Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Two big things

Yesterday two things went on.  First, Nancy worked her booty off on a grant application for our garden -- the HEAL Appalachia grant. Everybody say prayers that we might be awarded one of these. Nancy has certainly put a lot of time into it, especially since there were technical difficulties and she essentially had to do everything twice. Thank you Nancy!

The other thing: yesterday I mailed a letter to all of last year's gardeners. If you're one of them, be looking for it! Also enclosed are a new application and a new waiver, and a list of veggies for you to rate per your preference for them.

Maybe there are three things. The third thing -- we prepared two short "blurbs" about the garden and the spring planting that'll start up soon. If you have a church bulletin that would run this, or some other newsletter or organization interested, please feel free to copy one of these and go. Also, if you need an application or waiver, or know someone else who does, please comment here and I'll make sure you get what you need.

Happy day!

The blurbs:

Feed my lambs, tend my garden.

Harvest of Hope Community Garden helps individuals and families in Kingsport grow food for themselves and for the hungry in our community. Spring planting time is almost here. Want to get involved? You don't have to have experience -- just come grow with us as we garden together and share our harvest with those in need. The garden is made up of small, medium and large raised beds that lend themselves well to adoption and tending by individuals, families or groups. To participate in spring planting, please contact the United Way of Greater Kingsport at (423) 378-3409 extension 16 and request an application -- then return it, completed, by March 18. You also may visit the Harvest of Hope Community Garden blog at to learn more.

Or, if you need something even shorter:

Want to get growing? 
It's almost time for spring planting at Harvest of Hope Community Garden -- join us as we garden together and share our harvest with the hungry.
To request an application, call the United Way of Greater Kingsport at (423) 378-3409 extension 16. If you'd like to participate in spring planting, we need your completed application by March 18.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A society that fails its children fails.

Two big things. First, let me share this message: the petition: Don't Drop Funding for TN's Family Resource Centers!

Governor Haslam’s latest budget proposal for the State of Tennessee no longer includes funding for Family Resource Centers across the state. Family Resource Centers are integral for assisting at-risk students of all ages with meeting basic needs. For example, “[t]he Family Resource Center may provide direct service or referrals for medical and dental care, food assistance, clothing aid, housing, transportation, child care, and parenting classes.” (Courtesy Kingsport City Schools website, Kingsport, TN).

If politicians in Tennessee are truly interested in student learning and success, these services would not be removed. Children cannot learn without proper nutrition, nor can they learn when other basic needs are not being met or when their home lives are chaotic. Their development will be compromised, and education will become a secondary goal at best.

PLEASE forward this petition to anyone else you might think is interested in signing it! LeAnne Broome, Kingsport's Family Resource Center director, will be meeting with Ron Ramsey this week to promote reinstatement of funding for FRCs into the budget. Her cause can be significantly supported by multiple signatures when she meets with him!

Second thing. Last week my friend John posted this following on his blog. I liked it so much that I wanted to share it here, there and everywhere. John is a department director at a major university, thus the references to department/campus/etc.

Here's John:

Tonight there was a talk on campus by Marian Wright Edelman. The department helped sponsor her visit, so I went to the talk. It was a fascinating talk. She started with a story of flying into Jackson in 1961 as a first-year law student, being picked up by Medgar Evers and taken to his house for dinner, only to shortly head to Greenwood when news came of shootings there. She got to Greenwood with Evers shortly, and saw the first use of police dogs in Mississippi. She saw mobs, beatings, and people tried and convicted minutes after arrest. And that was in her first night in Mississippi. She used that experience as her motivation for law school, and when she finished school at Yale, she returned to MS and became the first African American woman admitted to the Mississippi Bar. Early in her career she began to advocate for children, especially the most vulnerable among them, and she has not stopped. At some point tonight, she told a questioner something her Daddy told her. He said “Follow the need and you will never be without something to do.” She told the person tonight that she had tried to do that and felt like her life had been very full.

There were many interesting things tonight, but I failed to take a pen to note them. Some morsels (all paraphrased):

When you vote, ask yourself if it is good for the children.
A society that fails its children fails.
The “cradle to prison” pathway that puts 1 in 3 African American men in jail destroys the chance for productive citizens and costs a fortune.
“We do not have a shortage of money in this country. We have a shortage of values.”
There were more, all lost to my fuzzy brain, and tons of interesting historical morsels. It was a really good talk to hear. One bit she told is something she has told before. I found a variation of it online and pasted it below. It could easily apply beyond children’s welfare policy.

