Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Greenin' your Halloweenin'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Putting up corn

CornMy son and I bought a bunch of corn on Friday that had been picked from the farm that morning. I decided a few weeks ago that I wanted to try to freeze corn for the winter while it was at the peak of season. It seemed the easiest and fastest method of preserving the corn kernels and I had read an article in Grit about doing it.

So, Saturday I started with blanching the ears in boiling water for 5 minutes followed by 5 minutes in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. I then cut the kernels off the corn and froze them in 2 cup quantities in Ziploc freezer bags, removing as much air as I could with a straw. I couldn't get over how amazing fresh picked corn tasted and I wished I had bought way more than I did.

Even though the corn from the farm was more expensive than what I've seen in the grocery store, the fact that it was fresh justifies the cost and, when you compare it to frozen corn from someone like Cascadian Farms or other local suppliers, it's a steal.

I must admit, we already busted into one bag last night. I hope to run across more before it's too late. Does anyone in the Seattle area know which of the farmer's markets carry fresh picked corn?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hard apple cider

Sweet apple ciderIn the latest of my hair-brained ideas, I have decided to try my hand at making hard apple cider this year. Now, I have to wholeheartedly blame Mother Earth News for this one, where a lot of my crazy ideas come from.

Perhaps I wasn't thinking too clearly when I was reading this at the hospital a few weeks ago, but I can't seem to get this project idea out of my head.

I plan on visiting Craven Farm at the end of the month with my son to pick up 5 gallons of fresh apple cider. Good lord, what am I getting myself into now?

Have any of you ever tried making hard cider? Any hints or tips?

I think my blog has turned into my begging for hints or recipes on my various shenanigans.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Naughty indulgence

Here's a short poll for you. We all have some secret indulgence that we partake in that we know is not environmentally friendly. What's yours?

If you picked the last one, email me if you need a personal intervention!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Sweet sweater deals

With the ambient air temperatures getting a little chilly around here, I've been wishing I had a few more sweaters to be wearing about the house. On the other hand, I don't want to invest a ton of money on brand new sweaters since half the time they don't fit me right anyway (because I am a giant) and buying Tall sizes gets pretty expensive.

So, what did I do? I went for a stroll through Value Village, which is a used clothing store similar to Goodwill or whatever you have in your neck of the woods.

I managed to find two name brand sweaters (one was a Tall size), both of which fit me quite well and each of them were $6.99. You really can't beat that. Well, except for free.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Saucy apples

Chunky applesauceI spent some time last night using up the rest of the apples given to us from a neighbor's tree, supplemented by the super low priced local apples that I got at the store.

With these apples I decided to make applesauce, even though I generally don't like it and only Emma will sometimes eat it.

[Emma, by the way, is not a chicken and I have no intentions of eating her.]

I'm sorry to say that I have never eaten homemade applesauce and Oh. My. God. is it a totally different animal from the store-bought kind. Even the organic store-brand applesauce isn't very good. They all have some weird metallicy flavor to them I can't stand.

The homemade applesauce, on the other hand, is in an entirely different food group. I did leave it a tad chunky so it's more reminiscent of apple pie rather than pulverized, rotting downed apples. Did I mention that I don't like store-bought applesauce?

Anyway, if you have a hankering for making it yourself, I recommend this recipe from Julia Child that was recently featured in our local paper, along with their recommendations for the types of apples that go well in applesauce.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Seattleites - get your goat

I heart goatsDid you know that it is now legal to own dwarf or pygmy goats in the city of Seattle? Recent legislation now treats smaller goats as a pet, just like cats, dogs and potbelly pigs.

One of the council members that voted for the measure stated: "There are arguments to be made that could achieve greater heights of urban sustainability by bringing farms back into the city and farm animals."

Seattle already allows its residents to own up to three chickens (or "domestic fowl") per standard lot, with an additional 1 bird allowed per additional 1,000 sq. ft.

I think it's pretty exciting that, within the city limits, one can grow enough vegetables, fruits and animal byproducts to live a fairly sustainable life (along with help from farmer's markets). It's getting to the point where you don't have to move out to a rural area to achieve self-sufficiency.

