For breakfast this morning I tried to make myself an omelette but ended up making myself a scramble. It had sausage and fresh mint leaves I found in my neighborhood. It was relatively flavorful but left me mentally hungry.

When lunch rolled around I ate a bunch of Apples that were hopefully from Yakima County, but might have been from Benton County with cheese from Twin Oaks Creamery aged cheese from Chehalis in Lewis County. After my lunch snack I went to meet my girlfriend on campus for her lunch break. She wanted to get a sandwich at Safeway and I obliged her. On the way back to campus we stopped by the farm stand on Mud Bay Road. None of the produce was local! When my girlfriend asked the cashier where the rhubarb was from he said he had no idea, like it was a crazy question. Oh man! 

 

*     *     *

 

OK, so today I seem to have made a mistake. I’ll be the first to admit it. The hunger is really getting to me today. I started to notice it last night, but today it’s bothering me. I just don’t feel satiated. But back to that mistake… I went looking for farms from the farm map. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting. Welcoming parties? 

First I went to Lattin’s Cider Mill. They had some produce, but it was from all over the US except Western Washington. As I purchased my obligatory apple cider donut I asked the lady if the apples came from the other side of the mountains. She said they did. I asked her if they came from all over the place or from one place. She said they have a “broker” but that they’ve been buying from the same people for many years. What a disappointment. Lattin’s is meant to be an Olympia area landmark. I suppose they are making their product there, even if the ingredients aren’t local, but that should be made clear. I had never had an apple cider donut before and had heard they were famous so I figured I couldn’t pass them up. I didn’t have the heart to ask the woman if she knew where they flour came from for the donuts. I just assume that it probably came from South Dakota or Kansas. 

After Lattin’s I drove a bit further south to find Stoney Plains. I think I saw it but there wasn’t a sign. I was going to turn around to double check, but the road didn’t offer any place convenient to turn-around. I had to keep going and going and going… 

Finally I found myself on my way to Helsing Junction Farm. They were potentially going to have fruits, maybe frozen fruit. But the farm was just a lonely farm house with some orchards out back and some rows of tilled earth. There was a little farm stand out front but it was shuttered. My guess is that it won’t open for about another month when Strawberries are officially due. My other thought is that farms have decided CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) might be taking the place of farm stands.  

In reading “Plenty” the authors seem to have no trouble finding farmers who want to sell them anything they’ve got. Probably it helps that they’re journalists. They seemed to be able to sniff out a meal from the least likely farms. They also called ahead at least some of the time. Traveling to these farms by myself, however, I just didn’t want to invade anyone’s home or bother them while they’re doing their work. 

 

*     *     *

 

I have been hungry before. But somehow this is different. It’s not so extraordinarily painful, it just seems to put me in a foul mood. I don’t think I’ve ever been hungry for more than a day with so much damn food around. I’ve never in my life dieted. I have always been able to eat whatever I wanted. And I have never fasted. Something about this diet is miserably failing to satisfy my head and my belly. It was all right for the first two days, but now it’s just a pain. 

It was the realization that I couldn’t even get local yogurt that started to put me in a foul mood. Since then I just haven’t been satiated. So many damn eggs…. 

For supper my girlfriend made a feast. A classmate had brought her some clams the classmate’s family raised near Quilcene in Jefferson County. That was the appetizer. Then we had delicious country pork ribs from Mason County with cannelloni beans and kale from Thurston County. This should have made me happy, but I was still whining about how I couldn’t get satisfied. 

 

*     *     *

 

It’s over! It’s over! The War is Over! 

I called Jake to find out if he’d be willing to end this silly experiment a day early and he said yes! Immediately I dashed into the kitchen and stuffed my face with chocolate covered sunflower seed cookies! Immediately I felt much so much better. So much happier! I really hate to admit it, but I think that maybe it’s not grain that I’ve been missing so much as sugar. What a terrible discovery. I think I might have a mild addiction to sugar. I was hoping to get my sweet tooth satiated by local honey or frozen fruit but after the yogurt failure, I didn’t have any choice. 

To celebrate the end of the experiment Jake and I met at the Eastside for a beer. Beer had been forbidden as the ingredients come from the wrong side of the Cascades. The only alcohol that would have been allowed would have been a handful of wines with the grapes actually grown in the Puget Sound. The vast majority of wineries in Western Washington get their grapes from Eastern Washington. 

