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

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

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hang 'Em Dry Challenge Wrap Up

Well, I certainly went out with a bang in October's Hang 'Em Dry Challenge where you can pledge to line or otherwise air dry all your laundry for the month.

This week has been crazy with a capital C. Between being sick, prepping to film for local TV and crappy weather, I ended up using the dryer for far more than I wanted to. We had a couple days of semi-decent weather, but between the cold and humidity our clothes dried at a glacial pace. Some of the loads I did were bedding that couldn't wait three days to dry.

Total dryer time used: 300 minutes
Total dryer time saved: 180 minutes

I think this last week represents a lot more of the average of how our winter will look like as far as air drying clothes goes. In other words, I'll probably be able to squeak three or four loads in per week where I'm air drying them. The biggest issue overall is really trying to keep the total amount of laundry down (which I'll cover in another post). I don't generate much laundry, but I can't say the same for the rest of the household.

The other big issue has more to do with humidity and lack of heat in the house. It's difficult to dry clothes in the basement when it's in the 50s and 60s with high humidity. The clothes start stinking something terrible and that just means we would have to resort to more intensive cleaning agents, which I'm not willing to do.

So, all in all, I'd say we can safely air dry our laundry at least half of the year. The rest of the year, we'll have to see how it goes.

Total Savings
All in all, we saved about 32 hours of drying time for the month. Since I started doing this challenge at the beginning of August, I would say that I've saved about 100 hours of drying time altogether. That's like running the dryer all day for 4 days straight. Which is ridiculous when you think about it.

How did the challenge go for you?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Greening the Dead Carnival

Just in time for Halloween and the Day of the Dead, I'm hosting a green burial/death carnival as part of the Green Mom's Carnival. Unfortunately, death is something we talk about a little too frequently in this household and the discussion of, how shall we say, "disposal", has come up a number of times.

Even though my husband's cancer numbers have been going down, we still talk about the inevitable and our conversation about a green burial, which I wrote about a few years ago in the post, What to do when you're dead, usually revolves around groundwater contamination. I wonder, given all the drugs my husband takes, if a green burial for him would end up being a super-fund site. I know it sounds morbid, but if we are going to plan for things, this kind of stuff comes up.

In order to get others to think about it too, the Green Moms Carnival has posted blogs about the various aspects of keeping it green all the way to the very end.

Anna at Green Talk covers sustainable caskets. In her post, she interviews the creator of a casket that is made out of long fiber recycled paper and water. No toxins, glues, formaldehydes or anything. So, if you have to have a casket (and most places do require one, even for cremation), this is one sustainable way of achieving that.

Tiffany from Nature Moms thinks about what she wants done with her own remains and discusses what is not so green about funerals, burials, and cremation and goes over some greener choices.

Harriet from Climatemama brings up the question of how can we sustain burials if there are no trees for coffins? Between climate change, fires, invasive species and other pests, much of our nation's forests are being destroyed at an alarming rate.

Beth from Fake Plastic Fish likens green burials to composting your body. In her post, she contemplates her own demise and gives a well thought out description of what she wants done when she joins that giant plastic patch in the sky. I get dibs on her brain!

Jennifer from Puddle Jumping in DC goes into grave detail about the ins and outs of donating your body to science. She also contemplates donating her husband to the Bodies Exhibit, although the plastination process doesn't sound very green.

Karen at Best of Mother Earth emphasis pre-planning. You don't want to wait until the last minute of life to figure out the details of a green death. And Karen has her last wishes pre-planned out to the very smallest, if not illegal, details. Which may just involve a truck and a shovel. Let's hope that her kids wait until she's dead first. Just sayin'.

Diane of Big Green Purse puts the cart before the horse and asks to be buried before she dies. Not literally, but she wants to have her wake while she is still alive, so she can enjoy it with the ones she loves.

Lynn at Organic Mania goes old school when it comes to death and burial and describes how her ancestors in Bermuda handled the problem of burials in a country made up of limestone and coral. It gives the term "stacking" a whole new twist.

Karen mentions in her post (and, really, how this carnival came about) how standard funerals and burials are really a money making racket. Our local funeral home even offers a hybrid green cremation that costs $5400 (plus sales tax!?) for a willow casket, a biodegradable urn and a service. That's one expensive bonfire.

Finally, I love the concept of the Day of the Dead where you celebrate those loved ones who have passed on, honoring them with their favorite foods, gifts and more. Putting up pictures and having a party every year helps keep them close.

Do you have plans for a green demise or is this something you have even thought about for yourself or your family?

Image courtesy of White Eagle.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

SodaStream Penguin review and giveaway

We've been using the Penguin soda maker from SodaStream for about three years now, mostly for making sparkling water that we add our own syrups to or for making some fabulous mojitos using the mint from our backyard.

