Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Day in Review

Getting dressed in our patriotic best.

Lots of snuggling and lovin'.

Catching fireflies to pass the time while waiting for...


Hope everyone had a thrilling and safe 4th of July.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Independence Day

It's amazing what a difference a year can make. Independence Day means something so different to me now than it did the last time it rolled around. Anyone who's been reading this blog knows that I've been participating in Sharon's Independence Days Challenge. For the most part, that challenge is about food independence, but wrapped up and interwoven with that is independence from so much more. When you grow your own food, you're a little less dependent on oil, a little less dependent on others for your health and protection from disease, a little less dependent on the ethical code of others to make sure your food has been properly and humanely treated before slaughter, etc.

All of these things are good for me and my family, and they're all baby steps to help us on our journey to a simpler, more earth friendly, more people friendly, more (w)holistic, more self-sufficient life. But there are things that we don't want to be independent of. We don't want to be independent of our families, our neighbors, our community, our country, the world. Just because I want to grow my own food, produce my own energy, take responsibility for the upbringing of my own children, and reduce my impact on the planet does not mean that I want to close myself off. It does not mean that I want to hide away in my little bit of self-created paradise and chuckle as the world goes down in flames around me. I've heard so many people (including The Husband) voice their fear that growing your own food or reskilling yourself for possible future peril will only mean that you'll be targeted when disaster strikes. People will steal your food, your solar panels, your chickens, your goats, so on and so forth. I don't deny that there are people out there for whom that will be their first impulse, but someone has to be capable and willing to teach others what they need to know, right? I don't need to be free to be FREE. You know what I mean? Eugene V. Debs, American union leader, said it so much better than I can in a 1908 speech:

Now my friends, I am opposed to the system of society in which we live today, not because I lack the natural equipment to do for myself but because I am not satisfied to make myself comfortable knowing that there are thousands of my fellow men who suffer for the barest necessities of life. We were taught under the old ethic that man's business on this earth was to look out for himself. That was the ethic of the jungle; the ethic of the wild beast. Take care of yourself, no matter what may become of your fellow man. Thousands of years ago the question was asked; ''Am I my brother's keeper?'' That question has never yet been answered in a way that is satisfactory to civilized society.

Yes, I am my brother's keeper. I am under a moral obligation to him that is inspired, not by any maudlin sentimentality but by the higher duty I owe myself. What would you think me if I were capable of seating myself at a table and gorging myself with food and saw about me the children of my fellow beings starving to death.

Seek independence from those things which weigh you down, friends, but don't forget to take someone along with you...

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Book Review: Heirloom Vegetable Gardening by William Woys Weaver

You'll notice that, though I only first read this book a few weeks ago during the family illness, it's already made it into my sidebar as one of my favorite gardening books. I could NOT put it down, and I kept it for as long as the library allowed so that I could keep going back to it again and again.

The book starts off with a discussion of the kitchen garden and its unique place in American history. It's interesting to note the differences in this account if you're used to reading about kitchen gardens in France or England. Much of the information on how various seed varieties came to be was entertaining and insightful. There is also a chapter discussing the place of the heirloom vegetable in today's society, which will be nothing new to those of you who are already growing or have an interest in growing heirloom vegetables. It is vital that we keep this diverse mix of seeds going if we are to keep ourselves and our planet healthy, and Weaver makes it clear why.

The portion of the book that really interested me, though, was titled "A Grower's Guide to Selected Heirloom Vegetables." In this section, Weaver discusses a variety of heirloom plants individually. Each group of plants is preceded by a discussion of the family throughout history (i.e., asparagus, beans, etc.), then the author dives right into discussions of his selected varieties, including history of cultivation, historical uses, and even some historical recipes. For example, did you know that cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) can be used in place of rennet in cheesemaking? Useful information for the homesteader, eh? :)

If you love garden history, I highly recommend this book. It's on my Amazon wishlist now... :)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Renewable Energy Certificates

My head is freakin' spinning. Here I am, trying to find out a way to get our home hooked up to some honest to goodness green energy, and I find that our electric company, AEP Ohio, has a "Green Pricing Option." Hmm. What exactly does that entail, I wonder? The answer is: Renewable Energy Certificates, or REC's.

I'd never heard of REC's before, so I started doing some research. Enter head spinning.

My first question was, obviously, what the hell is a Renewable Energy Certificate? The short answer is that an REC is a piece of paper certifying that one megawatt of renewable energy has been produced by a renewable energy generator (such as a wind turbine, solar panel, etc.). The REC's are sold to individual buyers or companies, such as AEP.

