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.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Old Fashioned Activities for Pioneer Week

Pioneer Week: November 3 - 10, 2008Since one of the many guidelines for Pioneer Week involve low-tech entertainment, I thought I'd provide some ideas for keeping the kids busy that come straight out of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books.

Making butter - Yep, I've discussed this ad nauseum before, but in the Little House books, Laura's mom would grate carrot into the milk while she was heating it to give it a yellow color. I suspect the milk was heated probably for home pasteurization. Raw milk foodies may disagree with me on this one.

Anyway, now's your chance to make butter again, this time with an authentic yellow tinge to it - just make sure you strain out the carrots and let the milk return to room temperature (about 65 degrees) before making the butter. [From Little House in the Big Woods.]

Making apple studded cloves - No, this isn't another reference to greening your sex life. This is the fall alternative to making clove studded oranges around Christmas time and the process is mostly the same.

Basically, take an apple and a jar of cloves. Using a toothpick, prescore the apple with holes for placing the cloves. You'll want to do this to save your fingers from being shredded by the clove heads. Now push the clove stems into the apple skin, making sure you completely cover the apple. For a more modern interpretation, you can make spirals, stripes or the visage of Sponge Bob.

Now take your studded apple and place it in a bowl with about 1/4 cup of your favorite dried ground spices such as cinnamon, ginger, orris root, allspice and nutmeg. Roll your apple around in the spices. Leave the apple in its bowl with the spices for a few weeks in a warm, dry area of the house. A couple times a day (maybe when you brush your teeth), roll the apple around again.

When it is completely dried out and shrivelled evenly, your apple is done. You may now tie a ribbon around it and hang it in your homestead. Apparently, these cloves scented orbs were used as natural moth repellents. [From Little House in the Big Woods.]

Making sugar snow - I know some of you are already getting snow, but the rest of us will just have to fake it using ice put in the blender or food processor.

Heat a cup of maple syrup up to 245 to 255 degrees F. As soon as the syrup reaches temperature, pour or drizzle it immediately, without stirring, over packed snow or shaved ice, making "circles, and curlicues, and squiggledy things" as Laura and Mary did.

Because the mixture cools so rapidly, the supersaturated solution does not have a chance to crystallize and forms a a thin glassy, taffy-like sheet over the snow/ice. Traditionally, sugar snow is served with sour pickles to cut the sweetness, and saltines or plain doughnuts. [From Little House in the Big Woods.]

Making dried apple sauce - Who knew you could make applesauce from dried apples? Well, I certainly didn't. Put about 8 ounces of dried apple slices in a saucepan and cover them with boiling water. Let them soak for about 15 minutes or until they are tender adding additional water if necessary.

Once the apples are tender, remove them from the water and mash them with a potato masher, adding sugar and cinnamon to taste. Simmer the applesauce over low heat for about 3 minutes. May be served warm or cold. Applesauce should be stored in the refrigerator. [From By the Shores of Silver Lake]

Making rag curls for little girls - Skip the curling iron or other torture devices and add a little curl to your girl's hair by using rag curls. The concept is relatively easy.

Taking strips of fabric one inch wide and about 8 - 12 inches long (depending on length of hair), roll sections of damp hair (starting at the ends) under towards the scalp. When you reach your scalp, tie the ends of the rag together. Let dry and remove. Voila! Curls. [From Little House in the Big Woods.]

Related posts:
Living like Little House on the Prairie
Hitch up your wagon for Pioneer Week
Getting outfitted for Pioneer Week
Frontier House (the movie discussion we never had)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How green is your sex life?

Got wood?I get the distinct feeling that most people don't like talking about this. You read about greening pretty much everything else on a constant basis - your food choices, heating, transportation, entertainment, clothing, etc., but there is a fairly huge void when it comes to one of those basic human needs - sex.

Now, I generally don't like to pry into your personal lives, okay who am I kidding, it's one of my favorite past times, so let's just jump right on in.

Contraception - Unless you or your partner has been fixed or your eggs are past their pull date, this is most likely an area of concern for you. Most of the non-surgical options have a heavy environmental impact. Not that getting fixed doesn't have any environmental cost, but it's a fixed cost. Get it? Fixed cost? Moving on...

Birth control pills or, really, any estrogen or progestin interrupter-based contraception has environmental consequences outside of the manufacturing, packaging and transportation. These chemicals get excreted by the users and end up in places we don't want them. Scientists are finding increasing amounts of these hormones in our waterways, harming the fish populations and eventually finding their way back into our drinking water. Hormonal IUDs have the same potential consequence so copper IUDs may be a better bet if that's your chosen contraception.

Barrier methods such as condoms, diaphragms and the cervical cap vary in their impact. While a condom provides additional protection in the way of disease control, they are single use items and aren't exactly sustainable. Diaphragms and the cap are at least reusable so you are looking at the one-time manufacturing, packaging and distribution issue.

Disease Protection - I'm calling this out separate from the contraception because, while condoms are generally used for contraception as well as disease protection there are a number of other pieces of, um, equipment that get employed for this use as well, namely dental dams and the like. Again, you are looking at the impact of manufacturing, etc. but the benefits far outweigh the cost when you consider the potential for avoiding disease.

Of course, no method of birth control available today offers perfect protection against sexually transmitted infections except abstinence. So, what's a sexually active person to do? One thing is to get yourself into a stable relationship and get tested for STDs and use a reusable method of contraception that doesn't have the hormone issues going on with it. Of course, this may not necessarily be practical for everyone, but that's pretty much the lowest impact as I see it.

Fun and games - I'm not about to suggest that you switch over your favorite sex toys to a wood version, but do be mindful of the materials with which they are made. Far too many toys are made with plastics, poly vinyl chloride (PVC) and the like. I'm sure there are natural latex and rubber based items out there that will satisfy. If you have an allergy to latex then look into more natural items like fruits and vegetables where the impact is definitely lower.

For those wanting something with a little more oomph, you can find glass or metal toys. If you are truly concerned that your dildo is causing global warming, you can even spring for a solar powered vibrator. And don't forget the organic, natural-based lube. Just stay away from the used products - not that there are any consignment sex shops around.

Finally, instead of renting porn, opt for it on-demand through your cable or satellite or download it online. You'll save yourself from the car trip, the consumption of plastic and the leers of the guy working the counter.

For your consideration - Do you think about the environmental impact when making choices related to your sex life or are these concerns so far apart in your mind that you don't even consider it?

