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, August 31, 2011

Planned obsolescence aka Crappy GE Appliances

Piece of $#!^ GE ProfileDo you remember my fridge that I was complaining about years ago? Well, let me remind you. We bought it when we first moved into our house 6 years ago.

Back then we bought a fancy new Energy Star GE Profile stainless steel refrigerator with french doors. Let me tell you it was not cheap. I'm wishing we had gotten a cheapo Kenmore instead because it's not worth the cost. About three and a half years ago a little plastic hinge thingy snapped off the door. This little piece of plastic is what ensures that the door remains closed. For the most part it stays closed without it, but when you close the other door, the pressure pops the "broken" door back open. So, you have to be extra vigilant about making sure both sides are closed.

Why don't we get it fixed so that we don't accidentally refrigerate the entire kitchen? Well, because in order to fix this tiny plastic piece, we need a new door. For $800. Needless to say, GE changed the way they manufacture this style and no longer puts such a stupid plastic piece on it because we aren't the only people having this problem.

About a year and a half ago the freezer ice cube tray broke. I'm not sure exactly what happened, but another large chunk of plastic came off and I think it's another one of those "one piece" deals that can't be replaced. Half the time our ice is somewhat melty, but we make do.

Well, last week the thermometer for both the fridge and freezer no longer displays. It's some digital job that lets you adjust the temperature of both units as well as tells you what the current temps are. We had to go out and buy a fridge thermometer to make sure it's still holding the temperature properly.

So, after a little over 6 years, we are proud owners of a fridge that is limping along. I wonder what will break on it next. But, I tell you the next time we buy a fridge I'm going to get one of those old-skool metal tanks with minimal working parts.

Who designs a several thousand dollar appliance that's designed to not last 5 years? Pretty much everyone these days. This planned osolescence crap is chapping my hide.

Do you have any recommendations for a replacement (and I'm not listening to you, Greenpa!)?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Forget Green Buildings, check out this Livable Building

On Monday, in Seattle, there was a groundbreaking for the first of 12 livable buildings to be completed here. This six-story building is being billed as the greenest commercial building on earth. It will be the largest net-zero energy and net-zero water building ever built.

The Bullitt Center will be sporting some of the following features:
  • All energy will be produced by solar power
  • Most lighting will be from natural daylight
  • All water will be captured from rainwater and stored in a cistern to be used in toilets and/or sterilized to be used for drinking water and other potable water
  • All wastewater and sewage will be collected. The water will be sterilized and the sewage will be collected for composting (the building will not be hooked up to the sewer)
  • There will be no parking in the building, only bike racks
  • Common building materials that contain PVC plastics, mercury, cadmium and about 360 other substances considered hazardous won’t be used
  • Has "irresistible" stairs to reduce elevator usage (see image) 
  • Uses geothermal heating and cooling
I currently work in a super green building but I'm exceedingly jealous of some of the things being done here. 

Image courtesy of The Seattle Times (click to see more features of the building).

Monday, August 29, 2011

On the bookshelf

Aside from the myriad books I'm reading in researching my potential new book, I thought I'd share some of the things I'm currently reading:

1. The Wisdom of the Radish: and other lessons learned on a small farm, by Lynda Hopkins. Two ex-suburbanites move to the country to grow crops, raise chickens and sell the fruits of their labor at the local farmer's market. It first starts out sounding all pastoral and idyllic but ends in disaster with crop failures, worm infestations and a flood. I haven't gotten far enough along to give you much of an opinion on this one.

2. The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year-Round Vegetable Production, by Eliot Coleman. This is a classic which teaches you all the ins and outs of trying to grow food year round, in inclement weather, too far north and under pretty much any crappy condition you can think of. I'm using this to plan my winter crops.

3. Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers' Guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University. This little gem is invaluable if you are even contemplating writing a nonfiction book. So, for all of you bloggers out there thinking of writing something a little longer, I implore you to buy this book and read it NOW.

It may not necessarily help you get a book contract but it can give you useful information for producing a book proposal and, if you already have a book deal, will aid you immeasurably in writing an excellent book.

What's on your bookshelf?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The zombies are coming - kill or be killed?

I was listening to my local NPR station the other morning and they were talking about how boys in villages in Northern Uganda were being abducted in the middle of the night a number of years ago in order to try to convince them to join their military (the Lord's Resistance Army).

It certainly is an interesting way of going about getting new recruits. Anyway, somebody on the show mentioned that one of their tactics was to threaten the boys into killing someone else otherwise they would be killed themselves.

Now, the first reaction I think most people would have is that they couldn't kill someone else in order to save their own life. But when you think about it, the decision isn't that cut and dry. And they weren't faking it - they'd see others killed who chose not to. The captors were, in essence, trying to turn these boys into killing machines.

So, my sticky ethics question for you is: How about you? What would you do in a similar situation? What if the zombies were coming? Would you kill someone in order to save yourself?

