Learning to Spin

The newest addition to our already cozy studio apartment: a handmade spinning wheel. Noah bought it off craigslist last weekend for an early birthday surprise. The woman warned us that it would need a few pieces – a peg to hold up the wheel, a belt – but we were confident we could easily replace any and all of the parts. Niether of us knowing anything about spinning, we were chuffed to have a gorgeous handmade wheel displayed in our apartment.

In calling around to local craft and fiber shops, I realized that spinning wheels are just about the most complicated luddite device to survive the digital revolution. Not only can I not find parts for the wheel, I’ll have to fashion most of them from scratch and adopt all of the available spinning info for my unique wheel. The first line of warning in my teach yourself to spin book? “Do not learn on a handmade wheel.” Awesome. The only indication as to the wheel’s origin is a carving on the underside of the body that reads “Licky ’79.”

Nonetheless, I certainly have plenty of raw materials: two of our farm companions happen to be a mother-daughter team of curious alpacas who are ready for their summer shearing.


Craft Fairs, Honey Festivals, and the Nation Magazine – Oh My!

Ok, so that wasn’t the best play on the famous Wizard of Oz mantra, but I tried. This weekend is choc-full-of exciting events here in New York. Saturday and Sunday is the World Maker Faire at the New York Hall of Science. Be prepared for reclaimed disaster relief housing, vertical gardens, and robots that teach you things. I’m nerding out over the whole event, but I’m easily most pumped for BUST Magazine’s sub-section Craftacular! (Also, keep an eye out for the Oct/Nov issue of BUST! Yours truly wrote the feature story on urban farm women in NYC!)

Craftacular is BUST Magazine’s outdoor shopping village featuring 50+ vendors, deals, and demos. Check-out hand weaving, mozzarella making, and more!

Purchase tickets to Craftacular and the Maker Faire here. See you there!

Do you like honey? Do you like the beach? If you answered “yes” to these questions, then let me propose this: what are you doing tomorrow, Saturday September 17th beginning at 10AM? It’s the premier of the NYC Honey Festival at Rockaway Beach, sponsored by rooftop farm Brooklyn Grange, and featuring one of the women I interviewed for my BUST Magazine article, the wonderful Meg Paska of Brooklyn Homesteader.

So what can you expect: beekeeping demos, food raffles, cooking demos with the folks at Brooklyn Kitchen, honey-beer brewing with the guys at Sixpoint, honey mustard pickles from Horman’s Best Pickles, and a honey-themed dinner on the boardwalk after dark. Pack some sunscreen, a bathing suit, and your beekeeping veil and head down to the Rockaways for a new twist on a day at the beach. For more information, visit http://www.nychoneyfest.com.

In other food news, the Nation magazine premiered its annual food issue. This is an important one for the food world, as it carries pieces on food economics, crisis, and the environment. The 2011 issue features a roster of a who’s who in food systems celebrity, including articles by the likes of Michael Pollan, change-maker Vandana Shiva, Raj Patel, Frances Moore Lappe, Anna Lappe, Eric Schlosser, Daniel Imhoff, and Civil Eats editor Paula Crossfield. Check-out the full list of articles here, and be sure to pick-up your copy on newsstands today.

A Moveable Feast: Photographs of the NYC Green Cart Program at MCNY

{Gabriele Stabile, Untitled, 2009}

If you live in New York City, then you’re probably familiar with those ubiquitous sidewalk green carts. Fruits and produce for a reasonable price, on the go, anywhere, anytime. They’re not usually organic, nor do they typically boast any sustainable practices, but these carts serve an arguably even more important purpose: to bring fresh fruits and veggies to under-served communities, where the closest thing to “vegetables” are often the french fries at the local McDonald’s. But with a head full of organic sensibility and quests for the most sustainable kale, it’s easy to ignore the cultural and social significance of these humble green carts.

Moveable Feast: Fresh Produce and the NYC Green Cart Program,” a photo-journalism exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York, aims to highlight this oft-invisible part of city life. Five photographers spent a year exploring the lives of the independent green cart owners, their customers, and the neighborhoods they serve. The result is a stunning collection of photos and a bit of history. Most of the green cart photos were taken over the past few years throughout the five boroughs, but the exhibit also features a number of pictures, taken from various museum archives, from as early as 1895.

{Empty Vegetable Stand On Valentines Day, Looking East From 3rd Avenue & 110th Street, Will Steacy, New York, 2010}

The exhibit runs through August 22, and is absolutely worth a visit. Launched in 2008 by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the green cart program was designed to bring accessible fresh fruits and vegetables to communities where 12 percent of adults reported to not have eaten a fruit or vegetable the previous day, according to a DoHMH study.

