September 29, 2012

EV Battery seeks TLC for Long-Term Relationship, Hates Temperature Extremes both Cold and Heat

Batteries are just like babies: Babies are happy only when the temperature is just so. When it gets cold, we need to bundle them up. They don't like too much heat, either: we're constantly being warned to not leave our babies in the car in the summer.

About leaving things in the car: when it comes to the car battery, we don't really have a choice. I mean, I've never seen anyone unhook their car battery, lovingly put it in a stroller and haul it inside to protect it from extreme weather.

Yet that is what it would take to increase the lifetime of our car batteries. With very few exceptions, batteries as we know them now rely on chemical reactions to store and deliver energy, and those reactions, as well as the undesirable ones that degrade the electrodes or the eletrolyte, are highly temperature dependent. Whether based on lead-acid, nickel-cadmium, or lithium ion technology, rechargeable batteries do best around the same temperature that's comfortable for humans: right around 70F (about 21C).

I would have loved to own an EV, especially since I've switched our electricity provider to one that delivers energy from renewable sources. Our EV would have been greener than Kermit the Frog.

What stopped me in my tracks is this graphic from battery manufacturer Discover Energy Corp., which neatly summarises the argument from an article in Technology Review. One should take the numbers with a grain of salt, but the overall trends are striking.

The green bars show capacity, or how much energy you can get out of a battery after it's charged, as a function of temperature. Cold weather is not kind to batteries, as it makes the chemical reactions slow down, and with a good freeze you can lose a large fraction of the battery's capacity (compared to its capacity at 25C (77F) ).

We knew that.

What we are learning very quickly now, and especially if we are owners of electric vehicles, is that high temperatures are even less kind to batteries. While the energy capacity increases with temperature, the lifetime of the battery decreases. Rather precipitously. As in, by 50% for every 8-10C the temperature rises above 20C. If you keep a battery at a constant 50C (122F), its lifetime would be cut by a factor of 10.

What does this mean for your EV?

One thing it says loud and clear is that EVs love places like the Pacific coast. Don't we all? Temperatures are pleasant year round. You don't get scorched, you don't get your backside frozen off. Batteries like that too.

Hybrid and EV owners who live in colder places will tell you that they get less fuel economy out of their cars in winter than they do in the summer: that's the effect of capacity decreasing as the temperature goes down.

And now several owners of Nissan Leafs in Phoenix, AZ, are finding that the searing temperatures of Arizona summers have done a number on the lifetime of their batteries, consigning their EVs to the dreaded Turtle Mode.

Not only did it get hot in Phoenix this summer, a car in the sun is the best demonstration of the greenhouse effect: Light from the sun comes in through the windows and gets absorbed in the upholstery and the dashboard - which is often a dark colour so you don't have to squint through its reflection to see the road ahead.

Dark things warm up faster when put in the sun than light-coloured things (ask anyone with black hair). It's true that dark things also radiate away the heat better than light-coloured things (wood stoves tend to be painted black). But that radiated heat, being deep in the infra-red, doesn't escape through the car window: this is the greenhouse effect.

Here is what happens when you park a car on a sunny day when it's 26.5C outside.

This video doesn't mention what colour the dashboard is. It almost doesn't matter: the astonishing thing is that right above the dashboard the temperature shoots up to 83C (181F) - within 45 minutes! Just google "baking cookies on a car dashboard"; I was amazed to see how many people know about this effect. (By the way, don't try this cute trick in a new car: your cookies would end up laced with new car smell, which is toxins outgassing from your car's interior).

The video says that the rest of the car's interior (measured at a seat) heated up to 47.3C (117F) in about the same time. That means that the difference with the outside temperature was 21C (38F). It might take a bit more time for the heat to reach the engine and the battery tucked away in the nether regions of the car, but eventually that will warm up also.

