Thursday, May 31, 2007

Blissful weekend upstate

New trick: waving
Daddy's girl

Swimming - v. brave (please pretend you never saw my thighs)Great grandma's vintage towel.

On the swings

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Useless and trying to pass the buck

Oh dear. Silence from me in over a week and what have I got for you? Nothing but confessions of un-green creep. Soz.

Regular readers will know that I've been getting fairly worn down by some aspects of my frenzied greening - handmaking all of Dot's (strictly organic) baby food late at night, always making my own lunch to take to work, never drinking coffee in paper cups (recycled or not) or water in plastic bottles, never printing anything, using only eco-friendly, paraben-free beauty products, cleaning only with baking soda, vinegar and elbow grease, wearing a hair shirt (oh alright, I didn't really do that) etc etc.

Well, what I can tell you? I've been out for a few drinks with the girls, had lunch with friends, hosted a lovely bbq for 16 in our garden upstate at the weekend and been frantically busy at work, and before I knew it with all this relaxing and rushing about, Dot had had three jars of baby food, I'd bought lunch in a plastic container three times and double-cupped cappuccino from my favourite coffee shop twice (damn, those felt good - my first real caffeine in 18 months), there was kitchen roll in the kitchen (outlawed till now for several months) and Neutrogena face products and even non-eco-friendly loo roll (horrors!) in the bathroom.

And here's the awful bit: it's all been so much easier. The stress-induced spare tire is shrinking, the eczema on my hands (from washing up the magimix) is calming down, I could enjoy the weekend instead of frantically pureeing (Dot survived) and my horrible acne has all but disappeared.

Damn you, you convenient, available, tasty products that work! You are trying to pull me over to the dark side!

I kind of knew it would be like this - that as soon as I got a bit slack in one area, it'd all go to pot. (apres moi le deluge and all that (actually am a bit gutted because I always thought that meant something along the lines of 'open the floodgates a tiny bit and a huge flood will follow' but apparently am wrong. Oh well. Ahem, I digress...)). It's the same no matter what you're trying to give up - let yourself have one ciggie and you'll soon be back on 20 a day (just from observing friends, you understand) - or at least it that's the way it is for me.

Am aiming to go back to relatively cold turkey as of tonight. My week off felt good but that's all it was - a week off.

So please, dear brand owners, retailers and entrepreneurs of the world, can you hurry up and figure out ways to make it so that lapsing isn't so much more wildly attractive than sticking with the program?

Many thanks.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Cleaning contretemps

I went out for a drink last night. I know, a drink! It felt wildly liberating. I hadn’t realized how long it had been until I did it. Walking down the street at night on my own, meeting a friend, sitting at the bar…It all came back to me surprisingly easily. In fact before I knew it I was halfway through a bottle of vinho verde and it was 10.30.

Anyway, that’s not really my point. My point is that I got home in a fabulous mood which only got better when the hubby announced he’d booked a cleaning lady to come today (a cleaning lady – such luxury!) and we were having a lovely chat until he mentioned The Shopping List.

Ah, The Shopping List. For those non-New Yorkers among you, The Shopping List is something every cleaner here has. It almost always features Ajax, bleach and ream upon ream of kitchen roll and your cleaner is within his/her rights to refuse to clean your house unless his/her exact specifications are met (at least, that's how they make you feel). It's been so long since I've had a cleaning lady I'd forgotten about it.

“I have to go and buy her a load of cleaning products in the morning,” he said. "She needs Ajax, Fantastik with bleach, toilet cleaner, Windex and kitchen roll."

“Er, no you don’t,” I said matter-of-factly. “We have all that Seventh Generation and Babyganics stuff, and she can use white vinegar for the windows.”

What happened next was weird. “I am not going to tell her to wash the windows with vinegar,” he exploded. “It’s not fair.”

I was a bit taken aback. I mean, it’s not as if I’ve been particularly quiet about my stance on cleaning products - you'd think he'd have noticed by now. Then it got weirder.

“Freya, she can’t do her job without this stuff. It’s like if I took your computer away and told you to do your job. She barely speaks English, she’ll be trying to clean with your crappy products and worrying if she’s doing a good job. It’s not fair on her. I won’t do it.”