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Well, I didn’t have eggs for breakfast this morning. Nor did I have sausage. I had Cascade Fresh yogurt made in Seattle with some local raw honey. Wait this is the local game. Where is local honey from? The people at the coop told me the honey company was in Olympia but that the bees were set free to do their thing in the North Cascades which in my mind would mean Snohomish, Skagit, or the forbidden Whatcom County. A two-thirds chance that the bees were buzzing in a legitimate county is good enough for me. There’s also Four Bs Farm, out near Steamboat Island, but I chose to go with the stuff at the farmer’s market. It’s that Cascade Fresh stuff that became a thorn in my side later today. 

With a name like “Cascade Fresh” and being made in Seattle, I made the foolhardy assumption that their milk must come from somewhere nearby, like Fir Island in the the Skagit Valley, or somewhere in the Stillaguamish Valley near Stanwood. But no! When I called up their information line they told me they got their milk from a dairy cooperative in northern California and another in Portland, Oregon! I don’t know where the milk is coming from when the cooperative is in Portland, but I do know that Humboldt County is a damn long ways to go to get fresh milk for your yogurt. Could it really be that their product is so superior to ours?! Why the hell does milk need to travel that far?! It’s criminal!

So now there’s no yogurt made locally that I can eat, and I can’t make my own without a machine. I went online and looked yogurt machines on Target’s website. They offer three models. After my girlfriend came home from work I convinced her to take me to Target to look at yogurt makers. Hunting around the home appliance section was fruitless. Finally we found someone to help us. They don’t carry them in stock. We would have to order one. This is the point at which my girlfriend reminds me that we’re moving soon and that we don’t need another kitchen gadget to haul with us to Atlanta. Crap. 

Maybe my mood was starting to sour because I had lettuce with bleu cheese dressing and two hard boiled eggs for lunch. All I know is I wanted to be able to have yogurt and now those dreams were being dashed. 

For dinner we had chicken from Mason County stuffed with thyme from our patio served with Yakima County asparagus on the side. My girlfriend was a bit worn out so there wasn’t much effort put into the presentation. I am starting to get bothered that I can’t have much dairy or any grain. I can have cheese, but local cheese is very expensive and must be savored. Unfortunately I just don’t like straight milk. 

Three days down, two to go.

Oh how the flesh is weak! Today before work I had a meal of Thurston County eggs flavored with leeks. Not bad as a side dish, perhaps, but not much of a meal. Where’s my grain? I need some toast or cereal, dammit! I don’t know what it is, but I have learned that a full meal is not just sufficient amount of food, but a sufficient variety, too. I’m not getting that variety. 

For lunch I packed myself another meal of lettuce with bleu cheese dressing and some hard boiled eggs except I forgot the hard boiled eggs so I left for work with just the salad. That would not be enough food for a hard day of labor. Did I mention that I’m a caterer and that I usually get a chance to eat a meal during a shift? So allegedly there would be all this food around me that I wasn’t going to be able to eat and I wasn’t going to have enough of my own food. Then, for the first time we decided to serve Nanaimo bars. Even though I told my co-worker that I was on a special local diet, she kept forgetting and offering me these desserts made with lots of chocolate and sugar. I couldn’t say no! It was a once in a lifetime opportunity! So I had a Nanaimo bar or two. Of course, I couldn’t stop there. When it was meal time I found I couldn’t resist the chicken enchiladas and corn salad, so I took the opportunity to gorge myself. I have to admit, it was very tasty and satisfying. Oh, and the Nanaimo bars tasted like sin!

I would like to make some high minded argument about how I was saving the food from the landfill so my belly was a better place for it, but that’s not true. We compost our food. Can you still make the same freegan arguments when the food gets returned to the soil like it should? I suppose I was robbing someone of some compost/soil/future source of income. The only way I can think to justify my eating of that food was that it was honoring the cook’s work. The cook didn’t make that food to get thrown into the compost, they made it for human consumption, which is what this human convinced himself to do. 

When I got home from work I ate my salad as a snack and in shame. It was only day two and I had broken the agreement. 

For dinner we had pork chops from Mason County cooked in the dutch oven with apples from Yakima County. Thurston County kale was served sautéed on the side. At least I think the apple was from Yakima County. Unfortunately, either the apple or the onion from last night’s carrot purée was from “exit 82 off Interstate 82” which would would be just a few miles into Benton County. The guy at the farmer’s market was able to tell us exactly where he bought the produce, but I’ve forgotten whether he was talking about the onions or the apples and so the both sneak in under the radar. Obviously, I favor inclusion rather than exclusion. Wherever it came from, it wasn’t terribly far away! 

