Monday, August 27, 2007

One Local Summer - Week of 8/19/2007

Despite our huge haul at the Farmer's Market - the chaos at our house has continued, in the form of chicken pox, goat sales, medical bills, car repairs, preschool orientation - but I digress. Despite the huge haul, we've had trouble putting it all together into a coherent meal for One Local Summer. So we weren't as local or as timely as we might have been.

Tonight's dinner was bratwurst and grilled vegetables over (local!) charcoal in the R2BQ.

Bratwurst (VanMeter Farm - 57 miles)
Zucchini (Ross county, 20 miles)
Bell peppers (Ross county, 20 miles)
Onions (Ross county, 20 miles)
Delicata squash (The garden, 0 miles)
Beer (Eliot Ness Amber Lager, Great Lakes Brewing, 169 miles)
Non-local ingredients: Buns, mustard, oil, thyme, cheap beer for simmering

If we were cooler, we'd have baked some buns, I'd have remembered that there actually was thyme in the herb garden, and I would have tracked down one of my favorite beers (and local to boot) from Columbus Brewing Company. (I can't seem to find Columbus Pale Ale in the neighborhood establishments). I would have also grilled those veggies for a bit longer. Some of them were still crisper than I would have preferred.

Even so, it was a good meal. The Delicata squash that I kept hearing about was quite good. Probably my favorite winter squash so far. The brats were as tasty as expected. And the beer was excellent as well.

Not bad for another time-crunched dinner window.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Late Summer's Bounty

A beautiful morning to go to the Farmer's Market...

Oops. I guess we can't go to that market any more...

What, we can't grow melons in Ohio?

Couldn't I just go to Kroger for those?


This morning at our local-only farm market, we picked up zucchini, bell peppers, garlic, two kinds of apples, a jug of cider, nectarines, raspberries, beef soup bones, bratwurst, a dozen croissants, sweet tea, a couple cookies, and a hunk of provolone cheese. I missed the last caramel apple pie by mere seconds -- for the second week in a row. We'll have to get up earlier next time I guess.



Friday, August 24, 2007

Energy Saving Tip: Yeah, the Lightbulbs

Wait, wait... I know you already know this: replacing incandescent bulbs (or especially halogen lights) with compact fluorescents will make a noticeable impact on your electric bill. Rather than beat a dead horse, I have what I hope are a few thoughts you may or may not have run across already.

First I want to address the two biggest complaints with compact fluorescent bulbs - light quality, and mercury content.

The simple answer to the light quality question is that you get used to it - just like you have at the grocery store, the doctor's office, the school, your workplace, and almost any other public building or place of business. The fact is that we're exposed to fluorescent lighting almost everywhere we go, and we don't even notice. Even many of our own kitchens have fluorescent lighting already. Why? So you can see what you're doing better.

Even so, you can get fluorescent bulbs that are "tuned" to a certain part of the light spectrum to simulate different tastes. You'll see them labeled as "warm", "cool" or "full spectrum". If it's been several years since you last bought one, you might be surprised. I've actually challenged visitors to guess which lights are incandescent and which are not, and they've not been able to figure it out.

As far as the mercury issue goes, keep in mind that a coal burning power plants emit mercury, and the mercury in the CF bulb is more than canceled out by the reduced electricity required (and thus the reduced mercury emissions). According to this article in Popular Mechanics:
In 2006, coal-fired power plants produced 1,971 billion kilowatt hours (kwh) of electricity, emitting 50.7 tons of mercury into the air—the equivalent amount of mercury contained in more than 9 billion CFLs (the bulbs emit zero mercury when in use or being handled).

[ ...
] Over the 7500-hour average range of one CFL, then, a plant will emit 13.16 mg of mercury to sustain a 75-watt incandescent bulb but only 3.51 mg of mercury to sustain a 20-watt CFL (the lightning equivalent of a 75-watt traditional bulb). Even if the mercury contained in a CFL was directly released into the atmosphere, an incandescent would still contribute 4.65 more milligrams of mercury into the environment over its lifetime.
Compact fluorescents have the additional advantage that the mercury is contained in an easily recycleable bulb, rather than released into the atmosphere. For information on CF bulb recycling, check this EPA web site. If you break one and need to clean it up, the EPA has this advice:
How should I clean up a broken fluorescent bulb?
The following steps can be performed by the general public:
  1. Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.

  2. Carefully scoop up the fragments and powder with stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a sealed plastic bag.
    • Use disposable rubber gloves, if available (i.e., do not use bare hands). Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes and place them in the plastic bag.
    • Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.