It's convenient because we generally don't have sparkling water or tonic water on hand, so if we want to whip up something besides water, tea or coffee, we've got the penguin to chirp our way into sparkling goodness. Chirp you ask? Well, when you are carbonating the water, you know it's done when the penguin makes a chirping noise. The kids get pretty excited about it too, because it's like a little mini science experiment.

Anyway, we've also been known to make actual soda from it using their flavored syrups, mostly Root Beer, Cream Soda and the like. The cool thing about their soda syrups is that they use actual sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup and, if diet soda is your thang, they have that option as well, using Splenda as the sweetener.

They also have a new line of Sparkling Naturals in a bunch of fruity flavors like Orange Pineapple and Apple Mango, that I was able to try out. I normally don't go for regular sodas and diet sodas because I don't like all the artificial ingredients that tend to be in them, but the Sparkling Naturals literally have no artificial colors, flavors or sugars in them. You can check out the ingredients list here.

The reason why I really like the Penguin (besides the cute noises it makes) is the fact that the carafes are made out of glass. You get two with the SodaStream maker so you can have more than one flavor going at a time, plus you don't have to worry about plastics leaching into your beverage. One of the things I was concerned about when getting this product was replacing the cartridges. Well, it turns out we can exchange them at a kitchen store down the street from our place (you can see a map of where you can find their products), so it really ends up being super inexpensive if you tend to drink a lot of carbonated beverages. And you will go through tons less plastic in the process.

Yeah! There's a Giveaway!
SodaStream has been nice enough to sponsor a giveaway of one of their Penguin Starter Kits that includes the:
  • Penguin Sparkling Water & Soda Machine
  • 2 Penguin Glass Carafes
  • 2 60 Liter Carbonators
  • Sparkling Naturals - Pink Grapefruit concentrate 750 ml
  • Sparkling Naturals - Orange Pineapple concentrate 750 ml
  • MyWater Flavor Essence - Variety pack
This starter set plus the soda mixes retail for $280 so I'm really excited about the opportunity to give this set away to one of my readers.

To be entered in this randomly drawn giveaway, please add your name to the comments of this post and tell me what your favorite sparkly beverage is. You have until midnight PST on Sunday, October 31st to enter this spooktacular giveaway. Good luck!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Freeze Yer Buns on local TV

This Friday, a local TV camera team is coming to my house to film a segment on this year's Freeze Yer Buns Challenge to cover some brief details of the challenge as well as get some tips on how to survive in a low-heat environment.

This year I'm planning on focusing a little less on suffering and more on making your home more comfortable with lower temperatures. I'll be focusing on that aspect rather than on the "how cold am I" one during the interview. In any case, I'll let you know if and when there's a link to the segment available.

If you haven't yet signed up for this year's challenge, the basics of it are to encourage participants to lower their thermostat in order to save money and reduce their carbon footprint.

This year I've got some great giveaways, including some gadgets to help keep your home warm as well as a home energy audit. So, if you want to be eligible for them, make sure you sign up for this year's challenge!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Farm City book winner!

Congratulations to the winner of the book, Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer!

And the winner is:

Oxray Farm!

Please send your contact information to crunchychickenblog@gmail.com and I'll send it your way!

Congrats again and I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hang 'Em Dry Clothing Confessional #4

This weekend wraps up the fourth week of October's Hang 'Em Dry Challenge where you can pledge to line or otherwise air dry all your laundry for the month.

Since I know it's unrealistic to completely line dry all of your laundry on some days, I'm letting you all do a weekly confessional so that, if you do end up caving in and using the dryer, you can confess, get it off your chest and start up again instead of feeling like you're a cheater and just quitting altogether. We all have issues that crop up and sometimes using the dryer is a necessity.

This last week (up through Saturday) was fairly uneventful and, since we had beautiful weather up until the weekend, drying clothes outside was a breeze. I was able to put the clothes out every day except for two days and, as a result, was able to keep the dryer usage down.

Total dryer time used: 70 minutes
Total dryer time saved: 450 minutes (7.5 hours!)

How's the challenge going for you? Feel free to blog and post a link here, or just say how it's going in the comments!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hairy haunches poll

I'm getting quite overdue on a good waxing mostly because I haven't had the time to do it myself and I hate spending the money on having someone else do it, especially since I'm not currently working. It's hard to justify the expense and I'd hate to go back to shaving.

I noticed the other day that I'm looking more simian than smooth and, as I was displaying my burgeoning hirsutude to my husband, he asked me if I was growing things out. That's not my intention, but I did wonder, with the winter months coming on, whether or not I could get away with it. Of course I could from an exposure standpoint but would I, mentally, be able to get away with it.

