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.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Food wasting away

I went grocery shopping yesterday and did a little fridge clean out in preparation for February's Food Waste Reduction Challenge. No I wasn't cheating to get rid of food I know I wasn't going to eat - just composting food that was past its prime and inedible. You know, the real scary stuff.

But, even though I had a few days before I embarked on really reducing the food waste I'm generating, I couldn't help but start last night. That meant that the few teaspoons of lemon juice leftover from my husband's homemade blackberry pie (with blackberries we froze last summer and local leaf lard for the crust) got saved to use for the million avocados that are all ripening at once. Yes, we have a load of avocados from my brother's backyard.

That also meant that the leftover dough from the lattice crust from the pie ended up getting baked with sugar and cinnamon for last night's dessert. I don't have much control over the food waste generated from my kids, it just means that I have to be really diligent about giving them food that I know they will eat in portions they will finish. I'm not talking about being short-order cook for them, but meal planning with things I know they will eat.

One thing that has been brought up in the comments of people pledging to do the challenge so far is the notion that food scraps given to the chickens, goats, pigs, etc. don't count. Well, if you are looking at it from a cost standpoint, if that's what you normally budget into feeding your critters, by all means, give them the left-overs, but if it's just a mental sleight-of-hand to assuage your guilt over throwing out food, then you'll be better off (financially) saving the human food for the humans and planning better what the animals eat.

I do the same legerdemain thing with compost. I don't feel so guilty throwing out food because in goes in the compost, but I should. It's better to eat the food because it not only saves me money, but it saves from an environmental standpoint. Throwing out (or composting) food and replacing it takes an environmental toll from a production, transportation and packaging perspective since all of these processes emit CO2. Plus, it's just wasteful. Compost the things you can't eat (banana peels and the like) and eat the things you can. Sounds obvious, but we all need to be reminded of this.

If you are interested in signing up for this year's Food Waste Challenge, you can sign up here!

For those of you who get a kick out of eating seemingly inedible things, I'll cover in a future post how to turn your food scraps into something edible. Yum!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Food Waste Reduction Challenge 2010

It's that time of year again to do the Food Waste Reduction Challenge. I think in the intervening 11 months, many of us have stopped focusing on how much food waste we are generating and need a little kick in the hiney to focus on what we are throwing away (or composting). So, let's begin.

You all know the stats: 50% of the garbage that goes into the landfill is edible food. Even if your food goes out into the compost or picked up by your local yard waste service for composting, it's still not only a waste of money, but it's also a waste of energy.

Really, how bad is it? A University of Arizona study showed that 40 to 50% of U.S. edible food never gets eaten. That's $100 billion worth of edible food discarded every year in the U.S.. It's a tremendous waste of resources and one that we are all guilty in contributing to.

There's also a large environmental impact as well if your food waste gets sent to a landfill. Food waste is the largest landfill contributor to methane gas production, so unless your municipality has a landfill-to-gas capture, your rotten bananas and forgotten pickles are contributing to global climate change.

How is it a waste of energy? Because there's a lot of energy that goes into growing and transporting your food (unless you grow it all yourself, in which case the impact is a lot less), throwing it out just means you have to replace it with more food.

Do you have a food waste problem? Most likely you do. This is one of those challenges that we all can and should do. So, now's the time to sign up for the Food Waste Reduction Challenge. But, what does it entail?

The Rules
Well, it's pretty simple. Your goal for the month of February 2010 is to try to reduce the amount of food you throw out or put into the compost. This does not include inedible food waste like egg shells or banana peels (unless you have a use for them I don't know about).

Your job is to keep track of the food that you have on hand and make sure that it gets eaten or preserved before it goes bad and needs to be disposed. All it takes is a little planning, some organization and the willingness to be creative. Just remember to cook wisely and shop wisely.

So, every week starting now, go through your fridge, cabinets and cellar storage and see what's getting close to its pull date or is starting to turn. If it's getting near, plan on eating it, making it into a meal, preserving it or freezing it. Since this is an important challenge that will help you reduce your waste and save money I'm going to host it for the whole month of February.

If you are interested in signing up for the Food Waste Reduction Challenge, add your name to the comments of this post. I'll check in occasionally to see how you all are doing or if you have any food saving recipes or tips to share with others. If you want to put the graphic up on your blog, just paste the following code:

<a href="http://www.thecrunchychicken.com/2010/01/food-waste-reduction-challenge-2010.html"><img src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_8ndgSYbdkZ0/S2R1vWiN-EI/AAAAAAAADRM/ndLZG8JZVCQ/S259/foodwaste.jpg" border="0" alt="Food Waste Reduction Challenge - February 2010" /></a>

Related reading:
One Country's Table Scraps, Another Country's Meal (NY Times)
All About: Food Waste (CNN)
Wasted Food (blog)

Sustainable dress chosen!

Thanks to everyone who voted on yesterday's poll for which dress I should wear to the Seattle Premiere of my green makeover show, Mission: Sustainable. I also want to thank the readers who suggested some alternatives that were sustainable. That helped me decide to go with something that wasn't an off-the-rack dress.

And, instead of choosing a rental, a used dress or something that wasn't obvious that it was sustainable, I ended up choosing a ballgown style dress that is made of recycled neckties. I did this as it would be clear that the dress is made of repurposed materials.

In addition, the designer of the dress is local (from WA state) and will be doing some alterations to my measurements. How much more sustainable is that? Not only is the dress made of recycled materials, but it's local!

I couldn't ask for a better combination to help support the underlying goals of Mission: Sustainable. I wouldn't feel as confident wearing a commercially made, unsustainable dress and, I'm sure, the dress will be quite the conversation piece!

The pictures on this post are photos of the actual dress I will be getting. The model is my height and about my measurements, so there will be only a few alterations to get it to fit perfectly. So, what you see is what you'll get!

Anyway, if you are interested in learning more about the designer of the dress you can check out her site, Glamarita, and her Etsy shop!

See you on the green carpet!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Seattle Premiere - pick my dress!

The Seattle Premiere of the green makeover show, Mission: Sustainable, is coming up fast and I best get prepared for it. For those of you who live in the area, here are the details. It's open to the public, so please come attend and bring your friends while you're at it!

Date: February 11, 2010
Time: 7:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Location: Seattle Center Fisher Pavilion
Cost: FREE to the public

"Heart-warming," "Hilarious" and "Inspiring" are just a few of the words being used to describe the pilot episode of Mission: Sustainable that follows one Seattle family’s experience as they work with a team of sustainability experts [that would be me - I'm the personal care consultant on the show] to lower their impact on the planet.