  3. Place all cleanup materials in a second sealed plastic bag.
    • Place the first bag in a second sealed plastic bag and put it in the outdoor trash container or in another outdoor protected area for the next normal trash disposal.
    • Note: some states prohibit such trash disposal and require that broken and unbroken lamps be taken to a local recycling center.
    • Wash your hands after disposing of the bag.
  4. If a fluorescent bulb breaks on a rug or carpet:
    • First, remove all materials you can without using a vacuum cleaner, following the steps above. Sticky tape (such as duct tape) can be used to pick up small pieces and powder.
    • If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken, remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister) and put the bag or vacuum debris in two sealed plastic bags in the outdoor trash or protected outdoor location for normal disposal.
So now that that's out of the way, let me give you a few other thoughts. First, consider whether there are any areas that have too many light bulbs. Our bathroom light fixture had six 75-watt bulbs! After a bit of experimenting, we found that three was just about right, so the rest are partially unscrewed, acting as conveniently stored replacement bulbs. It seemed dark at first, but now if I screw them all back in, it seems uncomfortably bright. Instead of 450 watts in that room, we're down to 39 watts. If you're watching closely, you may have noticed that we also didn't replace 75-watt bulbs with 75-watt equivalents (18 watts). We stepped down even further to a 60-watt equivalent (13 watts), and did just fine. Buy some different kinds and see what works best for you.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that if you just replace the four or five most commonly used bulbs, you'll be saving a lot. But at least in our house, we continued to see savings even after a dozen or more bulbs were replaced. And if you accidentally leave a bare bulb on in the far reaches of your basement, better that it be a CF bulb too.

There are a lot of different styles of bulbs available now, so if you have any dimmable or exposed decorative bulbs, chances are you can find a good fluorescent fit. And if you feel like you've changed almost everything over, don't forget those stealth bulbs - the one over the stove, the desk lamp, in the closet, etc.

You certainly don't have to replace them all at once. I'd just buy a three-pack of whichever bulb type I needed whenever I happened to be in a store that was selling them. Once I'd used up a pack, I'd pick up another the next time I was out. That also helped spread out the cost. They're not always cheap, but they last 7 to 10 times longer than incandescents, so I promise you'll come out ahead.

It took several months before the last incandescents were out, but as far as I know, there are only three left in our house. One in the attic and one in a crawlspace - both are hard to get to and never used. And one in our ceiling fan because one of the two sockets consistently flickers with a CF bulb. I'm not sure why.

So how much will CF bulbs save? Depending on your usage, probably somewhere around 100 - 150 kWh per month, and about one ton of CO2 emmissions, and 20 pounds of sulfer oxides over the course of a year.

No more excuses. Get to it.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

One Local Summer - Week of 8/12/2007

It's a little late, but here is last week's local meal:

Country-Fried Steak with Cream Gravy
Beef cubed steaks from Buckskin Valley Farms, Greenfield, OH (36 mi.)
Whole wheat flour from a local supplier [but where? E4, can you help?]
Egg from our hens (0 mi.)
Onion and garlic from Ross Co. farmers (20-30 mi.)
Also - non-local flour (I used 1/3 local whole wheat, 2/3 all-purpose for the dredge), salt, pepper, baking powder, baking soda, thyme, oil, buttermilk, chicken broth and milk. It's too bad I didn't have it together enough to use local supplies for the buttermilk, chicken broth and milk, but... I didn't.

Mashed Turnips
Turnips from our garden (0 mi.)
Non-local butter, salt and pepper

Sauteed Summer Squash and Tomatoes
Summer squash, cherry tomatoes and yellow pear tomatoes from our garden (0 mi.)
Non-local oil, salt and herbs

The steaks were fine; the squash and tomatoes were also pretty good, although for some reason the red cherry tomatoes seemed a bit tart. The turnips were rather a failure, however. E5 and I both found them salty and rather bitter, while E4's only complaint was that it was very salty. I was using an older cookbook and had forgotten that it always seems to call for at least twice the necessary amount of salt (I mean, I like salt as much as the next person, but this cookbook calls for a lot of salt). That aside, I still thought them bitter as well, and that may be because one or two of them were probably too big by the time we harvested them.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Energy Saving Tip: The Computer

Suzer picked up on the fact that we cut our electricity usage by half from last July to this July. The biggest help was the weather. But we've still done a lot of whittling away over the past year or so.

Instead of a quick bullet list, I thought I'd go a little deeper. Today I'm going to tackle the computer. After all, chances are if you're reading this, you've got one. Chances are, you also have a bunch of peripherals - monitor, printer, scanner, etc. Computers (and their accomplices) often use a surprising amount of electricity - but they don't have to.