I'm sure I'll get a few nasty comments about this, but I am conditioned to look at my hairy upper legs and general area and not find it attractive - they look like man pubes - and I don't find it appealing. It certainly would be easier, low-maintenance and probably warmer, but I'm not sure I could stomach it.

So, as I am wont to do, I thought I'd throw in a poll. I'm talking about hair north of the knee and including the bikini line, not the porn star look.

How do you address your bikini line?


What's your opinion on hairy pubes that extend beyond the bikini line? Do you let it grow? Would you?

And, if you dig hard enough, there's an environmental angle in that question somewhere :)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Farm City book review and giveaway

I have to say, I really enjoyed the book, Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer. I started reading it earlier this year and it's one of the reasons I decided to start working on a book of my own. In any case, here's a quickie review and giveaway.

This book, written by Novella Carpenter, follows her and her boyfriend's adventures of growing a huge garden and raising animals in the ghetto of Oakland, CA. Everything from bees to turkeys to full grown hogs. In the meantime, you get to meet and know the colorful characters that make up her neighborhood as well as the poverty surrounding her.

The author shows that, regardless of whether or not you have money, space or even your own place, you can have a full-on farm. She also goes into great detail with the issues she had with killing her own animals for meat and how she went about doing it, which I found to be rather interesting.

If you are interested in winning a hardcover copy of this book, just add your name to the comments of this post and tell me if you live in the city, the country or the suburbs and whether or not you grow your own food or raise your own farm critters. Entries are due by midnight PST Friday, 10/22/10, to be eligible for the random drawing.

Good luck!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Brazilian blowout? Blow me

Last June, before we left to spend three weeks travelling through the sweaty and humid East Coast, I decided to get something done that I otherwise normally would never do. I got a Brazilian Blowout. Now, before you go thinking this has something to do with coloring my pubic area hot pink or something, let me 'splain.

It's a keratin based, formaldehyde free hair "straightening" process that was being offered at my Aveda salon. It's not a true straightener in that it coats the hair shaft and doesn't remove the curl so much as remove the frizz. It's not exactly the most eco-friendly thing to do, but I did it partly as part of my book project and partly, well, because I wouldn't mind having a frizz-free, trouble-free, hair-dryer free, flat-iron free vacation. And, for that, it delivered.

I had received a 50% off coupon as well as another deduction otherwise I never could justify the $350 price tag. Or, could I? Since the coating lasts about three months before it wears off and you go back to your formerly frizzy glory, I would save, literally, hours working on my hair. How much was that worth to me? Well, if it was something I wanted to continue doing, I could certainly justify the cost.

In any case, I had looked into a previous version of the process and had read that there were complaints about the process, but this new version (introduced last winter) was all-natural! Formaldehyde-free! And so good for your hair that my Aveda salon was offering it. Sign me up.

I went and had it done and, I have to say, I couldn't smell anything while my stylist was working on my hair. When she applied it to my scalp, however, it stung like a mother-fucker. Sorry, there really isn't any other way of accurately describing the burning sensation. It lasted for about 30 seconds after she "painted" it on various section of my head.

Next came the "blowout" where I had two stylists blow dry my hair with the solution on it. One of the stylists, who hadn't done this before, was complaining that it was making her eyes sting. The other stylist showed her how to direct the hair dryer away from her face so the atomized product didn't blow into her face. Problem solved.

Let me just say, the results were nothing short of miraculous. My hair was glossy straight without having to do anything to it, and this lasted for months, as advertised. Not advertised was the fact that my scalp flaked off in huge chunks for a month afterwards. Not really something I wanted to deal with on vacation, that's for sure. I had to make sure I dried my roots to blow off all the scalp chunks and flakes that were coming off of my head before going out.

Also not advertised was the fact that I actually missed the natural body of my hair. I wasn't used to having stick straight hair and, honestly, I didn't like it. It felt flat and weird instead of big and poofy. And, I'll take frizz and body any day over the alternative.

So, it wasn't with much surprise that I saw this article from NPR about how a salon stylist, who was experiencing health problems after offering this new salon service, looked into the ingredients of the Brazilian Blowout and, after several lab tests, they showed varying levels of formaldehyde in the product. Samples tested in various Portland salons showed formaldehyde levels between 8.85 and 10.6%, which is far higher than the 0.2 percent considered safe by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel. This, of course, explains the effects I and my stylists encountered.

The manufacturer, at the time I had it done, was claiming that their product was 100% safe and made of the same material that constitutes your hair. It sounds like they are changing their story after these results were made known and after the Canadian government started warning stylists and consumers not to use their product.

