Monday, June 28, 2010

An Evening With Celery

If you think you like celery, but have only tried it from the grocery store, you don't know jack about celery!  We grew "tango" celery from organic seed, and wow is it different.  The store bought stuff has crunch, but flavor?  Not compared to this.  The grocery store celery is more like water compared to the homegrown celery.

The more I grow food, the more I realize that for most of my life, I've been eating poor immitations of food.  It is no wonder that children don't like vegetables.  When varieties are grown for flavor, instead of how they hold up through long shipping and storage conditions, and when food is allowed to fully ripen before being picked, a whole new world of flavor emerges. 

I have many more bunches than I could use in the next week, so I've pulled them, washed them, and was in the middle of chopping them to put in the freezer when the baby decided she wants to be held.  At least I can type one-handed!

Why not dehydrate the celery?  Dehydrating would certainly preserve the celery well, and take up a lot less space.  However, it is extremely humid, we just had a thunderstorm pass through, and the weather is just not cooperating enough for us to use a solar dehydrator.  You really need a dry day to make the best use of one.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Grass-Fed Bison, It's What's For Dinner

What a weekend!  Between the two of us, Eddie and I worked three farmers' markets.  It has been hot, sticky, and exhausting.  Hard work was rewarded, as we made a decent chunk of change to show for it. 

At the final market of the weekend, another vendor was selling bison.  We spoiled ourselves a little, and picked up a pair of grass-fed, bison-meat rib eye steaks.  Thick, beautiful bison steaks, raised without all the hormones or antibiotics, free to graze on grass all day long.  Paired with a stir fry of onion, pok choi, swiss chard, and garlic scapes, this was a well-deserved reward at the end of a gruelling weekend.

Our display is very basic, easy to set up and take down.  We only have one product- honey.  A canopy, card table, a sign, and a few bottles on display, and we're done.  The poduce growers and crafts people take a lot of time setting up all their baskets and handmade items.  There are always a few good-natured comments along the lines of "I'm so jealous!  You're set up is so easy."  To which Eddie always says, "Ah yes, but do you want to go work the bees?"  Then the lightbulb clicks, and they don't feel so badly about having so much to set up.

Due to impending thunderstorms (Hail Thor!), this afternoon's market closed a half hour early. Our stuff was packed up quick, so Eddie, being the helpful guy that he is, assisted the bison folks in packing up their freezer.  They gave us a few packages of bison jerky in return.  What a treat.  Needless to say, the jerky (and the rib eyes) have already been consumed!

Live better, a little every day.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Long Week

It's been a long week with the kids, the heat, and the baby has already started teething.  Our living room ceiling fan has bit the dust, and the hottest day of the year so far is slated for tomorrow.  At least the garden is kicking butt!

Live better, a little every day.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Podcast Update

This week's schedule for the podcast is up! 

06/14/2010, Monday- No Show Today
06/15/2010, Tuesday- Off-Grid Living 101
06/16/2010, Wednesday- Peak Oil, What You Need To Know
06/17/2010, Thursday- Reducing Dependence on Oil
06/18/2010, Friday- How To Set Up An Off-Grid Kitchen

Live better, a little every day.

Farmers' Market Season Has Begun

The Farmers' Markets we participate in started this past weekend.  In spite of cloudy skies and scattered thunderstorms, each market had plenty of foot traffic.  Eddie worked the markets, while I kept the little ones home out of the weather.  We moved a lot of honey this weekend.  Next weekend, when the largest market we do begins, it should be even better!

At the end of the market on Saturday, one of the other vendors gifted us with 12 plum tomato plants.  They went into the ground immediately.  Seeing how much further along those tomato plants were than my tomato plants made me wish that we had a greenhouse.  Yes, I could have started some seeds in my As we will most likely still be living here as our primary residence next year, we may look for a small greenhouse for this winter to grow a winter garden and get a jump on next year.

Beyond honey, we planted pie pumkins and mini melons to sell at the markets later in the season.  I just took a quick inventory of them.  They are ready to move up to bigger pots, as are my own tomato plants.  Two more weeks, and everything should be in the ground. 

Live better, a little every day.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Honey Sweet, Yummy Beets

Yesterday was spent mostly on the computer and getting caught up on administrative tasks.  I put up a listing on local harvest for our beekeeping operation and honey sales.  Relaunched the podcast, finalized show notes for the next couple of podcasts, and added our beekeeping operation to Local Harvest.  If you would like to check out the listing, it should be searchable in their database by the end of the day, or you can click here.

