I went down to Veggielution Community Farm today and, among other things, did my produce shopping for the week. I bought everything in the photo for $5! If I’d worked on the farm today like all the other volunteers, I could have taken produce home for free.
Here’s a rundown of what was on sale today (all organically grown by volunteers): beets, carrots, romaine and red oak leaf lettuce, green onions, pumpkins (free), and cabbage. It looks like there will be tons more cabbage, plenty more carrots and lettuce, and also broccoli and cauliflower in January.
I had the pleasure of helping to promote the enormous Big Bike Build 2011, put on by San Jose nonprofit TurningWheels for Kids on Dec. 10. There’s more to this story than meets the eye.
I can imagine the children who will get these bikes for Christmas, children who are served by charities all around the Bay Area from Richmond and San Francisco to San Jose and as far away as Salinas and Santa Cruz. These are children whose parents can’t possibly afford to buy them something so cool for Christmas, and they will be extremely stoked I’m sure.
Yet there’s more to it than that. At the event, I talked with Patricia Barreto, MD, a pediatrician with Santa Clara Valley Medical Center’s Pediatric Healthy Lifestyle Center. The center works with young people who are referred from all over because they are obese, sometimes very dangerously so. Diabetes, low self-esteem, bullying at school, suicide attempts—these kids are dealing with all of this at a young age, before they’ve even had a chance to develop into adults.
Barreto and other doctors work with the youth and their families to change their entire lifestyle, and bicycles as a form of transportation fits well with that. Barreto and the other doctors—who seem to play a role that borders on case management and therapy—start with insisting that children eat more fruits and vegetables. We even discussed creating a “prescription” for going to Veggielution Community Farm, where I serve on the Board of Directors, to get exercise doing farm work and go home with the free produce all our volunteers receive.
They also urge that their clients limit their “screen time” (TV, computers and the like) to less than an hour a day, building time for exercise into their daily schedule, and much more.
Additionally, bicycles meet low-income families and children’s need for affordable transportation. I’m optimistic that by giving them the opportunity to have fun childhood memories on bicycles, we’re instilling habits like riding to school, riding to see friends, riding to have fun. And those habits will hopefully turn them into cyclists for life, people who expect to be able to ride wherever they need to go and demand that cities be built accordingly. They should have that option, because it’s affordable, healthy and fun.
Sea of bikes at Big Bike Build 2010, put on by Turning Wheels for Kids
Turning Wheels for Kids is playing Santa again this year for 2,500 underprivileged Bay Area children, bringing together 850 volunteers to build all those bikes on Dec. 10, all in the span of a single morning. This event, now in its seventh year and bigger than ever, has become a Bay Area bicycle culture institution. There’s nothing else like it.
The Great Trike Race—hopefully featuring San Jose Sharkie and a bunch of Silicon Valley leaders—lots of raffle prizes, and the buzzing energy of so many generous volunteers will make for one of the most impressive Santa’s Workshop scenes I’ve ever heard of. The event requires registration, and with more than 60 teams from around the region already signed on, the Bike Build is at capacity.
I’m managing publicity around the event, so if you have any questions please contact me by commenting on this post or email cody at prxinc dot com.
There are photos of a sea of bikes, a video of the Great Trike Race and more about the event at prez.ly/PW.
One hundred and forty acres of sustainable farming, right in the suburban sprawl of South San Jose—that’s a lot of urban agriculture, perhaps one of the biggest chunks of farmed urban land in the country.
Santa Clara County and the State of California have designated Martial Cottle Park, a 287.5-acre undeveloped piece of Santa Clara Valley’s agricultural past, to be one of the biggest open spaces in the Valley. This new park, approved in the Spring of 2011, will be more than a living museum focused on the valley’s agricultural history.
With a blend of farm land, picnic areas and pavilions, the county-operated park will not only look back, but also forward. The emphasis on growing food sustainably in the heart of the tenth largest city in the country stands to chart a new future.
To put the size of this land in perspective, Full Circle Farm in Sunnyvale is about 10 acres, and Veggielution Community Farm at Emma Prusch Park in San Jose is currently hoping to expand up to 6 acres. In a valley that was once orchards but has been almost completely paved over, this is a huge win.
The Martial Cottle Park Master Plan
Focus on Sustainable Farming
The 140 acres of the park dedicated to farming is the biggest single land use, and the plan considers the commercial viability of those farms to be essential to the park’s success.
Farmers will lease the land in the park for crops and orchards, especially produce that was historically produced in Santa Clara Valley, such as fruits, nuts, vegetables, and animal feed. Pastured livestock and poultry will likely also be part of a diverse, rotating set of crops.
