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All articles here are written by Melinda Briana Epler (that's me!) unless otherwise noted. I'm a documentary filmmaker, writer, and brand experience designer - I've dedicated my life to living a sustainable lifestyle and helping others do the same. Please feel free to contact me if you have questions or thoughts for articles. Welcome!

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Recipe: Easy Baked Potatoes & Tomatoes, Apulian Style

Easy Baked Potatoes & Tomatoes, Apulian Style


Continue reading Recipe: Easy Baked Potatoes & Tomatoes, Apulian Style

THE GROWING CHALLENGE: Has This Been Helpful?

The Growing Challenge


There are currently 173 people who are a part of this challenge. Please join us any time! Just head on over to The Growing Challenge Page and check out what it’s all about.


As I walk with Kate through many local p-patches here, I’ve been wondering what you think of the Growing Challenge.  Has it been helpful for you to have this community of gardeners pushing you to plant from seed?  Will you continue on to grow more new plants from seed?  Are you saving your seeds for next year?  And it’s ok to be honest.  I know some of you had a terrible time with some of your new seeds and will never plant those crops again.  Did you learn from that experience, or was it just a dud?


Most of you in the Northern Hemisphere are trying winter gardening of some scope – how is it going?  Aussies and New Zealanders, feel free to brag about your wonderful spring gardens!  And as always, feel free to ask questions of other gardeners, discuss food gardening, and link to your recent gardening posts here.


A Moment To Breathe…

Kate with dahlias, her favorite


Welcome, all of you who are new to the blog – thank you for visiting and please stay a while. Please feel free to comment, as I love to hear from you all – I believe this is our blog together!


This week I’ve had the privilege of a lovely visit from Kate, of Hills and Plains Seedsavers in Adelaide, Australia. Hills and Plains is a seedsaving group numbering about 40, who meet once a month, trade seeds with one another, and blog together about gardening. Oh, and Kate is also a participant in The Growing Challenge!


We’ve had a lovely time together so far, touring our local community gardens, visiting the famous Pike Place Market, walking (and driving and taking the bus) around town, and eating, eating, eating


It has been absolutely wonderful to take a break, become a bit of a tourist myself, and to unwind as we learn from other gardeners along our tour. Here is a taste of our visit so far:


Thomas Street P-Patch


Thomas Street P-Patch


This is the community garden closest to our house. It currently has a 3-5 year wait list for a plot. In Seattle we call our community gardens “p-patches”, after Rainie Picardo who set up the first p-patch in 1974. Here is more of the history of our patches.


Squirrel making itself at home


It is interesting how each community garden seems to have a bit of its own culture, with unique patterns of planting, methods of growing, and types of plants grown. Thomas Street has small plots, but most of them are very packed full of one or two of just about everything each individual gardener enjoys!


Republican Street P-Patch


Republican Street P-Patch


This garden is a the other side of our large neighborhood of Capitol Hill, surrounded by larger houses and townhomes. It was not as densely planted, and seemed to be going through more of a transition as summer crops were taken out and cole crops were just being seeded.


Blogger Photographer


Pelican Tea Garden


Pelican Tea Garden


Some of you have seen this garden before, back when I came to visit Seattle and look for an apartment. This is a tiny co-operative plot down a dark, dirty alley lined with garbage. But the garden itself is an urban oasis, full of all sorts of herbs and vegetables!


Seattle Tilth Demonstration Garden, Food Bank Garden, and Good Shepard P-Patch


Seattle Tilth


Seattle Tilth is a wonderful local educational facility for Seattle gardeners, offering classes on master composting, container gardening, irrigation, urban chicken keeping, and much more. The garden itself is largely a demonstration garden, where each small bed demonstrates a new technique. When I visited in the late summer with other local bloggers, they even had a sign on their squash saying “this is what powdery mildew looks like” – ha! It made us all feel better, as it has been a particularly cold and wet growing season this year.


Coffee bags as mulch

Stockings to protect apples from pests


Like several of the local p-patches, Seattle Tilth also hosts a food bank garden that provides fresh organic produce to low-income families.


University of Washington Medicinal Herb Garden


University of Washington Medicinal Herb Garden

 

As we took a tour through the beautiful University of Washington campus, I remembered a great little medicinal herb garden tucked away inside the campus.  We found all sorts of herbs from all over the world.  The cold rain had hit some of the tropical herbs pretty hard, so I’m sure mid-summer the place is just magical.  

