Cleaning up after Christmas

It took an afternoon and a morning to finish but our Christmas decorations have been carefully packed up and stored away for another year. The house has been vacuumed and furniture returned to its proper place in rooms. It always looks a little bare once decorations are removed but it was time to break down boxes for recycling, get the trash to the street for pickup tomorrow, and mentally start planning for the new year.

oranges

One decoration that I had great fun with this season was dried oranges. I’ve loved to use dried slices to make wreaths, ornaments, and gift adornments. I’ve dried the oranges in my old oven with varying luck. Using the lowest possible heat setting of 175°, oranges had to be watched carefully and turned over a couple of times, and it took hours. The end result varied greatly. Many developed black or scorched areas and had to be discarded.

Samsung OvenBut this year was different. We are the proud owners of a new oven… an oven that has a Dehydrate setting built in! As the Barefoot Contessa would say, “How easy is that??”

It was so easy that I went overboard this holiday and made so many dried oranges that I had to give them away by the bag full. It was just too easy and fun to dehydrate this year. The slices were practically dry in 2-hours.

I moved on from oranges to lemons and nectarines and hung them as ornaments on one tree and as orange slice swags on the other. I them tucked into the evergreens on the sideboard and mantle and into the arrangement on the dining room table.

orange slice

I held a Christmas floral design workshop for our garden club and took a Ziploc bag of dried oranges for anyone to use.  Some did. Most did not. So it was at that workshop while I was re-bagging the leftover oranges that a friend asked, “Have you ever used dried oranges and lemons in tea?”  What????  It was such a simple suggestion that turned out to be an extraordinary one for me. It had never occurred to me to re-hydrate the slices of lemons and oranges in a steeping cup of tea. I just might have a use for all those oranges after all.

I tried it as soon as I got home. And guess what. It works…. it’s delicious…. it’s brilliant…. it’s simple…and I thank you, Becky, for the suggestion!

tea

 

 

Power of the People

Tea fields of Kericho

Tea fields of Kericho

In 2007, the Lipton Tea company announced its pledge to harvest tea leaves using only sustainable farming methods. The company joined forces with Rainforest Alliance, an organization dedicated to biodiversity, protecting wildlife habitats, conservation of water and soil, and the well-being of workers. The Lipton Tea estate in Kericho, Kenya, was the first estate to be certified by the Rainforest Alliance in 2007 as a model of sustainability. By 2015, Lipton pledges that all of its tea leaves around the world will come from sustainable farming and ethical systems.

For the past 55 years, Lipton’s largest teabag production facility in the U.S. has been located in Suffolk VA.  The company imports tea from 25 countries and makes 6-billion tea bags a year. In 2008, the company began an environmental campaign of their own. Plant manager Ted Narozny revealed that this was an employee driven quest for local company sustainability. Over 70 ideas poured forth leading to a gold medal award in 2009 from the governor of Virginia in cooperation with Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, DuPont Corporation and Dominion Virginia.

Suffolk’s Lipton plant has been declared a Zero Landfill facility, no easy feat in this day and age. 70% of the company’s waste products is recycled or reused, 22% is composted and the final eight percent is reused. A bonus for the company’s efforts, they estimate their achievements have saved the facility a whopping $100,000 a year… which they reinvested in more energy savings in the building.

At the Garden Club of Virginia’s 52nd Annual Conservation Forum this month, Ted Narozny accepted for the Lipton facility, the club’s Elizabeth Cabell Dugdale Award for Meritorious Achievement in Conservation.  A conservation award first presented by club in 1974, it is presented to an organization, industry or an individual who is not a GCV member for outstanding work in conservation. As I listened to Mr. Narozny praise the employees of his company for their commitment to reducing the facility’s environmental impact, I was inspired by the resourcefulness and the might that individuals who join forces can generate. They’ve led Suffolk’s facility to produce the greenest tea of all.

Ann Hohenberger, The Garden Club of Gloucester