Don't worry, it won't hurt a bit. It'll be easy. Of course, because it's easy you'll want to procrastinate. It took me several months to get around to this. Don't make the same mistake. In fact, you can do the first step without getting out of our seat.


We're going to stop letting your PC hit the all-you-can-eat electricity buffet. This will take about five minutes. If you have a Mac, I know you can do something similar, but you'll have to use that fabulous user interface to find it yourself. If you're afraid of changing settings on your computer, don't sweat it. This will be pretty simple, and you can't mess anything up this way.

First, move your mouse over to your desktop and right-click. A menu should pop up. Click "Properties". In the Properties window, look for a tab called "Screen Saver" and click it. If you can live without the flying toasters, pretend fish tank, or Windows logo floating around your screen when you're not there to watch it, select "Blank" from the dropdown.

There, you just gave your computer less work to do while you're in the other room.

Now for the good stuff. In the same window, look for a button called "Power", and click it. You'll see settings for "Turn off monitor" and "Turn off hard disks". I've got my monitor set to turn off after 10 minutes of inactivity. Don't worry about the hard disk setting. Just leave it as is.

You should also see settings for "System standby" and "System hibernates". I've got mine set to go to standby after 30 minutes, and hibernate after an hour. Standby tells your computer to take a nap, and hibernate tells it to go to sleep. Standby uses a little bit of power, and hibernate uses none at all. The computer is a little quicker to wake up from standby than hibernate. You'll just have to tap the power button to stir it from its slumber. After a minute or two, it'll be awake and everything will be right where you left it.

Once you've got some settings that you're comfortable with, click "OK".

Congratulations, you're saving electricity. You can always go back and change them if they're not working for you. Hopefully it was pretty painless.


Next we're going to tackle the power-sucking octopus under your desk. Yeah, all those cords.

I know, you're cringing. That octopus is a tangled mess, and she's heavily guarded by dust bunnies. You're really wanting to procrastinate now. But just think of the smug satisfaction you'll get every time you see that newly vanquished, well-ordered, dust-free, non-power-hungry octopus doing your bidding.

There are two goals for this section. The first goal is to get your computer plugged into its own socket, and everything else plugged into a separate power strip. This may involve stringing more than one power strip together, especially if you have a lot of those big blocky plugs. (For what it's worth, those big blocky plugs are troublemakers in more ways than one. They're usually the ones who are drawing extra power even when whatever's on the other end is turned off. These "phantom loads" are what we want to eliminate.)

The second goal is to make it easy to switch off the power strip. That way, when you're done using the computer, you can tell it to shut down (or let it hibernate on it's own as described in STEP 1), and then flip the switch for everything else. No need to wait for the shutdown process to complete. Since we've got them on separate outlets, your monitor, printer, and anything else will be off already as the computer puts itself to bed in its own sweet time.

The way I did this was to string two power strips together. Power strip #1 is under the desk, in a little rectangular basket thingy. All the peripherals are plugged into it, and all their cords are tucked into the basket (as much as possible). Then the cord for that power strip runs up behind the desk and is plugged into another power strip in easy reach. The second one is then plugged into the wall. Depending on your setup, you may not need the extra power strip, but I had one on hand and it did make keeping the cords at bay a little easier.

Now if you want to be cautious, you may still want your lonely PC plug to go to a power strip, for surge protection/suppression. But that can be tucked away in the dark corners of your computer area. You shouldn't need access to it.

This is also a good time to look at your pile of computer appendages and see if any of them can be amputated. If you only use the scanner once a year, you can probably just unplug it completely until you actually need it.

Hopefully you've been successful at shooing away any dust bunnies or nesting rats, and tamed the tangle. If not, keep reading.


Okay, so that was the "hard way." There are a couple shortcuts. I didn't give them to you right away, because I think the methods above are the best solution.

But if you aren't comfortable changing settings on your computer, or you don't think you'll remember to flip the switch each time you're done with the computer, I've got some shortcuts.

Instead of the changes in STEP 1, you might try installing a program called Local Cooling. It will change these settings for you with a pretty interface. It will also keep a running total of how many trees, killowatt-hours, or gallons of oil you've "saved." It makes a little chirping noise to warn you when your computer is about to go into standby mode. I know of other people who had good luck with this software, but it didn't seem to work well on the laptop I use for work. It wouldn't ever put the computer into standby mode, and it kept chirping away indefinitely, which got old pretty quickly. But it will probably work just fine for most PCs.

Instead of the changes in STEP 2, you can get a device called a Mini Power Minder (or a similar device called a Smart Strip). When your computer shuts down, it automatically cuts power to everything else. I haven't used either of these products, but they might be worth trying.


