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Archive for the ‘sustainability’ Category

Welcome, Weekend Herb Blogging readers!

I love going to Farmer’s Markets this time of year. In the summer, not so much, since most of the things there are things I grow myself or don’t get excited about. I’ll pop in for pluots, apricots, and peaches, none of which (alas) I have here, but that’s about it.

In the fall and winter, though, all the folks in the cool coastal areas have been growing their colorful root veggies, yet there are still summer foods from the inland valley farmers, and of course all the marvelous tree fruits.

Some friends of ours who host a social brunch every few months recently had a new baby, and I wanted to put together something special to bring. A fruit and cheese plate of all-local, all-seasonal goodies seemed just perfect!

I started with gorgeous forenschluss (speckled belly) and cimmaron heirloom romaine lettuces from my garden as a plate cover. In the middle, a tasty goat cheese log from either Half Moon Bay or Petaluma (I forget! and the wrapper is long gone!).

Everybody loves pomegranate seeds, but most people hate extracting them from the pomegranate. Plus, they’re spectacular, like mounds of living rubies. Some pomegranate seeds on a cracker with goat cheese is a little slice of heaven, believe me– that tart-sweet burst of flavor, and the creamy richness of the cheese. Yum.

I absolutely adore persimmons, and feel that they’re one of the most under-appreciated fruits in the fall harvest pantheon. Most folks think of the hachiya type, the astringent persimmons that need to get soft, pulpy, and generally scary in texture to be delicious. Try an under-ripe slice of a fuyu type persimmon and your lips won’t unpucker for days. There is an alternative, however– the crisp, sweet, spicy fuyu type persimmon. Rounded, like a flattened tomato, rather than pointy like a pepper, the fuyu persimmon can be gloriously crunched like an apple, or sliced for a fruit plate. No scary texture adventures!

Photo courtesy of freshelectron’s FlickR stream, CC-licensed.

Some feel that the flavor of a fuyu persimmon is not as wonderful as that of the hachiya persimmon. I think there’s something to that– for all-out persimmon intensity, the fuyu are marvelous. Bake the pulp into dark sweet quickbread, flavor a special kugel, or make exotic chutnies with it. Hachiya rocks! But the persimmon which sells itself to food skeptics, nervously turning over a slice in their fingers, is the friendly fuyu.


Finally, as a decorative yet practical touch, the nasturtiums. The hotheads who enjoy wasabi, Chinese mustard, and other sinus-popping fare will welcome a fiery nasturtium leaf on their cracker of goat cheese, or perhaps even wrapped, by itself, around a few pomegranate seeds. The flowers, lovely and spicy-sweet, are a real treat. Gather them first thing in the morning, before it warms up, and you can even beat the ants to them. Do inspect them carefully as you garnish, though!

I don’t rinse the flowers, as we garden naturally and haven’t had to spray soap or pepper for aphids on them this fall. Rinsing can rinse out the nectar reservoir in the back of the flower, which is a big part of why the flower is so awesome to eat. These are from our side yard. They’ve recovered from the August heat, and make a gorgeous cascade along the trellis.

I don’t publish recipes here as often as I’d like, but there’s plenty of action over at My Bay Area Garden!

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Nathaniel Talbott is really rocking my world with his recent essay comparing the transcontinental railroad with the ruby-on-rails phenomenon. As he points out, there are some surprising similarities in enabling markets and disintermediation– the physical railroad opened up new territories and new markets, and the rapid development cycle of ROR is enabling software customization of previously unaffordable (in time or money) types.

They [the co-op members trying to use a wacky uber-customized spreadsheet macro that breaks when you look at it cross-eyed] have little to no means of affecting the software that they use, and no real choices to use something else. And there are literally millions of others like them out there—small business owners, hobbyists, clubs, families and civic groups. But that’s the other, more profound thing that I think is changing and will greatly change how our kids think about software—one day we’ll look around and see everybody commissioning software, not just people with lots of money or people who can do it themselves. Tickets to the interior are suddenly affordable, and everybody’s buying one.

Everybody wins. Cool stuff happens. Ma and Pa Kettle can get custom software written affordably while GoogroSoft is still polishing paisleys on monolithic software applications.

OK, that last one is a bit Strata-filtered, but you know what I mean. Go read it, and if you’re not familiar with some of the background, such as the original Long Tail essay, NT is a nice guy and scattered links throughout his essay back to some of the prequel material.

Why, you may ask, is this tagged for sustainability? Because, in my opinion, the cottage-industry model of programming offers a lot of options in that area: telecommuting, bespoke efficiencies, disintermediated access to change, etc.

