Archive for the ‘REAL Local’ Category

I know that our REAL Local series has come to an end, but I still wanted to share a few more things that I found while traveling in England.

We bought a book at one of the castles we stopped and I loved the bag it was packaged it – love the words. I have no idea if it was made locally, or even made in England, it was just nice to see the words on the bag. They weren’t an after thought, the words were the bag.

I found some cookies that hit the spot one day…. and had to pack some to eat on the plane, right?! They only fit the “L” in S.O.L.E.(Sustainable, Organic, Local,  Ethical), but they are made in England.

Ginger Nuts cookies – England

I knew I must bring home some tea. While I know the tea was not grown in England, I tried to buy from a company with good ethics (and a pretty box too!) After reading about them on their website, I think I made a good choice.

I was really amazed when I was looking at some the packages in the little markets I went into. I was mainly looking to buy a few food items to snack on along the way and a few things to bring home with us. Many things in the cookie and cracker sections (or at least most of the ones I looked at) were made in England. Many others said made in the U.K. also. Now, I know the “U.K.” covers are larger area, my point it that it wasn’t imported from some other far, far away place.  That was refreshing to see.

I also am in the habit of picking up tea towels with I travel. They are a great souvenir, easy to pack and useable. This one (and a few others were made in England!) Yippee!

REAL Local – Made in England!

One more item that I purchased to bring home as a souvenir of our trip. We went into an antique shop in Chipping Campden and just wandered around. I would have loved to have loaded a suitcase with all sorts of wonderful finds and I did warn my husband that if I found a wonderful old candelabra that it was coming home with us some way, some how. Instead I picked out a simple (and inexpensive) silver-plated serving spoon.

I completely forgot to as the women what she knew about the pattern. I am under no false illusion that it is valuable or rare; it was the right price and it packs easily. It has a bunch of markings on the back, symbols really, no words. One day I will find out more about it. Until then, I will just use it and enjoy it and remember our trip.

Sincerely, Emily

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We just came back from a wonderful two weeks in England. While the rest of the contributors here at Not Dabbling in Normal have been focusing on what they are finding local where they live, I decided to look at what I found local where we were traveling and mainly focusing on the local food I found.

Home Farm B&B – Full English Breakfast

We started our trip in London. Our breakfast was at the hotel every day and the girls that waited on us had no idea what I was asking when I asked where the food came from. Even revising my question didn’t help, you see, these girls were Italian and seemed to speak very little English. Dinner didn’t go any better while we were in London. The food we had was great, but the main issue was a language barrier. At the Greek restaurant, it was Greek, at the Indian restaurant it was Indian and I don’t speak either of those languages.

As we moved away from London things improved greatly in terms of being able to find out where the food was coming from.

At a local pub in Elsenham called The Crown, the waitress and I had a nice long chat about where their food came from. The sausages that I ate were from a local farm and processed by a local butcher and the potatoes were local too. My initial question was, ” does any of your food come from the area from local farmers?”  I couldn’t stop smiling as she just waved her hand and said “oh ya” and continued name where everything came from.

Elsenham – The Crown

As I sat in the Old Thatched Tavern Stratford-upon-Avon eating wonderful onion rings, I learned that the chef grew them himself. Really!? That is so wonderful !

The Old Thatch Tavern – Onion Rings

In Ebrington at the Ebrington Arms pub I learned most things on my plate were local also. Sausages, mushrooms, potatoes, cabbage, all of it.

At Home Farm Bed & Breakfast I was thrilled to learn about where the owners bought the food for the beautiful breakfast we were served. It was just around the corner at a local farm; mushrooms and all! F A N T A S T I C !

One last place worth a mention was the lunch we had a Kiftsgate Court Garden near Hidcote.  We walked around Hidcote in the morning and then headed across the street to Kiftsgate Garden for a late afternoon lunch and a walk around their beautiful gardens.  Lunch was homemade and wonderful. I had a toasted cheese and tomato sandwich with two types of chutney; Piccadilly and another sweeter chutney with apples. I went back to ask about the second chutney and chatted with the lady that made it. M A D E   I T ! It had been seasoning for 1 ½ years and was ready to serve! She showed me the ½ gallon jar she preserved it in and we had a nice talk about it. I didn’t come home with her recipe (darn it!) but I was thrilled to eat all their homemade toasted sandwich and some fresh shortbread!

Kiftsgate – toasted sandwich & shortbread

The food we ate in London was really good, but I enjoyed our meals more once we left London and I as able to find out where the food was coming from. I was very impressed with the bar tenders and the waiter/waitresses and all they knew about the food they were serving. It felt good.

