01 August 2018

Summer 2018 MICHIGAN Battle Creek - Green Gardens Farm Share

I love getting my hands in the dirt and experiencing seed or seedling grow to food and flowers. You just can't have that experience in a condo. So in 2013, I helped found, fund, and build a community garden in downtown Kalamazoo.
Throughout the years since, we grew mostly tomatoes, but also cukes, garlic, eggplant, kohlrabi, broccoli, basil, and others herbs. We tried something a little different every year. Our plot is the middle front.

About a year-and-a-half ago I handed off the garden general manager job. I continued "mini-farming," but also joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture share) or farm share. This year we decided just to use a farm share.

We joined Green Gardens Community Farm (GG) located in Battle Creek. There are several share plans depending on your need. In our two-person household, we chose the least expensive "pint" size at $300.

Each Saturday morning May through Thanksgiving, GG delivers produce to the nearby Kalamazoo Farmers Market. You chose what you want, like at a grocery store, except this is fresh picked and organic. The amount with farm share discount is deducted from the initial payment. Easy-peasy and always a nice, healthy variety.

GG also has a store at the farm that is open Mon-Wed afternoons. All their produce is for sale, plus pork, eggs, some dairy products, local ferments, and honey.

A while back farmers Trent, Ruthie, and little Jorah May invited all their CSA shareholders to a dinner at the farm and a tour of the greenhouses and fields.

We started in a hoop-style greenhouse where, incidentally, they also host weddings and other events. We had time to meet and chat with other share-mates.

The venue is lovely. There are chandeliers and other decorative lighting in the greenhouse. Garden flowers decorated the tables. The floor is wood planked. The sides of the "hoop" can raise or lower depending on weather. An edging of planted veggies and flowers highlight the farm ambiance. Quite a welcoming and serene scene!

Jorah played with a black cat that wandered nearby. The cat's name is May (maybe named after Jorah's middle name or the other way around).
Then we took our turn at the make-your-own taco buffet. We had a choice of corn or flour tortillas and a wonderful variety of fillings and toppings. There was chicken, pork, and lots of veggies (many just picked at the farm). There was lemonade and ice tea for the beverage.

After the leisurely meal, Farmer Trent gave a quick preview and led a walking tour around the farm. Here he is with that ever glowing smile.

Our walk through the gardens started with a look at the fields and recently planted apple and pear orchard (to the right below). The trees should bear fruit next year for shareholders. Jorah on her pink mini-bike and the kitty followed the troops.

Along the edge of the fields were wild flowers including these red clover.

I recalled as a kid sucking the individual little pink spikies and they were so sweet. So I just had to try them today. They were still as sweet as I remembered. Brought back wonderful kid memories. Thoughts of hunting for 4-leaf clovers and making daisy chains.

We passed by the outdoor gathering area. Maybe wedding ceremonies are held here or nature lectures.

We saw other greenhouses with colorful varieties of lettuce, tomatoes in many sizes and types, and starter plant area. Everything impressive!

There was lots more to see including a greenhouse filled with sunflowers and zinnias.
At the end of the tour we noticed this guy. We heard he was a gift from a shareholder and I guess the farmers did not want to offend anyone. We all got a chuckle!

The kitty must have known we were cat lovers. She followed Mike and I all the way to our car. If she would have hopped in, we may have been tempted to cat-nap her. But she preferred to find a sun spot on the roof of another car.

It was a fine and fun evening.  A big thanks to our farmer hosts.

Read more about Green Gardens at: http://www.greengardensfarm.com. We give it two thumbs up!

22 July 2018

June 30, 2018 MICHIGAN Kalamazoo - #keepfamiliestogether

Per Save the Children: "Innocent children have been forced to flee their homes due to violence, gangs and crushing poverty in Latin America. After a dangerous journey, thousands of children seeking asylum have been heartbreakingly separated from their mothers and fathers when they reach the U.S. border."

Like so many cities around the USA and the world, Kalamazoo had a rally protesting these actions by the federal government. Even though the day was blistering hot (in the 90s), maybe 500 people attended in Bronson Park.

There was many inspiring speakers.

Because it was so hot most people were standing to the side under the shady trees. The first speaker invited people to move to the center onto the hot pavement and under the direct sun. Thus, we could experience the heat the kids might be feeling in the tent camps in the southwest. That really brought the circumstances to life. We could move about, but the kids were detained in place.

There was also a toy and diaper collection for kids held at Bethany Christian Services in Grand Rapids, Michigan (50 miles north of us). At least kids could hug the many stuffed animals in place of their parents. Some small consolation!!!
A month later this is still heavy on my mind. I cannot imagine being a child and forcefully being taken from my mom or dad and put in detention. Only a metallic blanket instead of a warm, fuzzy one to comfort me.

Today I went back to look at photos I had taken during the protest and decided to publish some here. There were so many great signs to make you think what American stood for in the past. Not so much today. Not hate or disdain or privilege.

This woman wore a jacket like Melania Trump's. It said the right thing though.

Please write your senators and congress persons to take swift action to correct this problem. Small steps have been taken, but much more is needed. It is never too late.

21 July 2018

2018 ICELAND 33 - One bit more... The Phallological Museum

So a couple of days after doing my Iceland wrap-up, I noticed a TV show titled "The Final Member." It was a documentary about a Phallological (Penis) Museum. I wondered if this was the one we missed seeing (on purpose) in Iceland. It was...and here is the show info:

Have to say I was intrigued, so I watched the show. The topic seemed a bit squeamish for public entertainment, but after the first 10 minutes I kind of got used to it. I mean, it is just another body part.

The show turned out to be quirky, but interesting and begrudgingly worthy of a watch. Siggi, the founder of the museum, takes an analytical and educator approach to the topic. The show took some very unexpected twists and turns though. Just wait for "Elmo."