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I hope I’m wrong, but it is starting to seem to me that the Housing Bubble here in the ‘States has a lot of the characteristics of what is termed a “depletion crisis” in John Greer’s scholarly paper “How Civilzations Fall: a Theory of Catabolic Collapse”, postulating models for historical civilization cycles.

A society that uses resources beyond replenishment rate (d(R)/r(R) > 1), when production of new capital falls short of maintenance needs, risks a depletion crisis in which key features of a maintenance crisis are amplified by the impact of depletion on production. As M(p) exceeds C(p) and capital can no longer be maintained, it is converted to waste and unavailable for use. Since depletion requires progressively greater investments of capital in production, the loss of capital affects production more seriously than in an equivalent maintenance crisis. (John Greer)

It seems to me that consumer credit and the unusual mortgage structures spawned over the past few years can be mapped onto Greer’s system particularly well, especially the cycle of increased capital production C(p) also leading to an increase in maintainance production M(p). Unfortunately, the housing bubble, like the Gulf war and our current system of agriculture, is depleting a resource, namely oil. Worse, oil seems to closely fit the model of a driver for catabolic collapse via depletion crisis:

A society that uses resources beyond replenishment rate (d(R)/r(R) > 1), when production of new capital falls short of maintenance needs, risks a depletion crisis in which key features of a maintenance crisis are amplified by the impact of depletion on production. As M(p) exceeds C(p) and capital can no longer be maintained, it is converted to waste and unavailable for use. Since depletion requires progressively greater investments of capital in production, the loss of capital affects production more seriously than in an equivalent maintenance crisis. Meanwhile further production, even at a diminished rate, requires further use of depleted resources, exacerbating the impact of depletion and the need for increased capital to maintain production. With demand for capital rising as the supply of capital falls, C(p) tends to decrease faster than M(p) and perpetuate the crisis. The result is a catabolic cycle, a self-reinforcing process in which C(p) stays below M(p) while both decline. Catabolic cycles may occur in maintenance crises if the gap between C(p) and M(p) is large enough, but tend to be self-limiting in such cases. In depletion crises, by contrast, catabolic cycles can proceed to catabolic collapse, in which C(p) approaches zero and most of a society’s capital is converted to waste. (John Greer)

Our major infrastructure projects, including dams, highways, railroads, municipal water supplies, all fit this scenario. As a society, we are barely able to maintain what we have already built, and are falling behind. Climate change provides further destabilization.

We’re entering the era of the Long Emergency. That’s the bad news. As if you didn’t already know it! The good news is, it’s a LONG emergency, and there’s a plan. Which we’ll talk about tomorrow.

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I will quote directly from this excellent factual article on the history of hemp in America:

The American colonists relied heavily on hemp. At that time, hemp was the world’s leading crop. A law enacted in Virginia in 1619 made hemp production mandatory for all farmers. Similar laws were passed in Massachusetts in 1631, in Connecticut in 1632 and the Chesapeake Colonies in the mid 1700s. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both farmed hemp. “Make the most you can of the hemp seed and grow it everywhere,” wrote George Washington in 1794. The first drafts of the Declaration of Independence were written on hemp paper and all early American flags were made with hemp. …

So why is hemp not grown in America today? Why has the American creative genius not found ways to process hemp efficiently and turn it into a myriad of useful products, at least on a large scale?

The reason is twofold: Hemp competes directly with wood products and hemp belongs to the same plant family as marijuana. The history of how hemp products were removed from the American commercial scene deserves retelling, but only after this important disclaimer: This article is not intended to endorse the legalization of marijuana or the recreational use of this drug in any way.

While I personally think that the criminalization of hemp is ridiculous alongside the legal use of alcohol, this is not a song about Alice. My position on hemp is that it could be a key crop for sustainability, from the useful fibers to the oil-rich seeds. There are low-THC strains out there, but growing hemp in this country is very hard to do because of the fanaticism of the anti-drug folks. I’ve read pieces of the story in other places, but this Weston Price article lays it out and links several of the pieces together in ways I’ve not seen before, such as the Dupont/Hearst deal.

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If you’re looking for places in walking distance of where you live, or evaluating a neighborhood to see what’s walkable, try WalkScore, a maps mashup that shows resources in an area. It’s not perfect, but it may show you things that you didn’t realize were around a corner that you hadn’t visited, like a convenience store or a bookstore.

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Most people grow up so far out of touch with animals that they probably shouldn’t even be doing animal research. Researchers ‘surprised’ by dogs’ abilities? Did any of them grow up with a family dog?

