Welcome to Green Gal's blog, where you'll find stories, recipes, gardening updates, and green tips related to nature, adventure, placemaking, and food systems. This blog is written by a young woman entrepreneur who is also a beginning farmer-gardener and seasoned sustainability educator who loves to grow, cook, ferment, and eat local and ecologically happy food.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Bike Commuting in the Rain

What is it like to ride in a torrential downpour of rain?

It feels like soggy feet when you step in a creek, and like drowning a little every time you breathe in your nose.

It's a whole lot of wondering if your hands can squeeze the brakes any tighter, and having to change into your contacts because your glasses have become blinded by raindrops.

Then it feels being poked in the eyes by droplets of rain, skidding a little in some places, and getting drenched by puddles in others.

It's like waterlogging a book you borrowed from the library, finding out your backpack isn't as waterproof as you thought.

But you know what it's really like?

It's taking a rain bath in one of the first heavy downpours of the season, and tasting fresh rain on your tongue.

Getting a chance to experience rain--really experience it--and feeling it kiss your face and drip drop into your boots.

It's finding that a street near your home is flooded after accidentally riding into the biggest puddle you've ever seen.

It's laughing as you accidentally zoom through another puddle, splashing rain up onto your legs.

It's like wanting to be a kid again and jump in those puddles with friends, but being an adult during a drought and realizing that we need to seriously find a way to capture some of this rainfall while we can.

Riding in a torrential downpour, you ask? Well for me, it's like making up a poem on the ride home, and being grateful for warmth when I walk in the door.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Local as can be at the Live Oak Farmers' Market

What do you pass on your way to the farmers' market? I pass houses in my neighborhood, a local coffee shop, a harbor, a railroad track, and the beach! I'd say it's well worth the legwork up a few hills to get there to be able to experience all of that in one Sunday afternoon ride to get some fresh and local produce.

On Sunday, I made my way by bike to the farmers' market, opting to take advantage of local produce from real people instead of a produce aisle at the Safeway down the street. Farmers' markets also bring communities together in an outdoor setting, and this one definitely brought the community out! There was live music being performed by The Pep Boys, and people were seated at tables in the center of the market, enjoying food and each others' company.

I had planned out beforehand what some essential foods were that I needed for the week. Bread, onion, and some kind of vegetable was the list I had come up with, and I figured I'd select whichever vegetable seemed most yummy when I was there.

Beckmann's Old World Bakery is based in Santa Cruz near Seabright Beach and it's been my favorite bread baker since childhood, so I went to their stand first. I ended up with Hearty Nine Grain Bread from the Natural Bread Co., which is a company originally from Walnut Creek, CA, that became part of the Beckmann's Bakery line. Their Walnut Cinnamon Raisin bread is absolutely the best bread ever; I always eat it on Bike to Work Day because they donate it to the Bike to Work Day stations in Santa Cruz. So delicious. I was going for all-purpose bread today, though, so I opted for the nine grain instead.

From there, I wandered around, seeking out a stand that had something on my list. The Happy Boy Farms stand (based in Freedom, CA near Watsonville) had onions, so I picked out a yellow onion and put it in my reusable produce bag that I acquired at some point in my life but have really never used. I always forget to bring it with me to the store, but I'm working on putting it in visible places near my other reusable bags. It worked today!

I still needed a vegetable, so I wandered some more and saw a deliciously orange display of carrots at Windmill Family Farm's stand, which is based in Moss Landing, CA. If you click this link to their farm page, the man pictured was in fact the man who sold me the carrots--talk about a farmer at the market! These carrots had bushy green shoots at the end and everything!


Once I purchased those, I signed up for the Santa Cruz Farmers' Market newsletter and picked up a schedule of upcoming events. Each event has great names. For example, July's event was called "Avocado is My Motto," and August's is "Great Melons Think Alike." I'll have to add some of these events to the Sustainability Office calendar, as well as my own calendar. You can view the calendar of events and learn more about Santa Cruz farmers' markets on the Santa Cruz Community Farmers' Markets website.


