Last Minute Christmas Shopping

by Colleen Wells

It’s Christmas Eve and a light rain falls from a dreary sky. I’m in a foul mood because I’ve got last minute shopping to do for Christmas and our family has just been to see Dr. Foley, a holistic health practitioner who has urged us to clean up our diets. That in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it means I need to be extra thoughtful in my grocery shopping.

I already ordered some under $20 items from LL Bean, including gummy worms lying in small, plastic tackle boxes, solar powered flashlights, and foot warmers that can be placed in the toes of shoes, but it is not enough loot to fill the stockings. I must get that done, too. I ask Rick and our two sons to wait in the car, knowing I’ll be buying surprises for them.

While approaching the grocery carts, I notice there are only a handful of them available, never a good sign. The handle of my cart is wet from rain. I take a deep breath and wheel it through the door. The overhead florescent lights are shockingly bright. While I’ve been sensitive to this on occasion, today’s blaring intensity throws me further off kilter. The upbeat, piped in music seems louder than normal, too. With the assault to my senses and an acute awareness of people in various states of pre-Christmas nirvana, I feel like I’ve  just been launched into a giant pinball machine.

I remind myself to stay away from the canned and boxed foods as much as possible. I also recently read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food. The author explains that healthier fare is found in the perimeter of the store.

Slowing down by the hummus on my way to the lettuce, I see the case is surrounded by people, and skip it. I always thought that I fed our sons pretty well and prided myself on the fact that unlike many children, they enjoy things like hummus, sushi, and salad.

I navigate toward the veggies, to stock up for our new approach to health. After picking up spinach for salad, I head toward the other vegetables along the wall which is lined with shoppers. A woman is examining a long, white vegetable while the produce clerk explains its bitter taste. Dr. Foley told us that Yakob’s craving for peanut butter was indicative of his nutritional deficiencies which could be counterbalanced by eating a wide assortment of bitter-tasting veggies. I consider the item, but it resembles a small limb from a Birch tree and decide that even if I could figure out how to cook it, there is no way I’m going to get the kids to eat it. I bypass the man and woman still discussing the vegetable’s finer points. While reaching for some squash and zucchini, I’m thinking it must be nice to have time for such banter. Next I select broccoli and carrots before heading toward the bananas and apples.

I circle back to the organic dry goods, recalling that Dr. Foley recommends spinach pasta. When we presented him our food diary, he pointed out that most of the items we’d charted turn to sugar in the body, including the pastas; and suggested we try spinach noodles.

Locating the spaghetti I’m amazed at how dark it is and wonder how it will taste. I grab some kettle-cooked potato chips. The chips are not on my list, but then again, I don’t have the list. It’s at home hanging on the fridge. Upon making my way past the pharmacy, I dodge a swarm of people gathering near the check-out lines by taking a hard right down an aisle. Finding myself in paper goods, I remember that we need toilet paper, recalling Rick’s dissatisfaction with the new, eco-friendly brand I bought last time.

He had said that we owed his daughters, who visited over Thanksgiving, letters of apology because it was so abrasive. They will be back a few days after Christmas and I search for the softer kind that is still environmentally friendly, but can’t find it. While I’m reaching for the Charmin, a woman is talking on her cell phone across the aisle and I overhear her say, “Well the parking lot was packed, but people are in good spirits, so it’s not too bad.” Her hair is fashioned in a French twist and she’s wearing a tailored coat. Holding the phone to her ear with manicured fingers, she seems to not only be able to multi-task, but is also in control of her purchases, and probably never buys the wrong kind of toilet paper.

There’s nothing in this aisle suitable for stocking stuffers, but I’m delighted when I stumble upon nightlights that double as small clocks in the next row. Remembering that I want to get Christmas treats for our animals, too, I head toward the pet section and pick up some cat nip and a felt glove with long pieces of string attached to the fingertips. The packaging guarantees hours of fun. After selecting some balls and rawhide chews for the dogs I spy a table of stuffed animals nearby.

Feeling a painful tug at my heart, I reminisce about how I used to love to get our sons new Teddy Bears for Valentine’s Day. The softer and more plush the bear, the better. But the boys are no longer interested in them, so I grab some York Peppermint Patties from a nearby display. They are Rick’s favorite candy and his stocking needs filling, too. Scanning the table for more stocking stuffers, I’m disappointed that the remaining offerings include only gift wrapping paraphernalia. I back up my cart to turn around toward the magazine aisle in search of a particular one the boys like, and nearly side-swipe a shopper. I look up to apologize and it’s the woman with the French twist who is still on her cell phone. She casts me a look of disgust.

I’m thinking about how rude it is to talk on the cell phone and shop–indeed the near collision wasn’t completely my fault– and inadvertently pass the magazines. I then miss part of an announcement that comes over the intercom, something about thanking faithful shoppers and singing Christmas songs for a prize.

Seconds later a patron is crooning “Away in a Manger” over the intercom system. Her voice is gratingly off-key and heart-felt, an awful combination on both my ears and psyche. I’m feeling the added pressure of knowing Rick is probably growing impatient in the car. That’s when I go into a zone and start grabbing random things: ranch dressing seasoning mix, a variety of flossing implements for Rick’s stocking and plastic dinnerware with Miley Cyrus smiling up from the plate and bowl. The boys claim to hate her, but they often watch her show and I feel deliciously wicked as I place their gag gifts in my cart.

Sometimes there is no room to move my cart around the other patrons, so I abandon it and walk past them to reach my items. Every time, I think about how I’ve left my purse in the cart, how it isn’t wise, but I don’t have the energy to bring it along. It’s a hulking Vera Bradley book tote that I’ve been meaning to downsize.

