This article on Grist has an amazing photo that you have to see.
That photo is just disgusting. It’s an interesting article too.
This article on Grist has an amazing photo that you have to see.
That photo is just disgusting. It’s an interesting article too.
The NY Times recently went out of NY city to do an interview with my friend Sharon. (They stuck it behind their paywall now even though it was available earlier today) Unfortunately, they left their journalistic integrity and honor (what they had) in the city. The article they are writing is about people being extreme greens. They are right in one regard, Sharon and her family out outside the normal distribution for what they do. But, the information in the article is blatantly wrong, and it’s disgusting.
In the article they mention that Sharon’s kids sleep in the same bed to stay warm at night. They seem to imply that they need to sleep together or they’ll freeze to death. What a crock of shit. If you read Sharon’s blog, or her new book Depletion and Abundance, she mentions that her kids sleep in bed together because they want to. Maybe they are cold. Maybe they like to sleep together. Maybe they’re like my friend’s kids who share a bed, even though they use to have separate beds and asked their parents for a bed they can share. My kids share a bed too sometimes. There could be a lot of reasons. I sleep in the same bed with my wife. I guess so we can “huddle to stay warm”?
They also mention that Sharon heats and cooks with wood. Well duh, she has a woodlot on her farm. Should she pay for natural gas or heating oil when she has free materials (and materials with a smaller carbon footprint) on her own land? Where is the sense in that? Perhaps this is even mentioned because the NY Times is trying to make her out to be some country bumpkin, even if her choice actually shows a great amount of thought and consideration in it’s choice? (You can make the argument that wood is not carbon neutral, but either way it’s a better choice than natural gas or oil, IMO) Heck, just from a financial standpoint doesn’t it make sense to use a free heat and cooking source over one that you have to pay for?
Most disgustingly, the article mentions that she doesn’t allow her son to play in a baseball league because it’s too far away from her home. Maybe Sharon told them that, but in a followup post on her blog she mentions it’s because the games are played on the Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.
I will admit, some ideas are a little strange. Keeping your trash for a year is pretty far out there, but what better way to really understand your lifestyle’s consumption than to do something like that? I went back to Sharon’s site and read her comments, which really cooled me off. When I first read this article I was hot to trot.
Stupid mainstream press. I use to hold a special place for the Times but now I can see they are just as bad as all the rest. I reuse Ziploc bags and even wash them out so they can be reused . Why not? They last a long time. Guess I’m an eco freak too.
I combed through the worm castings tonight. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do it, but I did. Last year I chickened out and just dumped the whole bucket on the compost pile. Today I actually dug through it and pulled out as many worms as I could.
This bucket is full about 2 inches deep across the whole thing. And worm castings are way stronger than compost. I’m anxious to get them on the tomatoes and the corn.
If you remember from last week I talked about how this weekend we were going to insulate our house, more specifically the crawl space. That plan fell by the way side.
We ended up getting a big to have someone blow insulation into our walls, which was very reasonable and while they were at it they quoted me a good price on the crawlspace. So, we’re going to hire them to do the work and I was able to keep my chunky ass out of the crawlspace. My wife and I did insulate the rim joist area of our house, as well as a few windows this weekend.
We’re having a mid November heat wave right now (in the 50s and 60s) so I can’t test it, but it only took a few hours and it was less than 50 bucks. I think it was worth it.
I also built two window covers from some rigid insulation to cover two of the basement windows. Pending the crawlspace work I might be using the leftover on those two windows. The covers are temporary and made to just fit over the outside of the windows down in the wells and to mostly just keep the cold air from blowing through them when the cold really starts up.
My wife cut the rigid panel up to add some insulation to an attic access space and you can notice a large difference there.
The best thing of all this insulation work is that our heat provider (gas utility) will give us a 70% rebate on insulation. So we’re going to be putting $1800 worth of insulation into our house over the next 2-3 months but it will only cost us about $600 of our cash.
That makes the payback even more rapid. You should check the utility in your area to see if they offer any programs. And don’t forget about the energy tax credits on your federal income tax returns.
My illustrious friend and colleague Aaron has recently published a story on his blog about how the collapse of the Soviet Union was brought on by the government’s inability to feed the population. While I agree with Aaron in this regard, I think his statements about the situation are slightly off base when compared to America. I’ll take this moment to good naturedly disagree with him and state my case.
