Starting a CSA share

CSA stands for community supported agriculture.  The idea is you give farmers money at the beginning of the season.  Then they provide you with fresh veggies and possibly fruits at set intervals during the season.  They end up with a predictable income, you end up with fresh locally grown veggies (often sustainably farmed if not organic).  Generally you don’t get to choose the veggies you get, but some CSAs allow for choice.

The local harvest website can help you find a CSA near you.

Some thoughts about CSAs:

A CSA is not for the faint of heart.

If you can’t handle bugs or dirt, don’t do a CSA unless you live in Southern California or some other major metropolitan area that is really good at washing veggies.  Salad greens are the worst for bugs and grit.  Some websites recommend using saltwater to get rid of the bugs, but that can wilt your veggies.   For greens, rinse your veggies off briefly.  Then fill the sink with luke-warm water and soak the greens.  If things are really bad, clean out the sink and do it again.  Rinse as needed as you transfer veggies to a salad spinner.

If you don’t like greens, find someone to give them to (easier than you think!) or don’t join a CSA that has winter deliveries.  Greens! Glorious Greens! can make some greens bearable, but …

Get a salad spinner!  Also:  if you can’t eat your greens fast enough, the salad spinner in the fridge is a great place to keep them.  They stay fresh longer and are easier to grab for things like sandwiches.

The Victory Garden Cookbook is essential, as well as amazing and awesome.

Is a CSA worth it?:

CSAs are often less expensive than buying veggies at the grocery store.  Often even if they’re not certified organic, they use organic practices (the ones around here think organic certification is a government conspiracy but also have serious organic credentials in terms of knowledge and sustainable farming outreach).

CSAs can provide amazingly fresh and sweet produce that make you look at some vegetables with newfound admiration.  Lettuce for example.  A freshly picked salad is joyous.

CSAs help you to eat more veggies and to try veggies you’ve never tried before.

You may end up getting veggies you can’t stand.  Or used to mildly dislike but after several months can no longer stand (hello turnip greens).  If you don’t find someone to pawn them off on, you may feel guilty.  Some CSAs will donate your unwanted veggies to local shelters, which is a good thing.

You may not be able to process all of your veggies before they get unhappy.  Don’t be afraid to process and freeze them.  Still, some weeks you may not have the time to process them.  For these busy weeks we recommend taking them to work or daycare or giving them to a neighbor.  Especially if they’re greens.

So money wise, they’re totally worth it if you always buy organic and if they’re improving your health by encouraging you to eat veggies.  If you don’t use the veggies in time, they can end up being more expensive than hitting the farmer’s market or Whole foods occasionally.  Even if you don’t care about organic, the flavor from fresh local produce can make this a phenomenal option, even if it is more expensive than conventional veggies shipped in from South America.

Have you tried a CSA? Could you handle random veggies every week? What are your favorite and least favorite veggies?

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Labor supply of women over time

One argument that many folks make, including such notables as Elizabeth Warren, is that this is the first generation in which both parents worked, and in which both parents needed to work.

Which, is, of course, not actually true.

The year I was born, 50% of our married mothers with children were working mothers.  The year my mother was born, that number was 20%.

Most papers looking at the labor force participation of mothers start after WWII.  What if we take a longer view?  Claudia Goldin has.  We strongly recommend her book on the topic, Understanding the Gender Gap:  An Economic History of American Women.

So, let’s go back in time… looking here at married women only, not just married women with children (for data reasons).

One common argument is that WWII is responsible for the large increase in married women’s outside the labor force participation.  Others point to the removal of marriage bars in the early 1950s, an increase in clerical work, an increase in public high school education, and other political and economic movements.  By 1950, 21% of married women were in the labor force, and that number has steeply increased each decade to today.

Before WWII, marriage bars kept married women from working outside the home.  Goldin estimates that in 1890, only 2.5% of married women worked in the labor force outside the home, compared to 80% of married men.  By 1940, that number had increased to 12.5%.

Where did marriage bars come from?  The Victorian era (late 1800s) ushered in a new era of bizarre beliefs about women and sex.  Some revisionist historians point out increases in women’s rights within the family unit (eventually leading to suffrage), but given how much crap was going on outside the family unit pervading popular culture… it’s likely that those didn’t really have a large impact on women’s labor force status.

During the Victorian era, the (second) industrial revolution was going on.  Industrialization allowed for two distinct classes– the Victorian ideal with the sheltered woman who doesn’t work but stays at home (perhaps having been a mill girl at a safe factory prior to marriage to earn her dowry), and the harsh reality of the lower-class working families, in which even the children worked in dangerous conditions.  This was truly the first generation with surplus (for more than just a very small percent), and it wasn’t that long ago.