So, let's see:
  • Fruit and nut trees
  • Raised beds for veggies and herbs
  • Goats for milk and wool
  • Chickens for eggs and meat
  • Rabbits for meat and fur

    You can have a veritable farm here in the city! What do you all think of that? Does this change your attitude about how and where you live?

    Oh yeah, and Happy 4th birthday to Emma, my crazy little chicken!
  • Wednesday, October 24, 2007

    Animal, Vegetable, Miracle book discussion (chapters 4 - 6)

    The long overdue discussion questions for the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle book club are finally here!

    For those of you not aware of what this is all about, this blog hosts an online book club where we all read the same book (this current one was picked by the readers) and I post discussion questions for each chapter. I got a little behind and missed last month's posting, but hopefully we are back on track! I try to post on the first Tuesday of the month. So, to help you with your reading assignments, the next post after today's will be November 6th and will cover chapters 7 - 9.

    Now onto the discussion questions:

    Chapter 4 introduces the idea of the "vegetannual", basically bringing to light the concept (for most vegetation, but not all) that a plant is predestined to begin its life in the spring and die in the fall. The underlying idea is that most modern consumers have become so distant and unaware of the growing cycle as to expect tomatoes in the winter, watermelons in spring and pretty much any type of produce year-round. The exceptions include things that we tend to prefer seasonally, like pumpkins in the fall and yams around Thanksgiving.

    Do you try to eat seasonally, or do you just buy whatever looks good in the store regardless of whether it's in season locally or had to be shipped in from another hemisphere? Will you pay more attention to it after reading this chapter?

    Chapter 5. The author's family comes from a region of tobacco farmers and I found it interesting that when the idea of eliminating tobacco given it's inherent health risks came up at a party, she blurted out, "what about the tobacco farmers"? The idea never really came to my mind when thinking about cigarettes and the cash crop and industry behind it. You usually think of only the big tobacco giants, but not the farmers that actually grow the crops. The same thing goes for the produce you find in the stores.

    Does it ever cross your mind what it actually takes to bring one apple to market? Are the time, work and resources properly represented by the cost? Since we all are, for the most part, completely at the mercy of farmers for our food supply, shouldn't we pay more attention to how our food is grown and how our farmers are compensated?

    Chapter 6 discusses how the author's daughter wants to get chickens to raise for eggs as well as meat. I remember reading somewhere that at the turn of the 20th Century many people, even those living in cities (even NYC), had backyard chickens.

    Do you own chickens? If not, would you be willing to if it were either more socially acceptable, or legal to raise chickens?


    As usual, feel free to add your own questions or comments regarding these chapters since I only touched on a few points.

    Sunday, October 21, 2007

    Temperature comfort level

    Freeze Yer Buns ChallengeIn order to get a better idea of how low people are willing to go for the Freeze Yer Buns Challenge, I wanted to find out what people's temperature comfort level is.

    So, if cost and the environment were not considerations, what is your preferred room temperature?

    Friday, October 19, 2007

    Freeze Yer Buns Challenge

    Freeze Yer Buns ChallengeOkay, so I admit it. I did suggest that this new challenge didn't involve butts. However, it refers to your posterior in the title alone.

    What's it all about, you ask? Well, let me tell you! Last winter I was all proud of myself at how I was keeping the thermostat low, trying to save energy and all. I kept it at a numbing 60 degrees at night and 68 degrees during the day. Which I thought was low. Until I got spanked by the people who took my poll. Almost half kept it at 59 degrees or lower.

    This year I'm trying to outdo myself. I'm keeping the daytime temperatures at around 62 degrees. 65 if people are complaining. Nighttime temps will be 55.

    So, starting November 1st, I'm challenging all of you to keep your thermostat low until the spring. Whip out those fuzzy binkies and down comforters and put on those sweaters and fleece slippers.

    To sign up for the challenge, add a comment to this post and pledge what temperatures you will keep your thermostat. I'll be updating you all with hints and tips to keep warm as well as semi-interesting facts about the history of home heating. Plus, I'll regale you with reasons why you should keep your thermostat down (in case it just isn't patently obvious already)!