On July 3, 2012, the temperature in Phoenix, AZ went up to 118F (48C). That's already pretty close to the upper end of a battery's operation range. If you're in the habit of parking your car in the sun for long periods of time, it would be enough to push it over the edge.

I suppose if you live in a place where summers are hot, you could park your EV in an air-conditioned garage - but that sort of defeats the purpose, wouldn't it?

Perhaps it's time to face the fact that EV technology is a place-specific solution, the way you can't expect to grow banana trees in the field in Quebec, and a snowboard would be kind of useless in Louisiana.


Where EV batteries thrive:

If you are considering buying an EV, you might check the climate maps to see if your region is EV-friendly. The USDA Hardiness Zones map for growing plants is a good indication of minimum winter temperatures. My guess is that things might turn grim for your EV in Zones 1-4, but that it could be fine (with care) in Zone 5, the same zone in which you would wrap your prize roses in burlap for the winter. Zones 6 and up are fine.

This graphic of mean maximum temperature in July comes from Climate Source. Areas indicated in red are probably not too healthy for an EV. Depending on how conservative you are (after all, an EV battery costs $10,000 to replace), you might want to avoid the orange areas as well. Phoenix lies in that deep-red area in the south of Arizona.

These maps are good for the big picture of climate in the US. You'd do well to get the scoop on your local neighbourhood which might have its own microclimate - as an EV is not designed to wander way off home base, anyway.


Caring for an EV battery:

If you are determined to own an EV even in a non-ideal climate (I get that: I think EVs are marvellous things), and you don't want to wait until next-generation batteries are invented that don't rely on chemistry, there are several things you can do to mitigate the effects of your local climate and to extend battery life. And as with humans, it's easier to deal with the cold than with the heat.

If you live in a cold climate, you might want to keep your EV in your garage at night - that's where the charger is likely to be, anyway. When you go out in the winter, try to park it out of the wind, which would cool it down very fast (that's why it's called the "wind chill"). An underground garage is ideal, the deeper the better.

On the other hand, if you live in a hot climate, keep your EV out of the sun as much as possible. Park it in the shade, catching as much of a breeze as possible if there is one. Find an underground garage, which is always cool in sumer, or else a multi-story parking garage (the more concrete on it the better) between some high-rise buildings. But an even better place to park is on a lot covered with solar cells that can charge your EV while you go about your business.

At the risk of adding to your range anxiety, I should also point out that frequent short trips in your EV, with charging in between, gives a longer battery lifetime than longer trips where you (nearly) deplete the battery before re-charging. Any Toyota dealer will tell you that they have yet to replace a Prius battery while under the 10-year warranty, anywhere in the US. This is because in a hybrid, the battery never gets depleted as much as in an EV before the gasoline engine kicks in and re-charges it. And it turns out the number of charge-discharge cycles that make up a battery's useful lifetime decreases with the depth of discharge: that is not to the advantage of the EV.

Finally, try to avoid the fast-recharge mode. It's convenient but tends to degrade either the electrodes or the electrolyte in the battery, leading to decreased lifetime. A patient, overnight charging is best.

In short, treat your EV's battery (and all your rechargeables) - almost - like a baby.

September 27, 2012

Fuel efficiency update, 2012 Golf TDI

Went to fill up the tank today. It had gone without seeing the pump nozzle for one month and one day. So far, the fuel economy in this 2012 VW Golf TDI has been:
38 mpg around town (25 and 40 mph limits)
45 mpg highway (mostly 65-70 mph)

Beats the EPA spec of 30 / 41 mpg (cty/hwy).

Still, it's on the gas-guzzler side of the average car sold in Europe in May 2012. There is a whole lot of room for improvement - that can be quickly and cheaply implemented. A lot of those European sippers are cheaper to buy, simply because they have smaller engines than the over-powered vroom-vroom ones they've sent over to the US so far. Let's ask for those sippers!