Related posts:
Sex is greeny!
Vegansexuality
Planning a green Valentine's
The feminization of the American male

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Killing the cable

Remote controlWe have been meaning to cancel our cable TV subscription for oh, over a year now. It seems like every time we were about to get around to doing it, something was on that we wanted to watch (Olympics) or just plain ole life interrupted it.

When we bought our most recent television a few years ago, the electronics store was having a deal through Comcast that gave us inexpensive digital cable for a year (woohoo! HD!) plus free HBO channels (who knew there were, like, 5 of them). It was a good deal for the year, but then that expired and holy smokes! It got real expensive.

Like the lazy fools we are, we've been paying $100 a month to keep the same level that we got for cheap before. Like I said, we somehow seemed to justify it, but why in the world are we paying $1200 a year for something we don't even watch? I mean, we really don't watch much TV at all.

So, we cancelled it yesterday and will now be getting just basic cable for $9 a month. It still gives us the local channels and some bonus (read: boring government and religious) channels, some of them still in HD. Although I appreciate the high definition broadcast, sometimes I wish they wouldn't still do the same kind of closeups. Nobody needs that kind of punishment.

Anyway, we finally killed off the cable we weren't using and will be saving a bunch of money to boot. Next up, I need to tackle the cell phone costs.

What about you? What kind of TV service do you get? Cable, extended cable, premium channels, satellite, Netflix? Is it worth the cost? With the economy being shaky are you rethinking your entertainment expenditures?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Easy cheese series - homemade ricotta

Homemade ricottaMaking your own cheese seems so horribly insurmountable that most people don't even think to try doing it themselves. It always seems like you need a ton of equipment, weird ingredients or a lot of patience to wait for your cheese to cure.

There are a number of cheeses you can make easily at home, mostly the soft style ones, with little skill and effort. I'm doing a series of cheese making posts to get you all started and to get me inspired to make them myself.

I'll be starting with some of the easier ones and working my way up to the more complicated ones. But, rest assured, I won't be telling you about cheeses that you can't easily make yourself, since I have little interest in spending all my time making cheese.

This first recipe is for making ricotta. There is a huge difference between freshly made ricotta and that dry lumpy stuff packaged in plastic that you get from the store. There's just no comparison since you are using so little in the way of ingredients and you don't having to worry about long shelf life dates.

So, here goes!

Whole Milk Ricotta

Ingredients
1 gallon whole milk
1/4 cup white vinegar (or lemon juice)
2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)

Instructions
If you like your ricotta extra creamy, add the heavy cream to the whole milk and heat on medium-low to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring often to make sure it doesn't boil or scald. This is a slow process that should take about 25 minutes, you don't want to rush this step.

Once the milk has reached temperature, gently stir in the vinegar (or lemon juice), being careful not to over stir. Take the milk mixture off the heat and let sit for about 10 minutes. You should see the ricotta curd separating from the whey.

Using a slotted spoon, ladle the curds into a lined colander (thin weave cloth like a cotton kitchen towel or double cheesecloth works well) being careful not to break up the curds. Let your ricotta drain in the colander for about 45 minutes or until desired consistency is reached (some people prefer a drier ricotta in which case let it drain longer or even overnight in the refrigerator).

Store refrigerated for up to a week.

Yield
1.5 - 2 pounds

There are so many great recipes for using ricotta cheese, ranging from sweet to savory, that you'll probably never get bored of making this cheese.

Related posts:
Make your own yogurt
Do you need to try no knead bread?
Holy cow! I made my own butter

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Green Halloween

Green witch's hatKeeping with the spirit of recycling, here's a regurgitated post. Emma turned 5 yesterday and it's party weekend so I haven't had the time to generate new content. But this is seasonally appropriate.

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

I keep hearing a tremendous amount of press about "Greening your Halloween", but it seems like the take home message from the news has been "No Candy - Cheap Plastic Crappy Toys Instead". At least this is how it has been reported to me from people reading these news pieces. How green is that message?

Now, I know this isn't the actual message organizations like The Nature Conservancy are promoting, but it's what people who hear about it seem to bring away from it.

On the other hand, suggested food alternatives are either expensive (and not realistic if you get upwards of 100 kids like we do), seemingly dangerous (open packaging like raisins that parents will throw away thinking their kids will get poisoned or worse), or, frankly, inedible (tea?). What child is going to be gleeful at a bag of fruit leathers, raisins and organic fruit drink boxes? Throw in a sandwich and call it school lunch.

Unless every house hands out these kinds of everyday "treats", these well meaning handouts will be ignored or, even worse, thrown in the trash. So much for green.

As for the toy alternatives, the same problem arises. Most eco-friendly toys are expensive and unaffordable for most households. The affordable toys are cheap plastic that are "Hecho en China" and aren't exactly green. Even if you could afford a boatload of recycled pencils, shells (are these sustainable?) and hand-hewn wooden trinkets, are these toys that kids want?

Again, will they end up ignored and eventually thrown in the trash? Most kids are too polite to look at your selection and refuse to take anything, whether they want it or not. So, while I totally applaud the intent behind all this, I really don't see this as a real, green solution.

Here's my take on it - maybe mixing in some of the "greener" items with standard ole candy and let the kids decide. I ended up putting in some alternatives last year, mostly because I was running out of candy and went through the cabinets looking for additional treats. I was quite amazed at how a couple of kids chose the 100% fruit juice gummies and some PediaSure nutrition bars my mom bought (yes, I was desperate) over the remaining candy.

Obviously, there are the exceptions. This year I'll huck in some Halloween pencils for sport and see what happens. It would be fun to do a more statistically useful study, but my sample would only represent my neighborhood and probably wouldn't tell anyone much of anything. I suspect the non-candy choosers would be in the minority.

I remember being a kid and mentally planning, even while I was still out trick-or-treating, to toss all the mealy apples, popcorn balls and other things I didn't like. I don't want to inflict the same waste on a new generation of kids.

What are the rest of you guys doing about Halloween? Do you have any suggestions? And, I'm not looking for the "turn off the lights and hope your house doesn't get egged" alternatives.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Quick and easy root cellar

As we head into deep into fall, and the desire to store apples, potatoes, garlic, onions and the like through the winter is at a peak, those of us without a root cellar get despondent. Okay, maybe not completely despondent, but we wish we had a way of storing these foods for long periods of time.

