Friday, October 31, 2008

I'm grateful

Walked all the way home tonight (takes me 1.5hrs). Haven't done that in ages. Is one of the reasons why our gasoline consumption is up to 25% or so. Was so nice. And all of a sudden I just felt really grateful. So I spent some time as I was walking to think about the things that I was grateful for. Here they are in no particular order:

  • mild fall evenings where the air is crisp and the sky is blue

  • bumping into friends that I haven't seen in ages

  • shortcuts

  • the stranger that walked up to me and said "you have such a beautiful smile". Even though I wasn't smiling. And made me smile

  • good music!

  • brand new babies (we have one arriving in our extended friend family any time now. Perhaps as I type this. Can't wait to meet you little man. :) )

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Holy crap!

Well for all those wondering if doing the Riot for Austerity is saving us any money, take a look at this:

That's our most recent water bill. Yep, that's right, its a CREDIT.

If you look at the amount of water we have used in the last two bills (one estimate, one actual), we are at 39 cubic metres in 124 days. For some of those days there were 3 of us in the house and for some of those days there were 4 of us in the house, but I think a safe estimate is that we are now at 85 litres of water per person per day. This is v. exciting as we are now at 25% of the average! Pretty good considering a year or so ago we were at 78% of the average.

What I've done recently as well as the navy shower thing and the 'letting it mellow' thing include:
  • installed a 6L flush toilet in the downstairs apartment

  • installed low flow showerheads (1.25 gallons/minute) in both apartments

  • installed low flow aerators (2.0 gallons/min) on the kitchen and bathroom taps in both apartments

  • started capturing my shower water and using it to flush the toilet (more on that in another post

  • got super new uber green tenants in our rental apartment :)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why the Riot?

Last week there was a feature article in the NY Times about a number of people who are making huge strides in reducing their carbon footprint. One of those people featured was Sharon Astyk (one of the founders of Riot for Austerity). The NY Times interviewed Sharon and even went to Sharon's home to take pictures. Sharon and everyone who knew the article was coming was excited at the opportunity to reach a large audience with the lighter living message.

Unfortunately the NY Times wrote a crap article which practically accused Sharon of child abuse for making her children live in a house where the heat isn't cranked.

Today Sharon wrote an absolutely kick ass response on her blog.

You should read it.

It sums up everything I think about why living more lightly is important.

If you never click on another link I post, you should click on this one.

And in case anyone's interested, here is the NY Times article.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Check me out!

I made bread! :)

After being completely intimidated by the bread making process for ages, I decided to give it a go yesterday.

I used a recipe from my The Place Below cookbook. I substituted 1/2 of the flour with local spelt flour.

Was actually quite easy (except for the kneading which was hard yet cathartic). Next time I'm going to try making it from all local flour. And perhaps a sourdough starter instead of yeast. If I do that I'll try No impact man's adaptation of Sandor Katz's sourdough bread.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dried apples two ways

I love apples and while they are available almost year round at the Ottawa Organic Farmers' market, by January they are no longer so great for eating raw (but still great for baking!)

So last year I tried drying apples for the first time. Not having any fancy equipment I just cut them into rings and strung them up on cooking string. They turned out great.

This year I wanted to make more so I used a friend's dehydrator (as there are only so many places to string up apples around one's house!) as well as the string method.

The dehydrator ones turned out well and certainly took less time. But I think I still prefer the apples dried on strings from the 'no energy required' point of view.

Dehydrator apples: 1 day

Apples on string: 3-4 days

A lot of recipes call for using a vit. c or equivalent solution to dip your apple rings into before drying. I tried that last year and it was a huge hassle. Plus it didn't really reduce the browning (the whole point) so I didn't bother this year. I don't think my apples look any more brown than the ones at the stores.

I bought 64 organic apples at the farmers market for $16 and I'll probably end up with 5 or 6 1L jars of dried apples.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Why I choose to buy free range organic eggs from small scale local producers

Recently there was a charity breakfast at work and when asked if I was going, I responded that I wasn't going because I'm 'fussy about the eggs I eat'.