Formaldehyde, which is a chemical the National Cancer Institute calls a cancer-causing substance, is really not something I want painted on my scalp and inhaled into my lungs. Am I mad? You bet. This is false advertising at it's worst - convincing consumers that you are selling something blatantly containing something you say isn't there. Am I partially to blame? You bet. Going in to get a salon treatment where you don't know the ingredients is always risky and I, of all people, did a hell of a lot more research than your average consumer.

In fact, the entire time I was getting the treatment done, I was discussing the "previous" version with my stylist, explaining the health risks of the "previous" version that contained formaldehyde and how this newer version was allegedly an improvement. She even went to check the bottle to check on the ingredient list. Of course, there wasn't one.

No surprise there. It's safe to say I'll never be doing this again. Hell, I even stopped coloring my hair 10 months ago since I wasn't sure what was in the Aveda products.

As with most products sold in this country, always remember: buyer beware. There's no U.S. government entity looking out for your safety.

Special thanks to Jenny K. for alerting me of these latest findings!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Freeze Yer Buns Challenge 2010

I can't believe it's already time for the fourth annual Freeze Yer Buns Challenge. I also can't believe it's my fourth year of hosting this crazy challenge. Yesterday was the first day that I turned the heat on in the house as the outside temperature was in the upper 30s and our living temperature was about 58 degrees.

Upping the ante
This year I'm going to be offering some really awesome giveaways for participants of the challenge, so you have something new and exciting to look forward to besides freezing buns and chapped cheeks. So make sure you officially sign up even if you've always just followed along in the past.

The first year we had great participation and last year there were tons of you giving your thermostat the finger. As a result, the challenge got a lot of press, so this year I'm expecting even more frozen crunchy bottoms.

This year, as per usual, 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.

How it works
Since I know a lot of you can't commit to as low temperatures as others, 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. So, if you don't want to take the icy plunge, don't feel like you have to drop it 10 degrees right away.

Pledge to Freeze Yer Buns
To sign up for the challenge, add a comment to this post and pledge what temperatures you will keep your thermostat. This year we're going to try to go a little lower and so I'm pledging for 62 day and 55 night. You are more than welcome to meander through the posts from previous year's challenges if you want to know what you're in for.

As in the first and last year, this year's challenge mascot is the Arctic Seal. That roly poly little snow covered baby seal needs our help. 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 17, 2010

Hang 'Em Dry Clothing Confessional #3

This weekend wraps up the third week of October's Hang 'Em Dry Challenge where you can pledge to line or otherwise air dry all your laundry for the month.

Since I know it's unrealistic to completely line dry all of your laundry on some days, I'm letting you all do a weekly confessional so that, if you do end up caving in and using the dryer, you can confess, get it off your chest and start up again instead of feeling like you're a cheater and just quitting altogether. We all have issues that crop up and sometimes using the dryer is a necessity.

This week we ended up using the drying for a little bit longer at each "fluff" just because it's been relatively cold during the day even though it's been sunny. Mid-week I had my first experience of the weather going from dry to pouring rain and I may have been taking a nap and didn't notice it. So, the clothes that were out there got a good soaking for about 10 minutes before the rain woke me up and I ran out to bring them inside.

Total dryer time used: 50 minutes
Total dryer time saved: 400 minutes (6.5 hours!)

How's the challenge going for you? Feel free to blog and post a link here, or just say how it's going in the comments!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Can you eat meat and still be an environmentalist?

In light of my recent post about buying a cow share, I thought I'd ask the age olde question regarding whether or not you can call yourself an environmentalist if you weren't a vegetarian. We all know the arguments, eating meat, particularly those of the beef and pork nature, has a heavy impact on the environment.

Although I would argue that there are plenty of vegetarians that make poor food choices that result in an equal, if not higher, impact on the environment than some more conscientious meat eaters. In other words, there are more involved issues that need to be looked at here.

Anyway, I'm not going to tell you my opinion on the question (although you may easily guess my answer) because I want to hear what you think and open this up for your discussion without tainting it too much with my thoughts on the topic.

Can you call yourself an environmentalist if you eat meat (fish, poultry, pork, beef, etc.)? What about if you eat local, sustainably raised meat on land that doesn't support farming? Can beef fit into the picture, or does it have to be more of the sustainable chicken n' fish variety?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Indian summer

Yesterday was an absolutely glorious fall day. It reminded me of one of the reasons why I moved back to the Pacific NW rather than staying in California. Sure, our change of seasons isn't exactly comparable to other areas of the country, but I love the fact that yesterday was sunny and warm after a morning of fog. I love hearing the fog horns in the morning and running around in a t-shirt in the afternoon.

We still have a lot growing in the garden which I just so happened to work into dinner last night - tons of arugula, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, carrots and radishes. Eating dinner out of the backyard will never get old. My chickens are in full molt. Sarah has been dropping her beautiful white feathers for the last few days so the coop bottom this afternoon looked like a snow storm in summer.

