Tag Archives: environment

Heifer Farm in New England And The Seven Ms

Heifer Farm in New England And The Seven Ms




“Heifer International is a non-profit, humanitarian organization dedicated to ending hunger and poverty and caring for the earth. Heifer currently provides livestock, trees, seeds and training in environmentally sound agriculture to families in 30 countries, including the United States. We work with smallholder farming families and communities because we believe they are key to feeding us all.”- Heifer International

Heifer International has been a favorite organization of mine for a long time, but just last fall I learned that Heifer Farm, highlighting the organizations programs, is located just about an hour from where I live. After visiting on a Media Day with World Moms Blog in September I could not wait to bring my family back with me to share the experience. Last weekend I was thrilled to have the opportunity to do so for their spring Pancakes At The Farm event.

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We sat down for delicious pancakes bathed in Maple Syrup tapped right at the farm.  Later we were given a demonstration of how it was boiled down into it’s final state of deliciousness in the Sugar House. The kids were delighted with the farm animals and asked our guide thoughtful questions about the organization. Specifically, what were the seven Ms?  Heifer International was founded by Dan West based on his experience as a relief worker. He realized the aid work he was doing needed a new model to help those in need become self-sufficient as opposed to continually being reliant on aid. As a farmer he knew that a gift of livestock was a gift that would keep on giving. Cows provided the 7 Ms: milk, manure, meat, muscle, money, materials, and motivation.  A heifer refers to a pregnant cow, and in 1944 the first dairy cattle were shipped, and Heifer International born.


PicMonkey Collage

The goal of Heifer International is to help communities transform themselves through education, environmental stewardship, empowerment of women in the community, and the legacy of passing on generations of animals and knowledge. This in turn generates the accomplishment of the once recipient turning into a donor in their community. At Heifer Farm one can visit model villages from around the world. My family wandered through Peru, the Tibet region of China, Ghana, Kenya and Poland , each highlighting what a typical home would look like, the animals, and agriculture of each region. The farm offers fantastic camps and programs for all ages. I was disappointed to hear that the women’s Lambing Program was sold out already for this year, where women spend 3 nights assisting during the birthing of lambs at the farm with a focus on Heifer’s work to empower women around the world. I am thrilled to know this amazing resource is so nearby and encourage others to check it out. There may even still be spots this weekend at the Pancake breakfast.

PicMonkey Collage2

Eucalyptus In Ethiopia: The Selfish Tree

Eucalyptus In Ethiopia: The Selfish Tree
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Atalay

Eucalyptus Tree scaffolding

One could not help but notice all of the development as you drove through Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. While there on an International Reporting Project New Media Fellowship in 2014 evidence of the country’s rapid economic growth was displayed by the progress on the roads, buildings, railroads, and homes being built-in, and around the city.  What I noticed most about the “progress”, aside from the Chinese companies working on the roads, were the archaic wooden frames being used as scaffolding on the construction projects. Piles of timber were stacked by the roadside, and carts piled with the thin poles of trees were pulled amidst the traffic often by small boys barely taller than their load.


I was told that the scaffolding was Eucalyptus wood.   Compared to the safety standard steel beams that would typically be used for construction projects in Europe or the USA, the tall slim Eucalyptus trees framing construction projects seemed, well, flimsy, and downright unsafe. The amazing thing is that somehow it works! As cement buildings rise from the dusty streets of the city at a rapid pace, I can imagine this is the way construction has happened for many decades along the way.

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Atalay

Eucalyptus Scaffolding

Eucalyptus Scaffolding

The ubiquitous evergreen hardwood Eucalyptus trees used for scaffolding are not indigenous to Ethiopia. In the late 1890’s the ruling Emperor Menelik realized they needed quick-growing resources for construction of the “new city”, Addis Ababa. The Eucalyptus tree, or Gum Tree, which is native to Australia, was known to grow quickly and easily, so Emperor Menelik imported Eucalyptus from Australia to Ethiopia, where it has thrived (in its invasive and selfish way).