Today, I brought to school:
3 growing children
3 bulging backpacks
2 lunch bags
1 cello
1 viola
1 clarinet
1 walker (CelloPlayer's friend had broken a leg)
1 52" bow (for Michaelmas celebration; no arrows)

It wasn't even uncomfortably full. Is why I love this car.

September 26, 2012

Arsenic in Rice

Once you've got the taste of speaking out your mind, it seems hard to stop. My reaction to the recent reports on arsenic in rice is off-topic for this blog, so I've posted it at BlogHer:
"What's Arsenic Doing in My Rice, and What Can I Do About It?"

September 23, 2012

I Made a Town Meeting Gasp

I'm not the kind that plays for attention. In the background is where I feel comfortable; my husband and children say I even wear mouse-coloured clothes. My mouth is not fast, or loud. But yesterday I stood up at a town meeting and made the room gasp.

The meeting was about how to get sustainable transportation in our town. There were maybe 80 people. There were presentations about how much traffic was coming from where, there was talk of edge-of-town parking lots, public transit, and bicycle routes. And of the necessity to have broad participation among the residents. I agree with all that, especially the last bit.

And I learned a new word: "sharrows". These are bicycle symbols with double arrowheads, painted onto the asphalt of streets to indicate that someone official thinks that yes, bicycles really are allowed there, and please share the road with them. Sharrows are pretty. And some bikers, and some drivers, have told me that they do make a difference.

I cringed when I first saw the sharrows on my town's streets. They were seemingly placed at random; there were no lane markings, like in the photo taken in Manhattan. They looked pretty forlorn. Besides, I just don't think drivers should be encouraged to roll over bicycles - not even in effigy.

I've tried biking the sharrows. They didn't make me feel safer. Within minutes I was back on the sidewalk.

So at the town meeting I gathered my courage and made myself stand up, introduce myself, and say, "Let me offer you a vision: I see myself and my family riding our bikes all over this town -- without this." And I held up my bike helmet.

A gasp went through the room.

Through the ringing in my ears - remember, the attention makes me nervous - I heard someone say, in disbelief, "No helmet?"

Suppressing a sweat-inducing feeling that I've been recognised as a freak, a weirdo and a bad mom who would let her children bike without their helmets, I took a deep breath, and said, "No helmet. The reason I wear my helmet is that it's not safe out there on a bike. If we made it safe: if we had real bike paths, physically separated from the cars and from the pedestrians, we wouldn't actually need the helmet."

I blabbered some more about the need for clear rules of the road that everybody knows, and about Europeans and their children not wearing helmets on their bikes, and then I was politely cut off - for lack of time, you see.

I didn't have time to explain that without helmets, you would get a lot more moms, and our children, out on bikes, and generally ladies and gentlemen who are prettier than me and who don't see themselves putting on a helmet. The only thing worse than helmet hair is hat hair: I get that.

Certainly I didn't say how I felt about the sharrows; after all, a few town residents had worked extremely hard to get even that concession.

The truth is, I think relying on the sharrows to keep bikers safe is like doing birth control by meditating before sex. Sure, it makes you mindful. But with cars it's like with sperm: if you really want to keep them out, you need a physical barrier. In the case of cars, the barrier can be as cheap as a row of concrete logs laid end-to-end on the street, 5 or 6 feet out from the sidewalk. (You would no longer need the parking spaces).

But it's okay that I didn't get to say all that: I had made an impression at that meeting, and I went home happy. I don't expect bike paths to appear in my town next week. Not even next year. But I've planted a seed, and the ground seems to be reasonably fertile. I followed up with an Email full of bike-path ideas for the committee.


What I learned from my two minutes of public speaking:

Even though I'm just a mom, nothing official in my town, it was necessary for my voice to be heard. If I didn't pipe up, how would anyone know that I support bike paths in town?

It would have been more effective if I had brought some bike-riding friends willing to say the same thing. Our group voice counts for a lot more than the sum of the individual voices.