You see, living in an area where we rarely get snow, let alone cold enough temperatures to keep things in a garage or shed makes it difficult to store these foods without some sort of cellar or shelter. So, what's a desperate food storage obsessed person to do?

Some might suggest building in a root cellar. For many of us that is not only impractical, but impossible. What's another option? Well, if you have any bit of yard you can easily make your own mini root cellar. Even if you rent - because this is an impermanent solution and it doesn't take up much space.

Have I got your interest yet? Okay here goes. Dig a hole in the ground to accommodate a fairly large sized plastic container like an old cooler, a garbage can or a large storage bin with a lid. Place your receptacle of choice in said hole, making sure you leave a few inches sticking out of the ground to prevent rainwater or runoff from entering your "cellar". You can dig a little drainage ditch around the cellar and cover with insulating straw and plastic as well to further protect your storage container.

If you want a lot more storage space and don't mind digging a bigger hole, consider burying a 55 gallon drum or something larger. In spite of the space limitations, I would imagine that a long storage bin or insulated cooler would be ideal since you could place smaller bins or racks inside to keep some semblance of order and make it easier to find what you are looking for. But if you are looking to store a lot of large items, like 15 pumpkins, you'll need to find a larger container.

Once you've got your cellar loaded, pack it with newspaper or straw or whatever you have on hand to help keep things insulated and then snap on the lid securely. You want to make sure that the only one getting into your food supply is you and not the neighborhood bugs and critters. You'll also want to make sure you check your stock occasionally to remove any items that aren't looking too good.

If this type of cellar works out for you, you can be looking at these kinds of storage times for your bounty:

Apples: ~ 2 - 6 months
Radishes: ~ 3 months
Beets: ~ 4 months
Carrots: ~ 5 months
Pumpkins: ~ 5 months
Squash: ~ 5 months
Turnips: ~ 5 months
Potatoes: ~ 5 months

Now, this solution isn't perfect or ideal because of the limited space, but it's an easy option to give a try. Just don't store your potatoes with your apples!

For more information on how to store your foods, check out these great free resources:
Storage Guidelines for Fruits & Vegetables, Cornell University
Storing Vegetables at Home, University of Wisconsin

Related posts:
What to do with all those apples
Drying herbs for idiots
Preserving food for the winter

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Getting all mavericky with the Senate

Gettin' all maverickyWhat exactly does the Vice President do anyway? Well, Sarah Palin had this answer for an inquiring third grader named Brandon:

"[The Vice President is] in charge of the United States Senate, so if they want to, they can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes that will make life better for Brandon and his family and his classroom. And it's a great job and I look forward to having that job."

Oh, really? Well, let's all take a peek back at Article I of the Constitution for clarity: "The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided."

Essentially, the Vice President presides over the Senate and, for the most part, it is more of a ceremonial position and one that really only gets called into play in order to break a tie vote. In other words, the Vice President has no official role in developing legislation or determining how it is presented to or debated by the Senate. It is the leader of the majority party that is in charge of the Senate, not the Vice President.

I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want this woman babysitting my children, let alone getting all mavericky with the Senate as the Vice President.

For further insight into how being the mayor of Wasilla unequivocally prepares you for being President, check out this interview with current Wasilla mayor, Diane Keller (the interview is about halfway through the clip).

If you don't have the patience or bandwidth, let me provide a transcript:

Jason Jones: Do you think being a small-town Mayor prepares you to be president of the United States?
Mayor Dianne Keller: An unequivocal yes.
JJ: How?
Mayor: How?
JJ; Let's say you have a problem with the fire department? What would you do?
Mayor: The city of Wasilla doesn't manage the fire department.
JJ: Ok, fine. Let's say there's something wrong with the school system?
Mayor: We don't do the school system.
JJ: Just pick any social service.
Mayor: We don't do social services in Wasilla...
JJ: Um, what do you do?
Mayor: What do we do in Wasilla?
JJ: Take me through the Mayor of Wasilla's day.
Mayor: (nod, nod, nod), Just different, different things on different days...um, well Mondays at 10 o'clock we always have a staff meeting, and then, um, um, (long pause) every Thursday is a check-signing day, so I sign all the checks for the city of Wasilla--pay the bills...

And there you have it! Executive experience.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Planting edible ground cover

Here's another post I wrote up for Mother Earth News that went up today: Planting Edible Ground Cover.

If you missed the other post, my White Chocolate Raspberry Jam with Coffee Liqueur recipe is also up. Enjoy!

Getting outfitted for Pioneer Week

Pioneer Week: November 3 - 10, 2008A few of you were hoping that, for Pioneer Week, I'd add in a Pioneer dress code as well. As I said before, you are more than welcome to go all out, but I figured there were many of you uninterested in that aspect of the week.

Of course, you can always use Halloween as an excuse and then, since Pioneer Week is coming up right afterwards, you might as well wear your outfit again, no?

That said, I'm here to help you get geared up for Pioneer Week. Now, there are many places you can buy pioneer style clothes, but there are also several free patterns available online if you want to make or sew your own.

If you want to assemble something from your wardrobe or from a thrift store, here are some ideas of what to put together:

  • How to Make a Pioneer Costume.
  • List of clothing patterns and information about what Pioneers wore
  • How to dress like a Pioneer woman (pdf)
  • How to dress like a Pioneer man (pdf)
  • How to dress like a Pioneer girl (pdf)

    If, however, you are handy with a needle, you can make your own authentic garments using these specific patterns:

  • How to make a Pioneer apron (pdf)
  • How to make a Pioneer sunbonnet (pdf)
  • Another Pioneer bonnet pattern
  • How to make a Pioneer shawl (pdf)
  • How to make Pioneer petticoats (pdf)

    That ought to get you started. I'll be adding a lot more information in the next two weeks on additional, authentic ways to spend Pioneer Week aside from the guidelines already listed in the original post.

    For those of you not at all interested in Pioneer Week, but are interested in canning recipes, my recipe for White Chocolate Raspberry Jam is up over on Mother Earth News if you want to check it out.
  • Tuesday, October 21, 2008

    Chai yogurt and bread making update

    I'm not sure why I've been on this cooking from scratch binge lately (perhaps in anticipation of the sure to be highly memorable, Pioneer Week), but I've been going to town making stuff and I wanted to share a few updates.

    Last Friday, I posted about making yogurt at home. Well, I surely outdid myself over the weekend when I coupled two of my favorite things of late: yogurt and masala chai tea. That's right I made Chai Tea yogurt and let me tell you, it is fantastical!