Join us for the green carpet event of the season at Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavilion. Come view the 45 minute pilot, mix and mingle with the cast and crew of Mission: Sustainable, enjoy live music with special guest, The Fiasco, and visit the booths of local sustainable companies.

Oh yeah, and there will be free food from a variety of local producers and vendors.

Help pick my dress!

For those of you who can't make it (or can), you can help me out by picking what to wear. Since I rarely hit the red, or green carpet, for that matter, I have nothing to wear. I want to do something formal and may end up renting to reduce ye olde impact.

So, your job is to help me decide what the heck to wear. Here are your choices. Click on the image to see it more biggerer and vote below:

Update: I decided to go with a sustainable dress for the premiere. You can read all about it here!


Pick my green carpet dress!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sex and Sustainability seminar slides

For those of you who attended my seminar in Eugene titled Sex and Sustainability where I covered alternative menstrual products, green contraception and sustainable sex toys, I've posted the slides up on Scribd.

So, if you want to check them out you can see them here:

Sex and Sustainability

They may not make total sense without having seen the presentation, but you've got the slides for your viewing pleasure nonetheless. Since this seminar was actually filmed, I'll eventually get the video of that up on my blog once it's available.

Oh, and, the slides may be considered NSFW. But, I think they are pretty non-graphic.

Eco-friendly cosmetic procedures

I know what you are saying. Is there such a thing as eco-friendly cosmetic surgery? Well, no, there's not. But some procedures are better than others and I intend to cover them here. So, sit down, relax those furrowed brows and read on.

When I was down in Eugene last week, one woman who had stopped in to watch a preview of the pilot of Mission: Sustainable asked me for some suggestions about eco-friendly anti-aging products. This sweet older woman was convinced (and lamenting) that if she had stooped to using more traditional anti-aging products over the years, her face would look a lot younger. She did have a fairly heavily-lined face that made her look a lot older than she probably was and I could tell she was really troubled by it.

Because this isn't the first time people have asked me about anti-aging products, I figure it's about time I tackled the whole subject. I know we are all concerned about going green, but many are also concerned with looking younger or, at least, our age. Should environmentalists have to skip out on everything? I don't think so.

In today's post I'm going to start with the heavy hitters. And by that, I mean cosmetic procedures. I'll follow-up with a look at anti-aging skincare soon, but for older women, where anti-aging products probably aren't going to help as much in comparison, they are going to be considering something you can't get out of a box from the local store.

So, let's begin with the most popular procedures used to combat wrinkles that I think are the safest and most eco-friendly: fillers and Botox.

Fat fillers
Fat fillers are used to plump up hollow cheeks, thin lips, an aging forehead, eyes, and scars. There is no issue with a foreign substance in your body as the fat used in the injection is taken directly from another area of your body. The fat cells are removed from the butt, stomach, or thighs, processed and purified and then injected beneath the skin into the target area.

Fat fillers never result in a 100% improvement and can last anywhere from a few weeks to a year. Since transplanted fat cells die without a blood supply within 3 - 4 days and since it takes 3 - 4 days until the first capillaries reach the injected fat cells, the "take" of fat cells isn't guaranteed. Some survive but most of them don't and are reabsorbed in the body.

So, if you are looking for long-term results, this procedure may work for you, but it also may just result in very short-term results as well. The best thing about it is you are experiencing the ultimate in recycling. You are basically just taking the fat you don't want out of one area and moving it to an area where you do want it. As we age, we lose fat in our faces, which makes us look older. Replacing that fat restores a more youthful look. Not quite back to the baby fat stage though no matter how much junk you have in your trunk to share!

Dermal fillers
Dermal fillers are administered by a physician (preferably a board-certified dermatologist, cosmetic or plastic surgeon). If you are interested in a filler to plump up lines, go with a temporary filler that is collagen based. Collagen injections can help erase frown lines, crow's feet and nasolabial folds or smile lines. It's also great for smoothing out scars.

Please stay away from the silicone or synthetic based fillers. Some synthetics are even designed to be more long-term, so if you don't like the results, you are stuck with them for a while or you can have them reversed by another procedure that essentially dissolves the material out.

You can go for a human-based or an animal-based collagen filler. Collagen fillers last for four or more months and the more you get it done, the longer it lasts as more and more of the collagen remains. There is a trade off if you choose an animal-based collagen filler because they have the risk of allergy associated with them. But, if you don't have an allergy, there should be little risk otherwise.

I can't say the same for synthetics like ArteFill, made from PMMA, a type of plastic. The reason why people choose a non-collagen filler (like ArteFill) is because they last longer. You are saving money over the long-term, but at what potential risk? They are FDA approved, but I'm not sure I would want an artificial substance injected into my face.

I still don't know what to make of Sculptra, another synthetic (but "biocompatible" whatever that means), and hyaluronic acid-based fillers like Restylane and Juvederm. Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring polysaccharide (carbohydrate) that exists in human tissue, but I don't know how it is produced for these products and what the long-term issues of having in injected into your face are. Finally, there are some claims that the hyaluronic acid based fillers can trigger auto-immune diseases.

And, please. No collagen injections in your lips. Nobody looks good with that shit. I'm talking to you, Nicole Kidman.

Botox
Botox is the number one cosmetic procedure in the United States and is used as an anti-wrinkle treatment for crow's feet, frown lines, and to eliminate furrows in the forehead. It works by paralyzing facial muscles. Since it is a neurotoxin, there is a risk of it spreading beyond the treatment site and there is risk of losing some facial expressions if over-administered. I'm talking to you, Nicole Kidman. But, the effects last 4 - 6 months, so it, too, lasts only for the short-term.

Is Botox eco-friendly? Well, no medical procedure is eco-friendly since there is petroleum and plastic involved in the manufacture of the product and the syringe and a whole host of other things. But, Botox can be argued to be 'natural' in that it is a protein produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Think of it as a bad canning job injected in your face. What's more natural than that?

Now, before y'all get your panties in a knot, I'm not suggesting you run out and pump your faces full of fat, collagen and Botulism. But, since I've been asked a number of times about anti-aging products and the like, it's better to know what your options are then not.

What about you? Have you ever considered fillers or Botox? If not, what's your opinion about the popularity of these procedures?