And the farms will practice sustainable farming, meaning they will minimize impacts to the soil, water and habitat while enhancing the soil fertility and supporting native wildlife with techniques like native hedgerows. Canoas Creek runs through the park, and it will be restored as a seasonal wetland habitat as well.
The property has been a farm or rangeland for about 150 years, from 1864 until today. Originally part of the José Joaquin Bernal family’s Rancho Santa Teresa, then bought by Edward Cottle, who deeded 350 acres to his son Martial Cottle.
Martial Cottle and his wife Edith had five children, including Ethel Edith Cottle, who married Henry W. Lester. Ethel was the mother of Walter Cottle Lester, who donated the land to the state and county in 2004 and still retains a 30-acre Life Estate on the site. Walter Cottle Lester will continue living there for the rest of his life, after which that section will become part of the park.
I unplugged yesterday, and I’ve decided that given my professional life—steeped in social media, email, computers, websites and mobile devices—I’ll need days like that.
It was pretty simple, really: I turned off my phone the night before, wore a watch to know what time it was, went on a date, and stayed outside as much as possible.
I also pruned an unruly grapefruit tree, raked some leaves (not that you could tell after last nights rain and wind), and did some reading. My partner Angela and I went out to a movie, and when it turned out the newspaper had been wrong and the movie we wanted to see wasn’t actually showing, we adapted. We just rode our bikes downtown to find out what was showing at Camera 12—the old fashioned way!
We also drank some beer at Good Karma, which rightfully boasts about having the best craft beer selection in the South Bay. They have some delicious and interesting brews, and plenty of variety. And, they have tall cans of Pabst for the hipsters of course. I highly recommend a visit.
Anyway, try unplugging. We’ll see how I really do with this, but my goal is to go ahead and unplug one day per week, and dedicate that day to physical activity and being outside—hiking, volunteering at Veggielution, backpacking, around-the-house projects—and to connecting with friends and loved ones. And probably wine, too.
Maybe like you, I’m perpetually plugged in—checking emails, sharing what I’m reading on Twitter and Facebook, following professional groups on LinkedIn, reading and sending text messages.
I was doing a lot of this before I had a smart phone, and now that I have one in my pocket all the time, being plugged in is on a whole new level. While there are great benefits—being better informed, more connected with my collaborators, better able to share ideas and information—it also gets overwhelming and exhausting, all day, every day.
So the idea of a National Day of Unplugging, which I missed this spring, is like a breath of fresh air.
It’s the brainchild of Reboot, a Jewish organization based in New York City but active in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver and throughout the country, which aims to “reboot” Jewish traditions so they resonate in today’s world. The Sabbath Manifesto is part of that, and it’s relevant to anyone, Jewish or not.
Basically, the idea behind the National Day of Unplugging is to turn off the smart phone, stay off the computer, just avoid all that digital chatter that fills our daily lives. But then what?
“In the first year of the National Day of Unplugging, we just told people to unplug but did not give them specific ideas of what to do while unplugged,” says Tanya Schevitz, a Reboot spokeswoman. “Then we realized that people need some guidance to make the time unplugged meaningful.”
To that end, the Sabbath Manifesto website lists The Ten Principles of the day, a guide towards what seems like a more fulfilling, more peaceful, more truly connected day. It begins with avoiding technology, but it goes much further.
The list is to the right, and there’s a lot to like. Drink wine and eat bread? Sure! Now, they don’t mean these to be completely literal, necessarily. Drinking wine and eating bread can mean having a dinner with some close friends. And lighting candles doesn’t have to be religious—these are adaptable ideas.
Want to try it?
I’m going to give it a shot tomorrow, a Saturday when I don’t have any pressing electronic to-dos, but several yard work and woodworking projects I’ve been meaning to get around to. Phone off, no email, no Facebook or Twitter, read the actual newspaper, no Internet. And it’s a great time for more conversation and hanging out with my lovely partner Angela, who I haven’t connected with as much as I’d have liked to this week. We’ll probably drink wine. I’ll let you know how it goes, in a general sense at least.
If you try it yourself—just pick a convenient day and replace your technology with some of these Ten Principles—please let me know how it went by leaving a comment.
Schevitz says people have found the experience surprising. “Many people think that they cannot live without their tech devices even for a few hours. But once you try it, you realize that you really get more out of your immediate life. You hear your spouse or children the first time they say something. Instead of just saying, “Uh huh,” with your face buried in a digital device, you listen, you notice, you do.”