Purchases made and my email added to yet another list, I walked back to my bike near the compost-trash-recycling display, organized my pannier bag so the bread wouldn't get squished, and then pedaled home, passing the beach and the railroad track and the harbor again.

What do you like to buy at the farmers' market? If you don't currently go to your local farmers' market, what would encourage you to do so?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Service Saturday: World Surfing Reserve Beach Clean-up July 19

Yesterday morning, I picked up tiny pieces of plastic, cigarette butts, and other trash carelessly left by beachgoers during a two-hour beach cleanup at Seabright Beach in Santa Cruz. It began at 11 AM, so after a quick breakfast, I biked from my new place to the shore of Monterey Bay, looking forward to my first beach cleanup.

I had been struck by a desire to participate in a beach cleanup on Tuesday of last week after stopping by West Cliff Drive on my way home from work. Sitting on a bench overlooking the Bay, I realized that I had never done a beach cleanup, although I've helped with cleanups of other kinds before on campus at UC Santa Cruz. I committed to myself that I'd do one soon, and then pedaled on home.

That same afternoon, I checked my email and saw a message from Surfrider Foundation, announcing a World Surfing Reserve beach cleanup on Saturday, July 19. Wow, talk about the universe really aligning things for you! I immediately joined the Facebook event page and promoted it on my wall, hoping to inspire others to join me. I didn't recognize anyone at the cleanup on Saturday, but perhaps it planted a little seed in their minds that may eventually grow into participation at a future cleanup.

When I arrived at the beach, there were two pop-up tents with materials for the cleanup, information about ocean conservation methods, how to grow ocean-friendly gardens, and details about the work of the Santa Cruz Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, Bureo, and Save the Waves, the three organizations that organized the clean-up.

A video by Save the Waves states that "In 2012, Santa Cruz was dedicated as the fourth reserve in a prestigious network of World Surfing Reserves." This cleanup helps to highlight that, as well as work to protect the waves and life that live in those waves. It is so cool to me that surfers are giving back to the waters they love so that they can not only continue to surf in pristine waters but also to protect the oceans for future generations to surf, enjoy, and appreciate. You can watch the video on Youtube here.

Bureo is a new skateboard company with a ocean conservation mission, and I had heard about them a few days ago when they tweeted at the UCSC Sustainability Office. I retweeted them and followed them, inspired by the work they are doing. I'll let them tell their story via the About Us section of their website:

"Launched by three friends (Ben, David, Kevin), Bureo was founded through a deep connection with the ocean environment. Becoming aware of the various threats to our waterways, we made it our mission to do something about ocean plastics. We started dreaming big and left our safe careers behind in search of solutions. Our answer was ‘Skateboards for Plastic-Free Oceans’.

"The name ‘Bureo’ comes from the language of the Mapuche, the native Chileans, and means ´the waves’. Selected in honor of the Chilean people, the name represents our mission. Just as a wave originates from a disturbance of wind along the ocean surface, Bureo is starting with a small change in an ocean of plastic. Through time and energy, the waves of Bureo will develop the force required to cause real change.

"Bureo’s innovative boards are made in Chile through the team’s initiative, ‘Net Positiva’, Chile’s first ever fishnet collection & recycling program. Polluting beaches and oceans across the globe, polymer based discarded fishnets, threaten marine mammals and ecosystems. Net Positiva provides fisherman with environmentally sound disposal points in Chile, while Bureo receives highly recyclable and durable raw materials. This is how it works:

Click the image for larger view or click here to view it on their website.

Pretty cool stuff! Bureo was raffling off one of their skateboards, and anyone who participated in the cleanup received a free raffle ticket. Ultimately, one of the organizers for the cleanup won, and she gave it to an adorable pair of twin girls who had participated in the cleanup. They also had a fishnet on the table to show what they look like, as well as a jar of the ground up netting that they use for making the skateboards.

After I arrived and signed in, I was given a pair of reusable gardening gloves and two plastic trash bags--one for trash and one for recycling. I was told to go wherever I wanted on the beach and to bring the bags back when they were filled. The cleanup was happening until 1 PM, which was when they would do the raffle, group photo, and weigh-in of the items collected.