The his post Aaron attributes the end of the Soviet Union to an inability of the government to feed the people appropriately. Now, there are a ton of other political and economic reasons that the government collapsed, but he is right that the root of the problem was the Soviet Union’s need to borrow money to buy grain on the open market to feed its citizens. Aaron draws a parallel between the Soviet Union and their grain production and American farming because of the miniscule level of participation in the agriculture world by the citizens. Aaron is right again in this regard. The Soviet Union witnessed massive droves of people moving to their cities from the farms during the 70s and 80s and this led to a smaller number of people farming. America has witnessed the same thing. (At this point you are probably wondering when I will disagree with him.)
However, Aaron attributes the shortage in grain to feed the citizens from this lack of people farming on their own and living in rural areas, but I don’t see that this is the case. In the Soviet Union, as in America, huge industrial farming practices are used which provide most of the grain available for consumption. The difference between the two is that in the Soviet Union they had a population that outstripped the availability of the food supply. Here in America we have no such problem. The Soviet Union made up for this shortfall by buying grain on the open market, which worked well while they had the money, but when they had to borrow to do it they ran into trouble. America currently has such an overabundance of grain that we export it to the world, feed it to animals and turn it into utterly worthless food products. In the event of a crisis we could stop exporting grain, stop feeding it to animals and stop using it for worthless food products and still have enough grain to feed our population, even if there was a large drop in yields of grain. By my estimation, given current consumption of grain for real food products, we could survive a drop in grain production of 60% before we would start to have less grain available as actual food.
The primary reason that I think grain isn’t an issue in the American food supply is because it is so portable and can last for a very long period of time. In a world without rapid transportation networks this grain could be shipped by boat, horse, wagon, train etc and still be a valuable food product. (I do have some concerns over how all this grain might be milled in the future with a shortage of electricity, but that’s a different essay. Right now we are just talking farming.) The food items that I do think will be an issue in the future is the perishable items, namely milk, meat and fruits and veggies.
Milk and meat are items that are over consumed in America today. Most Americans eat about 200% more meat products than their body really demands (if not more). With a few chickens in the backyard and the use of whole grains, and some legumes and such, most Americans can get enough protein that even in a crisis they will have adequate protein levels (and this is coming from a meat eater). But, there is no real substitute for fruits and vegetables. And it’s this product that I think should be the most concerning to Americans. Without massive energy input to grow these products on a huge scale and to pump irrigation water these products couldn’t be grown on the scale they are today. Add to that the massive energy used to transport them to the grocery stores either in fresh format, or even processed into cans or frozen, and you can clearly see that it’s not a sustainable activity in an energy starved world. We can’t expect most people to grow a sustaining amount of grain products in their suburban backyard, but it is possible to dig up the lawn and grow a sustaining amount of produce in a standard suburban back yard. Using some of the methods available with our current knowledge of gardening you can grow a massive amount of produce in your back yard.
Imagine you went to the local Piggy Wiggly and they didn’t have any produce? What would you do if all the cans and frozen foods were cleared out? If you are growing your own produce you don’t have to worry about this. Think this can’t happen? Maybe not, but how vulnerable are you if it does happen? Do you even have 2 weeks worth of meal supplies at your house? Maybe a month? What if there was a hiccup? What if Iran decided next month to stop all export? Or Venezuela? How much will oil prices climb as Mexico’s export to us continue to decline in the coming years? One thing they teach us in business school is to always analyze your risks and make contingency plans for disasters. What’s your contingency plan?
So, what should you do to prepare?
Grow a victory garden. These worked fantastically during the wars to supply Americans with fresh produce (and produce to put up for the winter) and they will work now. In fact. They are less work than all the time people spend in their yards anyway. And it’s easy to use organic methods in a small area and exceed the yields that real farmers get on their fields. Start small and you won’t be overwhelmed. It’s actually fun and incredibly rewarding to grow your own food. Not to mention, it’s nice to have plants that are decorative and also make food. Why just support plants that just sit there looking pretty? That only works for babies in my book.
