Flagstaff, Arizona, USA…Part 1

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View of downtown Flagstaff on U.S. Route 66 wi...

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I’m from Flagstaff, Arizona.  I was born and raised here and have lived most of my life here.  I have lived in other places, but here I am again.  There are times I wish I weren’t, when I am feeling a little restless, but it’s hard to leave.  And for those of you looking to move here, the cost of living is a challenge.  It pays to be frugal here.  Jobs and pay are at a premium.  Home prices and rent are high in comparison to salaries.  All other things are reasonably priced.  Comparably priced, I guess I should say, with other places.

But it’s amazing in so many ways that matter.  The climate is ideal.  Unless you love the rain, or you love the snow, or you love the heat or the humidity.  We aren’t any of those to the extreme.  Technically, we are in a high desert.  7000 ft. in elevation.  We receive something like 25 inches of precipitation per year.  Last winter we received 5 feet of snow over a handful of days, and we hosted the weather channel to document its progression.  This month we were greeted by tornadoes, eight of them confirmed, at last count; two of them did significant damage to the small community of Bellemont, 5 miles west of town, which is home to the National Weather Service for northern Arizona.  But those are aberrations.  We average about 100 inches of snow each winter, and our summer wet season comes in July and August, but it is a happy wet, not a flooding wet.

Pesto Sans Cashews

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this is a picture of self made pesto in a mortar.

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I love cashews.  They have a sweetness that appeases that sugar craving.  But I don’t think they belong in pesto.  I just recently bought a bunch of basil leaves from the farmer’s market, and they didn’t have pine nuts, which I guess aren’t really in season now.  They didn’t even have a spot for them.  I decided to buy some cashews, which I love.  I know it’s not a particularly sustainable purchase, since they are native to tropical Brazil, but I’m taking baby steps in my move toward sustainability.  And I’m not about to go out and shake down a tree to procure pine nuts.  There is something in the taste of cashews which just doesn’t balance properly with the basil, garlic, parmesan or olive oil.

Post Equinoxal Happiness

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Official seal of City of Flagstaff

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First day of frost, on average, in Flagstaff, is right around the equinox.  As a precaution, I brought in my plants one day a couple of weeks ago.  I’m growing a few plants in containers this year.  It has been a challenging year, and I decided I wouldn’t plant directly into the ground.  I’m growing some basil and some grape tomatoes, as well as some more spinach.  The spinach didn’t do so well during the summer months, and I planted some more about a week ago.  They’ve already started to germinate.  I only have to deal with covering them at night until harvest.  We just recently had a few days of October storms which were a welcome arrival.  Looking out at the gray skies as the backdrop to the deciduous trees as they turn, and the pine trees with their darkly covered bark from being rained upon, were a pleasant sight at this time of year.  It makes me extremely happy to have a beautiful summer give way to a little autumn storm before we dry out a bit before winter.  It makes me equally happy when the weather generally turns in October and the trees along with it.  To see all the colors and to experience the sound of leaves falling off trees, and stepping on and crunching them when out for a walk.  To know that winter is near but perhaps not near enough.  Post equinoxal happiness!!!

Make It Yourself

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The percent of the human population working in...

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I’m not advocating for a complete return to an agrarian life.  It just isn’t for everyone, I understand.  Besides, it’s fascist and just plain boring.  And how can we possibly pry all the technology out of the fingers of its adherents for more than a few minutes anyway.  I guess we really cannot in some cases.   

But if we want to keep disease in check and curb the obesity problem in the developed world, we obviously need to make some significant changes.  None of these changes are easy and I realize it isn’t all going to happen overnight.  I’m in a coffee shop writing this paragraph and there is one person behind me talking on the phone, and another texting in front of me.  Were I to ask them these simple questions, they’d probably look at me like I just fell off the nearest psychiatrist’s couch; the questions are simple, the answers are dreadful to many, I suppose.  Such as supporting regional (preferably local) agriculture; organically produced agriculture.  Demanding it.  Genetically altering food-producing plants, and then spraying them with pesticides is no longer acceptable.      

If we all contributed modestly to the solution, it probably wouldn’t seem insurmountable.  It could be extremely difficult, but nothing worth having is worth ease of possession, I believe.   

But with convenience food on virtually every street corner, how do you convince people to start along the different road?  And with patience at a seemingly all time low, how do you even get people to listen.  I know there are times when I myself try hard to extricate myself from a conversation that is sapping me of my time and energy.  Perhaps for me, blogging is that starting point.  People can listen at their own convenience, and perhaps have some say in their own smaller circle of influence.One of the solutions:  Make It Yourself 

For example, try making food one day a week. Pick something easy, and that you really love to eat, and make it completely from scratch. Once a week, every week.  Maybe you’ll enjoy doing it, and cook more regularly, and will reach a higher level of sustainability and health.  Don’t go out and grow all your food at first. If you are so inclined, grow a little of your food, buy organic, and in some cases just do without. If you want a somewhat more inspiring invitation to change, read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle.    In it, Kingsolver and her family decide to live off the land.  I’ll let you make your own judgments about their efforts.

If what you like is spaghetti, for example, try growing a small amount of virtually everything in the recipe. If you are including meatballs, you probably don’t want to raise a cow if that is cost and space prohibitive. But you can grow (and can or freeze) the tomatoes and the spices to make a sauce. You probably won’t grow the wheat for making pasta. But you can try making the pasta yourself. Doing all of this will slow you down enough to appreciate the process, and since all the food is fresh, you will truly appreciate it.   

It seems, however, that we have  become slaves to what the media marketing circus is selling that we consume fast food ad nauseum, prescription drugs until we are drowning in them, and clothing and technology and other affectations to sell us as pointedly attractive. 

Please give it a try.  Let’s take back the world from those who have chosen to do us harm.