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Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

Nope, the unhygienic growing practices which go hand in hand with mass production have finally made their appearance on this side of the pond. I’m sure it’s not the first time but it’s bad enough – with 10 people dead in Germany and thousands sick – that people had to sit up and take notice. Tainted cucumbers from Spain are supposedly the culprit, but they’re not sure that this is the only source ( and of course it isn’t). It’s just the one that was spotted.

So in light of this….

(German farmers destroying their lettuce and other  salad  crops)

…I’m so glad that I decided to do this…

You don’t even need to dig, this is a huge tub of lettuce that sits on our porch, nothing could be easier. I bought a pack of 6 starter plants of each type (these are plucking varieties as opposed to head varieties), dumped some good potting soil in the tub and planted them. I water them with a bit of liquid fertilizer once every 2 weeks. They look like this after just one month of growth. I just go out and pick off what I need and it keeps on growing. Lettuce has shallow roots so you don’t need a tub as deep as this one, it just happened to be what I had on hand. You can grow lettuces in window boxes or in any plant pot or container that you’ve got on hand. Anyone can grow safe clean lettuce…no bugs, no slugs, no digging, no pesticides….no E.Coli!

Yay!

Grow your own people!

P.S. yes, I’ve got lots to tell you about, especially with the bees, just haven’t had time to get pictures organized and a post written, I’ll do that in a just a few days, but this seemed more important, considering…

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This spring has blossomed for us with new ideas and a new direction. Many things have remained the same, our view of the world and how we wish to interact with it is the same; self-sufficiency is important to us, living as green as possible is very important to us, eating and living a vegan lifestyle is important to us. Doing our best to NOT support the “Evil Empire” better known as “big business” is also very important to us. We’re only two people who can’t really hope to make a huge difference in the world, but that’s not the point, we feel that our efforts, in concert with two other people, and two other people and two other people, is what will make the difference so we do all that we can even though things look fairly hopeless sometimes.

Our dreams of being totally self-sufficient I think were a bit too ambitious for us. In our perfect fantasy we would have the most beautiful and prolific garden you can imagine, free of pests and disease, we would make all our own clothes, candles, furniture, etc. We’d only use bikes or public transportation as a means of getting around, we’d power everything with solar energy, we’d barter for everything else we needed, our land and home would be paid off, we’d be free from money and all the problems is causes. Nice dream, isn’t it… But for us it simply isn’t possible. So, we’ve reined in our dream just a bit, into something we can actually achieve. Some people will say, “you’re just giving up!” But I don’t think so, rather we are being realistic; given our age, our level of fitness, our experience and knowledge, given that we have to work full-time jobs, we aren’t left with enough hours in the day, nevermind enough energy, to achieve all we’d like to…We haven’t given up, we’ve simply discovered what is actually possible for us and being totally self-sufficient isn’t one of those things.


So we finally gave in and bought a new car which we hope will last us for many, many, many years. It’s a Twingo, the tiniest most fuel efficient, environmentally friendly (ha!) car we could find. We try to only go through 1 tank of fuel a month which means quite a bit of bike-riding during the week for my husband to and from work. It adds about 1 hour a day to his commuting time, but it also adds fresh air, exercise and beautiful scenery and a peaceful quiet time each morning to just think and enjoy being outdoors without the stress and frustration of traffic jams.

Bees…

We hope this year to increase our bee hives. We’ve had a few rough years where we had weak struggling hives and ended up losing some of them over the previous winter. We never take much honey from our bees even at the best of times, honey isn’t the main goal for us, we mainly just like having the bees here and knowing that they are helping to improve the land around us which is a good thing for the planet in general. But we haven’t harvested honey from our bees at all in the past 2 years trying to give them the time and resources to build themselves up again. I think those efforts have paid off because our two remaining hives came out of this past winter very strong, healthy and hardy. We should see some swarms from them this summer which will give us the opportunity to create more hives. We will probably take a bit of honey (20-30 jars worth) and leave them the rest which will be quite alot.

This is a shot of our two hives taken about 1 month ago, as they are just starting to wake up and become active. We have since added additional boxes to the top of the hives for honey storage. We had to add the boxes much sooner than usual this year as they are collecting so much. :O)

Our plan is to hopefully move the bees into Warre’ style hives  as I have mentioned before, and to increase to as many as 6 hives during this season. We also want to build 2 or 3 Kenya Top-Bar style hives and keep those on the other side of the property under our apple trees. Those will be my hives :O) It should be an easier system for me to work with, with much less heavy lifting and shuffling around of boxes. Both of the systems we will use are in general less intrusive and hands-on so that we don’t have to disturb the bees as often as is necessary with the more common/commercial style bee hives.