It's okay to be ambitious with your visions. In reality, there will be compromises, anyway. The important thing, for me, is that we get bike paths. If helmets are still required, I will be happy to ride those paths with my helmet on.


September 21, 2012

World Car-Free Day

I have very fond memories of the 1973 oil crisis.
There are many reasons to abhor the oil embargo that led to shortages of gasoline and other modern necessities, and indirectly to the economic woes of the rest of the decade: stagflation, rising national debts, and all the rest of it.

I was oblivious to all that grown-up stuff, but I was old enough to know that something momentous had happened, and that it was worth remembering.

At the time, we were living in the Netherlands, which was one of the few European countries targeted by the oil embargo. My fond memories of the time revolve around the car-free Sundays that the government had instituted in an effort to conserve gasoline. There was a nation-wide ban on driving, with the exception of the police, the fire departments, and medical personel on emergencies.

For the entire winter of 1973 and the following spring, every Sunday the streets turned into a party ground. Suddenly, it was okay to play soccer and badminton, and jump rope in the very middle of the street. After a lifelong brainwashing that the only safe place for children was the foot path or the bike path, occupying the middle of the street gave an indescribable thrill of illicit pleasure, made even more intense by the limited time that such heretical behaviour was okay. On Monday it was business as usual.

But on those Sundays, my friends and I were out biking blissfully in all the places where we normally weren't allowed to go. Some of us ventured out on the newly built highway at the edge of the neighbourhood. In-line skates had just been invented (or anyway, had just become available in the consumer market) and my dad, usually tight-fisted, actually bought me a pair. I spent entire afternoons deliriously sweeping over the highway asphalt that was so much smoother than our brick-paved street.

This Saturday is World Car-Free Day, which is on 22 September every year.

Ahead of this, several dozen cities in Europe have been celebrating Mobility Week, which means getting around on your own power. Last Sunday was car-free in a number of leading cities. Just google images on "car-free brussels" and feel the party atmosphere. It helped that they had a sunny Sunday.

Personally, I can't observe Car-Free Day on its appointed date; I have a scheduled pickup to do that I can't move to another day. But why should that stop me? Since my town is quite oblivious to World Car-Free Day, it sort of doesn't matter when I do it for myself: so I am calling today my personal Car-Free Day.

I can do this because we are part of a three-family school commute share, so while on some days my car is filled to capacity, this year I'm not responsible for driving on Mondays and Fridays. If I play my cards right, I could in principle have at least two car-free days every week. Now there's an enticing idea: I think I'll start playing my cards that way now.

Any way you can fit a car-free day in your weekly schedule?


September 16, 2012

How does QE3 create jobs?

I really don't get it.

Somebody please explain to me how the new round of quantitative easing is going to create jobs like it's meant to. It looks just like the previous two rounds of quantitative easing, in which the Federal Reserve prints money to buy mortgage-backed securities. Yes, those things that caused a bubble the bursting of which led to the crisis that we are still dealing with now, after four years.

More than $2 trillion went into the first round of quantitative easing, followed by $800 billion in the second round, dubbed QE2. Now, in its sequel, QE3, the idea is to pump $40 billion a month into those mortgages until unemployment goes down. Huh? Maybe it should rather be called QE∞, since this could go on ad infinitum.

What is supposed to happen is that interest rates on mortgages go down, making it easier to get and keep a mortgage, driving house prices up, buoying the stock market, making people feel richer so that they spend more money on stuff that somebody has to be hired to make so unemployment goes down.

Whew. Sounds like a Rube Goldberg contraption to me.

What I don't get - but I'm just a geek - is why you cant just go straight to job creation with all that money you've printed. I mean, there's plenty to do around here. If you decided to do something about the nation's crumbling infrastructure, you could give jobs to people who build things: a lot of jobs. Those people would have money to buy stuff, including homes, and that would have a knock-on effect creating more jobs. Not that I subscribe to economic growth ad infinitum - but I do believe in employment for everyone.

