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, September 18, 2007

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle book discussion (chapters 1 - 3)

The time has finally come! The first discussion questions for the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle book club are here.

I have to admit that initially I wasn't too excited about reading this book as I figured it would be just too similar to the Omnivore's Dilemma. So far, I've been happily surprised. This book has renewed my excitement for all that I'm doing regarding what I eat. And by that I mean, growing my own food, eating locally, buying organically and canning or otherwise preserving what's in season.

And now onto the book discussion questions.

1. In Chapter 1, the author describes how her family spent years planning their relocation and finally packed up and moved everyone to an area where they could live a more sustainable existence by growing their own food and animals. If you live in an area where sustainable living is not feasible (such as the SW like the author), would you be willing to do the same?

2. Chapter 2 discusses the difficulty of finding fresh produce during the winter months. Kingsolver's family started this experiment basically during the food doldrums without having had a previous season of preserving and storing to get them through. What plans do you have this winter for eating local or seasonally? Do you intend on buying out-of-season fruit mid-winter or do you think you can try to rely on foods you are storing away now (by canning/freezing/drying)?

3. Kingsolver discussed in Chapter 3 how utterly crappy most grocery store produce is, as the result of off season produce and/or produce that gets picked terribly early so that it can ripen during long transports. Additionally, the variety of produce is limited - many of the heirloom varieties just aren't produced anymore due to their inability to travel or for other reasons. Does this bother you - the flavorless foods and their limited variety, or are you just so used to it that you don't care about the tasteless bananas from elsewhere?

Again, during this book club, feel free to throw in your own questions into the mix!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Homemade pizza sauce

In spite of my San Marzano tomatoes getting a bad case of blossom end rot, I managed to salvage enough other tomatoes to make a huge vat of homemade pizza sauce from fresh tomatoes. I made enough for 6 jars of sauce that I put in our chest freezer. I'm hoping to add more as the rest of the tomatoes ripen. It's been such a late year around here for sunshine and the rain just started again, but I'm still hopeful.

My recipe is pretty simple: olive oil, garlic, tomatoes (peeled and chopped), bay leaves, salt, pepper and fresh oregano. I heat up the garlic with the olive oil (so the garlic doesn't burn) until it's fragrant and then throw in the tomatoes, bay leaves and salt. I simmer until the desired consistency is reached and then add the fresh oregano and pepper.

Since the tomatoes I used were a weird combination of Brandywine and Black Prince the sauce was pretty juicy, so I ended up simmering it down for about an hour to remove a lot of the moisture. I then added a touch of cornstarch to thicken things up and it came out perfectly.

The best thing is the only ingredients that didn't come from my garden (or someone else's I know) is the olive oil, salt and pepper. That's the most satisfying part. Oh, yeah, that and it's orders of magnitude better on my homemade pizzas than making it from canned tomatoes!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The poop on cloth wipes

Don't forget to wipe!Regarding the subject title of this post - I've been wanting to say that ever since I started the Cloth Wipe Challenge! Anyway, welcome to the first day of the Challenge!

For those of you who have been tuning in:

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Intelligent Life article

No Impact Man, Green as a Thistle, Casaubon's Book, Little Blog in the Big Woods and Crunchy Chicken were all mentioned in an article in Intelligent Life, a quarterly magazine put out by The Economist.

Here's a snippet:

In Seattle Crunchy Chicken, a mother of two, trying to reduce her family's energy consumption, runs a green book club, a low-impact week, a local-food month and a discussion on reusable menstrual cups (complete with photo). As she cheerfully puts it: "Waaaay more information than you probably wanted."

Too bad they missed out on the new challenge!

The article is about (and is titled) "blogging the good life." For those of you interested, their online magazine has an excerpt of the article online.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Cloth wipes - uppin' the ante with prizes!

Don't forget to wipe!Do you need one last push to doing the Cloth Wipe Challenge? Would some potential prizes help you make the leap to the best wipe you've ever had?

Well, for those people who sign up for the Cloth Wipe Challenge and complete the two weeks (and want to continue), one lucky winner, who shall be randomly selected, will receive their choice of:

Wallypop's Fun & FunkyThree dozen Wallypop Toilet Wipes - Basic Style in the color(s) of your choice (you can choose three different styles if you like - make sure you check out the wild animal print!)

If you are doing just #1, I can throw in a brand new plastic (machine-washable) mesh bag you can hang on your TP holder.

Now. What are you waiting for again?

[For a great look at how another reader has implemented using cloth wipes, check out this Capturing Today's post.]

