Check out my new book, The Non-Toxic Avenger: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You, available from Amazon.

2012 Silver winner in the Health/Medicine/Nutrition Category of the Independent Publishers Book Awards

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Writing a Nature Journal

I've been really getting into backyard birdwatching since I read the book Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild by Lyanda Lynn Haupt last month. In fact, I followed the author's advice and moved one of our deck chairs into a spot close to the birdfeeders so I can get in on the action. She suggested spending time quietly sitting in nature to observe all that's going on around you.

What this means is that the birds, bugs, bees and critters start to look at you as part of the landscape and pretty much carry on business as usual, ignoring you in the process. The end result is that you get to become part of their habitat. It's a much different experience than witnessing it behind glass. You get the sound of wings quickly flapping. Which, for chickadees (and hummingbirds), is a lot louder than you'd expect.

The author also mentioned keeping a phenology notebook. Yeah, I never heard of that either. It's basically the study of periodic plants and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and interannual variations in climate (thanks Wikipedia). So, how to go about doing this? One way is to keep a Nature Journal.

A great example is Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You, by Claire Walker Leslie. Or pretty much any of her books. Now, I'm no fantastic artist, but here's my first day's attempts:


My goal for today was to capture basics about the weather and season and what's going on in the front yard. I also wanted a space to write down what birds and other critters I spied during the day.

Have you ever written a Nature Journal or something like it? If so, what kinds of details did you include?

Warning: there be affiliate links in this post that, when clicked, may provide meager kickbacks to help support this here blog. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Part-time homeschooling for full-time working parents

This school year started off extremely bumpy for my 11-year-old. The transition to 6th grade middle school for the H-man just wasn't going very well and his anxiety has been completely off the charts. He spent the first week+ hunkering down at home while we came up with Plan B and Plan C. Plan B was to homeschool him full-time, which neither my husband nor I was ready to commit to.

His middle school came back with a plan to have him slowly integrate into the mainstream classes. What this ended up being was him starting out with 1 class a day and working his way up to 3 classes over the course of several weeks. We'll call this, Plan C. It's where we currently are.

How does this work? Well, he does part-time at school (3 classes) and part-time at home (3 classes). We get the coursework for those afternoons by coordinating with the other teachers for what he should be doing. Since I work full-time, I've hired a tutor to pick him up from school, take him home and work on the missed material until I get home from work in the late afternoon. We've lucked out because his tutor is a certified WA state middle school teacher who is familiar with the material (although from a different school district) and really enjoys the one-on-one with him.

The benefit of doing this is that he still goes to school but at the comfort level he can manage. While I can't say that he is entirely comfortable even with 3 classes, it's better than nothing. I also can't say that it's working super well, since the curriculum for those 3 classes isn't exactly geared towards home study so we'll be discussing that with his teachers at his IEP meeting to see what other options we have.

The one thing I'm hoping that will come out of this is that we will follow a homeschool plan and drop trying to match the school assignments - it's just too hard to keep up with 10 hours a week of missing instruction. I'd much rather have his tutor design the material and instruct him based on what she usually teaches for those classes.

If I didn't work, I would certainly do things differently, but I'm constrained with having to keep my job due to my husband's cancer and his treatments. Plus, I love my job. At this point, I joke that he's getting a public school education at private school prices, but it's better than that. He has the comfort and freedom of doing schoolwork at home with a tutor who can cater to his learning style.

I'll let you know how it goes as this evolves. If you are interested in learning more about part-time homeschooling for kids with special needs, you can check out this book, Autism and Flexischooling: A Shared Classroom and Homeschooling Approach. If you want to read more about how to juggle working and homeschooling, read this great new book, How to Work and Homeschool: Practical Advice, Tips and Strategies for Parents.


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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Getting back on the blogging horse

I woke up this morning in bed with an odd thought and a twinge of excitement. And, no, it wasn't in my pants. It was about blogging. Yesterday, I had an IM discussion with Erica from Northwest Edible Life and one of the things that came up was about how many of the people she knew who had written a book had also stopped blogging shortly thereafter. She wanted to know why that was.