Someone is dramatically singing “Santa Baby” now and I notice a couple shaking their heads. They are dressed in jeans and both have unkempt hair. The man is sporting wire-rimmed glasses and a wide belt embossed with a Western design. The karaoke is getting to me, too, so I make a beeline for the register, passing by Mrs. Goodwin, the boys’ principal on the way. We exchange hello, but don’t stop to talk as we normally would. I gather from her contemplative expression that she’s on her own last minute mission and grant her the space to get it done in peace.

Falling in line at a register, I realize I’m still short on stocking stuffers and snag some sugarless gum. Glancing at the ingredients, I wonder what kind of chemicals makes it both good for your teeth and raspberry-flavored. There are too many to read in one sitting. Michael Pollan says anything over five is a bad sign. Normally there are all sorts of goodies at the check-out, but everything is picked over and the boys don’t need film.

While I’m loading my purchases onto the counter in defeat, I take care to stockpile the meager assortment of stocking stuffers, making a mental note to ask for a separate bag. When I look up from the task, Yakob is standing there watching me, and I lose it.

“What are you doing?” I yell. “You’re supposed to be in the car!”

His large, brown eyes widen with a look of hurt. He hands me an umbrella saying, “Pop wanted you to have this.”

Before I can explain my reaction, he turns away, head lowered.

The denim-clad couple who shook their heads over the goofy music is behind me, staring in shock.

“I just didn’t want him to see his stocking stuffers,” I say.

The man pushes his glasses back further on his nose.

“I understand,” the woman says. “This is the first year our son didn’t want a stocking. He asked me to give one to his girlfriend instead.”

“I guess that’s what I have to look forward to,” I say, suddenly overwhelmed by sadness.

The man’s face softens with a sympathetic smile.

The cashier is someone who is normally cheerful but isn’t today. Through previous conversations, I’ve learned that she’s the mother of four children, and my heart goes out to her having to work so hard on Christmas Eve, dealing with frantic shoppers. As she finishes with the previous customer, I realize things could be worse. She begins solemnly ringing up my purchases and I tell her about the separate bag loudly enough so she can hear me over the baritone voice belting out “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.” She alerts the approaching bagger of my request. He’s just come back in and is soaking wet, and now I understand Rick’s sense of urgency about the umbrella.

The singer’s efforts garner him a round of applause from the crowd gathered at the nearby pharmacy awaiting their turn for a chance at the prize. The irony is not lost on me that the pharmacy, which regularly doles out twenty-first century medications for depression, behavioral issues and diabetes is now pulsing with holiday cheer.

At the end of my transaction I thank the cashier, and wish her and the bagger happy holidays, then glance back at the couple and say good-bye.

As I’m heading toward the door, someone starts to sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” I push my cart faster until I’m outside in the pouring rain and search for our car. Several seconds pass before I see it in the distance. While fishing for the umbrella in my purse, a woman runs toward me with a newspaper pressed to her head. She is wide-eyed and muttering, “This is madness.”

I pause and try to think of some encouraging words to say.

All I can offer her is “Good luck” and a weak smile. I raise the umbrella, and move forward with my cart of random crap, focusing on the silhouettes of my family, waiting for me in the car, blurry through the raindrops.

The Ryder ● December 2014

Deer Gone Wild

This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land ● by Colleen Wells

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

— Mahatma Gandhi

A doe stands by the edge of a neighborhood street in a wooded area east of Clarizz off 3rd street. She casts her gaze at my car as I slowly drive by. Then behind her two fawns rush to her side. One of them is gnawing on leafy green vegetation which hangs from its mouth. This is a common scene around Bloomington, where I’ve even witnessed a doe nurse her fawns in the middle of Maxwell Lane.

While deer are a species native to Indiana, there was a period of time from 1893-1934 when deer were absent from the landscape due to hunting and habitat loss. Introduced back into the environment in the mid-1930s, the population is growing despite further loss of habitat and hunting. To help keep the balance in check, controlled hunts have been held in some Indiana state parks as early as 1993.

Deer seem to contain an ancient wisdom reflected in their eyes and can adapt to an ever-changing environment. Some think they have adapted too well and that they are wreaking havoc on the ecosystem. Others feel strongly that there must be a non-violent solution for human-deer coexistence.


And yet the debate points to issues even greater than the deer. It calls for a closer look at what is happening with the environment as a whole. And in a town progressive in its environmental stewardship, many are wondering about the decisions that have been made.

In September 2010, the DTF (Deer Task Force), comprised of eleven members with diverse expertise, began meeting monthly. It was appointed by city officials to explore options and make recommendations to local officials and Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). The Executive Summary of their final report describes concerns for residential neighborhoods as well as the approximately 1,200 acre Griffy Lake Nature Preserve: “When it comes to deer at Griffy Woods, clear evidence points to ecosystem damage by deer – native tree seedlings are not regenerating; herbaceous plant species are severely compromised and possibly going locally extinct; invasive species are taking over some areas; the forest understory is unnaturally open; and the understory-reliant birds and other animals are losing habitat.”

The Summary also addresses our role in the problem: “The increased presence of deer in the woods and in residential areas is the direct result of human action. We have fragmented wildlife habitat, sprawled ourselves across the landscape, provided deer with ideal ‘edge’ environment and eliminated virtually all deer predators. As a result, deer are abundant. In some areas, and to some residents, deer are overabundant. Deer are not to blame for this situation—we are.”