Use a farmer’s market now for produce. Farmer’s markets are great tools to prepare for a potential food crisis. Their holdback is that they are sized to the given market now. If the market expanded by 100% overnight they wouldn’t be able to keep up. So start using them now so they can grow at a pace that is reasonable.
Demand that your local grocery store buy locally. Stop using the mega marts to buy all your food and shop at the smaller stores. You’ll probably enjoy the experience more anyway, but local places will buy from local farmer’s more readily than the huge mega mart next to the Interstate where a can of corn is $.05 less per can.
Search out a CSA to join. It’s late in the season now to join, but you can start socking away a little each month to pay for it next spring. From what I’ve read, CSA memberships can save you 40% or more over the same produce at a grocery store. And the food is local and fresh, and it’s great to know the farmer personally and it’s even better to get new foods to try out throughout the summer. The more diverse your food supply the more varied your nutrient profile is.
Even better, check out the Bull’s-eye Diet. Or you can check out Sharon’s information about eating a truly local diet based on what will grow in your area naturally. There are a lot of things you can do to Be the Change!
One big problem I have right now is that I keep wanting to do too much too fast. I want to plant fruit trees and bushes at my house right now, today, because I know they will take years to come in well enough to start providing for us. Money for them? Time to care for them? Who knows.
I want to plant a large shade tree in the front yard because I want there to be shade on the house and it needs to be done now, because I want the shade now, but most of all, I want the shade in the near future when I can’t afford to use the A/C at my house for the week or two we use it. The longer I wait to plant the longer it will take to come in.
I want to have a huge garden space now because I want to provide as much of my own food as I can, but gardens are a lot of work when you are first building them. And I have to mesh aesthetics with functionality to keep from even more scornful looks from my neighbors (and very understanding wife). Not to getting enough material to generate enough compost. And it seems like I can never get enough space. There is plenty of area available on my little lot, I just need to use it better or something.
I want to build fruit guilds around the few trees I am planting, but when?
For some reason I feel this sense of urgency because I want to do all these things now, but I don’t know where that is coming from. I need to understand that nature takes time. My impatience is nothing to nature. I have to pick out something that I want to focus on each year and get better at that. I can’t try to do too much or I’ll feel overwhelmed, which is how I feel a lot of the time.
But if I do that then what do I do about other stuff? There is so much I want to do that I can’t put some of it off indefinitely. I have to plant trees so that they will start producing in the next 5 years or so, but how much effort will I waste keeping them alive if I don’t build guilds around them for a few years? You know what I mean? I hate wasting time and effort. It’s not in my nature. But then I know that I can’t focus on the guilds and neglect the gardens, because those take more of your immediate time, and will produce more now, and are critical to learning for the future. And I have to do all this before the weather gets hot because then I wilt and I won’t be able to work outside for the better part of 8 or 9 hours like I did on Saturday.
And there are a couple chunks of city owned land a house down that would be perfect for a little in town orchard. But how could I possibly add that to my already full plate? Not to mention in the next few years my kids will be getting involved in some activities. And I still have to mow the stupid lawn. God I hate grass.
We try to live a slow life, but lately it sure doesn’t seem like it’s slow. I’m not sure how I’m supposed to get it all done. Gaa!!
It’s been a while since I posted anything bike related, but Green Options has a bicycle related story up today about biking to work. Enjoy.
I’ve got a lot of stuff I want to fit in tonight so this will be a long one.
Last night we made won tons and ate those for dinner. I know, it’s a strange dinner, but it’s a great way to clean out the fridge and introduce some new foods. Plus, kids like being involved in preparing the food they eat. We boiled some, steamed some, and baked some. I think baked turned out the best followed closely by the boiled with steam being last. Sneakily eating won tons is a good way for me to sneak some greens into our food too. We’ll definitely be eating them again in the future. Child #1 wasn’t that thrilled about them, but we couldn’t keep them out of child #2′s hands. He was double fisting them!! I think we can bring #1 around over time too.
This past weekend we had some friends over for dinner and I cooked up a pork based barbacoa with spicy soup and homemade tortillas. I got the barbacoa recipe here. If you look in the comments you can see a link to the rub I used on the shoulder. The meat turned out pretty good. I was disappointed with the soup as it tasted mostly like greasy water. But I will definately make the shoulder again. This was the first shoulder from the pig we recently purchased. The tortillas turned out much better this time around. I took more time to roll them out and also let them rest while I was rolling them. That helped them stretch more and get a lot flatter.
