Archive for March, 2010

Mar 16 2010

Perrier, the new fire extinguisher

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Today, as I was standing on the platform in Geneva waiting for the train to take me home, I smelled something a bit funny.  Cigarette?  No.  Marijuana?  Nope, definitely not, too chemically…oh yes.  Trash on fire.  I suppose every once in a while a cigarette makes it into the trash can, and that might be a reason why all the stations have metal trash cans.  But the trash and the trash bag were aflame.  Well, that was exciting.  No one else really seemed to notice, not even the woman sitting on the bench next to the trash can, but I was a little concerned.  I pointed a RailClean man (you may have heard of this service recently, when I posted about graffiti cleaning?), who was searching for the source of stinky smoke, towards the correct trash can.  He took a spray bottle of water off his cart, sprayed some into the trash can, somewhat dousing it, and then walked off.  I, in the meantime, snapped a photo.

Trash on fire!

However, the story does not end here.  Another RailClean man showed up a minute later, and decided he’d solve the problem for good.  Toting two big bottles of Perrier, he dumped each into the trash can.  Well, that did the job.

Flaming trash doused with Perrier!

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Mar 03 2010

A mean, lean, no mess, cleaning machine

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Today, as I approached the platform in the train station on the way to class, I saw a crowd curiously gathered around a group of men in orange reflective vests, surrounding the trash can on the platform.  Turns out the trash can was a diversion.  The three men in vests, employees of “RailClean,” the part of the SBB that cleans train stations, were busy cleaning.  One was taking notes on his clipboard, using the shiny-as-usual trash can as a desk.  The other one was standing there, watching.  The third, and this was the exciting part, was cleaning.

What was he cleaning?  Oh yes.  He was cleaning the cement rail/arm rest on the side of a bench on the platform.  More precisely, he was removing the heart that had been tagged on said cement rail with what looked like a permanent marker.  Even the other Swiss people, who normally walk by RailClean employees scrubbing trash cans without a blink, were excited by this one.  So I stood along with the crowd and looked on in amazement.
RailClean fights the graffiti

The guy had a glass box, which you can see in the photo above, which he was fitting, open side down, on top of the enemy heart.  He was slowly destroying the heart by way of blasting the power hose, which entered through the top of the box, at it.  The box was only useful in so far as it allowed said power washing to take place in broad daylight in a busy train station without getting more than a square 10 inches wet.  Maybe the box had a vacuum, too?  Or maybe it was not water at all?  In any case, it was very effective; by the time my train came and I thought to snap this picture, two minutes after he started, the little heart was almost gone and the cement rail was looking sparkling (well, as sparkling as cement gets) new.

Ah, the jobs that the US could create…inventing specialized cleaning machines, paying people to clean, paying people to take notes on people cleaning…

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Mar 01 2010

2 kilos of carrots and a sack of potatoes

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Starting in January, we became members of the Jardins D’Ouchy CSA. By now, we have gone to 4 pickups of our large basket of vegetables, full of local winter goodies,which is essentially about 3 bags full of root vegetables. Fortunately, with the exception of celeriac, which has the unpleasant taste of celery, we like winter vegetables. But we can’t wait until spring and summer veggies, particularly the strawberries, which is a specialty of the farm which supplies the fruit (for now, we’re talking apples, jam, and this week, locally grown kiwis!).

I wish we had thought to join a CSA (or, as they are known around here, une association pour le maintien d’une agriculture paysanne, AMAP) earlier. They first began in Switzerland, and they are still very popular here. We thought to join one last summer, but had to hang out on waiting lists until January. If you are living in Lausanne and looking to join a CSA/AMAP, look at Jardins du Flon and Jardin Potager as well, but I know ours (again, Jardins D’Ouchy) is currently looking to expand and is accepting applications to join in May.  Also, by the way, if you’re looking for a more direct relationship with your local farmers and vegetables than Migros or even the market, but not quite up for the commitment of a CSA, I would also recommend trying out Marché Durable, which already has several groups established in the Lausanne region.

We get a basket twice a month in winter, once a week or so in summer, and we get what is in season right here.  And when I say right here, I mean RIGHT HERE.  Now, almost all of the food we eat comes from fewer than four miles away.  !!!!  What we like about our CSA:

  • Local.  So local.  So fresh.  We do not have to go to the market or store and try to figure out what is in season and where the food was grown; that work is already accomplished for us!
  • Every week, when we go to pick up our vegetables, there is at least one of the Jardins d’Ouchy farmers around.  We can ask them questions and talk to them.  We are getting to know who grows our food!  At some point, they will organize an open house at the vegetable farm, and I think we can go volunteer there in general should we so desire.
  • The pickup ritual.  We bring our own reusable bags and we measure out our own veggies.  We are told how many grams of each kind of vegetable we are to take, and it is up to us to weigh them as precisely as we possibly can.  I am slowly developing a better sense for how many endives make a kilo, for example.  This is useful, but probably not for the people who have to wait behind me in line as I slowly attempt to hone in on the right weight.  Also, I like that everyone in the Jardins D’Ouchy community trusts one another enough to let each person weigh his/her own vegetables carefully and not cheat.
  • While we had to shell out a lot of money up front (although paying in installments is possible), based on our calculations, the money we spend on vegetables should come out about the same as when we were going to the market every week.  And in reducing the middle-man costs and providing farmers with money and customers up front, the farmers can plan a more stable and equitable life.
  • The challenge.  While we are unlikely to discover many new vegetables at this point, as we already bought and cooked every unfamiliar we could find in Switzerland last year, which is generally a selling point for CSAs, we will get more carrots, more beets, and more celery root than we’d ever imagined.  Cooking to fit the season, which we have already been doing, has just been made more challenging, because we now cook in proportion to the available quantities of the vegetables that are in season.  We have little choice in the vegetables we receive, and we are determined not to waste, so we’ve been eating some things that we’d not otherwise have made, or at least not so often.  If we’re really desperate, we can usually find a couple people willing to take vegetables off our hands.  And we can always supplement our given vegetables with a few extras from the market.
  • We can also buy fresh eggs straight from the chicken and raw milk straight from the cow.  We haven’t gotten milk, but the eggs are really nice.  No more worrying about making sense of the labels on the egg cartons in the store!  And the dairy farmer can be paid a fair wage for his cows’ milk.
  • We are now part of a little community.  It would not be crazy that this type of community could, say, result in friends at some point.

CSAs are not just a Swiss thing anymore.  We are hoping to join one back in the USA at some point, too!  Or even help to organize one, should none exist.  There are a lot of resources out there on the Internet, and even the American Jewish community seems to be jumping on the CSA and local, sustainable food movement bandwagon.  See Local Harvest, Hazon, and the Just Table, Green Table URJ initiative for just some examples.

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