Task Force recommendations call for a deer cull at Griffy Lake Nature Preserve using hired sharpshooters and additional lethal methods of handling the in-town deer including a “trap and kill management” during which deer are lured into a cage with bait to reduce stress then shot. The cull at Griffy Lake may begin as early as November 15, 2014.

Bob Foyut, a wildlife rehabilitator and a member of the Deer Task Force, stressed the complexity of the matter. He says that while “for the public it’s a very emotional issue,” the task force worked well together to develop solutions. The decision to kill the animals is not something Bloomington officials or residents take lightly.

Lethal methods for eliminating deer are considered and employed in many areas of the United States. For example, in a report in Newsday, Stephanie Boyles Griffin, the senior director of innovative wildlife management program for the Humane Society of the United States, who discussed the Bloomington issue with former Deputy Mayor, Maria Heslin, wrote that in Hastings-on-Hudson, “gardening enthusiasts arrived at a village meeting to hire someone to cull a local herd of deer.” In this case, when backlash from residents ensued, non-lethal options were instilled. PZP (Porcine Zona Pellucida), a contraceptive vaccine delivered through a dart, was proven effective in closed areas including Fripp Island, S.C. Hastings-on-Hudson is the first open community to try this.

The article also states, “A second non-lethal technique ready for widespread adoption is being tried in suburban Baltimore and Washington, D. C. and in communities in California. Does are being sterilized, their ovaries removed in a 30-minute procedure perfected by veterinarian Steve Timm of Wisconsin, working with wildlife biologist Anthony DeNicola of Connecticut, a sharpshooter who owns a business that until recently specialized in culling deer.” DeNicola is the founder/president of White Buffalo Inc., the company who will conduct Bloomington’s cull.

Heslin said of Boyles Griffin, “In 2012, I was hearing rumblings that lethal options might be on the table, so I tried to find a national expert who could help the DTF fully explore non-lethal means. Through a connection I made with the president of the group Farm Sanctuary, I had the opportunity to meet HSUS wildlife expert Stephanie Boyles Griffin. She and I had several conversations about how other communities handled the challenges of deer management, and she talked a lot about how the issue, if not handled incredibly thoughtfully, can tear communities apart. She offered to come to town to give a public presentation or speak with Council and do a site assessment, but she needed to be invited by the decision-making body — in this case, City Council. … Just a couple of days after that phone call, the DTF issued its final report.”

Non-lethal methods were explored by the Deer Task Force including “Fencing,” “Deterrents and Repellants,” “Reintroduction of Predators,” “Trap and Translocate,” “Contraception,” and “Sterilization.” Details in a Taskforce powerpoint, available online,  relating impracticalities of non-lethal methods are included and clearly expressed. For example, one of the concerns about contraception is that it “addresses population growth over time, but not immediate concerns with human-deer conflicts.”

Costs of both lethal and non-lethal methods are also listed. Sterilization costs “$800-$1,000/doe plus ongoing maintenance.” Costs for Trap and Euthanize are “$300/deer plus ongoing maintenance” and Sharpshooting ranges from $200-$350 per deer plus continued maintenance.

Rebecca Warren, Executive Director of the Monroe County Humane Society, addressed the challenge of the human-wildlife balance. “Bloomington is rich with parks and preserves, laying the ground work for an abundance of wildlife taking up home here. There has to be a healthy balance of accepting that we choose to live in an area that’s also attractive to animals and wildlife. I can accept that animals might eat my Hosta plants and moles are going to leave holes in my yard, but I also don’t want to see wildlife beginning to pose safety risks to themselves or the community.”


She also explained how educational efforts about animals are beneficial to wildlife such as deer. “Humane Education is absolutely one of the largest pillars in our organization. Teaching both youth and adults how to live humanely with animals, both at home and in the wild, animal safety and teaching kindness are core to Monroe County continuing to be a safe place for animals, wild and domestic. I think there’s always room for our programs to learn and grow as a community’s needs grow.”

Use of non-lethal methods is still the hope of some residents of Bloomington including members of BANIDS (Bloomington Advocates for Nonviolent Innovative Deer Stewardship). The organization recently called for legislation to ban bow-hunting which is legal in city limits. BANIDS is pushing for a waiting period of two years before lethal methods are taken. During this time an accurate census of the deer at Griffy Lake could be taken and innovative solutions explored.

Heslin cites this as one of the reasons the debate is so polarizing, “National experts and common sense dictate that you need to count deer before any type of management plan is put in place so you know the scope of the issue, yet the City refuses to do so having too few deer actually causes ecological harm so not knowing the baseline yet killing up to 100 is irresponsible.”

A Strange Stew

A quest into understanding more about Bloomington’s deer community begins at the farmer’s market. Amongst the autumnal offerings is a table helmed by Alyce Miller displaying information about the impending deer cull at Griffy Lake. Indiana University Miller is Professor of English and Creative Writing at IU; she is a passionate advocate and writer who has practiced law in the area of animal welfare.

“At first I was actually incredulous,” Miller says. “I sort of thought it was a bunch of… to be honest a kind of wacky minority of people who had never dealt with animals. I wasn’t very charitable in my thoughts, but I didn’t think it was going to become what it became… it never occurred to me that [the Task Force] would recommend a lethal method.”

She adds, “I had no idea of how powerful they were in terms of grabbing the attention of their council members.”

Having studied the situation for several years while being active in council meetings, Miller, who also teaches an animals and ethics course and wishes she had a penny for every time she’s been called a Bambi lover, attributes misinformation and fear of wildlife as part of the issue.

