Ital (eye'-tal): of or from the earth; vital; life giving; natural.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Ants Go Marching

When I was young and the weather began to get warm, my dad began his summer mantra:

Any kind of kid activity could potentially bring on the dreaded ants but dripping popsicles and ice cream cones were by far the worst offenders. We ate them outside...preferably in the grass. If any drips occurred on the concrete driveway or sidewalk they could be an invitation to a big ole ant party that could potentially find its way into the house. So the concrete would have to be washed down with the garden hose STAT. We were never told what would happen if the ants came...just that they would come. But the warning was enough for me. In fact it has followed me into adulthood and I frantically wipe down any sticky mess ASAP while exclaiming, "IT WILL BRING ANTS!"

Well, now I live in the tropics and ants are inescapable. We puny humans are on their turf. They are everywhere and they come in all varieties from giant red fire ants to standard black biters to the tiniest, busiest little ant ever.

I admit that I am fascinated with ants. I love to watch them...when they are outside. But like I said, they are everywhere here and I've been trying to be zen about them...I really am...but it's hard to shake the "IT WILL BRING ANTS!" mantra...AND I've finally learned what will happen if the ants come...they will build a nest in your CD boxes and invite all their next of kin to come over and rock out to the Wailers...

Breaking up such a raucous ant party is not much fun. On the one hand, I'm grateful that they were the tiny busy ones because they don't bite and they are actually pretty cool to watch. On the other hand, the tiny busy ones are super ambitious (not to mention industrious)...and just when you think you have them conquered they are right back to being busy...

I want to try this ant bait recipe to see if that will keep them at bay. However, borax (the essential ingredient) is elusive in these parts. Any one else have a tried and true method for keeping ants outside?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Eating Local

We joined a CSA and are supporting an organic farm in the parish of St. Thomas! Organic Farming and Community Supported Agriculture are new concepts to Jamaica. Believe it or not, people need to be told to buy local produce! Even more astonishing is that the grocery stores will actually import the very same produce that can easily be grown here! (Watch the feature length documentary Life and Debt which although not entirely focused on global food distribution explains very well the plight of a small developing nation at the mercy of global policy makers such as the U.S. and beholden to the strangling grip of the I.M.F. and the World Bank.)

Now back to the Jamaican grocery store experience...there will often be "local" potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage right next to the "imported" ones. One must read the labels carefully...or just look closely at the vegetables because the imported ones are always bigger, cleaner and more attractive. But they don't taste nearly as good and for the price tag placed on something like imported lettuce it better be the best dang tasting lettuce in the world!! I can't believe that anyone would actually pay $9.00 (USD) for a head of bitter romaine when the local one is $2.00(USD) and so much sweeter!

We did an unintentional experiment when we first moved here and were ignorant of the imports at the grocery store. Sure, we new the shiny red delicious apples were certainly imported but we didn't really think about the carrots or onions and what not. We loaded up our cart and brought them home only to realize after reading over the receipt that much of what we bought was imported. Oh well, we thought...we'd be sure to read the labels next time and we loaded up our fridge. As the week progressed we noticed that the local produce was beginning to wilt and turn quickly to compost. We had to eat it up fast! And wow, did it taste GOOD! Meanwhile, the imported stuff was just as shiny and waxy as the day we brought it home from the store. It looked like fake food next to the local veggies.

We soon abandoned the grocery store altogether and starting shopping at the markets. The prices are always better and you can rest easy knowing that everything is at least local though probably not organic. (Monsanto and his crew are ever present here, doling out the biotech seeds and the chemicals.) However, with the new green awakening...and out of the very desperate need to create jobs...there is a push to establish organic farms. (Organic farming is much more labor intensive than commercial, biotech farming and therefore requires more people to work a farm. That is one reason organic produce costs more...because real people are getting paid to pull the hornworms off the tomatoes!)

As the idea of organic farming is catching on, so too is the idea of building a community to support and reap the benefits of the farm. We loved our Clinton Hill CSA in Brooklyn. It was really the highlight of the summer and fall to pick up our weekly share. Farmer Ted grew the best kohlrabi around! We made some great friends too. I was heartbroken to say good bye to that part of our life in Brooklyn. So you can imagine my excitement to join a new CSA here!

Today was our first pick up. (Although our veggies actually came to us!) Here is what a CSA share in Jamaica looks like:

Mangos, coconuts, bananas, tomatoes (plum and cherry), yam (the dark brown bark looking things), string beans, red chard, swiss chard, tatsoi, mizuna, salad mix, callaloo, vine spinach, lemon basil, cilantro, bush basil and coconuts...did i mention them?? We actually got more than the 3 pictured but I couldn't fit them all on the table! Plus an extra special thank you note! We will get something similar to this EACH WEEK! I'm in heaven!

A very gracious Thank You to the farmers at the Source Farm!

**If you live in the Kingston area and are interested in joining in the CSA goodness, click here.**

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Why Didn't I do This in Brooklyn?