Our sugar pie pumpkins are all turning orange - the last of them that is. The other ones are patiently waiting to be made into a pie this weekend. I nabbed another downed apple from the neighbor's apple tree for a snack for the chickens tomorrow and one of these days I'll get around to talking to them about saving them for me (they don't speak much English).

We still have the occasional strawberry and blackberry ripening, which gets donated to the chickens since there's not enough to feed the humans.

Ah, life is good. Not bad for an urban garden. And, the holidays are right around the corner.

How is your garden growing this time of year? Have you had your first frost yet or did you put it to bed for the fall/winter already?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Keeping the crunch out of air dried laundry

The two big questions that have come out of this challenge have been the logistics of effectively air drying laundry as well as how to keep your clothes from getting crunchy.

A lot of these suggestions were made in the comments of other posts, but I thought I'd put them all together in one post for people who are looking to try a solution to the problem.

1. Look at your detergent - If you are using a petroleum based detergent without any kind of fabric softener then it's possible that it's leaving more of a crispy film on it. Try a gentler soap. Regardless of the kind of detergent you are using, the other possible issue could be that you are using too much detergent and not all of it is getting rinsed out.

2. Add a softener - There are natural fabric softeners available, but the most commonly used, and cheap, one is vinegar. Add it to the fabric softener cup or to the load directly as a rinse if you don't have a newer machine.

3. Spring for a little drying time - Some people swear that drying their laundry for 5 minutes before hanging them out to dry helps keep them from being crunchy. I prefer finishing the laundry in the dryer for two reasons - the first is to make sure they are dry (which is hard to do here in rain and humid city) and the second is because it takes out the crunch. If they are already dry, you can just run them on "fluff".

4. Give it a good shake - Sometimes just shaking your clothes out really well before hanging and/or drying them where it's windy so the clothes move around can help prevent stiffness.

Did I miss anything? Any other suggestions?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Buying a grass-fed cow share

My husband and I discussed last night the possibility of buying a 1/2 cow and splitting it with my foodie brother. We have the chest freezer and the interest in integrating more lean, grass-fed and finished beef over other sources of protein. The cost savings when buying, literally, in bulk are much more than buying a little at a time.

Interestingly enough, when I was discussing exposure to toxins in food sources with the environmental medicine physician I am working with for my book, he suggested that I eat less butter and dairy and more grass-fed lean meats. The reasoning behind this is, toxins are stored in body fat, cows and other animals included. When you eat high fat animal products, you are ingesting those accumulated toxins, mostly PCBs, DDT, DDE and the like. Contaminants that are known to cause health problems.

I was somewhat surprised at the fact that, even during an intense toxin depuration program they designed for me, it was still recommended to eat grass-fed beef, mostly because of the high levels of omega 3 fatty acids which are important in ridding the body of toxins during a detox. Of course, organic vegetarian sources are the best (as far as toxins go) like beans and legumes for protein and olive and walnut oils for fats. I'll be eating a lot more of both since I'll be seriously limiting the amount of white flour based products like bread and pasta that I'll be eating for a while.

Anyway, I'll be hunting down a local source using the fabulous Eat Wild website, which lists all the pastured meat products available in our area.

Have you ever gone in on a cow share? What did you think?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Body burden toxin testing

Today wraps up the initial round of body burden toxin testing that I'm doing as part of the research / project for the book I'm writing that will be published next year by New Society Publishers.

Last week I did the blood tests for the testing panels for chlorinated pesticides, PCBs, volatile solvents and toxic metals. I also did the fabulous 24 hour urine collection for testing toxic elements. Today I'm sending in the urine test for the phthalates and parabens test panel. I also got our drinking water tested for a whole host of contaminants including bacteria as well as our paint tested for lead.

I thought the 24 hour urine collection was a pain, but the phthalates and parabens test just about reduced me to tears since you restrict the amount of fluids you can drink for 24 hours before doing the "sample". Ten bucks says I get a migraine today for dehydration and exposure to scented "natural" lotion and other, allegedly, natural products.

I should be getting the test results back over the next few weeks and I'm curious to see how I stack up to the average person's body burden. Next step after that... see how much I can reduce my load by eliminating exposure. And a few other nutty things.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hang 'Em Dry Clothing Confessional #2

This weekend wraps up the second week of October's Hang 'Em Dry Challenge where you can pledge to line or otherwise air dry all your laundry for the month.

Since I know it's unrealistic to completely line dry all of your laundry on some days, I'm letting you all do a weekly confessional so that, if you do end up caving in and using the dryer, you can confess, get it off your chest and start up again instead of feeling like you're a cheater and just quitting altogether. We all have issues that crop up and sometimes using the dryer is a necessity.

