Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Monday, December 31, 2007

New year, new goals

Happy New Year!On the eve (okay, morning) of the new year I'd like to post, for all to see, some of the goals I've set for myself and this blog in 2008. So, here's what you all have to look forward to:

Book Club - We're starting the year off with a bang reading Affluenza. It's not too late to join in - all you need is the book. And even if you don't plan on reading it, my chapter summaries will give you the gist of what's going on. I'm hoping to do four books this year in the book club, so if you have something in particular you want to read, let me know and I'll add it to the next vote!

Challenges - We're still in the middle of the Freeze Yer Buns Challenge. I'll be checking in with you all soon. I've heard from several of you that you are having issues with the low temperatures. I can't say that I'm adapting all that well either, but we'll save that for a future post. And, for you intrepid readers, it's still not too late to enter!

There will be other challenges in 2008, but I'll leave those as a surprise! Teehee!

Low Impact Week 2008 - Did you miss out on last year's LIW? Or did you just try out a few things and want to do more? Maybe you're slipping on some of the changes you made and need another kick in the caboose? Well, look for another Low Impact Week this year, with an extreme category for those of you wanting a serious challenge. Last year I got a new tattoo to commemorate Low Impact Week. Let's see if I do something more nutty this year.

Project Nowaste - Looking for a way to minimize your food consumption? I'm referring to both overeating and what you throw out. Project Nowaste kicks off this Saturday, January 5th.

Frugal Living - I'm going to concentrate more this year on less consumption. In turn, less consumption ends up being quite friendly for the environment, so expect more posts to help out not only the earth but your pocketbook as well.

In between, I'll be posting about all manner of topics related to living more sustainably as well as educational posts and just plain ole silliness.

Finally, I wanted to say that I'm very grateful to have such wonderful readers as you guys. Starting this blog has changed my life in many different ways. And you all have made the difficult times in the last few months much more bearable. I have made, what I consider to be, several new friends through this blog and I look forward to making more in 2008.

So, here's to a happy and healthy New Year!

Thanks for reading,
Deanna
(aka Crunchy Chicken)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Affluenza book club check-in

Affluenza: The All-Consuming EpidemicI wanted to get an idea of where you all are with the new book for the book club, so I know when to start doing discussion posts.

When I start the discussion posts, I plan on covering about five chapters at a time. So, expect to see five discussion posts total since there are thirty chapters. I don't want this to take five months to read, so I'll be posting every couple of weeks. Let me know if this sounds reasonable to you.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Seed catalog nirvana

Seeds of ChangeI don't know about you, but the seed catalogs are rolling in over here. I know I should be looking at them online, but it's so much more pleasant perusing a bound copy with pictures.

One thing I noticed is that some of the seed catalogs sell gift cards. That would have been a nice Christmas gift for some of us!

What's your favorite seed catalog(s)?

What's new on your list of things to grow in 2008?

Here are my faves:
Territorial Seed
Seeds of Change

For nurseries:
Raintree Nursery
Swansons

I haven't totally decided yet what new things I'm going to grow. But I have decided what I'm not going to bother with this year:
  • corn (not enough space)
  • brussel sprouts (didn't look good)
  • acorn squash (didn't really produce any last year)
  • watermelons (not hot enough)
  • bell peppers (not hot enough)
  • gourds (got nothing last year)
  • pickling cucumbers (these were a disaster)
  • pole beans
  • turnips
Some of the things I'm going to grow more of will be:
  • salad cucumbers
  • pumpkins, pumpkins, pumpkins!
  • spinach
  • lettuce
  • garlic

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Eve menu



And it was sooooo good.

I tried to use organic and local when I could. I used received Christmas cards as place markers, and real glassware, dishes, silverware and napkins. There was very little waste created, hardly anything thrown out and a ton of leftovers.

My friends and I exchanged homemade gifts in reusable gift bags. All in all, I'd say we had a pretty Green Holiday party.

Merry Christmas to you!

Monday, December 24, 2007

The car of the future

Zap XSince we're discussing emissions, I thought I'd take an opinion poll...

Between climate change and peak oil, the standard gas-driven internal combustion engine may be going the way of the dinosaur.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Got Crabs?

Animal, Vegetable, MiracleThe winner of the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle book giveaway contest goes to Rachel for her entry, "Got Crabs?".

Mr. Crunchy, as an impartial judge, helped with the final decision based on my top choices. Runner-up was Spice's "Holy Crab!", but the double-entendre of "Got Crabs" was the clincher.