    Basically, what I did was make the chai tea as per my original recipe, although I made a quart of it. I then used this as a base for the yogurt, heating it to the proper temperature, cooling it down, adding the starter and then "cooking" it. This delightful flavor will definitely be a regular around these here parts.

    Success at last!I also tried the Speedy No Knead Bread recipe on Sunday since I had such magnanimous failures with the other ones before. This time I did things a little differently.

    I heated the water to 110 degrees and added the yeast and a pinch of sugar and let it sit for about 5 minutes before I added it to the flour and salt. I then let it proof in a warm area for 5 hours. It rose like crazy. It took the full hour to bake, but it turned out beautifully browned with a crisp crust and a nice, poofy, interior.

    Since y'all were talking up that 5 Minute Bread Recipe, I got that started last night since the other bread I made is mostly gone already. I tinkered with the quantities a bit since they are huge. I cut the recipe down to 2/3 the original and substituted 1 cup of all-purpose flour with whole-wheat and 1/3 cup of all-purpose with medium rye flour.

    It was rising like crazy before it went in the fridge (I actually had to move it to a larger container as it was crawling out of the original one). I'll report back how well that goes. I'm hoping to use this as an all-purpose bread for loaves as well as pizza dough.

    Raspberry jamThat's pretty much it! I also submitted another recipe to Mother Earth News Blogs so when that gets posted, I'll let you know. I'm super excited to share this jam recipe with you as it's my favorite one yet.

    My husband said it tastes like a raspberry jelly donut and, by gum, he is right. There are several (soon-to-be not so secret) ingredients that make it great and I can barely stop congratulating myself for my jambrilliance!

    Monday, October 20, 2008

    Hitch up your wagon for Pioneer Week!

    Pioneer Week: November 3 - 10, 2008Now that I've got a lot of you signed up to Freeze Yer Buns this winter, it's time to gear up for living like Little House on the Prairie.

    That's right folks, enough of you seemed interested, so I'm hosting the first ever Pioneer Week in November. From November 3rd through November 10th, those of you brave enough to participate can look forward to a full week of pioneer fun!

    What exactly does that mean? Well, it means living by a few simple rules:

    1. Food: During Pioneer Week, you must make all your meals from scratch. This isn't really as hard as it sounds particularly since you have a few weeks to prepare. That's right, I'm letting you prepare meals ahead of time to freeze if you won't have time during the work week. But, anything prepared ahead of time must be made from scratch. What kind of things are we talking about?

    Baked items: Yeast and quick breads, pizza dough, crackers, pasta, bagels, tortillas, pretzels, etc.

    Looking for meal suggestions? Here are a few (I'm not expecting you to keep to a pioneer diet, unless you really want to go for it):

    Breakfast: Granola, muesli, oatmeal, yogurt and fruit. Eggs and toast made with homemade bread, butter and jam.

    Lunch: Sandwiches with home ground peanut butter, jam. Homemade mozzarella and the last of this year's tomatoes from the garden.

    Dinner: Soups made with homemade stock, pasta with homemade tomato sauce, chili, stews served with homemade bread.

    Snacks: Yogurt, dried fruits, fruit and vegetables, cookies, homemade ice cream, etc.

    2. Energy usage: Keep your energy usage low by keeping the heat low or off, use only one light in the house at a time (or at least turn off the lights when you are not using them) and line dry your clothes. Since you'll be doing a lot of cooking at home, try to coordinate when you are using the oven to take advantage of baking and/or roasting items at the same time. I don't expect you to unplug your fridge or freezer, so don't worry about that.

    3. Conserve water: Since we don't all lug our water from the stream for home use, we'll have to do a few things to help conserve water. Besides taking shorter showers (5 minutes or less or take a military style shower) and flushing less often, you can create a great reminder about water usage by turning the water off on most of your sinks so when you go to use them nothing comes out.

    Why in the world do this? Well, because it will force you to use the few sinks you do leave on. And of the one(s) you leave on, turn the water down low (via the knobs underneath the sink) so you have little water pressure. It will be hard to have the sink on full blast with little water pressure.

    4. Transportation: Walk as much as possible. This will force you to support more local stores if you can't drive across town. If this isn't feasible, then drive or take public transportation. Most importantly, try to combine trips and if you really don't need to go out, stay home!

    5. Rethink your entertainment: Instead of spending the week passively watching television or movies, try to engage more with the people you live with or neighbors within walking distance. Get the family back into playing games, music or just sitting around talking and telling stories. If you aren't in the mood for socializing try picking up that long lost craft hobby or start a new one.

    6. Watch your wallet: Think of this as a Buy Nothing Week. Since you'll be pretty much eating at home or at home all week, you don't really need to buy anything, now do you?

    As we get closer to Pioneer Week, I'll post suggested activities to get you more into the spirit of things. Some will be fun and games for the kids and others will be activities for adults as well as kids.

    If you have any ideas to share on what you plan on doing or how else to make Pioneer Week a success, leave your tips in the comments section of this post. For those of you who want to totally get into it, feel free to dress up, just try not to alarm the neighbors.

    Now, if you want to participate, just add a comment to this post!

    Sunday, October 19, 2008

    Do you need to try no knead bread?

    No knead breadThe New York Times has been posting recipes for something they call a "no knead" bread where you leave the dough to an extensive rise to avoid having to bother with kneading this homemade bread. Several other publications have picked up on this no knead bread recipe, adding their own spin on it.

    When I first read these recipes, I was quite excited to give it a try since, not only was it easier not having to knead the dough, but since it required a long rise, you could start it at night and bake it in the morning, thus fitting baking bread around a relatively busy schedule without babysitting multiple rises all day long.

    The original No-Knead Bread Recipe was an abject failure around our house. It barely rose and ended up being a flat, hard disk that took forever to bake to get to temperature. It was edible, but certainly not something I wanted to invest the time in repeating. Since then, I've seen other adjustments to the original recipe, but haven't given it a try again.

    When the NYT published an updated recipe a few weeks ago, this time for a Fast No-Knead Whole Wheat Bread, I was excited to give it another try since the recipe was totally different, the rise time was shorter and I prefer whole wheat. Plus, you bake it in a loaf pan and didn't need to mess around with a dutch oven like the original. (They also posted an updated, even faster Speedy No-Knead Bread.)