Prior to the second industrial revolution and the rapid increase in factories, women were involved in home production, most notably “putting out,” a manufacturing process in which the assembly line was broken up across many households.  Something similar actually goes on in parts of rural China these days.  General data are not available for the extent of these, but it is likely given scattered evidence that married women’s market work (albeit, market work in a home-based business) was higher prior to the marriage bars in the 1890s than it was during the time period Goldin’s book covers.

Indeed, men’s outside the home labor force participation was also lower prior to the second industrial revolution because the economy was farm-based and the labor of both parents and all children was needed for subsistence. Some recent work suggests that the specialization of labor within households and on farms was dependent on many things, possibly including whether or not the immigrant’s previous culture used plows (just saw a paper suggesting that the plow led to a culture of believing the woman should work inside at home rather than outside of the home).

If we look at the labor market experience of black women rather than middle-class white women, we see much higher levels of labor force participation throughout history.  Widows and single women have also traditionally had much higher labor force participation rates.

So really, the 1950s Donna Reed thing was only a blip, and an illusionary one even then.  Without marriage bars forcibly banning work by married women at the tail end of the Victorian era, working rates for women would also have been higher.  Women’s labor force situation over time is long and complicated, but we are not the first generation to both work and take care of the home.

A related post from happiest mom discusses the middle-class hiring of help over time.

Are you the first generation in your family where the woman works outside the home?

Showing Up

#1: I am unimpressed with this person who wants to be my RA (research assistant):

“I can only work from home at nights and then come in on Sundays”. Nope. Not gonna work. I need your ass in my lab during normal business hours.

#2: yeah, no

#1: yeah, no.

#2: at least ze’s telling you in advance

#1: the sad thing is, ze could be a good researcher. Ze worked at [good research university] before, which is good. But then ze got married (why is ze telling me this?) and moved to rural Nebraska for 7 years, where ze did who-knows-what (no professional references).

Now ze lives in Blighted Town but has 3 kids under 5 years old and no daycare.  (seriously, why are you telling me this on your RA application?)  Um… good for you, I guess, but I need your ass in my lab during business hours.  You will now have the consequences of your life choice to move to nowhere and do nothing for 7 years and then gain a full-time job caring for your kids. You’re doing a hard thing, possibly a good thing, but what you’re NOT doing is working with #1.

#2: (“Oh, I’m sorry. You seem to be mistaking #1 for someone who cares about your life.”)

#1: hahahaha

#1: ze swears ze’s hardworking, smart, a fast learner, motivated, etc., but hir most recent science course was like 8 years ago and ze hasn’t got the methods I need in the lab.

#2: Thing is… we come in contact with TONS of students who have problems.  If we took care of every single one of them, we’d never get anything done.  So we stick to the university approved problems.  “Your mom died, ok, you can retake the final after the funeral.”

#1: yup

#2: You got hit by a car? Sure, you can skip class.  Get notes from a friend.  Depression?  Get a note from campus counseling and you can drop the course without penalty (heck, you might be able to get your tuition back too).  Your boyfriend dumped you?  That’s too bad, it happens, have some chocolate, but you still need to turn your homework in on time.

#1: Right.  You moved to Nebraska?  Sorry, no dice.  Life choices, life consequences.

#2: Sad as that may be.

#1: indeed.

#2: And there are folks with all sorts of life situations who make it work.

#1: I don’t CARE why you can’t be here normal business hours. But that’s what it comes down to.  You could work full time, be a senior caretaker, hibernate, be allergic to the sun, protest the tyranny of banker’s hours, I don’t care. But whatever it is, if I can’t see you on weekdays, this job is not for you.

The ironic thing is, there are semesters when this might have been ok.  I have had semesters where most of my RAs’ work could be done online in their own time (writing things, searching literature, tracking down articles online, etc.)– especially during the semester when they were moving the lab to a new building.  [Don’t even get #1 started.  For starters, they took apart the  furniture in the middle of the semester and lost the hardware.  Just for starters.]  Though even then I still needed to see them and meet with them sometimes.  But at this point in my research program, we are collecting data and I need bodies in the lab to do that.  I am even sympathetic to people balancing family and work/school — I really am.  Some of my RAs always have kids (they are single moms, even with young kids) and jobs (even fulltime, off-campus ones).  But they make it work somehow.  This person’s not going to.  I wish I could help hir re-enter the work force, but not at the cost of my own productivity.  Sad face.  (But not too sad, because I refuse to feel guilty.)

#2:  Patpatpat.  We can’t save everyone.  And some folks are better prepared for our help (because they can show up on time) or more in need of it (see university approved excuses).

