Supreme Debate

According to NPR’s Update the Conservative Contingent seems to be reveling in their ability to belittle some Attorney General’s, but one wonders how much of this is the typical Supreme Court routine, and how much is actually the Justice’s opinions. I am still stunned that individuals of such high intelligence are actually arguing in a manner of my 4 yr old’s favorite tactic “Bird isn’t doing it so I won’t either”. We are talking about the fate of Manhattan here, not eating your celeriac. It would be almost funny if it weren’t so bloody important.

Future on Trial

Here is a story from NPR and something to keep your fingers crossed for today. The Supreme Court is hearing the case where a dozen states are suing The Federal Government for not upholding the clean air act.

This one could be big for several reasons. Like ruling whether CO2 is a pollutant or not. Looks like a main argument from the defense is that “Co2 is natural and necessary for life-it simply can’t be a pollutant!”

That is like saying Hemlock is a plant, and therefore can’t really hurt you…

Winter Reading

So we are heading into the Big Chill. The gardens are calming down. Hopes of topping 100mpg are to be shelved until late spring’s mild temperatures return. Time to hunker down and do some Big Reading. Mia was concerned that I may be maxing out the hard drive between my ears, but then I reminded her all I have forgotten about turbo chargers, automotive suspension dynamics and tire tread compounds and she felt a little better.

Here is the current Winter Reading Interest List for 2006-7:

Deep Mulch Gardening
Currently en route through Amazon are Ruth Stout’s classic The No-Work Garden Book, who by some accounts is the American equivalent of Japan’s Fukuoka, a folk hero of mine. For a more modern take I also have Lee Reich’s Weedless Gardening coming and the library is tracking down Patricia Lanza’s Lasagna Gardening. I also intend to read F. H. King’s Farmers of 40 centuries. Tracking 4000 years of organic farming should take care of some of my hubris. Finally J.E.B’ Maunsell’s Natural Gardening looks to be a must read if I can find it. I am making Big Plans to No Till my gardens next year, which begs the question on why I am buying forged hoes and shovels imported from Europe… Once a tool guy always a tool guy I guess.

Permaculture
I have really only read 3 or 4 works on Permaculture, and only one by the founders. The fact that I have yet to read anything by Bill Mollison is shameful and needs remedying. So from his works I look to read An Introduction to Permaculture, and then move onto Smart Permaculture Design and if I fall backwards into a giant pile of money I will source the Big One: Permaculture: A Designers Manual.

Sustainable Landscaping
Seeing as I will be charging for this next year, I should really bone up some more. Near the top of the list will be Gayle Weinstein Xeriscape Handbook, followed by Sally Roth’s Natural Landscaping. Others will certainly pop up, it seems that every book I read leads to three more “must reads”.

Composting
This should be easy- I made 2 cu yards last year. But I plan on hosting classes in both my Village and our Unitarian Church in 2007 so I should really become more of an expert. Rodale’s Book of Composting is the standard and again is en route. I will also be fabbing up several styles of bins ranging from my preferred uber simple wire fence $10 model to more socially acceptable cedar models in both one and 3 bin versions. Amazon rocks-I have 4 books coming and am only out $20 including shipping!

Well I think that these 2800 pages will be a good start seeing as I will doubtless read the seed catalogs from Seed Savers Exchange and Johnny’s Seeds about 4 dozen times each by February.

Are all gardeners this psychotic? No need to answer that…

Green Local Business

This past month a young couple opened a small natural foods store, named Wholesome Harvest, in the town just south of us. Their premise is simple-to provide whole organic foods, leaning towards local when possible, at reasonable prices. That last piece is no joke. I had expected ,and been willing, to pay10-20% more than I do at Whole Foods due to the economies of scale, but their prices on organic stone ground flours, and most canned veggies (not much fresh here right now) were actually lower. When I commented on this, they responded that they aren’t trying to get rich, just wanting to provide nutritional foods to rural customers. Come Spring they will be using the store to market their produce from the 7 acres they farm. Nice! Until then they market a wide selection of local grass fed meats, and literally the best grass fed eggs I have seen. Stables like flour, peanut butter, and canned veggies-all organic are also available.

We got to talking, and they ended up purchasing a rain barrel for a Christmas present. Also, they have access to agricultural equipment, and expressed interest in assisting if I ever am asked to do large scale prairie restoration thru our Someday Gardens business. We will also be talking more about using their store as a retail outlet for my rainbarrels, with perhaps a model of each on hand. Their location is great. Literally on the other side of the block is the Organic Feed Store that supplies seed and sundries to the growing organic farming contingent.

