Friday, December 14, 2012

Up for the challenge?

Someone recently referred to me as "dogmatic".  And since we weren't having the friendliest conversation, I have to assume he wasn't thinking of me with admiration.  If he meant that I was acting based on rigid principles, I am guilty as charged.


Because I live based on certain principles, despite existing in a world that is relativist by nature, and surrounded by lots of folks who've been too browbeaten to think they deserve to have unchallengable assumptions, I probably seem a bit hard headed.  That's true, too.

We all have our rough edges, I guess.

The conversation that ignited this insignificant but briefly fiery exchange stemmed from my suggestion that he support the store through shopping here for groceries.

Really. That was all.

I didn't demand to see his Democratic Party card; didn't expect that he would want to join our ongoing conversations about localism and sustainability.  Didn't make fun of what he drives, or how far every week. (I do that sometimes; I'm sorry.) Just suggested that his family grocery needs could be met by the closest local store.

It occurred to me that I am probably dogmatic in other ways, too.

I have a few principles about the nature of our economy, namely the parts of it that are unsustainable, that I probably share those forcefully.  And I usually act as though they are un-challenge-able.  So it goes with some things.

But, come on, folks - do I really need to say this - we're all friends, right?

You must challenge me anyway.  Really.  We can't do better - I can't be better - unless you decide I am sometimes completely nuts and speak up.  Maybe it's the whole issue of selling organics - maybe you hate the fact that I sell tobacco.  (I hate it, too.)  Maybe you think we should sell more local products.  (I do, too.)  I know there's probably a long list.  (Charlie Steele might actually post his grievances, starting with my foolish recitations about the science of climate change!)

We are the ones who are making discourse possible.  So don't just unsubscribe, metaphorically or literally, if you don't like what I have to say.  Call me on it - I love to talk.  It's up to us to reinvigorate the sorts of discourse that used to take place in community.

Because, as we say at the front tables all the time, we might even save the world.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Walking our way to a better future

I love walking.  It didn't start with Medusa - and even though Reggie Duncan is an inspiration, his walking isn't really the root of my own compulsion to walk.  I've been taking the slow road for a long time.

I like to joke with folks that our carbon footprint has diminished substantially, even though we just purchased an aged conversion van. We are only about a mile from the store and we've been getting there most days via foot.  Sometimes my kids bike - and Perin rides in a stroller and the babies ride on me - but we are always blessed with the satisfying sameness of the majestic Catskill range.

It strikes me that this is not only a metaphor for life - we are struggling on this path one step at a time - but it is also enormously practical.  It is meditative, and deeply healthful, and doesn't emit a damn thing.

Why not make this one of our first calls to action?  And it's a call that nearly anyone can answer.  Walk or bike.  To Medusa.  I know some of you aren't close, but lots of you are - I have a friend who visits us from Altamont via bike. And another from Glenmont. We have an event coming up - of course you know, since I've been beating you up on every social media site imaginable, reminding you.  Small Business Saturday is on the 24th, right after Thanksgiving and horrendous black Friday.  Bike or walk here for Small Business Saturday, as a celebration of your commitment to spend less, and spend local.

We are celebrating, I think, something as special as Thanksgiving itself on Saturday, the 24th.  If we are planning to make progress towards building the types of self-reliant communities that can weather real and proverbial storms, it is pretty crucial that folks support we small independents.

That day you'll have the opportunity to chat with some of your local farmers and artisans, all of whom are your neighbors.  They, too, are taking the slow road, but are producing quality and beauty of unimaginable value - from home spun wool to sweetly tended chickens, from homegrown and kitchen canned produce to fresh baked breads, these neighbors of yours are on the forefront of a passionate movement to re-provision their community with the best foods and products in life.

You should walk down to Medusa for another reason, as well.  In our infamous "back building" we're hosting a street art workshop on the 24th.  Here in Medusa, we just started a local chapter of and are anxious to make some street art that exhibits our passion for localism, for building self-reliant communities, and for stopping the near-ceaseless assault on the planet.  You bring some blank t-shirts and catchy slogans and we'll supply the paint and the cardboard.  And then spread the message to the world, one homemade road sign at a time.