See how he did that? Sometimes it’s really annoying having a sweet empathetic husband - one always come off looking like the b*%$h in the house. But I’ve been playing this game too long to fall for that one.

“Do you know women who stay at home have an 80% higher rate of breast cancer than those who go to work and it’s because of those cleaning products? And you want to expose Dot to this stuff because you won’t stand up to the cleaner? Blame me, tell her your wife is crazy, I don’t care, but I'm not having it,” I said - my turn to be all righteous and indignant. “And anyway, the products aren’t crap.”

“Yes they are. I want the house to feel clean. I want my oven shiny not all full of crusty shit,” he said, and then played his trump card. “If you want to clean the oven with baking powder that's fine but you do the cleaning.”

It's so boring when he does that. He knows I'm finding it hard to keep body and soul together and am indeed doing as much cleaning as I can muster on an almost full time job, mum-stuff, making Dot's food and five hours sleep a night and have devloped acne and a spare tyre as a result. (He does the same thing about the laundry. "If you don't want all your woolens shrunk to Dot-size, you do the laundry." Well, yes darling, but WHEN? And in case you're wondering, I write this on the subway these days so that's not a solution.) He flounced off to bed. We rolled to opposite sides of the mattress and went to sleep in frosty silence.

By this morning he’d mellowed. “Give me a list of what I have to get then and I’ll go,” he said grudgingly.

At lunchtime I called home to find out how things had gone. “Oh fine,” he said insouciantly. “She said she really likes Ecover products.”

And this evening? The house looked lovely. The lovely cleaner had been completely accommodating and was Dot's NBF. And the hubby was passing the Ecover off as his idea.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Lawn Lunacy

As we savoured the River Brook farm organic local sunchoke risotto this evening (I realized after I'd posted about it before that I'd left the bloody sunchokes up here, sorry. Oh, and for your information they were delectable - crisp and juicy, looked like root ginger, tasted like globe artichokes, texture of jicama or water chestnuts), I kept looking out of the window at the new leaves shooting and the trees covered in blossom and doing a little mental jig at the wonderfulness of it being spring at last.

The day had begun with a trip across the dewy fields to the river in our pyjamas for Dot and me. It was 6.30, misty and beautiful and the birds clearly shared our enthusiasm for the intoxicating spring air.

We spent most of the rest of the day in the garden, Dot waving things around on a rug, T in the hammock (I don't usually stick up for him but having already done the laundry, been to the dump and cleared out the barn, he'd earned a rest) and me trying to mow our very uneven lawn with an old push mower - you know, one of those lawn mowers that isn't electric or petrol-powered, but that you just push. This took equal parts brute force, patience and sheer bloody-mindedness and I stuck with it only because I'd decided that a manual mower was the most eco-friendly option and I was determined it would work. Also, we already had it, bequeathed by the previous owner, which of course differentiated it from other options.

If you needed further proof I've lost the plot, persisting in this fool's errand would be it. It took hours. Our lawn is lumpy and contoured and covered in clumps of very woody super-grass. I had to pre-cut much of it with the shears. I had to lean into the mower with my whole body. Most bits needed several goings-over. I then had to rake up the clippings and chuck them in the wormery (which, by the way, looked like it had compacted, thanks presumably to the efforts of Dot's worms - goody).

When I was done, it looked like a six year-old's fringe (bangs) she's cut herself, or, as my grandpa would have said, like I'd cut it with a knife and fork (I almost had). No suburban stripes for our lawn. My shoulders, back and arms are killing me this evening and I'm sure it'll only be worse by tomorrow.

So, as seems to happen from time to time (cleaning the oven springs to mind) I have to concede that the greenest option isn't really viable. I think the next-least-bad option is to explore the principal of shared ownership as it relates to un-eco-friendly lawn mowers - that is to say, borrow one from a kindly neighbour. To make up for the power we'll incur, I'm unplugging all digital clock-radios as of tomorrow.

Come to think of it, why on earth are they even still plugged in?

Bad Freya.

PS. Forgot to tell you, T saw a snake on our lawn last saturday. A snake! Lock up your babies. I mean my baby.

