Creating the Best Life for Animals

I recently finished Temple Grandin's latest book, Animals Make Us Human. It's a really compelling book that covers a wide spectrum of interests. If you want to know more about how to keep your cat or dog happy, read this book. If you are interested in animal welfare for both domestic and wild animals, read this book. If you own or work in a slaughterhouse or eat meat, read this book. And if you don't eat meat and are an animal rights activist, read this book.

Temple Grandin thinks about animal welfare from all perspectives. She has designed the audit systems now in place for many slaughterhouses and used by places like McDonald's and Wendy's to ensure their product comes from humane sources, and humane devices to lessen animal trauma or fear in these places. Her top concern, at all times, is the welfare of animals. If we are going raise animals for consumption, companionship or entertainment (aka: farm animals, pets, or zoos) then we should at all points in the process be focused on ensuring that these animals are emotionally and physically in the best state possible.

Her previous book written for the public, Animals in Translation, focused more how language and sensory perception works in animals. It was a good book, but this new book is really groundbreaking, I feel, in being accessible to the public and touching on so many important concepts. My only wish is that she had focused a little more on backyard/small farm chickens, in her chapter on chickens, which focused primarily on larger operations. However, that is just because I have some ;)

Other chapters include Horses, Dogs, Cats, Pigs, Cows, Wild Animals, Zoos, What Do Animals Need, and Why Do I Still Work for the Industry?

So if you need a last minute gift for an animal lover, owner, farmer, lawyer or well, just about anyone, I highly recommend this book!


Chicken Wars: One Woman's Fight to Own Backyard Hens

I like to check in at http://www.backyardchickens.com/ and see what's new on the forums every once in a while. One woman who petitioned her city to allow hens among the city ordinances received a castigating "welcome to town" in the local paper for her efforts. Now, BYCers (as those who frequent the forums like to call themselves) are taking up her cause and are helping her by writing letters to the paper and the local council. I myself was incensed enough by the condescending, un-informed authorship of the following article to write in a comment as well...

For those who love chickens, and for the curious, I include the article and my response below :) If you wind up wanting to write in a comment, too, go to http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2009/dec/19/home-home-ranch/

Home, home on the ranch
Saturday, December 19, 2009

EAST COUNTY — Ah, the sounds and sights of morning. The coffee pot perking, the newspaper hitting the driveway, the before-dawn walkers gliding by as darkness lifts, the gaggle of sounds from the chickens next door ...

Someone tried to slip a henhouse by the La Mesa City Council the other night, but that group of stalwarts – “foxy” isjn’t the right word word to describe them – was too alert.
Jill Richardson, a newcomer to La Mesa, asked permission to keep a half-dozen chickens as pets and egg producers. That’s a no-no in La Mesa, save for a couple of areas with large lots and grandfather clauses.

City officials suggested it would cost $20,000 to revise the ordinance. In fairness to Richardson, however, $20,000 to a city with a $36 million budget is, shall we say, mere chicken feed.
No, there are reasons chickens have persona non grata status inside most city limits. One has to do with sanitation and public health. Another with keeping peace between neighbors – that plump hen just beyond the fence is pretty inviting to a bored feline or canine. And third is the noise. Romantics aside, roosters don’t just crow at the crack of dawn.

Richardson made a strategic mistake, and we don’t mean asking for permission. If anything, she forgot the prime tenet of real estate – location.

One virtue of neighboring El Cajon and points east is that you can be in the city but just a five-minute drive from open country. If East County is anything, it is horse corrals, mini-orchards, occasional swaths of alfalfa and plenty of rugged eagle’s-nest views.

La Mesa has charming homes on twisting hillside roads with canopies of trees, but most lots are distinctly city-sized.

We don’t fault Richardson for wanting a few pets or exceptionally fresh eggs. But she needs to do what many of us old-timers should be doing more of, taking a day trip to explore and get away from it all while hardly leaving our back yard.

Find a Thomas Bros. mapbook and head for Campo, Jamacha, Jamul, Dehesa or Crest. Or aim for Barona, Sycuan or Viejas, but take time getting there – and circle around. You’ll be away from it all, yet not that far from the city.

Here’s welcoming Jill Richardson. For many, East County has just the right mix of city and country. We’re confident she’ll find hers, too.

And here's my comment to the paper:

What a condescending article -- not only was it rude, but the author clearly knows little to nothing about chickens.

Chickens are not dirty, and they don't smell. Just as one must clean up after their cat or dog to assure clean conditions, so must a coop be regularly cleaned: the difference is that chicken manure is an inoffensive addition to compost, and safe to use in the garden.

Ms. Richardson asked specifically for the city to allow hens, not roosters -- hens do not crow, or make any more noise than your average cat. Chickens are not "inviting prey" for most cats, and most city ordinances for chickens require them to be fenced in securely within coops with runs to keep them in and dogs and cats out. Similarly, most dogs are required to be fenced in or on leash, regardless of how tempting a morsel in the neighbors yard may be: whether it is a toddler, a chicken or a steak on the grill!

City ordinances can also specify how much space each chicken must have to ensure humane animal practices, and restrict the number of chickens per household. Many cities these days in developed nations allow chickens, including the United States -- I am surprised that the writer did not do a little more research into the positive possibilties before "welcoming" Ms. Richardson so publicly.

Easy, Tasty Cookies without the Guilt

I made up this recipe yesterday and they were a huge hit. They taste a lot like snowball cookies if you roll them in confectioners sugar, but they don't need it. The best thing about these cookies is that even though they are quite healthy, they don't taste like it ;)

*Walnut Date Cookies*

3/4 cup walnuts
1/2 cup dates
1/4 cup sugar
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tps vanilla
1 stick butter
2 Tbs milk

Preheat oven to 325F.
In a food processor combine dates, walnuts, and half the flour. Process until finely ground. Add remaining flour and sugar and pulse to combine. Cut butter into smaller pieces, add to processor and pulse until it is fully combined. Add milk and combine fully. Remove dough from processor.
Form small 1-inch balls and place on baking trays. Bake for 15-18 minutes.
If dusting with confectioner's sugar, do so just a couple minutes after removing from oven by rolling in a bowl of the sugar. Otherwise, simply cool on racks, and eat :)
Makes about 36 cookies.


Grandma's Fudge Never Fails

I just finished making up a 5LB batch of my grandmother's fudge... She used to make it and cut it into small 1 inch squares that she individually wrapped in tin foil. This kept it fresh and we snacked on it all through the last half of December. I loved unwrapping those pieces as a little girl. I'd eat the walnut bits first and then savor the fudge. mmmm. So I do the same thing, and give it out to lucky friends and family in cute little tins or among other cookies on a plate.

When i was around 20 I asked Grandma for the recipe, since she was in Florida by then and no longer making it for us all... Imagine my surprise when she directed me to the large jars of Fluff and their "Never Fail Fudge Recipe" that is always printed on there. I have always hated Fluff, even as a kid, and these days you know I cook healthy and avoid the evil corn syrup... but I can't get away from that recipe. I've had and made others and they just don't compare.

One secret -- the fluff fudge turns out best if you let it set in the fridge or a very cold wintry garage. Other women in the family have made the fudge and it doesn't turn out as good as grandma's or mine (grandma always got a kick out of that)... It was a mystery to me how they could be messing up such a basic recipt until one year I let mine set and cool at room temperature -- and it never did taste quite the same, or have quite the same fabulous texture as all those previous batches. Somehow, setting at the colder temps noticeably improves the fudge.