Resources:
Fat fillers
Dermal fillers
Botox
Botulinum toxin

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Potty Talk seminar slides

For those of you who attended my seminar in Eugene titled Potty Talk where I covered recycled toilet paper vs. conventional, using cloth wipes instead of T.P. and using urine as a nitrogen rich plant fertilizer, I've posted the slides up on Scribd.

So, if you want to check them out you can see them here:

Potty Talk

They may not make total sense without having seen the presentation, but you've got them for your viewing pleasure nonetheless.

Note: There are two photos that I use in the slides that I don't reference at the end, one is the cloth wipes picture from Wallypop and the other is a cloth wipe bathroom setup from SortaCrunchy's blog.

Pioneer Skills: making ink from berries

Want to find out how to make your own ink using some basic, commonly found ingredients? You won't be able to refill your ballpoint or fountain pens with this ink, but find yourself a good quill pen and you'll be on your way. This makes for a great project to do with the kids.

Writing with a quill pen gives your handwriting an antiqued look, so it's great to use for invitations, art projects or for keepsakes. If you're real serious, you can also invest in a dipping pen, but the ink you make will need to be a little thicker. You can make your own quill pen from feathers by following these instructions or watching this video.

Most pioneers couldn't afford to buy ink, since true ink was fairly expensive, so they made their own using different ingredients depending on what color ink they needed. Some pioneers used not just berries, but powdered roots and nuts as well to create their ink. You can made different colored inks depending on which berry you use.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup ripe berries (blueberries, cherries, blackberries, strawberries, elderberries, raspberries are good choices)
1/2 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:
1. Place berries in a strainer and hold it over a bowl.

2. Crush the berries against the strainer so that the berry juice strains into the bowl.

3. Once all your berries are crushed and you are left with just pulp (to put in compost or use for something else!), add the vinegar and salt to the juice. The vinegar helps the ink retain its color and the salt prevents molding.

4. If the berry ink is too thick, thin it with water, adding a little at a time to get it to desired consistency.

5. Store in a baby food jar or a small canning jar and keep refrigerated.

Resources:
Quill Thrill: Recipes for Homemade Ink
Recipes for Quill Pen Ink
Homemade Ink from Berries

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Snuggie Sutra - don't Freeze Yer Bits

I'm going to be on a local news station next week talking about the Freeze Yer Buns Challenge, and I was preparing some information for them to make graphs and whatnot when I stumbled upon this really funny website, The Snuggie Sutra.

For those of you who are lowering your thermostat to save money this winter and to reduce your carbon footprint, you may have run across problems when it comes to getting it on. Given the fact that the ambient air temperature in your bedroom may be a bit too nippy when you're fully naked, the author of this site has come up with some suggestions of how to work your Snuggie into your lovemaking. In other words, it's the Kama Sutra, but with Snuggies.

Now, I'm in no way promoting the Snuggie given the fact that it's a totally unsustainable product and, from what I've heard, really poorly made, but if it keeps you warm enough to lower your thermostat, then go for it! If you are a DIY kinda person, there are tons of patterns online for making your own

And, once you've got your Snuggie or Slanket, spend the rest of this year's Freeze Yer Buns Challenge working your way through the Snuggie Sutra. That's an order.

Image courtesy of The Snuggie Sutra

Related posts:
NY Times: Chilled by Choice
USA Today: Freeze Yer Buns Challenge
Freeze Yer Buns Challenge

Good Earth = Good Times

I had a total blast this last weekend down in Eugene, OR at the Good Earth Home, Garden & Living Show, America's 1st sustainable home and garden show. We got some great feedback from the test audiences during the screenings of the pilot episode of the show Mission: Sustainable, on which I'm a cast member and personal care consultant.

Mission: Sustainable is a green makeover show that's currently in development. We are in the final edits on the pilot and will be hosting a Seattle Premiere Event on February 11th in the Fischer Pavilion in the Seattle Center. I'll post more on that soon, but if you're local, mark your calendars! After the premiere, we'll be pitching the show to cable networks.

Anyway, Eugene was a lot of fun. In addition to the screenings and Q & A with the cast members, I did two seminars. The first one was called Potty Talk and I covered recycled toilet paper vs. conventional, using cloth wipes instead of T.P. and using urine as a nitrogen rich plant fertilizer.

The second talk was called Sex and Sustainability where I covered alternative menstrual products, green contraception and sustainable sex toys. I'll try to get the PowerPoint slides for both talks up sometime soon and, since my second talk was filmed, I'll post the presentation for your viewing pleasure when our Director of Photography is done editing it.

Top 5 highlights of the trip (in no particular order):

1. The woman in the audience during my first talk who was old hat with all of my suggestions. The best part? She uses her used toilet paper as a fire starter in her fireplace. She claimed that it is the only thing that works for her to get her fire going. She even asks visitors to her home to save their used TP so she can use it to start her fireplace. Brings a whole new twist to the saying, "chestnuts roasting on an open fire." She made me seem almost normal!

2. The semi-stoned guy who visited our Mission:Sustainable booth and was totally convinced that he'd seen the show on TV before. In fact, he'd seen it a couple of times and wanted to let us know that he was going to keep watching it he liked it so much. Even though it hasn't yet been aired.

3. The peak oil, conspiracy theory nutball that stopped by the booth to blind-side us and with whom I spent 15 minutes going toe-to-toe on issues regarding peak oil with a sprinkling of environmentalism, politics and a number of other topics thrown in for good measure. Proving that we're not just a bunch of greenwashing reality show airheads.

4. Getting to hang out with some of the most awesome, talented and knowledgeable individuals in Seattle who just so also happen to be my fellow cast members and crew.

5. All the free beer and wine samples, the free chair massage, and the guys milling around outside the conference room waiting for the sex toys part of the presentation to begin. One guy waited until I started that bit and then came in, sat down, put his feet up, hands behind his head and reclined as if he were about to watch a porn show in his own living room.

There are so many more fun moments, and you'd have to have been there to understand them but, needless to say, I certainly won't forget this weekend.

Monday, January 25, 2010

GladRags winner

The winner of last week's GladRags Giveaway, where the winner gets to choose their very own pattern in the Color Pad Sampler Kit (which includes):
  • 3 Day Pads
  • 3 Pantyliners
  • 1 Night Pad
  • 1 Classic Carry Bag
  • 1 Mesh Laundry Bag
is Krista R!

Congratulations and send me your contact info as well as what pattern you would like!