She moved here from San Francisco, the first city in the U.S. to mandate composting. When asked if environmental initiatives related to the environment occur there that perhaps we should model, she says, “The deer issue is tied into environmental issues for me. We need to stop using herbicides. The city uses herbicides, and people are constantly spraying Round-up in their yards here. I’ve never lived in a place that’s so suburban. The deer issue is tied into environmental issues for me. In Berkley they’ve outlawed all gas-powered trimmers, edgers, blowers, and mowers, and they’ve outlawed using herbicides … so it is possible.”

Miller points to the irony that “lawns attract deer because they are edged species like we are and they like open savannahs like we do and though people don’t realize … they have provided inadvertently the perfect habitat or attractant for deer.”

Miller explains how a misconception over who “owns” wildlife originated.

“The public trust doctrine came out of Roman law through British Common Law and is a concept in the U. S. We the people own all the resources. We own the waterways. Basically wildlife belonged to no one and everyone. People think the DNR own the deer. No they don’t.”

What Happens When You Remove Jenga Blocks from the Tower of Biodiversity

Jim Poyser, Executive Director of Earth Charter Indiana, which, in his words, is “a state-wide non-profit organization that works on issues of political transparency, waged equality, social and peace justice issues, and all that within the ecological footprint of our earth.”

It’s a complicated issue,” Poyser says. My perspective on it is the World Wildlife Fund issued a report yesterday that is devastating when it comes to the state of animals globally. The numbers are more shocking than we’ve ever seen before, and I think they even surprised the World Wildlife Fund people.”

Poyser continues, “One of the conclusions of the statistics is that while animals have diminished world-wide at an alarming rate, human population over the last 40 years on the planet has gone from around 4 to over 7 billion. We are a species run amok. If part of the perspective of this deer imbroglio in Bloomington is that the deer are running amok, I would say there’s an interesting analogy for you. People are running amok and … when it comes to a more macro issue where you’ve got habitat for animals, you have humans through development encroaching on it. Then obviously the most important thing is once you have removed the predator, a keystone species from an ecosystem, you’re going to have proliferation. Deer are extremely destructive to a forest system. You can’t blame them, they’re just animals. And they’re animals reproducing, just like we’re animals reproducing. You can’t blame us. It’s the fundamental right to reproduce, but the Tragedy of the Commons here is that every single deer is God’s creature depending on how you interpret God.”

He adds, “If you remove these Jenga blocks from the tower of the ecosystem, you need biodiversity and anything that encourages biodiversity should be embraced. We need more green spaces. We need corridors and easements, and that’s the key with the predator.

On the Other Side of the Fence

Keith Clay is a Distinguished Professor of Biology at IU. His specialty is community ecology, which he describes as “how organisms interact in ecological communities.” Clay was also a member of the Deer Task Force. He has been the Director of the IU Research and Teaching Preserve since the day it was established in 2001, and he has tried to engage in research projects that take advantage of the natural areas of the preserve that are also addressing locally relevant issues. “I’ve been doing research as part of my position in the Griffy Lake area for 25 years at least or more. And a lot of it is focused on plants, their growth, reproduction, establishment, but also how they’re interacting with diseases, herbivores, animals that are eating plants. I’ve been aware that there’s been a gradual attrition of plant diversity at Griffy for quite a while. For example, a PHD student in the late 90s, worked on a group of plants that you can hardly find any more. In the late 90s, they were common. Now they’re not common. You can hardly find them pretty much. And at the same time we’re seeing these ever-increasing populations of deer.”

Clay explains, “Whether deer were causing these losses of plants we established I think it was like in 2005, a couple of exclosures, where we just built fences to keep deer and other large animals out to see what would happen and quite quickly stuff started growing, bigger, better, faster, inside the exclosure indicating that things outside were getting eaten big time.”

Clay addresses what some see as a problem with the experiment. “The opponents are disseminating what I would consider misinformation or disinformation and one of the common things… that these studies were done at the IU Research and Teaching Preserve not in the Griffy Nature Preserve, and it’s technically true, but it’s all part of the same system. It’s one big patch of woods. The deer just go back and forth. They share a long border and it’s all part of the same ecosystem.

Clay concludes, “The cull will preserve not just the vegetation, but the entire diverse ecosystem. The decision to have a cull was the result of two years of study by a large panel of people with outside expertise. I guess my point is there is a small group of animal rights activists that want to stop this any way they can. It needs to be viewed in that light that society in general does not agree with their position. If you look at the policies around the state, in Indianapolis, what Bloomington is planning on doing is no different than many, many other places. Basically, nothing controls the deer except human hunting and car accidents.

Guns & Griffy

The plan as of this writing is for sharpshooters hired from White Buffalo, Inc., who according to their website, offers a “strong approach to urban deer management” to euthanize 100 deer over a 9 day period at Griffy Lake Nature Preserve.

I spoke with Tim McColligan, a deer hunter who participated in a managed deer kill near his home in Dallas, Georgia.

“We had a controlled hunt at Red Top Mountain State Park. You could look at the deer and tell they were emaciated. They were running out of food. They had shooters qualify a weekend before, and took the top 10 hunters. They didn’t want deer running around with arrows hanging out of them. The meat was donated to homeless shelters.”

“What’s the most humane place to shoot a deer?” I ask.

“We hunt right behind the front leg where the vital organs are with bow-hunting.”

“Sharp shooters will be used at Griffy Lake. What’s the most humane way to take a shot that way?”

“A bullet to the head is the quickest way. But you can have a lower percentage [of accuracy] due to its [the head’s] size.”

