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, March 31, 2010

Sheep-less in Seattle

My son had a play date the other day and when I went to pick him up at his friend's house, I heard the sound of bleating in the backyard. I thought it sounded like some fake farm critter toy thing. I asked my son's friend and he answered, "it's a sheep."

To which, I assumed he was referring to the toy. Incredulously, I asked if it was real and was informed, that indeed it was. He told me that the sheep was their neighbor's - there were four of them - and one of them just had babies.

I still can't get over the fact that their neighbors have that many sheep. In fact, since I'm such a crazy person, I drove down the block behind them to see if I could see the sheep better from the other side. One thing I noticed is that the row of houses on that side has huge yards, about double the size of an average city block and many of the neighbors had fencing that looked like something you'd see on a farm.

Now, I don't think sheep are legal animals to be kept in the city and I still don't understand how they manage to keep them without someone noticing or saying anything. Needless to say, I'm not only totally impressed and very jealous, but I'm also trying to figure out how to get my hands on some sheep's milk for making cheese.

Anyone know the scoop on keeping sheep in Seattle? And, I'm not talking about the "outskirts", I'm talking Ballard area here. My understanding is that we are allowed bees, mini pigs, poultry and mini goats, but no other "farm" animals.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Animal pests in the garden

Since I live in a relatively urban area, we don't get a whole lot of large garden pests. Sure, we get the occasional coyote and bear that has wandered off the Cascade corridor, but they usually don't stop for snacks in the backyard.

Raccoons are about the only problem around here (besides those damn Siamese cats), but they stick to the garbage cans rather than bothering with actual food plants, probably because the garbage and food waste bins are far more productive than picking off a few berries here and there.

I'm always fascinated by all the trouble people go through in order to keep animal pests from eating their edible plants. Even the birds around here don't bother me or my blueberry bushes and cherry trees. Perhaps there's just too much native vegetation to compete with it or they just don't bother since there's a p-patch about a block away from my house (as the crow flies).

So, tell me. Amuse me, if you will. What animals do you fight with for your hard-earned food crops and what do you do to you try to keep them out garden?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Goat porn

I heart goatsTomorrow is my City Goats 101 class at the incomparable Seattle Tilth.

I'm hoping we don't have to watch any goat porn in the section on reproduction because then I'd be rivalling Sharon's children in their knowledge on farm animal sex. I'm not sure what kind of zoophilia operation she's running over there, but that might explain why her on-farm retreats are so popular.

Anyway, I don't know exactly all that we will be covering in class, but it includes topics like city regulations, miniature breeds, yard and shelter, feeding, breeding and babies, milking and herd health. I don't intend on getting goats anytime soon, I just like going to these classes and getting educated. And, who can resist a class taught by someone from the "Goat Justice League"?

I'm hoping for hands on goat cuteness, but I think I'll have to wait for the Harvest Festival or something to play out that fantasy. In the meantime, I'll give you the ins and outs of city goats after the class.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Thermometer lady gets skimpy

What a difference two degrees makes! 71 degrees and thermometer lady strips off the tights and sleeves.

Someone suggested in my last thermometer lady post that we give her a nickname. I've been calling her Daisy Dukes, my long lost cousin.

I know you all are just waiting for these updates with bated breath, so I hope you enjoy this latest installment!

If you are interested in getting your very own personal hootchie, you can buy her at Amazon. She is a model from the La Crosse Technology Wireless Weather Station Agency.

Earth Hour hanky panky

Every year I complain a little (okay, a lot) about Earth Hour and what it means and all that. Last year I caved in at the last minute and felt compelled to participate for a variety of reasons. It didn't go very well, mostly because the kids kept getting up and couldn't figure out why it was dark, but anyway, the point being that I have issues with Earth Hour.

This Saturday is Earth Hour 2010 from 8:30pm to 9:30pm your local time. In spite of all the corporate greenwashing sponsorship, how can we turn Earth Hour around? I've got an idea. This year I propose that, in order to spice things up and make it more personally meaningful, we spend the hour not just with the lights off, but that the hour is spent doing some hanky panky with your favorite partner.

Now, I know for many of you, it is difficult to get your significant (or not so significant) other to play along with your environmentally or eco-friendly green shenanigans. But, if you propose the Earth Hour as a Carnal Hour and sweeten the pot with some of your honey, I bet they'll be plenty of takers out there.

They shouldn't be too hard to convince. Sometimes all it takes is a little motivation! And, unless contraception is an issue, what could be more environmentally friendly than a little lovin'? With the lights off?

Anyway, not to be a total killjoy, but if you are planning on lighting candles to improve the mood, make sure you avoid paraffin and choose soy or beeswax instead. Don't make me repeat last year's admonishments. We, personally, have so many books piled up in our bedroom, lighting candles would be a serious fire hazard. Which isn't environmentally friendly. So, let the sparks fly, just not in that way.

