Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Confessions of a Pale Green Environmentalist

  • I drive a gas-powered vehicle. My next car is likely to be gas-driven. I don't like it, but I don't think hybrids are the right answer. This hypothetical next car will get 17% better gas mileage than my current mini-van. I'm not sure why 17%, but I read somewhere that if everyone improved their gas mileage 17% something magical, mystical, and all together wonderful would happen. I forget what, but the number stuck with me, so I'm sticking with it. Honda Civics beat the mileage of a Prius, so that might be my choice. We'll see. Although I do like Honda CRV and Pilot. I seem to be fixated on Hondas. A new driver in the family will probably be the driving (hah!) force behind the acquisition of a new car. And Ben turns 15 in July, old enough to get his permit. No trepidation here, only dreams of liberation from half of my chauffeuring responsibilities, plus a little relief in the errand category.
  • I don't recycle as much as I could. They don't recycle glass in our town and there are some limits on the plastics. I could save these up and take them in to Springfield, but then that would be a trip in the car, gas, pollution, etc. I don't recycle the paper from my shredder. Having just discovered I can line my shredder with a plastic bag and save a bunch of mess and hassle (I'm a slow learner!), I'm not willing to dump it out into something recyclable. We do recycle far more than our neighbors, using three bins where every one else uses one. Or maybe we consume more.
  • I bring my own bags to the store and I never see anyone else doing this, but then I don't live in California, Massachusetts, Colorado, or Vermont, or any college town.
  • I belong to a CSA and get my organically grown veggies, meats, and eggs from them. I like them (the people and the products) and feel it is the right thing to do -- locally grown, support the local farmer, understand food production, eliminate the middle man and transportation costs, etc. I have also boiled caterpillars, eaten "lacy" vegetables, and I have learned to eat things I would never otherwise have tried. Have you ever had kohlrabi? How often do you eat turnips? What do you do with Daikon radish? And what are those mysterious greens?
  • Nearly all of the almost 200 light bulbs in my home are fluorescent, but I never unplug appliances unless I'm afraid an electric storm is going to blow them out.
  • I tend to buy organic goods at the store (flour, sugar, chicken broth, etc.) But, I also buy Eggos, frozen pizzas, Spaghetti-O's and highly fructosed breakfast cereals.
  • I can't bring myself to use raw milk. It's available, but I just can't get over childhood memories of milk-borne TB.
  • I use free-cycle to get rid of stuff I don't want. Or I have a garage sale, or I call the scrap metal folks. I am honestly trying to shed (and shred) stuff and the need for stuff -- to teach the kids to live more simply.
What else should I do? What do you do?

When Life Gives You a Heat Wave -- Make Lemonade!

The Millsap girls turned the heat wave into a business opportunity and sold lemonade garnished with mint leaves for 50 cents a glass, refills were free. Five of the seven girls were involved in the enterprise and it was doing very well. The cup near the center of the table is packed with dollar bills -- the astute business women took advantage of the fact that Tuesday afternoons are share pickup days, so a steady stream of traffic and nearly captive customers are guaranteed--95 degree heat with a heat index of 105 also gave business a boost.

Here's yesterday's share, embraced by a "seedless" (not!) horseshoe-shaped cucumber. I sliced it into sour cream and onions along with some of the dill, but Cinder got to the bowl before I did. Fortunately, a two-foot long cucumber lasts for several meals.

Behind the veggies is my market basket -- a product of a women's micro-loan funded business in Ghana. I find it very versatile as well as good-looking and it was a bargain at $16 (marked $26, but I had a $10 coupon).

Cinder chewed up another shoe yesterday. He's three and a half years old -- I guess he's never going to settle down. Oreo has mellowed into a very manageable sweet pet (except she bolts out the front door every chance she gets and runs like the wind).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Do You Have An Appointment?

Oh yes, indeed, we have many appointments.

  • Get the car serviced
  • Service sewing machines -- 2 machines, 2 different shops
  • Shots, flea stuff, heart worm meds for the dogs
  • Grooming for Oreo
  • Haircuts for Ben, Logan, and Grandma
  • Pedicure for Grandma
  • Dental appointments for Ben and Logan
  • Follow up dental for Ben's fillings
  • Orthodontist for Logan
  • Eye Exams for Ben and Logan
  • Follow up with Eye Surgeon for Grandma
  • Labs for monitoring Grandma's statin drug
  • Audiology for Grandma
  • Mammogram for Grandma
  • Sports physicals for Ben and Logan
And that's all just routine maintenance -- wonder if I forgot something? How did you spend your summer vacation?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Keepin' Cool

Smallin's Cave, right here in our town, is a big-mouthed cave. One of the biggest. You have to go more than 500 feet into the cave before it gets pitch dark and the temperature reaches typical cave temperature of 58 degrees because so much light and heat come in through the entrance. Discovered by white men (actually, white man, Henry Schoolcroft) in 1818, it's been used by Native Americans for centuries. Not a lot of archeological or paleontological work has been done on it, so there are lots of opportunities for discovery. And Ben would love to make them!