Sincerely, Emily

I have been posting about our trip to England along with photos. Stop by my personal blog if you are interested. Soon to come are some of the gardens (like Kiftsgate and Hidcote) along with more castles (like Warwick and Sudeley)

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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I must admit, i’m a bargain shopper and hate going to stores in person. I love Amazon, Zappos, Mod Cloth and all those lovely online storefronts. They are not exactly local, however so this week i thought i’d feature some of my favorite, LOCAL small businesses here in the Corvallis area and a few back in Austin where i hailed from prior to moving back to Oregon. In this list you’ll find farms, artisans, boutiques and supply stores, including some opportunities for shopping online AND shopping local:

Corvallis/Philomath/Willamette Valley, OR:

Stash: Knitters, spinners, crochetists  and otherwise crafty folks can find tons of supplies and inspiration at this great, new yarn shop in downtown Corvallis. Nestled in a line of other sweet shops on 3rd street, Stash is a real gem and the shop’s owner, Sonia is even shinier. Stop in and stock up on tons of stash-worthy yarns, roving, patterns and more! Stash also hosts a Stitch Night every Wednesday and a “Sit and Spin” on occasion. You can find Stash online and on Facebook.

Bellwether Wool Co: More on the fiber trend, Bellwether is MY go to supplier of batting, roving and all things fiber. The two farm company (Blakesley Creek Farm and Dayspring Farm) carries many varieties of fiber, most containing a large percentage of fiber grown by each farm, in natural to wildly dyed colors. You can find their roving at Stash and online. They’re also on Facebook.

Gathering Together Farm: Just down the road from my apartment is Gathering Together Farm. GTF has been instrumental in the local organic food movement including seed preservation and community awareness. GTF’s produce can be purchased at their farm stand, in local markets and via a CSA. If you have a chance to get your hands on their Delicata squash when it comes in season, do it! It’s the most delicious squash i’ve ever eaten. GTF is online and on Facebook.

Furniture Restoration Center of Oregon: Local craftsman, Steve Larson and his wife, Janice have been in business in downtown Philomath for 31 years. Their eye for detail and experience with wood and fine furniture has made them relied upon service providers in our small community and beyond. If you mention the FRC to anyone, they’ll immediately tell you what nice people Steve and Janice are and about how they ‘saved’ some old armoir or headboard of theirs years ago. Along with their restoration work, FRC has a small retail space with restoration supplies, hardware and even antique furniture. Stop in the next time you drive through Philomath: they’re right on Main Street at 13th St. FRC is also online and on Facebook.

Austin, TX:

Son of a Sailor: William Knopp and Jessica Tata revel in playful creation and collaboration. William is a graphic designer by trade, but has made stops along the way in the Navy, the oil fields of West Texas, and pilgrimages around the world. Jessica fancies herself a creative marketing professional with a background in art galleries and museums, photographing the world around her as she goes. Based in Austin, Texas, both continue to explore space and form through jewelry as just one of their creative outlets. Son of a Sailor is featured at Pocket Pause today as my “Friday Favorite,” read more.

Schatzelein:  Schatzelein’s mission is to bring artistically designed, thoughtfully hand-crafted, and strategically priced designer jewelry and accessories to the men and women of Austin. Owner Christine Fail personally selects designers from around the world and ensures that each piece is handcrafted by artisans in the highest quality materials, with the utmost attention to detail. Schatzelein also maintains that you do not have to sacrifice your values for affordability and always strives to have beautifully crafted pieces for every budget. You can find Schatzelein online, on Facebook and on South 1st street in Austin.

Yard Farm Austin: Do you want to grow your own food but are afraid your black thumb may foil your plans? Have Zach bring his team to your Austin area home to plan, install, plant and even maintain an edible and beautiful garden for you. Transform your yard into a yard FARM. Find Yard Farm online and on Facebook.

Along with these favorite shops, i also love Emily’s recent suggestion about using the ‘local’ search tool on Etsy. It is really great and i recently purchased some super awesome labels for my Fiber Friends from a gal just down in Oakridge. I also happen to know a swell artisanal soap maker right here in Philomath, hint hint (check out GoNudeSoap.com to buy my soap!). No shameless self promotion for me! haha.

Do you shop locally? Have a favorite shop or small business? Share your favorites with us!