Marian Wright Edelman, 10/2/2010, in front of the Lincoln Memorial at the One Nation Working Together rally:

Everything our nation and all of us need to know about life can be learned from Noah’s Ark, according to an anonymous writer. Lesson one, don’t miss the boat. The United States is going to miss the boat to lead and compete in our globalizing world, because we are not preparing a majority of our children for the future. The greatest threat to America’s national security comes from no enemy without, but from our failure to invest in and educate all of our children. Yet every eleven seconds of the school day, a child drops out. A majority of children of all racial and income groups and over 80 percent of black and Hispanic children cannot read or compute at grade level in fourth, eighth or twelfth grade, if they have not already dropped out. Any nation that is failing to prepare all of its children for productive work and life is jeopardizing everything and needs to correct course right now. And all of us—all of us, parents, educators, community and religious and political leaders—need to be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. God did not make two classes of children. Every single one deserves a quality education.

Noah’s lesson two, we are all in the same boat, which is the central message of today’s positive and inclusive rally. Many Americans may not like or think they have any self-interest in assuring a fair playing field for other people’s children, especially poor and minority children. But black, Hispanic and other minority children will be a majority of our child population in 2023. Isn’t it better to ensure that they are there to get—make sure that our Social Security and Medicare systems and productive workforce are in place, rather than us supporting them because we’ve neglected them in prisons? Our country, our states are spending on average three times more per prisoner that per public school pupil. I can’t think of a dumber investment policy, and we’ve got to change it.

Lesson three, plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark. Tomorrow is today, and children have only one childhood. They need to be healthy now. They need quality, early childhood experiences now. They need first-rate schools with first-rate teachers, and they need to know that there is a good-paying job after college in their future. We must plan ahead and resist this quick-fix, quarterly profit-driven culture. It’s gotten us into trouble.

Lesson four, don’t listen to the critics and naysayers. Just get on with what the job is that needs to be done to educate our children. And if you don’t want to be criticized, don’t do anything, don’t be anything, and don’t say anything. Stand up and fight for our children, all of them.

Lesson five, for safety’s sake, travel in pairs. Better still, travel with your brothers and sisters and community leaders gathered here. We have got to turn back those who hijack Dr. King’s words but subvert his call to end poverty and excessive militarism and excessive individualism that’s killing our children. We must, particularly right now, make sure that we end those massive tax giveaways to the richest two percent, when fifteen-and-a-half million children are languishing in poverty.

Lesson six—almost done—remember that the Ark was built by amateurs, the Titanic was built by professionals. Use your citizen power, your vote, to wrest our ship of state from that small group of experts and powerful and greedy corporate pirates who recklessly jeopardized all of our lives for personal gain. Feel your own power. Use your own power. Don’t rely on experts.

And last lesson, build your future, build our children’s future and our nation’s future on high ground. Let’s leave our nation and world better than we found it, more just, more hopeful, more peaceful, more productive, more unified. This may be the first time when our children and grandchildren will be worse off than their parents and grandparents, unless we correct course with urgency, with the power reflected in your witness today, to get them to safe harbor.

Let me end with a brief prayer. God, we have pushed so many of our children into the tumultuous sea of life in small and leaky boats without survival gear and compass. Please forgive us and help our children to forgive us. And help us now to build that transforming movement, to give all of your children the anchors of faith and love, the rudder of hope, the sails of health and education, and the paddles of family and community, to keep them safe and strong when life’s sea gets worse. Thank you for your witness.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Spring kickoff

The meeting last night was successful and I think it's fair to say that the ball is not only rolling, but is picking up speed toward spring planting at Harvest of Hope. We are starting our drive to fill the beds, and as such, 2011 gardeners will soon receive a letter from us about participation in 2012. Anyone else who might be interested in gardening is welcome and encouraged! Comment here if you'd like an application, or call the United Way of Greater Kingsport at (423) 378-3409 ext. 16 to request one. We need completed applications returned to us at the United Way by March 16.

Spring planting day will be Saturday, March 24, time to be determined (probably 9 or 10 a.m.).

Watch this space for more details soon!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Meeting tonight!

Barring severe weather, we're meeting tonight at First Presbyterian Church in Kingsport at 5:30 p.m. Margot says it's the child-care entrance, if you know where that is. I'm sure folks will be around to let you in if you don't.

Please join us as we plan toward springing back to the Harvest of Hope for 2012!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


A tardy thank you to Kathy and Clarence, who, without fanfare, added compost to our garden. I learned about their gift a couple of weeks ago, and just yesterday took a moment to stop and admire and snap pictures. Nice!

Thank you, you two!

Happy day.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Harvest Eating

Morning, folks. I know I was taking out the trash and recycling this morning and having to watch my feet on the frozen driveway, but it really is getting to be time for us to start readying ourselves to garden. It's like Lent and Easter -- and Lent starts this week, doesn't it?! Already?! We've got to ready our soil for the seeds of resurrection, in a sense.