Warm and Cozy: A Simple Knit Dress for Babies and Toddlers

This cute little dress is super simple, and super warm, perfect for layering over onesies Fall through Spring. If you can do a a basic knit stitch and thread a sweing needle, you can make this for your little one.

The thickness of your yarn and needles will affect your dress -- the thicker the needles, the looser the knit. The finer your yarn, the thinner your resulting "fabric" will be.

For this dressed I used size 8 needles and a thinner, textured yarn: a beautiful nubbly purple and blue cotton/acrylic blend, which actually resulted in a tight and relatively thick "fabric" that is very soft.

I cast on 60 stiches, making the width about 20 inches, and knit row after row until it was the height I wanted: about 13 inches. Then I cast off.
I made the two straps 4 stitches wide and about 6 inches long.
After that, it was a simple matter of folding the large knit rectangle in half and sewing the two shorter ends together.
I used 1/2 inch elastic sewn to the seam at the top of the dress (the cast off end, since the way I knit that end is usually less stretchy and my plan was to gather the elastic end anyway) and then folded the "fabric" over the elastic and sewed that down on the inside of the dress, gathering it up so that the top of the dress is at least a couple inches narrower than the bottom (the dress I made should fit babies 2-8 months loosely as a warm play-dress, and then up to 1.5 years as a more fitted sweater vest). When I came full circle on the elastic, I sewed that in securely and finished off the folded down bit of the sweater so that you can't see the elastic at all (still working on the inside of the dress).
Then I sewed in the straps, attaching them to the inside edge of the dress.
I finished the whole ensemble off with a couple of decorative butterfly buttons - adorable! The straps could easily also be made to be adjustable with functional buttons.


Kids and the Great Outdoors

I just read this great parenting tip on Phylameana's Healing Blog on About.com:

"Cherokee said that when she was growing up that her and her sister would be instructed to take their differences and disagreements outdoors, and not to bring them back inside. Oh... how I wish I'd known about this when my kids were little and having their sibling spats. "

I think this is just great. I can't imagine doing it every time, but oh, how the outdoors can be a wonderful balm for the soul. I noticed that when my son was a baby, if he started really crying about something (which he rarely did) I could just open the front door and stand a couple feet outside with him and he would stop almost immediately. This was great at work (my old retail store), where he came with me daily from when he was 6 weeks to 2 years old. He would start wailing and I would say "reset!" and rush outside for a moment. Worked like a charm every time, no matter what the weather was.

I think a lot of us have forgotten how important fresh air is for children. Or we know, but we just don't do anything about it... My grandmother put all her babies (her own and over 30 foster babies, plus her daycare babies) in the pram all bundled up outside every day for at least 20 minutes and generally an hour, rain or shine, no matter how cold it was. Just their little nose and eyes peeking out.

As to sending the kids outside to work things out, I think it's a great idea -- as long as you keep watch that they don't pick up any heavy battling sticks!



Yesterday morning I went in my son's room and saw this drawing on his easle.

He's written a few letters on his own, and loves to scribble, but I've never seen him draw any sort of a figure, especially one I can recognize. The pictures they send home from school, which always have eyes in the right places, etc -- I assumed he was getting help lately. But when I asked him and Daddy (who watched Lucas while I was out the night before) -- Daddy hadn't done any drawing with him and Lucas said he "was trying to draw a robot, but that the arms with the guns weren't in the right place" (the long cross like lines on either side). The crosses are little guns that the robot is holding, according to lucas. I am totally impressed by my wee budding artist, and how everything is so symmetrical and in (mostly) the right place.
It's so neat to watch children when they leap forward to a new developmental stage. (He's almost 3 and a half.)

Just had to share :)


My New Book, Natural Animal Healing!

I am really excited to announce that I published my latest book last month, an exciting new Earth Lodge Guide to Pet Wellness: Natural Animal Healing.

Natural Animal Healing includes natural health solutions for pets from many modalities including homeopathy, flower essences, energy healing, animal communications, aromatherapy, crystal healing, over 50 pages of herbs, a comprehensive table of ailments and corresponding remedies, and a multitude of gorgeous hand-drawn pen and ink illustrations. Whether you have a cat, dog, or large animal this book is an informative, easy to use guide to pet wellness packed with enjoyable anecdotes and healing examples. (For more info or to order your copy, just click on the book cover pictured on the left side of this blog, or go to www.lulu.com)

My mother, Sandra Cointreau, also published her first healing book last month, Energy Healing for Animals & Their Owners, which is also available on www.lulu.com. Her book is a great companion to my book, teaching you how to heal your animals with the energy that flows through your own two hands. Her book also teaches animal communication and energy healing techniques, meditations and diagrams. "Energy healing is a powerful tool, and Sandra shows you exactly how to use it.” Marta Williams, Author/Animal Communicator, Learning Their Language and Beyond Words


Make Your Own Liquid Laundry (and Dish) Detergent

Today I finally got around to making my own laundry detergent. This is something I have been wanting to do for a long time, and I have many recipes I'd acquired, but I never went out and got the few basic ingredients I needed -- until now!

Making your own detergent saves a lot:
you save the earth (less packaging)
you save money (see my estimates at the bottom to find out just how much)
you save the environment (homemade soap is low-impact to the groundwater ecosystems)
you save your back (store bought detergent is heavy, and requires carrying from shelf to cart to cashier to car to home)

Plus, you get to control what scents you use, and just how pure your soap is.

As I said, I've been researching this for quite a while, and everyone claims that it works very well on everything from delicates to cloth diapers and tough stains. I tried it right away on my son's own cloth diapers, and I must agree. The diapers were totally fresh smelling, bright white and soft. Better than they have looked or smelled in months, frankly, no matter what detergents or additives I tried.

Here's What You'll Need:

A One-Gallon Glass or Plastic Container with lid (old vinegar or ale bottles work well)
1/4 Cup Washing Soda (In your laundry aisle at the grocery store)
1/4 Cup Borax (In your laundry aisle at the grocery store)
1/2 Bar of Soap, Grated (Many people use Ivory, or you can use something even more pure like Castile, Goat's Milk, or another Homemade Soap. For this first batch I mixed Ivory Soap and Lavender Dr. Bronner's)
Warm Water
A Cooking Pot
1/4 oz. essential oil of your choice (optional)

1. Heat the grated soap and 3 cups water in a pot on the stove, stirring until soap has melted. Add Borax and Washing Soda and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat.

2. Put 2 cups warm water in your storage container. If adding essential oil, now is the time. Add Soap Mixture and stir. Then fill container with warm water, stir again.

3. Let sit 24 hours. It will thicken to a light gel consistency. If you use cold water instead of warm the final consistency will be similar to egg drop soup.

Use 1/2 cup of detergent per load of laundry.
Each gallon of homemade soap gives you 32 loads!

But At What Cost?

Initial Outlay: $6.35
1 bar Ivory Soap: $0.50
Borax, 76 oz. Cardboard Box, $3.25
Washing Soda, 55 oz Cardboard Box, $2.85

One Gallon Detergent: $0.43
Gallon Container (recycled, re-usable vinegar bottle) $0.00
1/2 bar Ivory Soap $0.25
1/4 Cup Borax (1 oz. weight= appx .14 cup volume) = $0.08
1/4 Cup Washing Soda (1 oz. weight=appx .14 cup volume) = $0.10

One Load of Laundry: $0.013

Why buy detergent ever again??

