Earth Week 2020: 5 Tips for Being Green in a Time of Social Distancing.

Hiking a quiet trail makes keeping one’s social distance easy.

There are some years where one Earth Day is enough, when the news cycle isn’t dominated by a huge topic of Earth shattering importance. 2020, it obviously doesn’t work that way. We need a whole week’s worth of green activities in order to appreciate what really matters in life when viewed from a longer-term perspective than 30 day increments. So, take a few days to get into that green feeling. Here are 5 tips that can help you make Earth Week 2020 on truly to remember!

Tip 1: Get some really green exercise.

The ocean views from the Irish Ridge overlook go on for miles and miles at Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve, San Mateo County, California.

Sure, you can get cardio on a home treadmill if you’re lucky enough to own one, but why not find a park or hiking area that is still open and take a hike? In the San Francisco Bay Area, some open space nature preserves are closed weekends only, and as long as you maintain 6 feet distance and adhere to simple to follow rules, you are free to wander just as before. April and May are ideal for wildflower viewing, and the coastal views from the higher ridgetops isn’t to shabby, either. Check out the Irish Ridge overlook trail, in Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve, for quiet trails, stunning views, and lots of blooming grasses and flowers to enjoy.

Northing says “springtime” like blooming flowers, such as these California poppies.

Tip 2: Do some really green shopping – at home.

Flower decorating is a nearly lost art, one that can be practiced well without leaving one’s yard to do so. Just grab a clipper or kitchen scissors and make a selection of tree branches, fern fronds, plant tips, and other newly grown things and put them in an attractive vase for brightening up your new office workspaces at home. It is a fun activity to do with young children, as well!

An elaborate looking flower display can be made from things growing outside the home. Be creative!

Tip 3: Do some really green cooking – with foraged foods.

If you know basic foraging skills, you can find items to eat outside your home, like wild nettles. They can become the basis for soups, pesto sauce, or used as ingredients in egg omelettes, among other things. Sorrel, miner’s lettuce, and mushrooms are other likely candidates. Foraging is fun, too, and nutritious!

Foraging wild nettles can really bring green into the cooking menu. Try using them in soup!

Tip 4: Find a really green office workspace – to share.

If you have to work from home, why not do so outside? Especially if you can work side by side using laptops connected by wifi to the Internet, what is the problem? Going green doesn’t mean forgetting how and why we all stay connected. Just be sure to add value to the work-from-home experience rather than take it away. Who wouldn’t want to work from home on a warm and pleasant Earth Day?

Exterior patio spaces with fresh air and natural light bring the green feeling to your “shelter in space” day.

Tip 5: Do some really green activity to wind things down – without electricity.

Once work, exercise, shopping, and cooking are over, wind down by powering down with a game, book, knitting project, or simple face-to-face conversation with a friend, family member, or loved one. Even a pet will do. The key is to choose an activity that is, by definition, “green.” Worry about climate change next year – or next month. For now, there is enough to worry about not to take the “celebrate” part of Earth Day seriously. Stretch that celebrate out. Make it last. I know I will.

Knitting, reading a book, playing a card game, or simply talking can all lessen your screen-time and help your body adjust to the new routine.

Spanish style omelette (tortilla de patatas) without all the mess.

Ready for the table …

When I lived in Madrid one summer, I used to love making potato omelettes brimming no with caramelized yellow onions & soaked in local olive oil. Such simple pleasures had their downsides, however, in hours spent on a hot, steamy kitchen and lots of oily scents in hair & clothing.

The perfect Spanish style omelette.

Now, I make the perfect Spanish style omelette without the mess. How? By being always green, of course! That is, after all, the leitmotif if this blog and founding principle of my boutique Internet content startup, http://www.sempervirens117.com. No mess. Limited oil. Less time cooking. Less electricity or gas. It all adds up.

Helpful tools for the prep.

I start with 6 to 8 fresh pastured organic eggs, 1 medium shallot, & 1 lb. or so organic potatoes. Boil the potatoes slowly until fork tender and cool. Use a fine Microplane grater to liquify your shallot into a paste, then whisk in a dash of organic apple cider vinegar & 3x that amount of good olive oil.

Lodge cast iron pans are ideal for retaining heat.

I preheat a medium sized seasoned Lodge cast iron pan in a 350F oven. I grate about 2 ounces of semi soft cheddar cheese into the shallot paste and then the whisked eggs. Using a box grater, I shred to potatoes and discard the last bit of skins for composting (or snacking on while you cook).