Growing up with one or more dogs, two or more cats, and various numbers of goats, chickens, and occasionally pigs, a steer, and a horse, one not only sees a wide range of animal behavior, one sees how the animals adapt to other animals and to other people. This is a level of experience that ought to be mandatory for folks doing animal research.

One can say that it introduces a bias toward thinking of animals as more people-like or more sentient than they may be. What about the bias of someone who assumes by default that they are not? Already researchers are questioning the dog studies mentioned in the previous article, and saying they may be clever imitation based on hidden cues, a “Clever Hans” effect. Grr.

We already have dozens of examples of animals using language and tools, ranging from the larger primates, which doesn’t seem to shock anybody, to parrots, dogs, cetaceans, various birds, etc. There are the elephant society studies that have recently become news. The whale dialects. The prairie-dog vocabulary, including the ability to invent, transmit, and re-use multi-word constructs (shades of High German). The list just goes on and on and on.

It’s not a specific brain size, kids. Consciousness and self-awareness is a property of life. Do what you need to for survival. Choose what you need for your comfort. Give up what you can in compassion. Start remaking society with your economic choices as well as your personal ones.

I found the pasture-raised eggs people at the MV Farmer’s Market on Sunday. No more ‘cage-free’ or ‘free-range’ eggs from huge, open, ammonia-laden henhouses with a scheduled 4-hour timeslot into a bare dirt pen. :-( Now I need to find a source of local pasture-raised milk. Or stop drinking the damn stuff. Buying fancy cheese just got both really tough and really easy– a lot of the expensive stuff I usually avoid is from pasture or mountain ranged sheep and goats, even cows.

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posted this great Washington Post article about cognitive reasoning and inference in dogs, who behaved similarly to 14-month-old children in an inference test. And I just have to RANT, seeing the ‘wow, who knew?’ tone of this article (not at him, at the world in general).

I grew up with animals. They really ARE there– there is someone home, they are not meat puppets or objects for our convenience. We are committing slavery and genocide on a vast scale, all over this earth, often for no better reasons than convenience or sheer ignorance.

I don’t deny the legitimacy of (some) scientific research; I deny the legitimacy of LD-50 and Draize tests, of needless vivisection for ‘training’ purposes.

I don’t deny the freedom to choose to eat meat; I deny the system that makes the ‘choice’ a stroll through a bright supermarket, picking up clean, odorless, protein packages adorned with brightly smiling cartoons, while at the same time condemning the animals that become the package contents to a hellish and painful existence in ammonia-soaked feedlots and coops, drugged and mutilated to prevent their natural outrage from expressing itself.

I don’t deny the need of people to spread out and to use land for farming, housing, lumber, recreation; I deny the smokescreen of hype that deludes people into believing that their lawns are safe and sustainable, that their agriculture isn’t creating poisons, that their housing ‘in the country’ isn’t causing the very problems they are fleeing.

I don’t deny the ‘right’ to ‘use’ our public park systems and wild lands; I deny the attitude that “we’re not hurting anything” when we hike, play music, ride atvs and snowmobiles and water jets, etc in wilderness. Ever lived next to a home having outdoor contracting done? They’re not hurting you, are they? They’re just making noise when you may not want it, startling you occasionally, making you think twice about using your bbq outside because you don’t want paint/sawdust/whatever on your food, etc. Every day. Every damn day. Still feeling good about it? But they’re not DOING anything to you. Right.

I deny the mindset that uses terms like ‘vacant’ land for ecosystems, that declares a field ‘fallow’ if it houses a meadow where no farm animals graze. I deny the mindset that judges nature and the earth solely according to its utility and beauty in the eye of human beholders, ignoring any dignity and worth it may have in its own right.

Let’s not even get into the parallels between electrocution as capital punishment and the standard manner in which farmed fur such as fox and mink are dispatched for ‘processing’, namely being taunted into biting a metal muzzle grip and having a cattle prod shoved up their ass to electrocute them. Fluffs the fur nicely, you see. Now all you little goth wenches go out and give your giggly little fox tail the decent burial it deserves. I’ve got one scheduled for mine. :-(

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…is rocking my world.

http://www.metagrrrl.com/discardian/

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Speaking of whole grains, in the last post, remind me (and scares me!) that we’re almost halfway through another year. Yeesh!

I don’t recall now whether we made our New Year’s resolutions at Rosh Hashanah or in late December, but I thought I’d post them and see how we’re doing.

These are our family resolutions, rather than any personal ones. We pledged to help each other achieve them.