Personally, compared to the laundry detergents I generally use I am saving about 7-10 dollars a month.

This recipe can easily be doubled and quadrupled, just line up some storage containers before hand and make your own detergent in minutes a few times a year (yes, literally, it takes me less than 5 from start to finish.)

Please note: You can also adjust quantities depending on the type of laundry you do (mostly washing diapers and oily mechanics clothes? Add some extra borax and/or washing soda) And you can dilute it in half with water and use it to re-fill your liquid dishwashing containers, unless you use aluminum utensils or pots. Also, this is a low-sudsing soap, which means you won't see a lot of bubbles: don't worry, it IS doing its job!


Raw Food

As most of you know, I adore food in all its forms. Most recently I had the pleasure of eating a completely raw and vegan Chocolate Hazelnut Tart with Whipped Almond Cream (very much like fresh whipped cream, but even better) made by my mother's neighbors who are are vegan and eat only raw foods at home. This was the best dessert I have had in years. Years, I tell you! That is saying a lot, since we eat at some very fine restaurants and I am a baker myself. You would never know that this was not baked, and it could have been served in any 3-star Michelin restaurant.

So, I have hunted down the recipes and the cookbooks from whence they came, and am thinking that if the rest of the raw recipes are this great, I will have to begin incorporating them into my diet. I don't think I would ever go all raw but I would love to include the ideas with my whole food mentality...

The books the recipes came from, for those who are curious, are:

Everyday Raw by Matthew Kenney

Pure and Simple, Delicious Whole Natural Foods Cookbook. Vegan, MSG Free and Gluten Free. by Tami A. Benton (Author)


DIY Boy's Haircut

I have been cutting my son's hair practically since he was born. Like everyone on my side of family, he was born wth a full head of hair, already over a centimeter long and nice and thick. And, also like me, it grows incredibly fast.

For the first two years, I used tiny baby scissors. At first, I cut his hair when he was sleeping, then we progressed to the highchair in front of a movie with a bowl of something special to eat (generally a yogurt, popsicle, or ice cream) From two to three, we used the same method, but with slightly larger round-tipped sewing scissors.

Two months ago I decided to give shaving a try. I bought a $22 kit from Wahl at Walmart, with 10 blade lengths, all color coded, ear trimming guides, scissors, and a comb, all in a nice plastic case. I figured even if it didn't work with my son, for the price it was worth a shot. At home, 15 minutes after setting up in a chair with a movie and a popsicle, we were done and my son had one of the best haircuts I'd ever given him. Wow!

Today I tried again and am definitely sold. We used 5 blade lengths (which gives that nice barbershop "fade" look) and the ear trimmer attachments. It took all of 5 minutes. I just set him up in a chair while he watched Tom & Jerry classic cartoons, with the promise that if he behaved he could have ice cream after. Amazing. He has a little cowlick in front that he's had since birth, and the width of the blade makes it a bit hard to trim as close to his ear as I would like, but all in all, I am a very satisified customer.

Now, if my husband would just trust me a little more... I used to cut his hair with scissors when we were young and his hair was longer, but he doesn't quite have confidence in the idea of me with a shaver.


Could Humans Infect Pets With H1N1? YUP.

by Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

Nov. 6, 2009

Until this week, many veterinarians asserted that it was a myth that house cats could catch the deadly H1N1 flu from their owners.Those veterinarians, along with other health experts, are revising their views after an Iowa Department of Public Health announcement Wednesday that the virus has been confirmed in an indoor 13-year-old cat, which likely contracted the illness from two flu-sick humans in its home.
Although all of the victims have since recovered, this latest H1N1 animal case puts the focus on humans as the primary carriers of the illness, which experts don't even want to call "swine" flu anymore.
"We're seeing reverse zoonosis, with the virus jumping from people to animals," Alfonso Torres told Discovery News, explaining that several ferrets have also been infected, resulting in at least one pet ferret death in Nebraska.
"In theory, cats could infect humans, but there is no evidence for that yet," added Torres, former chief veterinary officer of the United States who is now associate dean for public policy at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine.Torres was "not entirely surprised" by the diagnosis in a cat. He said that until four years ago, no evidence supported that felines could catch viruses from other species.
That changed when several captive tigers and leopards died after consuming chickens infected with avian flu (H5N1). A later study concluded that house cats could also contract avian flu.While no dog has yet been diagnosed with H1N1, a deadly canine influenza strain has led to outbreaks among dogs since the first reported case in 2004. Canine influenza arose when a horse virus, H3N8, infected a dog.
It is not yet clear why ferrets and cats may be more susceptible to H1N1 flu, but Torres explained that "viruses need receptors" to enable infection of an individual. Sometimes these receptors are located in the throat and nose, while other times they are located more deeply in the lungs.
It could be that the anatomy of pigs and ferrets means that their receptors more closely match those of humans for H1N1. It's possible that cats have similar receptors, but further studies are needed to better understand the virus in felines and how to best treat it."The human H1N1 vaccine may or may not work in cats," Torres said. "There are some 60 million cats and only the one reported case, so the risk of other cats becoming infected appears to be low at this point."
Since both the avian and "swine" influenza strains emerged under crowded farming conditions, Torres suspects the growing worldwide demand for meat could be setting the stage for such outbreaks. It's predicted that meat production will increase by 50 to 60 percent by 2020 in response to human population growth and economic changes in developing countries.However, animals and humans living together in close proximity is only one probable factor that could lead to such outbreaks. Increased travel, more pets, climate change and better diagnostic techniques could also help to explain the rash of interspecies illness, he said.
Michael San Filippo, a spokesperson for the American Veterinary Medical Association, told Discovery News that the cat H1N1 case "provides a good reminder that viruses can pass from humans to animals."While both he and Torres wonder if the Iowa cat suffered from an underlying health condition that might have compromised its immune system they still advise all pet owners to take precautions if they come down with influenza.
"Avoid direct contact with pets if you have the flu," San Filippo said. "Keep them off of your bed and be sure to cover up coughs and sneezes. Wash your hands regularly."
He concluded: "Pets are members of our families, so exercise the same precautions that you would for other friends and family."

It's a girl!

Just a quick update before I run out the door!

Looks like the pinafores I made will be put to good use -- the ultrasound we just had shows that our little january angel will be a girl :)


Quick & Easy No Knead Bread in Less than an Hour!

I've been a little under the weather lately with a head cold, so not much to report here. My husband has even been cooking about half the meals this last week or two... And you have him to thank for this fabulous recipe:

* Quick, No Knead Bread *

3.5 cups whole wheat flour (you can also use half oat/half white flour, which is very good. Or anything else you want to try!)
1 tbs baking powder
1.25 cups beer (different beers will make different flavor breads. yum!)
1 tsp honey

Preheat oven to 350*F. Grease rectangular bread pan. Mix the flour and baking powder together. Add beer and honey, and mix thoroughly. Pour into pan and smooth top. Bake for about 45 minutes.

Ready to eat! This is great for a last-minute bread to go with a nice hearty soup. Don't forget the butter ;)


US Carbon Emissions Decreasing Steadily

This is an interesting, hopeful article written by a serious environmentalist. Nice to have some good news :) Enjoy!

United States Headed for Massive Decline in Carbon Emissions

By Lester R. Brown, Mother Earth News

(Lester R. Brown is president of the Earth Policy Institute and author of the book "Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization.")

For years now, many members of Congress have insisted that cutting carbon emissions was difficult, if not impossible. It is not.