For those of you burning with curiosity, I'll fill you in on my trip to the Good Earth Home, Garden and Living show in Eugene in tomorrow's post!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

NY Times - Chilled by Choice

Holy smokes! I'm in the NY Times again today. This time they are referencing my Freeze Yer Buns Challenge, but mostly talking about folks who use no heat.

I have to admit that I think people who live in sub-freezing and 15 degree temperatures are a bit off their rockers. But, either way, it's interesting to read their attitudes about the cold.

So, go check out the article! And come back and tell me what you think about going with no heat. Would you do it?

GladRags giveaway

If you missed out on last week's LunaPads giveaway, or you didn't win, you have an opportunity at another great giveaway for a set of cloth menstrual pads.

Last week's giveaway was in honor of my preparations for this weekend's seminars at the Eugene Home, Garden and Living show in Oregon. I have two presentations prepared. I'm not sure which ones I will end up giving since there has been some concern about whether or not the content is family-friendly or if I may offend any of the more conservative attendees.

What am I planning on talking about? The first talk I have planned is called Potty Talk and will cover everything you ever wanted to know about switching over to cloth wipes (instead of toilet paper) and using urine as a nitrogen fertilizer. The second talk is called Sex and Sustainability and will cover alternatives in menstrual products, contraception and the chemicals/materials in adult toys.

I'm really hoping to be able to do the Sex and Sustainability talk since I think the information in it is valuable and not at all salacious. Anyway, this second talk will have a show n' tell section at the end with items from what I'm covering: cloth pads, a DivaCup and alternative adult toys. That part will be salacious :)

One of the items I'll have with me will be a sample GladRags pad so people can get an idea of what they look like if they've never seen them before. As such, this week's giveaway is sponsored by GladRags themselves and they have generously offered up this almighty starter set, the Color Pad Sampler Kit, and the winner gets to pick out whatever print they want!

The Pad Sampler Kit contains the following lovelies:

  • 3 Day Pads
  • 3 Pantyliners
  • 1 Night Pad
  • 1 Classic Carry Bag
  • 1 Mesh Laundry Bag

    To enter to win this GladRags Set, they ask that, in addition to adding your name to the comments of this post, you comment with something from their site. For example, something new you learned, a product you would most like to try, or a print you like the best.

    You have until Saturday, January 23rd, at midnight PST to sign up. I'll announce the winner when I get back next week. Good luck!
  • Wednesday, January 20, 2010

    Naturally Bare review

    It's a bloody miracle! I've actually posted something over on Green Goddess Dressing, my other blog that I've been dutifully ignoring for months now.

    If you would like to read a scathing review of Sally Hansen's Naturally Bare Honey Wax, then mosey on over to my most recent post!

    From first appearances, it looks like an all-natural, earth friendly product. And, in many ways it is. If you like icky chemicals that have been found in breast cancer tissue.

    Tuesday, January 19, 2010

    Pioneer Skills: hand dipped beeswax candles

    Lighting with pure beeswax candles made with cotton wicks was one of the many methods of lighting during pioneer times and, I'm sure, the least air-polluting. Burning beeswax has been claimed to clean the air in your home by ionizing it. I make no such grandiose claims, just that beeswax candles smell great and burn cleanly.

    Interest in beekeeping, even in urban areas, is on the rise so even if you don't raise your own, you should have access to a local source of beeswax through your farmers market. If you can't find any there, check online resources for beeswax and try to select an organic source.

    I chose to explain how to make hand dipped beeswax candles, mostly because the amount of equipment you need is minimal. You don't need molds or any fancy wick suspension system or the like. Just a container of melted beeswax and some wicks.

    I suspect this was also the main method of making candles back in pioneer days because of its simplicity. It would also be one of those projects that took time and could be done as a social event. I envision women sitting around the beeswax, making candles and talking. I suggest you host a beeswax candle making party to keep the tradition alive.

    This also makes a good project for kids, as long as they are old enough to be careful around hot wax.

    Supply list
  • Beeswax (get organic beeswax from a local beekeeper if you can)
  • 100% cotton candle wicks (organic cotton if you can)
  • Metal container (to melt the beeswax, you can use a medium, tall tin can for this)
  • Pot

    Instructions:

    1. Fill the metal container about 3/4 full of beeswax. If you don't feel like chopping up large chunks of beeswax, which is, notably, a huge pain, you can use beeswax pellets if you can find them, but they are much more expensive than buying bulk beeswax. Place your metal container in a pot of water so that it hits about halfway up the container. Heat the water over medium heat until the wax is melted and turn the heat down to simmer.

    2. Trim the wicks into 16 inch pieces. Dip each end of the wick about 6" into the wax, alternately ends, about a second in and a second to pull out. Wait 15 seconds in between dips for the previous "layer" to cool. Once you get the hang of it, you'll get into a candle dipping rhythm that can be quite meditative.

    3. When your candle has reached the appropriate diameter (1/2 to 1 inch), it's time to cool them. If your candles are looking a tad too rustic for your tastes, you can roll them in wax paper on a hard surface for a smoother finish. Let them cool by hanging them over a thick rod. Trim the bottom of the candle if you like.

    Problem solving:
    *If you are finding the the wick is floating in the wax during the first few dips, you can tie some washers or other weight to the dipping end.
    *If you want to speed things up a bit, you can dip the candles into cool water in between dips.
    *If you are having issues with clumpy wax or remelting your candle as you are dipping, keep the temperature around 160 degrees F. 150 to 180 is a safe range for dipping.
    *For a clean finish, increase the temperature of the wax to 180 degrees for the last dip.

    References:
    How to make hand dipped beeswax candles
    Making hand dipped candles
  • Sunday, January 17, 2010

    LunaPads SuperChicken set winner

    Hear ye, hear ye.

    The lucky winner of the LunaPads giveaway is....

    Julia of Color Me Green!

    Email me your contact infromation, and I'll send you the set of cloth pads! Congratulations!

    For those of you who are interested in giving cloth pads a try, I'll be doing another giveaway this week, this time with GladRags. So, keep an eye out for that contest!

    Saturday, January 16, 2010

    Pioneer Woman Cooks winners

    Well, the odds for winning a book in this last giveaway of The Pioneer Woman Cooks were pretty high this time around. But, I won't dawdle and will just announce the winners.

    And the random number generator says:

    1. Peak Oil Hausfrau - who, strangely, enough also lives in OK
    2. Robbie, of Going Green Mama, APLS and the Green Phone Booth
    3. Jenny, of Proud to Be a Farmer's Daughter

    Send your contact information to me and I'll forward it to Ree. She'll be sending you the books!