This week we had a tad of a snafu in that we thought our water heater was leaking. It ended up being something else (the real problem was laughable and I'm not confessing it here :), but needless to say we used a few towels in the process. And, it's been pouring rain so drying has been slow. So, I'm behind on laundry but I haven't used the dryer more than I had planned.

Total dryer time used: 48 minutes
Total dryer time saved: 450 minutes (7.5 hours!)

How's the challenge going for you? Feel free to blog and post a link here, or just say how it's going in the comments!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

My chickens stopped laying

Okay, my girls are seriously slacking off. The first week we had them, the two that are laying were squeezing them out like clockwork. We got about 10 eggs that week. This week? I think we got 3. WTF?

I know it's getting darker out earlier, but in one week should we see this sort of drop-off? One egg was under the roost the other morning and ice cold so I have no idea when it was laid. They all look healthy and happy and adjusted to their new environment, so what's going on, ladies?

Oh, and I did figure out that their errant brown poops were cecal poops, so I can stop worrying about diarrhea now (warning for the faint of heart: don't click on the poop link).

These chickens can be tricky :) Well, not really. Start laying ladies or you'll be looking at the inside of my All-Clad pot!

Any ideas about what's going on?

Bagawk!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Global Climate Change - What's that again?

This month's Green Moms Carnival is hosted by Harriet Sugarman of Climatemama. She is new to the Green Moms Carnival and has arranged for us to participate in 350.org's 10/10/10 Global Work Party.

There are a lot of niggling details being argued over in climate change and environmental circles. 350 ppm. Peak oil dates. Number of species gone extinct.

But, I've come to the realization that many of these details are, for the most part, irrelevant. We've got a much bigger problem. And it's called apathy. Actually, it's much worse than apathy because apathy suggests something more hopeful. No, what we've got is distrust, disbelief, the desire to prove wrong and more, importantly, hatred.

Until these issues are addressed our message (whatever it is) will just bounce off the heads of those we are trying to educate or encourage. Take my low-heat challenge for example. Plenty of news agencies have covered it and, what I'm suggesting isn't that people totally turn off their heat. I think the message is pretty tame - turn your heat down a few degrees and save money and lower your carbon footprint at the same time. Does it sound nuts to you? I don't think so - it sounds intelligent.

What's the general reaction?
Well, one group goes nuts claiming that there's no such thing as anthropogenic warming (human caused global warming). Their eyes get so crossed by their ideas about it, they don't see the underlying message: reduce your expenses and reduce your energy usage. Instead, they see the suggestion as a threat. By participating in lowering their energy usage, it might seem like they agree with climate change.

The next group takes great pride in doing the opposite. In other words, they state they will turn up their heat just to make up for us idiots who are lowering ours. They are happy to dig their heels in and spend more money just to prove a point.

Another group is the nitpickers. They relish pointing out errors (or perceived errors) in the message without acknowledging that generally interviews are comprised of quotes taken from a much broader conversation or, in many cases, taken completely out of context. The message is lost on them because they are too busy trying to find fault and too busy self-congratulating to listen.

The last group feels threatened. Somehow, reading about how others haved changed the way they live threatens their way of life as if it's some sort of conspiracy to force them to do it too. Just offering the information = "communist environmental takeover". I find it quite confounding. I'm not enacting legislation. How is lowering my thermostat a threat to your lifestyle? Because it just might become more socially acceptable?

It's easy for all of these folks to relegate environmentalists into a hippy, dread-locked, patchouli-wearing, non-shaving group of people that they can ignore because they are easy to spot. So, when the idea is presented by someone mainstream looking, is it even more threatening to them? I would imagine it's easier to ignore someone who fits the stereotype but not so much if we look like them. I think there's a fear that we are infiltrating their camp, disseminating a plot to take over their consumerist lifestyle.

If we can't get even simple messages across to the masses, what hope is there for more complicated behavioral changes that actually cost money or take more time (rather than saving it)? How do we reach these groups and their knee-jerk reaction to environmental/energy issues? Any suggestions? Do you see this as hopeless or not?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Craft Challenge success!

I did it! I managed to finish Emma's quilt by the end of September. A while back I proposed a craft challenge to get people to finish the crafts they were working on or letting lay fallow, before you could start a new one. And finish it by the end of September. Of course, I cheated on that new craft part, but I also managed to finish one other project as well by the end of September.

Here's what I did: I sewed 5 Halloween napkins and 1 full-sized quilt.