From my own experience, it was the pinnacle of writing burnout. My book, The Non-Toxic Avenger: What You Don't Know Can't Hurt You, was published almost two years ago. I followed up the book launch with a lengthy radio campaign and an aggressive blog book tour. That, coupled with the death of my Dad, hospitalizations for both my mom and husband and crap at school with my son and I just couldn't do it anymore.

I have occasionally tried to pump out a posting since then, but in all seriousness, I haven't consistently blogged since February of 2012. Also, since then, a lot has changed in my life. I was going to graduate school but some major changes here at the homestead have forced me to put that on hold. At least for now. So, now I find myself with some extra time on my hands and a renewed interest in blogging. I wasn't sure if that would ever happen again and I can't say that I'm making any promises, but don't be too surprised if you see more activity on this blog in the near future. The thing that makes me feel different about this time around is that I'm actually excited about blogging again. Which is something new.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

2013 Mazda3 Review - 40 mpg in a perfect package

2013 Mazda3 Grand Touring with SkyActiv
I come from a family of car fanatics. My brother, Chris, is the talent and creator behind the television show, Motorz, as well as the exclusive automotive tool spokesperson for Sears Automotive and Tools. If you get the Sears catalogs, his mug is on half the automotive pages. My oldest brother, Brett, is an owner of a Porsche and a Ferrari and races them in his spare time. He taught me how to drive on a stick shift and some serious hills.

Needless to say, I know how to drive a car. Really well. He also taught me how to change my own oil and I assisted in far too many hours in the garage helping him work on his car growing up. But what's a green girl to do when most of the cars out there are petrol chugging monsters? Did I also mention that I'm cheap and don't want to pay much for a car?

Our newest car is a 2002 Honda CRV. We used to have a 2000 Civic HX, but that met an unfortunate fate a few months ago. Since then, we've been looking for a replacement commuter vehicle that gets great gas mileage and meets my standards for handling. We've toyed with getting a hybrid, an electric car or just not replacing the Civic. But the CRV doesn't get very good mileage and, honestly, we need two cars with my husband's twice weekly chemo treatments.

So, when I was approached by a local company to test drive and review high fuel efficiency vehicles, I literally jumped at the chance. We were in the right place at the right time.

Last week, they dropped off my first test vehicle, a 2013 Mazda3 Grand Touring with SkyActiv, which touts gas mileage up to 40 mpg. Not bad for a 4-door car with an all gas engine. Yes, you read that right, this isn't some fancy schmancy new hybrid vehicle, just a regular ol' gas powered car.

Since our current car is the equivalent of something from the dark ages, I was rather easily impressed by the litany of features this car sports: heated seats, automatic headlights and windshield wipers, blind spot car detection, directional headlights, anti-skid control, Bluetooth phone connection, automatic mileage calculation, navigation, satellite radio, push button start, keyless entry and fob... the list goes on. But, aside from all the gadgets, how does it drive? Well, even though it's an automatic, and I've only ever driven 5 speed manual transmissions, I have to say I was impressed with the shifting. Even if I didn't like the automatic shifting, this car gives you the option of switching from automatic drive to 6 speed shifting up and down. But, I never felt the need to bother with it. I had to retrain my left foot to stay still.

Once I set up everything to my liking, starting the car and driving happened in seconds. No key to fumble with in the dark. As long as I had the key fob on my person I could get in the car and start the engine and go. No setting up lights or windshield wipers - they're all automatic. It did pretty much everything but drive for me. I didn't find any major issues with blind spots when backing up or changing lanes (unlike our Honda CRV) and felt like I had full visibility. It didn't drive like a go-cart like most automatics. In other words, it had a lot of pep. Not quite stick-shift responsiveness, but tolerable. And the sounds system was amazing as well. Did I mention all the controls (including voice activation) for your phone and radio/music were on the steering wheel?

So, what are the problems you ask? Well, first of all, I found the interior roominess was a little lacking. Granted, I'm 6' tall, but with the front seats pushed all the way back, our 9-year-old daughter was complaining there wasn't enough leg room and her feet kept getting stuck under the seat when she tried to get out. I did find that the headroom was a little tight. The trunk was enormous and could easily fit an extra person. Not that I recommend it. The back seat accommodates three people, but not very well and I'd have to admit that our 2 door Civic had a much more spacious interior in the back and the front than this four door. I suspect that rear-facing car seats would be a bit of a challenge. However, if you are using this as a commuter vehicle and/or not hauling 5 adults around, then the space is really a non-issue.