Are you planning on participating in Earth Hour, in any fashion?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Feeling ducky - backyard ducks

Sure, the name of this blog is Crunchy Chicken and not Crispy Duck, but bear with me. You see, I've been jonesing to get chickens for oh, about 8 years now. Generally, it hasn't worked out, mostly because of a variety of circumstances but I think a lot of it has to do with the cost per egg and the work involved.

I have a real hard time justifying the hundreds of dollars of investment in getting a decent chicken coop set up such that those chickens sure as chicken shit better be laying golden eggs. I can get local, free range organic eggs quite readily around here. Sure, they aren't $1.99 a dozen and more like $5 a dozen, but if you add in the cost of chicken feed, home grown eggs, amortized, are probably going to cost me $5 an egg.

I don't have any handy chicken coop designer on retainer around here, so I would have to buy one premade and, from what I've seen, you are looking at anywhere between $500 for a basic coop to over $1,000 for something fancy. I don't fully expect the chickens to live primarily off of kitchen scraps and our yard isn't big enough to feed them with bugs and such. So, there would be a heavy reliance on chicken feed. In other words, expensive eggs. Obviously eggs aren't the only reason to keep chickens, but they make for fairly expensive pets.

Anyway, I was thinking ducks. Super slug eating ducks. They would do perfect around here and have minimal requirements with housing since they, well, are ducks. Many people don't bother with traditional housing for more temperate areas and some just get a doghouse in case of inclement weather. Although it sounds like most of the time the ducks don't bother with it.

Ducks have a lot less health issues than chickens and many breeds are more prolific at egg laying. Plus the male ducks don't crow like nobody's business. From what I've read, a pond is optional as long as the birds have access to water when it's really warm out and, even then, a wading pool would suffice.

For those of you wondering about the duck eggs themselves, as long as you get a breed (they also have bantam duck breeds!) that doesn't lay enormous duck eggs, they will be more or less equivalent to chicken eggs. Duck eggs do have more protein in the whites and more fat in the yolks so they are richer when used in baking and, of course, richer when eating them straight up. A favorite springtime meal is fried duck eggs over roasted asparagus with shaved parmesan and fresh ground black pepper. Mmmm. But, I digress. Ahem.

I wouldn't embark on Project Duckworks until next year if we do decide to, but I wanted to know if any of you out there keep backyard ducks? Any city ducks out there? Oh, by the way, those Indian Runner Ducks (pictured above) are super cute.

Related books:
Storey's Guide to Raising Ducks: Breeds, Care, Health
Barnyard in Your Backyard: A Beginner's Guide to Raising Chickens, Ducks, Geese, Rabbits, Goats, Sheep, and Cows
The Complete Guide to Small Scale Farming: Everything You Need to Know About Raising Beef Cattle, Rabbits, Ducks, and Other Small Animals

Monday, March 22, 2010

Thermometer lady takes it off

For those of you curious as to how my thermometer lady is dressing these days now that the outdoor temperatures were a little higher over the weekend, I thought I'd give you an update. Because I just know you can't sleep without this very important fashion advice!

The funny thing is that she's not wearing that much less at 70 degrees than what she was wearing at 55 degrees.

Emma's response? "Mom! You're not wearing the right outfit!" No, I wasn't. In fact, I was sitting under a blanket at the time, fully dressed and wearing a sweater.

So, the next time it's 70 degrees outside, you better be wearing something similar or I'll send over the hootchie police!

If you are interested in getting your very own personal hootchie, you can buy her at Amazon. She is a model from the La Crosse Technology Wireless Weather Station Agency.

Nontoxic mineral makeup winner

I'm so excited to be doing this $50 giveaway of Gabriel Cosmetics. One thing I forgot to mention when I announced this and talked about Gabriel makeup is that I have no affiliation with the company and they haven't contacted me or compensated me in any way.

So, I just wanted to let everyone know that I'm not endorsing this product line because I'm getting free samples or getting paid by them or anything. I'm doing this giveaway because I like what they offer and have been ecstatic to find something that I feel comfortable wearing and like the fact that I do not have to think about the toxicity of what I'm putting on my skin.

That said, let's get to the goods here. The winner of the $50 giveaway is:

Maddie G of the blog, Mad on a Gray Sea, who wrote:
I'm a bit disgusted by the amount of toxic stuff I rub on! Yuck! I've worn all kinds of cheapo makeup. Probably the only non-harmful cosmetic I own is my Badger lip balm. Hopefully, I'll win this thing and change my ways! ; )

So, Maddie, send me an email at and we can go over the nitty gritty of your spoils.

Everyone else, thanks for entering!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Crunchy Chicken in TechNewsWorld

What a nice thing to wake up to! An article that makes me look way more cool than I actually am!