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Cloth wipes - the benefits

Don't forget to wipe!Yesterday, I did a wrap-up on how to implement using cloth wipes during the Cloth Wipe Challenge. Today, I thought I'd review the benefits of using cloth for those of you still wondering why we are bothering to go through all this when TP is aplenty and readily available.

1. Cost - Outside of the initial investment in wipes (see my doin' it on the cheap post), the costs beyond that are for a container to put the wipes in and whatever cleaning agent you use. If you are washing them with other stuff, the amount of detergent used over the course of a year is pretty small. On the other hand, toilet paper is expensive, especially if you are springing for 100% recycled toilet paper.

2. Comfort - OMG, I cannot even describe how much more comfortable it is to wipe using 100% cotton flannel than even the softest of Charminy TPs. Now compare that to the relative scratchitude of recycled toilet papers. Enough said.

3. Environment - This is the big one so I've broken it down.
a. Energy - Yes, washing cloth wipes does require some extra energy in your washing machine, but unless you are using a million wipes a week, there's no way you're going to fill up your machine. So just throw them in with your other stuff. #1 wipes can go in with anything (except maybe kitchen towels) and #2 wipes can go in with towels or the like. They don't take up much space. Really.

b. Water - Again, washing cloth wipes requires some water, but if you're throwing them in with a load of other stuff, it's fairly negligible.

Compare the minimal energy and water usage at home with how much water and energy is used in the production of toilet paper. It's a pretty water and energy intensive process. Even recycled toilet paper uses a lot more of both than what your using with cloth wipes.

c. Natural Resources - If you're not using recycled toilet paper, the amount of trees saved is equivalent to that little pile of cloth you have at the end of the day. Add into both regular or recycled TP extra waste in processing. Plus, don't forget the other natural resources used like water and energy (minus whatever went into making the cloth, amortized over time). You can also throw in the harm caused by whatever chemicals are used in the processing (most likely bleach).

So, the benefits are: you win with cost savings and comfort (with minimal extra work) and the environment wins every time you wipe!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Using cloth - the wipe up

Don't forget to wipe!So, you are planning on doing (or are fence-straddling) the Cloth Wipe Challenge and you want more details. Well, here's the wipe-up. Or, the wrap-up, whichever you prefer. These are my suggestions.

1. If you are just trying this out as a trial, but aren't convinced you want to do this for more than two weeks, then get some cheap 100% cotton flannel or rip up old sheets or t-shirts and use those. For more details read my doin' it on the cheap post. Otherwise you can buy wipes made especially for this purpose (Google "family wipes").

2. If you plan on using cloth only for #1, get a mesh bag to hang on your TP roll holder or a small container with a lid (those compost pails with the filter work nice too). After you wipe, just throw the used cloth in your receptacle of choice and then launder with your other clothes. You can use a cold water wash if you use the dryer or line dry in the sun. If you're worried about bacteria, wash them in hot water.

3. If you plan on using cloth for #1 and #2, get a small container with a lid (again, the compost pail with filter is nice to keep the stink down). If you are doing a dry pail method, just throw the used wipes in the pail and toss some baking soda in occasionally if smell is an issue. If you are using a wet pail method, fill the pail with the soak of your choice (tea tree oil, baking soda, etc.) and then throw the used wipes in there. Wash the used cloth in hot water. You can add a vinegar rinse if you like. For more info on cleaning, see my stinky post.

That's pretty much it! Any more questions?

What are you waiting for?

For those of you that just need a little extra enticement, I'm throwing some prizes into the deal. Check back Friday to see what wonderful cloth wipe swag you can win if you take on The Challenge!

Tomorrow I'll be reviewing the benefits of using cloth...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Fall plantings

Stinkin' roseSandy asked on yesterday's post what things we can plant now for a fall or winter harvest. She is in zone 7 so I think her options are more open than for you guys out there in a zone less than 6.

I actually just planted a few things yesterday even though I probably should have done it at the end of July. Since we are finally getting our August-style temperatures, I thought I'd give it a try anyway.

I had replanted another round of sugar snap peas in early August and they are just now looking good. I'm doubtful they will produce anything giving our recent cold temperatures, but I'll see.

Yesterday, I planted winter hardy lettuces, kale, spinach, broccoli (not sure if this will work) and onions. Other fall and winter delights you can plant now are radishes, beets, rutabagas, parsnips and turnips. Oh yeah, and carrots.

Later in the fall I will plant some overwintering onions and garlic.

Territorial Seed Company lists their winter varieties and other hardy seeds. So, take a peek through those and see if anything fits your zone (and your tastes)!

Since I really don't know what the hell I'm doing, double check whether or not any of these plants (or the varieties you choose) will work for your zone.

