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Low Petroleum Diet

04/07/08 7:55AM By Deborah Luskin
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(HOST) Commentator Deborah Luskin teaches writing and literature in libraries, hospitals and prisons throughout Vermont. And this year, encouraged by her children, she's planning to have a big vegetable garden - and go on a Low-Petroleum Diet.

(LUSKIN) Our kids recently gave us a copy of Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma and urged us to do our part to reduce global warming by growing our own food. "We've actually already tried this," I tell them, "when you were small." Indeed, when our kids were young, we had a giant garden, which I preserved by freezing and canning; we annually raised and butchered a pig; and we kept chickens and bees. We also only drove 7,000 miles a year.
When they were little, the kids' interest in the garden was limited to planting the beans followed two months later by snacking on cherry tomatoes straight from the vine; they resented the time my husband and I spent in the garden. In the middle school years, we also found ourselves spending more time in the car - driving the children to their different play dates, competitions and lessons - and less time in the garden. We finally gave up growing our own food, joined a CSA and started shopping at the Farmer's Market. Last year, with four drivers in the family, we put nearly 40,000 miles on our cars. In addition to thousands of dollars spent on gas, these miles represent hours and hours away from home. Gardening, I learned the summer I planted a garden and traveled, cannot be done from a distance. So, I welcomed the suggestion that we try to grow more of our own food - on the condition that the kids help, meaning they would have to spend the summer at home. To my amazement, they have agreed.
So in addition to growing our food, we've also begun planning on how best to preserve it. We're testing the temperature and humidity in different corners of the basement to determine the best location for a root cellar. Furthermore, in response to Pollan's calculation that it requires 57 calories of fossil fuel energy to produce and deliver a single calorie of organic California baby greens to Vermont in the winter, my husband has started an indoor lettuce garden next to the furnace. We have yet to harvest a salad, but the total investment is small enough to absorb should we experience crop failure. He and I are not willing to incur the risks of raising sheep and chickens for meat, however, or keeping a milk cow, despite our children's desire for us to do so. I like the idea of keeping farm animals, but I'm not yet prepared to be home morning and night to care for them.
I know I'm setting myself up for all the work of the harvest just when the kids return to school. Nevertheless, I'm willing to take on the challenge - for them.
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