In the article, this time in Technology News World, about the Green Army's Social Network March, the writer calls me a "sustainability force to be reckoned with". I can live with that description :)

Oh yeah, and for those of you interested in following my additional nuttiness on Facebook (as mentioned in the article) you can friend me here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Nontoxic mineral makeup giveaway

I've been really disappointed in trying to find a decent line of makeup that doesn't have parabens, toxins and other nasties in it. I've also been really disappointed by all the mineral makeup and organic makeup lines that purport themselves to being all-natural and good for you.

Yet, when you look up their ingredient lists they are just as nasty and sometimes worse than drugstore brands like Cover Girl and Revlon. Take, for example, Physicians Formula Organic blush and bronzers. If you look them up on Skin Deep they rank not so fairly. Same story with popular mineral lines who claim they are good for you, but use the same preservatives.

Another issue with mineral makeups is how they are processed. You will want to avoid mineral nanoparticles. That smooth coverage is due in part to pulverizing or "micronizing" the minerals into microscopic or even nanoparticle size.

"Research shows that when some molecules are dramatically reduced in size to the level of a nanoparticle, they can have very different and very toxic properties than that same molecule would have in its conventional size," says Jane Houlihan, research director of The Environmental Working Group.

"Minerals like zinc and titanium are safe when applied to healthy skin but in a micronized nanoparticle form, there remains a concern, particularly when applied to damaged skin, or when inhaled," says Houlihan.

In other words, let the buyer beware even if it says "organic" or "mineral" on the packaging, there may be other chemicals or inherent issues lurking within.

It is by happenstance that I noticed the makeup that is carried at my local co-op. It is a local company called, Gabriel Cosmetics, Inc., and as soon as I got home I looked up the ingredients in their products on their website. I really couldn't find anything wrong with their ingredient line-up and went back to the co-op to buy some to try out. So far, I've been extremely impressed.

In fact, I'm so excited about my discovery that I would like to share it with you guys. So, I'm offering a $50 giveaway of Gabriel products (either the Color or Zuzu Luxe lines). If you would like to enter this giveaway, add your name to the comments of this post and tell me what makeup you currently use. You have until midnight PST Saturday, March 20th, to enter.

Good luck!

Related books:
Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry
Toxic Beauty: How Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Endanger Your Health

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Only attractive nudes allowed

There's a new exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City that includes nude models standing and lolling about. In fact, in order to pass through one section of the exhibit to get to the next, you must pass between two buck naked people standing very close together. In other words, you really need to squeeze by them (see the picture at right).

This in itself is moderately interesting, it forces visitors to deal with their own discomfort with nudity and closeness. However, I would imagine that European visitors are less uncomfy than American ones and, generally, if you are visiting the Museum of Modern Art (versus, say, hanging out at Applebee's in Times Square) you are already a self-selected group.

Anyway, my brother-in-law, Erich, who lives in the NYC area, pointed out something I didn't even notice. Why are all the live nude models attractive and fit? Where are the hairy men and the obese women, or the hairy, obese one-legged guy? If the point of this exhibit is to appreciate the human form, then why are we only seeing carbon copies of one body type - the mid-twenties beautiful people? But, then again, what is the point?

What do you think of this exhibit? You can see more about it below. Do you think the artist fell flat by not including different body types? Does this perpetuate the myth that the only acceptable nude body is a perfect one?

Finally, would visitors be more comfortable if the models were of larger body type or were less attractive? What about you? Would you be comfy squeezing between these people?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Is Aveda really as green as they say?

In my never-ending quest to find hair and cosmetic products that are safer, I've been questioning a lot of the items that I currently use as well as trying to find information on potential replacements. Since I've always loved Aveda's products, I thought I'd do some research on the Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety site, but some of Aveda's stuff (okay, a lot) isn't on there.

Which means I need to find out the ingredient listings to their products and look up suspicious ingredients individually, which I'm happy to do. Of course, how do I find out the ingredient list if I don't already own it? Well, I figured I should check the Aveda website. Well, none of their "earth-sensitive products" has the ingredients listed. Sure, it tells you what the key ingredients are, but it's relatively worthless since they are cherry picking what's listed and only including the happy sounding earthy ingredients and none of the ones I might consider a tad more questionable.

Since there are a lot of Aveda's products I would like to research, having the ingredient list online would be incredibly helpful. I wouldn't necessarily expect this of most companies (like Lancome where you have to inquire on each specific product), but since it's Aveda, I figure maybe I'm just not seeing it or looking in the correct spot.

When you visit the Aveda site, a window pops up inviting you to "chat live with an expert". Okay, I think, now I'm getting somewhere. Engage:

[Customer Service Person name and exchange abbreviated for privacy and boringness.]
Welcome to Aveda Online. How may I assist you?

Deanna: Hi. What's the ingredient list for Smooth Infusion Glossing Straightener?

