Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Going local

As I have previously stated, one of the life conclusions Ed and I arrived upon in Oregon is that we need to operate as locally as possible. To that end we have sought out several local movements. We found a local rancher who grazes their cattle about 70 miles away. The beef is really good, but a tad on the fatty side. However, she also sells raw bones for dogs and a special high-fat ground beef that we cook up for Jackie. He loves it. Speaking of Jackie, he is getting used to living in the city. There are several dog parks we take him to, where he invariably gets rolled around by other dogs, but he loves that too. Ed is getting Jackie involved in dog competitions, Earthdog, which simulates hunting and agility. In October we will be going up to northern AZ for his first trial.
The first organization we contacted here is called Local First AZ, they are a non-profit that started in Phoenix to promote local business. It goes something like this: for every dollar spent at a national retailer 13 cents stays in the community, however for every dollar spent at a local business 48 cents stays in the community. For every two jobs a national company creates, three local business jobs are lost. Keep it in the community. Ed and I went to a mixer they had to introduce ourselves. It was really for business owners, and since we are not… but we have started using their website which has a directory of local businesses.
Then we heard from a friend about a local currency movement. Monetary structures have lately piqued our interest. Let’s briefly delve into the philosophical realm. What is money? Money is a standardized means of exchange whose value is based upon something. It used to be, a long long long time ago, that the value of currency was based on the production of food and goods. The US federal note that we use is based upon the word of our government. It used to be, a long long long time ago, that money was created every season with the various potatoes, grains, fruit, meats and cheeses that got to the marketplace. Now money is LOANED into existence by the Federal Reserve, which by the way is a private company, so that the second it touches a hand it has to be paid back WITH INTEREST. That fact, and in order for society to maintain it, depends on a continually expanding economy. And since the earth and the resources upon are a finite entity, an ever-expanding economy is impossible. My own humble opinion is that the human race is reaching critical mass. Money used to devalue over time, as the various potatoes, grains, fruit, meats and cheeses rotted over time if they were not used. This encouraged re-investment into the community. Now money increases over time (via interest), indeed it takes money to make money, or as my uncle always says “the money that money makes, makes more money.” This encourages hoarding, by those who can afford to hoard, and slowly the bulk of the wealth is in the hands of a few (international bankers) and the majority of the population are grinding it out in the wheels of the machine, getting more and more of their production value taken away. (Most of this information, though I have it from several sources, is found in the book LIFE, INC. by Douglass Rushkoff.) The laws laid in place hundreds of years ago and have been altered for the benefit of those in power (think large corporations and multi-millionares) to remain there.
What to do with all this information? One solution is to create a local currency, one that is not loaned into existence, but one that is based on the value of the labor of the members of the community. Which in theory would never inflate or deflate since the value of that labor never changes. All you have to do is get everyone to agree that this new currency has value and to accept it as a means of exchange. So Ed and I have been going to the group meetings helping to aid the cause. I have never really thrown myself into a community group of this nature. The few times I was involved in a collaborative effort was mainly in the context of school projects. So I am new to this forum, and I realize that even though we all have the same goal in mind, we see different ways of getting there. There are personalities and egos involved and the occasional irresponsibility of the volunteers. Usually the meetings are at the end of the day when we are tired and hungry, but we are trying. I’m excited to see where this goes, and being part of this movement. Some group members believe we should just launch the program (right now in the form of a on-line ledger account system, hopefully one day to incorporate magnetic strip card technology and maybe paper script) and start operating within it and figure it out as we go. My only worry would be if the program launches without figuring out some logistics it might fall flat in early stages. But here we go.
Ed is also volunteering at the local community radio station and the public access television station. It’s good here and I think things will just continue to get better.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Stop cooking and pour me a beer

One of my favorite things about this little house of ours, is that it has a big kitchen, with lots of counter space. I now have the basic necessities to do what I’ve been saying I want to do since I was 19, learn to cook. Not just any cooking, I want to walk into my kitchen, throw flour against the wall and come out 45 minutes later with a three-course meal. Slight exaggeration, however I do try and start with the simplest ingredients. No pre-packaged goods for us.
My true problem is I’m a picky eater. I don’t like food. In LA, Ed and I pretty much stopped going out to eat, because two times out of three, I ending up not liking what I ordered. So I stick to what I know.
A friend of mine invited me to a raw food party here in Tucson. Where everyone is to bring a raw food dish and I took chopped up melons. I took a little bite of everything and the only thing I liked was the melon I brought. Most of the dishes were shredded up carrots and cucumbers and tomatoes and sprouts, and usually marinated with spices like jalapeƱo, cayenne or some other pepper that I don’t care for. One of the things I never did understand about Raw-foodies,Vegans or any other extreme dietary lifestyle is when their foods try to imitate that which they will not eat. For example, at the raw food party there was a ‘chocolate’ pudding cake. But it wasn’t chocolate and it wasn’t pudding. What’s up with tofu burger? Why do they say it tastes like chicken? They don’t eat chicken or burgers! Why not just embrace the diet and advertise that it tastes like wheatgrass?
I like bread, so I’ve started making as much bread as I can. I stole some bread tins from my mama, and bought the biggest bag of flour I could find. I really enjoy making bread, so far I’ve made banana bread, Asiago bread and regular white bread. I’m going to attempt pumpkin and French bread next. Bread takes a while, and it’s messy, which I like. I feel that one should make a mess while they are cooking. I enjoy the process, mixing in ingredients, letting the dough rise, mixing in a few more, letting that rise. I take extra pleasure in kneading, with my hands covered in flour, as I slowly work the dough into that smooth spring consistency. And is there any smell greater than that of fresh baked bread? No, I don’t think so.
The other edible item that I think I have gotten really good at: fruit smoothies. And this helps with our desire to improve our diet. It’s a perfect way to get our daily fruit requirements. It’s so much fun to throw random fruits into my blender, a little yogurt, honey and orange juice. Everyday it’s different, and everyday I think it’s the best one yet.
Tonight I’m going to make bread pudding.
There is a great little locally owned Asian market three blocks away, so I need to learn how to cook Asian food. I have a little harder time stretching myself when it comes to main courses. But we did find a local beef company and have been making pot roasts that are quite delicious. The best part of me cooking is that Ed cleans.