I am freaky excited that I am seeing exactly what I hoped to-Green Small Business as a driver for rural growth. And it is doing so through cottage industries-all three of these businesses are offshoots of other enterprises: a large farm, a small vegetable farm, and a hobby. They are not the main income source for the families, but provide supplemental benefits. Truth be told the ability to source staples at wholesale prices, or in my case, provide a venue to upgrade to trailers and better tools, is a real economic driver behind all of these start-ups. But now the Feed Store has grown enough that they are hiring their first outside employee, thereby generating more impact into the economy. And given the growth that Wholesome Harvest is seeing on zero marketing budget in the past month they will need help soon. I am not sure Someday Gardens will ever get that big, but subcontracting out to local farmers for tractor use and mulches definitely won’t hurt things.

It’s working.

Sustainablity Library

I had the last week off. That means in addition to spending an awesome amount of time with family I also read too much-including 2-3 books on how “you too can farm!”. And we aren’t there yet, so to it had the end result of ramming me into a funk. I cruised BCS tractors (I would go with the 732 modified for diesel from Earthtools), priced soil block makers and wheel hoes on Johnny’s Seeds with my brain running 150mph the entire time on how we can do this!… But then I grounded myself. I am not ready to farm. For starters I am clueless in regards to hands one knowledge, and more importantly I have a huge backyard that I need to fully utilize before I go out renting land. So since I can’t do much other than look at seed catalogs right now I focused on my Sustainability Library recommendations. Here is the list so far:

Green Building
Green Remodeling: Changing the World One Room at a Time, David R. Johnson, Kim Master
The New Ecological Home: A Complete Guide to Green Building Options, Dan Chiras

Green Living
It’s Easy Being Green: A Handbook for Earth-Friendly Living, Chrissy Trask
Timeless Simplicity, John Lane
The Integral Urban House, Farallones Institue

Civil Engineering
Toward Sustainable Communities: Resources for Citizens and Their Governments, Mark Roseland
Food Not Lawns, H. C. Flores
Edens Lost and Found, Harry Wiland and Dale Bell
The Natural Step for Communities, Sarah James

Agriculture/Gardening
Gaia’s Garden, Toby Hemmenway
Successful Small-Scale Farming: An Organic Approach
Five Acres and Independence by Maurice G. Kains
Introduction to Permaculture by Bill Mollison
PERMACULTURE: A Designers’ Manual by Bill Mollison and Reny Mia Slay
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands Vol 1, Brad Lancaster
Family Friendly Farming, Joel Salatin
The Contrary Farmer & Living at Nature’s Pace, Gene Logdson
The New Organic Grower & Four Season Harvest, Elliot Coleman

Sustainability
Natural Capitalism, Paul Hawken/Amory Leins/L. Hunter Lovins
Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability by David Holmgren
Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action, J. Matthew Sleeth, MD
Dr. Art’s Guide to Planet Earth, Art Sussman Ph D.
Mid-Course Correction, Ray Anderson
Plan B 2.0, Lester R. Brown
State of the World 2006, The Worldwatch Institute
An Inconvient Truth, Al Gore

This list is by no means complete-I mostly just browsed Chelsea Green’s publications for their less fringe books, and then typed them into Amazon to see their suggested readings. This list is very incomplete, but I am trying for accessibility to the average citizen and also to bridge a variety of disciplines to reach more people.

I am meeting with the librarians on Tuesday-again any suggestions are appreciated!

Thanksgiving

As you prepare the Turkey and perhaps watch some ball, it might pay to take a brief visit to global rich list. I am embarrassed to say that I am in the top 1% of the richest people in the world. We are truly blessed.The kicker is that with great power comes great responsibility. I can either use my wealth to continue farting up the world, or leverage that power to create sustainable change.

 

Be the Change!

Back in the Saddle

62.5

Not a number I think of much, but given the fact that it represents the miles per gallon on the trip home with my refurbished and beloved Insight I am elated to see it shining back at me from the dash. It was also literally double the number that the rental Chevy HHR put up on the same trip.