    Congratulations you guys!

    Thursday, January 14, 2010

    LunaPads giveaway

    Consider yourselves lucky. Since I'm uber-busy this week working hard on preparing my seminar for the Eugene Home, Garden and Living show in Oregon next weekend, I don't have time to write on all the burning topics that are totally stuck in my craw.

    So, in the meantime, in honor of my seminar topic (in which I'm planning on covering alternative menstrual care products), I'm doing a giveaway of cloth menstrual pads to hopefully encourage one lucky winner to give this sustainable alternative a whirl.

    Now, this is no ordinary sample of cloth pads, but a whole get-you-hooked-up kit which will contain these lovely items from LunaPads:

    1. Waterproof carry case (for cloth pad transport)
    2. Five (5) Maxi pads (with 3 liners each for a total of 15 liners)
    3. Five (5) Mini pads (with 3 liners each for a total of 15 liners)

    The LunaPad includes 2 parts: a pad with wings that fasten around the gusset of your underwear with a sewn-on plastic snap, and a liner that is worn on top of the pad and held in place with ric-rac bands. This design allows you to change liners quickly and easily without having to change your whole pad. Watch this video to see how Lunapads are worn.

    To enter to win this LunaPads SuperChicken Set, just add your name to the comments of this post. You have until Friday, January 15th, at midnight PST to sign up. I'll announce the winner this weekend.

    Good luck!

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010

    Pioneer Woman Cooks book giveaway

    I've done one giveaway already for this book. Since the interest was so high for the first giveaway and since Ree offered up an additional three books, I'm having another giveaway. And, yes, people, you read correctly. Three books.

    If you've read The Pioneer Woman's blog, you've seen the recipe section of her site and probably have fallen in love with the not only the recipes, but the pictures and everything else related to her life on a cattle ranch.

    Ree was kind enough to send me a review copy back in October of her new book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl, a luxuriously picturesque book that there are not enough adjectives to describe. This book, which lists for $27.50, includes several of the recipes on her blog as well as a ton of new ones, all including the same sort of step-by-step pictures and instructions that you've grown to love. In addition there's a bunch of pictures from around the farm and information about the family (like, did you know that Marlboro Man's real name is Ladd?).

    If you are not familiar with her blog (and, if not, have been under a rock?), then I urge you to go check it out if you are at all interested in life in the country. I must warn you, however, that her blog and life is not a sustainable existence so don't expect any stories of living off the land. This is a true working cattle ranch.

    From the book description:
    After years of living in Los Angeles, I made a pit stop in my hometown in Oklahoma on the way to a new, exciting life in Chicago. It was during my stay at home that I met Marlboro Man, a mysterious cowboy with steely blue eyes and a muscular, work-honed body.

    A strict vegetarian, I fell hard and fast, and before I knew it we were married and living on his ranch in the middle of nowhere, taking care of animals, and managing a brood of four young children. I had no idea how I'd wound up there, but I knew it was exactly where I belonged.

    The Pioneer Woman Cooks is a homespun collection of photography, rural stories, and scrumptious recipes that have defined my experience in the country. I share many of the delicious cowboy-tested recipes I've learned to make during my years as an accidental ranch wife—including Rib-Eye Steak with Whiskey Cream Sauce, Lasagna, Fried Chicken, Patsy's Blackberry Cobbler, and Cinnamon Rolls—not to mention several "cowgirl-friendly" dishes, such as Sherried Tomato Soup, Olive Cheese Bread, and Creme Brulee. I show my recipes in full color, step-by-step detail, so it's as easy as pie to follow along.

    Now, I know a lot of you probably have some New Years resolutions to work on but, believe me, even though her recipes won't exactly be in Cooking Light anytime soon, they are totally worth the calories!

    To enter the book giveaway, just add your name to the comments of this post. You have until Friday, January 15th, at midnight PST to sign up. I'll announce the three winners this weekend.

    Monday, January 11, 2010

    Pioneer Skills: lemon verbena perfume

    For those of you who are fans of Little House on the Prairie, you'll know that Laura was totally fascinated by the fact that her teacher, Miss Beadle, wore lemon verbena perfume. If you were a fan of the show, Mr. Edwards gave Laura lemon verbena perfume in two episodes. So, what better thing to learn as a pioneer skill than how to make your own lemon verbena perfume?

    The Spanish first brought lemon verbena to Europe, where it was used widely in perfume in the 18th century. Today, even though the herb lemon verbena can be used in teas and savory dishes, it is still a fragrance widely used in perfumes. Lemon verbena has a woodsy scent, which helps add spiciness to many fragrances. And, because of the woodsy smell, lemon verbena in cologne makes a great scent for men as well as women.

    Start with 100-proof vodka as a carrier for your perfume. The vodka is almost completely odorless and evaporates quickly when used on the skin, leaving behind just the fragrance. Combine about 24 drops of lemon verbena essential oil with two teaspoons of distilled water and two teaspoons of vodka. Pour all ingredients into a dark glass bottle and let them steep for at least 48 hours. Shake the bottle occasionally to mix the scent.

    In the book "Gone with the Wind," lemon verbena was one of Scarlett O'Hara's mother's favorite scents. During that era, people made lemon verbena lavender perfume using pure essential oils. Lemon verbena lavender perfume makes a great combination since the lavender provides a relaxing scent while lemon verbena is refreshing. Bergamot acts as a refreshing top note. Start with 1/4 cup vodka and add 1/2 teaspoon lemon verbena oil, 5 drops of lavender essential oil and 5 drops of bergamot essential oil. Store and mix as above.

    Sunday, January 10, 2010

    Good Earth - good living

    As many of you may recall, the Mission: Sustainable TV team (cast members and production staff) will be heading down to Eugene, OR on January 22-24 to attend the Good Earth Home, Garden & Living Show, America's 1st sustainable home and garden show. We'll be premiering the pilot episode of the Mission: Sustainable green makeover reality show that I'm a cast member/personal care consultant on and we'll be hosting a (ginormous) booth where participants in the home show can come and film their green living tips to be broadcast on the Mission: Sustainable website.

    In addition to airing the pilot episode over the three-day weekend, we'll be doing panel discussions with the cast and crew and seminars from the cast members. That means that on Saturday and Sunday I'll be doing a seminar (3:00 pm on Saturday and 1:00 pm on Sunday). My topic is, can you guess it, Fringe Green Theater. If I'm going to be doing a presentation to a large audience, which I'm not exactly fond of doing, it's going to have to be something that I'm interested in and think is fun.