 

Yacon

Hops


Interbay P-Patch


Interbay Food Bank


This is a very large community garden feeding 120 families on a landfill between the Magnolia and Queen Anne neighborhoods. The gardeners and their families meet once a month for a potluck and get-together, where they roast vegetables from the garden and enjoy one another’s company.

 

It was here that Kate found a whole plot of dahlias and was in heaven (top photo).


Kale with grass mulch from local landscaping companies

Bees

Asparagus


Pike Place Market


Pike Place Market

 

In between gardens, we’ve also indulged in quite a lot of local food, including some wonderful cheeses we found at the Pike Place Market.  One of the cheeses was from a lovely woman who had recently been to Australia on a tour of the different cows in the region.

 

Rosecrest Farm Swiss Cheese

 

Today we’re off the the University District Farmer’s Market and to visit our “family allotment” at my mother’s place. It’s under a bit of construction (more to come about that!), so it will be an unusual garden visit but at least there are a few things still growing for Kate to see.

 

Pike Place Fish Co.

Sosios Produce


I must say it’s nice to step back some, to re-evaluate my world and my views from an outsider’s perspective. Things that are normal – like squirrels, large mountains, food banks, and bike racks on buses – are unusual to others. It’s refreshing to see normal in a new light.


I’ve also been able to take my eyes off the news, the market, the election – just a little bit. I know it’s all still there, but it’s a bit more distant and thus easier to reflect upon, easier to recognize the bigger picture.


There are many more photos on Kate’s blog, if you’d like to hear more about our visit!


Combatting Poverty (And Other Important Issues) With Community and Compassion

Blog Action Day


Around the world, thousands of bloggers wrote on one subject yesterday: Poverty.  It’s a subject that I think about quite a lot, as one of my side jobs is consulting with City, County, and State governments on community development programs to prevent poverty and homelessness.


Poverty in US government terms is defined as a household who earns less than $10,400 for an individual, or $21,200 for a family of 4.  However, most consultants who do the work I do believe that this vastly under represents poverty in the United States.  The reason is that such a low income is not really a livable income.


In actuality, a family not really live on this amount without going into serious debt.  To be able to pay for housing, food, clothing, child care, health care, basic supplies, and other living expenses, an individual in Seattle would have to earn approximately $31,300.  A family of 4 would have to earn around $50,000.  It is different for every area, based on the cost of living.  Here is a quick video explaining these ideas.  (If you’re truly interested in more, here is where we find the majority of that data, with more information here and here.)


Unfortunately I don’t study world poverty, so I don’t much about its scope worldwide.  If any of you know more, please share with us in the comments.


Crises of Our Time


Yet I don’t believe we can effectively talk about poverty without talking about its causes.  Monday I wrote about the “crises of our time.”  Maybe that sounds a bit fatalistic or overly drastic for some of you.  We all are trying to live more simply, to live more fullfilling lives full of hapiness and love.  At the same time, the reality is that there are crises that exist outside of our own immediate worlds.  And I believe that as we live simply, sustainably, and happily, we will be more fullfilled if we become part of the solution to these crises.


We are coming upon unprecedented times, where many different world issues are heading toward a crux.  The result is that we will likely see quite a bit more poverty in the world.  And while the poorer, less developed countries will likely be hit hardest, poverty may also hit your neighbors and friends.


I want to make sure that we don’t just discuss problems here.  It’s important to me to focus on solutions.  So bear with me a moment as I take you through my thinking….


A Time of Corrections


A few days ago in the comments hereKate posted a link to an amazing interview between Bill Moyers and George Soros.  The interview explains the current world economic crisis and how it might be solved, where we might be going from here.  At the end of the interview, Soros mentioned that we were about to enter a time of corrections.  And this struck a cord with me.


Housing


A few months ago I posted a graph of the inflated housing market, and wrote about why we were renting rather than buying during this time.  It is because, Matt and I believed, we were entering a period of housing market correction.  The values had gone up too far, too fast.  And they would go back down, we believed.


Unfortunately, we were right.  Many economists are saying that they will go down for another couple of years.  (I’m sure that scares many of you, and I will try to write more about it in the coming weeks.)


Economy


I had no idea how intricately this housing correction would be tied to the banks, the lending institutions that had fed this upward trend in the housing market.  It turns out the banks have overextended, outmaneuvered, and really just plain practiced bad economic policies for far too long.  Now they are correcting, and we are feeding their corrections with our own tax dollars (in the hopes that that correction will not be as painful as its alternative).


And not only are the housing market and the mortgage industry going through a period of corrections, but other areas are beginning to correct as well.