Tim is curious about the weaponry that will be used. He owns a rifle that a bullet can travel 6 miles from.”

White Buffalo addresses bullet safety on their website which states, “We have thoroughly tested and selected bullets, in addition to having developed specialized bullets.  As a result of our extensive testing, we have found that no bullet fragments with significant size or inertia exit the target animal, therefore ensuring public safety.  We have extensive experience in both lethally removing and capturing deer in a variety of human occupied environments without incident.  We have used our discretion in the selection of shooting sites with satisfaction of both local/state officials and property owners.

I explain to Tim that the issue is very polarized in Bloomington. “Can’t they load em’ up and have them taken somewhere that’s wide open?” he asks.

“From what I’ve learned, that puts too much stress on the deer.”

“So’s a head shot.”

Mary Harris is an animal communicator and consultant in Fountaintown, Indiana. “When people ask me how animals feel about being hunted my answer is pretty blunt…they don’t want to be hunted any more than you and I do.  That said, every animal I’ve talked to about this subject has said that, given a choice, they would much rather be hunted and killed quickly by a single, lethal shot than to go through the horrors of slaughter. For them, that is far preferable than being crammed onto a livestock trailer and hauled who-knows how far, before being herded into a terrifying kill factory.”


On a lighter note Susan Davis has been a wildlife rehabilitator for 14 years. She lives in Bloomington and specializes in raccoons, recounts stories of when she gets calls about animals.

On a call about an opossum in someone’s yard, Davis advised the caller to, “Enjoy your opossum wildlife moment. It’s the only marsupial in all of North America.” Davis, who started her work caring for opossums, says, “They are the only mammal that will go after a mole.”

Davis says of wildlife rehabilitators, “Most of us welcome the calls we get to help resolve conflicts.  Because we understand the species involved.  People who take the time to find us online and call always have a special place in my heart.  They see a problem and want to find a peaceful resolution.”

She cites an example: “So it was with the woman who called upset because her family dog had killed a nursing mother raccoon foraging during late afternoon.  Female raccoons will forage during daylight when they have a litter of cubs so they will be able to protect them from night predators and also keep them warm.  Cubs cannot thermal regulate until their eyes open at about four weeks old.  They are born with eyes and ears closed. It was June so I knew the cubs would be forced to come down from their nest in a large tree to find food and both of us knew the dog would have the advantage.  Because this caller seemed so wildlife friendly I was encouraged to suggest she build a shelf and feed them until late August.  She was thrilled.”

Davis loves observing the deer she feeds on her property during the colder months. She and her husband made a pact that because trees were felled in building their retirement home, taking away food for wildlife as a result, they would supplement food for the deer. “So we put out stumps in back and from November 1 to April 1 we put out deer chow and shelled corn topped off with apple pieces and peanuts. Our herd of does and their yearlings come all year for the salt block, but they also know when the stumps will be filled.”

Davis describes the hierarchy of the herd. “Since 1999 we have had a steady number of 6-8 in the A team that appear healthy and strong. If the winter is especially difficult the B team may try to join them, but the alpha female keeps order and they will only be allowed a few mouthfuls.  They do not appear to be starving either. We try to plant bushes they do not prefer such as boxwood and holly and so far none have been disturbed.  They do not let us grow hostas, however. Too tempting. But that’s our social contract. Their needs now trump our needs and it’s up to us to live in harmony.”

[Author’s Note: I would like to give thanks to everyone who gave freely of their time to weigh in on this issue. I recognize this is a sensitive topic for many.and this piece only scratches the surface of the complexity of the matter.]

Bloomington Deer Timeline:

  • September 2010 The Deer Task Force, established by the City of Bloomington and the Monroe County Commissioners to address residential concerns surrounding the increasing deer population, begins meeting monthly. The eleven members of the Task Force are charged with educating themselves on all aspects of deer life as it relates to the urban/suburban environment in order to provide the community with options on how to best mitigate the negative impacts of deer proliferation.
  • October 2012 The City of Bloomington-Monroe County Deer Task Force releases its recommendations for deer population control at Griffy Lake Nature Preserve in its report entitled Common Ground: Toward balance and stewardship. The Task Force concludes that “sharpshooting is the most efficient way to cull the greatest number of deer in the most humane way possible.”
  • December 6, 2012 The Bloomington City Council accepts the recommendations of the Deer Task Force in their Final Report, Resolution 12-13, with a unanimous vote.
  • April 9, 2014 Ordinance 14-04 which allows sharpshooters to kill deer at Griffy as recommended by the Deer Task Force to cull the population, is approved by the Bloomington City Council.
  • April 11, 2014 The Mayor of Bloomington, Mark Kruzan, vetoes Ordinance 14-04 saying, “As a matter of conscience, I cannot support the killing of deer in the community. Legalizing deer hunting in Bloomington will irreversibly change the nature of the community.”
  • April 24, 2014 The Bloomington City Council overturns Mayor Kruzan’s veto of the kill ordinance with a 2/3 majority vote.
  • November 15, 2014 Sharpshooters provided by White Buffalo, Inc., a leading expert in urban deer population control, are authorized by the Special Purpose Deer Control Permit, issued by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, to begin taking out 100 deer in the Griffy Lake Nature Preserve. The kill, estimated to take place from November 15, 2014 to February 28, 2015, is expected to yield an estimated 5,000 pounds of venison which will be donated to the Hoosier Hills Food Bank.


The Ryder ● November 2014

Jonathan Bloom And The American Wasteland

● by Colleen Wells

[ED: Jonathan Bloom, author of American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It) spoke at Indiana University last month. His book, published in 2010, earned the 2011 International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook Award.]