How could this not catch on?  And if you meet me at my house, we can walk down together.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Gas shortages and community building

So we're all a little worried.  There are still some of you we haven't heard from - those friends of the store and of Medusa who make their primary homes in the city or on Long Island.  And tonight, as I try to type quietly so as not to wake the sleeping babies lying next to me, I continue to worry.

This morning an old childhood friend (we wish you lived closer, Dan Ryan!) posted on Facebook that Kingston was running out of gas.  Honestly, I thought that was a little strange, but didn't think much of it.  At the store today, a friend, one of those who works during the week in New York, chatted with me a bit about our decision to sell the store - and we laughed a little about how there isn't a better place to create a home than here.  Medusa is as safe as life gets, I think.  We are also blessed with more than our fair share of brilliant, creative, amazing people.  My family doesn't have any plans to leave, I told him.  And I was glad he'd made it out of the city and back to Medusa, because, after all, we have plenty of gasoline. 

But later, we started having more folks calling to inquire whether we had gas - frankly, as we do run out every so often, this wasn't immediately worrisome.  But then news started trickling in that local stations - Greenville, for example - were beginning to run out of gas.  How can this be - with all of our technology, we must have modelled the supply chain problems that could occur after facing a crisis like a hurricane hitting the upper East Coast, right?  And why isn't there more on the web about the gas shortages that are spreading this far north?  Could this affect our deliveries - could we have food shortages because of our reliance on diesel-fuel-driven truck transportation, we wondered?

Even more concerning, now a google search turns up articles that suggest that the hospitals in the city are closing and moving patients.  That the emergency rooms are facing complete chaos, understaffed and running on generators.  Apparently attempts by the governors of NY and NJ to provide gasoline to folks backfired completely, and they rescinded plans, at least in NY, to provide places where residents could get gas.

I am starting to feel like I've watched one too many Walking Dead episodes, honestly.  And I think some of you are probably reading and waiting for the punch line, but there is none, this time.  The fact that, thanks to a hurricane hitting Manhattan, climate change and peak oil are phrases that have suddenly come back into vogue is little consolation as I wonder what I would do if I had a sick or injured child and no where to go for help.

But if there is a silver lining, and I am one of those annoying, Pollyanna-esque types, I think that we may be witnessing one of the brightest moments ever in our struggle to turn our ship towards greater sustainability.  And, as I discussed with a friend today, if that term is not clear enough - let's figure out exactly what we should call it.  We need to develop a plan, right here and right now, about how we become energy independent.  We need to take Carol's lead, up at Heather Ridge, and start implementing energy alternatives.  We need to start getting more local food - all year round - on shelves here at our store - and folks must begin acknowledging that they need to participate in supporting that.  Mostly, I think, we need to work much harder to develop the sort of community that can weather storms - either literally in the form of Irene, or more indirectly, as we experience the effects of supply chain problems that can ripple outward for months.  A strong, cohesive community is capable, I think, of facing any challenge, no matter how insurmountable it may at first appear.

So I am inviting you to take the first step with me.  And I'm not even sure how, exactly.  But even if we start by putting up a big bulletin board at the store where you can post your ideas about how we, as deciding members of this community, can move towards becoming more resilient, more prepared, more immune to these types of crises, that would be better than simply watching and waiting.  We must make a point of finding each other more often, talking, figuring out what the way forward looks like - we need to stop waiting for someone else to do it.
It’s time we all make the decision to participate, because, from my vantage point, it seems like we no longer have much of a choice.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

State of the Store

It would be impossible to tell each and every one of you this in person, so consider this blog a sort of heart-to-heart with each of you.

We have decided to try to sell the store.  Now, this isn't a tragic, we're-about-to-close confessional.  It has been some time in coming, and we have no plans to close.  To repeat that: we have no plans to close any time soon.  This remains a successful business, a joy to run, and we are grateful to have had this amazing opporunity.