During the two years since 2007, carbon emissions have dropped 9 percent. While part of this drop is from the recession, part of it is also from efficiency gains and from replacing coal with natural gas, wind, solar and geothermal energy.

The United States has ended a century of rising carbon emissions and has now entered a new energy era — one of declining emissions. Peak carbon is now history. What had appeared to be hopelessly difficult is happening at amazing speed.

For a country where oil and coal use have been growing for more than a century, the fall since 2007 is startling. In 2008, oil use dropped 5 percent, coal 1 percent, and carbon emissions by 3 percent. Estimates for 2009, based on U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) data for the first nine months, show oil use down by another 5 percent. Coal is set to fall by 10 percent. Carbon emissions from burning all fossil fuels dropped 9 percent over the two years.

Beyond the cuts already made, there are further massive reductions in the policy pipeline. Prominent among them are stronger automobile fuel-economy standards, higher appliance efficiency standards, and financial incentives supporting the large-scale development of wind, solar and geothermal energy. (See data on the Earth Policy Institute website.)

Efforts to reduce fossil fuel use are under way at every level of government — national, state and city — as well as in corporations, utilities and universities. And millions of climate-conscious, cost-cutting Americans are altering their lifestyles to reduce energy use.

For its part, the federal government — the largest U.S. energy consumer, with some 500,000 buildings and 600,000 vehicles — announced in early October 2009 that it is setting its own carbon-cutting goals. These include reducing vehicle fleet fuel use 30 percent by 2020, recycling at least 50 percent of waste by 2015, and buying environmentally responsible products.

Electricity use is falling partly because of gains in efficiency. The potential for further cuts is evident in the wide variation in energy efficiency among states. The Rocky Mountain Institute calculates that if the 40 least efficient states were to reach the electrical efficiency of the 10 most efficient ones, national electricity use would be reduced by one third. This would allow the equivalent of 62 percent of the country’s 617 coal-fired power plants to be closed.

Actions are being taken to realize this potential. For several years, the DOE failed to write the regulations needed to implement appliance efficiency legislation that Congress had already passed. Within days of taking office, President Obama instructed the agency to write the regulations needed to realize these potentially vast efficiency gains as soon as possible.

The energy efficiency revolution that is now under way will transform everything from lighting to transportation. With lighting, for example, shifting from incandescent bulbs to the newer light-emitting diodes (LEDs), combined with motion sensors to turn lights off in unoccupied spaces, can cut electricity use by more than 90 percent. Los Angeles, for example, is replacing its 140,000 streetlights with LEDs — and cutting electricity and maintenance costs by $10 million per year.

The carbon-cutting movement is gaining momentum on many fronts. In July, the Sierra Club — coordinator of the national anti-coal campaign — announced the 100th cancellation of a proposed plant since 2001. This battle is leading to a de facto moratorium on new coal plants. Despite the coal industry's $45 million annual budget to promote “clean coal,” utilities are giving up on coal and starting to close plants. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), with 11 coal plants (average age: 47 years) and a court order to install more than $1 billion worth of pollution controls, is considering closing its plant near Rogersville, Tenn., along with the six oldest units out of eight in its Stevenson, Ala., plant.

TVA is not alone. Altogether, some 22 coal-fired power plants in 12 states are being replaced by wind farms, natural gas plants, wood chip plants, or efficiency gains. Many more are likely to close as public pressure to clean up the air and to cut carbon emissions intensifies. Shifting from coal to natural gas cuts carbon emissions by roughly half. Shifting to wind, solar and geothermal energy drops them to zero.

State governments are getting behind renewables big time. Thirty-four states have adopted renewable portfolio standards to produce a larger share of their electricity from renewable sources over the next decade or so. Among the more populous states, the renewable standard is 24 percent in New York, 25 percent in Illinois, and 33 percent in California.

While coal plants are closing, wind farms are multiplying. In 2008, a total of 102 wind farms came online, providing more than 8,400 megawatts of generating capacity. Forty-nine wind farms were completed in the first half of 2009, and 57 more are under construction. More importantly, some 300,000 megawatts of wind projects (think 300 coal plants) are awaiting access to the grid.

U.S. solar cell installations are growing at 40 percent a year. With new incentives, this rapid growth in rooftop installations on homes, shopping malls and factories should continue. In addition, some 15 large solar thermal power plants that use mirrors to concentrate sunlight and generate electricity are planned in California, Arizona and Nevada. A new heat-storage technology that enables the plants to continue generating power for up to six hours past sundown helps explain this boom.

For many years, U.S. geothermal energy was confined largely to the huge Geysers project north of San Francisco, with 850 megawatts of generating capacity. Now the United States, with 132 geothermal power plants under development, is experiencing a geothermal renaissance.
After their century-long love affair with the car, Americans are turning to mass transit. There is hardly a U.S. city that is not either building new light rail, subways or express bus lines or upgrading and expanding existing ones.

As motorists turn to public transit, and also to bicycles, the U.S. car fleet is shrinking. The estimated scrappage of 14 million cars in 2009 will exceed new sales of 10 million by 4 million. This shrinkage will likely continue for a few years.

Oil use and imports are both declining. This will continue as the new fuel economy standards raise the fuel efficiency of new cars 42 percent and light trucks 25 percent by 2016. And because 42 percent of the diesel fuel burned in the rail freight sector is used to haul coal, falling coal use means falling diesel fuel use.

But the big gains in fuel efficiency will come with the shift to plug-in hybrids and all-electric cars. Not only are electric motors three times more efficient than gasoline engines, but they also enable cars to run on wind power at a gasoline-equivalent cost of 75 cents a gallon. Almost every major carmaker will soon be selling plug-in hybrids, electric cars, or both.

In this new energy era, carbon emissions are declining, and they will likely continue to do so because of policies already on the books. We are headed in the right direction. We do not yet know how much we can cut carbon emissions because we are just beginning to make a serious effort. Whether we can move fast enough to avoid climate change remains to be seen.


Winterizing ideas...

It's only mid-october here, but we already have the heat set to come on while we sleep -- just to keep the house at 55F! It is COLD here for October, and there is actually snow forecast for saturday, which is very unusual.

So, I am already looking around the home getting ready to winterize. Generally, I put plastic on all the windows to keep more heat in, especially the big sliding glass door sets we have in our dining room. But, this year we are thinking of putting our house on the market (after we finish up a few small home improvements, like patching old holes in the ceiling!) SO I don't think I can put plastic on the windows because it just doesn't look that great, and might get people thinking that the house is too drafty to buy... (any thoughts?)

Instead, I have gone out and invested in some faux silk, lined curtains to hang in the dining room, which I hope will work similarly. Our other windows are quite airtight, so I am not as worried about heat loss there...

I am also scraping plans we had to make a small external solar heater, b/c it would have to be right by our front walk for optimal sun exposure, and let's face it, it just wasn't going to look too pretty :( But I still have hopes to turn my southern facing window box by my kitchen sink into a solar heater. How you ask? By installing a plexiglass sheet (removable with small screws) over the inner opening, with a small gap at both the top and bottom. I would fill bottom of the window box with an attractive layer of dark rocks to attract and store heat. Natural convection will draw the cold air in the bottom and push the warm air out the top, which will create some nice heat for the kitchen/dining area during the day, I hope. I tried it out last year with some impermanent plastic sheeting and it seemed to work rather well.


Most Benevolent Outcomes

I read an article a few weeks ago about working with the Divine to acheive positive results. This article made things so simple for readers that although working with my higher self, my guides or my guardian angels is not really new for me, I thought I would give their method a shot.

