2013-2014 EcoHouse Group

This is a blog for the EcoHouse at Macalester College. Every year, four students apply to live in this house to practice living “green” and carrying out projects surrounding environmental sustainably. The 1950s-era house underwent significant “green” renovations in summer 2007, including the installation of a domestic solar hot water system, a recyclable steel roof, wall insulation, solar tubes, and high efficiency energy star appliances. The EcoHouse commits to buying mostly local and organic food, eating vegetarian, recycling, and composting.

This year’s residents: (from left to right in pic)

Analuna Brambila – I am an Environmental and Educational Studies major.  I’m from San Jose, California.  I love running, biking, my dog, playing piano, writing, and hiking.  My soul food is almond butter.

Molly Sowash – I am an English creative writing major also interested in studying environment, religion, and food.  I’m from Columbus, Ohio.  I love to sing, read, play guitar, cook, kayak, write, and spend lots of time outside.  My soul food is a sweet potato.

Julia Gay – I am an American Studies major with an Urban Studies concentration.  I’m from Cleveland Heights, Ohio.  I love to dance, laugh with friends, play flute, and dabble in theatre.  My soul food is a cherry.

Carly Avezzano – I am an International Studies major with a French minor.  I’m from Montvale, New Jersey.  I love writing,  traveling, exploring different cultures, going camping, eating, and conversing with good friends.  My soul food is goat cheese.

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2013-2014 Project

This year our main project is an anthology of local, organic farms called “Conversations with Farmers.” This book will include our interviews with farmers about their livelihoods – the joys and challenges of farming, their philosophies, and the importance of connecting consumers to their food.

Along with this project, we host events such as author readings, group discussions, open houses, and tours.

Conversations with Farmers

Our farmer anthology is finished! We have learned so much from this project – through our interviews with farmers, writing the  narratives, and designing the final product. Not only have we learned about organic farming, the food system, and taking care of the land, but we’ve learned how to interview people about their lives, work together, and see a project from start to finish. We have loved talking to people who care about doing meaningful work and striving for a high quality of life.

If you’re interested in reading our online copy, click here. And keep your eyes out for our story on the Macalester website.

The year has ended and we are extending our stay as long as possible. After graduation tomorrow, however, we’ll have to continue onto new adventures. This summer, Analuna will be in the warm California sun before leaving for New Zealand in the Fall. Carly will go home to New Jersey, then head off to Morrocco for study abroad. Julia will go home to Ohio shortly before going to Argentina for wwoofing and study abroad. Molly will work at Moonstone Farm for the summer before returning to Mac, then studying abroad in Nepal in the spring.

We will miss this house – the out-of-tune piano, extremely comfy couches, front window, cast iron skillet, and family-cooked meals. But we are excited to pass it on to next year’s members and try out a new living situation.

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Peace, the EcoHouse

Foooooods

Check out these EcoHouse favorites! Garlic-ginger pumpkin seed sauce tastes great on anything – salad, sweet potato fries, rice, broccoli. And this oatmeal cake can be made with lots of fruits, we made it with peaches!

Garlic-Ginger Pumpkin Seed Sauce – Makes 2 cups

Ingredients:

1 cup/150g pumpkin seeds

3 cloves garlic

knob of fresh ginger

1 Tbsp. maple syrup

3 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

3 Tbsp. lemon juice

¾ -1 cup /175- 250 ml water

¾ tsp. fine grain sea salt

¼ tsp. cracked black pepper

cayenne pepper to taste

Directions:

1. In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast pumpkin seeds, stirring every so often, until they begin to pop. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. (I skipped this step and it turned out fine.)

2. In a food processor, pulse to mince garlic and ginger. Add cooled pumpkin seeds and blend on high until sand-textured. Add remaining ingredients (start with ¾ cup water) and blend, scraping down the sides periodically. Add remaining water as needed to suit your desired consistency. Season to taste. Store in an airtight glass container in the refrigerator for up to five days.

This recipe makes quite a lot of sauce, but as it keeps for five days it’s a wonderful thing to have on hand to dress salads, roast veggies and cooked whole grains. You can easily make half the amount if you know you won’t eat it all in before it spoils.