  • Eat Healthier, specifically have a whole-grain veggie meal for dinner at least twice a week, buy only organics when possible, no more bread with white flour, sugar, or corn syrup as substantial ingredients, drink less diet soda (splenda) and more tea/water/juice. Very Good; most of these things are fait accompli; still falling prey to the Cookie Monsters about once a month; Mike is drinking way too much diet (splenda) soda, but it’s still a shift from all diet coke, and has him at only 3 cans coke per day maximum.
  • Exercise! Moar!. Mike, gym 2 – 3 times week, including training session. Strata, daily half-hour cardio plus gym twice a week, incl training session. Mike: Great! Strata: Flunking out; health and work issues got me off-track and I haven’t gotten back on, been to the gym maybe a dozen times in 6 months, ugh!!! At least I’m gardening.
  • Downsize, specifically get rid of stuff we’re not using, buy less, reduce our carbon footprint, etc. bouts of freecycling that need to be resumed while I’m on ‘vacation’ (ha, you should see my to-do list), exercise restraint at flea markets, online catalogs, etc. Very Good
  • Puff Appreciation; be nicer to the Puffs, they are getting old; spoil them more, get the yard fenced so they can enjoy the garden, get better food. The fencing got off the ground this spring, first one neighbor and then the other, plus we hired a guy to close off one side and put in a gate. He’ll be back after Memorial Day to close off the other side. The pet food scare really got me off the ground trying a raw diet for the cats, but they rebelled. On the other hand, they are now off dry food entirely, and getting canned stuff 2 – 3 times a day; all the canned is organic and/or human quality, and no more ‘products’ or ‘by-products’ allowed in it. Little or no grain, only rice flour. Boo’s habitual arthritis and tail dandruff has all but vanished! I make more time for them, and they mug me for love more often. Excellent!
  • Clean Up Our Act!, keep the house neater, declutter it, maintain stuff more, such as outdoor painting touchup, regular window washing, and similar. Poor; we played catch-up for Passover and my Mom’s visit, but the house has been mostly a pit. Contemplating a Roomba and maybe a Scooba. Realized that the “Downsize” item is strongly linked– less stuff, looks better, we keep cleaner.
  • Green Up Our Act by doing more recycling, conservation, etc. Bought TerraPass offsets for both vehicles and our house; recycling cardboard, mail, and paper cartons regularly now in addition to plastics/glass. Continuing to use the city yardwaste bin for garden stuff. Trying to keep to 100-Mile Diet when possible; buying local. Switch to more LED lights at home. Very Good, so far. Watch our act plummet if we bring Birdie back on the road, at 6mpg, ugh. Will TerraPass it, but still!
  • Get Out More Often and just be social, see friends, etc. Poor, as life has been deadline driven for both of us for most of the year so far, and our uncleaned-up living space prevents impromptu at-home socializing. Gotta do better. No, we can’t hire cleaners, it doesn’t really help and it’s too expensive for us right now.
  • Public Service by Choice; stop saying ‘yes’ to too many things and concentrate on the ones that matter, like our chairing of the Emergency Preparedness Committee here, or my seed distribution and community garden stuff. We made time for the SNAP class, keep up with SPECS, are sworn Disaster Services peeps with Sunnyvale. Good, but let’s see how the 2nd half of the year goes. Strata is interested in SAR support work (logistics, support for SAR active personnel), which is part of the possibly revving up Birdie equation. Mike agrees, and wants to finish Birdie’s comms infr to support that.
  • Active Investment; somewhere along the line, we stopped putting away $X/month and started using it to pay extra on the mortgage and to get us both going to fitness training. It’s been over a year since we made those choices, which we noticed were just on autopilot around the new year. Need to re-examine those choices, and rebalance our life energy and our financial investment portfolios. No action on this yet. Flunking Out!
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    Then let me plant some stuff in your backyard. My garden’s just about FULL, and there’s still stuff I want to try! Kind of tomatoes and peppers, melons, sweet potatoes, etc.

    So. If you have some backyard you aren’t using, and are willing to host a small test garden (from 2×2 foot to larger), and you’re a friend of mine in the South Bay, let me know. If whatever I’m experimenting with growing isn’t your cuppa tea, no problem, I have lots of other stuff growing and will make sure you get some. :-D

    If you’ve always wanted a garden, or even just some useful shrubbery, like bird-attracting native plants, or blueberries, or whatnot, and you’re local, let me know. I’ll enjoy helping you get stuff set up and planted, and may even do most of the digging. I’m finding creative ways to get my 30 – 60 minutes of hard physical labor in daily.

    Finally, if you want to grow some yummilicious squashes like the one in the icon, I still have seeds from that ebicata batch, and even more on bank with the Sunnyvale Community Garden. Will give you a hill or two’s worth, no problem!

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