    I tried baking a loaf of it yesterday, but when I cut and pasted the recipe from the website, Windows mysteriously ejected the salt part of the ingredients list and I ended up with a inedible hockey puck of a bread loaf. It went into the compost. When I was eating it I immediately realized that something was missing: salt. So, when I went back to check on the recipe, lo and behold, there it was. The missing salt. So, I'll have to try it again.

    Have any of you tried making the no knead bread? I hope you are having better luck with it than I.

    Some of you have asked what my favorite homemade bread recipe is. I've posted it over on Crunchy Chicken Cooks, if you'd like to try it out.

    Related posts:
    Make your own yogurt
    Holy cow! I made my own butter

    Saturday, October 18, 2008

    Green Christmas book winner

    Green ChristmasThe winner of the book, Green Christmas, is Katy of What a Great Place to be a Cow.

    So, congratulations to Katy! Please send me your mailing info at crunchychickenblog@gmail.com.

    For those of you who didn't win, here are some holiday party ideas from the book:

    1. Host an organic wine tasting party
    2. Host a local foods party
    3. Host a Christmas book club
    4. Host a holiday card making party

    Here's to everybody having a green Christmas this year!

    Friday, October 17, 2008

    Your favorite green blogs

    When I started writing this blog, it didn't seem like there were nearly as many blogs focusing mostly on the environment, sustainable living and climate change. Since then, tons have started up.

    What I'm referring to are personal blogs, written by one individual (not teams of writers - although many of those have popped up too). It's easy to get stuck in a rut and follow the same blogs and not notice all the other really good ones that are out there, either new or ones that have just not been noticed as much.

    So, what are your top five or so favorite green blogs (with links)? And, again, I'm not talking about sites like Grist or Treehugger. I'm talking about personal sites.

    Thursday, October 16, 2008

    Make your own yogurt

    One thing I don't like about the blog format is that it's difficult to find previously written content. So, I've decided to occasionally re-post a few things from the first couple of months when I started this blog, back when there were, maybe, 35 people who bothered to stop by. Unless you are a die-hard Crunchy reader, it's unlikely that you've read all the way back to the beginning. If you are, well, I love you!

    However, if you want to read some fresh Crunchy writing, mosey on over to Hen & Harvest for my latest post, Saving Scarlet Runner Beans to read about my latest shenanigans.

    Otherwise, on to the yogurt (BTW: I've made a few additions and changes to the original):

    We eat a serious amount of yogurt in this house. Being mostly vegetarian, it's a big source of protein for us. Between the four of us eating almost a serving each per day, it adds up. It comes to probably 20+ containers of yogurt a week. I always joke about the "wall of yogurt" travelling down the conveyor belt at the grocery store. The number of plastic containers going in the recycling was starting to unnerve me, as well as the cost (Brown Cow is not the cheapest brand but I love it).

    Well, inspired by my fabulous sister-in-law, I decided to start making my own yogurt. I've been tinkering with the recipes to get it to a consistency that we like, and I think I've finally figured it out. I started out making plain and strawberry, but now I'm hooked on making coffee yogurt. So, for your reading enjoyment here's how I go about it.

    Little glass jars of yogurt loveFirst of all, you don't really need a yogurt maker, but keeping a steady temperature for 6 - 8 hours is difficult to say the least, and I'm too lazy to watch my yogurt grow all day. After doing some research I decided to go with the Euro Cuisine yogurt maker. It comes with individual glass (reusable!) jars that double as serving containers so you don't need to dig it out of a quart size container. Plus you can mix up different flavors if you want in one batch. I highly recommend it.

    The recipe I've been using for the coffee yogurt is as follows:

    1 quart of whole milk (heat on the stovetop to about 200 degrees F)
    2 T sugar (you can use honey or maple syrup instead)
    2 T instant espresso (I use Medaglia D'Oro)

    Add the goodsMix the above three ingredients together after you take the milk off the stove. When it cools to room temperature (or about 95 degrees F), blend in:

    6 oz plain yogurt (whole, lowfat or nonfat -- depending on how much fat you like)

    This last step is critical. You need a yogurt "starter" to grow more yogurt.

    You can use whatever percentage milkfat you want, we like ours creamy so we go with the whole milk. If you want to go nuts, mix in some half and half or heavy whipping cream. After mixing this all together, pour it into your yogurt maker and, depending on manufacturer's directions, "heat" the yogurt. 8 hours works best in ours.

    So, not only do you have total control over the ingredients, the flavoring and the consistency, it ends up being dirt cheap. Compared to $1.20 for a serving from the store, homemade yogurt ends up being more like $.25 per serving if you use the more expensive, local, organic milk (if you use inexpensive, conventional milk it's more like $.12 per serving).

    And there you have it! Who knew making yogurt was so damn easy?

    Related posts:
    Homemade ricotta
    Do you need to try no knead bread?
    Holy cow! I made my own butter

    Wednesday, October 15, 2008

    Book giveaway - Green Christmas

    Green ChristmasIt's Wednesday. It's debate day. Hey, let's give away a book!

    This little book with the long name, Green Christmas, How to Have a Joyous, Eco-Friendly Holiday Season, stuffs a ton of suggestions on how to have a green Christmas into a small package.

    Frankly, if you have been keeping up on how to green your holidays and paying attention to all the green holiday tips in the media, not much in this book will come as new information to you. But, it's nice to have all of the information distilled down into one reference book.

    If greening your Christmas is new to you, this makes for an excellent resource giving you the scoop on holiday parties, Christmas cards, gift wrap and ye old yule log. It would also make a nice gift to friends and relatives who might need, ahem, a little nudge towards less holiday waste.

    From Amazon:

    As green awareness spreads over middle America, more and more people want to have a fun, environmentally responsible holiday. This book shows how to enjoy the Christmas season while leaving a smaller carbon footprint.

    Readers will learn how to do the following: choose between a real tree and an artificial one; find alternatives to holiday cards; avoid the holiday catalog crunch; find or make gifts that are green or teach green; have warm, cozy green fires; create eco-responsible lighting displays, and more! Readers can have a great holiday celebration—while caring for the planet and setting a great example for generations to come.

    To enter to win this little gem by random drawing, add your name to the comments by Friday, October 17th, 6:00 pm PST. I'll announce the winner on Saturday.

    Good luck!

    Monday, October 13, 2008

    Freeze Yer Buns Challenge 2008

    Freeze Yer Buns Challenge 2008Okay, chickens, I just can't tell you how excited I am to kick off this year's Freeze Yer Buns Challenge. Last year we had such great participation and I'm expecting even more frozen hindquarters this year.