    The topics I'm planning on covering, depending on the crowd, will range anywhere from cloth wipes, menstrual care, urine as fertilizer, human waste composting, alternative deodorants and sustainable sex toys. I'm planning on making it less lecture and more stand-up, which, hopefully, will be a riot. It will be filmed, so if I totally rock it (which is what I'm shooting for :), I'll post the video here sometime in the future.

    If you guys are at all interested in helping support the green makeover show and cover the expenses of the trip to the home show (as well as cover some of the costs for our Seattle green carpet gala extravaganza premiere on February 11th - more about that in a later post), you can donate your nickels and dimes here. You can check out the donation page for more information about both events.

    And, if you live in the Eugene area, make sure you come check out the show!

    Here's a sneak peak at the commercial for the Good Earth Home, Garden and Living Show:
    video

    Saturday, January 9, 2010

    No Impact Man book winner!

    Congratulations to The 4 Bushel Farmgal, for winning the book No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process.

    So, Farmgal, email me your contact info at crunchychickenblog@gmail.com and I'll send the book out to you directly!

    For the rest of you, I'm doing another book giveaway this next Thursday, so consider yourselves warned!

    Making goat butter

    With hobby and backyard goat keeping on the rise, I was wondering this morning whether or not you could easily make goat butter with goat milk. Nigerian dwarf goats can deliver up to two quarts of milk a day, so what better use of all that milk (besides making cheese, of course), but to try to make goat butter?

    Well, it turns out that goat butter, although different in taste from cow's milk based butter, is totally possible for someone who raises goats. The butter produced is perfectly white (since there is a lower amount of Vitamin A in goat's milk versus cow's) and has a lower melting point given the higher percentage of unsaturated fatty acids.

    How does making goat butter differ from making butter from cow's milk? Well, really, all you need differently is a cream separator for larger volumes and, if you don't want to spring the money for this expensive piece of equipment, you can read about how to separate it manually here. If you don't have enough cream initially to make butter, just freeze what you do get off, cream-wise, until you have enough. One quart of cream makes a pound of butter.

    So, once you have enough cream stored up, head on over here for instructions on how to turn it into butter - the method is the same. The resulting butter is (from what I've read) creamy, mild, and not "goaty" tasting. Store your butter in the fridge or, for the long-term, freeze it for up to six months.

    I'm not sure how possible it is if you are relying on homogenized goats milk from the store, since it would be too difficult to separate the cream, but if you want to try and report back, by all means, go for it!

    Any of you out there ever made goat butter?

    Friday, January 8, 2010

    Human hibernation: going back to bed

    It should come as no surprise to you that slowing down in the winter isn't a bad thing. It's dark, cold and totally conducive for hanging around in bed, cuddled up under a blanket with not much to do. Here in the Pacific NW where it gets dark by 4:00pm, there is a high incidence of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), where the early darkness is coupled with low, dark clouds that make the area even more dreary than, say, somewhere in Montana at the same latitude. Around here, going to bed and waking up with the sun means a good 16 hours sleep a night.

    I ran across an article the other day describing the history of some human populations essentially false hibernating during the winter, mostly to conserve not only fuel energy, but human energy. People slept together most of the day, waking only briefly to eat a little hard bread, drink some water and carry out basic body functions.

    In 19th century France:
    Economists and bureaucrats who ventured out into the countryside after the Revolution were horrified to find that the work force disappeared between fall and spring. The fields were deserted from Flanders to Provence. Villages and even small towns were silent, with barely a column of smoke to reveal a human presence. As soon as the weather turned cold, people all over France shut themselves away and practiced the forgotten art of doing nothing at all for months on end.

    In the mountains, the tradition of seasonal sloth was ancient and pervasive. "Seven months of winter, five months of hell," they said in the Alps. When the "hell" of unremitting toil was over, the human beings settled in with their cows and pigs. They lowered their metabolic rate to prevent hunger from exhausting supplies. If someone died during the seven months of winter, the corpse was stored on the roof under a blanket of snow until spring thawed the ground, allowing a grave to be dug and a priest to reach the village.

    The same mass dormancy was practiced in other chilly parts. In 1900, The British Medical Journal reported that peasants of the Pskov region in northwestern Russia "adopt the economical expedient" of spending one-half of the year in sleep: "At the first fall of snow the whole family gathers round the stove, lies down, ceases to wrestle with the problems of human existence, and quietly goes to sleep. Once a day every one wakes up to eat a piece of hard bread. ... The members of the family take it in turn to watch and keep the fire alight. After six months of this reposeful existence the family wakes up, shakes itself" and "goes out to see if the grass is growing."

    Even in more temperate areas of France, the same behavior was seen:
    In Burgundy, after the wine harvest, the workers burned the vine stocks, repaired their tools and left the land to the wolves. A civil servant who investigated the region’s economic activity in 1844 found that he was almost the only living presence in the landscape: "These vigorous men will now spend their days in bed, packing their bodies tightly together in order to stay warm and to eat less food. They weaken themselves deliberately."

    After the Revolution, government officials complained that farmers were "abandoning themselves to dumb idleness," instead of undertaking "some peaceful and sedentary industry." Income acted only as a deterrent. The people of Beaucaire on the Rhône made enough money at their summer fair to spend the rest of the year "smoking, playing cards, hunting and sleeping."

    Do humans have the capability to hibernate? Sadly, no:
    It would appear that while humans have some of the tools for hibernation, we have not evolved them to be used for long periods of time because we have not been required to. Perhaps if we were at the mercy of the elements, we would have evolved to be able to hibernate, to be able to lower our body temperatures and severely reduce the amount of energy we use and where such energy comes from.

    It seems, however, unlikely that we will ever have the need to hibernate in the future, considering our wealth of indoor heating systems and warehouses full of winter coats. For now we’ll have to settle for bundling up, hunkering down, and waiting out the winter fully conscious, and, sadly, awake.

    So, what better way to spend the winter to save energy, but to get some well deserved (and probably needed) extra sleep? Do you find that you sleep a lot more during the winter? I know I definitely can easily squeeze in a short nap pretty much every afternoon if I have time for it.

    Thursday, January 7, 2010

    No Impact Man book giveaway

    I'm sure most of you, by now, have heard of No Impact Man, aka Colin Beavan. He's been writing his blog, No Impact Man, for about three years now. I know a lot of you have found my blog via his (back before he ex-communicated me from his blog roll about 4 months ago - I must have pissed him off somehow) since the content on our blogs started off in a similar fashion: sharing with the world the things we do to help reduce our impact on the planet.