I’ll point out now that this is the second time I’ve had a home made meal with meat in it. I consider this to be a significant advantage for me over Jake in attempting this local diet. There is butcher at the farmer’s market who sells pork and chicken products from their farm in Mason County. This provides both more food options for me as well as a great source of protein. Fortunately for Jake, he does eat eggs. But I probably shouldn’t start talking about protein because honestly, I know next to nothing about nutrition. For better or worse, I leave that to my girlfriend.

 

 

Two days down, three to go.

Wow! So welcome to the big leagues! Jumping into a hundred mile diet cold turkey in Thurston County in early May is a crazy thing to do! Well, cold turkey is a relative term since I started planning ahead in the middle of last week. But first here are the rules that I’m playing by. Anything from another county that is within a hundred miles is fair game. That means I’m dealing with: Thurston, Pierce, Mason, Lewis, Kitsap, King, Gray’s Harbor, Pacific, Clark, Jefferson, Clallam, Snohomish, Island, San Juan, Kittitas, Wahkiakum, Cowlitz, Skamania counties, and probably most importantly, that means Yakima and Skagit counties are in play. The one notable exception I have given myself (so far!) has been to include wheat from Blue Bird Grain Farms in Okanogan County, which is about 150 miles from here. I looked into Fairhaven Organic Flour Mill in Bellingham, but they’re just milling flour from the eastern side of the Mountains. The other “local” flour I investigated was Shepherd’s Grain. They’re a cooperative that pools together their wheat from around the inland Northwest. Mostly it’s Washington wheat but there are also farms in Idaho and Oregon.

The (i)deal is that the whole product must be sourced from within those counties. That means that if I find a nice jam from Coupeville in Island County that says it includes “organic cane sugar,” that’s very nice, but it’s also verboten! Salt is a bit of an issue. I went looking online for sea salt from the Pacific Northwest. The only stuff I could find was this ridiculous alderwood smoked salt that was definitely processed in Washington and may have been sourced from here. Oh yeah, the other issue is baking soda/baking powder if we are to do baking. The way I’m thinking of those ingredients is that they are tools like the oven. They’re not foods. 

This morning I woke up to my first failed experiment in local eating. I tried to make my own yogurt. I don’t have a yogurt maker but I remember my mom making yogurt without a yogurt maker when I was little, so I called her up for some tips. She said I just need to find a place to keep in warm for an extended period of time. We used to have a gas oven with a pilot light she used that some times. Other times she would put it up on top of the refrigerator because the coils on the back of the refrigerator would leak enough heat and other times she would put the jars on the hot water heater. In my apartment we have an electric oven and there’s no space available above the refrigerator so I decided to try the hot water heater. Unfortunately my building is only about four years old and I think the hot water heater must be one of those damn energy star models because it was not leaking off nearly enough heat! I tried to make myself about twenty four ounces of the stuff so I wasted a lot of good Golden Glen Creamery milk on that. Damn! Incidentally, I find it really interesting that Bow in Skagit County is the closest I can guarantee my (cow) milk come from. Twin Oaks Dairy from Chehalis used to sell milk but apparently after the floods they were forced to choose whether they wanted to focus on producing milk or cheese. They chose the cheese. 

So for breakfast I ended up having sausage from Mason County pigs and eggs from Yelm. Unfortunately I couldn’t have any pepper on my eggs but I was able to have some of that weird smoked sea salt…! My girlfriend made me a lot of sausage and eggs but they needed something like a tomato thrown in. Or maybe a nice cup of yogurt with local honey! Also, I didn’t have anything to drink but water. 

At lunch time I had a big simple salad with lettuce from Tenino and bleu cheese dressing from Chehalis. That kept me going quite a while. Later I needed a snack and had an egg I hard boiled last night (with some of that funky sea salt). I used to despise hard boiled eggs but within the last year I have come to appreciate them as a perfectly packaged snack food. 

For supper we had a small feast to start off the week in style! Fortunately for me, my girlfriend really likes to cook and we invited Jake over so he wouldn’t feel so lonely going into this experiment in his house. We had a carrot purée with carrots from Thurston County, an onion from Yakima County, and some failed yogurt muck to thicken it up. We had asparagus from Sunnyside in Yakima County and the entrée was gnocchi made from potatoes grown in Thurston County, flour from Okanogan County, and sautéed in butter from Skagit County. Apparently they should have been sautéed in oil but that is an ingredient that has as of yet, failed to make itself known as a local ingredient. The asparagus tasted like asparagus does but the carrot purée was fantastic! It was so sweet and creamy and rich with the savory flavor of the onion added, but not at all overwhelming. But the real surprise was the gnocchi, which at first were threatening to fall apart after being boiled but ended up tasting almost like little donuts. Sautéing them in butter actually made them perfect. Never have I tasted gnocchi like these. My girlfriend estimated that the cost of this meal for three was somewhere around $12.00, which is really nothing except that she said the gnocchi were a pain in the ass to make. So the cost goes up for some bothersome labor, perhaps. 