The images remind us of the families that depend on the green carts for their health, and livelihoods. One collection of photos by photographer LaToya Ruby Frazier includes snapshots into the life of a green cart vendor who operated his cart 24 hours a day until he was beaten and robbed late one evening. Now, he depends on his brother and other family members to man the cart with him at all times. Another interesting anecdote includes the cut throat, but often unacknowledged competition between green cart operators and other food carts, like the Sabrett hot dog vendor. (In this case, the police favored the Sabrett vendor and the green cart operator in question was forced to move his cart onto a less busy block.)

{Will Steacy, McDonalds Drive-Thru Adjacent To Dominos Pizza, Looking Northeast From Jerome Avenue, Bronx, 2010}

DIY Business Cards

Annnndddd we’re back! But only for a little bit. On Thursday, Noah and I embark on our post-graduation gift to ourselves: 3 weeks in Europe! We’re already broke from dropping a chunk of our savings on transportation, so thankfully our kind friends and family have offered to host us during our stay. But more on that later…

During this past Legume Loyalist hiatus, Noah and I packed up our life and moved to a new Brooklyn apartment (we’re still unpacking and figuring things out; Noah is re-painting the trim as I type) and, here’s the big news, I graduated!

That’s me!

To kick-off my new life as a student turned “young professional” (well, “young potential professional” is more like it…I’m still effectively jobless) I made myself some business cards. I contemplated ordering a pack from a business card site, but decided that DIY cards would serve my purposes better. (If I learned anything from my journalism classes at NYU, it’s the power of branding. Shout-out to my old J-prof Betty Ming Liu ;-)) I searched the web for a few DIY business card ideas and settled on stamping.

I ordered a custom stamp from this tiny gem of a shop in the East Village: Casey Rubber Stamps. The shop feels like a relic from an older, more eclectic downtown Manhattan (imagine that); there’s just enough room to turn around in the gallery area, but the selection of stamps more than compensates for lack of aesthetics. My custom stamp cost a reasonable $32 and was finished in less than a day.

Choosing what the stamp would say was probably the most difficult part: another helpful tip from j-school, the “rule of threes.” If you’re stuck on what to say about yourself, pick three descriptives that you think provide the most succinct description of how you want to portray yourself to the world.

I also picked out a few other food-related stamps that I thought would add a little interest to my cards:

I bought the paper supplies as well as the mason jar and spoon stamp from another stamping store in the West Village. The Ink Pad carries all sorts of stamping, letter-pressing, and other general paper craft goods. A pack of 100 pre-cut blank business cards cost $6.95 each. They’re pretty sturdy and they come in a few different colors. I bought the packs in “creme” and “kraft” just to mix it up a bit. For the ink, I bought Archival Ink in Viridian (a baby-blue/turquoise hue), Jet Black, and Olive. (I picked-up the yellowish-green color on the creme cards from the Casey Rubber Stamps. He called it “weird green.”) A tip: make sure that the ink you use is waterproof and permanent! You wouldn’t want all your hard work to go to waste with a finger smear.

The process? I laid down an old poster to prevent any stray ink marks on my desk and had a notebook on hand to test everything out. I decided on an Olive colored small legume on the kraft cards and the “weird green” small legume on the creme cards. I stamped my info in Jet Black, and then stamped the back of every card with either the mason jar or the spoon in Viridian.

Voila! DIY business cards!

Farmarazzi! Action Alert: Take Photos of Farms While You Still Can

{photo taken by moi as part of my senior project at Cross Island Farms}

“A well managed farm has nothing to hide.” – Josh Viertel, President of Slow Food USA. But if Daniel Imhoff’s book CAFO: The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories tells us anything, it’s that most farms do have something to hide.

{image courtesy of http://www.cafothebook.com}

So it’s no wonder that certain states are now considering a law that would make taking pictures of farms a criminal act. Yup, you read correctly: Legislators in Iowa, Florida, and Minnesota have proposed laws that claim unapproved photos of farms (i.e. the images in whistle-blowing outlets such as CAFO) misrepresent the industry and prove detrimental to the public’s perception of food production.

This is just plain horse manure. As Mark Bittman pointed out in an opinion piece for the Times, if farms were well-managed and humane in the first place, there wouldn’t be a need for such a reactive piece of legislation, “Videotaping at factory farms wouldn’t be necessary if the industry were properly regulated. But it isn’t.” The sad fact is that many of the farms that supply our supermarkets participate in the horrific abuses seen in CAFO.

On a wholesome farm, farmers revel in photographs of their healthy, happy animals and crops. Such were the reactions of the women farmers I interviewed and photographed last semester for my senior project. All the women happily agreed to not only having me and Noah snoop around their farms, but also allowing us to take photos. You can check out all my farm photos here.

In order to fight back against the pending legislation, Slow Food USA has started the tongue-in-cheek campaignFarmarazzi.” They’re encouraging individuals to get out to a farm, take a photo and then submit the photos to the Slow Food USA facebook page. From their blog:

Step 1: Sign the petition. Even if you’re you don’t live in Florida, Minnesota, or Iowa, your voice matters. These state laws would set a dangerous precedent that other states may choose to follow.

