia with our friends Deb and Milt Hankins, so I sort of expected something similar.Willametterivermap

Not being super familiar with Portland yet we drove in early to give ourselves plenty of time to find parking (2 blocks away for $5)  and maneuver around the Rose Festival which had the riverfront area blocked off for concerts and rides and other fun fair activities.DSC_0058

We made it to the dock in time to chat with the captain who, while chomping down a commercial donut, told us how terrific the food is. (And it was pretty good!)  Missed that donut photo for you, though!DSC_0005

DSC_0002DSC_0035aThe cruise headed upriver, which is south from downtown Portland. The gray overcast cleared and we ended up with beautiful blue skies.  Activity on the river shows how much people enjoy having this playground. DSC_0002a

Development along a riverfront can tell you something about the way a City considered its access to a natural resource. While we did see one industrial business, it is only fair to tell you that most of the commercial and industrial development in Portland is along the Columbia River, not the Willamette.This has left the shorelines free for recreational and residential development for much of what we passed.OMSI (Science Museum) includes a submarine built after WWII

OMSI (Science Museum) includes a submarine built after WWII

I particularly enjoyed the floating houses.

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And of course there were plenty of mansions.

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As we returned downstream the number of bridges became apparent, from the aged Sellwood Bridge which is past time getting replacedAll bridges are given a safety rating from 1 to 100. The Sellwood Bridge rating is a 2. Would you drive across it?

All bridges are given a safety rating from 1 to 100. The Sellwood Bridge rating is a 2. Would you drive across it?

to the new Portland-Milwaukie light rail bridge which will provide a river crossing for mass transit, bicycles and pedestrians, but not automobiles.dsc_0014

We caused one lift bridge to disrupt traffic,but turned back south(upriver) before the next one.DSC_0052

Both Graham and I noticed some downtown construction features-a rooftop tree planted plaza and solar arrays over one roof.DSC_0064aDSC_0064  There are a lot of things about Portland that are truly admirable! The respect for the natural resource of the Willamette River that flows through the City is one great example.

 

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