So, is AEP producing this energy? In other words, where did AEP get the certificates? According to their website, they purchased 50,000 REC's through a "competitive bidding process" and are reselling them to their customers at a premium of $0.70 more than the customer's normal electricity bill. As I see it, this means that the customer is paying $0.70 more just to tell AEP that they want renewable energy. Nothing wrong with that. If the customers snatch up these rebundled 100 kW blocks that AEP is selling, AEP will be encouraged to continue to buy more, right? AEP plans currently to end the REC program in December 2008 (or sooner if all 100 kW blocks are bought up).

Doesn't this mean, though, that YOU the purchaser aren't actually getting the renewable energy? You're really just supporting it's use on the AEP grid, right? I'm still trying to figure this out.

The other question is, what kind of renewable energy is AEP buying with these certificates? The answer in this case is landfill gas. LANDFILL GAS!? Are you kidding me!? THAT'S my "renewable energy" option? Um, I don't want that stuff renewed, first of all. Second, doesn't it have toxins? Third, isn't that stuff nasty dirty to produce? Good god. I don't want to pay for that.

Or do I? Is it more important to get the ball rolling by supporting AEP's effort to provide alternative energy sources to its customers, or is it more important to make sure that AEP gets it right... right now?

*sigh* Time to look into solar panels before Strickland's repeal of the Residential Renewable Energy Grant...

Airius's Day

WARNING: If you are easily offended by the honest, forthright proclamations of children under the age of 5, please read no further.

Dead robins and children at the UN crying for environmental change have made this blog a little darker than intended lately, so I thought I'd lighten things up a bit with some tidbits for my favorite comedian-- Airius. This blog's also been quite Annie heavy, since she's the one interested in the same things as Mommy, so today is Airius's day. Enjoy.

I suppose I should start with the picture that accompanies this post. That's my son playing the recorder... with his nose. We'd picked that little instrument up at the thrift store, and the twins were going back and forth with it all day. Yes, for all you germaphobes out there, I did make sure it had been washed well. Anyway, suddenly Airius grabs the thing from his sister and says, "I bet I can blow it with my nose!" And he did.

My "simple living" includes not buying new toys (especially plastic ones) for the kids all the time, but The Husband doesn't agree with my philosophy. So, enter the new toy. *sigh* The funny part is that Airius CANNOT say "Ratchet" to save his life and has dubbed him "Radish" instead. Because his legs look like radishes, according to my son.

Ever heard the story of Gromer Somer Joure? This was our bedtime story the other night. Um, yeah, it's a house dominated by girls. Anyway, after the story's done, Airius looks at me and says, "I wouldn't kiss no old hag!" I think you missed the point son. :)

Airius walks out of the bathroom the other day, looks lovingly at The Husband, and says, "Dad, my penis is my best friend."

I have to end with Airius's standby joke. When all else fails... "What do you get with tartar sauce and tartar sauce?"

Wait for it...


Thank you, son, for all the times you make my side split with laughter.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Monday, June 30, 2008

What's Blooming in my Garden: June 30, 2008

Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin volunteer (last year's pumpkins exploded in a dreadful lightening storm).

Echinacea purpurea, nursed from seed last year and standing about 4ft high this year.

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum), which managed to survive the winter under a thick layer of maple leaves. Too bad I don't care for parsley.

Asiatic lily (Lilium spp.), planted by a previous owner, and forgotten amidst a plethora of prickly pear cactus and weeds.

Oh, Dear Robin!

Thank you for all the hours of joy you brought me. Thank you for sitting nearby, unafraid, as I ripped up grass and tossed grubs into your beak. Thank you for the splendour of your song, that first view of you that helped to usher in my sense of spring, for your courage when faced with my rambunctious and curious children. Thank you for reminding me of home.

Onward, friend. Fly in beauty as your body rests in a forest of buckwheat.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Independence Days Challenge-- Week 4

1. Planted: Nothing. It's rained every single day this week...

2. Harvest something: Just a few raspberries and blueberries.

3. Preserve something: Nothing.

4. Prep something: Nothing.

5. Cook something: Nothing new.

6. Manage your reserves: Weeding, weeding, and more weeding.

7. Work on local food systems: Nope.

8. Reduce waste: Nothing beyond the ordinary composting, eBaying, and Freecycling.

9. Learn a new skill: Nothing.