I add the wet ingredients (eggs, cheddar, shallot paste) to the potatoes & spoon it all into the preheated cast iron pan with about 1 tablespoon of fresh olive oil on the bottom to prevent sticking. Wait 30 to 40 minutes at 350F for the omelette to cook.

When the center is firm, remove from oven and use a spatula around the edges and then invert your omelette on a plate or saucepan lid.

Inverted omelette on a saucepan lid.

Then, slide the omelette onto a serving dish and dress up with fresh herbs 🌿 or simply slice at the table and serve to your guests. This will be good as a main meal for 2 people or a tapas style dish for many more (8 slices).

Ready to enjoy.

The omelette can be eaten right away or allowed to cool for later. The flavors of the main ingredients are central here, but you can get creative with the secondary flavors. Smoked paprika is a favorite, as is fresh dill. Enjoy!

Being Green has Always Been Easy – in the Santa Cruz Mountains, at Least.

Century old coastal redwood trees growing vigorously in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

I have been thinking at lot about being green lately. And not just because of my new blog and boutique Internet content creation business, http://www.sempervirens117.com (although it is a good excuse to mention it).

Sword fern unfurling new fronds.

It’s because of the flu pandemic and the talk about we as humans can best adapt to the Anthropocene epoch in Earth’s very long and very complex history. We’re talking billions of sun cycles here.

Tree ring of a coastal live oak taken down to protect Pacific Gas & Electric high voltage transmission lines.

I live in the Santa Cruz Mountains of Northern California near San Francisco & Stanford University. But it’s not to the city or university I am looking to “solve” the current mess we’re all in. Arguably, they helped get us in it with all the global connections and trade routes.

Redwood stump acting as a nursery log for holly sprouts.

No, I am looking at something older and wiser for guidance, and that is the forest itself. Nursery logs, in particular. What are they? I thought you’d never ask!

More holly using a tree stump to grow in.

Nursery logs or stumps are useful places for other plants to sprout and grow. They provide a bit of elevation, needed moisture, some nutrients, and a little bit of protection from the elements and denizens of the forest. Is it much more than just springing up from the ground? Probably not, most of the time when things are normal.

The redwood forest is beautiful but also treacherous.

But times are never normal all the time, if ever, really. So nursery logs fills niche. Just like they can, metaphorically speaking, for us today. And this blog is about precisely that: uncovering and sharing “natural hacks” that provide us metaphorically with tips for being greener, healthier, smarter, & more productive in our working lives as well.

Split oak wood with its thick layer of moss visible.

So, Mega Tech like Google/Alphabet, Facebook, and Amazon.com can provide nursery logs to help small startups grow. Don’t wait! Help them when they need it most, and they will reward you with secrets for survival that may just make the next global pandemic easier and possibly more profitable than the current outbreak, which is costing us all – big time!

Redwoods in the mist collect moisture in their branches as “rain.”

The more we nurture micro startups like mine, the stronger the collective forest will be. It does not ultimately matter if those holly sprouts or ferns become as tall & ancient as the redwoods (Mega Tech). They are part of the healthy ecosystem. They need help now! When it matters most. Not when they have already grown big enough for others to notice. Being green does not mean throwing money to charity. It means investing it in microdoses wisely.

Fern fronds growing on a redwood tree stump.

This is the message we need to learn from the trees. The really old and wise ones who know more collectively than we ever will, even in the Internet Age. Listen, look, & learn!

Fire burns the lower truck of very ancient redwoods (1000+ years), but the branches collect sunlight far above.

Peak Happiness During a Global Flu Pandemic is as Simple as Sliced Bread.

Happiness is Sliced Bread.

I recently experienced peak happiness while eating a slice of bread. Not just any bread, of course, but nothing too fancy, either.

Rye bread after two day’s rest.

I made the bread myself two days earlier using a sourdough starter I have been feeding weekly for more than ten tears. I served it with a thick wedge of triple cream aged Brie from the Cowgirl Creamery in Marin County, California.

Next, I added alderwood smoked sea salt and a Japanese nori seasoning with black and white sesame seeds.

I paired the bread with vegan kabocha winter squash soup made with three year aged barley miso from South River Miso.

The rye was made with organic flour and took two days to make and then another two before it would slice as thinly as I desired, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. I used a Wuestof serrated bread knife for this part.