Climate


Climate change is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore, as is creating catastrophic floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, famine, and poverty around the world.  As a result, the tipping point of public awareness about climate change is coming nearer, people are listening, people are understanding.  And soon, I believe, we will begin correcting our years of mistakes.


We have already started.  You and I have started correcting our personal lifestyles.  And we have even started to bring those corrections into our communities.  As we push on, others will begin joining us.  The power of many will grow ever stronger.


Culture & Community


With a global recession, our lives get tougher.  Our retirement becomes more precarious, our worries about our future become more present.  But we also turn to one another for comfort, for ideas, for help, and for compassion.  We come out of our isolated worlds, where we have held up alone, celebrated for our individualism, for too long.


Suddenly, we have to change – and correct – our culture, because to get through these difficult times we have to come together.  We have to work on our local communities, help our neighbors’ businesses stay afloat for our own survival and for the survival of our cities and towns and communities.


And you know, for those of you who are shy and have had a hard time finding an excuse to talk with your neighbors, this is a perfect excuse to introduce yourself.  ’How are you doing?’  ’Man, the economy is getting rough – do you think everyone in our community will be ok?’  Or, ‘I harvested a bunch of tomatoes before the frosts – will you take some?’  There are many ice breakers when we’re all focused on a crisis.


This is also a perfect excuse to volunteer at your local food bank, or your local shelter, or start sitting in on your local community council meetings.  You may not be hurting, but others will be and when people hurt, it is time for us to have real and thorough compassion.  To come out of our shells for the greater good, and to help heal.


Other Issues


There are many other things we need to work on, problems that stem from the way we have lived our lives for the last few decades.  Food, Water, War, Environment, Energy, Poverty – many things that are intertwined with one another, all things that need to be corrected.  And all things that can be corrected if we begin working toward a shift in how we think of our neighborhoods, towns, and cities.


What Are The Solutions?


One of the top solutions, and the simplest correction to most of our major problems – climate change, cheap energy depletion, war, environmental destruction, inflated housing costs, overzealous banking problems, issues in food and water supply, individual poverty and corporate greed – is to work within our communities and rebuild our local economies and infrastructure.  And the compassion that develops from doing that.


If you can, give money to organizations that desperately need it right now.  During economic recessions, more people are in need of aid.  Paradoxically, during an economic crisis, there is also less giving.  So if you can afford to give, please do.


If you can afford it, also consider giving as a family to an organization in desperate need of funds during the holidays.  This could even be a replacement for some of the material gifts you would normally give one another.


And give your time most of all.  There are many ways to become involved within your community.  We’ve discussed some of the ways, and I will continue to write about them. 


If you have no time to give, at least give a smile.  Show your compassion.  Put good thoughts and good nature into your community.  And encourage your friends, family, and neighbors to do the same. 


You can also support your local businesses by living locally, participating in the local economy whenever you can.  And buy sustainably. 


Please go out into your communities.  Help them grow and adapt and become sustainable.  And infuse your neighborhoods with compassion any way that you can. 


And if you are living in poverty or living on the edge of poverty, there are many resources available to you.  I will write about those in the future.  I’ve written here about tightening our belts, and cutting costs – there will be more here about frugality in the coming months.


I do not know how long this time of corrections will last.  Some say 2 years, others say longer.  But it will be so much more rewarding, so much better oriented toward us – people – if we work on it together.  If we practice our compassion, lean on one another, and work together to build and make our communities stronger. We can play an important role in in helping others during these times.  In this way, we will help combat poverty and its many causes.


Thanks For Bearing With This Long Essay!


I know this was long, but I hope you were able to spend the time reading my thoughts.  Please let me know what you think about them, other ways that we may solve poverty.  I’d appreciate it!


Finding Solutions For The Crises Of Our Time

!


Today is a big day for the economy. It looks like the world leaders may have found a solution to ease the economic pain around the world. Time will tell. Still, of course, it will become more difficult for each of us before it gets better.


Many economists are predicting that we will not recover economically for at least 2 years, maybe longer. That’s a long time to some of us, and it will likely affect several minor – and maybe a few major – decisions we make during that time.


But this is also an opportunity. I was reminded of this by several of youand I thank you deeply for that.


Here is an opportunity to cut back on our spending, to get ourselves into good budgeting habits. And even to be liberated from spending money when we don’t need to.


The holidays will be difficult for many of us this year. We’ll be cutting back. But hopefully in cutting back, we will be reminded of the true spirit of the holidays. Compassion, family, warmth, love, happiness. This is why we celebrate, this is what brings us together.