But we have had a long year.  Between employee issues, a state audit, and increasingly expsensive products, we were exhausted.  But after being turned down by two different banks, after verbal commitments from both that they would kick in extra funding for capital improvement projects, we think we are ready for our next adventure.  Plus, as you know, we have a growing young family, with *two* unbelievable new babies. 

I don't want to use this as a place to rant about those of you who still, after three years, continue to drive to Albany for your groceries.  Water under the bridge, as they say.  But I would be remiss to not personally thank those of you - and you know who you are - who patronize this store, day after day, week after week.  Even when I don't have exactly what you wanted (or even close to what you wanted!), you forgive and return, somehow understanding that we cannot possibly carry everything you want, but we try incredibly hard to please everyone.  You are the folks who understand what it takes to keep this place open, and we thank you.

We aren't giving up - and we will not sell the store to just anyone - and we continue to have tons of plans for this winter.  But consider this heart-to-heart a bit of fair warning about the state of MGS.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Transparency is what makes small towns work, I think.  You can't talk about your neighbor without her eventually finding out.  You can't buy a new car or a new grill, or get a new husband, without the town talking about it.  Lots of folks find this aspect of small towns intrusive, aggravating, and they'll go to exhaustive ends to prevent the natural ecosystem of the town from finding out what they're up to.  They don't seem to understand that that just makes them all the more interesting.  And all the more worthy of discussion.

Even young folks, who've grown up in small towns, graduated from local high schools, still seem to find it surprising when their actions become the topic of town-ish chatter.  Why?  To a great degree causing a bit of a local stir was the point, after all.

So here's a nugget to chew on: we think we have secured third year funding. Not from the bank that promised us our original line of credit, but we aren't holding any grudges.  And it was not without the help of a generous benefactor who has come to our aid in the past.  We owe lots to his willingness to step forward (again!).

But, folks, this is the last year we can hack this without turning a profit.  We have literally taken a vow of poverty to run the store.  It has been a labor of love: love for this community, for the ghosts of the Bell's, for the beautiful place that is Medusa. 

There is little that we ask of you, but what we ask is critical.  Keep shopping here.  Spread the word to your friends.  Be clear about what's at stake here.  (I still struggle with the mentality shared by folks that say they are our friends, but simply can't bring themselves to actually purchase anything in our store.  Being "supportive" means spending money; it's pretty simple.)  Keep providing feedback - we want things to be better.  Also don't be offended if we don't take all of your criticism to heart - there are lots of divergent views out there, after all.

Mostly, keep the faith.  This year has been a struggle for lots of us, we understand.  But we still believe that together we have created something really amazing here, and together we will build a beautiful future.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Moving again...

Thanks to everyone to reached out - we have a new house to rent, and apparently we'll all be having a new neighbor, as Sal sold his house on Willsey Road, too.  Can't wait to meet her - and really can't wait to get my brood settled into somewhere semi-permanent.

(It occurs to me that this blog would be so much more interesting with pictures, so I am vowing to make that happen more regularly.  Or if someone has some amazing Medusa pics, send them to me to post.)

My babes and I have actually managed to spend quite a bit of time at the store lately, and I would like to renew my insistence that we have some of the most interesting people in the world, living right here in our little foot-of-the-mighty-Catskills burb.  Conversations are never light, and I think, just might have more than a few world-saving kernels.

The latest?  How do we become a sustainable community without the overwhelming problem that tends to facilitate action?  How do we become a Sustainable Brooklyn (or South Bronx) or Bellingham, without being big enough to matter or problematic enough for anyone to care?  Should we even care?  Why, after all, should we make our molehill address the problems of the mountain?

I guess there are no "have to's". But how about we focus on figuring out how to talk to each other again?  We're actually getting pretty good at that here in Medusa.  Even though I find the Tea Party movement a bit hard to take, the participants regularly entertain us with their theories, conspiracy or otherwise.  And I happen to love hearing about the dreams of my neighbors, many of which seem to touch on how to become more independent and self-sufficient.