We're having a garden meeting on February 23 at 5:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church. We need to communicate with all the 2011 gardeners to see who wants to garden again, and we need to fill the rest of the beds. We need to determine what our food recipients -- Kitchen of Hope, Salvation Army, Meals on Wheels, Interfaith Hospitality, and others -- want us most to grow and start moving toward growing those things. And we need to set a kickoff day in April to start our spring planting. Those are some of the biggies, anyhow. Won't you come help us? Please?

I saw a cool cookbook Sunday, and haven't spent much time perusing the Web site associated with it, but thought you might like to know about it, too: It's called Harvest Eating. There are lots of resources on this site, so if you have time, check it out!

Happy day.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Newcomers lunch

Today, Larry Maston and I are talking about the garden to the Kingsport Newcomers group. Our great supporter, Tamie, has had to step away from the garden, and we're looking for fresh recruits to make this year's Harvest of Hope happen.

We have our framework -- at least physically speaking -- the infrastructure is established. Now we just need a bunch of pragmatic people, willing to get their hands dirty and feed some people.

Who's with us?!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Recycling more!

I don't think I'm the only one who didn't realize that Kingsport is doing more recycling than before. One of my running buddies told me Saturday that he'd seen an instructional video on Channel 16 (I think?) talking about the new items our city recycling pickup will take -- now they are picking up cardboard and plastics Nos. 1 through 7. I have been collected cardboard in our garage to drop off at one of the local spots for that -- now maybe I won't have to anymore!

Here's the link to the City's Recycling Collection page. Word is, too, that later this year we might get bigger recycling bins that are more like our big trash cans, so that the men and women picking up will collect our recycling using a truck with a mechanized arm, instead of having to get out and sort.

Here's the info I copied and pasted from the link (included above).

Recycling Collection

Size of Service Area: 46.94 square miles
Population Served: 44,905
Number of Households Served: 20,125
Frequency: Weekly

Since the beginning of Kingsport's recycling program, we have picked up more than five million pounds of recyclable material. This has helped to make newspapers, grocery bags, cardboard, fiber for carpets, Spic & Span containers, Proctor & Gamble products, plastic lumber, glass containers, aluminum cans, steel products and industrial heating oil. Way to go Kingsport! Your recycling will be picked up on the same day as your garbage. Check the Friday's FYI section in the Kingsport Times-News for the locations of local drop off centers.

Items recycled:

Newspaper and Inserts
Junk Mail
Phone Books
Shredded Paper
Home Office Paper Products (fax sheets, typing paper, receipts, envelopes)
Tin and Aluminum Cans
Plastics with #1 through #7 Recycling Logos on the Bottom
Glass Food and Beverage Containers
Used Motor Oil

The City does not pick up plastic bags, plastic wrap or plastic containers containing automotive products or hazardous materials.

We ask that you please break down all cardboard so that it is small enough to fit in the recycling bins.

Please rinse containers and remove lids before placing in the bin.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Zurich's community gardens

Susan Lodal contributed this narrative and photos from her trip to Europe last fall:

When Peter and I traveled to Switzerland in early September, we arrived in Zurich the day before our tour began. In order to reset our internal clocks, we walked around the area near our hotel and happened to pass a lengthy fence that bordered a large downtown park of individual gardens. What a pleasant surprise this was for me, just having left our Harvest of Hope Community Garden back in Kingsport! Most of the gardens also contained small buildings where I would imagine they stored their tools, etc. Some of the buildings looked like one-room summer cottages, where the owners could spend the day enjoying the outdoors and their little garden plots. I only snapped photos through the fence on one side of the park. As we continued our walk, it was obvious that this area was rather large. Many people in the community live in large apartment buildings, so this was obviously their connection to the land and an opportunity to grow fresh produce for themselves.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Coffee: Is it a Health Food?

I am a devoted coffee drinker, so when my friend Ann pointed out that Marie Browning had written a newsletter about the health benefits of my brew, I made sure to get it. I am sharing it here, and want to point you to Marie's site -- she is a holistic nutrition counselor and a wealth of resources and knowledge on many things concerning wellness.

Marie wrote this article. Enjoy!

Nothing compares to the rich aroma of freshly ground and brewed coffee, at least, not to me. I often say I was born with coffee in my blood, and this is only a slight exaggeration.