Eddie was out at the hives yesterday, and our bees are doing very well.  They will need additional room very soon to store more honey.  If the weather these past couple of months is any indication, things are shaping up to be a very good honey year.

For a couple of months each year, my kitchen is overrun with seedlings and larger veggie plants in containers.  Something came by and ate half of the cucumber plants.   This is exactly why I start so many seeds!  Thankfully, I have several more cucumber plants to get in the ground.  They will be put in cages until they get well established.  That should give at least one layer of defence against whatever came a'nibbling in the night.

Most of my plants are still doing very well in their containers, but it is absolutely time to get more in the ground. My back has had a few days now to rest, and I need to get back outside to dig in the dirt again. After Eddie gets home from work this evening, the weather should be cooperative enough for me to get my summer squash outside. The beets are doing very well.  I can't wait to pick them, but they aren't quite ready yet.  I've been dying to try my hand at making beet sugar to compare it in baking to store-bought white sugar. Beet greens are rather tasty, and the beets themselves are quite a favorite in our household.  It will soon be time to can the excess beets and start stocking up for the winter.

Other than gardening and continuing work on my guide to reducing petoleum consumption, today's plans are to research the ins and out of building log cabins and log homes.

Live better, a little every day.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Podcast Relaunch Today

Today is the Better Living Daily Podcast Relaunch!  There is a new episode up on the site, Homesteading as a Strategy for Freedom.  Please check it out and let me know what you think!

Live better, a little every day.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Alternatives to Oil in Plastics

I had originally planned on getting the majority of our plants in the ground over the past few days.  I have, however, been sidelined with back pain from overdoing it in the garden and reorganizing the house.  To move forward with our pledge to do something every day to live better, I spent many hours researching ways to reduce our dependence on oil, and I ordered a new cell phone.  That may sound incongruous, as most new phones would represent market demand for new oil, but wait...

I'm not a techo-gadgety type, but it was finally time to upgrade my cell phone.  I've been avoiding getting a new one because each new phone represents more oil-based plastics.  With the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, I was expecting to feel some guilt in contributing to market demand for petroleum. 

My carrier offers a couple of cell phone models at no cost to customers, and the offers change every couple of months.  This time, their free offerings included the Samsung Reclaim, a phone that boasts 80% recycled materials, and 40% of new plastic used as corn-based bioplastic.  Of course, I would be happier if the phone were manufactured in the USA, and if there were no components made from new petroleum, but is a step away from oil dependency. 

In order to prevent another disaster, we need to reduce our overall consumption of petroleum.  But, can we do this when we are so accustomed to our conveniences and gadgets which are often made of plastics?  One emerging option is bioplastic.  Bioplastic made from corn is already used to make plastic containers for organic and natural cosmetics and in water bottles. 

Walmart, in its efforts to do damage control and revamp its image, has given bioplastics its largest market boost by agreeing to package some of its produce in bioplastics.  I'm not suggesting that people now shop at Walmart, but the fact that the largest retailer in the US is now using some bioplastics funnels more resources to the bioplastics industry. 

Of course, there is a catch.  We could easily be trading Big Oil for Big Agribusiness.  While bioplastics can be made from the starch of many different soures, much of it comes from corn.  Also, some bioplastics are being designed to come from genetically modified sources.  If we opt to continue producing corn on gigantic farms requiring large amounts of petroleum-based agricultural chemicals and petroleum-based fuels to run the extra-large farm equipment, there will be a tipping point where we will not be saving on petroleum consumption. 

The issue that would hit consumers more immediately, however, is that bioplastics cost about twice what petroleum plastics cost.  That may change, however, as petroleum costs continue to rise and newer, more efficient ways to manufacture bioplastics are developed.

As alluded to in my last blog entry, I'm putting together a comprehensive guide to reducing oil dependency.  I will be adding a section on bioplastics where their application seems appropriate.  I will let everyone know when it's completed.

Live better, a little every day.

Supporting links:
USA Today Article on Biodegradable Plastic
BioBag, 100% Biodegradable & Compostable Plastic (made from non-GMO plant starch)
Corn Plastic To The Rescue (Bioplastics get a boost from Walmart)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Podcast Update

It is official.  The Better Living Daily Podcast will relaunch on Monday, June 7, 2010! 