AA: Let me give you the contact information for the dept that can provide you with that ingredient list. Consumer Communications can be reached via phone toll-free, at 1.800.328.0849 M-F between 8am-5:30pm Central Standard Time or via email at

AA: They have access to all of the up to date ingredient information and would be happy to help.

Deanna: How come your website doesn't include the ingredient listings for your products? I'm surprised since Aveda generally touts the ingredients of its products.

AA: It does list the key ingredients. I am sure Consumer Communications can best answer that for you. They will be happy to provide you with any information you need.

Deanna: I'm sure they can. It's just really inconvenient. Thanks for your help, anyway!

Okay, so I'm not going to bug someone repeatedly about the dozens of products I want to research, I might as well set up shop in an Aveda store and do some note-taking.

I poked around their site a bit more and found a section on green ingredients, describing how they are "continually seeking to increase the use of naturally-derived ingredients in our products". Sounds good - can we know about them please?

They have an ingredient glossary, but again, it only lists the natural ingredients, accompanied by beautiful pictures that make me want to eat my computer screen. But, what about the questionable stuff?

They talk about phasing out parabens and EDTA, but in which products? They mention they are promoting sourcing GMO-free ingredients, but are these ingredients in any of their products? Who knows.

Let's look at what I could find on the cosmetic safety database, products that I currently use? Their Control Paste Finishing Paste with Organic Flax Seed sounds harmless enough, no? I'm sure there's a flax seed somewhere in there but it's also chock full of parabens and registers a 9 on the skin deep database (on a scale of 0 - 10 which 0 being harmless and a 10 being high hazard). How about Aveda Hang Straight Lotion? Again, a crapton of parabens and rated a 7 (high hazard).

To give them some credit, perhaps the cosmetic safety database isn't up to date and they've since changed some formulas, but unless I camp out at a store or contact customer service, I wouldn't know one way or the other. The message I'm getting is that their products are earth friendly and they are eliminating some of the more nasty chemicals. They state a lot about their green ingredients, but why not list them on the site?

All in all they claim that their products must meet a threshold - that more than 50% of the molecular weight comes from natural sources. Which leaves a lot of wiggle room there for less "earth-sensitive" ingredients.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love Aveda, and it will be a sad day when I have to drop their entire product line for dubious ingredients. But the obfuscation of their ingredients is concerning and I am wondering how much of their corporate message is really just greenwashing?

The Eco-nomical Baby Guide winner

Congratulations to the winner of the book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide: Down-to-Earth Ways for Parents to Save Money and the Planet, a guide to saving money for new parents as well as more seasoned ones.

And the randomly chosen winner is: Susan Heggestad of the blog, Sue Gnu.

So, send me an email with your contact information to

I'll be doing another book review and giveaway later this week, for those of you who are interested!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dirty Hippie Deodorant

After alternating for the last few years between Ban Roll-On (for days I know are going to be stinky and stressful) and The Rock, I've finally succumbed to the allure of homemade deodorant. There are quite a few recipes online for making your own.

Some people use straight up baking soda and have found that it's a little irritating, so they cut it with cornstarch. Other people have found success by mixing equal amounts of baking soda, cornstarch and coconut oil to make it into more like a deodorant bar.

I liked the recipe I saw on Angry Chicken (us chickens have to stick together), except I didn't have shea butter so I fiddled around a bit with the recipe to make a deodorant bar that is more like what you get from the store.

Here's what I ended up using:

2 T coconut oil
1.5 T cocoa butter
2 T baking soda
2 T corn starch
Sandalwood essential oil

Let me first point out that most sandalwood essential oil isn't sustainable. But, the stuff I have is really old and it gives the deodorant a nice hippie feel to it. Sandalwood is supposed to be antimicrobial, for whatever that is worth, so if you have some use it, but don't go out of your way to get it. The cocoa butter kind of overpowers any smell in there, so if you don't like that make sure you buy deodorized cocoa butter if the smell is too strong.

Anyway, I melted the oils in the microwave, added in the dry ingredients, mixed well and added in the essential oil. You can pour the cooled, but still liquid deodorant into a 2.5 oz deodorant plastic applicator for easy application and put in the fridge to harden. Make sure the applicator is the kind with the "screw" in the middle of it. If you don't have an old applicator, you can pour it into a small wide mouth canning jar or other small lidded container and put it in the fridge to solidify.

If you want to read about the potential dangers of commercial antiperspirants and deodorants, check out this post, The Dangers of Deodorant.

I know what you all are wondering: sure it looks easy enough to make, but does it work? Well, I've used this on the day I got my legs sugared at the local beauty academy (totally worth the $10, but man they sucked) and came out smelling okay in spite of the profuse sweating going on in there.

I also used this deodorant when I got my nose pierced the other day which was, needless to say, quite nerve-wracking and lo and behold, no stink! So, if I can make it through those sorts of events that would normally require a Ban Roll-On kind of day, then I'm sure it will work fine on your average day's stress and sweating.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Going green for St. Patrick's Day

Irish Soda BreadIt's time for my annual St. Patrick's Day green post!