Everything I Want to Do is IllegalHowever, given the overall utility of "Holy Crab!", which I've integrated into far too many conversations already, I've decided that the runner-up will receive my copy of Joel Salatin's Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal.

Rechelle, I was hoping you'd enter "Holly Crab Balls", but alas, you didn't. Loser.

So, congratulations to Rachel (who has also artfully mastered the DivaCup this week)! And to Spice for the runner-up prize. Let me know if you don't want it!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Let us all just reflect for a moment

Smog terrorism.... on how stupid the EPA is for refusing California and 16 other states the right to control their air quality by requiring their own car emissions standards (from the NYT):
The Bush administration said Wednesday night that it would deny California's bid to set stricter vehicle emissions standards than federal law required as part of the state's efforts to fight climate change... The E.P.A's decision was a victory for the American auto companies...

Isn't the EPA supposed to be protecting the environment and not the oil companies? This just really makes me sick. Especially after watching the movie, Who Killed the Electric Car, last weekend.

Do you feel like the United States is stepping down as a world leader? Do you feel like the American public is completely hand-tied by the oil industry in all of our current policies?

Sometimes, unfortunately, I do.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle book giveaway!

Give This Photo a Name Contest

I love, love, love doing giveaways! The winner from today's giveaway will win my pristine hardcover copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.

Usually I just have you guys enter a comment and then I randomly draw from those who entered. But, this time I've decided to steal an idea from a few other blogs - it's the "name this picture" deal.

So, all you have to do is come up with a pithy title for the picture below. The title I like best gets the book. One entry per person. You have until 7:00 p.m. PST on Friday, December 21st to enter. Any questions? Okay, go!

If you need more context about what you are looking at, see yesterday's post.
Name this photo to win!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Toilet water

What is this thing?Yes, you heard me right. Toilet water. And I don't mean the kind you dab behind your ears.

Did you know that a nonwater-saving toilet uses 5 to 7 gallons of water per flush? So, for a family of four this totals 36,500 to 51,000 gallons per year, on average.

To help you reduce the amount of water (and money) that you are flushing away, here are some tips on how to save water (listed from cheap to more expensive):

1. Don't flush
I'm really sick of the yellow/mellow saying, so I'll offer you something new:
If it's pee, let it be.
If it's poo, flush it through.


2. Use bath water or other grey water to flush the toilet
Although there may be some health issues with leaving grey water sitting around for too long, you can capture sink, shower or bath water and just dump it into the toilet bowl when you flush. I know some readers do this, perhaps they have some hints and tips to share.

3. Place a brick or a plastic bottle filled with water in the tank to displace water
Depending on how much you load up your tank with junk, you can save 1 to 1.5 gallons per flush. For example, if you put a gallon milk jug (filled with water, people, not milk) in your tank, you'll save a gallon per flush.

4. Install a flush regulator
This thing lets you control how much water goes into your flush. You hang the regulator on the flush mechanism and the toilet will only flush for as long as the button is held down. Apparently it's pretty easy to install with no plumber or tools needed and it can be used in dual flush system (see #6 below). The drawback with this is they don't seem to be readily available in the U.S.

5. Get a water-saving toilet
A water-saving toilet uses 3 1/2 gallons, about half of the old kind. That's a lot of water.

6. Get a dual-flush toilet
These will set you back a bunch, but you'll make up the savings in the long run if you have old toilets and don't want to try the other suggestions. Plus, it's always fun to confuse the hell out of visitors who stand there puzzled by the toilet.

You gonna eat that?Finally, there's one more suggestion.

It didn't make the list because I don't think it's practical for most people and, frankly, it makes the DivaCup look like an ice-cream cone. But, if you're real excited, you can save your urine and use it to fertilize your plants - it has lots of nitrogen (and potassium and minerals, too).

[Thanks to my brilliant brother, Darryl, for the pictures of the crab he found in his toilet one morning when he was living in Fiji.]

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle book discussion (chapters 17 - 20)

Phew! This has been the longest book club evah!

Here is the moment you've all been waiting for (well, maybe not) - the final installment of the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle book club discussion posts.

For those of you interested in the next book club and haven't noticed the never-ending polls and various posts, you can check it out here. I think it's fairly obvious at this point what we'll be reading.

Okay, now on with it!