So what if that's the hook: We become sustainable by learning how to rise about the increasing polarization of our communities?  How about here in Medusa, we plain folk decide that we are going to talk more, communicate more wisely and make the world a better place, one life-changing conversation at a time?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Summer in Medusa

What a spring!  We in Medusa have vowed.  There will be no more hospital visits.  No more illness.  No more injuries.  No more firemen in jail.  We're paid up for a while - at least for the summer.

I've personally decided that life is pretty amazing despite the angst and upset of the last months.  I'm counting my blessings, so to speak.  The Medusa Council, filled with bubbly realists and hard nosed optimists, have constructed a full agenda for the summer.  We have a lot going on, folks, and we'd love to see you join us.

There will be music on the porch every Saturday.  Except if it's seriously rainy and nasty, we'll be raising a ruckus with a good old-fashioned hootenanny.  Robert is our Medusa troubadour, a wild eyed long time friend of the Medusa family, who often drags along several neighbors for accompaniment, or joyfully conscripts his audience.  He'll play anything you want.  Last time he played a special song for our new babies, which, in typical Robert style, he calls the fire twins.  So far, he'll be playing June 9th and 23rd, July 7th and 21st , and August 4th and 18th.

We've also been planning for several other bands - Lumen Chichester's group will be back - LuChi and BRB, Locked and Loaded.  Playing an eclectic mix of new and classic rock, they are a fabulous addition to Medusa's venue.  We're hoping Just a Bunch of Guys and Gals will return from Knox, and that we can get Peckham Hollow here again, too.

We're also hosting Mad Medusa Art nights - a crazy, Seattle-ish brand of community art making, just to prove we're just as imaginative on this coast.  We provide materials and tables and maybe a teensy bit of inspiration - you make amazing art.  Open to all ages.  So far, we planning for June 29th, July 27th, and during our end-of-summer Gathering.  We have some cool folks coming to help out - if you are interested in volunteering, give me a shout or email me at

By popular demand - and that's the only reason, honestly, because I'm not sure if these events are quite our thing - we are hosting a cruise-in.  We're going to serve food and drink, and find a band.  It's scheduled for Tuesday evening July 10th.  Please spread the word!!

And - this time by popular demand and because we just had such a blast at our pre-Irene blowout last year - we're having another end of summer festival.  Rumor has it that the Firehouse dislikes our decision to call it a festival, so we are happily renaming it our *end-of-summer Gathering*.  It's very community-centered and feels like it embraces our localism flavor.  We're planning to showcase local farmers and artisans again, make art, eat food and listen to great local music.  Great kid fun planned, too!  The great Gathering is tentatively planned for Saturday, August 25th - if you'd like to participate, give me a shout.

We started a little late in the season, but we wanted to do some hamlet beautification, in a shameless rip-off of neighboring Preston Hollow.  The plan is for some hanging flowers on poles, to be replaced with other seasonal decorations.  I would really like to do something about that ugly bridge, too.  If anyone has any ideas for hamlet beautification - maybe some community art projects? - let me know.

Lastly, my thanks to everyone who has been there for us over the past two months - between a tough late pregnancy and then unexpected twins, we have been running ragged.  We could not have done it without you.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Life with little ones

I thought I would post a recipes from Mollie Katzen's Honest Pretzels.  My kids and I found this one the other day and are having a blast with it...  Lots of healthy, fun stuff to make and eat together!

Here's her Gingerbread French Toast recipe:

2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon allspice
3 or 4 slices Italian or sourdough bread (or try it with the amazing Rudi's bread we've been stocking in the freezer!)  You could also use challah bread, which would be decadent; the folks at artisan bread in five minutes a day have a fantastic challah bread recipe (which I make for the store when I'm not so pregnant!)

Optional toppings:
* Real maple syrup (we get ours from Randy Grippin's Mountain Winds Farm in Berne - it is, without question, the best maple syrup I've ever had!)
*  Applesauce
*  Sliced peaches or strawberries
* Powdered sugar

Mix eggs, milk, and the spices together, whisking until the batter is all one color.  Dip each slice of bread into the batter, then then stack them on a plate.  Heat up a skillet on medium heat.  Place the wet bread onto the buttered skillet and cook till it is browned; flip the bread over and cook the other side.

Serve hot, either plan or with one of the toppings.


