Providence to Newport by Water (with my brother on a very hot day)

Mary:  “How old is this boat?”
Peter:  “35 years”
Mary:  “It’s nice in here. Why don’t you re-do the linoleum in the Captain’s quarters? You know, keep up the boat.”
Peter:  “Arrrgggh! This is a working boat! It stays in the water. Gotta make money!”
Mary:  “Okay. Got it.”

You might remember my brother, Peter and his boat, the Endeavour, from a past blog,
I Wanna Be a Lobsterman. Actually, that blog led to a unique experience when a guy named Steve Trewhella found a lobster trap tag from the Endeavour at Chesil BeEndeavor Tagach, UK on the South coast of England. Steve took a photo and posted it on Facebook, and then a second guy, Tom Pitchford of Florida, US, saw the  photo, googled the Endeavour, found my blog, and sent me Steve’s photo on Facebook at Mary Hartley RD. Crazy!

BTW: Our Endeavor is not to be confused with the HMS Endeavour recently found at the bottom of Newport Harbor. That Endeavour is the boat Captain James Cook sailed around the world when he made first contact with Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand.

Anyway, last Friday, an unbearably hot and humid July day, my brother had to move his boat from the Port of Providence where it went for its biennial exterior paint job (sorry, Pete) back to Newport, Rhode Island where it is docked. I went along for the ride. Mmmmm. So breezy steaming down Narragansett Bay.

Check out the photos of the day. Note the huge mobile harbor crane loading the boat into the water at Port of Providence, and at Slide 9, notice the pop-up storm brewing 20 miles to the west in Wickford, RI. We could see the thunder and lightening, but Wickford got all that plus heavy rain and very gusty winds. It blew through suddenly and tipped over stuff!

Comments:  Have you taken this trip?

Nutrients from the Sky. The Upside of Snow.

       "Winter I"  by Bob Zuck

“Winter I” by Bob Zuck

Juno, Linus, Marcus, Neptune, Pandora…. What now? We’re running out of names for snowstorms in New England. 

Can you believe our good fortune? 

I feel so much better now that my buddy, artist farmer Bob Zuck, introduced me to the nutritional benefits of snow. As it turns out, we are flush in nutrients falling from the sky.

Snow is more than moisture. It is also rich in nitrogen, a nutrient that makes up every living cell in plants and animals. Nitrogen is what makes protein unique. Nitrogen comprises 80% of the atmosphere, but it’s in a form that can’t be used. Snow grabs that nitrogen and deposits it into the soil where bacteria “fix” it for absorption into plants. We then eat the plants directly or we eat herbivorous animals. Nitrogen fixing plants include legumes (peas, beans, lentils, soybeans, and peanuts) and cover crops from the Fabaceae family (alfalfa, clover, and vetch).

Atmospheric nitrogen is exceptionally abundant a result of burning fossil fuels and manufacturing. To an industrial farmer, the nitrogen in snow can’t hold a candle to commercial fertilizer, but harsh chemical fertilizers damage the soil’s microbes and so they would need more.

New England, look on the bright side. Prepare to feast on sustainable local food this summer. California, eat my dust. Wait. Eat your own dust.

Your thoughts: Do you feel better about the snow?

I Wanna Be a Lobsterman

This is my brother, Peter. He is a lobsterman, actually the captain of the boat. A lobsterman is like a farmer except that agribusiness is not involved. There are no giant commercial farms owned by multinational corporations, no chemicals, no antibiotics, no genetic modifications, and no Monsanto beating down the door. Some people find lostering romantic; I find it dangerous. Same thing, I guess. I asked Peter about catching lobsters, and he told me this is how it’s done:

  • Get a fishing boat. Rig it to catch lobsters. Load 1600 lobster pots. Hire a four-man crew.
  • String bait, 3 to 4 skate to a string. Load 43 barrels of skate and a few pallets of poggies (menhaden) because the lobsters like a blend.
  • Steam from Rhode Island out to the coast of Maine where your lobster pots are already in the water. They are strung with line, 50 pots attached, 25 fathoms (150 feet) apart.
  • Drop anchor and haul in the pots with an electrical lift. Expect 10 lbs of lobster in each pot.
  • Land – Band – Bait (Land: bring in a pot and put the lobsters on the table; Band: place rubber bands around the claws and put the lobster in a tank of cold, aerated water; Bait: reload the empty pot with bait.)
  • Set Back: The pots are stacked on the deck in order: first pot in is the last pot out. Lower the lines while the boat is moving. Whatever you do, don’t tangle up the lines!
  • Repeat for 4 or 5 days, and then steam back to port.
  • Pack Out.  Back on shore, pump down the water from the holding tanks. Separate the lobsters into 100 pound crates.  Hoist the crates into a refrigerated truck.
  • Drive the truck to Boston where the lobsters are graded and sold: Select, Cull (one claw), Chicken (1 – 1.5 pounds), and Soft (this lobster has molted, only the cooked meat is sold)
  • Get paid. Hang around for a few days. Hope the crew stays out of jail. Get up and do it again.

    Your thoughts: Do you eat lobster?
    Lobster Nutrition: A 3-ounce serving of cooked lobster has only 76 calories, <1 g of fat, 16 g of protein, 413 mg of sodium, 184 mg of cholesterol, 160 g of calcium, 1.8 mg of iron, and a decent amount of potassium, zinc, other trace minerals, and niacin (vitamin B3.)

Where Farm Stands Are Built on Trust

Last week, I was back in the coastal farming community that I call home, Tiverton/Little Compton, Rhode Island. Amazingly enough, this bucolic place manages to stay old-fashioned, mostly because it is out-of-the-way, but also because it is owned by old farmers, rich people, and townies, all of whom seem content.

The Honor System

I am happy to report that several self-serve roadside farm stands are operating there. Be it berries, tomatoes, dahlias, sunflowers, eggs, bread, or whatever else, this is how it works: the customer drives up, reads the signage, makes a selection, tallies the purchase, and leaves the money in the cash box. The retail business operates of itself while the farmer tends the farm.

As it turns out, trusted people don’t steal. In a story, The Psychology of the Honor System at the Farm Stand, NPR interviewed Michael Cunningham, a professor who studies good and bad behavior. He told NPR, “trust seems to be at least as strong a motivator as guilt.” Consider this: the customer trusts the seller to sell a good and safe product and the seller trusts the customer to pay. Cunningham explained, “I get something delicious and I also get a good feeling about myself. Both of those things make me feel good about the world. I’m in a good place. It’s a win win.”

Cunningham found that about “25 percent of people are consistently honest, 25 percent mostly honest, 25 percent are dishonest, and 25 percent are erratic.” Still, the honor-system must be worth it to the small farmer, and, remember, a small town sees all.

Your thoughts: Should more businesses be built on a trust model?

Three Degrees of Separation from “Snackman”

Can I assume, by now, everybody has heard about “Snackman,” the Brooklyn architect who broke up a fight on the NYC subway by inserting his 200-pound frame between the fighters as he munched on chips? Using a smart phone, someone made a video that went viral and Charles Sonder, “Snackman,” became the darling of every media outlet in NYC. Tweeters wrote, “Chips Not Clips!” And there’s this: Snackman: The Hero Gotham Needs Is Getting All The Marriage Proposals He Deserves. (Watch the Snackman video and read about Snackman in The New York Times.)

Snackman and I

It turns out that Snackman is from Rhode Island, along with me, where everyone is related by a degree of separation, Kevin Bacon-style. For instance, if two random people who grew up in Rhode Island met at a party in some faraway place, they would probably find someone they both knew within a short amount of time. This is how I am separated from Snackman: Snackman is my best friend’s sister’s son’s best friend from North Kingston.  But wait, there’s more! My daughter’s downstairs neighbor’s old girlfriend, Phoebe, is Snackman’s sister. The neighbor has no connection to Rhode Island. Crazy, right?

And so, Snackman, amigo, we are so proud of you! And forgive me for saying this, but it’s my job: Be careful about eating junk food, especially late at night. I am just looking out for your health and good looks, especially now that you are famous. And, listen, if you need a nutritionist in Brooklyn, I’m at your service anytime. I hope you don’t mind me riding your coattails, but I’m sure you understand because I too, am saving the world, one chip at a time.

You thoughts: If you agree that “Snackman” rocks, then leave a note for him here.