Chapter 17. Celebration Days: November - December: In this chapter, Kingsolver states:
I only vow each winter to try harder to live like a potato, with its tacit understanding that time is time, no matter what any clock might say. I get through the hibernation months by hovering as close as possible to the woodstove without actual self-immolation, and catching up on my reading, cheered at regular intervals by the excess of holidays that collect in a festive logjam at the outflow end of our calendar.

How about you? Do you hibernate during the winter months, waiting for the end? Or do you relish in the shorter days, warmer foods and lots of company?

Chapter 18. What Do You Eat in January?: The author and her family fill their plates in January with foods high in omega-3s to fight off the winter doldrums. Add to that legumes, baked goods, winter squash and whatever else is in the freezer.

Do you have certain foods you tend to eat during the dead of winter?

Chapter 19. Hungry Month: February-March: This chapter discusses, in its entirety, well, turkey sex.

You see, the majority of turkey growers artificially inseminate their breeding stock. In effect, knowing how to breed turkeys naturally is becoming a lost art. And the turkeys don't know how to do it either since they don't have to. Skill in sexual prowess isn't selected for if even the most inept turkey come-ons still result in offspring via a tube. Add to that the fact that mothering instincts have been bred out of turkeys.

What in the world is going on around here? Did anyone else find it incredibly disturbing that sex and parenting have been completely bred out of turkeys?

Chapter 20. Time Begins: The final chapter wraps up their year of changes, between growing their own food and making everything from scratch. When she calculated everything out, they ended up spending about 50 cents per person per meal. Kingsolver also discusses some of the changes that occurred in society during that year, like more acceptance and desire of eating locally, driving hybrids, etc.

One thing she touches on is the act of ridiculing the small gesture. She argues that "small, stepwise changes in personal habits aren't trivial. Ultimately they will, or won't add up to having been the thing that mattered."

What have you done in the last year to change your personal habits, that when they add up really make a difference?


On Thursday, December 20th, I'll be doing a BOOK GIVEAWAY CONTEST. The book? Well, none other than my miraculously pristine hardback copy of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, A Year of Food Life. Stay tuned!

Monday, December 17, 2007

I don't know about you, but...

Don't eat the bubbles!FADE IN:

INT SUBURBAN HOME BATHROOM EARLY EVENING

A TODDLER is busy SPLASHING in a bathtub filled with bubbles. He wears an amazingly huge grin on his face.

ON SCREEN
essential2splishsplash

VOICEOVER
It is what makes people, places and things squeaky clean and springtime fresh.

It is chemistry.

ON SCREEN
americanchemistry.com

FADE OUT:

--------------------------------------------

What?

Okay, so this is actually a print ad, but I couldn't help myself (whatever happened to that really crappy screenplay I wrote a few years ago, you ask?).

Nonetheless, chemistry?

Sure, if you refer to the combination of lye, water and natural oils as chemistry, which I do. But, I don't think that manufactured, petroleum-based bubbles gives me the feel-good warm fuzzies they were intending in this ad. More like the willies.

Squeaky clean? This must be playing on American's fear of bacteria, MRSA, bird flu, germs. Kill 'em! With chemistry!

Oh, yeah, and I really hate the smell of chemically manufactured "springtime fresh". It's right up there with "baby powder scent". Ick. I need to go wash out my olfactory system just thinking about it. With chemicals.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Book club selection still up in the air!

Affluenza: The All-Consuming EpidemicWell, I'm pretty sure the next book for the book club will be Affluenza, but since it wasn't over 50% for the last poll, I wanted to give the 53% of you who didn't vote for it (and, of course, those who did) a chance to choose from the front-runners.

So, I'm narrowing it down to three following books. I'll be making my final decision this Wednesday, so git yer votes in now!

Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic
Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash
Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Another crazy idea...

Healthy PlanetI know, I'm chock full of crazy ideas, but I wanted to share with you my latest.

This one was hatched as a result of yesterday's post, Overeating and the Environment. I know a lot of us (well, some at least) struggle with stress eating and a few extra pounds so I thought, what fun! Let's make this a group effort to try to drop some extra weight with conservation and health in mind. Plus, the New Year is coming up and shouldn't losing weight be a resolution?