One problem is that we have always had trouble catching our swarms because our bees insist on sitting in the highest branches of the tallest trees on our property, there is absolutely no way we can reach them. So this year we are doing a little experiment, we anchored an empty Warre’ hive to the roof of our porch, we’re hoping that maybe a swarm will move into it (not necessarily a swarm from our bees because when bees swarm they instinctively move a greater distance from the mother hive so they will have enough food, but there are also 2-3 other bee keepers in the area so we might possibly attract one of their swarms, just as they might acquire one of our swarms… it all works out in the end  ;O)

You can see the hive up on the roof in this picture. The box behind and slightly above it is a bat house…we love having bats in our area and will be adding more bat houses on our property in the coming years.

We’ve decided that our main focus crop-wise is going to be fruit. Fruit trees and berries. The reason for this is that for one thing, it’s the perfect thing to grow with bees. Another reason is that not as much space is required for the yeild you will get, we don’t have much space here. And another reason is that fruit is so very expensive! We eat alot of fruit over the growing season and around here we are paying 4 euro for a tiny 1 cup container of berries, it’s really quite insane! Vegetable crops require alot more space and effort to actually make a substantial difference and besides the prices are pretty reasonable by comparison, so growing fruit makes the most sense for us.

We will of course grow a few select vegetables in and amongst our future flower beds and in containers, but not many and nothing formal. I’ve decided that I don’t want any straight lines in the yard, no square beds, no straight rows, which carry the feeling of being man-made and controlled. I want a very informal arrangement which doesn’t feel forced or “contrived”, but which feels natural. Lots and lots of flowers and flowering bushes. In short, we’ve decided to create a cottage garden which will be created in such a way that it will become a sanctuary. Not only for us, but for the local wildlife as well, including the insects as well as the birds and animals.The wildlife in our area has a very rough time these days  just as it does most everywhere on the planet with all the farming, building, pollution, hunting and the ever increasing intrusion by man into their habitats…really, they need all the help they can get and it is what I want to spend my energy and space helping them with. I want to do what I can to create a place which helps and doesn’t hinder them. Of course with our limited funds, time and resources, this is going to take years but now that we have a clear goal and vision, we are off to a good start.

Currently we are working on clearing the land of all the garbage that has collected over the years, left by two generations of homeowners who lived here before us. They were anything but kind to the land here and used it as their own personal landfill. It will take alot of work to replenish the soil and just get the place cleared of junk so we can start planting. We rented a huge garbage container this week and are working to fill it. It will probably take 1 or 2 more containers before we’re done. Unfortunately these things aren’t cheap! But we can’t do much until the garbage is gone.

Another goal for this season is to plant the rest of our hedge, it will cost about 500 euro to finish. We started our thorn hedge about 4 years ago but couldn’t finish it until this year. The hedgehogs, birds and other little critters especially love living in thorn hedges. We’re using hawthorn, blackthorn, wild dog rose, wild apple and wild pear plants to create the hedge. The hedge flowers in early spring which is good for our bees since not much else is flowering at that time. It will take about 4 years until it starts looking like a proper hedge.

One of the things I’d like to grow aside from fruit trees and berries is tomatoes which are also quite expensive. I’m experimenting with cherry tomatoes in our veranda this year, tomatoes don’t do very well here without being covered or grown in a greenhouse so I thought they might do well in our south-facing veranda.

Well, this post is getting quite long now so I will wrap it up here. I’ll continue to post on our progress over the season and share pictures with you. I will leave you with this shot of a trellis my husband built the other day. One of the first plants I bought this year was a climbing rose called “Zephirine Drouhin”. No true cottage garden would be complete without a few climbing roses. So we’ve made a beginning! The rose hasn’t been delivered yet, I had to order it,but it should be here and planted by next Monday :O)

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This is a subject that literally leaves me feeling sick inside. It infuriates me, it scares the Hell out of me, it makes me despair for the future of this planet, it leaves me feeling sad and confused as to how and why any sane, rational, caring human being could involve themselves with this. Something has got to be done about this company…

Many countries are resisting, they are banning GMO crops and Monsanto’s products and technology but it still creeps in around the edges. Many countries have tried, but are now losing the battle. Globally, thousands of farmers have had their lives destroyed by this company. Many cultures have lost their native crops, they’ve become ill and have unwittingly become dependent on Monsanto for their very livelihoods.

Hundreds of seed companies are now owned and controlled by this company and thousands of plant varieties are disappearing, never to be seen again. Thousands of people are sick and dying due to illnesses caused by the pesticides, chemicals and animal growth hormones made by this company. Why aren’t more people talking about this? Why aren’t people doing something about it?