See the Manifesto’s community page to read testimonials from others who’ve tried it and get some ideas on how you might interpret the idea in your own life. And then share your experience there if you’d like to, once you plug back in, that is. Reboot is taking the National Day of Unplugging and the Sabbath Manifesto to the SXSW 2012 gathering of techies in Austin. It’s a concept that’s gaining momentum and has gained a lot of press.
Elly Blue, a Portland-based bicycling writer for Grist, wrote a great piece recently that reopens the topic of cyclist scofflaws. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had debates with people—non-cyclists and cyclists alike—about running stop signs and stop lights. It’s pretty darn controversial.
Please take the time to leave a comment below and tell me what you think. Should cyclists put their feet down at every stop sign and signal, or is there another way to cycle safely? I think I agree with Elly Blue’s take on it, so I’ll just block quote her:
“I take Gandhi’s exhortation to “be the change you want to see” to heart and behave as though the Idaho stop law, that paragon of reasonability that allows people on bicycles to treat stop signs as though they were yield signs, already existed in Oregon. I prefer to focus on the action rather than the inaction, the positive rather than the negative, so I simply call it ‘yielding.’
Here is what intelligent yielding means: At any given intersection, regardless of signage, I slow down and look around. If there is someone waiting to cross the street on foot, or if another bicycle or a car has the right of way, I come to a complete stop with my foot on the ground. If none of these things is happening, I go on ahead. This video describes it well.”
Rolling through stop signs is something each of you dear readers does every day, whether you drive, bike, walk, or jog. Pay attention tonight when you’re out and about — you’ll notice that you don’t stop completely and count to three before proceeding, like you were taught in driver’s ed.”
I yield safely, and stop when I have to
Personally, I never put my feet down unless I have to because it’s not necessary to stay safe. The transportation system was not designed originally with bicycles in mind, and while there are more and more features on the road geared towards cyclists, there are still many signals where I could sit for hours waiting for a green left turn arrow if I followed the law. That’s extreme, I know, but there are plenty of times where I’d have to wait for a car to trip the signal.
So, I safely yield, and I’ve done it in front of cops before (accidentally) with no consequences.
Don’t be a jerk, stay off the sidewalk
And, like Elly Blue, I’ve found that one of the most common things drivers yell at me—including during my 5,300-mile bike tour across the USA and part of the way back—is “Get on the sidewalk!”
Yet that’s the most dangerous place I could possibly ride.
Some reasons why it’s a mistake to ride on the sidewalk:
It’s illegal in many places
Cars almost always pull out of driveways so they block the sidewalk and could hit me
There are many obstructions of visibility between driveways and the sidewalk
It’s a place designed for pedestrians who are walking at two mph while I’m riding at 15 to 20 mph
There are not always curb cuts
Riding onto and off of the sidewalks constantly is highly unpredictable and drivers don’t know what I’m going to do.
Here’s why riding in the street, 3-5 feet from any parked cars, is better:
It’s the law
I can ride as fast as possible, sometimes just as fast as the car speed limit
I’m much more visible to cars from all directions and I can see them too
When I need to make a right or left turn I’m already in a great position to move to the appropriate area of the roadway, just like a car.
Here’s a great dorky video from Chicago about not riding on the sidewalks:
When he wrote, there were some 300 acres of mango orchards in the Coachella desert of Southern California, near the Salton Sea. Keitt mangoes are also grown, along with many other varieties, in Florida. It seems they’ve been grown commercially in California for several years at least.
I talked with Steve Brugge, a produce specialist at Whole Foods Campbell, and he said the short season, which runs for only a month or two and peaks in August and September, has unfortunately already come to a close.
“They aren’t producing that much so it’s been small batches. But the harvests are getting bigger and bigger,” Brugge said, predicting that “the harvest will probably be larger next year.”
We cut one up, and we have another ripening because it was a bit firm and green. The first one was amazing! It was a rich flavor, very sweet, complex and not tart at all because we let it ripen well. One of the best mangoes I’ve ever had. It’s also nice that it’s not stringy, so you don’t get the fibers in your teeth.
Keitt makes tropical local
When I was in South America in 2009, I ate as many mangoes as I could. Colombian street vendors sell juices and liquados made from more tropical fruits than I could possibly remember—mangoes, passion fruit, nispero, lulo, guanábana, guava, banana and more.
My mouth is watering already! I did my best to try them all on hot, humid afternoons when I lived and volunteered for a month in Santa Marta, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast.