Here's what I'm thinking:

1. I'd post on this topic on Saturdays starting January 2008
2. You can participate actively or anonymously or whatever makes you comfy
3. I'd help you calculate a target weight based on your height and frame size
4. I'll try to find a calculation on how much your extra weight transfers into extra CO2 emitted per year (kinda like a clothesdryer, but it's you!)
5. I'll provide information on how many calories you need each day to get to your goal weight
6. I'll provide a forum and support for meeting a goal that not only affects the environment, albeit on a small (or in some cases, large?) scale, but also your health and future health costs
7. Help you to track and reduce your food waste [UPDATED]
8. I'll amaze and entertain!

I even have a fun name for this project:

No Overeating While Attempting to Save The Environment (NOWASTE)

So, let me know what you think!



In case you all are fearing for your lives here, I must first say there will be a hearty disclaimer attached to this project as I am not a professional. That said, I have many years experience in training for running races, a marathon and a triathlon as well as a constant fixation with nutrition. I just need to shake off the cobwebs encasing this knowledge.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Overeating and the environment

Who you callin' fat?We talk a lot about food. The last two books we've read for the book club have revolved around food - whether that be food production concerned with organics or local growers, farmers markets or growing you own food. Food plays a large part of our lives for both pleasure and sustenance, but it also can have a huge environmental impact, depending on how it is grown and transported.

You hear about a lot of diets or challenges, like the 100 Mile Diet, or people only eating locally or organically as part of their experiment to live a more green lifestyle. And, lord knows, we've done the same on this blog.

But, one thing you generally don't hear about, related with all this food talk, is total consumption and the effect on the environment. You see, it's all fine and dandy to focus on only eating locally and organically or growing your own, but what is the impact of eating too much food? I suspect it's a subject not generally discussed because of American's obsession with eating and size. Just look at the headlines of "who's fat now!" countered with "who's anorexic now!" Not to be confused with the "look who was fat and is now anorexic!" Whee! We can't seem to decide which is worse.

So, I want to bring your attention to the other part of the food puzzle and that is eating only what is necessary to maintain your proper weight. Now, I'm sitting in a very big glass house over here as I'm a stress eater and, well, there's a lot of stress over here. And, I've gained a few pounds. Okay, maybe 15. And it popped into my head this morning about the environmental impact of overeating (among other things).

According to this article in the Journal of Agriculture and Human Values, titled Luxus Consumption: Wasting Food Resources Through Overeating:

Between 1983 and 2000, US food consumption, including waste, increased by 18% or 600 kcal per person. This consumption required 100.6 million hectares for the US population, and 3.1% of total US energy consumption.

A 3.1% energy consumption increase - just from overeating. And that's only since 1983, we're not talking about since 1910 or anything. (For your reference, a Big Mac® is only 540 calories.)

Getting Jiggly With It

In addition to the resources required in the manufacture of the extra food consumed, there's also the resources required in dealing with the additional health problems created by overeating and obesity. With diabetes on the rise, high cholesterol, heart disease and all manner of other associated problems that means that there are more drugs, medical procedures and surgeries as a result of this overeating.

This creates an environmental impact due to the resources used in pharmaceutical development, manufacturing and distribution, all the paper, plastics and other materials needed for care, therapies and surgeries. The list goes on and on. All for health issues that are, for the most part, preventable.

Kirstie Alley - former environmental nightmare?So, next time you're sitting down with that big slice of organic, local pie, don't forget about the other consequences of hoarking down that extra 600 calories.

In thinking about food, has the environmental impact of overeating ever crossed your mind?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Stinky carcass breath

Fresh leavesThe New York Times Magazine had a variety of rather odd little tidbits in it this past Sunday. And, since the last two posts were a bit heavy, here's something for your sillier side.

One of the stories was regarding Vegansexuality. It turns out that in a study of vegans and vegetarians, some of the respondents seemed to be leaning towards "cruelty-free sex" in addition to their dining preferences.

For example, one vegan woman claimed that she "couldn't think of kissing lips that allow dead animal pieces to pass between them." Another woman exclaimed that meat eaters "are, after all, literally sustained through carcasses - the murdered flesh of others."

Even Ingrid Newkirk, the president and founder of PETA believes that vegans smell fresher. Is that true Chile? How about you Laura? Has your dating picked up now that you have been a vegan for a year and are now, ostensibly, fresher? Will I grow big knockers like Pamela Anderson with all the phytoestrogens in that soy?

Now, I've had my own dalliances with being both a vegan and a vegetarian, but I can't say that I would hold another person to such moral highground. Unless, of course, it really affects the relationship. Which is what seems to be happening for these people.