Basically, the author suggests that you use a very simple format to ask for assistance -- whether it is with finding a great parking space or solving financial woes. The guidelines are simple: It works best if the situation affects you personally. You can not affect things negatively (even if you try, for your guardian angel or higher self just won't let that sort of thing happen). You can ask for assistance with as many situations as you desire, as often as you desire.

The format for asking for this help could not be simpler:

You say "I ask for a most benevolent outcome for ________(fill in the blank). Thank you."
Use emotion and real feeling, and then let it go. Trust that what you desire will be fulfilled.
And when it happens as you asked, make sure you say "Thank you" again!

Some of you may ask: Do you have to believe in Angels to use this? No, I don't think so -- though I do believe you probably need to believe in some sort of a higher power, even if it simply a physics sort of belief that All is Connected on a quantum level.
I have been experimenting with this since I read the article and it does really work. I see this working for a variety of reasons.

The first is faith and hope. When you ask, and then let it go, you are trusting the universe to provide, and really, that is what it wants to do. So when you allow it to do so, presto: it happens!

The second is that the more a particular phrase enters the mass consciousness and is used by people all over, the more power it gains. Magical symbols become magic because of our attention to them. So this phrase "Most Benevolent Outcome" has now entered mass consciousness (the author of the article has a book, and gives seminars, so it is really spreading quickly) and each time you use it, it has more power. Just as the "Hail Mary" prayer has become more and more powerful with each utterance. Words gain power. Symbols gain power. Intent breeds power.

The third is that when you formulate an MBO request, you are clarifying your desire, which makes it easier for the Source, God or the Universe to respond to what you are asking. The clearer you are, the more heartfelt your request, the better the outcome.

The fourth is that the formula works very well with the Law of Attraction. You are putting your desire out there, and you are feeling positive emotion (hope, faith, excitement) about it. These are key ingredients to using the LOA successfully.

So where do you begin? I like to start off in the morning and "request a most benevolent outcome for the day." It puts a positive spin on things from the start :)

Have fun!


Protein-rich Vegetarian Stuffed Pumpkins

We got several little pumpkins from our CSA last week, and last night I decided to cook one for dinner. I made up this recipe, which was a huge hit. A 5-inch pumpkin will easily serve two people, one half for each person (this is a very filling recipe, and oh-s0-healthy-and-tasty!).


One 5 or 6-inch pumpkin, cut in half with the seeds scooped out.
One packet of falafel mix (Far East makes a great one)
One cup of Vegetable broth
One Green Pepper, Diced
Two tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesean Cheese

Mix the falafel mix, broth, pepper, olive oil and parsely in a bowl and let sit while you grate the cheese and pre-heat the oven to 350*F.

Fill the pumpkin halves with the mixture. Rub a little olive oil on the top exposed rim of the cut pumpkin to help keep it moist during baking. Cover the "bowl" part of the pumpkins thoroughly with the cheese, leaving the pumpkin rim exposed.

Bake at 350*F for 45-55 minutes. Let cool for 10-15 minutes before serving (these come out HOT!)


Omnivore's Hundred

This is a fun list I picked up from Laura, the Fearless Chef. I’ve put the items I haven't eaten in bold.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi

53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian (No, but I HAVE seen and smelled it. Foul!)
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (All!)
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare/Rabbit
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Not bad! This is a fun list to go through -- it certainly does cover a wide spectrum... And give me some ideas! God, I love food.

How about you?


Baby Boo's New Cradle

I found this beautiful vintage cradle at goodwill for $3. It was missing the matress support and looking a bit too...brown... for my taste, so I cut a plywood bottom and added a bit of white and sunshine yellow paint.

A yard of white eyelet fabric and ribbons for a "bumper" to keep baby's arms inside and cold drafts out, and here we are: the perfect little cradle to lie next to my bed (which is a platform style bed and very low to the ground.) All set for midnight nursings this winter :)

The bumper was very easy to make: cut the yard of fabric in half lengthwise, fold each half in half again and sew inside out legthwise to make long "tubes." Turn the right way out, turn under the unfinsished edges and sew the tubes together to make a huge band. The add two ribbons at the corners, top and bottom.

Then, I cut down the vinyl covered foam pad from our son's changing table which we never used (it's about 1-inch thick) and sewed the unfinished edges. All in all, the entire cradle project took about an hour.


End of Summer...

and straight into fall!


Where fantasy and reality meet... 'Gollum-like' monster emerges from lake

A very strange (and rather sad, I think) story I read this week, courtesy of Metro UK news...

'Gollum-like' monster emerges from lake

"A slimy, glob-like creature dubbed Gollum has terrified children after it slithered out of a lake and clambered over the rocks towards them.
The young teenagers were playing by the waterfront in a Panama lake near Cerro Azul when the bald beast emerged from a cave behind a waterfall. They started screaming as it shuffled out "as if to attack them".
Locals told Panama news the monster was like "Gollum from Lord of the Rings".
One said: "I have only seen that creature once before - and it was in the Tolkien film."
But in a "desperate bid to defend themselves" four children grabbed rocks from the beach and hurled them at the beast.
Having killed it they picked up the body and tossed it back into the lake, before fleeing.
Disbelieving parents went to investigate and were amazed to see the body had washed up on the shore. It has since been picked apart by buzzards.
Melquiades Ramos, an expert at the National Environmental Authority said, he will investigate the animal.
Zoologist Jacobo Arauz said it was likely the creature was likely to be a mutation and suggested it could be a form of sloth."


Baby Pinafores

Even though my last ultrasound did not show the sex of my baby-to-be, I am leaning toward girl, so I am having fun sewing with my new thrift-store Sears/Kenmore machine ($20!) and made a couple little baby pinafores from scrap material I had. The purple/yellow one is your basic pinafore, ties on both sides and at shoulders, "risque" because it will show the onesie on the sides (and that cute cloth diaper she'll be wearing!). The red one goes on over the head, with straps that cross in the back, is a little longer than the purple one, and the front is wider than the back so that when you tie the straps in the back the sides are covered. Both pinafores have little matching pockets in the front, too. I just adore them!

All the foods I am craving are polar opposites of the ones I wanted as a son, and I've had a few intuitive friends second my own suspicions that it is a girl. Plus, the other 5 pregnant women I know, two of whom are related, are all having boys, so I figure the odds are with me on this ;)


Zesty Lemon Balm Jelly

I have an abundance of lemon balm on my property that I generally make into 14" smudge sticks for clearing and uplifting the energy on properties (available at earthlodgeherbals.com/smudge.htm) but this week I harvested so much I decided to make some super lemony jelly using a lemon balm infusion. It turned out fantastic, here's the recipe:

*Zesty Lemon Balm Jelly*
3.5 cups of strong lemon balm infusion
(steep fresh herb in boiling hot water for 30+ minutes, strain)
1/2 cup lemon juice
Zest from 2 lemons
1 package of pectin
4.5 cups granulated sugar
Prepare SIX 8oz. jars and lids by placing in a bowl/sink of very hot/boiled water. Sealing rings do not need to be warmed.
Bring the first four ingredients to a boil together in a large pot.
Add the sugar all at once, return to a hard boil and boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Pour into jars. Wipe rims, place lids and rings on jars, sealing "finger-tip" tight.
Process in water bath canner for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, remove lid from canner and wait 5 minutes before removing jars from water. Allow to cool for 12 -24 hours before removing rings for pantry storage.


