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8 posts from February 2011


Ted X Events coming to Michigan

Perhaps you're familiar with TED, the site with all sorts of inspiring and thought-provoking presentations.



TEDx is like TED, but independently organized in various localities.  And Lansing is not the only Michigan city set to host a local Ignite-like extravaganza.  

TEDx  Grand Rapids is set for May 12 of this year, and TEDx U of M is coming right up on April 8th (just over a month!)

Get more info and background at TEDx Lansing or visit their Facebook page.

For even more connections, check out the Tedx Lansing organizers' blogs, featuring Payal Ravani.


See you there.



Eastside Friday Night

It's Friday night and we're heading out to see Mr. Denton on Doomsday with some other bands at a venue we've never been to: The Blackened Moon.  On some random impulse, I check one of the band's webpages--the venue's been changed to Gone Wired!  Gone Wired?  Even my high-heeled lady friend can--and volunteered to!--walk that short hoof.  On the way past The Green Door we lamented the half-hearted singing wafting boozily through the front window, "Suhweet, uh-Caroliine..." shrugging into the cool night.  

When we arrived at Gone Wired we sort of realized why this had all seemed too easy--you don't necessarily feel like you're 'out' when you're trying to party at the coffee shop where you wipe bananna off your baby's face while checking email.  Not to say the dozens of other teens and twenty somethings weren't enjoying themselves.  They looked like they lived in East Lansing.

So, where to?  We gamely slipped over to The Green Door, but by the time our neighbor had finished checking our i.d.s, I knew it was over--The Green Door never misses, but they never split the arrow, either (think Robin Hood's first round of competition in the archery contest scene--the old school Robin Hood, not that last-year trash).  Nikii has the brainstorm "Emils!"

Of course!  Emils!  The perfect spot for a stiff drink or a meatball.  After crossing Michigan at the light on Clemens (always responds quickly to the Walk summons), we were greeted warmly upon our entrance into the red door (for the record, Gone Wired's door is pretty much a non-remarkable color.  But the olive-burgers are fresh-ground at the halal market on the same block!)

Where were we?  Emils.  Met who might be called a costumed reveler were this a holiday article (and who still could be if not for just that confusion), local grassroots public relations icon E-Hosk incognito in a huge fur hat and fake nose with glasses.  He looked much like Humpty trying to blend in on the set of Wizard of Oz, which of course got us all talking about synchronicity vis a vis Dark Side of Oz, which E-Hosk put into the context of a zombie ice-capades routine.

Somehow we did not end up breaking into a beatbox rendition of The Humpty Dance, but rather our new friend told us about Lauriepalooza going down at Mac's Bar.  (We always say Mac's Bar, not just Mac's, cause like most locals, we find it weird implying that Chuck's name is Mac.)  Lauriepalooza was this girl named Laurie having a birthday party for $1+ at the door, donated to cancer research.  Dope.

So we finally found the all-out dance party Nikkii (and I) had been craving--or at least some embers to fan.  And fire sprang to life.

Let's think about Michigan for a moment like it's the whole nation: Detroit is New York, there's the west/north Third Coast, and even spry Ann Arbor like a little Austin, TX all balanced by plenty of irresponsible farming and out-dated roads.  This oil and coal whore (viewing from a celestial perspective, say) might make a rough case for Lansing as a place to settle unless one is on a quest for the belly of the beast.  Yet here we are in rich interactions with one another on an Eastside Friday Night.  Next time you fly over or cruise through a town that feels like just another prick on the map, remember what we have here in Lansing, and how most outsiders can't see the trees for the rest-stop.

Moral?  Go out in your neighborhood--you can't predict the best love it can throw at you.  Even if you miss the band you went out to see, that will just make a better story to tell them later... Holler.


Activists Unite




Check out this dispatch from the 2011 Growing Our Food System conference.  One of the surprising things for me when I went through to provide the captions was just how inter-connected and multi-faceted many of our local chefs, farmers, and food activisits are. 

This conference was pitched at those who grow, prepare, sell, work with, or just eat food--basically all humans.  It was a capacity crowd with a waitlist; here are a few of those who lent their vitality to the proceedings.

At right: Allan Coyle of 5 Lakes Media, chef Nick Gavrilides, and Carrie Burns from the South Lansing Community Development Association(clockwise from upper left) pack in for the event kick-off.


The crowd at last week's Growing Our Food System conferece included Jarad Talaga (front left), who's working on helping local non-profits make food growing more wheelchair accessible, among other projects.

Ingham County Treasurer Eric Schertzing (above left) sits at the back of a crowd learning about urban agriculture from the Delta Institute's Todd Parker (below).

To the right of the living food arrangements by Carolyn from Drake's Floral is Jane Bush, the local farm dynamo behind Appleschram Farms and a new farmers' co-op marketing local mid-winter greens to large institutions.

Former City Market director and current Tree Keeper John Hooper enjoys a colleague's presentation.

Judy Wicks, founder of the White Dog Cafe in Philidelphia, gave the keynote.

Local chefs, farmers, and food activists consider ideas about local food security.


Local artists provided inspiration, including this healthy re-purposing of a decrepid north Lansing property.


Food and music impressario John Krohn networking with Melissa Lott from the Ingham County Land Bank.


Rita O'Brien works with South Lansing Community Development Association to support community gardens and other health initiatives in south Lansing.  Successful efforts include Joly Grove Community Garden (Pleasant Grove at Jolly Rd.) and many others.






Chad Badgero (left) has made a name for himself directing several local theater productions, but perhaps less well known is the support he's shown for Old Town Commercial Association, including their community garden.