See that pile of fabric squares in the picture above? That's what it looked like in mid-August. Here's what it looks like now (don't mind the fabric pen markings - I still need to wash it). It's cotton fabric on the front and flannel on the back and the borders, so it's nice and soft and cuddly. The batting is 100% organic cotton. Not bad for my first quilt, if I don't say so myself. And, did I mention I completely hand sewed the whole thing? A completely electricity-free made quilt?


I was thinking I wouldn't finish it by the end of the month and then figured that I'd finish it by her birthday at the end of October, but I went full steam ahead and got 'er done! Now I can start the pajama pants I bought fabric for when I was cheating.

How did you do? Did you finish what you started?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tips for air drying clothes indoors

When I started this challenge, a number of people asked me why I was doing it in October when the weather is crappy, rather than during the summer when the weather is perfect for air drying clothes. Well, I did that on purpose. You guys want a challenge, don't you? Where's the challenge in perfect weather? I'm just kidding, of course.

For many Americans, learning a new way of drying clothes that doesn't involve the minute it takes to transfer clothes from the washer to the dryer is a challenge. Sure, we look pathetic to the rest of the world where line drying is de rigueur, but we all have it in our heads that we can't live without a dryer and that just isn't true. Clothes dryers have only been around for the masses for the last 50 years and I would argue that Americans at the turn of the 20th century, working in factories, were a heck of a lot busier than we are today.

There are two issues at play: one is the expectation that you can wear an article of clothing for 10 minutes and it's destined for the laundry bin. Even one day is sufficient. Two days it's starting to get scary and don't even think about wearing something for more than that. Convenience has taught us that clothes are dirty after one wearing. When, for most of us (unless you are a farmer or work in a mine), you could easily get away with another wearing.

The second is that there is no work involved in washing and drying clothes. And that's the expectation we've come to have. Line drying seems insurmountable and the idea that it takes a ton more time to line dry clothes really isn't all that accurate. It takes maybe 5 minutes? Tops. Are you that strapped for time that you can't spend 5 minutes?

Anyway, I'd thought I'd share a few tips for drying clothes inside since people are asking for help. I'll follow-up with a post for how to keep clothes from feeling "crunchy".

First off, if you live in an area where it is rainy and moist most of the year (like we do in Seattle), you're going to have to adapt a few things. The primary complaint is that clothes take too long to dry and they start smelling moldy.

Some of the techniques you can do to prevent this is to:

1. Use a movable rack so that you can move your clothes into the sun/daylight near a window if it does decide to rear its head.

2. Use a movable rack or position your line near a heating source. If you have a wood burning stove, you're in luck. If you have central heating, place it near a heating vent. If you use electrical heat, put it near the baseboard or fan. You get my drift. If it's too cold out to dry your clothes, most likely you are using some heat at least part of the day inside. Or the oven, or some room is going to be warmer than others. Use it.

3. If you don't turn the heat on (stay tuned for this year's Freeze Yer Buns!) then make sure you rotate your clothes on the rack or line. So, if there are any spots that get less airflow, alternate positions. If you use a rack, flip the clothes over so the damp parts are exposed.

4. When in doubt, or desperation, use a space heater or a fan to help with airflow. The electricity used will be far less than using the dryer.

5. If you must use the dryer, dry your clothes for about 5 minutes before "finishing" them on the line. They'll dry faster and have less opportunity for smelling mildewy.

6. If moisture is your problem, try a dehumidifier. It will not only help your clothes, but probably the rest of the house as well. It costs pennies a day to run smaller dehumidifiers. If you really have a humidity problem, look into a hybrid water heater that pulls moisture out of the air to help heat the water.

7. If certain items start smelling funky, try a chlorine free bleach, vinegar rinse or something else to kill the stink next time you wash it. This shouldn't be necessary, but if you feel you need it, give it a try.

Those are my hints and tips for successful indoor drying. When in doubt, don't freak out, just finish drying for 5 minutes in the dryer.

Any other suggestions out there?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Getting the garlic in

I did it. It's been a long time coming, but I actually managed to plant the garlic right on time this year. Three years ago I got it in in early fall and had an amazing crop. Well, for what I planted. The following year, we had a string of nasty weather and I kept putting it off. Until January. Needless to say, all I got was crap.

Last year, I did a little bit better and planted the garlic at the end of November, but I just used a combo of garlic seed that was starting to look suspicious and some garlic we had lying about the house. I got a couple of decent heads out of it, but it was really nothing worth reporting.

This year, though. Ah, this year. I picked up some hardneck garlic from Walt's Feed in Ballard when we went there to buy some chicken feed. It was a beautiful day on Saturday and so, I let the chickens out and then commenced stuffing the garlic into one of our raised beds. There were about three heads of garlic that I split up. The amazing thing was that each head had about 5 or so big juicy cloves. In previous years, the variety I planted had puny little cloves that didn't look like they had any hope of making it.