Traditionally, people all over the U.S. like to have a green St. Patty's Day. But, in contrast to the tradition, which must be the result of someone's fervent love of the shades of shamrock, I'm wishing you all an environmentally green holiday.

So, how do you go about greening up St. Patty's Day?

1. Go ahead and eat green food. Just make sure it is naturally green. Try to add in spinach, peas, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, green onions, kiwis and avocados (whatever has the least carbon footprint for your area).

2. I don't advocate adding green food coloring to anything, no matter how much you want to have it fit the "theme". If you must color it, make sure you choose a product that is "natural", using vegetable and plant extracts only.

3. Choose an organic or natural corned beef. This may be hard to come by, depending on where you live, but check with your local natural foods market or a Whole Foods. The search is definitely worth it.

4. Make sure your spuds are green. No, not the green potatoes with toxins. But those grown sustainably with no chemicals. Your liver will thank you.

5. Make your own Irish Soda Bread. It's pretty damn simple and oooooh, so much better than what you can buy in the stores. Unless you live in Brooklyn. Don't forget to make your own butter.

6. Get your head on straight and buy organic cabbage. Even if you believe the argument that eating organic cabbage isn't as important as choosing organic for the dirty dozen, it's the agricultural practices and their problems that you need to consider, not just how contaminated the food is with pesticides.

7. Speaking of head, don't forget the beer. I have to admit I'm not a big beer fan, but I do like me some Guinness. Look for a local brewery who does an organic beer.

8. Make sure you don't use disposable dishes, glassware, silverware or napkins. If you don't have enough, ask your guests to bring some to the party.

9. Try a St. Patty's Day fun run or walk if there's one in your area and it's not too late to enter. How is this green? Well, maybe the extra exercise will inspire you to eat less for dinner. The result is you'll have more leftovers to reduce your food impact later in the week. Also, you'll not only burn off a little of the excess corned beef if you do go overboard, but you'll be just a tad healthier for it.

10. Enjoy the time you have with friends and family, enjoying great food and company. What could be more green friendly than that?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Eco-nomical Baby Guide giveaway

On average, new parents spend almost $7,000 gearing up for a baby. Isn't that nuts? I know when one reader first found out she was pregnant and was wondering what all she needed to buy to prepare for the baby's arrival, I joked that all she needed to get ready for her baby was her boobs.

Because, really, everything else is overkill. Oh, if you want to get fancy, sure some clothes are helpful. In many cultures, diapers don't exist, they have alternative methods of dealing with baby waste, as it were.

Anyway, how would you like to learn how to spend way less than $7,000 but without totally being an ascetic about it? Well, authors Joy and Rebecca of the new book, The Eco-nomical Baby Guide: Down-to-Earth Ways for Parents to Save Money and the Planet, shelled out less than $1,000 each for their babies by going green. These two English teachers (who probably need to save their pennies) show you how to follow in their footsteps by emphasizing easy and practical steps that parents can take without sacrificing comfort or convenience. And not spending a diaper-load in the process.

In this book, they cover things like eco-friendly diapers, daycare, safety, homemade organic food and more. Ideas like holding a "second hand" baby shower helps reduce the consumerist aspect of new parenting and buying gender-neutral clothing and baby gear helps stretch your investment to more than one child.

If you are new parents, pregnant or know someone who is about to have a child (or even an additional one!), this book would make a great reference source for how to make sure you are ready for baby and how to do it in an inexpensive and environmentally friendly way to boot. Make that bootie.

If you would like to enter the giveaway for this book, add your name to the comments of this post for a random drawing. You have until midnight Saturday, March 13th, PST to enter. Good luck!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mandatory composting

I recently learned that San Francisco has a mandatory compost recycling law for all households, commercial properties and food vendors. The law went into effect last October and stipulates that everyone in San Francisco must separate their refuse into recyclables, compostables, and trash and that all property owners are required to maintain and pay for adequate refuse service.

What kind of enforcement is there? Well, the basics of it are they will issue warnings at first if the property is non-compliant. The next step would be to refuse to empty a cart until the problem is resolved. The worst case would be that the city may consider liens, fines, and other fees. Fines can go up to $1,000, but may not exceed $100 for small generators. The city will not create liens without a hearing or issue fines without warnings.

Sounds pretty reasonable to me and not that much different than what we have going in Seattle (minus the mandatory and fines part). We've been doing the food waste composting for a few years now and last year they expanded the service to include meat, fish and dairy. So, between food waste recycling and regular recycling, very little gets thrown out at our house anymore.

In fact, I'm so used to food waste recycling (which I also have at work), it pains me to throw food out. When we were visiting family in San Diego over Christmas, where they don't have food waste recycling offered by the city, it pained me to throw food waste out in the garbage. Like physically made me uncomfortable. If I didn't already have too much crap in our luggage I would have taken it back with me if it were feasible. But, I'm not that crazy so we didn't.