    Because of the economic situation, most everyone is tightening up their purse strings, plus heating costs (oil, natural gas and electricity) are expected to be a lot higher this year than last, so you have even more incentive to hop on board the chapped cheeks express.

    This year, we'll all share hints and tips for keeping the thermostat low without really freezing our buns off. For those of you who use a form of heating without a thermostat, you are still invited to play. The challenge for you is to use less fuel.

    To give you all some additional inspiration, see if you can name the president that made the following speech:

    I again ask every American to lower the thermostat settings in all homes and buildings to no more than 65 degrees during the daytime and to a much lower setting at night...

    ...I must say to you quite frankly that this is not a temporary request for conservation. Our energy problems will not be over next year or the year after. Further sacrifices in addition to lowering thermostats may well be necessary. But I believe this country is tough enough and strong enough to meet that challenge. And I ask all Americans to cooperate in minimizing the adverse effect on the lives of our people.

    I know a lot of you can't commit to those types of temperatures and it's just fine if you pledge to drop it down one degree or so from where you usually keep it. Even that makes a huge difference. You'll find that, as the winter wears on, you'll be able to drop it lower as you adjust to the new, lower temperatures. If you don't want to take the icy plunge, don't feel like you have to drop it 10 degrees right away.

    To sign up for the challenge, add a comment to this post and pledge what temperatures you will keep your thermostat. I'm pledging for 62 day and 55 night. You are more than welcome to meander through the posts from last year's challenge if you want to know what you're in for.

    As I did last year, I will keep a tally of participants (with your high and low numbers) in the right sidebar. Feel free to grab the graphic if you want to promote the challenge on your blog as well.

    This year's challenge mascot is the Arctic fox. Help prevent his extinction by preserving the Arctic environment by using less energy, reducing the amount of CO2 added to the atmosphere and stopping global climate change.

    How low can you go?

    Sunday, October 12, 2008

    Fighting mold and mildew season

    This time of year in the wet Pacific NW becomes a verdant time indoors as well as outdoors. And that means more moisture in the house and mold growth.

    Since we don't have a fan in our bathroom and rely on opening the window, we always have a problem of mold growth on the walls and ceiling where the steam likes to collect and hang out all day, even with the window wide open.

    I've tried a number of desperate measures spreading from toxic (bleach) to inert (vinegar) with varying levels of success. So, let me give you a few suggestions of how to fight mold in your home.

    Bleach solutions - This is probably the most effective way of getting rid of mold for longer periods of time. Unfortunately, the environmental impact of using bleach is high, you have to deal with the fumes and it's possibly dangerous (atomized droplets of bleach landing back on your face as you spray the ceiling, anyone?) and generally toxic.

    Tea tree oil - Although tea tree oil is rather expensive, you are using only a small amount. This is probably your best bet for a natural solution, but the smell is strong and some people have issues with tea tree oil. Mix two teaspoons of tea tree oil in two cups of water and place into a spray bottle. Spray onto moldy areas - do not rinse. This mixture lasts forever.

    White vinegar - Using straight up vinegar (don't even bother diluting it) can be effective in removing mold, but it takes a bit of work and doesn't last very long. The smell isn't so great, although it's much better than bleach, and can sting so be careful if you're doing ceiling spraying. I recommend applying directly with a sponge. That said, this is an inexpensive solution to your mold problems. Used straight up, vinegar purportedly kills 82% of mold. You can always try adding an essential oil like tea tree oil to boost the mold killing.

    Grapefruit seed extract - The one nice thing about this mixture is that it is odorless and a little goes a long way. Mix 20 drops into two cups of water in a spray bottle and get to work. Many people have reported success with using this, although I haven't tried it.

    Lemon juice - Apply full strength with a sponge. The smell by far is better than any other option listed here, but it's only moderately effective. So, if you are short on mold patience and hate redoing your lemon juice application frequently, you might try something else. Like the vinegar, it works for a short period of time.

    Hydrogen peroxide - If you are dealing with mold on tiles, try using one part hydrogen peroxide with two parts water. Spray on and wait an hour.

    Clove oil - Clove oil is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal and supposedly can help remove mold. Add several drops of clove oil (about half a dozen will do) to a half-filled bucket of water and apply with a sponge. Not all of the mold will be removed immediately. It may take a few days to work, and the surfaces should be dusted off after the mold looks dusty.

    Concrobium mold control - This is an off-the-shelf product that contains mostly inorganic compounds that leaves behind an antimicrobial film upon drying that encapsulates fungus microbes and prevents growth. Supposedly, it's inert and the salespeople will drink it to prove how safe it is. This stuff works fairly well and lasts longer than the other options, but mold is mold and it always comes back.

    Other options - It might be better to prevent mold in the first place by providing the right mix of ventilation and dryness. If your mold problems are in the bathroom, installing an exhaust fan should help. You may want to consider getting a dehumidifier if you really have a bad mold problem or using a space heater to heat and dry up trouble spots.

    Friday, October 10, 2008

    Living like Little House on the Prairie

    Modern pioneer houseEmulating life in the late 1800s a la Little House on the Prairie is a lesson in conservation and frugality. Life may have been a whole lot tougher back then, but the end result was living life with less impact on the environment.

    For modern day pioneers, you get the environmental benefits as well as the money saving ones. And, if your financial portfolio is taking a nosedive, consider trying some 19th century ways of life to snap you back into the black.

    1. Grow your own food - Planting your own food crops may take some time to learn how to do properly, but once you get the hang of it, you'll save a ton of money on your food bill. Talk about eating local. For those apartment dwellers out there, you have no excuse. There's a bunch of things you can grow on your windowsills, plus indoor mushroom cultivation and much more (I'll be posting soon about what more you can do in a later post).

    2. Raise your own critters - Whether it be chickens or other poultry for their eggs and meat, bees for honey, rabbits for meat and fur or goats for dairy, wool and meat, many people have plenty of options for animal husbandry.

    3. Make your meals from scratch - Do you think Ma bought dinner at the local fast food joint? I reckon not. Spending the extra effort making your meals from scratch will not only save you money, but will also save your arteries from the salt, fat and cholesterol laden convenience foods we tend to rely on. Take it one step further and make your own yogurt, cereal, butter, tomato sauce, jams, peanut butter, bread, pasta... the list goes on.