The nice things about getting stuff (re)built is that at the end you would have something to show for all that money you printed.

How about better roads? That's "better", not "more" roads. Smarter roads that ease congestion, with public transit either built in, or planned in so it's easy to put in later. Bicycle paths and walkways: the kind of stuff that will pay for itself through better health, and lowered dependence on fossil fuels.

How about a network of fast trains? Everybody else in the ripe world (and some in the developing world) seems to have them already, or are expanding on them. How come the birthplace of the long-distance railroad has, in 2012, not a single track that can accomodate a bullet train? Imagine doing New York to Chicago, or Houston to St. Louis, in 6 hours without the hassle of airport check-in and without the horrendous carbon footprint. Imagine San Francisco to Los Angeles in less than 3 hours. That one is coming, so they say, but an injection of funds would speed its construction.

How about updating the energy grid so we're ready for the late-21st century? Even without the projected load of a legion of electric vehicles, our power lines are tottering on the edge, and even a whisper of a storm can leave thousands of homes without electricity. Never mind the constant brown-outs. We turn off our computers at the approach of a storm; the brownouts can do a number on them. I clean out the fridge, even for a week's trip: I learned the messy way that you can't trust that it will stay on all that time.

These are just some transport-related items. Then there are really important things like our drinking water infrastructure. Don't get me started on healthcare. $40 billion a month is a clobber of money, just 30% less than the defense budget. The National Science Foundation has to make do with $7 billion a year.

Oh yeah: Congress. Almost forgotten about them. But Congress, the people who could tackle and authorise all these projects and make history doing it, is broken. A lot of people are saying that the Fed is using QE to act where Congress can't, or won't.

All this quantitative easing sounds to me very much like preparing for a marathon run, on the Appalachian Trail, by stocking up on syringes filled with those performance enhancing drugs, because the coach who is supposed to help train to strengthen muscles and lungs, has gone missing.

But I'm just a geek.

For more befuddlement, below is a video about QE1 and QE2, "Quantitative Easing Explained", by Omid Malekan. There is also a sequel, made in February 2012, "Quantitative Easing Revisited". See if you can watch them without laughing. In a grim sort of way.



September 15, 2012

Review: 2012 Nissan Cube

Nissan's Cube is a mini-MPV that wins no points for its aerodynamic design: Like the name suggests, it is both stubby and boxy. Its drag coefficient Cd=0.35 puts it squarely in the SUV category (compare with Cd=0.24 for the sleek Tesla Model S). But it is exactly that shape, so defiantly different, that distinguishes it from the rest of the pack. You can spot a Cube from a mile away.

The tall boxy shape makes it great for stowing things you need to move around. A cello fits easily across its width, behind the back row of seats. American parents report being unable to fit three child seats on the back row, because American child seats are very wide. On the other hand, you can fit an unfolded child stroller in the back. And (without children in the car) the back seats can be folded down to make a large cargo space; access is easy because the thresholdless rear opening.

About the rear opening: apart from the asymmetry (another distinctive feature), it's enough to make vertically challenged people like me sigh with contentment: If it opened upward like a hatchback, I would have to jump to get at the open door every time I need to close it. Good exercise, but I bet it gets old really fast. As it is, the rear opens like a refrigerator door (one wide refrigerator): a toddler could push it closed.

The rear door is thoughtfully hinged on the left side, with the handle on the right side close to the curb. So if you park on the right side of the street you can open the rear door from the curb side.

This is thoughtful, because it is not how the Cube was born: the engineers who designed it made it for Japanese drivers, who drive on the left side of the road.

Sure enough, if you look for the Cube on Nissan's Japanese website, you will find that Japanese Cubes are the mirror image of the ones you find here in the U.S.: steering wheel on the right, and rear door handle on the left. And the rear window wraps on the left. It's the kind of attention to detail that makes a model fly on any continent.