Roxy, the Barred Rock chicken, immediately thought I had a bag of treats and ran over to see what I had. I let her peck at one of the smaller cloves and she decided that hunting for bugs was a better bet and wandered off, with Sarah hustling her big fluffy white bottom close behind. If you've never seen a chicken running, you are totally missing out.

Anyway, this will be the first year we are growing hardneck garlic so I'm looking forward to some garlic scapes out of the deal as well. You remove (and eat!) the scapes around mid-June to help promote bulb growth. The variety of this year's crop is Killarney Red, which is somewhat rare to find and is hot and spicy and does well in wet weather. Which we'll have plenty of.

I have great hopes for 2011's garlic production. Granted, I'm not expecting a ton, but even if I get 10 heads of garlic next summer out of a few minutes of pushing some garlic cloves into the ground, I call that success. It's one of my favorite things to grow and, if you get yourself in gear, it's also the easiest and most productive. All you need is some great garlic and some patience.

So, if you haven't done it yet, get out there and plant some!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hang 'Em Dry Clothing Confessional

Friday kicked off October's Hang 'Em Dry Challenge where you can pledge to line or otherwise air dry all your laundry for the month.

Since I know it's unrealistic to completely line dry all of your laundry on some days, I'm letting you all do a weekly confessional so that, if you do end up caving in and using the dryer, you can confess, get it off your chest and start up again instead of feeling like you're a cheater and just quitting altogether. We all have issues that crop up and sometimes using the dryer is a necessity.

For example, Wednesday night Emma cried out at 4:30 in the morning yelling, "Mom... Dad... I'm barfing!" Needless to say, once I had my wits about me I soon discovered that Emma had vomited all over her bed. Was I going to forgo using the dryer in the middle of the night in case she needed yet another change of sheets? Hell, no! Fortunately, that was before the challenge began, but it's a good example of what kinds of thing come up.

Anyway, for this first super short confessional (all of two days), I needed to fluff and finish drying a few things that were a tad damp...

Total dryer time: 8 minutes

Yesterday, it was sunny so I got two loads outside, but if it's cloudy out there's no benefit in outside drying and it takes a day and a half for things to dry inside.

How's the challenge going for you? Feel free to blog and post a link here, or just say how it's going in the comments!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Spot the backyard grown egg

Before we got chickens, we always bought the best eggs we could find, short of going to the farmers market each week. We bought from a local farm, Stiebrs, where the hens are cage free and the eggs are organic. They are Certified Humane and the hens are naturally cared for and never given antibiotics or hormones.

But, I guess it just can't compare to backyard grown eggs. The color and composition just isn't the same as fresh eggs. I still can't get over that I have pets that produce something edible without killing them. It's just mind boggling.

Can you spot the store bought egg in this picture?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Green guilt and proselytizing

In yesterday's NY Times, there was an article, Green but Still Feeling Guilty, about how environmentalists who "cheat" and use things like a power boat or disposable diapers feel guilty about their choices.

I have written about it here a bunch of times how we are not all perfect and we all do things that aren't perfect, but why should we feel guilty? The majority of the population doesn't seem to have this problem as evidenced by the apathy out there, so why should those of us going out of our way to be aware of and doing something about environmental issues be the ones that feel guilty?

I think it has more to do with the fact that our excuses and justifications for not doing something are just that - excuses. We know deep down that we could or should do it, we just choose not to for a variety of reasons. Convenience is the top excuse, but they run the gamut from an eco-friendly substitute not "working as well" to other reasons that sound good but are still surmountable like, "I have allergies" or "I don't have time".

This guilt oftentimes spills over into trying to convince others to make lifestyle changes. And by that I mean that it is a tactic many use to try to make others change their behavior. And, for the most part, it just flat out doesn't work. It puts people on the defensive and any opportunity you had in suggesting an alternative is lost.

It's the same thing with adult parent/child relationships. The second your parent tells you what to do, whips out the old, "you should", or lays in with a guilt trip, what's the usual response? "Yeah, you are sooo right!" Not in my experience.

I'm not one to try to foist lifestyle change on others, I think that's the wrong way of going about it. Guilting people into change is the surefire way of preventing them from changing. Offering them the information and the chance to try something new is far more effective than bashing someone over the head with guilt. Projecting any environmental guilt onto others is almost as bad as the holier-than-thou approach.

So, if you are feeling guilty about some of your choices, examine why. Are your excuses truly legitimate? If so, then let the guilt go. If not, then decide whether it's something you feel strongly enough about to purse, otherwise let it and the guilt go. And pledge to revisit it another time or don't look back. It's not worth your mental and emotional energy.

Do you feel guilty about doing something you know is bad for the environment, and how do you handle it?

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