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

    So, this one's pretty darn easy. How low can you go?

    [P.S. For those of you in more toasty zones or those heading into summer, you can pledge to keep your thermostat higher and keep the A/C off.]

    [P.P.S. I just love that powdery baby seal]

    Wednesday, October 17, 2007

    New challenge headin' your way!

    Since the Cloth Wipe Challenge started off with a bang, but ended with a dud (because I went offline for a while), I'm cooking up a new challenge.

    This one should be more accessible to everyone. I am impressed at how many people at least tried out the cloth wipes. I'm convinced that, once you try cloth wipes, you'll be damaged goods - it's hard to go back to forest or recycled paper products.

    So, in the spirit of goading you all into doing something you might not normally do, I'll be hosting a brand spanking new challenge, which I will announce on Friday.

    This won't be any ordinary, run-of-the-mill, one or two week deal. No, sirree, this is a goin' for broke type of challenge. It just won't involve butts or vaginas (for you squeamish readers out there) and it's something even your grandmother can do.

    Also, stay tuned for a new discussion post for the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle book club, next Tuesday, October 23rd.

    Tuesday, October 16, 2007

    Animal, Vegetable, Miracle book club - WTF?

    Eek! I haven't been keeping up on my discussion posts. Since I am quite a few chapters in, I do intend on picking it up in the next week and posting the second Book Club Discussion post soon. Although I suspect you guys have all finished reading it already. Let me know where you all are in the book.

    For those of you who just found out about it, feel free to jump aboard the book club bandwagon.

    Your patience is much appreciated!

    Monday, October 15, 2007

    BioBag heaven

    We were recently notified that our food waste recycling would start accepting biodegradable bags for packing our food waste in. I can't begin to tell you how excited I was to read this! When we first starting recycling our food waste, I diligently put all our food scraps in BioBags to keep the bugs down and keep our yard waste container tidy.

    Well, after a few weeks we started getting flagged that we weren't allowed to use them as they hadn't tested them in the composting facility and weren't sure if they'd break down. I was a bit peeved by the process, but I stored the BioBags away for another time.

    Fast forward about 2.5 years and, hooray!, now we can use them. I sure would have liked that approval earlier this spring since we've been dealing with hoards of evil microscopic fruit flies. But, I must admit, I have become quite skilled at snagging them out of the air with one hand. Just call me Mrs. Miyagi!

    Sunday, October 14, 2007

    Cloth Wipe Challenge - WTF?

    Don't forget to wipe!Oh, dear. So the Cloth Wipe Challenge went down the toilet with all the stuff happening in these parts.

    But I haven't forgotten about all you wipers out there. Every time I wipe I think of you. Okay, maybe not so much, but I did want to check in with you and see how things were fairing.

    And, it's Sunday, by gum, and it's time for a poll!

    Saturday, October 13, 2007

    Pumpkin harvest

    Precious pumpkinsI harvested my sugar pie pumpkins and started processing them yesterday. I could only fit two in my oven so I still have some work to do, but I did manage to freeze two cans and one cup worth of pumpkin puree. I also roasted the pumpkin seeds.

    For the puree, I cut the pumpkins in half horizontally, scooped out the seeds and stringy matter and rubbed the cut sides with oil. I then placed them face down in roasting pans with one cup of water each and baked them at 350 degrees for about 90 minutes. Once they were cool, I scooped out the flesh and put it in the food processor until it was pureed.

    As a final step, I layed down cheesecloth in a colander, added the puree and let it "drip dry" for about an hour and then squeezed out the remaining liquids until it had the consistency of canned.

    For the seeds, I boiled them in salted water (4 cups water, 2 teaspoons salt) for 15 minutes (this is the short version of soaking overnight). I then drained and mixed them with olive oil and tamari and baked in the oven with the pumpkins for about 30 minutes. They turned out quite tasty and my daughter loves them!

    Thanks for all your hints and tips. I'll tell you soon what Miracle I performed with the green tomatoes to make them edible.