I have the same problem when we go to cafes that don't offer composting bins, although we tend to stick with ones that do. At restaurants, I can't tell if food waste going back to the kitchen is getting composted or not. But, you'll be interested to hear that when we went out for breakfast on Saturday (which is a huge rarity) I packed containers and took my leftovers home with me. In fact, there was so much food served with my breakfast, I spent the rest of the day eating from it. No wonder we have a weight problem in this country. But, that's another story altogether.

Why are municipalities requiring or offering food waste recycling? Because it saves them money by diverting food from the waste stream, particularly since there is a viable, sellable product being produced out of it at the end. The other benefits are reducing waste going to the landfill which helps in conserving water energy and natural resources. As such, they work in partnerships with composting companies and get some financial benefit for doing so. For example, in Seattle yard waste collection and composting fees per ton cost one-half of waste disposal service fees.

So, with that in mind, do you think that all states should have a mandatory composting law? Assume that it is feasible for the cities to implement.

Should composting be mandatory nationwide?

Feel free to leave your thoughts on the matter in the comments.

Monday, March 8, 2010

SLS free toothpaste?

Can anyone recommend a decent toothpaste that is free of Sodium Laurel Sulfates? I'm looking for something that is SLS free but has fluoride. I'm still undecided about the whole fluoride thing, I really don't want my already brittle teeth to pay the price of this decision.

Why Sodium Laurel Sulfate free? Well, SLS are found in almost all beauty care products including shampoo, soap, toothpaste, hair coloring, tooth-whitening products, foundation, body washes and most cleansers. SLS has been proven to cause canker sores and dry mouth. It is an irritant and drying agent that builds up in heart, liver, lung and brain tissue from skin exposure.

I'd also like it to be paraben-free while you're at it. I was looking at this Nature's Gate toothpaste since it's sulfate-free, paraben-free and organic. It also looks like it comes in a metal tube. Has anyone tried it?

Are there any favorites out there? And, no, I'm not interested in straight up baking soda because I want something more gentle and something that has fluoride.

On a Dollar a Day winner

Sorry for the delay in announcing the winner of the book, On a Dollar a Day: One Couple's Unlikely Adventures in Eating in America from last week's review and giveaway.

Anyway, the lucky, randomly chosen reader is:

Melissa Anderson from Kansas of the blog, Mrs. Anderson's Math 8.

Congratulations, Melissa! I don't have your email, so please send your contact information to

I'll be doing another book giveaway later this week, so if you didn't win this time, you'll have another chance with a different book...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Ridding the chains of beauty

With all the stuff I talk about removing from our home that is either unsustainable or not organic or whatever, some of the last things I've been dragging my feet on getting rid of or replacing has been makeup, moisturizers, anti-aging things and the like.

Well, I've been doing some research for a new project I'm working on and finally felt compelled to start cleaning the junk out of my trunks. I hate throwing this stuff out because not only is it expensive (some of it crazy expensive), I don't have a replacement for some things, and I can't really do anything with it to get rid of it, so in the garbage it goes. I hate throwing it into the waste stream, but I really don't want to be absorbing any more phthalates, parabens, nanoparticles and other potential toxins.

But this first part is baby steps for me. Now, let me be clear. I haven't completely gotten rid of all of it yet. I'm considering this to be a 5 step program. This is the stuff that I've replaced with other products that are relatively inert or that I don't use. I'm still using some things that are questionable, but those will fall into the rest of my step program.

I must admit that I've found this to be the hardest chain to let go of. Sure, I'll do all manner of nutty things like give up toilet paper and standard menstrual products. Hell, I'll even pee on my plants for nitrogen. But, this one? It's been difficult. And, to admit things further, I've really only been more compelled lately because I've been having more and more allergic reactions to products I'm using. And this includes even the organic stuff (more on that later).

But, I'm so unforgivably indoctrinated by the beauty industry that I've been absorbing for the last thirty years that it's hard to give up the promises, I mean, products, that are out there. The promise to look beautiful. The temptation to turn back the clock. The packaging and glory that comes with the goods. I know a lot of you don't care about this and probably think I'm nuts for giving a crap, but it's important to me for whatever reason. Possibly because looks do matter, no matter what people like to think.

So, this is step one in ridding myself from the chains of conventional beauty products. I won't be completely forgoing beauty products altogether, but I'll be looking for products that are sustainably produced, organic if possible, and as non-toxic as available, referencing the Environmental Working Group (EWG) cosmetic safety database as much as possible. Expect to hear more about this later. In fact, I'll tell you more about this project as I get a little further into it.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Tossing the 'sell by' date

I'm all about avoiding food born illnesses since it seems like, if someone is going to have a problem with rotten food, it's going to be me. Maybe it's just my tender tummy, but I tend to follow the "use by" and "sell by" dates religiously, just for that very reason.