My Costa Rican great-grandparents grew coffee, and by the time I was five years old, I knew what good coffee should taste like. While a coffee drinking child was an oddity here, all my Costa Rican cousins and friends enjoyed a small cup of sweetened “café con leche” (coffee with milk) at breakfast and with a snack at midafternoon. My Tennessee grandfather found my taste for coffee amusing and I still have the little cup he found for me through his restaurant business.
One vivid memory I have regarding my early coffee drinking was when my mother and I were flying back from CR. I was only five or six at the time. The Piedmont Airline stewardess (what they were called then) didn’t believe me when I asked for a cup of coffee. She finally brought it and stood there to watch me take a sip. I can still picture her face and the laughter of nearby passengers when I nearly spit it out, loudly declaring it to be “the worst coffee I have ever tasted!” To this day, I refuse airline coffee, knowing it will still be some of the worst coffee available.

My younger daughter inherited my taste for good coffee, and tells me I have ruined her ability to enjoy anything less than quality coffee. My older daughter likes the smell but not the taste, so except for mocha frappuccinos (a.k.a. coffee flavored milkshakes!), she doesn’t touch the stuff.

Today, Costa Rica still produces some of the best Arabica coffee in the world, and while the last of the family plantations were sold off thirty years ago, I still start most days with my favorite Costa Rican café con leche, made with the Britt coffee mentioned below.

Costa Rica has one of the world’s five “Blue Zones”, so called because of its high number of centenarians. Costa Ricans drink a lot of strong, dark coffee. My grandmother enjoyed coffee until she died at 105, as did the neighbor who was still cutting his own grass at 103, and the many other active 80, 90, and 100+ year “oldsters” that I grew up around. You can see why it was a surprise for me to encounter the “coffee is harmful” mentality I discovered here when I moved back to the USA.

People still ask me whether I think it is OK to drink. Here is my answer. Minimally processed coffee is a natural plant product, with dozens of documented and anecdotally reported benefits. I see no reason why the average healthy adult should avoid it.

If you have an addiction type relationship with coffee, you probably need to back off and address the underlying trigger. Drink coffee if you enjoy it, not because you need it.
What you must avoid are the unhealthy artificial creamers and sweeteners that Americans are so fond of, as well as the toxic chemicals that are used in growing, processing, and packaging non organic coffee.

Some people are sensitive to its effects and should not consume it. Many people are highly sensitive to caffeine and shouldn’t drink tea, colas, or coffee. Individuals with certain health issues (especially liver related) might also be wise to avoid coffee.

I do advise pregnant women to avoid coffee. Many women find, as I did, that an early sign of pregnancy is an aversion to coffee. There is surely a reason for this, and I consider it wise to follow Mother Nature’s advice. Coffee should be avoided throughout pregnancy and lactation, unless you enjoy the cries of a wide awake infant at 3 am! In all seriousness, infants shouldn’t be exposed to any caffeine for a number of reasons.

Ongoing medical studies now confirm the benefits of consuming as many as 5 cups of coffee per day. Even institutions like Harvard and the Mayo Clinic acknowledge the value of coffee. A twenty year, 1400 person study in Finland concluded that people who consumed 3-5 cups a day throughout their 40’s and 50’s enjoyed the most long term benefits. Instant coffee proved nearly worthless, and it appears that many benefits are lost in the decaffeination processes. It is notable that coffee researchers usually increase their intake significantly following these studies.

Some studies indicate that caffeine is the beneficial constituent, but further research reveals that caffeine alone is not enough. As always, the search for the isolated “magic bullet” fails. One must take into account the hundreds of phytochemicals and antioxidants in coffee that interact with the body’s complex systems. In general, the higher the intake, the more beneficial. Here are some of the documented benefits of coffee:

Reduction in risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia (up to 70%)
Reduction in risk of cirrhosis (up to 80%)
Reduction in mortality for women from heart disease (up to 25%)
Relief from headaches, asthma, and constipation (up to 100%)
Reduction in risk of colon cancer (up to 25%)
Reduction in risk of Parkinson’s disease (up to 80%)
Reduction in risk of diabetes (up to 60%)

Recent research confirms that coffee helps inhibit dental plaque and decay, lowers the risk of depression by 20% and decreases oxidative DNA damage that leads to cancer and generalized aging.

I suffer rare but potentially debilitating migraines. The first thing I do if I feel one coming on is make myself a large, strong cup of coffee. I follow it with my preferred migraine pain medication (not available in the US) and capsules of ginger and feverfew. Usually, I am successful at completely preventing the migraine, and am able to go about my day normally. Just recently two members of my family had the beginnings of bad headaches at nearly the same time. They both took over the counter pain killers but experienced little to no benefit. Within minutes of drinking the coffee I made for them, both said that next time they’d skip the pills altogether and have the coffee only, because of the virtually instant relief they experienced. Even if coffee alone doesn’t work for you, know that coffee increases the uptake of pain medication and pain relief by at least 40%.