We can take this idea to the rest of our lives as well. Other people in our communities will be less well off than we are. And now is the time to come together to help them. Here we have an opportunity to go out into our communities and work together. I will be writing more about this in the coming weeks, you can be sure!


Plus, as we cut back on spending, as we reduce our electrical and water bills out of necessity, and as we do so many other things to help our budgets, we will be magically helping our climate recover at the same time. Good things will come out of this.


There are tough times ahead of us. But we can survive. In fact, we can do better than survive. We can be truly happy. We can thrive.


Today is also a big day for the blog world. As the banks have consolidated and partnered, so have several bloggers. No Impact Man has decided to take some incredible steps to make his blog stronger, including pairing up with several bloggers. Five bloggers I respect very much are leaving their own blogs behind to form The Green Phone Booth together. And I have joined a writer’s cooperative focussed on finding solutions to the economic crisis and beyond, called the Simple | Green | Frugal Co-op.


I will still be here at One Green Generation. We have formed an amazing community here, and I want to make it even stronger as I to continue to write about all that I’m doing and learning. It’s extremely important to me. I love this site, and I love all of you.


So in truth, I am expanding a bit, so that I can be a part of a group of bloggers with disparate views and backgrounds and ideologies, all working toward the same goal of finding solutions. I’m interested in how that dynamic unfolds, how we can fill a different need than One Green Generation, and what happens when several wonderful minds come together to form a cooperative focussed on creating positive change in this world.


Simple | Green | Frugal Co-op


Please visit this new cooperative when you have the time! I think you will enjoy it. Currently there are nine of us, and I believe there will be more in the coming months. And please let us know what you think, and what would help you most.


Faithfully yours, with much love,

Melinda


Something Good To Read: Small Is Possible

Small Is Possible


I want to continue to hear your thoughts about how you are doing, and what I can offer you here during these troubled times.  But I know some of you have read that post, and already offered your (amazing!) thoughts, so I wanted to give you something else to read in the meantime.


I’ve written a guest post over at Blogging Bookworm, a site dedicated to spreading the knowledge of books related to climate change, peak oil, environmental issues, food supply problems, and the solutions to each of these.


As you all know, I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about local economies, and how we go about creating strong communities able to adapt and sustain themselves during good times and bad.  I’ve been soaking up information wherever I can get it!  


The latest book I’ve read on the subject is Small is Possible:  Life In a Local Economy by Lyle Estill.  Please check out my words about it at Blogging Bookworm!


Thanks.  I hope you’re able to de-stress and unwind a bit this weekend.  Don’t forget to feed your souls, and those around you!


I Don’t Know What To Say…

?


I feel like I am treading water in an open sea. I feel like I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. I feel like I don’t know what to feel.


And certainly I am at a loss for what to write. Me, who is never at a loss for topics, ideas, and thoughts.


Yesterday I drove my grandfather around to banks and investment houses and an accountant, so that he could make sure all of his finances were in order. So that he could make sure that he understood exactly where his stocks and bonds and cds were, and whether or not the bank would be able to hold his funds if the bank failed, how much of his money he had lost, what the penalties were for withdrawing some of it early in case he needed to… so many things to think about.


The man is a genius when it comes to money. Some of you may remember that among many other things during his life, he was a banker. He understands economics at the micro and macro levels intimately, he invests cautiously and smartly, he surrounds himself with others who are good informants for more details. My grandfather and his wife are living off of the interest from his savings, he has an elaborate system of cds and all sorts of investments at different banks.


Why am I going on about this?


Because I’m scared. And that my grandfather is worried makes me worried, too. He has told me all about the days of living through the Depression. It was a difficult life.


I am trying to change careers and I have debt hanging over my head from student loans, and this is not a good time for me to be living through a world financial crisis.


The world needs to be fighting climate change, and working toward good alternatives for its finite supply of oil, and tackling malnutrition and severe poverty and the suffering of creatures and environments everywhere. But we can’t when we’re all paralyzed with fear.


I want to write about the Green Your Insides Challenge and the Growing Challenge and the Buy Sustainably Challenge, but every time I start to write, the subject seems hollow in the face of widespread fear and financial distress.


What would help you all right now? What can I write to make you feel better? Do you need distractions? Tips for saving money? Or business as usual? Do you need news or are you saturated? What can I write and say that will help you live your lives happier, healthier, and more fulfilled?


What I’m asking, I think, is How are you doing? How are you feeling? Are you overwhelmed? Are you hurting? Are you ok?


And what are you looking for when you come here to read my words, especially during these more difficult times?


How can I give you what you need?