Pies, pasta and pizza are often better the second time around, but what about the rest of the leftover food in your fridge? If you don’t know what to do with last night’s corn or beans, try mixing them in with a pot of chili. Reallocate on-the-edge bread to feeding ducks, or use it to make breadcrumbs. Fading lemons, oranges, and apples can be used to create potpourri, and coffee grounds can be left in your fridge to neutralize the odor of stale food. These are the types of things we can all do to make a dent in the 160 billion pounds of food Americans waste annually, And, according to Jonathan Bloom’s book, that’s a conservative estimate.

Jonathan Bloom has been researching food waste since 2005 when he had a seminal experience as a volunteer for DC Central Kitchen. While witnessing piles of donated food, the author became overwhelmed and intrigued by the vastness of it. In the introduction to American Wasteland, he writes: “That summer day in our nation’s capital, my task was to man an industrial-sized vat of pasta. This was not a plum assignment in a building without air conditioning. Yet the job’s mindlessness granted me time to look around while I stirred the spaghetti with an oar. I noticed a variety of foods that somebody hadn’t wanted. And it was all good stuff, too.”

From there Bloom began asking questions and exploring the topic on his blog. like his book, his blog offers as many solutions to food waste as it does point out the scope and severity of the problem. There’s a forum for readers to post tips about reducing food waste. They include bringing leftovers to coworkers for lunch, feeding scraps to chickens, and getting creative with putting leftovers in omelets.

All of these, like the ideas listed above, are small suggestions we can use at home. And they are suggestions that just make sense. In a phone interview with Bloom, who lives in Durham, North Carolina, the fact that it makes sense not to waste food was discussed from many different angles.

Colleen Wells: What events and memories have informed your journey?

Jonathan Bloom: Wasting food just doesn’t make sense. When I came to realize how much food wasn’t being used, I was stunned and confounded. I had this real ah-ha moment in DC Central Kitchen in Washington where I was volunteering, where I saw all of this food that they had recovered that would have otherwise been thrown out. I saw not just the massive amounts of food but the beautiful kinds of food and the variety and the quality of food that at most places would be thrown out, but, in this instance, was being put to good use.

Having that experience really forced me to start asking some questions and start doing some digging as a journalist. The more I’d go looking for food waste, the more I found it. To this day I keep learning more and more about where food is discarded in our food system and some of the rationale behind that waste. For the most part, none of it happens for a good reason. That’s the shocking part of food waste that keeps me interested in the topic and passionate about it.

CW: That makes a lot of sense.

JB: Yeah, and just to flesh it out a tiny bit more on the background, as I said before, it’s kind of common sense. Why would anyone waste food? And that’s my perspective but the experiences I had growing up in a family where we took all of the leftovers home from a restaurant, where we saved leftovers from our meals at home, and then also where we were told to just take what we wanted to eat and to try not to take too much. All these were formative experiences…

My grandfather would finish up everyone’s plate. My grandmother–I remember watching her eat a drumstick, a chicken leg–seeing her get every morsel of meat off that bone really caused me to take a moment of pause as a kid. I guess you just don’t see that kind of reverence for food most of the time these days because we as a culture, for the most part, haven’t gone without food. But for anyone who’s lived through the depression or even the rationing of WWII, or had parents who did, you’re going to approach food differently and more likely than that, you’re going to really appreciate that food.

CW: We have a daughter who we’ve adopted from Haiti who does that with chicken legs.

JB: And why wouldn’t someone do that? We have different sensitivities, but we as a culture err on the side of being a bit on the squeamish side and we only want our packaged, boneless chicken breast. We don’t want to deal with the entire animal and we don’t want to face the actuality of what we’re doing when we eat meat, but that’s a separate topic.

CW: We are so busy as a culture and have gotten away from cooking and using wholesome ingredients.  What are your thoughts on this?

JB: That’s certainly part of the problem of poor nutrition and food waste. Not having enough time, [and] leading these incredibly busy lives. We have stepped out of the kitchen to a certain extent, or we don’t have the time to cook where we wished we did, so as a result we’ve lost some of those traditional food ways… Collectively speaking, we’ve lost some of those tricks and tips of making food last and stretching food and most importantly, knowing when food has gone bad or not knowing how long you can keep food or even how to store food so it can last longer, how to prepare food, or can food. Busyness and the loss of food knowledge go hand in hand in creating this culture that has lost its way with food, period. And you’re starting to see a reaction against that, and thankfully more and more people are starting to learn some of those traditional food ways to get better at using all of their food and getting back to eating seasonally and cooking more. It does take time to be able to pull that off… [but] where there’s a will there’s a way….

CW: There are so many ways that food is wasted from the seed to the fork. What are some of the most surprising things you discovered in your research?

JB: The most disturbing aspect of waste to me is the fresh food that never ends up leaving the farm. That happens for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s based on macroeconomics where the price of the goods doesn’t justify the investment to harvest it. Sometimes it’s due to a lack of available labor or possibly the policies on immigration leading to lack of available labor. For whatever reasons, to have this fresh, nutritious food that could be going to help feed hungry people, to have that be plowed under or just rotting at the bottom of an orchard or the bottom of the trees at an orchard, that just doesn’t make any sense. There’s food wasted at every level of the food chain, and the more I looked, well, there’s just an abundance of more foods available for recovery because of our excess.

But as we move forward, I think it’s vital to focus on the healthiest foods so that we’re not exacerbating existing problems like obesity and food-related or diet-related illnesses in trying to solve hunger. So it’s all about finding the healthiest, most nutritious foods out there for everybody, and all the loss at the farm level just seems to be a lost opportunity to help those in need.