I served the soup first, then organically farmed lettuce from Fifth Crow Farm in Pescadero, California, with sliced bread, Mount Tam triple cream, and organic unsalted butter.

Winter squash heirloom kabocha varietal.

I served jasmine green tea that had been steeped a few times already, giving it an earthy, umami element that paired well with the simple meal.

Jasmine green tea.

What made a meal like this so over the top special? Because it was happening now, in late March 2020, during a major global flu pandemic. A home cooked meal made using local ingredients and well crafted extras like the cheese, miso, and the tea leaves.

The main ingredients.

We measure happiness in relation to moments of misery, both personal and collective. Much of the world feels pretty miserable right now and are eating from cans. I know! So do I, some days. Just not this day. This was the day I discovered how happiness inducing a simple slice of bread can taste. Because the act of eating it was only part of the equation. I made it. I waited for it. I shared it. I even put the crumbs out for the birds (you’re welcome, guys). It was peak happiness. And it was much simpler than I ever expected it to be.

Next time, however, I hope there won’t need to be a worldwide pandemic to elevate the simple act of slicing bread into something sublime. If such a moment ever returns, period!

Rye bread can be its own work of art.

Peak happiness probably surprises us when we don’t expect it or spend thousands of dollars or more seeking it out in a fancy resort, vacation getaway, or restaurant. It does for me. Maybe it has also been the same for you? I hope so! For your sake & for mine.

Wild foraged nettle frittata with cheddar & chopped parsley biscuits.

Wild nettles.

No one in their right mind would think to cultivate nettles. They are wild creatures, & they let us know it. Treat them with care & respect, however & they reward annually with a springtime bounty of foraged wild deliciousness. This meal uses nettles in a simple cheese & pastured free range egg frittata & pairs it with biscuits & California Chardonnay to turn it into a sumptuous weekend feast.

Cheddar cheese & chopped parsley biscuits.

Collect your nettles with rubber or leather gloves, kitchen shears, & a bowl large enough to hold a few dozen nettle leaves. You can use kitchen tongs to immerse the leaves and stems in boiling water before letting them rest in a strainer, where you can squeeze out excess moisture. The stinging feature has been deactivated by the blanching, and the aromas of the cooked nettles are lovely.

Nettle leaves separated from their stems prior to dicing with a good chef’s knife.

Remove the thick stems from the leaves and dice the leaves finely using a cutting board and good knife.

Diced nettle leaves.

For two to four servings, use 6 to 8 eggs and a few ounces of grated cheddar cheese. You can prepare the biscuits ahead of time, using an online recipe from King Arthur flour or similar web site.

Grated cheddar cheese.

Whisk the eggs, blend in the diced nettles, stir in the grated cheese, & add them to a preheated, well oiled cast iron cooking dish.

Frittata ready for the oven.

Cook at 350 to 375F for 25 to 30 minutes and let cool briefly before serving. We paired our dish with arugula & a 2016 Chalone Vineyard Chardonnay.

Don’t fear the nettle! With practice & patience, it can be your friend. It may take a few tries to succeed to your satisfaction level, but keep at it! It is easier than it looks.

Frittata fresh out of the oven.

A healthy, green, & wild foraged masterpiece. Simplicity can indeed be a lot of fun. Try a variation of your own! You may become a believer.

An always green masterpiece meal.

Being Green Can Be Delicious: PurĂ©e of Parsnip & Celeriac Soup.

Being green doesn’t mean sacrificing flavor or enjoyment of your meals. It does mean knowing where your foods comes from, and knowing how best to unlock your food’s power to nourish & please discerning, sustainability minded family members & guests.

Oven roasting at 375F unlocks the flavor.

First, get good vegetables as your base for a weekday soup & salad meal. Organic, from a local farmers’ market is best. Roast at 375F in cast iron, such as Lodge, which is made in the USA, for about an hour, until the smells emanating from the oven tell you it is time.

Vitamax high end 750 series blender in copper finish, assembled in the USA.

You do need a great blender to transform your roasted vegetables & fresh herbs (like parsley) into a culinary masterpiece. The Vitamix 750 series is assembled in the USA, and it works like a dream.

Assembled in the USA with lifetime warranty.

Just add some good broth from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods (or simply simmer your vegetable peelings in water with a dash of miso or soy sauce), select the automated purée feature, and presto! Meals for the whole family.