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As I said on the 1st, local food is easy enough to come by in Chicago. I should mention that I use Joel Salatin’s definition of local– the truck that brings the goods has to be able to do the round trip in a day. For practical purposes this means about 3 to 4 hours away, or no more than 200 miles. This gives me all of northern Illinois, a good chunk of southern Wisconsin and northern Indiana and little slivers of Michigan, Iowa and Minnesota to call local. So plenty of farms in there, and lots of farmers markets, CSAs and local-savvy grocers to choose from.

Plus all the food in my backyard.

But no matter how much you swear you won’t buy a bunch of stuff for a party, you still need drinks.  Plates and napkins and cups. And of course we want to grill, so we need charcoal. A couple more chairs would not be amiss. And wouldn’t luminaries be cool.

I can make luminaries. I count resale shops as local, so I’ll start scouring them for trays, serving dishes, chairs, and other cool stuff.

As far as drinks I’m saved again because I live in a large metropolitan area that still has a local manufacturing base. I’ll probably have to buy from a national retailer, but I can get a terrific line of sodas from the WIT Beverage company, still bottled in Chicago as far as I can tell, with such brands as Jelly Belly soda (!), Goose Island Root Beer, Green River soda and more. Thank goodness for google, because while I knew about Goose Island (we’ll get some of our beer from them two, and from Two Brothers, a DuPage County brewery), I did not know that Green River, which I loved drinking as a child in Philadelphia, was a Chicago original.

Dishes and glasses are another issue. I don’t want to generate trash, which means buying glasses rather than plastic cups. Last year I got 50 glasses at the dollar store (5 for a dollar), but these are certainly made in some maquiladora or megamanufacturer in China. So, store’s not local, product’s not local. I’m still working on this one. Ditto plates–I got bamboo plates last year, but again, non-local product from a non-local shop (World Market) howsoever recylable and sustainable. Might have to relinquish my desire for matching plates and cups and head to the resale shop.

There’s another solution, but it brings up a localist conundrum. I live in Chicago, which has the world-wide corporate headquarters of Sears. Now, I can get what I need, at a good price, at Sears. Does that count as “local?” Target’s the same–they’re from Minneapolis. Not so far outside my 3 hour radius (okay, double the radius, but still). Are they “local” even though they are a world-wide entity and they only sell stuff undoubtedly made abroad?

Middle class Americans buy a lot of stuff. When you try to live locally, you start to realize how we have destroyed our local economies. I fear for a society that doesn’t even make dishes, for heaven’s sake. In the name of saving money, so that we could buy more stuff, we ruined an entire economic sector. After World War II we took the excess manufacturing capacity created by the war machine and turned those workers and those factories into the feed source of the Great Consumerist Maw that is the American Middle Class.

But now, aside from individual artisans-makers, who make very small runs, we not only don’t make junk that we don’t need, we also don’t make items for daily life that we do need–things like detergent, and pots, and t-shirts.

I’m aiming to make my party all local. My life? That’s a little harder.

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Some of you may have read my post about the feed bags I was working on back in April over at Sincerely, Emily.  I mentioned that I was getting ready to use them on a project.

A really big mulching project to be exact. I have been thinking about mulching the whole area between the front sidewalk and the front of the house.  We don’t have “proper” grass and even when I do have to mow, it is an awkward area and it need a lot of trimming (my least favorite thing to do that never gets done.) Another thing I like about the mulch is that there is a recycling center about 20 miles from us. You can drop off your tree trimmings and the turn it into mulch. You pay a small fee ($5 a pick-up truck load to drop), but you can pick up as much mulch as you need – FREE!  How is that for local.

I really wasn’t sure what I wanted out of that area. I figured I would mulch the whole area, but what else. I finally came up with adding some crepe myrtle trees and figured that was a good start. I found the trees and got those in the ground, then I could start the mulching. Each crepe myrtle tree has a wire cage around it to protect it from the deer. It will be removed once the tree is tall enough and can’t hurt the upper branches at that point.

This is where the feed bags come in.  Last fall I planted four oleander up near the garage wall. The summer sun creeps around there late in the afternoon and I wanted something that would be drought tolerant and grow up to provide some nice shade to the garage wall. I had removed a lot of the grass over the winter, but I still knew I would lay the feed bags down before adding mulch to the entire area.

It took two full truck loads of mulch to finish this project. each load is about 2 cubic yards. would lay down a few feed bags at a time. I had to fight against the breeze. The breeze is a good thing, because it helped keep me cool (it was about 94F), but it blows the bags around, so it makes this job longer with only one person. Then I would fill a wheelbarrow full of mulch and start spreading it over the bags. I was careful not to cover the edges, because I needed to layer the bags, overlapping them or else the weeds and grasses tend to find the seems and sneak around them.