And I don’t want to cast any blame really on farmers and growers who I think in many cases are victims of circumstances. It’s not that, it’s that we have to figure out some logistical and policy-based solutions to harness the excess food.

CW: You offer many solutions in your book.

JB: I was a little vague there in the solutions part. There’s so many gleaning organizations who are able to harness volunteer labor. There’s one avenue for change and then I think that there should be some involvement from the USDA in trying to promote food recovery at the farm level and that hasn’t happened since the late `90s. There’s a real opportunity there, especially where you have farms that are receiving federal subsidies. I think that’s an avenue to make sure that food recovery happens. If you’re gonna take some federal money then let’s contribute all that food back to society and find a way to harness that excess so that it’s profitable for the growers who I recognize have a pretty tough path these days.

CW: We have wonderful farmer’s markets and coops and small farms in Bloomington. Do you feel like that’s a huge key, here, reducing travel involved in getting food to our plates?

JB: The long distance food chain is certainly to blame for a lot of waste, so eating locally will contribute toward a more local food system. I do think it’s a process where if more and more people are voting with their food dollars for a local food economy, then that’s going to have an impact. And more importantly, perhaps, would be that when you eat locally, whether it’s going shopping at a farmer’s market, or growing your own foods, the more connected we are with our own food, the more likely we are to respect and value what we eat. That connectedness is what’s really going to make a difference with food waste.

And it really carries through with adults and kids alike, in that if you can get kids, for example, to have a school garden or even a backyard garden, they’re so much more likely to want to eat their vegetables when they’ve played a role in creating them, growing them. Kids who grow kale, eat kale for the most part and all the sudden it’s miraculous. You’ll see this transformation where broccoli goes from being something yucky to something delicious and being a part of that process can have a magical impact on how we approach food…

CW: I totally understand. It’s hard to stay connected to our food with three kids on three different soccer teams, and I’ve worked in preschools where it can be discouraging seeing what’s in the children’s lunches… how else can we teach our children about food? I didn’t grow up in an environment where we did canning, but there are things I’d like to try with my family.

JB: We didn’t do canning either. We were definitely a supermarket-based family, but we valued (the) stuff we got. I would think canning would be a nice way to do it. I just went apple picking with my kids, but I have mixed feelings about that as I’m stepping on apple after apple that’s fallen by the wayside. I think the good probably outweighs the bad because of the awareness and connectedness that you’re fostering, but that’s debatable…

I was in Colorado this summer, and there’s this really neat org called They map all of the readily available fruit. There are apple trees all over the place in this town where I was staying, in Boulder. And we would be out for a walk and go by an apple tree, pick an apple or two, and that would be our morning snack, and it all just felt very organic for lack of a better word.

I think there’s something to that, just getting kids to realize that food doesn’t happen from the supermarket, and whether you’re gardening out back or in a community garden or enjoying the random apple tree run-ins, they all go toward that same end of connecting kids to their food better.

CW: That dovetails with another area of waste. It’s school lunches. I’ve seen waste in schools where I’ve worked, and it seems like it would be easy to redistribute the food.

JB: I’m with you. I’m astounded that there’s all this waste at the school cafeteria level, and for the most part, food doesn’t have to be thrown out. Leftover, packaged foods could be recovered or rescued and sent to a non-profit. There’s this huge misconception that all food in a school cafeteria setting has to be thrown out per USDA rules and that’s not the case. They’ve just added something to the Good Samaritan Act. In 2012 this congressman put an addendum on the Good Samaritan Act to make sure that people knew it applied to schools… and while there might be variations from county to county or state to state, for the most part we could have that kind of food recovery program happening at a school level.

Of course that doesn’t apply to the kid who takes a bite out of their sandwich and doesn’t want to eat any more. There’s nothing you can really do with that.

CW: I’m really interested in the composting. Can we talk about how wide-spread it’s becoming because I didn’t even know when you mentioned in your book that in Seattle and San Francisco there is mandatory composting per household and in San Francisco for businesses too. Has that taken off more since your book came out?

JB: Composting has grown steadily in the last five years and more and more cities and towns are instituting household composting, usually starting with a pilot program to test it out. So we’re at a point now where more than 200 cities and towns in America have curbside composting which is fabulous. But certainly there’s room for so much improvement there, and hopefully that will grow because there’s really no reason to be sending nutrient-dense food scraps to the landfill where they just create an environmental hazard in the form of methane emissions. So we’re taking a potential soil amendment, a potential plus, and turning it into a net negative when we throw away food, and unfortunately about 97% of the food waste created ends up in a landfill.

CW: That’s definitely another thing that families can do.

JB: Yeah, I was going to say that, and it’s not like you have to wait for your city to institute a compost program. You could do it in your back yard. If you don’t have an outdoor space, they  sell indoor composting contraptions, or you could even get worms. Have a worm bin and compost food scraps that way and in either scenario, whether it’s regular composting or worm composting, you’re going to create a really useful soil amendment that will help you or your neighbor garden.

CW: That’s awesome. Thank you for bringing up the worm bin. I hadn’t thought of that.

JB: Especially for kids too. It’s a nice way to interact with them in a natural process.

CW: Then my son can borrow a few for fishing I guess…

JB: (Laughs)

CW: How can someone like me, your average Mom who wants to make a difference but sometimes has limitations, how can I share the information about food waste?

JB: I think it all starts at home, and I want people to spread the word through actions before any kind of outreach, so trying to reduce their own waste and be as waste aware in their own personal lives, cooking at home, and out in the world of restaurants or shopping, for example.