I set off, combing through ice plant along the edges of the beach near a hillside. The going was slow, and my method was to closely observe my entire area before moving on. Most of what I found was cigarette butts, small pieces of plastic, bottles, and other random items. While exploring under the lifeguard shack, I found a partially eaten cinnamon roll and pieces of purple confetti. I scaled up the side of a cliff to collect a Capri Sun packet, and on the way down I picked up some glass and an empty soda cup.

Farther down the beach, I found a kitchen knife, a rusty tool that I couldn't identify, empty alcohol bottles, and a child-size Croc shoe. It was quite the assortment of trash, and unfortunately most of what I collected was trash and not recycling. Surprisingly, I only found one plastic water bottle, but the amount of other miscellaneous plastic pieces was pretty frustrating. Those little pieces of plastic are the ones that blow their way into the water and eventually end up in some poor fish's belly. Along the food chain, some poor bird or larger fish or shark eats that fish and gets a belly-full of plastic. The toxins from that plastic not only kill these animals but can end up in food we eat--like tuna and other larger fish whose food supply is riddled with our trash. Yum.

The above three images are from the Surfrider Foundation Santa Cruz Facebook album.

After two hours of searching around the sand for trash, I returned to the tents and showed the organizers the knife and tool, and made sure I had sorted recycling properly. There were already bags and bags of waste from others who had been collecting. The final numbers from Surfrider's Facebook post came out to 53 volunteers who removed 1,226 cigarette butts, 37 pounds of recycling, and 79.2 pounds of trash (116.2 lbs total)! Collective efforts really do make a difference.

To cool off after the cleanup, I stood in the waves and considered going all the way in. I had worn my bathing suit in case the heat made me want to jump into the freezing waters of the Bay. The water was just too cold, though, and it wasn't hot enough outside for me to take the plunge. Plenty of other people were in the water, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. Some day soon I will. 

The biggest take-away for me from yesterday's clean up is this: If you aren't part of the solution, you're part of the problem when it comes to littering and our oceans. Each of us has a responsibility to pick up litter when we see it on our beaches--and in other places, too. When we let trash sit there despite being easily capable of picking it up, we perpetuate the idea that it's ok for it to be there. Especially when it comes to our oceans, it is not okay to simply expect someone else to pick it up. Even if you don't live near the ocean, your local watershed may flow into a bay at the end of its journey, and any wildlife who live near you can be affected by plastic pollution. Picking up litter you see in your daily life--and of course not littering in the first place--can really make a difference for wildlife and the preservation of our oceans... and if you don't care about that, then think about the human beings who are going to end up eating that plastic in some form when they bite into their sushi or grilled fish. If my words aren't convincing enough, I'll leave you with this awesome public service announcement from Surfrider Foundation:

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Green Gal's Life After College, Featuring Monterey Bay, Organic Strawberries, and Bikes!

Today on the way home from work, I took the scenic route along the coast of the Monterey Bay. Yesterday on the way home from work, I stopped by a local and organic farm stand for some kale and strawberries. On my way to work each day by bike or bus, I can look below me and see the bay or look toward my destination and see redwood trees, fog, and deer. I couldn't ask to live and work in a better place than this.

Since I last posted, I've graduated from college with a degree in English Language Literatures, acquired two part-time jobs, visited the Bahamas for the first time, and gotten back on my road bike. I've ridden up the hill to work four times in the past two and a half weeks of working, and my goal is to bike to work 2-3 times a week. It's 45 minutes uphill, and the hardest part is the last leg of it. I love the energy it gives me when I arrive at work, especially since my job is mostly sitting in front of a computer emailing people, posting on social media sites, and developing materials for teaching students and the campus community about sustainability. When I go outside to eat during lunch, I am surrounded by an enormous redwood forest full of deer, birds, and green everywhere I turn. I am incredibly blessed to have the chance to work in such an incredible forest.