When I came back to California, I realized that we have at our doorsteps the fruit bowl of the United States. We grow berries, nuts, fruits and vegetables like few other places on earth. So I resolved to focus on the amazing bounty that California’s farms provide.
That also meant forgoing bananas, a staple of the American breakfast that requires tons of fuel to haul up from Latin America, not to mention the massive amounts of pesticides and poor worker conditions their harvest entails.
I wouldn’t say I’m a locavore per se, because I’m not so sure I’d be as gung-ho about this if I lived anywhere but California. It’s just that there are so many perks to buying local fruits and vegetables: they’re fresher, tastier, and often grown and shipped with fewer chemicals.
Plus, I like to support my local farmers, because they support their communities. And then there’s the joy of splurging on my favorite fruits when their season arrives, when the prices are low and I can drown myself in apples, persimmons, peaches and, now, mangoes.
In case you worry about this, buying from US farmers doesn’t really hurt farmers in the developing world. What I learned in my economics studies and spending time in Latin America is that exporting mangoes, bananas and other products does little to benefit the workers and campesinos of Latin America. Their agricultural systems, as in the US, are usually geared to help big corporations more than the poor who work for them.
On the other hand, California farmers’ money often stays here in California, especially if the farms are small or mid-sized. And for those products I do buy from abroad, like chocolate and coffee, there are fair trade options.
The crew (most of it) of Bike Partiers and others that climbed Mount Hamilton on Saturday.
What a ride! Some friends and I went on a ride organized by a Bike Partier—thanks Yoshi!—that took us up Mount Hamilton to Lick Observatory at 4,200 feet.
Then, five of us tore down the steep back side of Mount Hamilton and rode another 20+ miles through some dry pine and scrub lands in San Antonio Valley, a remote area of Santa Clara County. We stayed at a friend’s family property out there and had a grand evening, plus a round of disc golf in the morning.
I’d recommend the Mount Hamilton ride. Not too tough, but a huge sense of accomplishment, beautiful hills and a fun destination at the Observatory. It’s about 25 miles and 5,000 feet of climbing up to Lick and back to San Jose, and what we did was probably a bit more climbing and another 25 miles.
Shaun O'Kelly, aka Cracker, was still up there on the San Jose City Hall wall last I checked, Thursday. Photo by Cody Kraatz
UPDATE 12/13/11: Shaun O’Kelly has been off the wall for weeks now. He took the protest to the driveways of some city leaders, and I’m not sure what he’s doing now.
Last time I checked in at Occupy San Jose, Shaun O’Kelly, aka Cracker, was still up there on a huge wall by City Hall, camping out and keeping way out of the police’s reach. It’s quite a stunt, really, and has landed him quite a lot of news coverage.
I expected that Occupy San Jose would be quickly wiped off the pavement about a week ago. But there is a small and determined group holding out, and a sea of supporters in San Jose who cannot commit to camping but who help in other ways.
There’s always a table covered with food, for example, and a KGO TV cameraman showed up when I was there to get footage for the 11 a.m. news.
I read about the Occupy groups in the Northeast and Denver that have been hit with snow and cold rain over the past couple of days, and of course about the violent and chaotic police and protester conflicts at Occupy Oakland. San Jose has much better weather, so Shaun could stay up there for as long as he can keep hauling up supplies by rope.
An organizer on Thursday told me that when the police force them off the City Hall Plaza at 11 p.m., the “witching hour” as she put it, they take their tents and other things across the street to the sidewalk in front of a big alternative energy demonstration display. They stay there overnight, because the police apparently don’t mind them blocking the sidewalk, as long as they’re not right by City Hall overnight.
One protester misses his mark
I had a conversation with a man in his forties, wearing a blue sports coat and tie, who was out there protesting that day. He was delaying some men in very nice business suits, even though they clearly said they had a meeting in City Hall. He insisted on telling them about his foreclosure woes and what an injustice foreclosure is. When they broke away, he started in on me.
I gave him a bit of a lecture, basically telling him that he needed to do a better job of finding out more about who he’s talking to (or at), getting to know where they’re coming from, gauging his audience and their receptiveness to his message. He stopped ranting and we started talking a bit about his life, which became interesting, human, personal. He told me he’s an immigration attorney. But he quickly started urging me to come and camp with them.
A friend said yesterday that he thinks Occupy San Jose lacks a plan, is not organizing with objectives as other Occupy protests are. If this man is any indication, completely ignorant of how to talk to me and lecturing me without knowing a thing about me, then I think between him and Shaun and the others they have loads of enthusiasm but less focus.