Happy planting!!!

P.S. What are the rest of you guys planting, if anything, now?

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Perfect Meal

Garden VeggiesAs a wrap-up to Local Food Month, and in conjunction to finishing reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, I proposed trying to create The Perfect Meal.

Unfortunately, I never did get around to actually hunting, collecting or harvesting all my own food, so I let it slide. But last night I think I got about as close to the Perfect Meal as I'm going to get.

It was Sunday Family Meal night and I harvested from my backyard potatoes, beets, carrots, onions, garlic and rosemary for a roasted vegetable dish. I also oven roasted locally grown corn and made (if I do say so myself) some absolutely fantastic Rioja braised chicken thighs (from local, organic chicken) with a plum port sauce, using the Plum Port jam I made last month. I still can't get over how crazy good my creation turned out. I can't wait for leftovers tomorrow. Let me know if you are interested in the recipe and I'll post it on Crunchy Chicken Cooks.

I also wanted to let you all know that Joel Salatin (of Polyface Farms - the farm featured in The Omnivore's Dilemma) has a new book coming out. He was kind enough to send me an advance copy, so I'll be posting a review when it's closer to the book's publishing date. Between that and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I'm in food reading heaven!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Cloth wipes - doin' it on the cheap

Don't forget to wipe!When I first cooked up the idea for the Cloth Wipe Challenge back in June, I did a lot of researching online into what constituted the best wipes, what were people's favorites, etc.

There are a lot of vendors and stay at home moms out there sewing up some really nice cloth wipes (usually referred to as "family cloth" to differentiate it from baby cloth wipes). I didn't want to throw down $50 - $100 on butt wipes, particularly since I wasn't sure I was even going to go through with it. Nor did I want to only buy a couple and run out and turn my business into a big laundry ordeal.

So, what did I do? Well you have a couple options for cheapo cloth wipes. Some people take old t-shirts and rip them into strips. The claim is that they don't fray and you are reusing something. I guess there can be joy in wiping with an old concert, marathon or convention t-shirt. "Hey, I remember cramping up on mile 18!" The concern I had with the t-shirts (besides that I already had donated all the ones I didn't want anymore), was the thinness factor. Generally, old t-shirts tend to be threadbare and I really didn't want to have my fingers poking through, if you know what I mean.

So, I went to Joann's Fabrics. There I found some really inexpensive fabric remnants. They are 100% cotton flannel of suitable thickness and are ohhhhhhh so comfy. I spent, maybe, $6. I marked the squares into 8" x 8" squares using my kid's sidewalk chalk, but you can use whatever you want. I then cut the squares using pinking shears to prevent fraying. I managed to get about 50 cloth wipes out of the deal.

What would I do differently next time? Well, the cloth wipes do fray a little bit, but I don't care and I really don't think they fray enough to warrant sewing or surging the edges. I would also make them a little smaller. If I were using them for #2, the 8" x 8" would be perfect, but it's just too much cloth for a little dab o' pee. Maybe 6" x 6" would be great.

The other thing I would recommend is that if you are planning on using cloth wipes for multiple family members, is to get everyone their own fabric print. So, if you feel squeamish out wiping your butt with something your husband went to town with after that trip to the Mexican restaurant you can rest assured that you have nothing to even consider. Or, if you want to use a color system for #1 versus #2, that would be fun. If you are lucky you might just find remnants in the appropriate colors: yellow for pee and brown for poop. No, I'm just kidding, that's too boring!

As for using baby washcloths - that probably would work if you had some lying about and didn't want to spend any extra money. But others have found them to be too small, too thin and (actually) too scratchy.

Next up on the cloth wipe challenge posts: putting the whole system together (for you detail oriented people)!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Cloth wipes - the good, the bad and the stinky

Don't forget to wipe!The Cloth Wipe Challenge is coming up soon and one of the big concerns is hygiene, so I wanted to discuss some of the issues and misconceptions that usually come up with using cloth wipes instead of toilet paper.

When I was doing research into using cloth wipes, one thing I repeatedly read was that some people assumed that you are reusing wipes. In other words, using the same dirty cloth multiple times - e.g. on separate occasions. Now, I don't know how this idea came into being, it's just as disturbing as the fact that some people think recycled toilet paper is made from used toilet paper. So, I thought I'd clear this one up first and foremost - you use each wipe once and then they get washed.

I want to break down the use of cloth wipes for urine versus poop because they can be treated a little differently. (By the way, I'm going to just go with "poop" instead of stool, defecant, excrement, scat or any other of your favorite terms.)