So how much power can you save with these simple steps? One estimate calculated an annual savings of 1780 kWh ($178 at ten cents per kWh), and over 3500 lbs of carbon dioxide.

Not bad for under 20 minutes and under 20 bucks...



Tuesday, August 21, 2007

More photos

I'm feeling a bit of general burnout today. Since I can't take a vacation, I'll post some more photos...

Amaranth, growing in our garden

A dragonfly that was following me

A monarch butterfly on a clover flower.
We must have a dozen different kinds
of butterflies fluttering by these days.

Forbidden Love
Can you tell I was behind on the mowing?

Pasture Fireworks


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Ups and Downs

It's been even more officially confirmed. We've got a baby on the way. Only one this time.

Amelia. Down the steps that is. She has dislodged the baby gate at the top of our basement steps and tumbled down to the bottom. Very scary. After consulting with the two nurses who live next door, I took her to the emergency room last night. (The far-flung urgent care centers were closed.) She's fine, for the most part, though she looks like a prize fighter. Her right eye is puffy, bruised, scraped, and lovely shades of red and purple. Then today, she did it again. More bruises. And a brand new gate that anchors into the wall on both sides. Good thing she's made out of rubber.

Our electric bill for July was less than half of what we used last July. Partly because we had a cooler July than usual. But on a running total for the year, we've still shaved off one fifth of our electricity... and dropping.

The garden harvest is kicking into high gear. And for once I've remembered to start planting some fall crops.

Our propane usage. I wasn't able to find the actual gallons yet, but our propane use is down about 20 percent through the non-winter months over last year.

Egg production. We're suddenly getting seven or eight eggs a day. And climbing. Time to start recruiting customers.

The stock market. Glad I'm not in it.

We're transitioning Amelia back to cloth diapers. So far, so cool...

Our goat herd size. Hopefully anyway. We're going to shrink it a bit to cut down on winter feed costs and stuff. We're just not in a position to grow all the food they need, and hay and grain prices have basically doubled since last year. Besides, we'll be busy with a kid of another kind soon enough. So we're scaling back in the pasture. Need any goats?

The temperature. We've been stuck in the high 90's for almost all of August. But this Saturday is supposed to have a high of 76F. Now we're talking...

My seed stash. Last weekend I bought a big box of leftover spring seed packets from the local hardware store. Hundreds and hundreds of seed packets, mostly heirloom even, of about 40 different varieties of garden crops. All for ten bucks. Anybody want some seeds? (Seriously. I will never use 80 packets of radishes...)

My mood. Too many things were hitting at once, as evidenced by the dream I described the other day. There are still some serious concerns floating around (not to mention the aforementioned trip to the ER), but I'm coping with them better than I was before. As always, action is the antidote. And thanks to all for the good wishes, congratulatory comments, and off-blog encouragement.


Sunday, August 12, 2007

One Local Summer - Week of 8/5/2007

We've got a kitchen full of homegrown cucumbers, tomatoes, patty pan squash, spaghetti squash, turnips, even some locally milled flour... and we didn't use any of them this time. We've got plans for them - oh, we've got plans. But for now our local eating has been of the here-and-there variety.

After all, as some of you have noticed, we're a bit distracted lately. But I still wanted to throw something together for One Local Summer.

So I did. It wasn't glamorous. But, oooh, it sure was tasty.

Scrambled Eggs and Bacon

Eggs (0 miles)
Bacon (Walnut Creek, Ohio - 126 miles)
Milk (0 miles)
Non-local ingredients: salt, pepper, butter.

... after which, I used some of the leftover bacon, a big juicy Brandywine tomato, some local Romaine lettuce, and non-local bread and mayo for a top-notch BLT. Sorry, no pictures. It didn't last long enough.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Day break

Well, Lori spent yesterday afternoon cooking chicken pot pie and curried rice for dinner. Feel free to speculate as to why this might be. I think I might know the answer.[*]

But by the time I was done with dinner, I was ready to suggest that a curried chicken pot pie recipe might be worth inventing.

Unfortunately, as good as the dinner(s) tasted, the culinary dissonance apparently didn't sit well with my subconscious. After being awakened at about 4:00 this morning to deal with a spurious work problem, I went back to bed with a ferocious headache, and the knowledge that I'd be getting up in about an hour.

In that hour, I had one of the more stressful dreams I can remember, to the point that hours later, I'm getting tense just remembering it.