You can also make a raw version of this sauce. To do so, soak the pumpkin seeds for 8 hours, or overnight. Drain and rinse well. Skip step 1 in the instructions and carry on with the others. Enjoy!

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“NECTARINE”-TOPPED OATMEAL CAKE

Ingredients:
½ apple juice
⅓ cup cashews
¼ cup maple syrup
1 tbsp flax meal
⅓ cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ cup oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tbsp quick-cooking oats
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup oat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp sea salt
pinch of grated nutmeg
3 peaches or nectarines, pitted and sliced
2 tbsp brown sugar
 
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8-inch round cake pan.

Combine the apple juice, cashews, maple syrup, and flax meal in a blender/food processor. Process until completely smooth. Add the applesauce, oil, and vanilla. Process until blended.

Whisk together 1 cup of oats, the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg in a medium-sized bowl. Pour the cashew mixture into the oat mixture and stir to combine. The mixture will be thick but spreadable. If necessary, add an extra 1 tbsp apple juice. Spread the batter in the pan and arrange the fruit slices on top.

Combine the remaining 2 tbsp oat and brown sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the top of the cake. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool before slicing.

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New Life

Here at the EcoHouse we’re growing basil and chia, even as it snow-rains outside. Fingers crossed that the next Spring day will come soon and never leave. We recently had dinner with next year’s residents who are really excited to live here next year! Can’t believe this year is almost over. No matter how hard you try to live in the moment, it always seems to go too fast. This house feels like home. As the first house in which we have lived independently, it has taught us a lot. But I suppose we have to put those lessons to use somewhere else now. As they say, the only constant is change.

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Atina Diffley and Earth Week Potluck

Atina Diffley

At the beginning of the year as we brainstormed ideas for events, projects, and lifestyle choices for the house, we discovered our shared interest in the environmental implications wound up in the production and consumption of food. We wanted to explore these issues beyond simply shopping at a coop or buying unprocessed foods – so we decided to go to those who know most about healthy food production…local, organic farmers. Over the course of the year we have spoken to 8 local farmers about their livelihoods, philosophies, and concerns in an effort to put a face and story to the food we so frequently take for granted. We have compiled these interviews into an anthology called Conversations with Farmers that we are editing and designing now. We will print hard copies for the EcoHouse, Environmental Studies department, admissions, the farmers, and ourselves. We will also create an online version for anyone interested in reading their stories. When all is finished, our project and experience will be published on the Macalester website. Keep your eyes out!

While writing these farmers’ stories, I was reminded of the book I had read the summer before called Turn Here Sweet Corn – Organic Farming Works by Atina Diffley. This memoir based on Atina’s life running the Gardens of Eagan organic vegetable farm, provides a perfect cap to a year of learning about the struggles, joys and importance of organic farming. Her advocacy in addressing the pressures of suburban development through fighting one of the world’s largest companies aligns with Macalester students’ passion for activism and social change. Her story inspired me to take classes about America’s food system and intern on an organic farm, so I knew it would inspire other students. I contacted Atina and she graciously agreed to come speak at the Earth Week closing dinner on campus. After filling up on a variety of potluck items, the group circled up to hear about Atina’s experience farming and the court case she won against Koch Industries which created an Organic Mitigation Plan for organic farms in Minnesota. Afterwards, we had a great discussion about how to fight seemingly impossible problems within the food system, acknowledge that change takes time, and remember to have fun while doing it. 

For more information on farmer-educator, activist, public speaker and author Atina Diffley check out her website: http://atinadiffley.com/ Or read her wonderful book!

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Meditating on Warm Weather

Spring is coming! This weekend it will be forty degrees and all the melting snow and warm air makes me reminisce about laying out on the grass, throwing a frisbee, and shopping at the farmer’s market. I found this picture from the fall, when summer still lingered in the colorful tomatoes and bright yellow corn. Hopefully we’ll be able to make it back there before the school year ends. Certainly we’ll continue to shop there next year as we move into new spaces.

If you haven’t been there…check it here!

Me at farmer's marke