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Sheila Velazquez

Dried tomatoes: Summer’s bounty becomes winter’s secret ingredient

Juliete tomatoes on the vine; photo by Jason Velázquez
Juliete tomatoes on the vine; photo by Jason Velázquez

As you who follow my food rants know, I’m a big fan of the dehydrator. In mid-September mine has one major task—drying tomatoes. This year the fruit of choice is the Juliet grape tomato. A bounty of them will provide the special touch to the soups, stews, and pasta dishes of winter.

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Green beans and carrots: Good individually, spectacular baked together

I sing the praises of my 30” X 72” back and knee-saving stand planter. It has yielded early crops of lettuce, chard, basil, bok choi, bunching onions, parsley, oregano, more. But where it shines is in producing later crops, planted when the others have been harvested, leaving beautiful, rich soil that begs, “More, we can do more.” And we can.

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Savoring Homegrown Onions

A photo of a pile of assorted onions on a table: A treasure trove of oniony goodness; photo by Sheila Velazquez
A treasure trove of oniony goodness; photo by Sheila Velazquez

I stepped out into the cool morning air, coffee in hand, and thought, time to pull the onions. When you’ve gardened or farmed for a long time, things sometimes hit you suddenly. You don’t have to think about them. The day was warm but dry, mid-August, and the beginning of the harvest season. My harvest for one is not time-consuming, and it recharges my seasonal battery as nothing else can.

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The need to nurture: We all need somebody, or something, to love

Baby African Violets waiting to be separated from their mother leaves; photo by Sheila Velazquez.
Baby African Violets waiting to be separated from their mother leaves; photo by Sheila Velazquez.

What typically comes to mind when we hear the word “nurture” is a mother holding a baby. But nurturing is not a gender-specific activity, nor is it only applied to human babies. In fact, if you think of every instance when you viewed a scene or picture of a farmer cradling a lamb, calf, or chicken, that is what nurturing is—caring for a living being that often cannot express its thanks. The object of nurturing can be a child or other human, or it can be a puppy, kitten, apple tree, or flowering plant. All require nurturing in order to thrive.

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Confessions of a prepper: Freeze it, dry it

My kids will tell you that I have been something of a prepper since the 70s. It’s true, because it was then that I began to be concerned about food security. We built a house in the country, and a barn, and then added every conceivable farm animal. Well, maybe we went overboard on the animals. We had a cold cellar under the porch where we kept 600 pounds of potatoes over the winter and a storage area where shelves of canned foods lay in wait. We sold at farm markets and on site. I have held on to some version of this lifestyle during the years. It’s who I am.

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Climate Catastrophe: Why isn’t the poster child an actual child?

Mashup: Bangladeshi children; photo by Sadman Chowdhury; Antarctic Penguins on icefloe; photo by Jerzy Strzelecki, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Mashup: Bangladeshi children; photo by Sadman Chowdhury; "Antarctic, Penguins on Icefloe" photo by Jerzy Strzelecki [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

While the mainstream media feeds us a daily slop of pablum about the foibles of the president and the clown car of Democrat presidential candidates, the problem that won’t go away with an impeachment or an election is, for the most part, ignored. 

Very often, when you see a story about climate change/global warming, it is accompanied by a photo of a polar bear, an animal that most people have never even seen. By various estimates, the total world population of polar bears is between 20,000 and 30,000. This mammal has become the poster child of global warming, even though projections of their future are at this time, speculation. There is still insufficient evidence, no matter the huge sums spent on very expensive Arctic research, regarding the fate of these mammals.

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Water, water, everywhere
Nor any drop to drink

Photograph: Public water fountain. Newly installed public water fountains in high traffic/athletic areas grant near luxury-level access to the most basic of human needs; photo by Sheila Velazquez.
Newly installed public water fountains in high traffic/athletic areas grant near luxury-level access to the most basic of human needs; photo by Sheila Velazquez.

The title is a line from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, spoken by a sailor surrounded by a salty sea. The sailor had no choices, but we do. We have available fresh water, for now, and can choose to use tap water, filter it or not, and bypass the aisles of bottled water when we shop. We can choose to help ourselves and Mother Earth.

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To buy or not to buy, that is the question: Wary shoppers slow retail sales

Mannequins doing their best to incite consumer desire; photo by George Shervashidze, from Pexels
Mannequins doing their best to incite consumer desire; photo by George Shervashidze, from Pexels

Quarterly financial reports often portend the future. The retail apparel numbers are out for the first quarter of 2019, and they aren’t pretty. Sales dropped by 24 percent, the biggest decline since the first quarter of 2008, when they were a bellwether for the last recession. People aren’t buying clothing. Maybe some of them read my article about how Fast Fashion is contributing to climate change. If not, they should.

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Spring tonic

Green River, Williamstown, Mass.; photo by Sheila Velazquez.
Green River, Williamstown, Mass.; photo by Sheila Velazquez.

Within minutes of my house, the Green River meanders through a small park along the edge of a cemetery. In a twinkling I can be there, park by the rows of silent neighbors, and carefully make my way through wild edibles, ferns, and other flora wet with mist to sit on the bank and watch the foam rush by. Birds and insects are my only distraction. 

Here I feel my mood lift, pulse rate drop, and general overall feeling enhanced. I will not stay long. I don’t need to. More important is that I do this often. Breathe deeply, think deeply. 

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Plástica non grata

Photo by Nikki Dawson; via Pixabay
A distressingly familiar sight at beaches all over the world. Image by Nikki Dawson, via Pixabay

China doesn’t want our plastic crap anymore. What do we do with it now?

This week’s hot topic seems to be the banning of plastic waste. Google “petition, plastic,” I dare you. It’s as if the primary occupation of our progressive population is writing and circulating petitions. Moveon.org is a great place to start. They have a “petition” section where you can sign up to ban plastic bottles, straws, bags, and Styrofoam. I didn’t make it to the end of the list. Add that Trump is behind it, in favor of it, promoting it, etc. and people climb over each other to sign up. As though we haven’t been doing this for decades. China has absorbed nearly half of this waste since 1992. And now it has nowhere to go. But signing petitions isn’t going to solve the problem.

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Fast Fashion: The environmental threat hiding in your closet

Photo source, Pixabay.com.

When we think of pollution, we tend to think of single issues like air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution, and the bottom line, the climate change that is exacerbated by the production process. But the fashion industry encompasses all of these — the “Four Horsemen” if you will. And it destroys lives.

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