What do you think? If you are a vegan or vegetarian, is meat-eating a deal-breaker for you? If you are a meat-eater, are vegans too much work?

Now's your chance to blow that sweet-smelling hot air or stinky rotten corpse breath on the subject.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Movie Night: The Future of Food: Part 2

The Future of FoodThis post concludes the review of the movie, The Future of Food. To read Part 1, go here.

The second part of this film deals mostly with the risks of GMO food, namely the health risks and other unforeseen risks.

An example of a health risk with GMOs is the allergic reaction to StarLink corn, which contains Cry9C, an insecticidal protein. This protein does not seem to agree with some of the people who ingest it - they go into anaphylactic shock. Unfortunately, the StarLink corn wasn't tested before it was unleashed on the public.

Why, you ask? Because they didn't need to - it wasn't approved for human consumption. But, as we saw in the Part 1 post, cross-contamination of crops is rather prevalent. Or, in this case, many farmers may not have been clearly instructed not to sell the corn for human use, or were told that the unapproved variety would be approved by harvest time.

Part of the problem lies with the fact that the USDA doesn't require any environmental assessments with GMO crops. And the EPA regulates insecticides, but not food. Since insecticides are genetically engineered into all GMO crops and this is considered classical breeding practices, it is not regulated. Yet companies want to patent it without regulations. In other words, GMO falls through the cracks of all the agencies supposed to protect the consumer.

And if this doesn't make your blood boil, none of this fiddling with the food stock requires labelling. Polls show that 80 - 90% of people want GMO foods labelled, yet the manufacturers are still not required to do so in the U.S. The corporations want to make money by using GMOs but they don't want the responsibility when things don't work out.

Yet, biotech offers nothing for consumers. If offers no more nutrition (save for Golden Rice, and even that's debatable). Globally, starvation has nothing to do with quantity of foods. Farming is not a production problem, but an access problem and the U.S. subsidies prevent subsistence farming in other countries.

The U.S. farmers are overproducing crops like corn even when they can't cover production costs. So, we subsidize crops, undercutting the developing countries. For example, in Mexico it's cheaper to buy U.S. corn than the corn grown there (and our GMO corn is cross-contaminating the stock there, too). This system of subsidization has benefited U.S. corporations and not the developing countries.

Something that is also an issue to both U.S. and global farmers is the introduction of what's called terminator technology or the suicide gene. What this means is that farmers can't save the seed from generation to generation because it's sterile. So, they have to buy new seed each year. There are 15 patents on this suicide technology. What will happen if this gene pollutes crops around the world? Promoters say there is no out-crossing that can happen with GMO, but this is not true. And how do you switch off the terminator gene? Well, you need to spray it with a proprietary chemical to get it to germinate.

And last but not least, another issue to consider is the consolidation of food retail: Kraft and Nabisco own a huge market share; 80% of beef is processed by only 4 companies; and the vast majority of seed comes from four clusters of companies. In the next 10 years, all our food supplies will be controlled by a handful of companies, only one being from the U.S. - Walmart. Talk about a biosecurity risk.

So, what do we do about this? Well, you can start by supporting sustainable agriculture and avoiding big box grocery retailers and the national brands. CSAs create relationship with local families and create a connection with the community and provide a wide variety of produce rather than the monoculture of agriculture. Farmers markets also provide the community connection where you can meet the person that grew your food as you are purchasing it. You have the opportunity to discuss with the growers their farming techniques and philosophy. Consumers can't exercise their rights if GMO foods don't need to be labelled, but we can do so with our dollars elsewhere.

In other words, support your local farmers.

Disclaimer: This review is my account of the movie and may be highly fraught with inaccuracies. If you have any comment to add or to help clarify, please feel free.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Movie Night: The Future of Food - Part 1

The Future of FoodLo and behold, I'm starting a new series.

Sure, between the challenges, polls and series, I keep myself entertained. And, hopefully, you guys too.

This next series I'm calling movie night, wherein I watch an environmentally-related documentary and report back what it's all about.

Tonight's Feature Presentation: The Future of Food, Part 1 of 2

If you need a reason to despise Monsanto, then watch this movie. It will grind your crackers. It will make you sick to your stomach. It will bring a tear to your eye (it did as I watched a child eat a pesticide laden strawberry at the end of the movie).