Asthma is another condition for which I routinely encourage the use of coffee. Coffee drinkers have less asthma to start with, and coffee appears to significantly stop or inhibit an asthma attack in progress. Decaf will not work for this, as it is the caffeine that is known to open bronchial passages. This is one condition for which I would definitely consider giving coffee to a young child. Asthma attacks are terrifying for parent and child alike. It doesn’t take much coffee to see a quick calming response, and the coffee can be sweetened and mixed with milk to make it more palatable for the child.

Caffeinated coffee promotes good peristalsis, or muscle contractions of the intestinal tract (decaf is somewhat effective). Coffee drinkers rarely suffer from constipation, as the brew encourages bowel movements within a few minutes of consumption.

Then, there’s the part of the coffee fruit that you don’t get in a cup of coffee. Many people are unaware that coffee beans are seeds wrapped in a thin layer of sweet fruit within the coffee berry. Berries ripen at different rates over several weeks’ time, which is why quality coffee must be handpicked. When I was small, you couldn’t walk through my grandmother’s neighborhood without passing plots of coffee, and even as an adult, I had a coffee plantation right across the street from my house. It was always a treat to reach in and find a ripe red berry to pop into your mouth as you walked by.

The coffee berry contains a multitude of unique polyphenols and glyconutrients that support immune system function, healthy blood glucose levels, and cellular repair. These are only available to most of us via whole food supplements. Some of the best information on coffee berries can be found at my informational link to New Chapter.

I always choose organic coffee, of course, to avoid chemical toxins, and I also look for Fair Trade labeling, so that I know the grower, not the middleman, makes a profit. I prefer shade grown coffee for its flavor and environmental superiority. Coffee grown under fruiting shade trees requires less water, and harmful chemical additives, and provides crucial habitat and food for innumerable birds and other wildlife. Even erosion is prevented by the shade grown coffee methods which build up soil rather than promoting runoff. Shade grown coffee plantations are cool and beautiful jungle habitats, alive with the sounds of birds, and full of creatures like frogs and lizards. (They’re full of scorpions and snakes, too, but that doesn’t sound as picturesque!)

If you enjoy good coffee and want to know more, I encourage you to visit the coffee link for Café Britt on my website home page, or at the bottom of this newsletter. Be sure to click on the Coffee Tour link to see what the place looks like, and the About Café Britt link for information about their coffee philosophy.

I know the family who started Britt and drink their coffee because it consistently meets my standards of quality, and social and environmental responsibility. I always visit the coffee plantation when I’m in Costa Rica, because it has a great café and gift shop, where you can taste all their coffees, chocolates, and nuts. I highly recommend their Coffee Tour if you’re ever down there—it’s a fun and educational experience. In any case, if you are thinking about trying their coffee, know that their mail service is amazing. Yes, I’m biased, but after having family plantation coffee most of my life, Britt was the only other coffee in Costa Rica that measured up, and I am always trying to sing their praises!

In closing, if you’re one of those people who worried about drinking coffee, I hope I’ve eased your mind. Don’t abandon your very healthy cups of tea, but feel free to enjoy some coffee each day, too!

PS. I wrote this article several months ago, but this recent magazine article offers some great info.

Last, this is from my website FYI page: (please read the entire article here:

Self Help for Stroke

A new drug containing caffeine and alcohol is proving extremely helpful for stroke victims when administered within 2 hours of the stroke. In one small study, 60% of patients had little or no disability following stroke, when given the new drug.

You can approximate this drug easily. Prepare a cup of very strong coffee and add 1 oz. of whiskey to it. Drink it immediately while you wait for help. The coffee alone will not help, and the whiskey alone will cause more harm. It is the unique combination of the two that provides the benefits. If a stroke is confirmed you will have improved your outcome, if it is a false alarm, no harm will have been done.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Good for you

If you have kiddos in your life, think about taking a trip to the Hands On Museum in Johnson City.

There's a new exhibit there called Good for You: Healthy Fun on the Run. There's a pretend garden, and a scale with veggies to weigh, among many other cool bits.

Gotta go have fun on the run my own self, for now, so happy day! Watch out in days to come for a post on seeds (as in -- order now if you haven't already!) and on community gardens in Europe.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Drawing board

Last night a few of us gathered at First Presbyterian Church to brush off the dust and start thinking garden. We need people! We need leaders, to organize and delegate, and we need planters, to garden and sustain. Are you interested? Even slightly? If you think you might be, please comment here and join our merry band in making some plans for spring!

Happy day.