It is perhaps the Japanese love of water gardens that inspired the relief on the ceiling, which resembles the water surface when a hit by a single drop of water. I would find it disconcerting to have a feature like that, but inverted and hanging over my head.

Instead I would much prefer the glorious sunroof, edges curved to follow the wave pattern of the dashboard (the sunroof is not available in the U.S. because of cage construction rules). The sunroof is big and lets in plenty of light and warmth. Of course, the warmth can quickly turn to uncomfortable heat in Japan's sticky summers. As with most sunroofs, you can reach up between the front sun visors and pull back a cover that blocks both heat and light.



If you want the light but not the heat, there is an option, intensely Japanese, of pulling a shoji screen over the sunroof, which is stowed in the ceiling space just behind the sunroof. I doubt that the screen in actually make of rice paper, but if this feature were available in the U.S. I would jump at it!

It is becoming increasingly popular in Japan, where the elderly make up a large part of the population, to equip a car with a swivel chair on the passenger side, for increased mobility for people who would find it difficult to climb in and out of a car otherwise. (Click on the picture below to the page demonstrating how the chair swivels out and down to street level). Certainly the cargo space behind the back row of seats is large enough to hold a folded wheelchair. In addition, there is an optional wheelchair ramp that allows for a wheelchair with passenger to enter the car via the rear door.

For the younger generations, the Cube comes optionally jam-packed with such conceits as USB connection, iPod interface, satellite radio and other distracting technologies.

Of course, the U.S. version comes only with a 1.8L engine that I estimate will do 29 mpg on average for manual transmission, while the Japanese version gets a 1.5L engine that gets 38-40 mpg (my estimate) even though in Japan the Cube only comes with automatic transmission (as far as I can decipher the specs).


Nissan Cube US and Japan, different engines

U.S. Japan
Type Cube 1.8 Cube 15S
Year 2012 2012
Emissions rating T2B5 LEV2-LEV  
MSRP $ 14,890 ¥ 1,449,000
($ 18,500)
CelloMom Rating
Fuel Economy:
City/Hwy quoted 25 / 30 mpg  
Avg. quoted   18.0 km/L (JC08)
(42 mpg)
Avg. actual 29 mpg est. 38-40 mpg est.

4-cyl. 16 vlv.

Power 122 HP 5200rpm
127 lb-ft 4800rpm
108 HP 6000rpm
109 lb-ft 4400rpm
Transmission 6-spd manual 2WD Auto CVT
Fuel Regular Unleaded  
Length, mm(in) 156.7 in 3890 mm
Width, mm(in) 66.7 in 1695 mm
Height, mm(in) 65.0 in 1650 mm
Weight, kg(lbs) 2789 lbs 1170 kg
Trunk volume, liters(cuft) 11.4 / 58.1 cuft  
Turning radius, m(ft) 30.2 ft (dia) 4.6 m (radius)
Top speed, kph(mph)    

September 8, 2012

The hockey stick and the Honda Odyssey

Remember the "Hockey Stick" controversy? The term referred to a graph of average global temperature over the past 1000 years, and shows that the temperature has been rising steeply since the start of the Industrial Revolution. The controversy was about the origin of the uptick. The consensus is now that global warming is related to the rising CO2 content of the atmosphere. But even if you disagree with that, what is clear is that the data falls on a curve shaped like a hockey stick.

Call CelloMom a nerd (I can't deny it), but every time I see a 2012 Honday Odyssey go by I can only think of the hockey stick temperature data. I can't get it out of my geeky head. The overall shape of the side windows follows that curve. Only on the Odyssey it's defiantly curved down.

Despite the re-design for this year, the Odyssey retains its epic proportions, and in the US still only comes with that silly 3.5L V6 engine that gets an average of 21 mpg. Ulysses would never have made it back to Ithaca at that rate.