    Colin and his family spent a year trying to live "no impact", well, as much as one can while living in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. They reduced their consumption considerably in the process and last year a documentary about their trials and travails came out as well as his book, No Impact Man, all titled after his blog. Here's the description of the book from the publisher:
    A guilty liberal finally snaps, swears off plastic, goes organic, becomes a bicycle nut, turns off his power, and generally becomes a tree-hugging lunatic who tries to save the polar bears and the rest of the planet from environmental catastrophe while dragging his baby daughter and Prada-wearing, Four Seasons–loving wife along for the ride. And that’s just the beginning. Bill McKibben meets Bill Bryson in this seriously engaging look at one man’s decision to put his money where his mouth is and go off the grid for one year—while still living in New York City—to see if it’s possible to make no net impact on the environment. In other words, no trash, no toxins in the water, no elevators, no subway, no products in packaging, no air-conditioning, no television...

    What would it be like to try to live a no-impact lifestyle? Is it possible? Could it catch on? Is living this way more satisfying or less satisfying? Harder or easier? Is it worthwhile or senseless? Are we all doomed or can our culture reduce the barriers to sustainable living so it becomes as easy as falling off a log? These are the questions at the heart of this whole mad endeavor, via which Colin Beavan hopes to explain to the rest of us how we can realistically live a more "eco-effective" and by turns more content life in an age of inconvenient truths.

    For the last year or so, Colin has also been running the No Impact Project, which helps to educate folks on how to live a lower impact lifestyle. The project will also soon release a free curriculum for secondary students for educators to instruct kids on such topics as consumption, energy, food, transportation and water. It's pretty cool, so if you have kids or are a teacher, make sure you check it out.

    Anyway, the book is a recap of his year-long attempt to lower the family's carbon footprint. The most entertaining parts are definitely the resulting conflict with his wife, Michelle, who ends up really providing a counter-weight that represents how most of America feels about making these changes. For those of you struggling with partners or kids about the changes you are trying to make, you can certainly relate.

    If you are a fan of Colin's or are just hearing about him, then now is your chance to win his book! If you are interesting in entering the book giveaway, add your name to the comments of this post. You have until midnight Friday, 1/8, PST to enter. I'll announce the winner this weekend.

    Good luck!

    Related posts:
    Eco-stunt or eco-sincerity?
    Seattle premiere of No Impact Man
    No Impact Man

    Wednesday, January 6, 2010

    Backyard beekeeping 101

    I've signed up for a couple of odd classes over the next few months. The first one, coming up this month, is Backyard Beekeeping 101 (the other one is City Goats 101) through Seattle Tilth. I'm not sure where things will lead after this class, but I am interested in finding out how to raise honeybees in your backyard, particularly in an urban setting.

    Honeybees are an asset to the backyard gardener because they pollinate fruit trees, berries, fruiting vegetables and the like, plus they produce some tasty honey in the process. Since now is a great time to get started planning hives for the spring, I'm hoping this class will give me an idea of what to expect.

    The class I'm taking covers the basic fundamentals of beekeeping, including equipment, parts of the hive, location, feeding and treating bees and seasonal management. The cool thing is that the class is taught by a beekeeper local to my neighborhood and he mentors several novice backyard beekeepers around Seattle. But here's the clincher - he owns the Ballard Bee Company - which provides a service I'm sure all of you will be jealous about once I tell you. Are you ready?

    Through the Ballard Bee Company, you can essentially "borrow" a hive in your backyard. The owner of the company comes out each week to maintain it and do whatever bee-like things need to be done. At the end of the summer you get a share of the honey produced from your hives. So, if you are just starting out, you can learn from a master beekeeper, all on your own property!

    I'm thinking that, even if I don't want to deal with all the bee maintenance myself, boarding bees for the summer is a cool way to get some pollination and honey in the process. I don't know how many other areas have this service, but I think it's pretty amazing.

    Needless to say, I'll be sharing much more information about backyard beekeeping after my class so stay tuned. And, in the meantime, you can check out this guest post (by Karen O'Brien) that I hosted a while back by someone who has already taken the step to backyard beekeeping! And, if I do go for the bees, you can fully expect an episode about them on Crunchy Chicken TV!

    I'll tell you about the City Goat class in another post...

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010

    Are you hard core?

    Composting outhouseScoring:
    Give yourself 1 point for each of the following where you answer "yes" (or close to it).

    1. You use cloth wipes instead of toilet paper and dream of getting a composting toilet

    2. You line dry your clothes even though you own an efficient dryer

    3. When your family visits your house they claim that you can hang meat in there it's so cold

    4. You spend your free time fantasizing about getting solar panels

    5. You'd rather live in a small cabin off the grid with no plumbing than in a mega-mansion on the beach

    6. You know all about raising chickens even if you've never even seen a live one

    7. You have a huge stash of gardening porn that you hide from your significant other

    8. You think that sweating over a hot canner for hours on end is super fun!

    9. You try to convince everyone of the merits of a DivaCup, even the guys

    10. Greenpa's suggestions sound totally reasonable

    If your total is:

    0 - 3:  What are you doing reading this post? You better start from the beginning.
    4 - 6:  Not a bad start. Review the Low Impact Week suggestions to increase your score.
    7 - 8:  You are a nut job in training!
    9 - 10:  Congratulations! You are a hard-core environmentalist!

    How do you score?

    Monday, January 4, 2010

    Garden porn

    Yeah, you. You know who you are.

    You get your piles of seed catalogs in early January, pore over them like porn during lock-down, and can't stop thinking of those glossy spreads of juicy melons, succulent Big Boy tomatoes and Yamato Extra Longs.

    Problem is, it's still January. So, you start fantasizing about grow lights. Next, you'll be lusting over greenhouses and cold frames, with thoughts of running your fingers across their cold, hard bodies.

    You are a gardening perv. Just admit it.

    What are your favorite seed catalogs to get off on?

    Sunday, January 3, 2010

    Pioneer Skills: make your own butter

    If you've been reading this blog for very long, you'll know that I have a slight fixation with pioneer living. Probably because there's a lot of cross-over between pioneer living and self-sufficiency and homesteading.

    Last year (well, actually November 2008) I hosted a Pioneer Week, to encourage people to try living a little more simply by observing some basic living skills like making all your meals from scratch, drastically reducing your energy and water consumption, limiting your transportation, keeping your entertainment very basic and purchasing only necessities. For a full list of "rules" you can check out this post.