    4. Conserve water - Indoor plumbing is a thing of the future and thinking like a pioneer will save you water. If you had to rely on all your daily water by lugging it to the house from the creek, you'd use a heckuva lot less water. So, save your warm up water from the sink and showers for other needs (like flushing the toilet) and be mindful of that running tap water.

    5. Skip the heat - I know not all of you can do this, but even just turning your thermostats down lower, bundling up in sweaters, slippers and blankets will save you tons of money on your winter heating costs. Since the cost of heating oil, electricity and gas are expected to increase at least 10% this winter, think about reducing your thermostats by 10% or more to offset the increase.

    6. Turn off the lights - Concentrate your activities in one main room if possible to reduce the number of lights on in the house. Does your whole family really need one light on (or more) per person? Getting together may also inspire more family interaction. Try telling stories - you'll be surprised at how interested your kids, friends and family are about your childhood. And all that huddling together will reduce your heating costs.

    7. Walk instead of drive - Since most of you don't own a team of horses, walking is your best bet for getting around. Even if you don't live near town, most pioneers didn't either, and walking several miles to town was considered routine. You'll save money on gas and get the extra exercise you probably need.

    8. Rise and set with the sun - Getting up early and going to bed early will not only award you with the much needed sleep that most of us don't get, but it will also save you money on your electricity and heating bills.

    9. Craft your own - Sewing, knitting, quilting, soap-making, wood-working and other crafts are not only great hobbies, but are rewarding and can save you money. Plus, you can give away your hard work as gifts that will be much better appreciated than many store bought items.

    10. Don't buy on credit - As Pa would say, "cash on the barrel head only"! In other words, live within your means and you will not run into financial trouble. By the same token, if you are only spending what you have you'll be less likely to be caught up in wanton consumerism and all the environmental impact it entails. So, stick to buying quality products that you absolutely need and that fit within your budget.

    I don't know about you but I'm feeling a "Pioneer Week" coming on!

    Thursday, October 9, 2008

    Clean coal or dirty politics?

    Strip miningI'm so sick of hearing about clean coal. It's such an enormous oxymoron it's almost funny - it's right up there with "sexy back hair" and "edible poop". No matter how you spin it, it just doesn't work.

    The candidates keep pulling this one out and touting it as the next great step to energy independence. But the real issue is that there's nothing clean about coal.

    So, what is clean coal? The industry-sponsored American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity defines it as "any technology to reduce pollutants associated with the burning of coal that was not in widespread use" prior to regulations from 1990. As a result, you can call any newer coal-based power plant clean.

    Oh, I suppose you can argue that it's possible to capture the gunk released from burning coal for energy generation even though carbon capture and sequestration is still an industry pipe dream. You can also argue that, since about 50% of America's electricity comes from coal, we might as well pursue all those extra scrubbing bubbles. The fact of the matter is that coal is still somewhat plentiful and it's cheap. What's a cash strapped America to do? Work with what it's got. And that's coal.

    But, let's not kid ourselves into believing that coal is clean. The whole process of extracting coal is still a dirty, dangerous job. The mountain top removal and strip mining process doesn't go away. And huge water usage and contamination is still a big part of coal extraction.

    So, while the candidates are pandering for votes from the swing "coal states" of Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Virginia, let's not all get wrapped up in the idea that coal is clean. It's about as clean as a mouthful of mercury.

    Wednesday, October 8, 2008

    Mother Earth News post

    Grilled pumpkinFor those of you recovering from watching the debates last night (especially those of you playing the drinking game every time John McCain said "my friends"), here's some lighter fare for you.

    So, please check out my post over on Mother Earth News, Grilled Pumpkin with Rosemary and Sea Salt. I'm happy to announce that I'll be posting over on the Mother Earth News blogs about once a week.

    For those of you who have been reading my blog for a while, you'll know that Mother Earth News is one of my favorite magazines that I reference frequently, so I'm pretty excited to help contribute to their online presence.

    Tuesday, October 7, 2008

    The sky is falling! Living through economic upheaval.

    Stocks? What stocks?I guess it seems a little silly to be posting about mundane things like pumpkins, salmon spawning and dehydrating apples when the world's stock markets are tanking like crazy.

    I would imagine that a lot of you readers out there are probably better mentally equipped to handle the bumps in the road simply because you have already chosen, to some extent, a more simple lifestyle. A lifestyle that is less damaging to the earth tends to also be one that is more self-sufficient and less consumeristic and prepares you for relying on yourself and your local community, if need be.

    I'm hoping that the changes you have made in your lives have made some of the political and economic shenanigans going on seem less frightening than those out there who have been completely blind-sided by all of this. I suspect it must be harder for people who have been carrying on as if the money train would keep running forever.

    I'm sure there are also people who are finding some sense of satisfaction in watching the come-uppance for all those folks out there who have been living rather recklessly in terms of consumption and spending and its resultant effect on the environment.

    In spite of all that, this situation is extremely unnerving for even the most hardened of us since we all rely on economics to get by. So, unless you are living in a cave (one with Internet access), you are dependent on the stock market whether you think you are or not.

    Have the last few weeks made you more determined to live a simple, self-sufficient lifestyle or are you just too scared shitless to even think about it? Do you fear losing your job or home during this or are you fairly immune because you have paid off your house and have low living costs?

    Monday, October 6, 2008

    Preserving food for the winter

    Preparing pumpkin for roastingI spent most of yesterday afternoon processing food. It was a good excuse to warm up the house since it was a little chilly inside and having the oven on for an hour baking pumpkins got it warmed up quite quickly.

    A few weeks ago I picked up four relatively large sugar pie pumpkins for about $1 each from a local farm. I finally got around to roasting two of them and ended up with a tremendous amount of cooked pumpkin. I still need to puree it, drain it, measure it out and freeze it, but it was such a big job I didn't have time to do it all yesterday. I'm thinking this year will be the year of lots of pumpkin pies, pumpkin scones, pumpkin soup, pumpkin cookies and pumpkin bread. Not that I'm complaining. I love pumpkin. And I still have five more pumpkins to process (including the ones from my garden).

    While the pumpkins were roasting, I finally got up the nerve to ask my next door neighbor if I could take some of her apples. I'd seen another neighbor over there last week picking apples so I figured she was amenable. Also, Saturday was really windy and I knew a lot of apples fell from the tree. So, I asked if I could take some of her windfall apples. She looked at me as if I were completely off my rocker. But, then again, she doesn't speak English very well.