Cash for Clunkers Replaces 700,000 Vehicles with More Efficient Models

My husband is a mechanic, and we were both a little leery of the Cash for Clunkers program, particularly because it seemed like the clunkers were being wasted as a resource for people that can't afford new vehicle parts. Also I simply did not trust most people to really trade up to better mileage and effeciency. But lo and behold -- the program seems to have been a real success! As cited in the article below, the majority of truck owners traded their trucks in for cars, even the ones who were trading in heavy work vehicles. The reults also send a pretty clear message to American auto makers about what the public wants in a vehicle with their top-ten list, so perhaps they will pay attention this time and begin producing more effecient, long-lasting vehicles. Here is the rest of the article:

(From EERE Network News)

The popular Cash for Clunkers program ended its run on Aug. 25, and the program is estimated to have removed nearly 700,000 inefficient vehicles from U.S. roads.
Officially known as the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), the program achieved greater fuel economy gains than originally expected, as consumers chose more fuel-efficient models than were required by the program.
In fact, the average fuel economy of the traded-in vehicles, which were crushed, was 15.8 miles per gallon (mpg), while the average fuel economy of the newly purchased vehicles was 24.9 mpg — a gain of 9.1 mpg, or 58 percent.
That figure makes sense for trade-ins of old cars for new cars, because those trade-ins earned the maximum rebate with a 10 mpg increase in fuel economy. However, analysts expected trade-ins of light trucks (sport utility vehicles, pickups and vans) for new light trucks to drag down the fuel economy gains, as such trade-ins could earn the maximum rebate with a fuel economy gain of only 5 mpg. But according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), such truck-for-truck trade-ins were less common than expected, as 84 percent of the program participants traded in trucks, but only 41 percent purchased new trucks, which means that more than half of the truck owners traded their vehicles in for a car.
The results are even starker for heavier vehicles, as 8,134 heavy work trucks were traded in, but only 2,408 new heavy work trucks were purchased, and 116,909 large pickups or vans were traded in, but only 46,838 new ones were purchased. The fuel economy of the newly purchased cars was also 19 percent greater than the average fuel economy of all new cars available in the United States.
The CARS program allowed dealers to start providing rebates to customers on July 1, even though the program didn’t officially start until July 24. The billion-dollar program proved so popular that Congress had to quickly approve an additional $2 billion for the program, which was approved by President Obama on Aug. 7.
Despite the extra funding, the funds went quickly, and the DOT announced on Aug. 20 that the program would end on Aug. 24. Dealers had until the evening of Aug. 21 to submit their paperwork, and the results demonstrate that the DOT timed it pretty well, with rebate applications worth $2.877 billion submitted to the agency, leaving only $123 million in rebate funds unaccounted for. The program proved so popular that the DOT changed the rules, allowing people to buy cars even if the dealer was sold out on that model.
According to DOT, the top vehicles traded in under the program include sport utility vehicles, pickups and vans from Ford, Jeep, Dodge and Chevrolet.
The top 10 new vehicles purchased include cars from Toyota Motor Sales, American Honda Motor Co., Hyundai Motor America, Nissan North America and Ford Motor Co., with the Ford Focus and Ford Escape both making the top 10 list. The increased demand caused Ford to boost its production of the two vehicles at its assembly plants in Kansas City, Mo., and Wayne, Mich. Ford experienced year-to-year sales increases in both July and August. Toyota had three vehicles — the Corolla, Camry and Prius hybrid — on the top 10 list, and the company estimates that it accounted for nearly a third of the fuel savings achieved by the program.
Honda saw a near doubling of its sales of the fuel-efficient Fit, and the DOT notes that Honda will increase production at two plants in Ohio and one in Alabama. General Motors Corp. (GM) also experienced gains from the CARS program, attributing it to a 159 percent year-to-year increase in August sales of the Chevrolet Aveo, a 13.8 percent increase in Chevy Cobalt sales, a near doubling in Chevy Equinox sales, and a 26 percent boost in Chevy HHR sales. GM plans to increase production to restock inventories. Chrysler also credited the program with increased sales and has raised its production by 50,000 vehicles.


The Buzz about Germs

Everywhere I go, every mother I talk to, I am hearing alot about the flu, and "the vaccine."

"Should we get it? Should little baby K get it? Should grandma get it?"

People are calling their doctors and getting frustrated and angry that they if they can't get it. One mother I know is switching doctors because the doctor suggested that her baby will be fine, as long as she doesn't let anyone touch or lean over the stroller when she is out shopping.

But here's the thing. There currently IS no vaccine for the Novel H1N1 Flu. Not yet. The CDC website is very clear about that. Companies are working on it, and it "may" be ready in the fall. And once it exists, it won't be available until after a month or so of the minimum required testing, to make sure it at least doesn't kill people outright (so testing for long-term effects, or effects on babies in utero.) All flus, including the novel strain people are so worried about, is spread primarily through direct contact with an infected surface, sneezing and coughing. My friend's baby in the stroller will indeed be quite safe if she remains in her stroller, especially if mom throws a sheer scarf over it to discourage strangers from peering in at her baby.

And here's another thing. Right now, the "novel flu" virus is no more serious that your regular flu. It doesn't kill any more people than the regular flu does, and I don't get vaccines for that, either. I am pregnant, and my OB and pediatrician both agree that he is not seeing anything in the material he gets from the CDC or WHO to recommend that his patients get the vaccine for the novel flu if they aren't getting one for the regular flu. Medical language is scary to lay-people, but the fact is that this pandemic is not something to be terrified of. This is, frankly, one of the nicest pandemics we could get.

What I AM going to do is wash my hands more in the winter. I will wear my gloves all the time to enter schools and malls, and I won't wipe my gloves on my face. If I know someone is sick, I usually try not to see that person, even for several days after they are well.

Now, with my 3 year old son starting a Pre-K program at our local elementary school, you can bet that I just went out bought some hand sanitizer and will be using it every day when I put him in the car to pick him from school. Yes, this is coming from someone who rarely uses anti-bacterial soap, and washes her dishes with regular soap and warm water by hand. The fact is that schools are breeding grounds for ALL viral infections, and when I ran a health center for five years, it was the parents of school-age kids who got sick the most often. I personally would like to avoid that. I rarely got sick as a kid, and that continues as an adult, but still: I recognize that sometimes a little extra care is all that is needed. Baths for kids right after school, instead of at night-time, are not a bad idea either. Wash your hands before you cook or eat, and make sure your kids do, too.

Other things I am investing in are basic health supplements for the family. Think preventative care. Zinc, selenium and vitamin C in the diet all help the immune system stay strong, as do B vitamins and good nutrition in general. School age kids can benefit from a daily chewable vitamin, as well as some extra vitamin C during cold season. A chewable C with extra zinc can help knock out colds in their early stages. And when all else fails, I always have very good results from Hyland's cold formulas (especially "sniffles & sneezes for kids" and their cough syrup) and Olbas cough syrup...

Well. That is enough on that topic! As a mother, of course it has been on my mind. Even more so since I am pregnant, and the media is really going out of their way to strike fear into our preggo hearts. "There is nothing to fear, except fear itself." A little common sense and extra hygeine can go a long a way during cold & flu season.


First Blue Egg

Finally, at about 30-31 weeks old, one of my young Easter Egger chickens is laying eggs. She's laying one every other day or so, as most newbie chickens will. The color is so pretty, and they have a very delicate shape, long and skinny. Here is her first egg pictured next to my faithful Phoenix's Extra Large brown egg (Phoenix is a Hubbard's Golden Comet, and lays an egg every day, sometimes two!)