Today that same colleague asked me to explain what I meant by that. I wasn't expecting the question and so didn't give a very good answer. Mostly I rambled on about how I only buy eggs from people I know and that even organic free range eggs at the grocery store are not to be trusted.

After some reflection and with a desire to sound slightly less paranoid (!) next time I explain this, I thought I'd jot down my reasons here.

So. My reasons for choosing local organic free range eggs are threefold in the following priority:

1. Ethical
2. Environmental
3. Personal health

While it would be wonderful if all our eggs came from happy free to run around chickens like the above pic, the truth is that 90+% of the eggs in Canada are produced under the most horrendously cruel conditions. Do a quick google search and you will find videos and photos of birds crammed in cages, debeaked so they don't kill each other, covered in crap from the birds in cages above them, starved of food for weeks at a time to force an increase in productivity etc. etc. etc.

It's really awful. The worst part is that this is all legal. Unlike puppy mills and other places you see animals rescued from, these conditions (from what I understand) would actually pass inspection.

This is starting to change. Not yet in Canada but factory farmed egg production is already banned in switzerland and will be outlawed in the EU by 2012.

Fyi, the new name for factory farming is 'confined animal-feeding operations' or CAFO for short. I find this interesting because from what I can tell, this new name was devised by the industry itself, I can only imagine as being more polictically correct than factory farm. For me it does the opposite. It reminds me that these are not 'farms' in any sense. They are production lines.

Ok, next reason...environmental concerns. From what I've read here, here and here, the negative environmental effects of CAFO's are mostly as a result of the huge amount of waste produced. On a small scale farm where chickens are really allowed to roam free, the waste is actually useful; fertilizing pastures (often where free range cows roam). But at large scale factory farms, the amount of waste produced is far too great and often ends up contaminating ground water. In addition to the contamination from poop bacteria, because the chickens need regular and strong doses of antibiotics just to survive in such an environment, these chemicals too end up in the ground water via the waste produced by the chickens.

Gross huh?

And I won't even get into the electricity required to run the machinery and lights in the giant barns or the amount of gasoline used to truck the eggs from the factory farms to the grocery store distribution point and then to the store itself.

Last reason. Personal health. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that an egg produced from a chicken that lives in disease filled conditions and pumped full of chemicals, and nasty food, will not be as nutritious, or as good for one's health as an egg produced from a chicken allowed to roam free, eating a varied diet, and lived disease free without the use of chemicals. I'm sure the CFIA would say that there is no evidence to show this but well, you'll have to excuse me being paranoid on that one.

So I get my eggs from two local suppliers that I know and trust. I know the chickens that lay my eggs are happy and healthy and spend lots of time running around outside.

And I don't go out for breakfast anymore. And I try not to buy baked goods made with eggs from factory farms (my goal is to phase this out completely - it's a process).

And I feel good about that personal choice.

(I realize that I didn't get into the organic vs. factory farmed eggs vs. grocery store free-range etc. eggs. Personally I'm skeptical of anything industrial scaled. But if I had to pick I would chose eggs in this order:
1. Local, organic, free range eggs
2. Local eggs (provided I knew the farmer and how the chickens were treated)
3. Industrial scaled organic eggs
4. No eggs
5. Factory farmed eggs

Also, for a tongue in cheek education in factory farms, check out The Meatrix

Lastly if you want to know where you can get local organic eggs in the ottawa area, try the COG-Ottawa Listing. Also check at farmers markets and ask your friends. But keep in mind that a lot of small scale egg production is on the down low due to various rules and regulations that I won't pretend to understand.)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Thanksgiving activities

In between my constant snacking before dinner, I wandered down the garden to rescue the black walnuts that my brother and Dad had been using to practice their golf swings.

Here's what they look like after being removed from their fleshy green casings. After my brother told me that the last time he did this his hands were black for a week, I chose to wear gloves during that process.

What I do with them now I'm not edition of 'Stocking up' has a photo of a car driving over them in a purpose-made wooden trough. Don't think I want to try that so I'm going to let them dry out for a few days and then try cracking them open with a hammer.