Below, Jeremy Moghtader and Nick Gavrilides share wisdom with the audience and with each other.  Jeremy manages Michigan State University's Student Organic Farm and provided insights on related roles in the food system.  The MSU SOF is a full-fledged produciton and training farm.  Nick is the owner and executive chef of The Soup Spoon Cafe in Lansing, where he incorporates local ingredients in creative cuisine.


Below, Ingham County Medical Examiner Dean Sienko lays out his philosophy on public (preventative) health.


Terry Link, Executive Director of the Greater Lansing Food Bank, gives some context for the day's activities (below).



Spoiled Rotten

I was peeling a clementine in the kitchen.  Clearly it was not grown in Michigan.  It had been stored out in our 'garbage room,' the unheated sun-porchy recycling-mayhem and cold-storage grotto off our kitchen.  The temperature has been perfect for fruit and potatoes all winter (the garlic is on the front porch, the sweet potatoes in the basement).

Continue reading "Spoiled Rotten" »


Don't Forget the Flowers


Really, some things are just that easy.  Turkey on Thanksgiving.  Fireworks on the Fourth of July.  And of course, conventional tokens of infatuation for St. Valentine's day.  Let's skip the histrionics of the encoded messages in various love missives and the symbolism of various flowers.  This isn't rocket science.  Skip the 1-800 number or the online ordering.  

Unless you want to be explaining your way out of a botched delivery, use a local florist and ask for the name of the person who takes your order.  Make SURE to confirm that they can deliver when and where you want--if it's really last minute, you may need to pick up the arrangement at the store.  If anything goes awry, at least you have a human who's got your back (or can take some heat for you) instead of a website to blame.

Spend somewhere between $20-100.  If you go to the low end, opt for a single, awesome flower like a protea or an orchid instead of a dozen chintzy carnations.  If you can spend a little more, get an arrangement of unusual flowers in a simple vase.  If she's got a favorite flower or color, go with it, but ask for this information during the off-season, not while you're on hold placing your order.  At least give the impression of some forethought!  

Include a card with your V-day arrangement.  Unless you and yours are going steady, save both of you some embarrassment and skip any 'Guess Who?' signature lines.  And ladies, please don't bother the florist if you receive a mystery bouquet.  It's up to you to decide who's your valentine, not them.

Continue reading "Don't Forget the Flowers" »


Remember How Milk Used to Taste?

When I answer the doorbell, my buddy flashes a grin and a full glass bottle of cold raw milk.

"Milkman!" he cheerfully enunciates, and he's not joking.  Like many others around Lansing and the nation, we're part of a small group that pools its resources and takes turns transporting raw milk from a nearby farm.

Well, full disclosure: Most of the members of the group take turns schlepping the milk from St. John's to "Milk HQ," the Lansing house of one of the families involved.  Milk HQ is where members of the group bring their bottles and pick them up once filled and returned from the farm. I say most because I have not made the trip out to the farm, due to a technicality you might say.  My buddy's family are bona fide members of the group--they take their turn driving to the farm. Our household of four people is sharing a share of their share, if you will.  So, other than cutting a modest check to my buddy once in a while, there is not much exerted on our part to acquire this delicious, wholesome milk.  

While I'm not begging to make the drive, this is also not meant to encourage gaming of the system with a local cooperative milk supply effort.  Point being, there are ways to get your hands on some quality local milk.  Whether you're a cereal junkie or someone who appreciates a great splash in your coffee, you don't have to be a cheese-maker to benefit from a supply of responsibly produced dairy.

One motivated person in our community has been recently advocating extensively for an intentional focus upon even more localized milk production and distribution.  Namely, the incorporation of dairy cows into the urban agriculture landscape.  For this gentlemen, the phrase 'dairy cow' may in itself be redundant, for in the pre-colonial days of his native India, the family cow was a source of milk, a mother cow, not a beast bred for slaughter.

Obviously our milk group trends more toward a rather less integrated approach.  But until there is a cow in every yard, the opportunity to access a better quality product and support a local small farm is hard to resist.  


Farmer's Market for Medicine

Ken Van Every's Compassionate Apothecary is strategizing a move to a larger location to accommodate the swift growth they've experienced.  He says the key is a business model which supports dozens of local farmers.  Wait...weed growers are farmers?  "They are farmers," says Ken.  "This is not their only crop."

Show room 

"The quality is so much better than what's being catapulted over the border," Van Every says about concerns over the medicinality and food and drug safety of his herbs.  These local, organic crops are quite different, he says, than imported marijuana, which has gone through "You don't know what."

Ken Ken does not strike one as a retired hippie stoner.  He has had a successful career in professional sports photography as well as many independent fly fishing companies he's founded. "We're bringing jobs to the state of Michigan, paying state taxes...I saw this as a business opportunity first. 

"I quit my job to start this."

Continue reading "Farmer's Market for Medicine" »


Snowy Mitten

Snowy mitten Preparing for a potential crisis brings out the best in people, sometimes.  Or at least the funniest.  For updates from people hoarding blankies and more, check out Twitter: #Snowpocalyspe or the snowpocalypse Google Realtime feed.  Meanwhile, what kind of crazy fun can't you have in the snow?  All the local sledding hills will be popping, but other creative pursuits may tickle your fancy... How about snow sculptures and forts?

Not to mention snowpeople.

Do you have a terrific snow sculpture, fort, or snowman you want to show off? 

Describe it below and see your work featured in an upcoming blog!


Gabriel Biber

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