The pipeline and the prairie


I followed the big digger being hauled down the country road that is the most direct route from the YMCA to our CSA (community-supported agriculture) farm. The combination of yoga and veggie pickup has made Tuesday morning the highlight of the week, but this was the last time I would be picking up vegetables. The truck was going 25 mph but I was in no hurry.

It was a symbolic end to the vegetable season. I was one of only 10 members in Farmer Theri’s CSA this year. Her season has been cut short and she couldn’t plant her back plots at all because they were marked to be dug up to lay the Enbridge replacement pipeline. The diggers have just now churned up her barnyard.

Last haul

Last haul

The digger was headed for another segment of the pipeline not far away. A dotted line of dirt piles marks the pipeline’s path across Michigan. Somehow I expected the tunneling to start in the west and proceed east, like the oil. Instead, the digging might start anywhere along the line and proceed in either direction. Here it moves mostly east to west but in a broken line. The dots will eventually be connected.

Meanwhile I work on my part of the story. I’m not doing anything heroic like getting arrested for sitting in a company driveway, like my friend Sandra Steingraber did to protest fracking in upstate New York. I am just trying to see that the small grant Enbridge is giving our township for “environmental restoration” gets used appropriately. This is in addition to direct compensation to landowners. It’s pure guilt money and not much: $15,000 for the long scar Enbridge is drawing across the belly of our rural township.


I wrote how the township committee responded enthusiastically to my proposal to do something for my favorite piece of wetland, the rare wet blooming prairie a mile from my house. I tossed that ball into the court of Chickaming Open Lands, the conservation group that manages the prairie. Yesterday the development director called back.

“We talked about it,” she said, “and what we’d like to propose is a boardwalk out into the prairie so people can see it better.”

That was exactly what the township committee had proposed, but I hadn’t mentioned that detail to the Chickaming people. I was elated. Maybe it would be easier than I thought to get a politically conservative township and a liberal conservation group on the same page.

I called the township supervisor and reported the conversation. He seemed pleased but he said, “I was just down at the firehouse. You know, everybody has a project they’d like to get funded.”

Of course. Conversations will go on although our ad hoc committee was supposed to make this decision.

Still, he promised to link up with the conservation group. We’ll see. I’m not taking bets on where this project will stand by the time I get back from Congo in mid-October. But I’m voting for the prairie.


How to eat a lot of veggies

Today's haul

Today’s haul

What were we thinking, joining two CSAs this year?

I was thinking you can never have too many fresh vegetables, even if you are only two people and even if it is a bumper-crop year for the farmers who are growing your vegetables.

I was thinking I’d freeze or juice all those extra veggies.

We made this decision back in February, when we were hungry for vegetables and summer.

But now it is July and we are getting a big box of vegetables every Sunday and Tuesday and it is one mad scramble to keep up. My goal is to eat or preserve everything, wasting nothing grown by the labor of our farmer friends.

The scramble this year includes scrambling eggs. One CSA gives us eggs and I didn’t have the heart to tell the farmer we are pretty much vegan. They are really good eggs. I eat one every now and then. When we have guests I make a lot of eggs for breakfast. But right now I have 20 eggs in the fridge and one guest arriving for six days. Can she eat three a day? I will not force feed her.

Zucchini is always a losing battle but I was doing really well. I was down to only three until today, when I got three more. Time to freeze again.

There is a trick to eating a lot of vegetables: make them smaller.

Juicing is one way to do this. You can cram a lot of vegetables into your juicer and they trickle out as pure nutrition, minus the filler.

However, because of excess supply I have skewed my juice recipes toward greens and cucumbers without the balancing sweetness of apples and pears, which are not yet in season, so my juices taste like they are really good for you but … not really good.

Cooking is still the easiest way to make greens smaller. Stirfry, stirfry, stirfry.

My favorite way to make kale smaller is to tear it up for a raw salad and then massage a dressing into it until it wilts down and turns really dark green. A sweet balsamic vinegar, salt, and olive oil work well. The massage reduces the bitterness of raw kale as well as its volume. I can eat a lot of kale this way.

Both our farmers are having really good cucumber years. You can’t cook cucumbers. You can’t freeze them. I don’t like pickles all that much and I really don’t like making them.

Today I got a fresh supply of cucumbers. I thought we had been eating a lot of cucumbers in our salads and using them in juice but I dug 10 cucumbers out of my fridge from previous weeks. Sadly, one was ready for the compost bucket.

I juiced a cucumber and tasted the juice plain. Yuck. I juiced another with an orange. Not bad. Eight to go. Oh. Plus four that I got today. Twelve cucumbers to use before Sunday, when we will no doubt get more.

The principle of making vegetables smaller applies in a technique that is opposite from juicing: extracting the water from them. This works especially well for cucumbers. It also can apply to cabbage and zucchini.

So I sliced up a lot of those cucumbers and a red onion in my food processor and mixed them with a little salt. After a half hour I squeezed out the water. They’d wilted down by about half. I tossed them with a little sugar, cider vinegar, and oil. This salad will keep for days in the fridge.

My husband and I grew up on this salad, a staple of Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine. I guess our ancestors had a lot of cucumbers to deal with.

Vintage salad in vintage bowl

Vintage salad in vintage bowl