Easter Eggers are basically mutts, derived from a cross of any chicken with an Araucana chicken, though some people are trying to develop them into a recognized breed. Araucanas lay blue/green eggs, and come from South America originally. EEs are generally a bit for hardy with less genetic anomalies, but their egg color can be unpredictable: you don't know what color the eggs will be until they start laying. So I may get a pink, blue, green, brown or even cream colored egg from the other two. Time will tell :)

Most chickens begin laying between 16 and 24 weeks old. 30 weeks and up is very late blooming! But they come from good stock, so I am keeping the faith. At least, until thanksgiving anyways... Then we may be having chicken for dinner, lol.


New Puppies!

I stopped by my mother's house on Thursday and was greeted by an eerie silence. All the dogs from her breeding kennel were in the barn with the horses. No one was barking. What was going on?

I had a feeling maybe my mother's beautiful standard poodle "Dancing Daisies" was birthing her litter a day early -- so I crept up the stairs and went into the spacious master bathroom my mother uses for whelping and saw. . . 5 black puppies, sleepily suckling :)

This is the first litter from Daisy, pictured in the middle of the photo here with a summer "sporting cut", who whelped her puppies in the wee hours of the night between August 26th and 27th. The puppies are large, black and mostly boys (just one girl!) Pictures of the puppies to follow soon.


The best laundry rack. Ever.

Finally. A drying rack I can hang a whole BIG load of laundry on. A drying rack that won't crack, warp, creak or bend. A drying rack whose rods don't fall out. Who folds up compactly and will last for years and years with no special coddling.

After my last wooden drying rack gave out and I bought a new one, I was very disaapointed. I bought one from Target, who usually has great products in my experience, and after the second round of drying it was listing to one side like the Tower of Pisa, and the top rod that hold the whole thing together was bending at an alarming angle.

So after some internet searching this week, I found the FROST rack at Ikea. Wow. It is sturdy coated steel, and had space for about 1 and half full loads of laundry. And, it costs just under $20. I am in love. Really.


Knitting and purling

A few weeks back I went to visit my grandmother in Florida. She's 83 and more active and energetic than anyone I know... My mother and I are close runners-up, according to our friends and family. It seems to run in our genes.

So, my grandmother always has several knitting, crocheting, and corss-stitch projects going on at a time, in addition to watching her stocks every day, bleaching everything in site, and gardening up a storm. Whenever I see her I return inspired to knit, needlepoint and clean, clean, clean. It is great. Too bad she lives so far away!

So far, I have knitted two sweaters: a brown collared vest for my 3 year old (I'll post that one later, when he has a chance to wear it!) and this blue/purple sweater set which I sized for newborn to 3 months. Our baby is due at the end of January, so a warm sweater will see quite a bit of use.

I made the pattern myself (much to my mother's dismay, who only goes by patterns) and made the sweater entirely in stockinette stitch, hence the cute little curled edges. Stockinette stitch is made by knitting one whole row, and then purling one row, and so on. Although I have knitted for over twenty years, I have never really done much with fancy stitches, and stuck mostly to just knitting. So, this was my practice project to make sure I really have the purl down before I move on to some more complicated stitches. The sweater was very easy and fast to make with a thick yarn and size 10 needles. The front consists of two panels -- one which goes only as far in as the neck opening, and the other which crosses over and covers most of the front. It is closed with one button.

Next up: a light purple baby blanket! Some people feel purple is not a unisex color, but I disagree. Most purples are very unisex, tho some of course are better suited to girls. The purple yarns are mottled and also have blues in them, so they are even more unisex. I have plenty of green white and yellow baby things knitted by my grandmother (and others), and my mother is going with turquoise for her baby projects, so I am going to stick with purple for now :)


Bacteria = Green Technology?

Fascinating Article from Discovery News:

Bacteria Desalinate Water, Generate Power
by Eric Bland, Discovery News

Aug. 25, 2009 -- Bacteria can be used to turn dirty salt water into electricity and drinkable water, according to new research from scientists at Penn State University and Tsinghua University.
The research presents a new spin on microbial fuel cells, which have been used in the past to produce electricity or store it as hydrogen or methane gas.
"The idea of a microbial fuel cell is based on taking organic waste and turning it into a source of energy," said Bruce Logan, a scientist at Penn State and co-author of a paper in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
"In this newest discovery, we figured we would desalinate water by modifying the electricity generated by the bacteria."
The researchers start with a cup full of water from a pond or other natural source. Among the millions of microbes in the sample, some of the bacteria (scientists haven't identified the specific species) will naturally produce electrons and protons inside their cells and transport them outside themselves.
Other bacteria scavenge those free electrons and protons and use them as fuel to create hydrogen, methane or other chemicals, which can serve as energy sources.

Using only two thin pieces of plastic, the researchers have discovered the key to harnessing the power of these microbes. The membrane created by the Penn State scientists can draw away the electrons, ions or gases created by the microbes, towards an anode or a cathode, which are positively and negatively charged electrodes.
Anode, cathode and membranes are all encased within a clear plastic case about the size of a small tissue box. Add a cupful of pond water between the two membranes, and the bacteria start their jobs. The entire process leaves almost pure -- about 90 percent -- water behind.
The exact purity of the water can be changed depending on the needs of the scientists or the desalination industry, if the process is scaled up commercially. These microbial fuel cells can create pure, drinkable water. It may also remove most of the salt from water to make conventional purification methods cheaper by reducing the amount of electricity necessary.
Whatever the resulting salinity, "this is the first time that any one has used a microbial fuel cell for desalination," said Hong Liu, a scientist at Oregon State University also developing microbial fuel cells.
"(Using this approach) you basically need zero power input, and it could even produce energy if you use organic material as the input," said Liu.
For now, microbial fuel cells, whether they desalinate water, generate electricity or create hydrogen, methane or other gases, are limited to small-scale laboratory devices. That will change next month, however, when Logan and his colleagues install a larger microbial fuel cell to turn waste water from a Napa Valley winery into hydrogen gas.
"This project is just a demonstration for now," said Logan. "But ultimately (the winery) could use the power generated by the microbial fuel cell to power cars, forklifts or other vehicles."


Laying Low

Well, the heat has really been getting to me this year, I blame it on my new bun in the oven, who is raising my blood volume by about 35% at the moment.... So I don't have much to blog about, because I haven't been doing much of anything!

One great thing I discovered in the past few weeks after I lost ALL my prgrams on my computer was OpenSource programming. I have used it here and there, but now I am using an art program that is every bit as good as Photoshop -- but free! It is called GIMP which stands for Graphic Image Manipulation Program. I love that. I am also using OpenOffice from Sun Microsystems which replaces Microsoft Word and Excel. Fabulous!

For those of you who like to be kept up to date, I have added a little pregnancy ticker at the bottom of the blog -- enjoy!


Back from techno-doom

After a few weeks of computer silence after my windows OS crashed and burned, I'm back! Starting a sister blog (earthlodgehealing.blogger.com) and catching up on all sorts of work for my web and graphic design clients. New posts, on the way!

Happy August, Maya


Fresh Broccoli Pickle

Last week I tried a new pickle recipe adapted from "The Joy of Pickling" by Linda Ziedrich. It's a simple recipe, and after letting it cure for a week we tried it today at lunch. WOW! I meant to only eat one piece, but I had at least 10. If your kid likes pickles but doesn't like broccoli, give this a try. My 3-year old, Lucas, couldn't stop eating them either.