Reuse old glass jars for storage in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Not ready yet to serve your soup? No worries! Store it in reusable glass jars and add in extra chopped parsley or similar herb, like cilantro or tarragon, and pair the soup with fresh bread and a simple salad of fresh greens and radishes.

Fresh herbs for finishing to soup make a great edible garnish.
German made knives and a good cutting board make prepping your chopped herbs almost effortless. Almost.

Vegetarian or with an animal based broth, this meal is very green and exceptionally delicious.

Watermelon radishes sliced thinly with a mandolin & garnished simply with raw apple cider vinegar & salt makes a great side dish to the meal.
Homemade rye bread is the perfect pairing with your gorgeous, green purée soup.

So, what are you waiting for? Made your own gorgeous green soup & salad meal today! It will save you money during the week, simply your weekday meal prep work, & help to save our shared planet Earth in the process. A win win win, in other words. And we all can use some winning like that!

Is it late winter or early spring? Climate change makes it hard to tell.

I love to observe the change of the seasons, especially winter into spring, but lately climate change has gotten me mixed up about who it is I should trust: the calendar or myself. The calendar says early March, so still winter in the northern hemisphere, but my eyes say spring. All around me are things in bloom: wild plum trees & apple orchards; mustard and cover crops; irises & poppies and so much more.

Wild plum tree in bloom on March 4, 2020.

Is this really happening, I ask myself? Is this proof of climate change or just a mild winter & warm, dry month of February in the San Francisco Bay Area? Do the scientists really know? I doubt it. Then again: who does?

More signs of early spring?

Of course, winter in coastal California has always been different, with a Mediterranean climate that acts as if it has a will all its own.

Yucca in early March bloom.

Here, the plants of the world have found a home, which is strangely synced to the migration of people & products as well.

Camellia japonica in late February, growing at an elevation of 2,000 feet.

Climate change surely is happening, but at what cost? If the flowers & trees can adapt, than surely so can we. That is my hope.

Lemon tree in downtown San Jose weighed down with ripe fruit.

Seasonal cycles are hard to predict. Every meteorologist knows that. But climate change isn’t something exact & scientific. It is, at its core, visceral & emotional. We feel it.

Iris in bloom, March 6, 2020.

Is this why the debate over climate change can get so heated? It triggers us. It presses all the right buttons. It makes us feel vulnerable. It prompts us to wallow in guilt for the crimes against nature we collectively have committed.

Rosemary in bloom, early March 2020.

Is there time for a course correction? Yes! Always. Time is not a constant, like the speed of light. It is relative. So we can control time to some infinitesimal degree. And that gives me hope. That, & the plants in bloom all around here. If they are willing to adapt in order to survive, then so can we!

Trillium in bloom, March 6, 2020.

Provisional Voting Is Simpler Than You Think.

I know, I know. Voting can be so hard! But is it really? There are so many options these days, even when we are not at home.

Smartphone apps make finding your nearest polling place easy.

But what about when you can’t make it home on time or have been traveling or indisposed for health reasons for weeks before a big primary or general election?

Provisional Ballot

In such cases, if you are in the state you are registered in, ask to fill out a provisional ballot instead of skipping voting entirely.

That way, your voice will still count. Voting is a way to live freely & tell the government leaders that we care about who represents us & how they spend our tax revenue.

Follow the signs to freedom!

Will one vote make a difference? Of course not! Statistically, it is a drop in the bucket. Collectively, we are strong. And we express that collectivity when we do things together.

Many people make up a country as diverse as the United States of America. You just might probably one of them if you are reading this!

Voting signs like this are attention grabbing & hard to miss.

So, be one of the cool people in the room next time & vote. Because you can’t spell democracy without “me,” now can you?

Voting to music on wireless headphones can be a great way to liven up the experience.

Be the dreamer of great dreams! One act of voting at a time. Greatness begins when we least expect it. That is why it is so rare & precious. Treasure it!

The Reusable Bags of San Mateo County

Go Giants! Local sporting team bags are always in fashion.

I love my local Saturday farmers’ market, located on the spacious & scenic College of San Mateo campus on a section of the parking lot facing the East Bay & city of San Francisco. Watch closely on a clear & sunny fog free morning, & you can even see jet planes landing at the nearby SFO airport.

Viewpoint overlooking the East Bay.

The vendors are all wonderful, but so are the patrons. And at least two live music performances liven the mood as well.