Boy transporting wood in Ethiopia. Photo Credit: Elizabeth Atalay

The Eucalyptus tree, it turns out, demands huge amounts of water and tends to obscure other plants nearby. In Ethiopia it has come to be known as “the selfish tree”, taking for itself all the water and land around it. With Ethiopia facing the worst draught it has seen for the past 50 years, I wonder about the impact of this resource being used to help build the country, while at the same time robbing precious water from the ground.


In travel one is constantly reminded that things we take for granted in one area of the world may not exist in others. “Safety precautions” are a big one, a reminder reinforced for me for example while watching a three-year old wield a machete in Borneo. While I stared in horror, mouth agape, the local adults went about their business unfazed. Or in New Zealand where they sent me abseiling down a 100 foot drop to “black water raft” the rapids through caves on an inner tube with a mere 1/2 hour tutorial under my belt.  Again and again in various scenarios around the world I have thought, this would never fly back in the litigious, and bubble wrapped USA.  In most areas in this world you operate at your own risk, and I find myself wondering about all the travel mishaps we’ve never heard about. In Ethiopia I worried for the construction workers working on the tethered timber scaffolding 10 stories off the ground. My hope being that the “selfish tree” will always come through to support them.

Highrise in Ethiopia with Eucalyptus scaffolding

5 Ways To Go Green This Earth Day

5 Ways To Go Green This Earth Day

5 ways to go green this Earth Day

Do You Know What The Largest Living Organism On Earth Is?

Do You Know What The Largest Living Organism On Earth Is?

When we ski in Colorado and I admire the beauty of the white Aspen trees that fan across the mountains, I remember this fascinating fact.  The Quaking Aspen Tree is the largest living organism on earth. Each individual tree is connected to the next by the root system underground, and each tree shares the same DNA.  That fact just grounds me to the natural beauty of this landscape. The largest organism is an Aspen colony called Pando  located in Utah.









Inspiring Women: Rana DiOrio

Inspiring Women: Rana DiOrio

Rana DiOrio


I am a mother to four kids who on most days feels like I can barely keep my house in order and kids clean, fed and dressed.  Women like Rana DiOrio, the founder of Little Pickle Press, fascinate me.  Did I mention that she has three young children of her own? Rana agreed to let me interview her over the phone to assist me in my quest of understanding her particular breed of überwoman.

The first indicator of her destiny to be successful is probably in the fact that from a very young age she knew exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up.   She wanted to be a doctor, and though it may seem at first glance that she veered off her course, she would be the first to point out that despite detours along the way, she is on the path to doing exactly what she set out to do.  I asked her if she planned to go back to medical school, and she said no, but that she is now helping children in the way that she had always wanted to.  It turns out that the alternative route that she took ultimately made her uniquely suited to do the work that she does. When she was accepted to the Ivy League 7-year medical school she had applied to, around the same time the HMO came into existence, she did the math and recognized the long road to financial liquidity if she pursued medicine. Instead she went to law school where her investment in her education could pay off more rapidly.  She became a lawyer then an investment banker, and a real estate investor. Each career switch imparted various pieces of knowledge that she would ultimately put to use in forming Little Pickle Press.

Her first book What Does It Mean To Be Green? was written for her children.   It was Inspired by her own move from not very environmentally aware Rhode Island, where she grew up, to San Francisco in 1991 where she witnessed a different approach to the environment.  People in the Bay Area were already recycling, composting and eating locally sourced foods, all of which struck a chord with Rana.  She had already changed her way of living by the time she became a mom, so of course she was an environmentally conscientious mom. It was when she felt her children were old enough to begin to understand their relationship to the environment that she wrote the book What Does It Mean To Be Green? as a way to help explain it to them.  She wanted to give them the construct to comprehend sustainability, to write a book that served as a springboard for discussion of how to be green, so that they would not just do it because she told them to but because they understood why it was important.   It was a book that they read together and was intended just for them at that point.