The biggest disappointment for me was the mileage. With our old Honda Civic, we got about 32 mpg in-city driving. Our Honda CRV gets about 23. I was hoping to get away with closer to the 40 mpg on this car, especially since I don't drive aggressively, but the best I got was 26 mpg. Which doesn't exactly meet my mpg standards for buying a new car. Since I don't drive freeway miles, my mpg was closer to the city mpg for this car (27). On the other hand, if you drive mostly freeway miles, I suspect you'll get 38-40 miles per gallon since the mpg ratings seem to be fairly accurate. If that's the case, then I'd seriously consider getting this car given it's low cost (MSRP $22,800) for all the bells and whistles.

I was really hoping this car would work out because I loved almost everything else about it. If I were a mostly freeway driver, I'd get this car in a heartbeat. But, unfortunately, the mileage for our usage is just too low. And that's my deal breaker.

Small print - I was in no way compensated by Mazda for this review beyond the fact that I received the vehicle for a week's test drive.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

What to expect when your loved one has cancer

As some of you know, my husband has a blood cancer. Multiple myeloma, to be exact. Over the last five years, he's undergone constant chemotherapy that has only been interrupted by a year of tandem stem cell transplants. A friend of mine's son was recently diagnosed with leukemia and I had a few words of advice for him but felt that it was worth posting it for everyone's use. As rates of cancer climb in some areas, it's something that will most likely touch your life as well.

So, if your spouse, child or parent has been recently diagnosed with cancer and you find yourself as the primary caregiver, I hope the following with help you deal with what you've been handed.

My Top 10 Tips for Cancer Caregivers:

1. Cancer is a full-time job. Depending on the cancer treatments, which can vary widely, your loved one is potentially looking at several years of various treatments. As the caregiver, you need to put your life on the back-burner to help out. Sometimes you'll need to show up in the morning and hang out all day until their treatment center decides you can go home. Expect a lot of waiting around and frustration. It comes with the territory.

2. Mourn the loss of your/their previous life. All the hopes, dreams and plans you had with your spouse or for your child are gone. The life you once knew is gone. I found this the hardest thing to recover from. You really are mourning for something that no longer can be, so take the time to mourn the loss. You have to adjust to what's generally called the "new normal". In other words, a precarious future. And that sucks.

3. Be their eyes and ears. Every cancer patient needs an advocate. Even if they are not dealing with chemo brain and a myriad of other drug side effects, you need to attend critical visits to the doctor to take notes, remember details and ask questions. The cancer patient, themselves, is often too much in a fog or stunned by what is happening to them to clearly remember what the doctor is telling them. This includes keeping on top of their medications, updating their physicians about their issues and not being afraid to speak up for them.

4. Accept support. Encourage your loved one to ask for and get the physical and emotional support they need. That includes medication to combat nausea from chemotherapy or any other drug they may need to be more comfortable. Cancer treatment is a heinous business and can cause a myriad of side effects. Make sure their palliative needs are being met.

Ensure that their emotional and mental needs are being met as well - encourage them to seek out psychological support from friends, family and professionals to talk about what they are going through. Nobody expects them to bear the burden on their own. Instead of asking them, "how are you feeling today?", ask them if they want to talk about how they are doing. Some days, they'll just want to focus on something else.

5. Accept help. When they are first diagnosed, people will come around asking what they can do to help. Don't turn them away! This was our big mistake. If someone offers to babysit, take them up on it. If someone asks if they can bring over dinner, say yes! My best advice is to create two lists - everyone wants to help so give them something. It makes them feel better and gives them a sense of control. They are hurting too.

Make one list for home - picking the kids up from school, mowing the lawn, doing laundry, making dinner, going food shopping are good places to start. For work - make a list of things that people can do for you like going to meetings and taking notes, whatever works in your environment. You'll need the extra time. Trust me.

6. Fair weather friends and family. Under duress is where your true friends come out. It's hard to deal with another person's sickness. Many can do it over the long haul, but it's not unusual for those you thought were true friends to disappear. Spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends of your loved one may fall away. Cancer is a stressful business and can create too much of a gulf. When faced with the choice of going out and having fun or sitting around with a depressed, vomiting friend or spouse for months on end, well, you know where this is going. Don't expect everyone to hang around.