I’ll be heading to NYC this weekend for the annual NFL football draft. A friend of mine won a free trip to go to it so we are heading out Friday morning. It should be a good time. It’s my first time in NYC. On top of that we are hitting a Yankees/Red Sox game Friday night (tickets are hard to come by) and we’ll see Dice K’s amazing gyro-ball. (or not so amazing from what I’ve heard)
I checked out purchasing some carbon offsets for the plane flight (they are only $10) but I’m still determining what to do. I can’t figure out how they can offset the emissions from my flight for $10 when it’s almost impossible to buy a single tree for less than $10, and they would have to plant 36 of them according to my calculations. Can someone explain that math to me? It sounds like Enron math to me. I’ve got one opinion that thinks the $10 might buy a bunch of seeds to start but the failure rate is rather high on trees and no one is sure if they take that into account. On top of that, those trees would take forever to get to a large enough size to even make any kind of difference.
I think I’ll use the free links at this site to get my 36 trees for free and call it even. Plus I’ll click on the other free things and it will cover even more area. I would much rather prefer to save already existing forests that are working their magic than plant new trees that will take 30 years to get to full majesty. Plus I’ll keep doing what I’m doing to reduce my footprint.
Tomorrow is child #1′s birthday and since I’ll be out of town we’re celebrating it today. We don’t really do a whole lot for birthdays around here, but we decided it was time to get the little guy one of these…
This one will replace the yard sale bike he’s outgrown…
I wish I could say that the picture was taken at a grandparents house but no, that’s our 50s style paneling in our family room. ..
My wife and I recently purchased a new dryer. I know, I know, that’s nothing special really, but the funny thing is we spent a month agonizing over it before we did it. Our other dryer works, it just makes a god awful squealing noise while it’s running, and the cost to fix is only $50 less than to buy a new one. We could have lived with it even, except the dryer runs at nights most often, or during nap time, so we can’t run it and worry about waking kids up. So after much consternation we decided to buy the cheapest one we could find. We figured this will work fine for us since we typically only dry 2 loads of laundry a week, and the extra amount we are saving will allow us to get a better washer that is extremely efficient when that needs to be replaced. Did you know that a front load washer uses 16 gallons of water rather than the typical 54 gallons a top loader uses? Interesting fact that came out of this. But I’ll be tossing the dryer up on freecycle or craigslist soon for someone to come and get. So at least it’s not hitting the landfill.
Our ducks have recently been joined by another male. I’m not sure what kind of crazy love triangle is going on there, but my experience with Grey’s Anatomy tells me nothing good comes of love triangles. I hope the female isn’t using the yard to lay eggs or anything. I’m not prepared to be a foster parent.
We also spent the past few weeks agonizing over our house. We appear to have some water leakage problems in our garage around some windows. So we immediately started worrying about what was happening in the rest of the house behind the walls we couldn’t see. We must have had 6 or 7 contractors look at it and while they all had different opinions and ideas the most consistent idea was that the windows were horrible and needed to be replaced and all the rot fixed. We’ve decided to go with that and we’re very relieved about that. We were considering yanking off the siding, checking for rot around the house, blowing in insulation and residing the house. While I really, really want to insulate the sidewalls, the cost of the siding work was around $13K, not including any damaged that needed to be replaced. Our pocketbook is much happier with this solution. Unfortunately my plans for a solar water heater will be put on hold while we tend to this immediate need. And our house is still poorly insulated on the walls (the ceilings are all R-38 and up so they are fine) but we’ll get to that eventually. I just have to figure out how to do it without leaving pockmarks all over the walls from drilling the holes.
My friend Aaron has a great post up today. Check it out. Make sure to check out all the links he provides.
So does the Expat Chef. And Ka-Bar at the Moral Equivalent of War has yet another good one up. Perusing my Bloglines account Ka-Bar wins the award for most posts that I’ve marked as “keep new”. He’s up to 23, which is even more than Treehugger.
Now I’m spent. I’ll talk to you after the weekend.