Live musicians play for tips & the love of performing before a live & diverse audience.

Visiting the College of San Mateo Saturday farmers’ market is pretty people watching par excellence. And what is more, they carry some of the coolest reusable bags you can imagine! This article is dedicated to them, each & every one. Because we can all do our parts to save the planet, one less plastic shopping bag at a time. Cheers! Hope to see you at the market again real soon, ya’ here?

Follow the steps to a happier & healthier planet Earth!

Bring insulated soft sided coolers (like Yeti or Coleman) as well for locally ranched beef, lamb, chicken, & pork plus local seafood & pastured organic green range eggs.

Once you have a good collection of reusable bags, you will be ablow to shop with ease, safe in the knowledge that you, too, are doing your part to reduce waste while also supporting your local farmers, orchard owners, ranchers, & fisherpetsons. You CAN do it. It’s more easy than you might think.

Frida Kahlo would be so pleased …

Also, some vendors drive in from Southern California & the Central Valley, which ensures year round fresh citrus & locally grown avocados in season, during the winter months. There is fantastic coffee as well from Ikon roasters in South San Francisco.

Free coffee drink of your choice with 12 oz. whole or ground bean purchase.

To be be “always green,” bring your own coffee mug as well. Being green isn’t always easy, but as Kermit the Frog once said, it is worth it!

Reusable coffee mugs prove that you are “always green.”
Monogrammed or logo branded bags are always a stylish choice.
Even brown paper bags from Whole Foods can be reused a few times at the market.
You can get creative and use a wooden wicker basket to wear on your back as well.
The possibilities are endless!

Also, there are portable restrooms and hand washing stations in one section of the market that are ADA compliant.

No pets or smoking permitted at the market.
Political candidates & petition signing stations are permitted with prior approval.

Why not visit the College of San Mateo Saturday farmers’ market (8:45am to noonish) this coming weekend & join the celebration? Bring a cool reusable bag with you, & it may be featured on my Instagram, Twitter, or Yelp accounts. With your permission, of course! The more people who buy into the “always green” Earth-friendly agenda, the better off we ALL will be!

A 100% accessible market.
Some bags have sense of humor than others ..,
Many different ways to pay.
Save some loose change or small bills for tips!
Really great artichokes for sale as well.

An Everyman’s Ocean: The Walking Trail to Franklin Point.

Franklin Point is the most spectacular ocean viewpoint you’ve never heard of – even if you DO call the San Francisco Bay Area your chosen home. It’s so off the radar screen it hurts. John Hope Franklin fans (like me) will know the backstory here, but most visitors to this modest, unassuming wooden planked platform overlooking the Pacific Ocean will not. Google “Franklin Point San Mateo coast” for more information, or look it up on Yelp. Beyond that, I can only add pictures & stories gleaned from multiple visits here at all times & weather conditions of the year.

The trail to Franklin Point.

Mornings are best to walk the trail from Highway 1 (across from the driveway entrance to Costanoa & Rossi Road turn off), but anytime from sunrise to sunset will work.

Near to Smugglers’ Cove.

In overcast light conditions in winter or early spring you have the best chances to spot wildlife: seals & shorebirds mainly, plus amazing plant & insect life adapted to the sand dunes & native plant terrace landscape.

Amazing plant life abounds next to the main trail to Franklin Point.

Budget at least one hour round trip for the hike & wear sturdy weather resistant footwear if it’s raining or wet from high wintertime tides. Down jackets can help with early morning chill as well.

Warm down or fleece jackets recommended during the cooler winter months especially.

Binoculars are ideal for watching the local residents more closely & a telephoto lens is all but a requirement if you plan on posting pictures of the creatures you spot while walking to and from the Franklin Point viewing platform.

Pigeon Point lighthouse seen from the beach just north of Franklin Point.

You should bring a change of clothes for the drive home, or you could continue on to Davenport, Bonny Doon, Pescadero, or the city of Santa Cruz for more coastal fun.

Looking south towards Ano Neuvo State Park.
Heading to the Franklin Point viewing platform.

Any way you plan it, a morning visit to Franklin Point will elevate your mood level, refresh your oxygen inflow & stimulate your brain cells. Why not celebrate in Santa Cruz afterward with an 11am coffee at Verve on 1010 Fair Avenue, followed by wine by the glass & light snacks at Stockwell Cellars next door? You will be the envy of your WordPress fan base, for sure!

Stockwell Cellars montage.