Monday, February 16, 2009

Key to a Simple Life: Being Pleasant

One of my favorite quotes is from Elwood P. Dowd, of Harvey fame:

"To get along in this world, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant. Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant."

Of course, Elwood was also an alcoholic and I certainly can't recommend taking to drink to get along in this world. However, it seems to me that we can all benefit by taking a page from the book of Elwood. You only have to turn the TV to any "reality" show to see that we are now living in a world that encourages conflict, competitiveness, and the demeaning and humiliation of others. Yet, the participants on these shows don't seem to be happy. In fact, they seem to be living largely unhappy, complicated, and conflict-ridden lives.

I have to agree with Mr. Dowd, there's a lot to be said for being pleasant. Elwood largely avoided conflict by trying to be as agreeable as possible to those around him. He helped when he could, shared what he had, and tried to get along with everyone. He found everyone interesting and listened to their stories with fascination and appreciation. People liked being around him because he cared.

Sounds to me like a recipe for a happy life.

6-foot rabbit optional.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Mmm-Mmm! That's Good Eatin'!

If you've ever grown your own vegetables you know there's nothing tastier than carrots, turnips, or fresh herbs pulled right from the ground and onto your dinner plate. Yet most of the produce you buy in your neighborhood grocery store travels up to 1,500 miles to get to your table. It's often over- or under-ripe and almost always tasteless by the time it reaches your refrigerator.

Even if you can't grow your own vegetables, there's still another solution to buying produce from industrial agribusinesses: buy from your local family farmer. In recent years there's been a growing awareness that locally-produced food is not only better tasting but it's better for you, too.

There are many benefits to buying locally-grown food, including:

  • locally-grown food is picked when it's ripe and not before, so it's more nutritious and tastes better
  • locally-grown food is often cheaper since family farms don't have the high overhead of transportation and labor costs
  • you'll contribute to the economic health of your local community as more of your dollars will stay in the community
  • you'll help to preserve the long-term viability of family farms, protecting them from encroachment by development
  • locally-grown food is often healthier for you and for the environment as many family farmers use fewer pesticides and other chemicals or use entirely organic farming methods

Chris and I support a local farm, the Farmstead of Charlotte Hall in Maryland, through a program called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Every week, just-picked produce is delivered to a community location (in Alexandria, the drop-off location is Mindful Hands; how's THAT for convenience!). Members of a CSA buy shares in the farm prior to the growing season and then receive the bounty of their investment throughout the summer and fall.

The Farmstead's season runs for 21 weeks from June 2nd until Oct. 29th. Each week, members will receive a hand-picked selection of the ripest and tastiest vegetables, including lettuce, tomatoes, onions, beets, peas, carrots, radishes, turnips, squash, potatoes, and a variety of herbs. Mmm-mmm! Now, that's good eatin'!

To find a CSA in your area and for more information on buying locally-grown food from family farms, try these sources:

Sustainable Table (
Local Harvest (