So one day down, four to go. I’m looking forward to visiting some of the farms later in the week. I wonder if anyone has considered creating a farm that brings its produce to market by bicycle cart to completely avoid petroleum from the local diet. 

Wow, so I suppose I can be dense at times. Yesterday I was mentioning walking with your fingers and I didn’t even realize that, in a way, that’s what Jake and I have done a couple of times this week. You see, he lives up on the Westside and I live in the eastern side of Downtown, about an hour’s walk apart. So instead of him coming down here, me going up there, or trying to meet somewhere in the middle, we met online. We were tele-commuting! I have certainly used this technology for pleasure, but I think this may have been the first time I used it for work. Specifically we were using the messenger service in gmail. 

It worked pretty well aside from a misunderstanding we had over the definition of public transit. I was operating under the belief that public transit was only transportation that was operated by a professional driver but that the public was free to use within a service area, and was probably run by a government agency i.e. a bus, train, trolley, ferry, etc. Jake’s definition included sidewalks, trails, and bike paths, which I view as being essential to a public transportation system, but they are not public transit. They are infrastructure. Once we were able to get over that hump, our discussion made much more sense. One of Jake’s points was that he would want to design a system for the person least likely to use the system. I don’t know if this is implied, or a given, but I would add that you also need to make sure that the system serves those who need it the most, those who have no hope of getting around by private conveyance. In other words, the goal must be to appeal to both, the people most likely to use the system (because they don’t have any other choice), and also the people least likely to use the system (because they have every other choice). 

I don’t think I really like telecommuting now that I have inadvertently tried it a couple of times. I think there is so much to be gained by being in the presence of other people. We are here to help and provide support for one another. It would be a nightmare for me to not leave my property and commute with the outside world through the internet. I remember learning when I was a lot younger about kids at remote sheep stations in Australia attending school from home through radio broadcasts. I would assume that has been replaced by online distance education courses. When I was at Skagit Valley College in Mount Vernon earlier this decade there were distance ed classes being offered but I cringed at the idea. Posting to message boards instead of class discussions? I can see some attraction in the freedom of the anonymity, but I think this is a tendency I would like to fight rather than encourage. I would like to not feel strongest when I’m hiding behind a screen but when I’m working with other people as a team. Is that idealistic? old fashioned? common sense? Now I suppose I should point out the irony that the bulk of the work for this program is appearing online for world-wide consumption. I guess this is where I somewhat reluctantly admit that the internet is a useful tool (for reaching students in remote outer suburbs and edgecities) in addition to being a highly addictive medium. 

I was thinking today about what my commute used to look like in high school. When I walked to school in Berkeley, I could probably get down the hill in a mad dash that would take twenty-five or thirty minutes and which undoubtedly took years off my knees. Getting back up the hill would probably take about forty-five minutes. It was a nice walk taking me through the Olmsted designed UC Berkeley campus. But forty five minutes didn’t seem bad. Besides, had no interest in driving a car in the Bay Area, the bus system in the hills is weak, and they are way too steep for me to want to bike up them. Walking was just the best way to get around. 

In Anacortes my walk to school was about thirty minutes. I remember I never had a discman or walkman so I had time to think as I walked home. I don’t remember what I thought about, but I remember the walk being mostly pleasant. I also walked to work when I came back to Anacortes after high school before I bought my long board or my road bike. The walk from home to work was about forty-five minutes. The bus system in Anacortes is also pretty weak, and didn’t go where I needed to go. I didn’t have a car, nor did I need one. 

So having looked back at what was normal way back then, have things changed for me much? Just a little bit. As I have said before, most of my needs can be met within a thirty minute walk with the exception of education. Nowadays that is way out of my league. However, both public transit and private car are more available to me now than they were when I was in high school. The car gets used more than the buses, but the buses get used, too. I am convinced that at this time, the best way to get around downtown is either by foot or bicycle, and the best way to get to campus is by bus. If I’m not in a hurry, I think I prefer walking downtown to bicycling because on foot I feel more like a part of downtown than on bicycle. I think downtown is small enough that when you’re in the saddle you’re likely to be passing through it, than being part of it. I’m really curious to know if other people share this sensation. 

Today is Thursday and I’ll fill you all in what happened on Wednesday, which was pretty similar to today. You see, in reality, for most of the week I don’t have much reason to leave my downtown bubble. By that, I mean that I can get almost all of my needs met within about a twenty-minute walk of my home. Of course school exists out there on Cooper Point, a two-and-a-half hour stroll from my apartment. 