In spite of your personal view, apparently there is a lot of interest in the topic. In 2011, Siggi says 11,346 visitors from all over the world came to see his mammalian phallus collection.

Siggi is also a wood carver of phallic items such as salt and pepper shakers. It's hard not to chuckle, but this man is serious and totally dedicated to the topic

To read more, go to: http://phallus.is/en/themuseum.html. On the website you can also order related items like condoms, fridge magnets, books, penis shaped pasta, t-shirts, and much more.

For a link to watch the documentary, go to: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2318701/. There is nothing salacious about it. Just keep an open mind.

14 July 2018

2018 ICELAND 32 - Wrap-Up

Wow, seven days and 32 long blog entries later. I could have said much more, as Iceland is a fascinating, mysterious, natural wonder of a place. Would we go again? Absolutely YES. What would be different?

First and foremost we would check for restaurants catering more to vegetarians and pescatarians (for me) BEFORE we went. My diet was pretty much Caprese sandwiches (and they were amazingly good) and Mike ate mostly ham and cheese or roast beef and cheese sandwiches. Mike actually lost two pounds on this trip and I lost a half pound. This is unheard of for our vacations. Usually we gain about five.

Well, we've seen it in late winter and that was having the best shot of seeing the Aurora Borealis during the long winter nights. We never did see the full effect, but we got the gist and we have seen it before in Montana at full strength although for a scant moment.

Sooooo...next time we would go in summer to see the beautiful green rolling hills that we saw in the painting at Skogar. See Iceland - 14. Also in summer we could take the full Ring Road around the island. We would try to find every water foss, as it seems each is unique and beautiful in its own way. We'd try the ice cave tour again, hoping it is not flooded out.

We didn't actually walk on black sand beach, so we'd do that. We'd like to see Reykjadalur, a hot water stream gushing down the mountain range. The Kerid Crater is similar to Crater Lake in Oregon. That was beautiful, so I am sure this is, too.

We would spend more time in Reykjavik. We barely scratched the surface. There are at least eleven art, history, and other "quirky" museums. I would probably NOT check out the Icelandic Penis Museum (http://phallus.is/en/) or the Punk Rock Museum (http://thepunkmuseum.is), but I (not Mike) would go to the Icelandic Wonders Museum (http://icelandicwonders.is) to learn more about Iceland's ghosts and elves. Ghosts are often mentioned in the Saga stories and elves are everywhere.
We'd go to the tower top of the Hillgrímskirkja Lutheran church, see inside the Harpa Concert Hall, and maybe check the Höfdi House where Presidents Gorbachev and Reagan met at a summit between the USSR and the USA in 1986 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Höfði).

We'd go to the northeast cliffs where the puffin birds hang out in summer. There are whale watching boats, but Mike does not handle that well. I think a flight-seeing trip over the waterfalls and glaciers would be great though. I'm sure there is one somewhere.

Even if we had another week we probably couldn't cover all the interesting things in Iceland, but we highly recommend you spend at least a week.

Next we plan a Russian river boat cruise from Moscow to St. Petersburg in 2019.

2018 ICELAND Reykjavik & Greenland 31 - Last Leg to Home

The Saga Club room in Reykjavik was unlike the lounge we experienced in Chicago. There the food was good and drinks were complimentary, but it was shared by several airlines and crowded and loud. We could not find four seats even near together, so Mike and Laur went across the hall to the bar, while Tom and I took the two available seats.

In Reykjavik the ambiance was quiet and serene. The club style was simple, classy, and natural. An example is this table built around a rock. There was a spacious choice of seating areas and various types of chairs and loungers.
One big bolder sat in the middle of the club and carries on the ideology that elves exist and play an integral part in the life of Icelanders. Maybe a bit hard to read, but the story is below.

There was lots of art, even in the bathrooms. Private shower stalls were available, if one needed to freshen up before a flight. Some very nice amenities.

There was quite a spread of hors d'oeuvres with a variety of food to suit any taste. This pix was taken just before they refilled. The full bar was help-yourself, including beer, wine, and hard liquor choices.
We sat near a live fire in cushy chairs with outlets for recharging our tech items. We had a couple of hours here, so we read, chatted, took blog notes. We met an  Icelander woman who owned a second home near Wilmington, North Carolina and had visited Fish Town in Leland, Michigan (one of our favorite leisure spots).

We had one more check-point to go through just before boarding. Because we were biz class we bypassed the longer line and got through pretty quickly. For take-off it as raining, but 4C degrees, so above freezing.

As we passed over Greenland (for maybe 25 minutes) we were amazed to see not one living thing or sign of civilization--no people, houses, roads, boats, nothing. Just ice and snow. Fascinating to see so much land, but no trace of mankind.

 Glacier paths.

I read later that icy Greenland wanted more people to move to their island so they enticingly called it Greenland; while Iceland wanted less people to move there, so they called their island Iceland to put newcomers off. Not sure this is true, but it obviously did not work. Greenland is still mostly barren land and Iceland is a hot spot for tourism these days.

True happiness when we saw the Lake Michigan beachy shoreline of our home state of Michigan. Not quite sure where this is. Maybe Saugatuck or Holland, MI.
Uneventful flight and that is the best kind. Customs and immigration went fairly quickly. Here is the setting sun on the drive from the airport to the parking lot. A fitting welcome for us.
The drive home was a little hairy because our trunk was totally full and messed with my sight lines. Didn't seem like we bought that much or maybe we were not as organized in our packing, but it was hard for me to see out the back window. I avoided passing or got help from my car-mates. It was such a relief to get home.

A trip is always fabulous but getting home is, too. And Bella was VERY happy to see us...sticking like glue, mostly to Mike.