I think many people simply don’t know the whole story, don’t realize how serious it is. And what can the average person do about it anyway?

I think that voting with your wallet and your fork, is a step in the right direction. Buying locally grown food from small farms will help, support your local farmer’s markets and CSA programs. Avoid pre-packaged, processed and refined foods, most of them contain GMO ingredients. Avoid fast food restaurants. Prepare more meals at home using fresh, local, whole food ingredients. Cut back on, or better yet, eliminate all meat and dairy products which are full of cancer-causing hormones (not to mention antibiotics and other nasty things). Let your representatives know what you think. Be vocal about it! Stay informed and do your research. If possible, join and support organizations created to fight against this company (see links below). This problem really does affect us all. So assuming that lack of knowledge is the biggest factor, I’m providing a link to this in-depth documentary. Please watch it and spread the word, we can’t continue to sit by and let this happen!

“The World According to Monsanto”
This is part 1 of a 10 part documentary. You can watch the other parts on YouTube, just click on the video screen below. The whole thing is about 90 minutes long, it’s time well spent!

For more information, check out the following links…

Millions Against Monsanto Campaign

The Campaign – Grass Roots Political Action

The MonoCulture of the Mind

Farmers Launch Anti-Trust Lawsuit Against Monsanto

Global Research – Biotechnology and Gmo

Films and Documentaries:

Food, Inc. (at theaters and on DVD)

Food Matters (view online, DVD)

HOME (view online, DVD)

The Future of Food (view online – USA only)

GMO Trilogy – Unnatural Selection (view online)

Seeds of Deception (view online)

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a film by Yann Arthus Bertrand

Just a quick note to tell you about a film that I think is of huge importance and which carries a strong and impacting message for us all. I hope you will take the time to watch it and to consider the message it brings. It is so important to our world, to our way of life and to the future generations who follow…

This movie was made and sponsored so that it could be shared freely and watched by all, so please do!

Here is the trailer…

You can watch the entire film directly from the official website or on YouTube.

Here is the official HOME website:
http://www.home-2009.com

YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqxENMKaeCU



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I’m not sure how well known this show is so I wanted to mention it here  because I think it’s wonderful. Peak Moment Television originates from the west coast of the US. The birth of Peak Moment Television was “in response to awakened Peak Oil awareness” and all the issues surrounding it…Peak Moment Television is a series of “conversations” with local residents and educators which offer “perspectives and initiatives for local self-reliant living in the face of energy, climate, and economic uncertainty.”  It’s a weekly 28 minute show which airs on public access tv. Or you can watch it like I do, on YouTube.

For those of you who want to walk a bit more softly and self-reliantly, and who want to see the words “local” and “community” actually mean something again, I think you will find this show informational and inspiring. I’ve linked to just one episode here, one of my favorites, just to give you a taste of what the show is like.

Peak Moment episode 87: In summer 2006 Judy Alexander embarked on an experiment to see how much food she could grow, and how many neighbors could benefit from the garden around her house. Check out her homegrown rainwater collection and irrigation system – watering her 60+ edible crops. Meet the bees, the chickens and the worms. And catch her joy in producing so much food for so little effort.

If you enjoyed that, you will find another 141 episodes available on YouTube. And here is the Peak Moment main website. And here is Janaia’s Blog. If you’d rather watch this on tv you can check here to find a station and viewing time, in your area.

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birdhouse

We’re finally having a decent winter around here, complete with plenty of snow and cold…REALLY cold weather. It’s been a few years since we had a decent winter. I’ve been making food for the birds this year and they are loving it, we now have quite a large gathering who spend their days in our trees. Mostly we’ve got tits (ok, I know this is going to really increase my traffic but I’m not the one who named them!)

Tits, you know tits like this…

greattit

That one is known as a Great Tit, we have tons of these. We also see some of the smaller Blue Tits although not as many. We get a few European Robins which look like this…

european-robin

Photo by Jens B. Bruun

These are much smaller and more delicate than the North American robin. We’ve got a few pairs of black birds which is why Peer built the nifty bird feeder shown above, they’re too big to eat from the hanging bags of food, but they haven’t gotten the hang of this new bird house yet and still insist on eating the crumbs that the little birds drop on the ground. I worry that a cat will get them…probably my cat…she’s way too good at hunting.

wren-006

We also get a few wrens…These are super cute, but we don’t get very many at all.

great-spotted-woodpecker1

photo by Bill Baston

We even have a Great Spotted Woodpecker who has started hanging out in our elderberry tree. These are pretty rare so it is nice to see him.