It took me a few days working in the mornings and the evening, a little at a time. I still have a small section up in the corner. There are some flat stones up there that I need help getting out of the ground so I can lay more feed bags and cover then with mulch, then I can lay the stones back down.

Eventually I will plant more deer resistant, drought tolerant and sun loving native plants in that area also. Things like Jerusalem Sage, Salvia Gregii, and other plants that both the birds and butterflies will enjoy.

For now, it is just great the way it is. I can add more this fall when it cools off, or next spring.

Sincerely, Emily

P.S.  I will be “unplugged” from technology for a few weeks. I look forward to reading your comments and will respond to each and every one of them when I am back and get back into the swing of things.

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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I’ve done this before. In fact I’m deep into the local economy–I avoid the big boxes and shop at local garden centers and hardware stores. I get my clothes at resale or buy fabric from a locally owned fabric store. I grow a lot of my own food, canned in jars from that local True Value. I don’t go to chain restaurants, even the good ones, if that’s not an oxymoron. I don’t need gas, technically, because I have access to a large healthy public transportation system, and because cities can be oddly “small,” so that there aren’t many places I need to go that I couldn’t reach on foot, or by bike.

The point is, I can.

I live in a major metropolitan area that has a population and economy that supports choice.

What I learned when I first started exploring a locally-based lifestyle was that the farther you get from big urban centers the harder it is to buy from your neighbor.

Last summer we did a road trip to Western Illinois, on the trail of family names. (That is, we went to towns with the same name as members of our family. Geeky, I know.) In Elizabeth (sister-in-law), we found a well-preserved Main Street filled with charming 19th century buildings. Sadly, they were all home to art galleries, dentists, real estate agents, and other service-type tenants. No drug store. No grocer. (At least they have a local dentist. There are now national dental chains as well.)  There was a little hardware store hanging on by its nails and two little restaurants, in keeping with the city’s obvious attempts to attract tourists like us to their historic sites. Nora, Illinois (daughter) had only a bar, and the headquarters of the fight against the CAFO they are trying to build just outside of town.

To get what you need to live in Elizabeth, you have to drive out of town (where they don’t have to pay local taxes) to the WalMart, Rexall, or Target. These places supposedly “create jobs” (yes, minimum wage, part time, retail sales clerk jobs). What they don’t do is nurture a thriving local economy of ownership, where fathers and mothers teach sons and daughters how to run a retail business, and people spend their money in town, so that the taxes they pay stay there, too.

There are things even I cannot easily purchase from locally-owned shops. Gas. Prescriptions (the last independent druggist near my home that I knew of closed two years ago). Large appliances (ditto, and right across the street from the drugstore, oddly) and most consumer electronics. But I’ll “try or not buy”. The google machine is my friend in this endeavor. I’ll be looking for one-off, independent gas stations, drug stores, et cetera, or “owner-operated” on the True Value model.

And I’ll let you know.

How far do you have to go to stay local?

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Local is the new black.

It goes with everything.

Or does it?

Here at Not Dabbling in Normal we want to know how far we can push this local thing. What can you buy locally and what can you really not? How local can you get? Your yard? Your block? Your neighborhood, your state? Can you tell if what you’ve purchased is local?

This month, we’re going to get “real” at Not Dabbling again. Emily B, Emily S, Suzy, Ryan, Xan, Miranda and DeeDee are going to buy local and only local. We’re talking food, transportation, underwear, cat food, clothes, you name it. We’re going to find out what can we buy that’s locally produced, and what we can’t. If it isn’t produced locally, we’re going to try to find locally-owned shops. And if we can’t do that, we’ll find out what can we live without, and what we have to have.


This challenge is perfectly timed for me, Miranda. I have been feeling utterly disconnected from my food lately, and recently had an epiphany of sorts. You can read more about my recent re-connection with seasonal food at Pocket Pause, and i’m looking forward to sharing my new found inspiration here at Not Dabbling.


Food is easy. It’s the other stuff. I need curtains, which I can make, but if there is a fabric mill or curtain rod factory within 2,000 miles of Chicago I’ll eat my hat. On the other hand, many communities have shops like this one– a locally owned, owner-managed True Value Hardware.


How close to home do you think you can get? Join the Challenge! Let us know in the comments;  leave us a link to your blog and we’ll create a participants blog roll.

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