Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

If Rush hates it, you know it’s good

February 13, 2010

Apparently Rush Limbaugh feels that MOO Milk! is threatening the very foundation of our country, Capitalism!  Apparently Limbaugh believes that the low-profit corporation created by the farms that make up MOO Milk is social engineering at its worst. I think he’s overdosing on his pain meds again.

MOO Milk is an L3C corporation, which allows “limited profit,” as long as there is a charitable or social purpose in the company’s mission, in this case, MOO Milk’s purpose is to preserve farmland by keeping farming profitable.  What’s wrong with that, I ask?

Read more about Rush’s misplaced wrath in the Bangor Daily news article.  Or don’t, because really, who cares what he thinks?  I sure don’t.  I KNOW that preserving Maine farms is key to the quality of life we value in Maine, and I’ll be buying MOO Milk and as much other locally grown/produced/raised food as I can.

Monsanto, part xvii

February 10, 2010

Monsanto is at it again, pleading their case to the USDA that they be allowed to sell GE alfalfa, which OF COURSE will contaminate non-GE alfalfa.  See Leslie Land for a brief description of the problem, a link to the USDA comments page, and some language you can use to leave a comment.  Damn Monsanto.  I think Voldemort is their CEO.

The magic day

February 4, 2010

Today, 44 days after the winter solstice, and 44 days before the vernal equinox, when the sun rises at 6:54 am in my area, it will not sink below the horizon until 4:55 pm, 10 hours, one minute later.  Beginning today, we will feel Springs’ slight stirrings; plants will begin to grow as they receive enough energy from the sun to fuel cell development.  We humans will notice the sun feels warmer, the days appear brighter, the sun will have just set as we leave our offices to head home for the day in the twilight.  We gardeners are on the upswing.

Ruth Stout

December 27, 2009

Dan introduced me to Ruth Stout and the idea of sheet composting/mulching when we first moved to Henbogle.  Ruth wrote about gardening in at least 2 books, Gardening Without Work, and How to Have  A Green Thumb Without An Aching Back.  She was full of common sense gardening advice, which naturally resonated with me.  In the second video clip she mentions smashing a liquor joint window with Carrie Nation at age sixteen!  SHe was quite a woman.

Margaret at A Way to Garden found some wonderful video footage of Ruth and posted it; I highly recommend a visit to check it out.  What a treat!

A recycled Christmas

December 26, 2009

My parents came of age during the great depression, and personified the expression “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”  With a large family, Christmas was no certainly no exception to this lifestyle.  We all received wonderful gifts — favorites were sleds, homemade long-cuffed wool mittens from my Aunt Anne (no freezing cold wrists sticking out of your coatsleeves!), toys, books, and games — usually games the whole family would enjoy together.  And in true frugal style, we all received needed basics such as socks, underwear, new coats, etc.

All our presents, were beautifully wrapped and adorned with bows.  Often my gifts were be-ribboned with plaid hair ribbons which I would then wear on my ponytail when I had long hair.  But rather than tear into our packages on Christmas morning, we were taught from an early age to carefully unwrap our larger-sized gifts and to carefully set the paper aside for re-use.  Ditto the bows.  I can clearly remember my favorite Christmas wrapping paper — it featured a happy Rudolph smiling at me, nose beaming, with holly entwined in his antlers.  I saw that paper many times, and was genuinely sad when it wore out.

Fast forward 30-ish years (cough) and you’ll find me doing the same thing now.  As I have said before, I love the holidays, with family, friends and good food abounding.  I can shamelessly channel my inner magpie, indulging in my love of all things sparkly/shiny/glittery.  Beautifully wrapped gifts are one of the ways my magpie manifests, and with the proliferation of fabric and wired-edge ribbon, I can indulge my magpie AND my thrifty heritage.

I carefully wrap the gifts and dress them up in my sparkly ribbons, and place them carefully under the tree.  On Christmas day, we open our gifts, un-tying the bows and carefully unwrapping the paper.  Then, we carefully fold and smooth the ribbons and paper for storage and re-use next year, or for the next birthday gift.  Over the years we have saved several plastic zippered bags used to package flannel sheet sets or blankets to store the ribbons.  It keeps them contained, accessible for birthdays and other gifting occasions, and out of reach of the evil kitties.

It might sound like a lot of work, but really, it is no more difficult than plastic ribbon, and doesn’t get used once then chucked into the local landfill or incinerator.  Some of the ribbons I am using are on year 4 or 5, I think, and have already been packed away awaiting another year of use.  Its a great way to go green and still indulge your inner magpie.

Maine’s veggie season keeps going, and going….

November 23, 2009

Check out the article in the Portland Press Herald about Maine farmer’s adopting season extending practices to meet the demand for local veggies deep into the dark days. Whoo hoo!