7. People will say rude things. It's not their fault. They think they are helping. They oftentimes can't emotionally or mentally accept what's happening. They are in permanent denial. They've convinced themselves that it's not a big deal. So, when friends or family members tell you, "he'll be alright" or "she'll be just fine", try not to take it personally. It feels like they are discrediting or undermining the pain and hardship your family member is undergoing, but in reality, I think they just haven't gotten to the acceptance stage yet. And they may never get there.

8. Everyone else's lives will go on. While you are stuck in chemo mode and the roller-coaster of support and possible death, everyone else will be discussing their daily minutiae as if it were the end of the world. So, while your friends sit around discussing how difficult it is to decide what new sofa to buy or how expensive it is to fly to Europe for that 3 week vacation, try to stop yourself from punching them in the face. Yes, their problems aren't cancer, but it's a real concern to them.

9. Living with the unknown. For many cancers, it's never a done deal. There's never an "all clear" or remission. You just have to live life day-to-day. You need to relearn to live your life without planning the future more than a few years or even a few months out. You'll need to live with the pain of thinking that "this might be the last Christmas, or birthday, or summer vacation" that you have with your loved one. Life can become short-sighted, but you'll need to live like you, too, were dying.

10. Take care of yourself. This one is tough because you feel like you don't have the right to complain or say anything negative about what you are going through. You aren't the one with cancer. But you need to take care of your own physical and mental health. Make sure you exercise for stress relief and make sure you have people to talk to about what you are going through. You do have the right complain about what's happening to you. Because cancer sucks for everyone it touches.

If you are looking for more resources on how to help and how to advise others, I highly recommend The Etiquette of Illness: What to Say When You Can't Find the Words.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Personal cleaning habits?

Every couple of years I like to ask these personal hygiene questions since I'm always curious to see the answers. I do this because there is such a huge focus in our culture on bathing and bath products and sterilizing everything that I wonder how much that advertising infects our consciousness. And our pocketbooks.

One thing that always sticks in my mind is the commercials from the late 1970s for Mitchum antiperspirant. The ad's tagline was "so effective, you can even skip a day." Back then, the concept of not showering everyday wasn't such a big deal.

Well, there's no way in hell you'd see the same sort of ad campaign today. What has changed in the last 30 years that people are so averse to appearing not up to bathing "standards"? That is: showering, shaving, shampooing and getting all gussied up every single day?

So, with that in mind...

What are your personal cleaning habits?

1. How often do you shower/bathe?
2. How often do you wash your hair?
3. How often do you brush your teeth?
4. How often do you floss?
5. Do you use "natural" body cleansing products or conventional ones?
6. Do you use deodorant, antiperspirant or something else?
7. If you shave, how often do you shave?
8. Have any of these habits changed as you've tried to live a greener lifestyle? If so, which ones and how?
9. Where do you live?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Super Fast Chard Recipe

My brother, Mr. Seattle Foodies himself, came over for New Years dinner. He showed me how to cook down a huge amount of chard in a little amount of time. I have been doing it wrong all these years. The trick turned out to be that you cook it at high temperatures.

Here's the quickie rundown...

What you'll need:
chard (also works well with kale)
garlic
olive oil
lemon
salt and pepper
crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Here's the process:

1. Chop chard or kale into large pieces
2. Rinse thoroughly
3. Dry (I use a spinner contraption)
4. Slice a few garlic cloves up thinly
5. Heat pan to high (this is the critical part) and add some olive oil
6. Heat garlic until just brown
7. Add all of the chard into the pan even though it looks ridiculously high. As the chard cooks down quickly, you can start to turn it. My brother used chopsticks for the entire cooking process. When the chard is cooked to your liking, deglaze the pan with the juice of half a lemon and then add salt and pepper to taste. If you want a little more flavor, also add in crushed red pepper flakes.

That's it! Super tasty and done in a few minutes. Plus, the chard doesn't need additional liquids added to it and it won't turn into soup.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

What the Winter Garden Looks Like Right Now

I'm always fond of gardening voyeurism so I thought I'd share what mess our garden currently is in.


