Foraging for Holiday Decorations


November and December can be a bit grey in New England, but some festive fairy lights and bright colors can make a world of difference to my mood. I think that’s one reason I like decorating for the holidays!

Since my budget isn’t big, I like to go outside and scavenge bits to bring inside. Even though it might seem like all the leaves are brown and the sky is grey (name that song!), you can still find red berries and evergreen branches in the woods around here.

I took the dog for a hike on Sunday and came back with some branches and a vine with red berries. The pinecones were picked up on a previous walk. 

When I got home I just arranged the berries and branches in a vase, added some water and ribbon, and voila- I had a pretty centerpiece that cost me nothing at all.

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A New Englander in Maryland: Fishing in the Chesapeake Bay

I haven’t gone fishing since I was maybe twelve years old, but while in Maryland for Thanksgiving the opportunity to go fishing on a friend’s boat presented itself and I just went for it. I figured if worst came to worst, I like boats, early mornings, and friends so it would still be a good day even if I was a horrible fisherwoman. 


The sun was just starting to come up when we arrived at the dock. We loaded up the boat and headed out onto the water.


The sunrise was gorgeous as we made out way to the fishing spot.


We set up near Holland Island, which used to be inhabited but erosion has left only some shrubs and old house frames. It turned out to be the perfect spot, and I caught the first fish (rockfish- a kind of bass) of the day! It was too small to keep, but I got the ball rolling for everyone else as well. 


Over the course of the day I got so much better at casting, which made me happy! 


We stayed out until around noon then headed back to shore with some fish for dinner. It was a pretty great day on the Bay, even if it was a bit grey.

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Hunting Season

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November marks the start of rifle season here, which means staying out of the woods where hunting is allowed. In my state, everything that isn’t posted “No Hunting” means you can hunt there. Even if it is posted, you have to be careful- I have run into hunters in the woods in posted areas in the past. So for the month of November and the beginning of December, the dog and I are pretty much always dressed in Day-Glo colors. It makes us look ridiculous, but we definitely don’t look like deer!

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Vote!

This election year (years?) has been particularly awful. I had to stop listening to the radio and reading about polls a couple of weeks ago because it was stressing me out too much. It’s good to be informed, but not when it made me unable to sleep!

All that said, I feel really strongly that it’s important to vote this year, especially for women. Less than 100 years ago, women weren’t allowed to vote and it took a lot of protesting, being called names, being locked in jail, and even women dying to secure the right to vote. Even if you can’t bring yourself to vote for either of the presidential candidates, there should be at least one candidate on the ballot you can get behind. In my state, we are voting for governor, US Congress, US Senate, plus state positions, all the way down to district commissioners.

So please, exercise your right to vote! Even if you are busy, you can fit it in. I have to vote right when the polls open because I work all day then have First Aid training until 9:30pm, but I’m going to make it happen.

 

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Just Eat It- a food waste movie

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This past week, I watched a documentary that both horrified my and inspired me. The film is called “Just Eat It” and it follows two filmmakers as they become aware of how much food is wasted in North America (almost 50%, with 25% coming from households). The couple pledges to go 6 months only eating food that would have been thrown out (with exceptions at the houses of family and friends). In 6 months, they spent a total of $200 on groceries (culls usually that were going to be thrown out or items that were short dated) and salvaged about $20,000 worth of food. Some of the images in the film were just horribly depressing- a 16 foot long dumpster entirely filled with hummus, and whole boxes of Green & Black’s organic chocolate bars (a personal favorite and I can say they are pretty expensive per bar, never mind per box!)

The film talked a lot about how grocery stores (and consumers) want the “perfect” piece of produce. This means there is tons of produce wasted at the farm- some farms try to connect with local food banks but in other cases it is more expensive to collect the rejected parts and the farmers end up plowing the produce back into the soil as compost. That isn’t the end of the world, but considering how many resources went into the creation of the food it seems crazy to lose 30% or more of the harvest since it isn’t “perfect”. It was really depressing to hear how much food is just wasted- lots of grocery stores just throw out things that are short dated or after their “use by” date instead of donating them to a local food pantry. I learned that except for infant formula, best before dates are determined by the manufacturer and the food is usually good long past that date!

Households also waste about 1/4 or the food they buy (which is insane- imagine coming out of the grocery store with 4 bags and just throwing 1 away in the parking lot). Most of the wasted food ends up in a landfill where it produces greenhouse gasses and contributes to global warming! Plus, all the wasted food took a lot of energy to grow- electricity, water, labor, transportation, etc so it’s a double whammy on the environment.

I was left feeling horribly depressed about all the wasted food in the US, but then I kind of snapped out of it. I may not be able to solve this crisis on a global level, but I can certainly do better for myself and my household.

Things to do to reduce food waste:

  1. Meal plan and only buy as much as you can eat in a week
  2. Buy local- local produce is fresher and lasts longer
  3. Look at the produce that isn’t perfect- a small blemish doesn’t matter
  4. Try to find a discount grocery store with short dated product- I can save money on dry goods as well as save those items from the dump
  5. Separate my fruit and veg scraps to be composted. My town dump has a bin for compost but I’ve always had meat scraps in with my food trash. If I take a couple of extra seconds during kitchen cleanup, I can compost produce waste.

Any other ideas out there?

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