Monday, February 25, 2008

Community Supported Agriculture

I have joined the first season of St. Croix's first Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), run by the Virgin Islands Sustainable Farm Institute. A CSA is a program in which consumers buy a share of a farmer's crop up front. In this way, we, the consumers, participate in funding the operating costs and enjoy the bounty at harvest time. For me, it means an opportunity to support local agriculture in return for fresh, delicious, organic produce. This is a big thing here; an island where the supermarkets ship most of their produce from the States, and so we often get mealy tomatoes, old cucumbers, stale apples, and all at astronomical prices. A bunch of scallions costs $1.50. A head of cauliflower: $4.00, a pint of berries: $4.00 to $6.00, a bunch of bananas: $.75/lb.

Here's a sampling of this week's basket: tomatoes, eggplant, purple bell peppers, tatsoi, mixed greens, pigeon peas, celery, green and purple basil, mint and raccao. In previous weeks I've received cucumbers, okra, carrots, dill, bananas, passion fruit, limes and oranges.

I enjoy the variety from week to week, as each ingredient can inspire an unexpected dish. I've made fried okra, sautéed tatsoi, carrot soup, dill-yogurt dressing, insalata caprese, lime-poppy seed muffins, and mint tea. This week, I might put to use that mint towards a batch of mojitos.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Public Reaction at Good Hope Exhibit

The Good Hope Caribbean Fine Arts Exhibit ran this past weekend. I was happy to be an exhibiting artist, and even happier when I sold four of my six pieces on display. During the opening reception on Friday evening I had the pleasure to see the public's reaction to my work. Laboring alone in the studio, it's hard to guess what will be liked, and to my surprise, the crowd favorite was Tile Fish, a piece that was a pure play thing for me. I should know by now: play brings joy, and joy brings radiance to what we do.

My favorite part of the exhibit was the educational program on Friday morning. Over 250 public school students of all ages took guided tours. I was one of the artists in attendance, ready to answer questions and discuss our art. The kids were shown the many ways artists see and interpret the world, the many media available for expression, the many subjects that inspire art.

The high-schoolers postured with expressions of boredom and apathy. But usually a kid would hang back and ask privately one or two questions out of hearing range of the others. At the other end of the spectrum, the second graders were full of interest and fascination. One over-excited group responded with gasps and wow's worthy of a circus performance. One boy said to me, "I have three dollars. Can I buy something here?" Upon hearing this, a second kid said, "I have five dollars!" At that moment I really wished I had something tangible to gift these wonderful boys because their awe at seeing my work was simply priceless.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

A Pigeon, an Exhibit, a Bonfire and Marshmallows

Saturday had those unexpected bits and pieces that make for memorable days. It started with a pigeon.

This little guy hung around our front entrance for a couple of days before we noticed it had a leg band, was tame and maybe lost. We called the animal shelter and they came to the rescue. Our rescuer said it was a homing pigeon that probably belongs to somebody in Puerto Rico. They take the birds down island (like to Martinique) and race them back to PR, but some birds get tired and drop out of the race. When they land here on St. Croix, the rescuer feeds them, lets them hang out with the other pigeons, and releases them. Some go on, some stay. I can only guess why the pigeon chose our home, but I'm glad that he's in good hands now.

After dealing with the pigeon, we headed down to Cultural Creations of the Virgin Islands in Frederiksted for the opening reception of my art exhibit. It was a lovely night with a steady stream of visitors, and I was happy to finally show the product of my efforts these past few months.

The night was due to end with the exhibit, but we joined our friends down the street at Coconuts on the Beach for a beach bonfire and some great music by local band Rhythmix. The cool night breezes made the bonfire's warmth exquisite. There was a long stick and marshmallows, and so I had my first experience roasting marshmallows on an open fire (no girl scouts in my past). I had beginner's luck with the first marshmallow, but the next few... well... I'll have to attend more bonfires and keep practicing.

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