In the far back, against the fence (from left to right), there's lavender, oregano, mint, rosemary and chives. The spindly tree in the blue pot is a sweet bay. And off to the right (out of frame) is thyme and sage. Paco loves to poop in the thyme. Bad chihuahua.

Starting with the back row:

Left: I've got about a million garlic cloves planted in there. Yes, there are a lot of weeds setting up shop so I'll need to clear those out so they don't compete.

Right: This is the leftover crazy from the previous winter. I had planted a bunch of cabbage and fava beans and let them go to town over the summer. I didn't get around to clearing out the bed this fall.

Second row from the back:

Left: That's the kids strawberry bed, year two. This summer will be year three. It needs some trimming, but for the most part it is a pretty prolific producer, except the slugs or other critters tend to get there first.

Right: I replanted the entire bed in the fall with cabbage and lettuces. It's not looking too fabulous right now, but once early spring kicks in, it will pick up and, hopefully, we'll have a good crop of overwintered stuff.

Third row from the back:

Left: Yes, you guessed it. That bed is full of grass. It's been non-productive for almost two years, so I'll need to clear it out and start new. It used to be full of carrots, beets and chard. Paco dug up all the carrots and ate them. Bad chihuahua.

Right: I cleared out and replanted this entire bed in the fall as well. It, too, has some broccoli, Swiss chard, cabbages, lettuce and herbs.

Front row:

Left: This bed is brand new. I just put this together in the fall and filled it with a combo of purchased compost and composted chicken poop to mellow over the winter. I'll do some soil analysis and add whatever it needs and plant it in the early spring. This bed will get the most sun of all of them, so I have high hopes for it. I think it will take a few years to mature since I didn't dig up the sod underneath it.

These raised beds represent all the current space I have for growing vegetables (except for an asparagus experiment in a container) and a few potato bags. What you don't see are the grape vines,  fig tree, cherry trees (2), plum tree, blueberries (2), peach trees (2), apple trees (2), blackberries (4) and pear trees (2) planted throughout the rest of the backyard that aren't doing much right now.

I'm obviously not using the hoops but will with a spring planting.

How's your winter garden looking?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Urban Homesteading with the Neighbors

We live in an area of Seattle that is not known for its urban homesteading. It's known for its manicured lawns, manicured shrubbery (think Edward Scissorhands), lack of trees and covenants.

Out of a community of roughly 360 homes, there are only a handful of us doing any kind of reasonable food gardening. There are a few homes that have solar panels, but we are routinely warned that if we want to get them, they have to be approved by the board. In other words, we don't have a whole lot of control over what we do on our own property. We knew this going in, but that was before I became the Crunchy Chicken.

Getting our chickens approved was a year long project and I had quite the disagreement with the previous board president. He was extremely rude to me about it and, even though he was overruled by Seattle City laws, he made it clear that he wouldn't want to be my immediate neighbor. Now, several years later, most of our neighbors don't even know we have chickens.  And those that do help out when we are out of town.

Well, a few months ago our next door neighbors moved out and new neighbors moved in. I wasn't sure if our chickens were going to be a problem, but it was quite the contrary. About a month ago one of our new neighbors stopped me to say that he'd love to talk to us about our chickens because they were planning on getting some themselves.

They were also planning on ripping out all the rose bushes in their backyard and putting in tons of raised beds, a greenhouse and planting fruit trees. They were newbies at all of it and I let him know what we were up to over on this side of the fence. I chatted with him for a while and I think he realized he'd moved in next door to the urban homesteading jackpot. I later dropped off a veritable library of books, some to keep and others to borrow.

I haven't had a chance to check in with them yet, but I can't tell you how excited I am to have neighbors just over the fence pursuing the same urban homesteading dreams that I have. It's been so lonely around here, but now I don't feel so much like an outcast. Now I feel like a valuable expert.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Environmental Slip N Slide

Since I haven't posted much in the last six months, I thought I'd keep you up-to-date on what I have and have not continued doing when it comes to my environmental and toxin-avoidance pursuits.