According to this article in Slate, Ignore Expiration Dates, the author makes a reasonable argument that the dates stamped on our food are really just arbitrary.

University of Minnesota food scientist Ted Labuza explained in the article that expiration dates address optimum freshness (rather than safety) and tend to be extremely conservative. Why so conservative? Well, because the dates need to account for how the laziest people with the most undesirable kitchens might store and handle their food. Then the manufacturers test their products based on those criteria.

For example, for perishables like milk and meat, people who go straight home and refrigerate their groceries as soon as they get home will have a 3 - 7 day grace period after the "sell by" date. Because many consumers take their food on a tour of the city, leaving it in overheated cars or making additional stops on the way home and then store it in an overly warm fridge, the life expectancy of the food is reduced. This results in a shortened date span to accommodate the least common denominator.

More importantly, there is no federal mandate on food freshness dating. It's an entirely voluntary practice that's been adopted by producers and manufacturers to put on their products as well as grocery stores. This serves two purposes. On one hand, it gives us a sense (falsely so in some cases) of security about a given product's freshness. And on the other, it's possible that the manufacturers and stores are listing dates that expire prematurely to ensure that consumers replace products more frequently than they probably need to.

What's a consumer to do? Well, you really have to use your judgement. I wouldn't skimp on foods that, when they go bad, take you down with them. If that milk looks or smells weird, don't drink it. Is it covered in mold, slime or other unidentifiable growths? If so, depending on the type of food, either cut off the offending piece or throw it out (preferably composting it) altogether.

Still don't know what to do with it? Here is a series of videos explaining how to tell when food goes bad, including How to Tell if Your Bread has Gone Bad and How to Tell if Your Leftovers Have Gone Bad. So, now you don't have an excuse.

What do you think about expiration dates on food? Do you eat packaged or canned foods years after the pull date? If it looks and smells okay is it fair game?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

On a Dollar a Day book review and giveaway

I got this book, On a Dollar a Day: One Couple's Unlikely Adventures in Eating in America, a few weeks ago and wasn't sure whether or not I'd like it. Since I was home sick last week I decided to read it and was surprised at what an easy and engaging read it is. The first section covers how this couple, two San Diego high school teachers who are fed up with their high grocery bills, decide to try to feed themselves on one dollar each, per day.

The rules for the dollar a day project were as follows:

1. All food consumed each day must total $1 for each of them
2. They could not accept free food or "donated" food unless it was available for everyone in their area (i.e. foraging, samples in stores, dumpster diving)
3. Any food they planted, they had to pay for
4. They would do their best to cook a variety of meals; ramen noodles could only be prepared if there is no other way to stay under one dollar
5. Should they decide to have guests over for dinner the guests must eat from their share; meaning they don't get to eat their own dollar's worth of food

Yes, it's as crazy as it sounds. In the first section, authors Kerri Leonard and Christopher Greenslate describe how they did it or, rather, how hungry and under-nourished they were on $1 a day each. This was the most interesting section and I was surprised to see that the whole "dollar a day" project was wrapped up within the first third of the book.

The second section discusses their attempt to try to live on essentially the Food Stamp budget (now called the Thrifty Food Plan), carefully following the USDA nutritional and food planning guidelines. This was particularly difficult for the couple given the fact that they are both vegan and the meal planning was very meat based. This was not too dissimilar to the Sustainable Food Budget Challenge we did last year, except that they could buy unsustainable and crappy foods.

The last section covers how to eat well, but on a limited budget and covers such topics as how food companies "short size" packages so that you pay more for less food, why one tablespoon of salad dressing costs as much as a whole orange, how grocery stores auction off foods past their "sell by" dates and why it takes so long for food prices to drop, even after fuel and shipping costs go down. Most compelling is how 36 million Americans have limited food options, even during a national obesity epidemic.

Overall, I liked the book and found it entertaining and informative although Kerri ends up looking like a saint and Christopher, well, struck me as a selfish jack-ass. But, that's just me. I would be pretty pissed how he enforced such strictness and guilt on her, yet was occasionally lax in his own diet.

If you would like the chance to win a copy of this book, please add your name to the comments of this post. You have until Saturday, March 6th, at midnight PST to enter. Good luck!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Dressing like a hootchie when it's cold

Only one month left in the Freeze Yer Buns Challenge! Although not much bun freezing has been going on lately around here. Yesterday, I came home from work and it was 66 degrees outside and 67 degrees inside even though I left the thermostat at 55 when I went to work.

Now, how do I know all my inside/outside temperatures? Well, a while back I got this handy-dandy indoor/outdoor wireless thermometer that tells you the inside temperature and humidity as well as the outside temperature. We have the thermostat receptor thingamajig mounted outside in a non-sunny location for accurate, up-to-the minute weather. Because we so need instant weather information around here.