So yesterday, the only time I left my house was to go to dinner at QB on Fourth Ave, in the heart of downtown. I live on the eastern edge of downtown, literally. If you cross to the other side of Eastside Street you are in the Eastside Neighborhood according to Olympia’s neighborhood maps. So anyway, on my way home I realized I was making a conscious choice to walk back along Fourth Avenue because it was more vivacious that the parallel Fifth Avenue or Legion. Especially in the early evening it is really nice to be out on the street with other pedestrians. 

Speaking of other pedestrians, have I mentioned how frequently I find myself meeting another pedestrian in the eye and smiling, nodding, or uttering a brief “hello” to them? I find that this kind of interaction, whether it be shallow or not, is much rarer on a bicycle and non-existant in a car. You see, I believe that if these little “shallow” interactions are repeated often enough, I am likely to become emboldened and actually say more than a single word of greeting. I am convinced that I am more likely to start a conversation. But those daily interactions must happen. The problem is that on the streets of Olympia I rarely find myself passing the same people. I compare this to walking along San Pablo Avenue in Oakland a couple summers ago. I would pass the same groups of men  hanging out on the sidewalk everyday. We did not get to know one another, but I became familiar with them, and that’s a lot better than I can say about the neighborhood that I live in now. In my part of Olympia, the residents don’t hang out on the street. 

Before I get back to talking about Fourth Avenue, which I intend to do, let me rant for a moment on the design of my apartment building. I live in a four-year-old three story apartment building and I barely know any of my neighbors. Of the seven other apartments on my floor, I would only be able to identify four of the residents. I have no idea who lives on any of the other floors. I never see the other residents. There is an underground parking garage, if you choose to pay for it (which my girlfriend and I don’t). My understanding is that people drive into the parking garage and take an elevator up to their floor, never having to interact with the rest of the building. There are stairs up to the other floors, but they exist behind heavy metal fire doors. If people use the stairs to get between floors, you’re still not aware of them unless you’re directly in that space. Two years ago I lived in the Angelus Apartments on Fourth Avenue. That building is more than a hundred years old and it has a central staircase, no elevator, and no underground parking. I had a much better sense of who was living there. My point is that one building encourages pedestrian interactions while the other offers many opportunities to avoid them. 

Back on Fourth Avenue… The scale of Fourth Avenue also makes it inviting for pedestrians, but perhaps not so inviting for novice bicyclists. Tight packed parked cars make me feel like I’m speeding when I’m driving twenty miles per hour. Cars going this speed is much nicer for walkers, but all those tight packed parked cars and no bike lane makes it scary for some bikers.  The trees have finally gotten their leaves and they make Fourth just a little bit more snug. They somehow feel like a second level of parked cars, separating buildings from roads you find tightly packed parked trees. 

One thing that has bothered me about being so far from campus this week has been the lack of access to free printing. I suppose it is true that if you have to walk everywhere you will learn that there are things you might want to get done just once a week. “Honey, I’m going off to campus to get some printing done. Is there anything I can do for you while I’m there?” (I don’t call my girlfriend Honey.) “No, please send a post card, though!” Do archaic forms of long distance travel lead to archaic forms of communication?

So today I strolled on down to the Farmer’s Market to scoping out what would be available for next week. I only bought some cheese, but sure did see a lot of greens. Actually, I’m surprised how much less is available on Thursdays than on Saturday or Sunday. I guess those are the big market days. After the farmer’s market I headed to Bayview and then to Buck’s 5th Ave Spice Shop because I’m concerned about finding local salt for next week. 

Buck’s was closed but I remembered someone once teaching me a phrase, walk with your fingers. When I heard it I had no idea what they meant. They explained that you can save time and energy by thumbing through a phone book and dialing up businesses to get info rather than meeting them face-to-face. I suppose a lot of that human voice stuff has been replaced these days with information posted on websites. I definitely could have gotten things done more quickly by walking with my fingers, whether they were dancing on my phone or dancing on my laptop, but, as shy as I can be, I prefer to see and speak to humans. 

This is our time for radical experimentation. What we have been doing is not working and should no longer be a debated subject among anyone taking themselves as a rational person. We should have no fear of failure as we are constantly surrounded by it. We breath its heavy smog, we smell its rank stench, we hear its screams. We are at the cusp of real freedom; the freedom to try and not care of the consequences. Anything should be open as a real possibility. Those who close their minds to ideas have no place within the future that is being created. Go forth, be bold, be daring, be creative, be happy, be enlightened, be risky. Be unafraid.