    If any of you are interested in having me host this again, I'd be happy to. We didn't have a huge amount of participation last time, but I know those that did it really enjoyed it. It may make sense to wait until a little later in the year to do a Pioneer Week again, when weather and daylight are a little more agreeable.

    Anyway, in the meantime, I was planning on posting some basic ideas and how-to's of things that are lost on most of us. I grew up in suburbia and learned limited (okay, nothing) about how to survive on my own without store bought everything. I've managed to teach myself quite a few things in my adulthood, but there's still plenty more to learn (see yesterday's Skills to Learn in 2010 post for ideas).

    These "Pioneer Skills" posts will be simple, short and sweet. Here is one oldie but goody to get you started...

    How to Make Your Own Butter

    For full instructions including step-by-step pictures, see this post.

    If you haven't tried this one yet, then you really need to give it a go. The taste difference from regular store bought butter is definitely worth the extra effort. You can use the leftover "buttermilk" as a milk substitute in cooking, just know that it is fairly low-fat.

    If you thought that you couldn't make butter by hand without a churn or some sort of fancy equipment, then I'm here to tell you that all you need is a little heavy whipping cream, a Mason jar and lid and two hands. It will take you about 30 minutes.

    Let the shaking begin!

    1. Collect all the necessary equipment. I highly recommend trying to find local, organic cream as the quality is much better, but you can use whatever you have on hand if need be. I generally use a pint of heavy whipping cream and a quart canning jar with lid.

    2. Leave the cream out on the counter for a while (the longer the cream sours, the less sweet the butter will be). Once the cream is warmed up to about 60 degrees then pour it into the Mason jar.

    3. Put on the lid and start shaking it. After about two minutes you'll see a nice lightly whipped cream.

    4. After about four minutes it will look like thick, whipped cream. Resist the temptation to empty the entire Mason jar into you mouth at this point. But do crack it open and breathe in the heavenly, sweet scent.

    5. After about nine minutes of shaking, the cream will start to separate from the sides of the glass. Feel free to take a break.

    6. After about fourteen minutes, the whey starts separating from the butter.

    7. After about sixteen minutes, the curd is more noticeable and there's a lot more whey.

    8. At this point you can start pouring the buttermilk off. Continue shaking for a few minutes until your butter has solidified a bit more and until you aren't getting anymore buttermilk off of it.

    9. Pour out the butter into a bowl. Pour cold water over the butter and start "massaging" the butter with a spatula to rinse the rest of the buttermilk out. Continue replacing the water until the water stays clear. Drain.

    10. Mold your butter into butter molds or into ramekins (or store in an old food safe plastic container). You will also end up with a scant cup of buttermilk (depending on how "juicy" your cream is).

    Voila! Butter. In less than thirty minutes.

    [This can also be done using a standing mixture, just be careful to stop it when the butter separates from the buttermilk or you will remix it and it won't separate again.]

    Saturday, January 2, 2010

    Skills to learn in 2010

    With the new year comes many resolutions and a stronger desire to try out new things or begin new projects and hobbies.

    Which of the following skills do you wish you knew more about or would like to learn?
    • Food gardening and food storage (canning, dehydrating, pickling, fermentation, etc.)
    • Seed saving and/or fruit tree grafting
    • Foraging for wild foods, mushrooms, etc.
    • Composting

    • Animal husbandry (rabbits, chickens, goats or larger)
    • Beekeeping
    • Animal skinning, processing
    • Sheep or other animal shearing
    • Spinning wool
    • Knitting
    • Sewing

    • Cooking, baking
    • Making own cheese and/or yogurt
    • Making beer and/or wine
    • Solar cooking

    • Alternative medicine and/or first aid
    • Making soap (cold process from oils and lye)
    • Making candles

    • Carpentry
    • Plumbing or electrical
    • Bike maintenance and repair
    • Appliance repair

    What is the biggest thing preventing you from learning to do these things? Time, money? What would make it easier?

    Did you mean to try any of these last year and never got around to it (see how you answered back in April!)?

    Friday, January 1, 2010

    Getting cozy with bull semen

    This article, Genomics Hits The Farm, over on Forbes, is really sticking in my craw. In it, they describe how mapping the cow genome has made it much more effective in selecting bulls for raising cows that produce higher quantities of milk.

    It's similar in theory to the method that we've been using for the last 50 years or so, just a whole lot more accurate. In the year and a half since this new technique was introduced, this genome testing has completely replaced the previous method, which was quite successful in its own right. Over the past three decades, the previous breeding methods had boosted the annual milk production of the Holstein cow (the predominant dairy cow) by 30 gallons, or 8%.

    Farmers and genetics companies use testing to select the best bulls for breeding. And, because one selected bull with high-quality semen (producing offspring with higher milk rates) can have lots of offspring, it makes financial sense to breed from a small pool. The end result is that in the U.S. only 500 bulls are bred, using artificial insemination, with 9 million Holstein cows.

    On one hand, it's pretty damn amazing that we are able to select for higher production rates, but at what detriment? Much like the chickens that are bred for faster meat production, turkeys that are bred for huge breasts and every other selective breeding that goes on, there are potential problems.

    An interesting point that Abbie brought up when I posted this on Facebook was this gem: "According to my uncle, who is a cow endocrinologist, the pregnancy rate is only about 30% from insemination and you're much more likely to get a pregnancy from the natural way. Not to mention that cows have been bred for milk production, not pregnancy rate, so that's part of the problem."

    Today, I wanted to bring up the issue of genetic diversity, because when you are working with a narrowing gene pool, problems can arise. I'm sure Greenpa can educate us all on this much better than I (and hopefully will in the comments of this post), but the basic takeaway lesson here is that the smaller gene pool you have, the bigger risk of disease there is, either genetic or acquired.

    So, your population of critters (cows in this example) are at higher risk for not surviving or procreating or otherwise serving their purpose if inbreeding a disease comes along or a mutated pathogen infects the whole lot. You see this issue crop up more often in severely depleted populations (like in those species that are endangered), so it's rather tragic to artificially create the same problem in such large populations. The potential for huge die-off may not necessarily be high, but if it does happen, it would be catastrophic.

    What do you think? Is it better to selectively breed for highly desired traits at the risk of smaller population diversity? Or is it just better to leave well enough alone and go back to more traditional method of breeding that results in a lower "yield", but leaves more genetic diversity? Or do you even care?

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