My other position is also a lot of computer time, but I can do it from wherever I want, which usually means in my house, which I just moved into within the last two weeks. We have a cat named Nicco. It already feels like home, perhaps because this town feels so much like home to me now that I have gotten to know it better. Being a resident is a lot different than being a student, and I'm trying to embrace this time of change in my life by exploring new things, attending more community events, finding the free music events and the beautiful quiet beaches where I can bike and just be. No homework, no exams, no papers. And this new freedom is why I'm back on here writing--I have missed writing freely about what I want to write without any editors or timesheets associated with it. Now I have the free time to post here, and I don't want to get into the habit of saying "I'll do it later." In this time of change, I can choose to make things into habits. Biking to work. Posting on this blog. Drinking more water and going outside first thing on a Saturday morning. I want to truly live and be here in the physical world, not in the world of online social media/email/reading about life but not living it. I get sucked into that world every day at work.

In the coming posts, I'll talk more about the work I'm doing right now with the two part-time jobs. Both are environmental education positions within two inter-related communities in this region. I have only just begun them, and I am excited to delve deeper into understanding the relationships I can develop between the two. Just today, I attended a social media meeting hosted by the social media manager for the University, and she shared that she's starting a marketing and communications group that will meet monthly in town in addition to the University group she convened today. Given my role in the community as well as on campus, I think attending meetings like these will help me build my network even further than it currently reaches so that my work can effectively connect the communities around me. I am trying to stay open and aware to all possibilities for becoming involved in ways that not only further the goals of my work, but also further my goals of being an active and contributing member of my community. I also want to get to know more people who live here!

After the meeting today, a few of us went to happy hour at West End Tap & Kitchen, which is right across the parking lot from Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing, where Santa Cruz Bike Party almost always makes a pit stop for a dance party. I had never been inside West End Tap, and it was delightful! It was fun to continue the conversations about social media that had begun during the meeting and to learn more about those who were there. The jalapeno calamari were incredible, in case you ever go! I am so grateful that I am connected with people who go to happy hour at great places like West End Tap & Kitchen, and I look forward to many more experiences of new places and meeting new people in Santa Cruz in the coming months. I'll keep you posted!

Thanks for reading!
Green Gal

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Memories of bicycling for bacon

On a recent bike ride with my younger sister Jeune Gal, she and I were reflecting on our memories of biking to our hometown's Main Street every morning for a few summers in a row to get coffee, bagels, bacon, and to simply enjoy the weather without any responsibility. Those were the days!

As we talked more about how much we missed those summers, we discussed how our bicycles really were our modes for freedom from home those days since neither she nor I had our licenses at that time. I was probably old enough to have one during those summers, but I didn't get my license until after going away to college. I believe I was 19 and had had two learners permits by then... I've still never owned a car, and I'm hoping I can continue to say that for many years to come.

By biking in those days, we were able to learn the contours of our hometown's streets, find the quiet streets with less traffic, visit little stores we came across, and enjoy the weather by being out in it when we rode from place to place.

One place we often visited was Coffee Beans & Bistro (or Coffee Beans & Things as my dad called it). It was located on a corner in downtown that is near a little plaza with a coffee shop, burrito place, and ice cream parlor, so it's near the part of town where people tend to gather. It's across the road from the Farmers' Market that happens every Saturday, as well. It's a bustling place on Saturday and Sunday mornings and after school.

When we used to visit this restaurant (which has since become a different restaurant called Café Main), there was a cook there named Felipe who always made our  bacon. We know because whenever we'd order, the cashier would tell us "Felipe will get you your bacon." And sure enough, Felipe always brought us our plate of bacon, right to our table. Knowing the name of the cook, becoming a recognized set of faces each morning, and enjoying that freshly cooked bacon brought us back quite often, always by bike. We'd get coffee and maybe a bagel on the way downtown and then without fail, we'd order bacon when we went into the little café.

In thinking about this pattern, I realized it was a real-life example of bicycling supporting the local economy in a particular way. I'm currently working on a research paper about how increasing support for bicycling in a community or business area can support the local economy because of how bicyclists spend money, where they tend to visit, and how people on bikes interact with communities differently than people in cars. I'll post the final version on this blog, and I'll likely continue to reflect on it throughout the next quarter of school.