The fun thing with this thermometer is that it has a woman on it that allegedly "dresses" for the weather. I'm still trying to figure out what the story is with her because it's clear that she's supposedly dressing for outside temperatures, but she's always way under-dressed. I'm pretty sure I can guess who programmed this thing.

Anyhoo, as you can see, it's only 54 degrees outside, yet she is wearing a short skirt with tights and basically a bra top. My daughter likes to check out what the thermometer lady is wearing and then yell at me for not wearing the appropriate outfit. Shit, I wouldn't wear so few clothes at the indoor temperature of 66 degrees.

I can't wait to see what she's wearing when it's 95 degrees outside this summer. Pasties and a g-string? I think my husband will take over telling me that I need to dress like the thermometer woman when that happens.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Getting rid of plastic

Okay, so I'm no Fake Plastic Fish. I don't avoid plastic like the plague as much as I should, although we've made some great strides in reducing the amount of plastic that comes into the house. Our biggest problem is food, but that's for another post because today I want to talk about another area of the kitchen.

Since my kids were born, starting almost 8 years ago, we've used plastic plates, bowls and cups for them, mostly because they tend to drop and break the heavier stuff. And the glass and porcelain dishware we have is generally too big for them for the most part. But, with all the issues with BPA and plastics lately, I finally got off my keister and cleared the kitchen of all plastic dishes and cups.

I, personally, stopped using the plastic stuff a few years ago, but now we all are plastic free. We replaced the plastic plates with adult sized porcelain ones and, for the bowls, we bought smaller porcelain ones for cereal and the like. We bought more small glass tumblers for the kids (we only had a few in the house) since the large ones are too huge for them.

They have been getting a kick out of using "adult" dishware and I've been happy to finally rid the kitchen of all that plastic crap. I hated wondering if it was leaching in the dishwasher and I hated when visitors accidentally microwaved food in them (ick!). I'm not sure why I feel such a huge sense of accomplishment with this, but I guess it's been bothering more than I realized.

We still have a way to go with food storage containers. We have some lidded ceramic ones, but I would like to get some in clear glass since you can't see what's in the ceramic containers with the lid on and we forget what the heck is in there and it rots in the fridge.

Our biggest issue is really containers for lunches. The glass and ceramic ones are so heavy I don't expect the kids to lug around a 20 pound, breakable lunchbox. And I don't want to either, for that matter. So, for now, it's plastic. Does anyone have suggestions for lightweight, non-plastic lunchbox containers? Are there any light steel ones out there that you like?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Urban Farming 2010 - Week 2

Columnar applesYesterday was another balmy "spring" day in Seattle. I took advantage of the weather and planted my thornless Triple Crown blackberry plant. I ended up not planting it in a container because I found a spot that I had completely forgotten about that is contained by concrete on all sides (and rose bushes) and, more importantly, is in the ground (more on that later).

While I was at it, I finally planted the two columnar apple trees that I bought last summer that were living in pots. So, now they are happily living in dirt in a much larger area. That should protect them from watering variabilities. Now, if I could just get the kids to not pick the apples off of the trees.

In order to plant the second apple, I had to dig up an Arborvitae. Four of these evergreen trees were planted in a border just before we moved in and I've been planning on getting rid of them ever since (see this old post for evidence). Since they've been growing a while (two down - two to go), this almost six foot Arborvitae tree was a little harder to remove than I would have liked.

In order to loosen the root system and, because I have little in the way of equipment to remove a tree and a bad back to boot, I decided to sit on the tree toward the bottom. This ended up bending the plant as I bounced up and down on it like I was riding a bucking bronco. Which, of course, required a few "Yeehaws!" on my part. My kids thought this was hilarious and wanted a turn but I was afraid, given their low weight, the tree would zing them into the fence like an Arborvitae catapult.

After bending the tree down in various directions and continuing my "riding" routine, it was uplifted enough so that I could continue by taking a flat-ended shovel at its root system and cutting it out. This took a while, but I managed to remove it and most of its thicker roots. I'm sure my neighbors and other passersby think I need therapy.

Aside from riding the tree, I also started four Black Krim tomato plants inside. We'll see how successful this is. I've never done tomatoes myself before (I usually buy the plant starts) so I'm anxious to see how they turn out. If I'm successful, I'll be going crazy next year growing my own. I just need to find the extra space.

Finally, last Thursday evening I had my Backyard Beekeeping 101 class. It was extremely interesting, but I decided within the first 20 minutes of the class that beekeeping won't work for us. If we had more space that wasn't so heavily trafficked on all sides of our property, I'd be more game. But, given the number of bees you are looking at in the hives, it just seems like an incident waiting to happen. Next month is my City Goats class, which I'm looking forward to as well.

Next week, I've got big plans. Big plans, I tell you. Stay tuned.