As a refresh, over 3 weeks ago a field mouse had eaten thru much of the engine harness on the Insight, taking out a fuel injector in the mix. That little rodent ended up causing over $3000 worth of damage-even with used parts. The wiring harness was toast, so that was replaced. When it was all hooked up it became apparent that the ECU unit had shorted. Another week to source one, and then after that was in and we discovered that the bad ECU had sent enough nastiness thru the system to fry the first catalytic converter. The first 2 repairs were under my comprehensive insurance (thanks State Farm!) and the third was under my Honda Certified Warranty. Let it not be said the hybrid caused the 3 week turn around-each part had to be approved by the insurance-adding 4-5 days each time.

Of course the battery was dead when I picked it up, but once it was recharged (20 miles under light charging) it appears to be running smoother than ever. Like 110mpg around town in 4th gear, and a steady 75mpg while accelerating up the very slight incline in town.

It’s good to be back!

Pizza Perfect

Tonight I feel we finally drove the stake through the heart of the plaintive “organic is tooooo expensive” argument. The picture above was dinner tonight. The photo is grainy, and jaundiced (10 yr old digital camera) but it shows a roughly $1.73 100% organic pizza. Making it simultaneously the least expensive and, perhaps, best tasting pizza I have ever had.

But before you get freaky excited, there is a price, though again not so steep: Time. This was all from scratch (OK I bought premade cheese and sauce) From the time the water hit the bowl to pizza on the table was about 2.5 hours. That is no Dominoes, but in the down time while the crust rose I was able to read 60 pages of Eliot Coleman’s The New Organic Grower, play with the kids, and help cube up fresh-made sour dough bread for Thanksgiving’s stuffing. Not too shabby. Actual prep time was about 40 minutes.

But back to that $1.73 number:
3 cups organic flour ($.60)
1/2 can of Muir Glen Pizza Sauce ($1.15)
1/8 Bag Org. Spinach ($.60)
1/5 pound of a brick of some local Org Mozzarella ($1.00)

Plus some water, a pinch of yeast, 2 tbsp olive oil and some corn meal but those are almost free.
This made 2 pizza’s-and as the crust was about 1″ thick with real whole grains I ate about 1/2 as much as normal so we have lunch premade for tomorrow. Glazing the crust with olive oil made the entire pizza divine!

Comparable pizza’s would have been $8 each. But they aren’t organic, or as good, and my kids can’t help knead the dough!

Eco Municipality Update

So here are some of the latest and greatest for our little Village as it becomes more Green.

1) Stormwater. We will be submitting a request for proposals to implement our Water Resource Management Plan now that we have secured the grant. This would be a Drainage Plan in other communities, but we are looking to treat our water not as a problem to send downstream, but as a resource that is absolutely vital to everything from, well, living, to commercial enterprises as varied as agriculture, textiles, and your local car wash. One of the coolest things that we want to see come out of this is the installation of a Stormwater Utility. That’s right, we will be taxing runoff as well as sewer. You put up a big Discount Retail store and a 1000 car parking lot and you will be helping us monthly to readjust our watershed to compensate. Or you can install permeable paving, percolation rich detention ponds, and a green roof and you might even get a monthly credit. Same goes for residential. Money talks. Think carbon credits but on a storm sewer level.

2) Community Gardens. I had this added for next month after I became aware that we have 16 acres of what will be a future park rented out to a local farmer. I will be presenting a plant to see about 2-4 of those acres split off into 1/8 acre chunks for the whopping sum of $25/yr to anyone who wants more land. Revenue will go to our Green Committee, and any remaining land that is unused would be donated to the local Master Gardeners who would run a market garden on it to support charities. This would also give us a nice venue for holding regular seminars on things such as composting, organic/biointensive gardening, mulching, xeriscaping, etc. for public education. Biggest concern is that no one is interested in a market garden as 95% of our community has a large backyard. Still if even 5 signed up this would be a win.

3) Sustainability Library. I have posted before that I am concerned that we need to educate our community more on Sustainability issues if we are to Succeed as a Eco Municipality. To that end I will be meeting with our Librarian next week to discuss the feasibility of creating a library section of cross discipline books to help our community learn more about the problems and more importantly the solutions. Hoping to start with at least 20 volumes and have it grow to 100+. With our library being so small, even a small display gets noticed in a hurry so this could generate some buzz.

So here is a homework assignment for my faithful readers:

Post a comment with some of your favorite books on Sustainability. Books that gave you an “Aha!” Books that you talked about with family or co-workers. Books that made you change.
I will then do my best to get them into our library.

Human all too Human

A humorous piece on the insanity of Suburban lawns, brought to you by the Scythe Supply.

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