Sunday, July 27, 2008

Austin Texas

First visit to Austin- a few of my favorite things

-there is someone in the city who does guerrilla crochet
-pickle snowcone with hot chili
-small buisnesses everywhere that appear to be supported by the community and seem to be dedicated to supporting the community, articulated in part by the note on the menu of Blue Dahlia
-sustainable living seems to be deeply incorporated into daily life regardless of neighborhood and income level, this is supported by all sorts of things like the city in giving away free rain barrels, excellent cheap to free public transportation, organizations like The Rhizome Collective...
-seemingly endless sources for excellent affordable food with vegan options, a couple favorites tacos quick cheap and excellent for breakfast lunch or dinner, vegan diner with traditional herbalist on site, cupcakes
-inspired garden stores with excellent selections of plants and containers including Big Red Sun
and Gardens

I look forward to returning and exploring more!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Two Exhibits

Eero Saarinin and Buckminster Fuller
Interdisciplinary Approaches

In the last couple weeks I visited two museum exhibitions: Eero Saarinen, at the National Building Museum in DC, and Buckminster Fuller, at theWhitney Museum in New York, (both these link to lots of information about both individuals works).

Both shows linger with me and seem relevant to everyday life. The products of their work are quite different: Saarinen known for his design of the St. Louis arch, innovative advances in both corporate building as well as airports and chairs made in collaboration with Eames, juxtaposed Fuller known for geodesic domes, dymaxion car (only developed to prototype stage) and the dymaxion map (shows the earths continents with minimum distortion when on a flat surface).

Eero Saarinen, "Each object should be designed in its next largest context - a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan."… “Nothing exists in isolation. Everything is connected.”

Buckminster Fuller, defined synergy as "the behavior of whole systems not implicit in any of the behavioral characteristics of any of the parts of the system when those parts are considered only separately," and synergetics as the "exploratory strategy of starting with the whole." He adopted "synergetics" as the name for the experiential mathematics he developed and demonstrated using numerous models.

My draw to their work lies in the similarity of an interdisciplinary approach which results in a practice of utilizing innovative materials and methods. For one project Saarinen developed a neoprene gasket for the windows in another he experimented with Cor-Ten steel which previously had been used only for railroads. Fuller advocated the necessity of recycling materials and looking to renewable sources for energy. My interest lies in that they approached individual projects as opportunities to try something new. This practice naturally incorporates ecology not as an end goal but as an essential component….something I strive for in my everyday practices.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Visiting Path Valley

In the early days of Rupperts there were only a few purveyors delivering local produce to restaurants…there was no Dupont Farmers Market….

Shortly after opening we got connected with a small company called Organics that delivered organic produce from a variety of Amish farms in Pennsylvania. Immediately it was obvious that the produce coming from Organics was exceptional…. the perfect baby greens, uniform fennel, young leeks, tiny turnips and beets…..

After Rupperts at other restaurants where I have consulted the first purveyor that I suggest is Organics which somewhere along the way changed its name to Path Valley. During our recent visit we learned that the founder got out of the business and created a farmers cooperative which is the way it is now operated.

Anyway, a few weeks ago it suddenly seemed pressing to go visit the farms that this produce we had been enjoying for years was coming from. I called the person who coordinates the orders for restaurants and asked if it would be possible to come up for a visit. She said that she would ask around when she went to visit the member farmers that day.

She arranged for us to visit three different farms. Martin-Lane and I drove about two and a half hours from DC and arrived in a picturesque valley between small mountains. There were horse drawn buggies sharing the road with cars.

The farms looked like very well maintained large kitchen gardens. Row after row of picture perfect varieties of lettuce, tomatoes, herbs......This is possible since all members of the large families work cooperatively on the land. As anyone who has planted even the smallest garden knows it takes lots of consistent work to keep it in good condition. Especially some crops like baby lettuces need daily weeding and attention.

The land is used very intensively. I have read that organic farming practices are symbiotic with the Amish way of life which believes in nurturing and supporting the community as a whole. The Amish concept of community includes people, land and other living things. Excellent soil is maintained through hand tilling, composting and crop rotation. All the work is done by hand and with the occasional help of horses.

At each of the traditional Amish farms we met friendly families and saw impeccable fields and greenhouses. We shared ideas about growing things, insects and food. We saw the hand picking and sorting of lettuce that is the secret behind the truly spectacular greens that we have eaten over the years. The compete focus and immersion in the practice of farming was astounding, beautiful and inspirational.

The experience was other worldly and I am anxious to go back. Upon leaving one of the farms I asked if we could come up for a day and weed with them. They laughed at us and said we were welcome.