I realized that the combination of our bicycles (which limited how far we really felt like traveling for food), the friendly faces that greeted us each time we visited (knowing Felipe was taking care of us and making our bacon), and the sense of our smalltown-feeling hometown community all worked together to bring us back to that café time and time again.

As I write this, I'm sitting in the same building, which is now a restaurant serving a wider variety of food--but they still have bacon and coffee. They still have large front windows right on the main street in town, and I still feel better spending my money here rather than at a non-local chain restaurant. I feel at home in this place, able to observe my town while enjoying delicious food and remembering all those mornings in summers past when my sister and I were free to bike as far as our legs could pedal and our wheels could roam.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Spring Break has begun... with lots of bikes!

My Spring Break began last Thursday, and I have until Sunday to enjoy time at home. I am studying and preparing for the class on Friedrich Nietzsche that I'm teaching through the Literature Department at UC Santa Cruz next quarter, but in between reading, I've been biking around with Green Guy and my sister. Take a look!

Friday night, I bicycled around town with Green Guy and Jeune Gal for the second night of my Spring Break from college--my last spring break of my undergraduate career!
While visiting Sonoma State with Jeune Gal yesterday, we saw her exact same bike parked in a rack, only a larger size. It was like a sign from the Bicycling Gods that she is meant to go there--and to bring a bike! She did decide to go there after visiting--I'm so proud of her and excited for this new chapter in her life. Go Seawolves!

Jeune Gal showed her bicycling style on Sunday night before a party around the block in back jeans, black boots, and a lacy black top. Her black helmet with silver flames totally matched, and her pink bike added some color to the whole ensemble!

I biked with her to her friend's house, two blocks away. She doesn't have a back light, so I decked my bike in lights and wore my bright yellow jacket to escort her there safely. I'm working on convincing her to get a new bike before she goes away to college. I think we're making progress, especially after the three bike rides we've done since I've been home. She still needs lights, a new bike with gears, a bike rack, some panniers... Sonoma State is flat, so she should have no trouble getting around by bike!
I ordered some bike stickers from Taking The Lane, and they arrived in the mail!

The new sticker on my bike rack.

Jeune Gal and I biked to Starbucks to do some homework together. We took the route that I used to take to bike to high school... so many bicycling morning memories!

We biked home just as the sun was setting. It's only Monday, so who knows how many more bicycle adventures we'll have in the coming days!
Happy Spring, my friends!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Ditching Class to Ride Bikes... Kinda.

Yesterday, my Bicycle Transit Planning Team (BTPT) partner Aly and I left IDEASS class early to bike down the rollercoaster ride that is the UCSC Bike Path.

No, we weren't ditching class just to ride bikes. Though I guess we kind of were... We did have permission from our instructors, though!

We were on our way to our first People Power Bike Commuting Workshop that we're helping design and facilitate. They happen every third Monday at the People Power Office at 703 Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz.

I'll post more about the workshop once finals are over. I will say that eight community members showed up for the first one last night.

The conversation and sharing of stories and tips was awesome. I hope to see you at a future community workshop, or if you work for a business in Santa Cruz County and want us to bring the workshop to your business for a free lunch hour workshop, send me an email!
Learn more about the BTPT here.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Santa Cruz Pi(e) Day Pajama Ride Bike Party

Pi(e) Day Pajama Ride Bike Party required pajamas, of course! We picked up some pie at New Leaf on the way.

Santa Cruz Bike Party happens every second Friday of the month around 7 PM. Learn more here.

Yes, that's a couch, specifically The Happening Couch (you can become friends with it on Facebook). I rode a tandem bike with my friend Greg (of Moved By Bikes). He owns this couch, which is equipped with speakers and attached to a trailer attached to the bike. Random folks jumped on it during the ride, and we had two riders get flats and ride the couch so they wouldn't get left behind. We pulled Green Guy up Walnut Avenue (a pretty steep road) after he got a flat... Serious bike party awesomeness right there.

What's a bike party without a dance party?

Green Gal and Green Guy! We rode up the hill to campus after the evening's festivities, having our own bike party along the way.

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