The Future of Food, brings into high relief how our accessibility to seed stock is becoming constricted as agricultural companies genetically modify seeds (GMO) and then claim ownership to that species. As these GMOs mingle with other non-GMO seeds, a new seed is born, and now companies (primarily Monsanto) can claim ownership over that new seed. Even if the GMO seed contaminates a farmer's fields inadvertently, by patent law, it is owned by Monsanto.

One of the big problems is that Monsanto has bought up many seed companies over the years, making it the largest conventional seed company in the world. And, effectively, owning much of the seed stock out there. So, instead of seed saving from year to year, as farmers have done for centuries, many farmers must now pay Monsanto for these combined seeds or face being sued.

You see, Monsanto likes to go after small and mid-size farmers for patent infringement. They test the farmer's crops and accuse them of patent infringement when they find that their genetically modified seed has contaminated these farmer's fields. Over the last few years, 9,000 letters have been sent out to farmers from Monsanto. Most of the farmers choose to pay in order to avoid lawsuits.

At the filming of this movie there were 100 active lawsuits in US alone. For those that settle, the farmers have to agree to never discuss their settlement. Many farmers believe that they are profiled by the size of their farm so they can be made an example of. And this scares other farmers into not saving their own seed. Those farmers that do fight often spend their entire retirement money - up to $200,000 for one family.

To better explain, if Monsanto's GMO seed gets cross-pollinated into your crops, no matter how it got there (via wind, bird droppings, blowing off a truck, whatever) Monsanto now owns that seed. It now belongs to Monsanto based on current patent law. Even if you don't want it in your field.

So, for a more personal example, let's say I own 15 acres of land on which I grow organic heirloom soybeans. Soybeans that have been grown on my land for the last 5 generations by my ancestors, with seed stock they brought with them from the old country and are now perfectly adapted to my land.

Soylent Green is People!Now, let's say my next door neighbor (we'll call him Soylent Greenpa) grows Round-up Ready soybeans, a GMO crop developed by Monsanto that is resistant to the herbicide, Roundup.

Because the wind tends to blow from west to east and his crops are west of mine, my soybean crops get contaminated with his GMO soybeans. I take my now contaminated crops (unbeknownst to me) and save the seeds. Thousands of them. And I grow a whole new crop of soybeans with them. Monsanto can legally sue me for damages since I am now not only illegally growing "their" soybeans, but since they also own all the seed I have saved.

As an extreme example, most of the canola fields in Western Canada are now contaminated by Monsanto's GMO seed and the farmers are facing this very problem of patent infringement.

Whew! That should give you something to chew on...

Next up, Part 2 of The Future of Food.

Disclaimer: This review is my account of the movie and may be highly fraught with inaccuracies. If you have any comment to add or to help clarify, please feel free.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Christmas tree poll

Pretty pink treeSo, you all now know that I chose plastic over paper (so to speak) when it came to my Christmas tree this year.

I'm hoping that it will last for many, many years to come. I have fond memories, too, of assembling the fake Christmas tree that I grew up with so perhaps my kids will have the same nostalgia. Although I definitely prefer the fresh-cut tree and had dreams of taking the kids out to a tree farm to U-cut a tree, that really isn't realistic right now.

And, I must admit, this one is a snap to care for. Plus, since it breaks down, I can manage it myself. Oh yeah, really, my tree isn't flocked pink.

What kind of tree (if you celebrate with a tree, that is) do you have this year?



Unfortunately, I can only have seven choices in the poll, so if you opted to not have a tree and want that choice counted, add a comment!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

O Christmas Tree!

I am so totally torn by the whole Christmas tree issue.

Planet Green (a branch of Treehugger) recently had a post regarding renting or buying a living tree. I know others have mentioned it in my post regarding what to do about Christmas trees.

Unfortunately, getting a living tree isn't entirely practical. You can only keep it in the house for a week (otherwise the tree suffers) and if you live in an apartment or on a small lot, you have the quandary of what to do with it when you are done.

On the other hand, for most of us, getting an organic tree requires one to spend a tremendous amount of effort or money. If you buy a conventional tree then you are supporting a petro-chemically raised tree that may not be all that much better than the fake trees. The petroleum to ship a living, conventional or organic tree isn't something to look at lightly either.

Again, in my mind it's a total toss-up.

In the past, we have gotten a real, conventionally grown tree. And it's always expensive - something around $80 - to support local nurseries.

So, this year, I bit the bullet and bought a fake tree with LED lights. I still feel like I need to take a shower to wash off all the lead, but I know that, with good care, the tree will last for many, many years. Plus, it was a floor model, over 50% off (only $150), and I saved a treemendous amount of money. Which is important this time of year and the fact that half our income is no longer a given.

