A Cup of Sugar

What do you do when you run out of sugar while baking? Do you hop in your car and run to the store for sugar or do you stop over at your neighbors and borrow a cup?

I've just read an article in the New York Times magazine by Michael Pollan that looks at a few good reasons to go green. In the article he talks about the impact of cheap energy on community. "Cheap energy" he says, "allows us to leapfrog community by making it possible to sell our specialty over great distances as well as summon into our lives the specialties of distant others".

This has made me think about our neighborhood. We have a great little community--there are four families with children at our school as well as a couple of lovely retired couples. We gather for the occasional bonfire or cookout, we sometimes borrow a cup of sugar and reciprocate later with a sample of what we've baked, but we aren't actively engaged in each other's lives. How can we make some changes through being more green?

The first is we could begin carpooling! One mother likes to get to school early. I like to be on time and visit with other parents. Another neighbor is always late and then heads to the gym. If we carpooled, the children would spend a bit more time together (which would really help some fragile friendships) and the Moms would interact (with my last carpool, we had a daily after-school tea--so good).

The second is that we could expand our gardens. Too much zucchini makes for lovely neighbor interactions. At our last house, our neighbor had a huge garden. She left extra veggies on the stonewall and she had a huge harvest dinner each year. Some evenings we would wander over at dinnertime for a tomato or zucchini when we were bereft of veggies.

So, for Earth Day today, I will be calling my neighbors to discuss carpooling. The era of cheap energy is ending and it is time to pool our resources. I will also, finally, go get that compost container and start to plan a garden expansion. I can't wait to leave a few big zucchinis in certain mailboxes!

Next time you run out of sugar or need some exotic spice for your evening dinner, why don't you ask a neighbor?

Dawn  – (April 22, 2008 at 10:25 AM)  

The compost container is on my list of things to get soon (and use). I also have found that doing gardening and yard work is one of the best ways to get to know the neighbors better- I think every conversation I've ever had with them has occurred when I was working in my yard.

Lisa Anne  – (April 22, 2008 at 10:26 AM)  

Great Post, I don't even have neighbors. I am always thinking of ways of leaving a lighter foot-print. I gave a talk at the local historical society on eating local foods and I talked about Micheal Pollan's books and Barbara Kingsolver's book (A,V,M). It wasn't a large crowd but they were enthusiastic, but I think people's consciousness is changing, if only because of outrageous food and gas prices but once they get hooked into local foods I think they will see other beneficial results, (tastes better, builds community and healthier!). I also threw in some quotes by gentleman farmer Thomas Jefferson, after all it was a historical society meeting.
When I run out of sugar I used to visit our neighbors, the bees, we should be getting more bees in May.

kneek  – (April 22, 2008 at 12:08 PM)  

Great post. Love the suggestions. We have five grocery stores within walking distance of our house, so we are spoiled with shopping options. That promotes laziness, which I think is time wasted. Spending time planning meals and shopping once a week instead of three times is a big step. The hard part is getting everyone in the family on board and agreeing that these are our family values. I have a reluctant husband who doesn't see the impact of our choices.

Tara  – (April 22, 2008 at 3:17 PM)  

This is such a nice way of looking at the issue. It feels much more real and manageable than some of the other pieces I've seen. Thanks for the fresh point of view.

Angela  – (April 22, 2008 at 3:30 PM)  

You are so right. I think about the what neighborhood meant as a child, and it is so very different today. We have tried here, but have not found a lot of warmth ,as the seniors really judge our homeschooling as a type of abuse. Now that they are all starting to pass on, the new younger neighbors are bringing a sense of community back. This is great!

Tracy  – (April 22, 2008 at 4:11 PM)  

How blessed you are to live in such a community, Sarah! My immediate neighbors are usually at work or . . . rather distant. I just try to order more staples in bulk from our organic food buying club. Just stocked up on Florida Crystals and three big bottles of vanilla!

Patience  – (April 22, 2008 at 4:30 PM)  

You are so lucky to have great neighbours. We consider our little neighbourhood a lovely one, in that we are friendly with a couple of the families ... but only on a chat-as-we-go-past basis. There are children next door but they've never gotten together with Rose. When I was young we lived in an amazing close-knit community, but nowadays everyone seems so insular.

taragl  – (April 22, 2008 at 6:43 PM)  

With our grocery store an hour away, we've been forced into this kind of cooperation with our neighbors -- I love it! We trade garden veggies, borrow staples and gather weekly for fires, dinners and board games. Who knew communities like this still existed!?

Anonymous –   – (April 22, 2008 at 10:03 PM)  

It's been very hard for me to develop friendships with neighbors, because I never did so as a child. I've pretty much always lived in suburbia, where everyone is at work or school all day, or sequestered in their air-conditioned houses or their own backyards!

But, we are able to walk to the natural foods co-op on the corner. Since many of the people working and shopping there are our neighbors, does that count? :)

Yarrow  – (April 23, 2008 at 8:57 AM)  

You are indeed lucky to live in such a neighborhod. I would love to have that sense of community. We have about three in our neighborhood that we could go to if needed, and that we "know" better than others. Unfotunately, some of the people who live here are less than desirable neighbors. These are wonderful ideas.

Lisa  – (April 23, 2008 at 3:25 PM)  

Hardly anyone carpools in the Uk and we all practically live on top of each other! So well done you.

Anonymous –   – (April 23, 2008 at 9:20 PM)  

My MIL lives down the field.... so we are always borrowing an egg, or sugar, or some really odd stuff. She'll call and ask if I have tumeric.. and I will need cream of tartar...

We carpool here, which helps a huge amount.

One thing I am bad about though, is turning off things like the computer..if I could get in the habit of having it off when we are out of the house, as well as turning off other appliances that stay "lit" I could conserve some energy!

ilse –   – (April 24, 2008 at 3:28 AM)  

HI, I love goingto the neighbors for a cup of sugar, somehow the things i'm making with the borrowed stuff taste better !! ;-)

you are very blessed to live in such a nice community.

Anonymous –   – (April 28, 2008 at 7:37 AM)  


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