When Barak Obama was elected President, her children were four and five years old, and there existed no context to help explain to them why this was such an amazing development.  She wrote What Does It Mean To Be Global? to  introduce to them the concept of diversity and accepting others with their differences. She wanted to plant the seed of the idea that we can only be successful within a community if we embrace diversity.  When Rana showed this book to friends, the feedback was so positive that she decided to see about getting it published.  Everyone agreed that her books were refreshing and distinctive.  Of course she knew the publisher could only be one with environmental integrity, but even the most progressive publishers print in China on virgin paper and still use dust jackets.  The Publishing industry as a whole she found was still entrenched in 20th century practices.  Rana saw an opportunity to build a 21st century publishing company.   There were a few elements she knew she wanted to include, the green publishing element was paramount. She sourced recycled paper, soy inks and made her books without dust jackets—superfluous paper that children inevitably remove and waste.  She also wanted to make sure to give back by donating a percentage of the revenue to a charity.  Having grown up with a brother who is a two time survivor of leukemia, Rana knows first hand how important support for the families and children with critical illness can be. Because of her experiences, 10 % of the revenue of her first three books is donated to Starlight Children’s Foundation .

I gave this one to my 13 year old!

Rana picked up the bible of the self-publishing industry The Well Fed Self-Publisher: How To Turn One Book Into A Full Time Living by Peter Bowerman.  Published in 2006, this book became the cornerstone of her research in forming Little Pickle Press.  At that point in time she could not have known that three years later she would be sitting on an experts panel with Peter Bowerman and have the opportunity to meet (and thank) him in person.

She has built a company that has become a certified B Corporation , a community of companies that strive to be the change they seek—environmentally friendly, humanitarian, and good to their employees. Little Pickle Press was recently honored as a Top Ten Best for the World B Corp with 10 employees or fewer.

Our discussion next turned to the power of women. Rana pointed out that she thinks women are gaining prominence in government and boardrooms because of the different way that they approach and solve problems.  Typically, women listen more than they talk and synthesize what they hear to devise strategies. Fewer egos tend to be involved and they know how to calibrate what they hear and observe to solve problems. Her advice to other women starting out is trust your instincts, listen to your inner voice, and rely upon your multifaceted skills and attributes.

This past week Little Pickle Press, won the Appy award in the Muticultural Media App category for “Being Global”.  The Appy Awards are the Oscars of the Digital world, and they pay tribute to the world’s finest and most exciting new apps in every imaginable category. The winners were announced Monday night in San Francisco,  competitor up against Little Pickle Press for the award was Disney’s “It’s a Small World” app.  Three years ago Rana DiOrio, who founded of Little Pickle Press did not know the first thing about the publishing world.   Since its inception in April of 2009 she has founded an Environmentally friendly publishing company, written and published numerous award winning children’s books, and has now successfully conquered the digital publishing world.  Meanwhile donating 10% of all book profits to charity.

The newest book in the What Does It Mean series

I fell in love with the books that Rana had written the moment I encountered them.  The messages they teach are all things I had been trying to impart to my own children for a long time,  finally I had found these comprehensible ways to help my kids understand important topics that can be tough to explain.  I loved the opportunity to find out more about the woman behind them in my interview with Rana DiOrio. I can not wait to watch Little Pickle Press Grow!


This month Little Pickle Press is offering the following Specials:


  • What Does It Mean To Be Green? is a FREE download in the iBookstore (http://bit.ly/green-ib) and in the Nook Bookstore (http://bit.ly/greennookbook) during the month of March, and all of our other eBooks are discounted.
  • We are offering 25% off and FREE SHIPPING on any order that includes What Does It Mean To Be Green? on our website during the month of March. Just enter LPPGreen2012 to take advantage of the offer.
  • Check back in to Documama.org on Monday for the chance to win all Four Little Pickle Press “What Does It Mean To Be…?” Titles Signed by the Author!