I've decided that I'm not going to beat myself up about this one. But, clearly, I haven't let it go yet, otherwise I wouldn't be posting about it.

Of course, one could just not get a Christmas tree, but I have two small kids that I subject to enough environmental oddities, that I can't deprive them of a tree. At least not yet.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Dueling DivaCups: A tale of Two Rachel(le)s

Back when the DivaCup Challenge was in full swing, two of the readers most resistant to the idea were Rachel (the Canning Queen) and Rechelle (The Country Chicken's Wife).

Sure there were other Rachels (or Rachel variants) who were already proud users or willing participants.

Sure I, myself, was immediately appalled by the DivaCup's function, dimensions and directions. But I got over it and life went on. Since the challenge, I fall in love with my DivaCup all over again every month as it reminds me of its many talents and advantages.

For those of you who missed out on the DivaCup Challenge and all the insanity that ensued, you can read about it in these posts. Be forewarned that several of the posts are graphic and/or just plain silly.

Anyway, Rachel, Rechelle and DivaCups popped into the forefront of my brain this week. Somewhere directly in front of the pineal gland.

Rachel got herself a DivaCup yesterday. She, too, is appalled by its dimensions and directions. Again, I admit the whole thing is mighty intimidating. But she is determined to conquer its many mysteries.

As for Rechelle. Well, I spent the earlier part of the week taunting her by offering to get her one for Christmas. Alas, she is still not interested.

Oh yeah, and Rechelle? That latex allergy excuse? Well, it's made out of silicone. And it definitely could double as a Christmas table decoration.

I'll wear you down eventually.

Ah, the DivaCup Challenge. My first challenge. Sniff! Memories...

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Keep out the cold with a draft dodger

Freeze Yer Buns ChallengeAnd, no, I don't mean cozying up to Dick Cheney.

If you want to keep drafts down in your house, then I suggest making your own draft dodgers (see picture below for those who need visual aids). Even beginning sewers can do this project.

Measure the length of the door or window you want to deploy this on and add an extra inch or two. Choose a thick fabric - something heavy like corduroy, ThermaFleece or whatever's on sale at your fabric store. You'll cut your fabric the length that you measured by 8 inches.

With right sides of the fabric facing each other, sew up one end and both sides. Turn right side out, and fill it with rice, dry corn, beans, polyfill, batting, cut up old blankets or shirts, sandbox sand, pretty much whatever you have on hand. Sew up the remaining end.

Draft dodger from GaiamIf even this project is still too much for you, you can always rustle up some tube socks, fill them with whatever you want and tie a knot at the ends. When the weather warms up, you can pour that sand back in the sandbox and wear those socks again. Or, you can cut up an old pair of thick women's tights, fill it with rice, and tie a knot at the end of the legs. Now you have two matching door stoppers.

If you want to make a very durable draft dodger, cut the legs off a pair of used jeans, fill them and sew or tie up the ends. If you don't have any long socks, tights, or jeans then head to your nearest thrift store for supplies. You'll be cozy in no time. Dick Cheney not required.

Finally, if you really don't want to spend the time on it, you can buy the one shown above at Gaiam for $20.

Doesn't this look suspiciously like the bun warmin' bed warmer? Hmmm. With a little planning you can really extend your project for multiple uses.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle book discussion (chapters 13 - 16)

Well, here we are. I'm going to finish up the discussion posts for this book this month. So expect to see the final installment in two weeks. If you want to have your say for the book in the next book club, vote here!

Here are the discussion questions for chapters 13 through 16:

Chapter 13 - Life in a Red State: Aaaah. Tomatoes. There's just no comparison between home-grown or in-season farmer's market tomatoes and those anemic, mealy orbs sold in the grocery stores year round. Here in Seattle we get "hot house" tomatoes that are supposedly grown in Vancouver, B.C. (huh?). Rumor has it they come from Mexico. They are slightly better than the standard beefsteak, but I've decided it just isn't worth it to buy them out of season. But I digress.

Our tomato plants were hit and miss this year due to the cool summer. The majority of our tomatoes were green and never did ripen. Next year I'll try ripening them inside, but I did manage to pull about 15 lbs of green tomatoes this year.

Did you grow tomatoes this year? How did they turn out? If not, will you consider growing them yourself now that you've read this chapter?