So then I’m sure there will be these… kind of organic conversations popping up left and right, like why are you doing that? Why did you bring that metal container to this restaurant? … And why are you asking for a half loaf of bread at the grocery store with the fresh baked loaves? Then I think it’ll spread out from there. Maybe you’re then trying to work with others, work with neighbors and family members to avoid ordering too much at a restaurant or to avoid serving family and friends too much when you have them over for a meal. And I think it’ll flower from that.

CW: In your book you say, “Food waste reduction will succeed because it’ll become second nature.” You refer to recycling a few times and how that’s taken off, I was happy to hear that you believe that and that you’re seeing the change because those of us who aren’t out in the field aren’t always aware of the good things that are happening. With that in mind, what do you think are the greatest obstacles remaining?

JB: There’s three things. There’s awareness, apathy and attention span. The first thing is we have to get people to realize that food waste is a problem, then once you breach the topic then the danger is people don’t care about the issue and just don’t want to bother. Reducing food waste isn’t hard, but it does take a little bit of doing and people for the most part tend to steer clear of behavior change. That’s kind of scary for a lot of folks. They don’t want to listen if you’re asking more of them.

Busy lifestyles is a third barrier to action on food waste because we don’t tend to pause much on anything let alone this topic that people might not think is all that important. If we can really get people thinking about food waste, that’s the first step towards creating some kind of lasting change.

[Jonathan Bloom’s American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It) is published by Da Capo Press. You can read more about him at Wasted Food and @WastedFood.] [Colleen Wells writes from Bloomington. Her book, Dinner with Doppelgangers-A True Story of Madness and Recovery is forthcoming from Wordpool Press.]

The Ryder ● October 2014


The 38th Annual 4th St. Festival of the Arts & Crafts

● by Colleen Wells


Labor Day calls for cook-outs and a long weekend to enjoy the waning summer. For Bloomington residents it means something more. Labor Day Weekend ushers in the Fourth Street Festival of the Arts and Fine Crafts, an event coordinated by local artists. With roots stemming from a discussion between two local potters, the inaugural Fourth Street Festival was held in 1977 with the goal of showcasing local talent. The event has since blossomed to accommodate a variety of both greater Bloomington area artisans and those from around the country. Nearly 120 artists from states as far as New York and Florida will participate.

Now in its 38th year, the weekend’s event attracts over 40,000 visitors. It will run from 10:00ama to 6:00pm on Saturday, August 30th, and 10:00am to 5:00pm on Sunday at Fourth & Grant Streets. Artists representing a variety of mediums including printmaking, wood, leather, photography, fiber, glass and ceramics will display and sell their work.

Wendy Newman of Moab, Utah, has participated in numerous festivals for twenty-five years with her handcrafted, contemporary jewelry and was a juror for this year’s event. She spoke of the advantages of art fairs created by artists. “In my experience the shows that artists run are juried more fairly and of a higher quality than other shows.”

Another factor in the event’s success is the willingness of the artists to promote their own work. Bloomington resident and contemporary jewelry artist, Marilyn Greenwood, has been exhibiting her work at the show since 1990. She has her work on display at By Hand gallery, but is able to show a wider variety and her newest work at the festival. Through her marketing efforts the artist stated she “draws on people from Terre Haute, Indianapolis, Columbus, Cincinnati and Louisville.”

There will be other attractions including a music stage with bands offering tunes ranging from classical to blues. The kidszone will provide hands on art opportunities for children, and there will be additional community booths. All of the ancillary events run through the course of both days.

The Spoken Word Stage presented by the Writers Guild at Bloomington begins each day at 10:30a.m. with writers reading from several genres. Each presentation lasts a half hour. Since joining the festival in 2011, this addition has been both popular and unique. Tony Brewer, Executive Director for the Spoken Word Stage and Chair of the Bloomington Writer’s Guild, said, “To my knowledge 4th Street is the only arts festival in Indiana that offers a dedicated spoken word stage. Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, and many many others around the country have for years, and I have looked to them as a model for how ours might work.”

New this year is an installation located at Fourth Street between Kirkwood and Dunn. The piece is constructed of plywood with a waffle-like structure held together by friction without any bolts or screws. It was created in a workshop with mechanical engineering students at IUPUI-Columbus. Instructor Jonathan Racek, a Bloomington architect with a focus on sustainability and digital fabrication who teaches interior design classes at Indiana University, had spoken with colleagues about building a set piece for a fashion show put on by IU students. The arch was created with 3D software and fabricated on a CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) router which Racek said is “like a robotic cutter.” The creation is approximately 8 feet wide, 8.5 feet tall, and 3 feet deep.

Of being tasked with making the piece for the fashion show, Racek said, “We really weren’t sure what that was going to be.” Soon to be exhibited at the Fourth Street Festival, the structure simply called “the arch,” will be at home alongside many other creative pieces.

Whether you are a regular visitor of the 4th street Festival, or plan to attend for the first time, you are likely to find something that resonates. It may be an intricate piece of metal jewelry, or a painting that speaks to you, but the 4th Street Festival is a place where artists and art are appreciated.

Brewer stated that the Poetry On Demand portion of the Spoken Word Stage “offers festival goers an opportunity to interact directly with artists in the act of creation.” This fits with the organizers of the festival’s vision of community involvement.

Commenting on shows where a dedicated staff works closely with the community, juror Newman stated, “These shows are a labor of love for the people who put them on and focused more on the art which is a treasure to have.”


The Ryder ● September 2014