First of all, if you plan on using cloth wipes for #1 (urine only), it is in my opinion that your risk of spreading disease is fairly minimal. Urine itself is sterile. Of course, you are also touching parts of your anatomy that are not sterile. It all comes down to your comfort level.

Some people soak all their used wipes in a solution containing some sort of antiseptic - tea tree oil is popular. Others just place their used cloth wipes in a mesh bag that gets plenty of air. I have found that the amount of urine on the wipe is actually pretty minimal so things dry out quickly. Then just wash the #1 wipes in hot water. If you're still paranoid about bacteria, follow washing information for #2.

If you plan on using cloth wipes for #2 (poop), then you're going to have to invest in a system to ensure that you don't have problems with two things that make most people cringe: stink and bacteria.

Now, if you have ever dealt with cloth diapers, then you are already equipped (at least mentally) to deal with adding your own poopy cloth wipes to the system (or resurrecting a system). Actually, I would say that since you are wiping, rather than "collecting", it's a whole lot less messy than dealing with cloth diapers.

Most people keep a lidded container or wet bag in the bathroom, throw the wipes in and then wash in hot water. Again, you can keep a soaking solution in the container to help keep odor down. If you're really concerned about bacteria you can do a baking soda pre-rinse and add vinegar to the rinse cycle. If you are planning on keeping a "dry" bucket, some people will add baking soda to the bucket to keep odor down and then wash the container out with vinegar every few days. Just make sure if you do a load of laundry with #2 wipes that you don't include kitchen towels, napkins, etc.

For some of you, I'm sure I probably didn't cover everything here to satisfy all your questions. If you've never dealt with cloth diapers you can read up on how to store and wash them over at Diaper Pin and adapt some of the ideas for your cloth wipes. And feel free to ask questions!

The next cloth wipe challenge post: how to make your own cloth wipes without spending a fortune. This is a challenge and I know you don't want to plunk down $100 on handcrafted custom wipes if this is just an experiment for you, so I'll share what I did to get started.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Happy Labor Day! - Now get to work

The Gleaners: Jean-Fran├žois MilletI wanted to bring to your attention something I learned about recently that might be of interest to you. Local and national humanitarian organizations help coordinate "gleanings" in the fall to distribute food to the poor or needy.

For those who have never heard of it before (like me), gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers' fields after they have been mechanically harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest [from Wikipedia].

The Society of St. Andrew seems to be the biggest national organization that is looking for volunteers. If you are looking for a sectarian or more local organization, here are a couple that may be near you:
You may be able to find something similar in your area if you want to get out in the fields and help out some hungry people.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I wanted to check in with you all and see if you're ready to start the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle book club. I got my book late, so I can more than commiserate with you if you're not ready.

I'll be doing what I did with the last book club, which is breaking the book down into sections and then posting discussion questions for each section. The first posting will cover Chapters 1 - 3.

Which leads me to this week's poll:



This Tuesday, I'll be covering a topic for the new Don't Forget to Wipe Challenge: Thoughts and strategies on hygienic issues.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Don't forget to wipe!

Don't forget to wipe!Don't be surprised, people. You should have seen this one coming from miles away.

It's the 2007 Don't Forget To Wipe (with cloth) Challenge! Now, I know you're out there... you've answered my polls intimating that you're ready to try cloth wipes. Maybe you just need a kick in the, ummm, ass. So, now's your chance to justify it to all your friends and family: "I'm doing it because it's a challenge! For two weeks!"

And the rules are soooo simple.... it's as easy as wiping your, ummm, ass.

Since I'm always looking out for you, don't think I didn't already do months of research and recon for you. I did - and I've been using cloth wipes since the middle of June. Why didn't you hear about it sooner you ask? Well, because I already had too many things going on and I wanted this challenge to get the spotlight, ummm, never mind.

Here are the rules. You can choose to use cloth wipes:

1. Only for #1
2. For both #1 and #2
3. Only at home
4. On the road

You cloth diaper people probably already have a system in place for laundering and transporting, so you have no excuse for doing the whole gamut. But, for you squeamish people, start with #1 at home. That's what I do. I'll go over logistics in a future post.

Also, you don't need to spend an arm and a leg on specialized cloth wipes. I'll soon teach you how to get started for a few bucks.

This challenge will take place the last two weeks of September. Are you with me? As usual, I will have a list of participants on the right nav bar so feel free to grab the banner, sign up on this post, and I'll add you.

By the way, I didn't realize how much toilet paper I used before I started this. Who knew I was a TP whore? I think I used more than the other three people in my household combined (granted my preschoolers aren't that fastidious about wiping, but really)! So, in addition to saving (in my case at least) hundreds of trees, you'll also be saving money too.

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