Bird Feed Recipe

To make the food, I melt 500gm plant fat, mix in 500gm rolled oats, a cup or so sunflower seeds, some millet mix it up good and then let it all soak in the fat. Stir occasionally as it re-hardens. Then I scoop it into recycled net bags, the kind that onions and lemons come in, tie closed with a long piece of string and hang them from tree branches. The little birds can eat from these but not the larger birds. The birds love this stuff and I end up making at least 2 batches a week.

foodbags

What else am I up too? Well, I’m a bit early I guess, but I’ve started my spring cleaning. Unfortunately, being the Queen of Clutter that I am…this is long overdue and has turned into a major undertaking. But it’s got to be done, our walls are in need of a fresh coat of paint which we’ll be doing sometime in February so first we need to be able to get to the walls! I think I’ve got another 2 weeks of cleaning and de-cluttering before I’m done.

When I’m not cleaning I’m doing alot of knitting and spinning either that or cooking. Peer has been cleaning and melting down wax from the old hive we replaced last summer with a Warre hive. Anyway I  have lots to write about and lots of pictures to show, I’ll try to get caught up during this week.

First of all, I finished my Anemoi mittens…

mittenfinishpair

I love these mittens, the only problem is that the thumb is a wee bit snug, but they are warm and I love the pattern.

mittenfinishhand

I’ve got a blanket, a scarf and a pair of socks on the needles too at the moment but none are anywhere near to being finished. Oops, I just found a pattern for a matching hat to go with my Anemoi mittens. Guess what I’ll be casting on this evening :O)

I got the chance to spin hand-dyed roving for the very first time last week! Yes, it was very exciting! I normally spin plain old white wool, which is still tons of fun, but spinning in color, wow!… it’s so totally mesmerizing. Anyone who knows me and has seen my glass art, knows that these are so MY colors. Learning to dye my own handspun yarn is right at the top of my things to do list.

firstdyedroving

Anyway, I didn’t dye this particular wool myself, I got this from Gale’s Art Fibers on Etsy. She makes gorgeous roving. I made a chunky weight yarn out of it and since I  didn’t  have very much, I needed a small project so and ended up knitting it into another pair of mittens :O)

mittenweekend

The colors are actually alot more intense, every time I photograph these mittens they look washed out. Anyway, they’re cute, warm and comfy.

So, that’s it for today, other topics I’d like to cover this week include: making tofu, cleaning and preparing wax from the hives and maybe a recipe or two if I have the time.

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hummus

Hummus has been around for hundreds, maybe even thousands of years, the history is a bit cloudy on this. It is a common food found in the Mediterranean region and throughout the Middle East. Hummus is a dip or spread made mainly from chickpeas, tahini, lemon and various other seasonings and spices. It has become an indispensable staple here at our house :O)

Hummus is traditionally served as a dip with pita bread and cut veggies or as a side dish with other foods such as falafel. It also makes a fantastic sandwich spread or a great filling for a tortilla wrap.

In the U.S. prepared hummus is sold now in most health food shops and many grocery stores, but you get only a small quantity for a big price. Hummus is super easy and fast to make so there is no reason to buy it unless you are really pressed for time. If you have 10 minutes and a food processor or decent blender, you can make hummus yourself :O)

Note: if you are not familiar with tahini it is a paste made from ground sesame seeds and can be found in health food stores and maybe even in some of the larger grocery stores

Hummus

  • 28 oz. chickpeas (garbanzo beans) drained
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup water
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • handful fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. salt

This works best in a food processor, but a decent quality blender should work too. Basically, you just dump all the ingredients into the processor and process until well blended and smooth. I usually begin with 1/4 cup of the water and add a bit more if the hummus seems to thick. The parsley I cut from the stalk with a pair of scissors. That’s really it…told you it was easy!

Hummus holds for about 5 days in the refrigerator.

hummusplate

My hummus is not 100% traditional, usually there is alot more olive oil involved but who needs the extra fat? But this is how I make it and trust me… it is gooood! I eat hummus at least 5 times a week. On Sundays I make a double batch and send half of it to work with Peer and keep half here at home. The picture above shows a typical lunch for me, although I don’t always have the pita bread since I’m trying to lose weight. Instead I usually have more veggies along with a tangerine or something.  Peer keeps his hummus in the little refrigerator they have at work. On Mondays he buys his veggies and stores them in the work refrigerator also. When it’s time for lunch he cuts up his veggies and he has a really healthy lunch! He usually has a miso soup or cup of instant broth with his lunch as well. Hummus tastes fantastic and it is also really good for you, I hope you’ll give it a try!

Per 1/2 cup serving hummus: Calories 173, fat 6g, cholesterol 0g, sodium 301mg,  carbs 24g,  fiber 5g,  protein 7g

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