There’s a terrific indoor winter farmer’s market in Brunswick.  Dan and I were there on Saturday, and the vegetables were gorgeous.  There are tables so you can purchase food and coffee and sit and enjoy the musical entertainment or the positive, vibrant atmosphere.  I love it!

Maine Wild Blueberry 101

August 23, 2009

Kate at Living the Frugal Life asked about the cultivation of Maine’s “wild” blueberries, so I thought I’d answer in a new post.

Wild blueberries are in the Heath family and are related to cranberries, bilberries and huckleberries as well as highbush blueberries, vaccinium corymbosum.  There are several sub species of wild blueberry but the most common is vaccinium angustifolium, the low sweet blueberry.  Wild blueberries thrive on the thin, highly acidic, peaty soil found in much of Maine.  They are naturally occurring understory plants which spread naturally via seed or rhizome.  The berries are small in comparison to highbush blueberries, and very sweet.

Blueberries are grown on barrens, fields with thin acidic soil, often with visible granite ledge, and are stunningly beautiful.  They bloom in May, and berries are ripe in July and August.  A ripe field is covered with a haze of blue.  In the fall, the leaves turn a bright red, rivaling any swamp maple for beauty.  I highly encourage a trip to the barrens in the fall for breathtaking scenery.

Blueberries are intensively managed these days.  Native Americans cultivated blueberry barrens by periodically burning the field, which eliminated competing plants but allowed the blueberry rhizome to live and regrow.  Modern practice varies between mowing, herbicides, or occasional burning.  Plants are managed to produce every other year, being productive the year following mowing.  There has been an outbreak of a virulent fungus in some areas this year, affected and at risk fields will be burned to eliminate the fungus.

Blueberries are traditionally picked, or raked, with a blueberry rake, a comb-toothed tool with attached bucket.  It is very hard work.  Read a description at Season’s Eatings Farm blog, and see photos at Hubbard Rakes.  In years past local youth would rake berries, (some of Dan’s students have raked blueberries) but now rakers are more likely to be migrant farm workers, who are used to hard farm labor.

We purchased our berries in bulk, directly from the field, and as a result paid a bit above the wholesale price for them.  The berries were clean and fresh, raked that day, and in our freezer that afternoon.  If we were to buy these frozen at the supermarket, it would put a serious dent in my grocery budget, but by bagging and freezing ourselves, we get great product at an affordable price, but are still supporting our local growers.  It is a win win situation; I am lucky and believe me, I know it!

B.S. alert

July 31, 2009

Picture 2

I received the above in an e-mail today.  Hmmm.  If they (the marketing geniuses at Spectracide, Inc.) were really avid readers of Henbogle, they would know I garden organically and would NEVER USE THIS POISONOUS CRAP IN MY GARDEN.

Animal husbandry

July 28, 2009

IMG_4305We lost one of our Black Star pullets to a raccoon this week.  Although it could have been a skunk, I suspect it was a ‘coon, as  I was also saddened to discover it looks like a ‘coon got to the nest box full of finches, and I don’t think the skunk could have reached them.  The finch parents have been busily feeding them and chittering at us if we get too close, and the baby birds have gotten louder and louder.  We’ve been waiting for them to fledge, but then, one morning we could not hear them.  Tuesday, Dan checked the box, which looked as though it had been messed with, and there were no birds inside.  All gone.  Sigh.

To avoid troubles with predators, we carefully built a very secure coop, fenced in a large area for the girls to scratch about in, and are sure to keep all their food securely stored in our barn in metal garbage cans.  But last Saturday evening we got home after dark, went back to close the coop door, and discovered one of the girls had been dragged over the fence.

The next night, we baited our trap and set it out.  In the morning, we discovered a skunk.  The next day, we caught a very unhappy raccoon, and another was in the trap Tuesday, and a third today.  The second two coons appeared young, and the first coon behaved much more agressively, so I’m hoping it was the mother but I’m not an expert.  All four animals have been sent to a better zipcode.  It is one of the difficult choices you have to make when you decide to become responsible for livestock.

Don’t be fooled bu the bright eyes and cute mask, racoons are determined predators, distantly related to bears.  If you could have seen coon number one trying to bite me through the trap you’d begin to understand what a problems these animals can be.  We will bait our trap one more time, in case another coon comes looking for a chicken dinner.  We’ve made sure to be here at dusk to close the girls up tight for the night and will continue to do so, and when we can’t, we will ask a neighbor pal to do so for us.

Foodshed mapping

July 16, 2009

I came across a fascinating use of Google Maps today via Mark Bittman in the NY Times.  Parke Wilde, a food economist at Tufts, posted 10 Google maps of food/agriculture sites in the U.S., showing sites as diverse as pineapple plantations in Hawaii to giant feedlots in California and North Carolina.  Amazing and frightening.

In contrast, I’ve located on the map below the farm along the Kennebec River where we recently picked strawberries.