And, I figured it just would be easier to just go ahead and list them:

1. We turned the heat up. After 5 years of Freezing My Buns off, I decided that turning the heat up a notch wasn't going to make anyone complain in our house. So, instead of chilling out at 62 degrees, we're rocking it more around 68 during the day. We still keep it at a bone chilling 55 at night, but during the awake hours, I'm toasty. Now, this doesn't mean that I'm walking around in my skivvies. I'm still wearing wool sweaters and blankets, so don't think this is too much of an indulgence. It's only a couple hours during the day, the dog stays more comfy and we have less problems with mold.

2. We switched back to a petroleum-based laundry detergent. I just couldn't stand the stink. Our front-loading washer, combined with eco-friendly detergent, was just making our clothes smell absolutely disgusting. Granted, we are using a Free & Clear sort of detergent, but it's made all the difference in the world and I don't have to burn my clothes.

3. I ditched the homemade deodorant. If you have no sweat glands, then consider yourself lucky. I, on the other hand, was born on the Isle of Ripe and no amount of plain old deodorant is going to combat that. If I had no stress in my life, and no job to go to, then I would rethink this decision but since I ain't and I don't, it's back to the aluminum. It's the only questionable thing I put on my body, however.

4. I don't worry as much about organics. Usually it's a result of availability, cost and looks, but sometimes I reach for the conventionally grown fruits and hope a good scrubbing goes a long way. I still try to avoid the dirty dozen but sometimes it's better to eat what's available/appetizing and try again next time. We almost always buy organic vegetables. I'm not sure why.

5. I don't let it mellow. We have super low water toilets and I'm not sure how much in toto we were actually saving by not flushing the toilet. Plus, now I have to clean it less often and the lack of smell is delightful.

That's about the bulk of it. I'm sure I'll get an earful, but everything in moderation? 

Photo courtesy of TonTonJohn.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year 2013!

You may have noticed a serious dearth in blogging going on around here. I can't say that I'm going to pick it up yet again, but I thought I'd post since I'm on vacation and have a bunch of free time on my hands. I recently shut down the blog for a spell, in order to remove some of the more personal posts, in case you noticed. I'm not sure if I got them all, but I felt a little too much like my panties were hanging out in the wind. So, if you go looking for anything family related on this blog and can't find it, there's the reason why.

What am I up to these days? Hanging out with the kids, working and squeezing in a little urban homesteading when possible. I'm still following the lifestyle I've discussed on the blog over the last 6 years, except for a few things I've gone back to. I'll post about the slippage later. But the big thing for 2013 for me is that I'm going to graduate school. Oh, and we are down to one vehicle (due to an irrecoverable car accident), which has proven a little challenging but we are persevering.

So, here's what's happening in 2013 in our place:

1. Graduate school - That ought to absorb most of my not-so-abundant spare time. I won't go into details because it's not pertinent to this blog, but suffice it to say, it's very technical.

2. Get some gardening help - I've had two bouts of serious back outages in 2012 and I'm not sure I'll be healed enough in time this year to do what I want. So, rather than injure myself again, I'm going to get some help digging up a few beds so I can plant on time. That much I can handle.

3. Get rid of the rats - For whatever reason, our chicken coop is attracting rats and we are finding them on the chicken coop roof and in our grill (WTF?). There's no external food source and they aren't getting inside the coop. I think it's the food scraps and poop that's causing the love affair.

4. Go in on a cow share - Our pig share in 2012 was a resounding success and, as we are on the last bits of piggy, I'm thinking forward to an organic, pastured cow.

5. Don't over-plan or over-commit - Since I'll be busy with school, I'm not going to over think too much this year with the garden. We have new neighbors who are planning on getting chickens and are doing some serious garden overhauling in their yard, so I'll have someone to share the insanity with. But, at this point, the new bed I put in before the fall will be about the only extension to the backyard. Primarily, though, this year I hope to actually plant some things. Last year was a big bust in that area.

One more thing. I asked Google to un-index my blog. So if you try searching this blog for something or on Google, it may come up empty. I suspect it will take a while to re-index all the posts that are left.

Happy new year! And, as always, you can find me on Facebook!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 5 Posts of 2012

Stealing the idea from the Lazy Homesteader, I thought I'd do a post! I know, shocker. Anyway, here are the Top 5 Posts of 2012 (from all of a few months I posted):

1. Most popular post from 2012: Top 10 Urban Farming Books. Since this post, there has been a veritable avalanche of urban homesteading-like resources out there, but these are some classics.