    After peeling the apples, I cored and sliced them. I put them in a solution of water and lemon juice to keep them from turning brown. After draining them, I tossed them in a sugar and cinnamon mixture and put them in the dehydrator. They turned out fantastically and they smelled heavenly while they were dehydrating.

    I have another neighbor down the street that has an apple tree that I know doesn't do anything with them, so I'll hit them up next and start all over again. I'm pretty sure they don't mind not having to deal with all those apples. Anyway, I love getting seasonal foods preserved for future use, especially when it is free (or nearly so)!

    Anybody got a favorite pumpkin recipe out there?

    Pumpkin photo courtesy of teenytinyturkey.

    Saturday, October 4, 2008

    Depletion and Abundance book "winners"

    The first three recipients of Depletion and Abundance through the Crunchy Chicken lending library are:

  • Tara
  • Abbie
  • Carla

    For those of you listed above, send me your mailing and contact info at crunchychickenblog@gmail.com and Sharon will send out the books STAT. Ok, maybe not stat, but soon.

    When you are done reading it, let me know and I'll tell you who to send it to next, to cut down on postage.

    The book club for Depletion and Abundance will start on October 14th, so start reading!
  • Friday, October 3, 2008

    October strawberries

    October strawberriesI can't believe it but my day neutral Tri Star strawberries are still producing berries. Apparently, according to the website where I bought the plants last year, day neutral strawberries will produce in an ongoing fashion from June until frost which, around here, won't be until sometime in November.

    In the meantime, I'll be enjoying all those yummy strawberries!

    I've also got quite a few sugar pie pumpkins that are ready for picking, some zucchinis that hopefully will continue growing and be ready in a few weeks and I'm still hoping that all those figs on my little tree will keep growing and ripen soon. Since we're expecting a bit of rain over the next week, I harvested a bunch of tomatoes to ripen indoors since many of my tomatoes are splitting when we get heavy rains.

    As for preserving food items, I've been dehydrating apples and hope to get some from our neighbor's tree to dehydrate some more and hopefully make some pie filling. I'm also freezing the tomatoes that we are not eating for making tomato sauce when I have enough to do so.

    Are your gardens still producing or are they starting to slow down?

    Thursday, October 2, 2008

    VP Debates or why 2 + 2 = Chicken

    I have to tell ya, I'm excited about the Vice-Presidential debates that will be on tonight. Not that I'm expecting anything intelligent to be uttered on either side, but man I'm hoping that we can get some more quotes to top these gems (from Sarah Palin's interviews with Katie Couric):

    On the $700 billion financial bailout:
    "That’s why I say I, like every American I’m speaking with, we’re ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Helping the — it’s got to be all about job creation too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans and trade — we’ve got to see trade as opportunity, not as competitive, scary thing, but one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today — we’ve got to look at that as more opportunity."

    In response to what newspapers Sarah Palin reads to get her news:
    "I've read most of them, again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media." When asked which ones specifically: "Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me all these years." When pressed further: "I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news, too. Alaska isn't a foreign country, where it’s kind of suggested, 'Wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C., may be thinking when you live up there in Alaska?' Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America."

    On explaining how her proximity to Russia enhances her foreign policy credentials:
    COURIC: You've cited Alaska's proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?

    PALIN: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and on our other side, the land-- boundary that we have with-- Canada. It-- it's funny that a comment like that was-- kind of made to-- cari-- I don't know, you know? Reporters--

    COURIC: Mock?

    PALIN: Yeah, mocked, I guess that's the word, yeah.

    COURIC: Explain to me why that enhances your foreign policy credentials.

    PALIN: Well, it certainly does because our-- our next door neighbors are foreign countries. They're in the state that I am the executive of. And there in Russia--

    COURIC: Have you ever been involved with any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?

    PALIN: We have trade missions back and forth. We-- we do-- it's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where-- where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is-- from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to-- to our state.

    On what Supreme Court decisions she disagrees with:
    "Well, let's see. There's, of course, in the great history of America rulings there have been rulings, that's never going to be absolute consensus by every American. And there are, those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So you know, going through the history of America, there would be others but ...."

    Asked again: "Well, I could think of, of any again, that could be best dealt with on a more local level. Maybe I would take issue with. But you know, as mayor, and then as governor and even as a vice president, if I'm so privileged to serve, wouldn't be in a position of changing those things but in supporting the law of the land as it reads today."

    Alrighty then!

    So, what does 2 + 2 equal? Well, maybe it's a question we should ask the candidates. Who do you think will have a coherent answer?

    MODERATOR: Governor Palin, what is two plus two? You have 90 seconds to respond.

    PALIN: (Pause) Chicken?

    MODERATOR: Chicken? Is that your answer, governor?

    PALIN: I'll have to get back to ya on that one there, Gwen.

    Wednesday, October 1, 2008

    Wipe your bum and save the earth

    Cloth Wipe Challenge 2008While the 2008 Cloth Wipe Challenge is at a close, that doesn't mean you should stop using your cloth wipes. In fact, if you didn't participate during the challenge here are a few more tidbits that will help convince you to start wiping your bits with something other than toilet paper, or at the very least switch to a more environmentally friendly TP.

    According to Charmin, consumers on average use 8.6 sheets per trip to the bathroom. That's a total of 57 sheets per day and an annual total of 20,805 sheets. There are 230 million adults in the U.S., each averaging a roll and a half per week. Since each roll of toilet paper averages about .5 a pound of paper, that's about 40 pounds of TP per year.

    That equals 4,600,000 tons of TP used each year. And that's just from adults. To take the calculation even further, if all U.S. adults used only Charmin toilet paper or the like (aka "virgin fiber" with 0% recycled content or post-consumer waste), the environmental cost is approximately (not including the issues with Dioxin):

  • 78.2 million trees
  • 1.35 million tons of air pollution
  • 32 trillion gallons of water
  • 2.1 trillion gallons of oil
  • 18.75 trillion Kilowatt hours of energy

    Seems rather ridiculous, no? Just for wiping our butts. Fortunately, not all the toilet paper used is such an environmental disaster. Of course, the higher percentage of recycled paper you use in your toilet paper, the less environmental impact you make.

    If you just can't make the switch to cloth toilet paper, at the very least switch to 100% recycled TP. And stay away from Charmin, Cottonelle, Angel Soft and other virgin fiber toilet papers out there.

    For those of you who took the cloth challenge, how did it go? Will you continue to use cloth wipes? Did you run into any problems?
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