2. Join the farmarazzi! Head out to a farm, take a photo, and if the farmer is available, spend a few minutes getting her perspective on the impact this legislation would have if passed. Then upload your picture to our Facebook wall (or email it to campaigns@slowfoodusa.org) and take a look at what other people have posted there. You can also encourage your friends to “like” your photo—we’re working on a prize for the most popular shots.

So sign the petition, and get out and take some photos of farms!

TBECC Round-Up: Recipes, Crafts, and Books, Oh My!

“Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.” This is hands down my favorite quote from a novel ever. I’m a huge Virginia Woolf fan; there’s something about female, high-society writers that I can’t get enough of. (Edith Wharton, anyone?) I’m definitely no literary buff, not even by a long-shot, but I’ve always identified that simple sentence with my own notions of feminism and femininity (beyond the larger context of the book of course, I’m not married to a politician, nor do I have servants). So in preparation for TBECC, a celebration of domesticity and feminism of sorts, I just had to buy flowers…myself.

TBECC was more than just flowers and aesthetics, of course, and it lived up to its name: friends, women, eating, talking about food issues, sharing knowledge and just enjoying each other’s company. We had SO MUCH food. Meg baked a banana cake with chocolate sea salt caramel ganache (which she baked in a toaster oven!); Marlie brought salad (thankfully, some lighter fare) and bread from Hawthorne Valley Farm where she’s a market worker; Julia brought buttermilk pie and honey and jam; and I baked some honey whole wheat pound cake and mini cinnamon rolls. (More recipes to follow!) To drink, I sorted my out-of-control collection of Harney and Sons tea, and pulled out my bag of Counter Culture Jagong coffee (arguably my new favorite, although Crop To Cup’s Burundi is still up there).

Dani Walsh, the wonderful woman behind www.WomenEatNYC.com  (and Grub Street intern!!), a bee-yoo-ti-ful blog that includes recipes and pictures of women enjoying food, stopped by and helped out with some necessary lighting in my living room (no natural light, boo!). She also shared some really cute recipe cards (Dani, let me know where you found those little guys!). We discussed our favorite baking books including, The Pie and Pastry Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum (who also wrote the Cake Bible!) and The Bread Bakers Apprentice by Peter Reinhart.

Eventually (it was inevitable) the knitting needles came out and Meg, knitter extraordinaire, shared her go-to book for knitting: The Complete Guide to Needlework edited by Readers Digest. Meg’s copy is ancient, but it’s a gem of a reference book. The pictures are painfully 80s, but the instruction is invaluable, with pictures and clear descriptions of a bajillion patterns and stitches for all kinds of stitching crafts from knitting to quilting to needlepoint to embroidery.

We’re hoping to host another TBECC before the school-year lets out. My hope is that TBECC will encourage more women (men too!) to get together, share domestic knowledge and take back our food system!

TBECC: Reclaiming the Domestic, in Action!

I couldn’t be more excited for the weekend coming up! On Saturday, Slow Food NYC is having their first volunteer workday. They’re gearing up for their summer program at Ujima Community Garden in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and they need volunteers to help plant and build in the garden, and to prep the classroom. This year they’re adding chickens to their repertoire of urban farming, so naturally we have to build a chicken coop. The coop building is scheduled for the second workday, April 30th. I’m most excited to help build the coop as Noah and I are beginning to think about the potential of our own Brooklyn chicken coop! But more on that some other time…

This Sunday, I’m hosting a wee-little event called TBECC: talk, bake, eat, cook, and craft (not the best acronym, but whatever, it serves its purpose for now). What is TBECC? Well, this semester, I’ve made great connections with some amazing girls at NYU. We’ve exchanged recipes, cooking/baking tips, crafting tips, and in general just had really empowering conversations. I found myself making promises to hang out with everybody in getting together to cook, bake, eat, talk, drink tea/coffee/mircrobrews, knit, craft, etc. all on different occasions. But then I realized, in these different conversations with different girls, that we all had the same ideas in mind: eating locally, sustainability, feminism, crafting, enjoying food, baking/cooking, and all that jazz.

Obviously it would be wonderful to hang out with everyone individually, but I figured, in light of some recent ideas I’ve had about communality and the sharing of domestic knowledge, why don’t I get all these great, intellectual, feminine minds together in one place and just talk, bake, eat, craft and cook? So, we have TBECC this Sunday at my humble apartment! My yarn has been collecting dust under a folding table in my bedroom so I’m especially excited to dust-off my knitting needles and put them to work. And, since we will be cooking, eating, and baking, I have two recipes in mind: Cinnamon Swirl Buns and Grapefruit Honey Yogurt Scones. Reclaiming the domestic, in action!

{image courtesy of Boston Public Library flickr}