If you grew tomatoes did you do any canning or freezing to capture the bounty for consumption the rest of the year? Even if you don't grow them yourself would you think about buying a load from the farmer's market next year and canning your own tomatoes?

Have you ever had a canning party? Would you consider organizing one next year?

Chapter 14 - You Can't Run Away on Harvest Day: This chapter discusses a different kind of harvest. One that involves dispatching (my homesteading uncle's term) raised animals for consumption. For Kingsolver and her family this means chickens. She brings up a good point for those critical of raising animals for meat:

... animals raised on open pasture are the traditional winter fare..., and they serve us well here in the months it would cost a lot of fossil fuels to keep us in tofu. Should I overlook the suffering of victims of hurricanes, famines, and wars brought on this world by profligate fuel consumption? Bananas that cost a rain forest, refrigerator-trucked soy milk, and prewashed spinach shipped two thousand miles in plastic containers do not seem cruelty-free...

The point is, it's easy to malign raising animals as a food source to consume during the months when vegetation is slim. And it's easy to sit back and feel self-righteous whilst hoarking down loads of vegetarian fare that may have more of an environmental impact than low-impact raised meats. What do you think about this argument?

Do you raise animals for meat? Would you ever consider doing so? Did reading this chapter at all influence your opinion?

Chapter 15 - Where Fish Wear Crowns: Kingsolver discusses, in detail, her trip to Italy and how the food culture there influenced every part of her travels from the lengthy meals to the Italian's love of food. Granted, her trip had more of a food oriented bent to it, but I think most people travel to Italy with food on their minds. It's one of those destinations where food is just as much part of the reason for going as seeing the sights.

What's your favorite food-oriented destination and why?

Chapter 16 - Smashing Pumpkins: October brings in the pumpkin harvest and the planting of garlic. By now, your potatoes have been dug and stored along with the onions and other end of season storables. If you grew them, of course.

Were any of these grown in your garden this year? Will you be growing them next year?


Feel free to add your own discussion questions pertaining to these chapters in the comments as well!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A river runs through it

Golden GardensWestern Washington was hit pretty hard by torrential rains over the last 24 hours. The picture on the left is taken of a road within walking distance of my house.

We woke up to a flooded basement. I spent all day sucking the water out with a wet vac. Needless to say, I'm exhausted.

But, when all is said and done, I really can't complain. We only had about an inch of water in the basement and as of right now, due to my diligence and fabulous work, it's almost completely dry. Unfortunately, many others had their entire basements flooded with feet of water.

Woodinville firefighterI'll be back to my regular posts tomorrow. I have the next installment of the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle book club post just about ready to go!

Oh yeah, and why couldn't I get this firefighter to drain my basement for me? That's right, he's busy saving lives or something important. Doesn't he know my hands are so dry from all this manual labor that they are cracking and bleeding as I type this post? Priorities, people!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Next book club - vote now!

Affluenza: The All-Consuming EpidemicI'll be finishing up the posts for the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle book club this month and wanted to get the votes started for the next book club.

Here are the links so you can do some research:

Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic
Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash
Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning
When the Rivers Run Dry: Water--The Defining Crisis of the 21st Century
Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet
Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future
The Party's Over: Oil, War And The Fate Of Industrial Societies





Like I have done before, once voting slows down (or in about two weeks) I'll take the top three books voted for and hold another vote, unless there is an obvious winner. I'm hoping to start reading the next book in January. I'll make a decision in time to add the book to your Christmas list.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Stick for the day

A stick a day keeps the landfill awayNow, it's takes a lot to really surprise me when it comes to environmental changes. I've looked into, addressed and done all manner of weird and wacky things in an effort to lower my impact on the environment. But the other day at work I noticed something in our lunch room that really stopped me in my tracks.

For background, there's a coffee club that people pay into so there's a pot of coffee available. The person that organizes it buys the coffee and keeps things stocked based on the monies paid into the club. They do this because I work for the government and they (you?) don't pay for coffee for us.

So, now, next to the coffee pot, is sitting a paper cup with the words "Today's stirring stick" on it with one of those little red plastic stirring numbers in it. It took me a second to realize that someone had set up a communal coffee stirring stick so only one stick (ostensibly if everyone uses it) is wasted each day. I don't know how many people will go for it (I don't drink coffee so I won't be partaking), but it's an interesting idea. And, as long as no one sucks on it, I think it's fairly hygienic.

Would you use it?

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