Here is the show schedule for the week of 6/7/2010

  1. 06/07/2010, Monday- ***Relaunch Episode*** Homesteading as a trategy for Freedom
  2. 06/08/2010,Tuesday- Debt, Why You Should Never Carry It, and How to Get Out of It
  3. 06/09/2010, Wednesday- Buy Land and Build a House Without a Mortgage
  4. 06/10/2010, Thursday- Homesteading as an Investment Strategy and Retirement Plan
  5. 06/11/2010, Friday- Off-Grid Living 101
Please tune in, leave comments, and get involved!

Live better, a little every day.

Driven By Oil (Leak)

Earlier today while listening to The Survival Podcast, I was shocked (though I probably shouldn't have been) to learn that there has been another oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico identical to the one in the gulf right now.  In 1979, the Ixtoc oil spill dumped 30,000 barrells of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico after a the blowout preventer failed to stop a blowout.  Sound familiar?  The exact same methods to stop the leak were tried, and they failed.  Remember the "Top Hat" strategy?  Well, 30 years ago it was called the "Sombrero" strategy.  And, guess what... it didn't work then either.  Oh, and the rig was owned by a company called Sedco, which is known today as Transocean.

In the past thirty years, nothing has been done by either our government or the oil industry to improve safety or prevent this kind of leak from happening again, which it so disasterously has.  However, our government knew this has happened before, what worked to fix the leak, and what did not.  Pretending to go along with BP's attempts to fix the leak using failed techniques from thrity years ago is irresponsible.  Why not just come out and say, "Look the only way to fix this kind of leak is to drill a relief well, but that will take many months?" 

I'll tell you why.  No one wants to give the public that kind of bad news.  Our government, along with BP, would like everyone to believe they are doing all that they can with the most current technology to stop the leak.  So, they distract us with failed attempt after failed attempt, rather than deliver the bad news that this leak is going to be active for a long time coming.

I've seen a lot of groups pop up and circulating emails focused on boycotting BP.  That's a start, but the problem is so much deeper than boycotting one company.  These disasters have happened because we have an addiction to cheap oil.  Our oil addiction has made oil companies very rich, and they will go to any length to feed our addiction and ensure that profits keep rolling in. 

Since our government has had 30 years to prevent a problem like the leak in the gulf, and hasn't done so yet, we are on our own if we want to prevent oil leaks in the future.  The only way we will prevent future accidents from risky oil drilling is to reduce the demand for oil. 

So today, I spent the time to compile a comprehensive list of things that individuals can do to reduce their oil dependence.  So far, I have a list of over 85 things that are easy to do that also reduce our individual oil consumptionl  There isn't room here to list all of these, so here are the top 7:
  1. Grow a garden.  Oil used to power large farm equipment, in the fuel from shipping around the country and around the world, the powering of food processing equipment, food packaging, and of course, the fuel used in each vehicle used to go to the grocery store.  Gardens also reduce the amount of grass that needs to be cut, so you use your lawn mower less.
  2. Whenever possible, walk, ride a bike, or take a bus.  Leave the car at home unless absolutely necessary.
  3. Wear clothes made of natural fibers.  Not only do they feel better and breathe better, synthetics are made from petroluem products.
  4. Source out natural personal care products.  This includes hair care, cosmetics, deodorants, skin lotions, and perfumes.  Personal care products that contain petroleum-based and synthetic ingredients are linked to health problems, including cancer.  Artificial fragrances are some of the most toxic concoctions ever invented.  Stick to products with natural ingredients, and fragranced with essential oils.
  5. Use cloth shopping bags instead of plastic ones.  Besides, do you really need so many bags collecting in your home.  At the very least, bring your plastic bags to be recycled.  Some grocery stores have a recycling recepticle at their entrances for plastic bags.
  6. Recycle.  Most towns and cities now have some kind of recycling program, and they will take your plastic water bottles, milk jugs, and other plastics, reducing the need for newer plastics and additional petroluem.  
  7. Buy used.  Shop at consignment stores, yard sales, craigslist, and good will stores.  This is another form of recycling.
Live better, a little every day.

Supporting links:
Rachel Maddow, The More Spills change, the More They Stay the Same
Wikipedia, Ixtoc I Oil Spill