There are some pretty simple things that I have been doing since our move and I've been wondering to myself...."Self, why didn't you do this in Brooklyn?"

1. Reading Blogs. Until I started writing my own, I never read a blog. It has become the perfect ritual with my morning tea/coffee. I've discovered that there are some really great people out there writing some really great/interesting/thought provoking/cool/beautiful/funny stuff. The blogs I currently read have offered a lot of encouragement and inspiration.

2. Making Seitan. It's so easy!! And Yummy!! What was I waiting for??

3. Hand washing clothes. Maybe it was because our basement laundry room in Brooklyn was dingy, smelly, creepy. Or maybe it is because now I have company when I wash and it's actually fun. Or maybe it's the great row of outdoor sinks we have that make hand washing easier. Anyway, I'm learning that it is quite meditative.

4. Drinking lots of juice. There was something I used to call the Brooklyn Grocery Dilemma. Which was this: walking to the grocery store and only being able to buy as much as you could carry home. This often led to forfeiting buying juice in order to buy (soy, almond, rice) milk since I could not carry both home. The abundance of fresh fruit and the replacement of coffee shops on every corner with juice bars on every corner have made this possible :)

5. Dusting our bookshelves. Dusting is my least favorite chore, but now I do it once if not twice a week! I attribute this to the amazing amount of sun that comes into our apartment which then shines brightly on all the dusty surfaces. Our Brooklyn apartment was dim and therefore I couldn't "see" the dust until it reached a very critical stage...gasp!!!

6. Urban gardening. Granted we, tried in Brooklyn...a little. But I'm realizing that we could have done so much more. Right now we are planning our garden (which will go in the front of our windows) and it will include: tomatoes, peppers (hot and not), onions, garlic, chives, potatoes, squash, callaloo, lettuces and other greens, herbs galore, pumpkin, flowers, carrots, celery and well, really whatever we can fit into the space!! It would be great if we could convince the management company to let us have a laying flock of hens...hmmm....

7. Making yogurt, granola bars, hummus, peanut butter, jam, butter, raw snacks...Maybe it was our uninspiring Brooklyn kitchen. But then again, this kitchen is pretty uninspired as well. I guess it may have more to do with cost and accessibility. These things were easy to find and relatively cheap in Brooklyn. They aren't here.

8. Spending most of the day outside. Okay, that one is kind of obvious!!

Friday, May 6, 2011

My Mom

My Mom is: Energetic, Compassionate, Gentle, Loving, Nurturing, Funny, Creative, Sensitive, Beautiful, Encouraging, Silly, Patient, Kind, Passionate, Playful, Knowing, an Excellent Cook, a Good Listener, a Wise Woman and a Great Friend.

She has continually encouraged me to follow my dreams and to push boundaries. She has supported me in so many ways and taught me so much. Her love is never ending.
Happiest Mother's Day, Mama!
I love you!

(P.S. Mom, I now understand all those times when you said, "It will become more clear once you are a parent!" Thank you for always standing by me, always loving me, always being my biggest cheerleader!)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Gentle Parenting Challenges

"I dare you to move me!"

There is one parenting rule that I follow: "Treat others (your children) the way you want to be treated." I try my best as a parent to be a gentle guide...opening minds, sharing experiences, advising as opposed to controlling. It is not always easy. I sometimes loose my cool. I yell.

Lately, I feel like I have been yelling a lot more. You see we have one child in particular who is extremely willful. There is just no budging this kid if he doesn't want to move. He has been on Easter holiday for two weeks now. Which means two weeks of wild kid abandon. He has been outside since the crack of dawn, running up and down the complex with his friends, going none stop and full speed ahead. I love that he can be a free range kid. That we have a community of families that look out for the entire group. It's heavenly to open the door and say,"Go outside and play." I love it. And Shine loves it. Good all around.

However, after two weeks of vacation mode, he is unable to fathom a return to school and the standard routine. He is fighting against it with the very core of his being. (Did I mention that his iron will rivals the strength of Superman?)

To celebrate the last night of holiday, Mo and I decided we would all go out for ice cream after dinner. Thinking we would be met with smiles and cheers, we were shocked to get crying and wailing as a response. Mo and I looked at each other in confusion. Who refuses ice cream??!! Shine was protesting because he wanted to continue playing outside with his friends whom he had been playing outside with since 10am. (And who would soon be called inside to dinner.) We were stumped by this. In the end we made the authoritative decision that we were all going for ice cream and we would all enjoy it...humpf.

The pouting lasted for the duration of the car ride but once at the ice cream shop, Shine happily ate up a huge dish of strawberry ice cream and ran circles around the garden. He had fun. We all had fun. But having to coerce him into having a good time was not fun. Nor is it fun to convince him to bathe when it is time to bathe, eat when it is time to eat, go to school when it is time to go to school...It makes gentle parenting a challenge! I have to bite my tongue before the words, "Do it because I'm the mom and I say so" come flying out.

So, who else out there is parenting a willful child? Anyone have any gentle parenting tricks up their sleeves?