In the dream, Lori had to take e5 out for some errand, leaving me with Amelia. While my back was turned, one of the kids next door came over looking for e5, and left our front door open. Amelia, seeing her opportunity, wandered off. After some moments of panic, I found her in a nearby(?) parking lot, sitting in some other child's car seat which was left on the ground behind their car. She was playing with this baby's toys and splashing in a puddle. We had an appointment of some sort, and couldn't afford this kind of delay to get her cleaned up. At the same time, a babysitter we'd contacted earlier has called back to find out if and when we need her to show up. I tell her I'll call her back, and after hanging up, I realize I don't remember her name or number.

After extracting Amelia from the stranger's car seat and taking her home, I find that Lori and e5 have returned from their errand. And so have the neighbor kids, along with some of their cousins. Apparently they were having some sort of family reunion next door that is spilling over to our house. I start trying to shoo the kids out of the house, but the next thing I know, Amelia is crying after having her nose accidentally bloodied by the antics of one of the neighbor's cousins. Meanwhile, the parents of these cousins (or whoever) start showing up looking for their kids. Pretty soon there are several dozen people milling around on our front porch, in our yard, and wandering through our house. I tell them all that they have to leave, because we supposed to be going somewhere. My indignance and anger are rising quickly, but I don't have time to address all the problems and chaos.

Most of the people leave the house, but settle in on the porch. One older lady becomes quite indignant when I stop her from coming in the front door. It's too hot for her to sit outside, she tells me. I stand my ground and she sulks off to sit with someone else on the porch. There are kids everywhere, including in the garage. The kids are chasing the chickens, and many of the chickens are looking pretty bedraggled - missing feathers, bleeding from small cuts, etc.

Meanwhile I can't find our car among all of the others that have arrived. I find out from Lori that she had to park it down at the end of the road, in front of some shop(?), because our driveway was too crowded with the migratory family reunion.

When we finally get to our car and start trying to get the kids buckled in, two plain-clothed police officers arrive, and start writing citations for our busted tail light, our wobbly side mirror, the fact that the car is slightly crooked in the space, etc. As I'm trying to plead my case with them, I notice my cell phone vibrating in my pocket - surely the babysitter trying to find out why I haven't called back. I can't manage to get to the call before she gives up, since I'm still debating with the supposed police officer about whether a side mirror has to be stable or not. It's probably too late for the babysitter anyway, so I reluctantly ignore the phone, until I realize...'s actually my real phone, that I'm in my own bed, and it's time to get up and drive to Cincinnati.

It's not good to be mentally exhausted by 6:15 in the morning.


Sunday, August 05, 2007

Happy photos

Today's one of those days where I woke up way to early, in a bad mood. And the Universe obliged my desire to feel grumpy. I wasn't the only one today either.

I started this post of happy photos to turn the tide of my mood. Of course Blogger wouldn't let me upload the photos.

But then my lovely wife managed to arrange, on short notice, respite care. Respite care is something the county provides to parents of children with disabilities. It's essentially free babysitting. And the best part is that our caregiver just happens to be Amelia's school teacher from last year.

So we got to go out and see a movie (The Bourne Ultimatum - if you liked the other two, you'll like this one) and then gorge ourselves on Indian food.

The tide turned. I think I still owe a few photos as payment. So here they are...

The Egg Collector
(So far, we're averaging 1-2 tiny eggs per day.)

Black-eyed Susans among the weeds.
I love when this stuff happens
without any help from me.

More wildflowers among the weeds.

Our newest neighbors

Yes, those are llamas.
(No, those are not alpacas.)
Our neighbor intends to spin
their fiber into yarn, just for fun.

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One Local Summer - Week of 7/29/2007

Summer Spaghetti
(Recipe improvised)

Vermicelli - Lancaster, Ohio (20 miles)
Tomato sauce - From last year's garden (0 miles)
Tomato paste - From last year's garden (0 miles)
Summer squash - Our garden (0 miles)
Ground goat meat - Our pasture (0 miles)
Basil (fresh) - Our garden (0 miles)
Rosemary (fresh) - Our garden (0 miles)
Sage (dried) - From last year's garden
Garlic - Chillicothe, Ohio (20 miles)
Non-local ingredients: Onion (forgot to get some), cumin, salt, oil

This was our first taste of chevon (goat meat). We had to drive 20 miles to find a butcher who processed goats. The ground chevon looked exactly like ground beef. The taste wasn't bad. Hard to describe, especially for someone who doesn't have many reference points for unusual meats.

The meal was simple and came together pretty fast. The dish itself was pretty good the night we had it, but the leftovers started tasting "goaty" after just a day or two. Not inedible, but not so great. So I'm not a chevon convert at this point. But we've got some better cuts to try yet, so we'll see.

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