And PPS, just a reminder to check out Sally Walton's bags at carry-a-bag. They are totally gorgeous reusable bags and are getting lots of attention so get em while you still can. My Mum is being a mule for a shipment over to the US next week to save on incremental carbon (she was coming anyway) so if any readers want one and let me know by tomorrow night, we might be able to persuade mum to squeeze an extra one or two into her suitcase...Nina, if you're reading, reckon you'd love the superman bag on this page.

And PPPS, Alice at River Brook Farm is raising money for some gorgeous goats she just rescued in a parlous physical condition. If you want to donate a buck or two, let me know and I'll connect you. She's truly a saint.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Wormery Squirmery

Ah, what a glorious weekend. Can’t help thinking life would be even lovelier if I could spend more of it sitting in the garden in the sun watching my baby girl try to figure out what grass, stones, sticks and daffodils are. Ho hum.

Dot’s nature discoveries this weekend also included worms – 1000 of them, to be precise - about which she was rather less squeamish than I was. Yes, we finally installed the worms in the wormery. We stopped at Tom’s Bait and Tackle in Narrowsburg to pick up a ‘flat’ – that’s a large polystyrene container housing 1000 worms. At first it just looked like soil, but the owner Cliff plunged his hand in and brought out a handful of wrigglers all clumped together in a ball. He tried to get me to grab some but I hate to admit I squealed like a silly schoolgirl and leapt backwards across the store. Dot, on the other hand, encouraged by her father (who allegedly grew up eating worms) was only too keen to touch; she didn’t want to let go of her new pets and I intercepted several on their way to her mouth in the nick of time.

We took the worms home. Grady gallantly came over with a garden fork to assist. The rest of it wasn’t very dramatic; we just took handfuls (I was much bolder once I had my gardening gloves on) and placed them gently around the top of the compost bin, then covered them over with some slightly damp old leaves to keep the sun off. I checked on them today and there was no sign of them so I hope they’re doing their work down there in the compost. Being a wormery novice I am a bit worried about them – have I done it right? – but I guess we’ll know more in a couple of weeks.

While I had him, I decided to put my latest idea for Narrowsburg to Grady. The idea is to make Narrowsburg a plastic bag-free town, like Modbury in England, and to kick the commitment off on July 4th with a bag-free weekend. I’m calling the idea plasticfreefourth and the slogan is ‘this July 4th weekend declare your independence from the plastic bag’. Obviously this is partly because I hate plastic bags but also Modbury has attracted loads of press (more here too) and I’d love to see Narrowsburg do the same; could lead to a good summer for the local businesses. He's already been discussing this kind of idea with the chamber of commerce so could be up for it. Would be fab if we could pull it off; the supermarket is the tricky piece though. It’s not a big chain so if anyone has ideas as to how we could help them do it without spending $$, do let me know. (Did I mention that Modbury is about 5 miles down the road from my Granny and that I practically grew up there? So am very proud of them. It's lovely, by the way. You should go if yo uget the chance.)

As for the hybrid, I hate to tell you but it fell through. Long story involving UK drivers’ licences and car availability (they only had an SUV in the end. I couldn’t do it). So no Top Gear stylee car review from me; we may still sign up for the service but I'll keep you posted.

That’s all for now. Sunchoke risotto for dinner tonight using freshly harvested sunchokes from River Brook Farm, total food miles: 5. (Well, not counting the rice. And the drive back to Brooklyn…)

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Thursday, May 03, 2007


Hi all. So I'm now starting to feel bad about having the place upstate at all because now we're not there full time, how can we justify the driving? (I don't think it increases our carbon foorprint any ohter ways as we live greener when we're there than - eating local, keeping lights off, low-flow loo, composting, etc). But then look how idyllic it is for the little bubba, below (and, alright, for us). I want her to have this as her antidote to nyc where we have to be to earn our living. So for now the challenge is making the drive less bad. With this in mind we're hoping to test drive a hybrid this weekend from zipcar (shared ownership concept alert). I'm excited to see how it drives. Will keep you posted. In the meantime, since we've been so crap at keeping up, I think you deserve some piccies.

Messing about on the river.

Who needs plastic toys when there are rocks to eat?
Or (empty) beer bottles?
Or daddy's glasses?
Bathing in the washing up bowl to save water. Such a greenlittledot.