Thank you Barbara and Bill

As an eager college senior who’d just been granted freedom (through protest and special dispensations) from the meal plan, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle, Bill McKibben’s essay on his year of eating local, and Michael’s Pollen’s Omnivore’s Delemnia.

Compared to my current self (with car-requiring commutes of 30 minutes in all directions for my 6 jobs) who often forgets reusable bags at the grocery store, my college city-dwelling self excelled at most things environmental. But there was one place I knew I was lacking. I never made my own tomato sauce.

I worked on a few farms over the years where surplus tomatoes were mine for the taking. But I’m as lazy as the next guy and Bove’s makes such great stuff I could never compete. My buddies Barbara and Bill, however, left a voice in my head that insisted that to have “made it” in the local food world you had to make your own tomato sauce.

This past August, when I drove home from a month of living in the woods eating Quaker Chewy bars and headed straight to a friend’s wedding, I left my piles of dirty laundry in our apartment’s hallway.  The next day, I dove head on into farming and found myself surrounded by so many beautiful, if slightly imperfect tomatoes.

It was now or never. If I didn’t bring home 30 lbs of those seconds today, I might grow old having never made sauce. The dirty laundry could wait. The sauce could not.

Forget that it was a weeknight, that I had no notable plan of what to store the sauce in to freeze it; that I’d spend almost as much on dried herbs to add to the sauce as I’d save from not buying sauce later. I had to borrow a neighbor’s pot. I boiled the sauce over two nights and still had to add tomato paste to thicken it up. And I  definitely forgot that pile of laundry in the hallway.

I’m here to tell you can have it all. We ate our first freezer sauce on the first full day of winter and it tasted full of summer. I can see why most folks treat sauce making as day-off-from work activity. But on my days off of work? I’d rather be rock climbing, working a second job, or enjoying time with the husband I abandoned while eating chewy bars that month before. I did sacrifice some sleep and that valuable floor space in the hallway.

Whether it tastes really freaking good because it is, or because Barbara and Bill say theirs does, or because it had gosh darn better for all that effort, I may never know. And who cares.


Birthday Party Belay

A lot of my early rock climbing experience involved kids (including myself as a kid), climbing walls, and really tight, confidence- inspiring, top rope belays. So much so, that this type of belaying is ingrained in my muscle memory and my husband is constantly wishing I’d give him even the tiniest bit of slack on top rope climbs.

I’ve come to refer to this type of belay as a “Birthday Party Belay.”

Aside from kids’ birthday parties, this belay is great for those scenarios where you are absolutely terrified you might fall and even though falling should elicit no fear because the actual amount of slack in the rope is small, you are too lazy or tired to want to drop and have to redo any more of this climb than absolutely necessary.

Some in this scenario might say “uprope” or “take” and sound professional.

But I prefer to say “birthday belay, please.”

Or , if I’m really scared or out of breath, I’ll just say “birthday”and we all know what it means.

A friend of mine went to a workshop with other climbers and reported back that, to her surprise, none of them knew what a birthday party belay was. I am forever grateful she educated them, as I think it is a very practical term. I would like to see it spread across all of the climbing world, so I am starting tonight with this blog.

Oh, and a hashtag. #birthdaybelay

Why not think about something fun like a birthday party when you are in a moment of unnecessary terror on a climb?

Please join me in this movement.