Link love

Lots of stuff about the wimmin this week.  Hopefully the links will all work– apparently blogger has been eating posts and comments.  WordPress rocks.

We start with FSP and some of the super annoying commentary we have gotten from men whose wives stay at home with their kids.  The comments are also illuminating.

We discovered the happiest mom this week (thanks wandering scientist!)  The post itself is fascinating about how women have always hired folks to help out, which is true, even poor women had someone help with the laundry back in the day (it also dovetails nicely with our upcoming Monday’s post on labor market participation of married women over time).  A followup addresses some of the bashing of women who don’t do their womanly duty of unpaid household labor because somehow woman’s work is too degrading to pay someone else to do, unlike, say, yard work.  Also, an older post on guilt (which we are against) with the addendum that when women do this they’re making it worse for the rest of us who don’t want to feel guilty about things… like all those skinny women in LA who constantly say they’re fat and shouldn’t be eating that — OMG — french fry!  Glad to be back in the heart-land where I don’t feel guilty for being almost normal weight.

A fantastic xkcd comic on how there have been many many women scientists who are not as famous as Marie Curie because they were discriminated against.  If you’ve ever read The Double Helix, you know that Rosalind Franklin deserved that Nobel and that Watson should have been put in jail for theft.  It’s all there in Watson’s words.

won’t someone think of the children!? (no, really, please do think of the children.)  Related:  tax bills in 2009 lowest since 1950.  I’d be willing to pay a little more in taxes for the future to be a little less terrible for these kids.

Here’s a link stolen from Donna Freedman from Scalzi way back in 2005, on being poor.  There’s a reason we save a LOT.

An exciting announcement from Hyperbole and a Half!

Bardiac linked to this page of better book titles.  Fun!  Anna Karenina totally needed a sassy gay friend.

We’re in this week’s carnival of personal finance.

Mental soundtracks to grade by

I have Joan Baez:  How much grading can one person do, before she goes insaaaaaane?

One of my colleagues favors Tom Petty:  The grading is the hardest part.

What do you sing to yourself while grading?

When did you start doing what chores?

And when are your children starting those chores?

I started learning basic chores around age 7.  I ironed, vacuumed, cooked, cleaned windows, dusted and polished furniture.  I also put my stuff in my room starting at an earlier age (though never did get the hang of cleaning my room) and was folding socks and underwear somewhat earlier when we did laundry.  I was responsible for making my own lunches sometime in 4th grade and that’s about when I learned how to mend as well.  I was cooking full meals and taking care of my sister by myself sometime around 12 or 13.  Laundry I didn’t actually do until age 15 because my mother is very particular about that for some reason.  Even hanging laundry outside.

I notice with my preschooler that we’re still pouring hir drinks and doling out hir food before taking it to the table rather than letting hir serve hirself.  I don’t remember when the switch came to me pouring or serving myself.  Ze does put away hir folded laundry, even though it is not as neat and tidy as an adult might do it, and ze is very good at putting toys away after playing with them (yay Montessori).  Ze has been helping with vacuuming and sweeping since ze could walk (we have some great video of hir at that age).

Has there been a decrease in child self-sufficiency?  Time use studies suggest that even as dads are doing more chores, children are doing fewer.  Do you think this trend is true in your case?

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Sunscreen (or maybe sunblock)

So before I left the natural parenting group, they convinced me that modern sunscreen is evil.  I’m not sure whether or not it’s true that sunscreen is actually evil, but what can you do?

Anyhow, there’s this webpage that rates sunscreens for toxicity.

The problem with it, the natural mothers say, is that companies will game the system and will use similar new or untested chemicals that aren’t included in the ratings list.

So what do they recommend?  Old fashioned sunscreens sunBLOCKS! that are mostly zinc oxide (and not micronized zinc oxide or whatever that term is).  These include:

Badger (we special order from Amazon)

California Baby (you can get this one at Target)

and I think that’s it.

These sunscreens tend to leave your kid kind of pale, and they’re much thicker than regular sunscreen.  But there’s my PSA.  If you’re worried about sunscreen toxicity, those are the brands to go with.  According to some possibly crazy ladies and a website.

#2 says:  NOTE  distinguish sunscreen (which works by chemical reaction with your skin) from sunblock (more of a barrier method than chemical, and often more natural minerals) (guess which one is better for those with skin problems?)

#1 notes that none of the other websites seem to distinguish between the two, so she thinks that sunblocks are a type of sunscreen, a subset of the greater sunscreen category.

#2:  bzzzt, wrong.  People tend to use them interchangeably but those of us with complex skin problems aggravated by sun exposure and allergies know the difference.  As summer approaches, vampiric #2 stocks up on sunblock and stays far away from sunscreen.