Drop by on Sunday, too - we have an impromptu gathering of coffee lovers who join us in the afternoon and we often make them some special treats.  And we have a cupcake maker, with which, as you know, all things are possible!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Slippery morning!

And apparently snow and sleet with give way to arctic temps this weekend.  So in my unrelenting pursuit to convince you to use *this* store as your neighborhood grocery, I am posting a few more recipes and links to inspire your weekend cooking! 

(Don't forget to check out our sales items - circulars are available in the store and on my weekly email.  To subscribe, go to Weekly store updates and click on subscribe at the top of the screen.)

But first - fascinating trends report out from United Natural Foods, our natural and organic foods supplier.  Thought I'd mention a few highlights from their report, not the least of which is the fact that 78% of families say that they are consuming organic food, a trend that has continued to increase despite the global economic recession.  Also, there's an upward trend towards buying more specialty produce - if you ignore the strange fact that so few people cook that Brussels sprouts and squash have become "specialty" - and buying more of the bulk products, including the ancient grains and (often pricey) nuts.

I thought, in light of these interesting news bits, I would start with a lovely Brussel sprouts recipe from Heidi Swanson at 101Cookbooks, discovered via The Bold Italic food blog.  I also pasted an amazing beef recipe from Mark Hoffman, over at Morning Fog Farm's page.

Oregano Brussels Sprouts

To make a meal of this, serve over farro, quinoa, rice, or on top of a frittata. Use leftover oregano drizzle over everything from roasted squash, frittatas, baked potatoes, or with a good amount of fresh lemon juice, as a salad vinaigrette.
24 small brussels sprouts (less if you can only find larger sprouts)
extra virgin olive oil
fine grain sea salt
Oregano Drizzle
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 large garlic clove

1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, plus more to taste.
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing
a big handful of toasted almond slices
Wash the brussels sprouts well. Trim the stem ends and remove any raggy outer leaves. Cut in half from stem to top (quarter, if using larger sprouts) and gently rub each half with olive oil, keeping it intact. Or if you're feeling lazy, just toss them in a bowl with a glug of olive oil.

Make the oregano drizzle by pulsing the olive oil, oregano, parsley, garlic, and salt in a food processor until the herbs are just little flecks of green. Season with more salt if needed, and set aside.

Just a few minutes before you're ready to eat, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in your largest skillet over medium heat. Don't overheat the skillet, or the outsides of the brussels sprouts will cook too quickly. Place the sprouts in the pan flat side down (single-layer), sprinkle with a couple pinches of salt, cover, and cook for roughly 5 minutes; the bottoms of the sprouts should only show a hint of browning. Cut into or taste one of the sprouts to gauge whether they're tender throughout. If not, cover and cook for a few more minutes.

Once just tender, uncover, turn up the heat, and cook until the flat sides are deep brown and caramelized. Use a metal spatula to toss them once or twice to get some browning on the rounded side. Remove from heat and drizzle and toss with as much (or little) oregano pesto as you like. Season to taste, and serve sprinkled generously with the almonds as soon as possible. They really are best straight from the stove top.

Serves 4 as a side.

Prep time: 5 min - Cook time: 8 min


Sirloin Tip Roast

 1 Sirloin Tip Roast (allow 1/2 pound per person)
 Salt and Pepper to taste, or
 Herb Rub (mix thoroughly in a small bowl):
  1 TB dried Thyme
  1 TB dried Rosemary
  2 TB dried Oregano
  1 tsp ground Fennel
  2 tsb Garlic Powder
  1.5 TB coarse Salt
  2 tsp freshly ground Black Pepper
Rub liberal amounts of salt and pepper or herb rub into the meat.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rest at room temperature
for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Set the meat on a rack in a shallow roasting pan lined with foil.
Roast for 20 minutes per pound, or until the meat reaches
120°F for rare, 125° for medium-rare, 130°F for medium.

Remove the roast from the oven, tent loosely and let rest for 10 minutes
before carving. The temperature should increase another 5°F) while
the roast is resting.

Reprinted from The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook, by Shannon Hayes.