By contrast, this modern "cave," is very warm these days -- around 120 degrees. We put in our "work share" at the farm last weekend. Letting Ben and Logan experience food production first hand is a greater benefit than the vegetables we pick up every two weeks.

This weekend is Rachel's graduation -- expect pictures. I'm very proud of her -- she has shown great perseverance in getting her bachelor's degree.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Old Dog, New Trick

Yesterday I tackled a new skill. I learned to use this long arm quilting machine. It is a Gammill machine with a Statler Stitcher and costs about $30,000. I'm not going to buy one anytime in the near (or distant) future. However, I can rent it for $20 an hour and it took me two hours to quilt the top below. If I had paid someone else to quilt it, I would have paid about 2 cents a square inch (the quilt below measures 74 by 68 and would have cost $100). Other alternatives include quilting by hand or on my home machine for no cash outlay, but lots of time and effort.
BTW, I'm in the process of making a quilt just like the one on the right in the background of this picture.

This is the finished product and if you click on the photo, you can see an enlarged image and see the quilting stitches.

Or maybe you can make them out on the back.

I intended this quilt to be a birthday gift for Ben (d0n't tell) because I want each of us to have a quilt we can wrap up in when we sit around the living room reading or watching TV. Only trouble is, Logan loves the quilt and keeps asking me if he can't have it to cuddle in, while Ben has shown very little interest in it (or any of the others I make).

Friday, June 11, 2010

Summer, so far

Logan's favorite summer activity is cuddling with the dogs. He wishes he had four more! When he's not doing this, he's swimming, playing basketball, playing stupid video games or working on Grandma's chore list. We've cleared out a lot of junk the past couple of weeks through garage sales, donations, and trash hauling. I should say we got rid of lots of stuff, but our lives and house don't seem to be any less cluttered. Health maintenance takes a lot of time, too. We've done sports physicals, the dentist, orthodontist and still have the eye doctor to see.

CSA Summer bounty is underway and I love it. I like picking up my share of fresh veggies and then planning our menus around the harvest. Many of these goodies are best prepared in a plain and simple way. We had the squash last night with fish fillets, organic brown rice, and green salad. I'll use the broccoli tonight with potatoes roasted along with Millsap farm chicken served with raspberry balsamic sauce (raspberries fresh from our garden). Later in the week we'll have Kohlrabi slaw and I've already made a fabulous Caesar salad with the lettuce. I saved the liquid from a jar of Klausen's dills and will use it to dress the cucumber. The turnips are the mild Japanese turnips and I like them sliced and fried up with onions, tossing in some greens to wilt just before serving. Buried in the pile is the first harvest of Tat Soi, a veggie I never encountered until we joined the CSA. It's kind of spoon shaped and rather like Bok Choy in taste but more delicate in texture. I like it just steamed or stirred into rice.

Tomorrow is our work day at the farm. I'm a hot weather wimp, so I hope it won't be too hot and humid.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Undulatus Asperatus

These photos of local cloud formations were taken yesterday morning by Georgia Douglas, a member of our church and also a member of the "Tables for Eight" group I belong to. According to Georgia, "It turns out that these may qualify for a new form of cloud - last time was 1951! The new name will be Undulatus Asperatus - isn't God AWESOME!!!"

I was out driving at the time, observed the clouds and wished I had a camera. The first person I saw after that greeted me with, "Did you see the sky?"

Please do not copy or distribute these photos without permission from Georgia -- I can put you in touch with her if you like.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Early Harvest

Raspberries are the first thing to ripen in our garden. Maybe because we haven't planted anything else -- don't want to rush, what if we get a late season frost? Ben has been carefully collecting these beauties for several days and yesterday we had the required 1-1/2 cups so that I could make muffins. Here's the recipe:

Plant a berry bush (from Baker's Seed Farm in Marshfield)
Wait three years
Pick berries as they ripen and save up till you have 1-1/2 cups

Serves 12 Hands-On Time: 15m Total Time: 45m


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (Rumford's aluminum=free)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries


  1. Heat oven to 400° F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners or coat it with cooking spray, vegetable oil, or butter.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine 1 3/4 cups of the flour, 1/2 cup of the sugar, the baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and combine. In a second bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and vanilla. Gradually add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined; the batter will be lumpy. Toss the berries with the remaining flour in a bowl. Gently fold the berry mixture into the batter.
  3. Fill each muffin cup 3/4 full. Sprinkle the batter with the remaining sugar. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Serve warm.
But, that's not how I do it -- I just dump everything into the bowl, except the berries and stir with a whisk until well mixed then gently toss the berries into the batter.

And there's a ton of raspberries on the vine -- I'll need more recipes!