Image courtesy of KUOW.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Roasting and freezing Hatch chiles

This year is the first time I've heard of Hatch chiles, the apparently notorious chile pepper that hails from Hatch, NM. Lovers of this smoky, spicy pepper wait with bated breath for these luscious green babies to come in and annual events in Texas and New Mexico herald their arrival.

I managed to score myself a batch of them over the weekend and got down to roasting them. While I ended up freezing some to have throughout the year, we are also planning on enjoying the freshly roasted peppers in such marvelous creations as:

Hatch burgers
Pineapple Hatch margaritas
Hatch brownies

and last, but not least, I'm planning on canning my new jam creation:
Hatch Chile Pepper and Anejo Tequila Blackberry Jam.

If there's any left, a lucky few will be getting some jam for Christmas.

How did I roast them? I just left them whole, roasting them about 5 minutes per side until they were good and charred but not necessarily cooked. I placed them in a bowl and covered with a cloth to let them cool down. As for freezing, I froze them in groups of 3. When they thaw the skins will peel off nicely. Just be warned - not removing the seeds and membranes results in a hotter pepper after freezing, so you'll need less. Which is a good thing since they'll last longer.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Ecomom Giftcard Winner

I'm speaking tonight at the Sustainable Ballard monthly meeting (this month's topic is on Simple Living) and wanted to get this out before I head out.

The winner of the $25 giftcard to Ecomom is:

Sarah of the blog, Desiderata.

Congrats! Send your email address to me at and I'll forward the giftcard to you.

Random garden shots

We had a pretty uneventful weekend. I didn't get some fall planting done that I wanted to because of being busy. But we did end up going to the Ballard p-patch Art in the Garden again this year. I bought some earrings from a local artist, we bought some flowers grown in the p-patch (see picture below) and generally just poked around.

Sunday we took Paco to the off-leash dog park and I let the chickens do some free ranging of their own. Our sunflowers are finally producing as are the blackberries and we finally, after 3 years, have some grapes growing on our vines!

On the way home from the dog park, we stopped by Top Pot for some coffee and donuts. Paco was pretty pooped out from playing. But not too pooped to pose.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Ecomom Giftcard Giveaway

A few weeks ago I was part of a Twitter party on toxins in relation to my upcoming book, The Non-Toxic Avenger: What you don't know can hurt you. It hits the presses next month and will be available sometime after October 17th.

This is one of the reasons I haven't been posting lately, I've been busy responding to copy editing changes, proof reading the galley and coordinating endorsements, etc. It's been a lot of fun seeing it all come together and I'm pretty excited about some of the potential endorsements for it.

I'm also working on another book proposal. I'll keep you posted on that one, I should know by the end of the month where it's going. It's an environmentally related book, but more on the wildlife/politics end of things.

In any event, unbeknownst to me, they were doing some giveaways during the Twitter party, one of the prizes being a $25 gift card to the Ecomom website, which sells, well, pretty much everything an environmentally conscious mom would need.

I thought I'd share my good fortune with one lucky reader and do a giveaway of the gift card. So, if you are interested in entering a random drawing for the $25 gift card, add your name to the comments of this post by midnight PST, Sunday August 21st.

Good luck!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fear of chickens

On our vacation to Oahu, we went snorkeling in Hanauma Bay. In addition to the amazing reef life there are a few other, notable critters to consider. The first is the mongoose. We saw one while we were walking on our way up to the entrance. Apparently, they were introduced to take care of the rats as there are no native snakes on the island.

It turns out that something like 99% of the flora (and probably fauna) aren't native to the area, but were brought in centuries ago for human purposes or to solve some problem. A mongoose is kind of like a squirrel (except longer) and is just as cute but has some unsavory side effects, namely that they like to eat the eggs of ground laying birds. Which is a problem.

Additionally, there are tons of wild chickens and roosters in the park. The kids were beside themselves with excitement when they first saw the chickens, especially the roosters.

On the way back to the shuttle after snorkeling, Emma and I lagged behind the group and came across a bunch of chickens that were scooting around near the bathrooms. One of the roosters came somewhat close to a teenage girl who immediately chased it off as if it were some blood sucking velociraptor. This, of course, distressed Emma considerably. She couldn't understand why someone was being so mean to a chicken and was quite upset at the mistreatment.

Sure, these were wild animals, but they were also used to being around humans since the park is always packed with tourists. But, more importantly, most people just aren't used to being around chickens (or any animals, for that matter) and view them as pests. Something to scare off, kill, get rid of, etc.

We witnessed the same sort of thing at a restaurant where pigeons and doves were looking for crumbs. The people at the table next to us were making such a huge stink about the birds milling around they just about spooked them into my dinner plate. Again, I thought it was a little weird. It wasn't like these were lions pacing back and force looking at them as if they were snacks.

Have we all gotten so far removed from nature that the first desire is to remove and/or kill any "wild" creature that approaches? Or are we just so used to living in conditions sanitized of any non-human life form that we prematurely panic?