2. Most viewed post of the year: The Skinny vs. Curvy Ideal. Coming in at over 30,000 views, this post keeps them coming.

3. Most commented on post: The Life of your DivaCup. Talking about vaginas is always a crowd pleaser. 15,000 vaginas, er viewers, can't be wrong.

4. Best food post of 2012: How to Make Maple Brown Sugar Cured Bacon. Using our pig share's pork belly, this was the best bacon. Ever.

5. Most controversial post: The Letting the Wolves Howl series on wolf poaching. This caused a serious ruckus on Facebook.

If you like these sorts of round-ups you can check out the Top 5 Posts of 2011.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Courvoisier Applesauce

A couple people on Facebook were asking for this recipe and I figured it was just easier to post on my blog. So here we go....

First of all, I have to state for the record that I actually do not like applesauce. Of course, I grew up on industrial applesauce where there's no flavor, the texture is gritty and it has a metallic, off-taste to it. It's something I generally avoid.

This recipe, however, has cured me of my aversion to applesauce. It's like chunky apple pie and the taste is out of this world. It blame the cognac.

Basically, you throw everything into the pot and cook it until it breaks down (unless instructed otherwise). If you leave the skins on reddish apples, it will give the applesauce a nice pinkish hue (you can retrieve the skin once the apples break down).  I like my applesauce chunky, so I just use a potato masher when everything softens up, I just take out the vanilla bean and cinnamon sticks first. If you like your applesauce more smooth, use a food mill. When it's the consistency you like, add the lemon and cognac. Cooking time will vary depending on the type of apple you use.

Ingredients
4 pounds apples quartered, unpeeled and cored
scant 1/4 cup granulated sugar
generous pinch kosher salt
1 cup water or apple cider (+ more to keep it from scalding)

1 vanilla bean, cut open — cook with apples and remove prior to mashing
2 cinnamon sticks — cook with apples and remove prior to mashing
1 teaspoon lemon zest —  stir into finished applesauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice —  stir into finished applesauce
1/3 cup Courvoisier, or other cognac or brandy — stir into finished applesauce, cooking for an additional 5 minutes to burn off the alcohol

If you want to can this applesauce, follow basic canning rules and water bath can for 20 minutes (quart) or 15 minutes (pint or smaller). This recipe makes about 3.5 quarts of applesauce.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Letting the Wolves Howl: Part 5

This 5 part series, Letting the Wolves Howl, covers the poaching of an endangered grey wolf in Washington State in 2008.

Here are the links for:
Part 1: Poaching the Pack
Part 2: Hunting Down the Killers
Part 3: How to Skin a Wolf
Part 4: Not Just the Wolves
Part 5: The Sentencing and the
backstory.

The Sentencing

When Bill White was indicted for wolf poaching in June 2011, he faced nine felony counts, including conspiracy and obstruction charges. If he were convicted, the combined charges could have resulted in decades in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. If Tom White were convicted, he faced up to eight years in prison. Erin White’s conviction could have led to more than ten years jail time.

The White's trial didn't occur until 2012 and the convictions (after plea bargaining) were as follows:

  • Tom and his wife Erin agreed to pay $35,000 in fines
  • Bill White received six months of home detention
  • Tom White received three months of home detention
  • State charges on other wildlife related crimes remain pending

Since the Lookout Pack wolves first returned to Washington State in 2008, the skinned carcass of a gray wolf was found dumped by the roadside in neighboring Skagit County, with a bullet hole in it. In 2010, the pack’s breeding female disappeared under suspicious circumstances, her radio collar mysteriously going silent. In 2008, the poaching of a young wolf was discovered and, over the years, other members of the Lookout Pack had disappeared, their bodies never found. By 2011, of the original nine members, only one adult male and one or two sub-adults remained, dispersed throughout the area, the pack no longer together.

As of 2012, biologists say the Lookout Mountain pack appears to be reforming. They also said another eight packs are believed to either exist or are developing in the state.

For more information on reducing poaching in Washington state, visit Conservation Northwest and to read their statement on the sentencing.

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