At least the Japanese version of the Odyssey (with a straight window profile) gets up to 29 mpg. And comes with an optional swivel chair on the passenger side.


September 3, 2012

How to eat locally in winter?

I once planted a row of carrots. It was only a short row. They sprouted and grew beautiful green tops that smelled wonderfully of earth and promise. I tended them as well as I knew how. As harvest came closer, I started having visions of carrot and shaved almond salads, carrot and tofu scramble, carrot cake, and other orange-coloured delicacies. It was with the greatest anticipation that I went out on the appointed day and dug up my carrots.

My harvest was one pinky-sized carrot.

To this day, I'm still in the dark about what went wrong, exactly. As I am in the dark about what went wrong with all my other vegetable gardening experiments. I mention carrots because it is one of those cold weather crops that I could plant right now and harvest in November (perhaps with a bit of protection).

I'm thinking about it because this week the Reduced Footprints blog, on its Change The World Wednesday block, features my challenge to make a plan to keep eating locally even in winter time when CSA farms and farmers' markets tend to close down. The challenge arose from my ruminations after writing a post on "Freeing our Food from Fossil Fuels". Eating locally is an obvious part of the solution, and in summer it is easy. But what to do in the winter months?

Initially I was glad that the challenge was featured in Reduced Footprints' blog now, in August, now that there is still time to prepare a garden bed and sow seeds for cabbages, carrots, brussels sprouts, kale, and other cold-hardy crops.

Then I remembered about my carrot.

Time to admit that I've no talents that are useful in the backyard. There goes my zero-foodmiles ambition. But there must be other things that I can do. I'm already passing up on crops that come from the other hemisphere, like raspberries sent to American grocery shelves from Argentina. I've been cutting back on Thai mangoes and such.

So here is my bid for eating locally, at least as locally as I reasonably can, for this winter:

Freeze the summer bounty
My CSA share is giving me huge quantities of vegetables right now, and I freeze what we can't eat immediately. Nothing like breaking open the sunshine tucked into the home-made pasta sauce, in January! At the end of the season, "my" farmer invites all the CSA members to help clean out the fields (and donate part to a local food bank). That party is good for up to 40lbs of broccoli, kale, cabbage, and yes, carrots, and other crops that can be kept for a long time. Still, my freezer is not large enough to contain our food for the entire winter.

Winter CSA
I'm going to ask my CSA farmer, who has been mumbling about extending a winter farm share, whether he plans to start this year. If he wants to run a pilot, I'd sign up for that.

Farm market
I'm keeping my ears open for a winter opening of the local farm market, which has many organic stands. Another farm market stays open throughout the winter, albeit with reduced hours, but most of their stands don't offer organic produce. I'd have to think about that.

Buy local from the store
I'm going to research what crops are grown locally in wintertime (or stored from the fall harvest) and buy those from the neighbourhood health food store (who tend to offer local crops anyway, and label them as such). And yes, this means field-grown produce, nothing out of a greenhouse.

Here is an added benefit: with any of these approaches, I can get my produce without cellophane, plastic bags, styrofoam or other packaging. Because I'm also working to reduce my household waste, and trying to get away from everything plastic.

This means that I will be learning how to cook with what the land around me offers. (For me, "around" means within 150 miles or so, the distance "my" milk farmer travels to deliver his dairy products). It should be possible to find ways to serve cabbage three times a week without incurring a dinner-table revolution; after all, cabbage is the winter staple in a large number of cultures.

One last thing: I am determined not to sweat this. For this first winter, I will be mindful, and I will do what I can to source the bulk of my produce locally, but I'm not going to get uptight about it. I can't: I'm still learning how to cook gluten-free and now also largely meat-free. I'll still serve buckwheat, rice and other grains grown far away. I'll still buy oranges and grapefruits from far away. I'll still put cumin, cinnamon and sea salt into the cabbage soup. This is a first step, and hopefully I'll learn enough this winter to take further steps next winter.