It is really, really, good. And good for you, too!

Here is the recipe:

1.5 pounds of broccoli florets
2 tablespoons chopped garlic (I used garlic scapes, of which I had a surplus)
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon whole mustard seeds
two tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon olive oil
2.5 cups apple cider vinegar
2.5 cups water
1 tsp pickling salt

Pack a 2-quart jar with the broccoli and herbs.
Combine the vinegar, water and salt. Stir until the salt dissolves and pour over the broccoli.
Pour the olive oil into the jar.
Cap and refridgerate at least one week before eating.
Will store in the fridge for several weeks.


NASA does it again.

So. Just how smart ARE rocket scientists? Well, in a recent discovery that went unnoticed for 35 years, NASA has admitted that they have LOST the original tapes of the first moon landing. Oh, and, um, in typical American litterbug fashion, they left the camera, which also has data on it, on the moon.

How did they lose the tapes, you ask? Well, you see, they aren't positive, but they think someone probably recorded over them. Back then, NASA policy was to record over old tape reels in order to save money. And apparently someone didn't think that these were important enough to save. Who'd want that lame video? Anyone?

Gosh. Good thing there aren't any skeptics out there who think the moon landing was a hoax. That would really make their day.


How to build a Solar Dehydrator in 30 Minutes

Today I built a simple solar dehydrator in about half an hour, using a few household items. If this works well (and judging by my test run this afternoon it should) I will most likely build a more permanent one next summer made out of plywood, glass and screens.

What I used:

2 cardboard boxes (one large enough to hold drying racks, and one shallow one to collect heat)
Packing Tape
Black Non-Toxic Tempera Paint
One Large Ziplock Bag, cut open (plexiglass or saran wrap will also work, anything clear to create a greenhouse effect)
A box-cutter

First I taped up the large box. Then I cut a large door on one side, and small vent holes at the top opposite the door. Then I cut larger vent holes in the bottom of the box where my "heating box" will be attached.
Next I cut the top off the shallow box, cut off one side at a 45degree angle, and cut small vent holes in the opposite side. These small holes are where air will enter the box, become heated, and rise into the dehydrator box, drying fruits and veggies, and then rise out the top vent holes carrying moisture out with it.

I painted the inside of the heat box with non-toxic water based black paint and then I taped it very securely below the larger box, centered over the vent holes. I used the leftover cardboard from the heat box to make 2 triangular legs and taped them on the opposite side. This is a very stable dehydrator, despite being made out of cardboard!

Finally, I taped clear plastic over the heat box to create true greenhouse environment. Obviously, I would prefer to make this setup out of glass and wood b/c it is A) much more permanent and B) is less likely to off-gas fumes, but I am happy with this temporary setup for now. If it works fantastically well, I will definitely go on to make something more permanent... In the meantime, I am allowing the dehydrator to off gas for a few days before using it to dry food I will eat.

Drying food is great way to save your harvest -- few nutrients are lost, and no canning means they take a lot less space to store. No freezing means they use a lot less energy to conserve. And if you use a Solar Dehydrator instead of an Electric one, you also save a lot of electricity.

I am using drying racks which I have from my electric dehydrator, places on top of a metal baking rack to insure the air flows through up through them. I did not insulate my dehydrator, although many do... I am not sure it is needed in this climate, though I suppose in cooler weather it would be a good idea.


Up to my elbows in berries

OK. So I have made blueberry preserves twice already this season (the last batch used lemongrass and cardamom for spices, mmmm) and today, what did we do? We found another place to pick berries,at $2.00 a pound. Needless to say, we picked a lot! I am a bit preserved out for the week, so we made an upside-down blueberry cobbler (recipe below) and I am drying the rest of the berries in the deydrator. We began building a solar dryer today, but it's not quite ready yet -- maybe by next weekend!
Also among today's harvest was three pints of white mulberries from an old tree near our town green behind the bank. A bit weird to look at, but good in a cobbler (hey, when you're baking, might as well fill the oven, right?) Mulberries are not as sweet as other berries, so generally they need up to twice as much sugar in a recipe.


2 Cups fruit
1/4 Sugar
6 Tbs Butter, Melted
3/4 Cup Flour
3/4 Cup Milk
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Preferred Spices (optional)
Oatmeal or Granola (optional)

Preheat Oven to 350*F
Pour butter into 8" pie dish
Mix Flour, Milk, Baking Powder and Salt together, pour batter over butter in pan. Spices, Oatmeal or Granola are all tasty optional additions to the batter.
Mix Fruit and Sugar and pour over batter in pan.
Bake 30-35 minutes.



Incandescent Bulbs Return to the Cutting Edge

This "enlightening" article in the New York Times caught my interest today...

When Congress passed a new energy law two years ago, obituaries were written for the incandescent light bulb. The law set tough efficiency standards, due to take effect in 2012, that no traditional incandescent bulb on the market could meet, and a century-old technology that helped create the modern world seemed to be doomed.

But as it turns out, the obituaries were premature.

Researchers across the country have been racing to breathe new life into Thomas Edison's light bulb, a pursuit that accelerated with the new legislation. Amid that footrace, one company is already marketing limited quantities of incandescent bulbs that meet the 2012 standard, and researchers are promising a wave of innovative products in the next few years.

Indeed, the incandescent bulb is turning into a case study of the way government mandates can spur innovation.

"There's a massive misperception that incandescents are going away quickly," said Chris Calwell, a researcher with Ecos Consulting who studies the bulb market. "There have been more incandescent innovations in the last three years than in the last two decades."

The first bulbs to emerge from this push, Philips Lighting's Halogena Energy Savers, are expensive compared with older incandescents. They sell for $5 apiece and more, compared with as little as 25 cents for standard bulbs.

But they are also 30 percent more efficient than older bulbs. Philips says that a 70-watt Halogena Energy Saver gives off the same amount of light as a traditional 100-watt bulb and lasts about three times as long, eventually paying for itself.

The line, for now sold exclusively at Home Depot and on Amazon.com, is not as efficient as compact fluorescent light bulbs, which can use 75 percent less energy than old-style bulbs. But the Energy Saver line is finding favor with consumers who dislike the light from fluorescent bulbs or are bothered by such factors as their slow start-up time and mercury content.

"We're experiencing double-digit growth and we're continuing to expand our assortment," said Jorge Fernandez, the executive who decides what bulbs to stock at Home Depot. "Most of the people that buy that bulb have either bought a C.F.L. and didn't like it, or have identified an area that C.F.L.'s don't work in."

For lighting researchers involved in trying to save the incandescent bulb, the goal is to come up with one that matches the energy savings of fluorescent bulbs while keeping the qualities that many consumers seem to like in incandescents, like the color of the light and the ease of using them with dimmers.

"Due to the 2007 federal energy bill that phases out inefficient incandescent light bulbs beginning in 2012, we are finally seeing a race" to develop more efficient ones, said Noah Horowitz, senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Some of the leading work is under way at a company called Deposition Sciences here in Santa Rosa. Its technology is a key component of the new Philips bulb line.

Normally, only a small portion of the energy used by an incandescent bulb is converted into light, while the rest is emitted as heat. Deposition Sciences applies special reflective coatings to gas-filled capsules that surround the bulb's filament. The coatings act as a sort of heat mirror that bounces heat back to the filament, where it is transformed to light.

While the first commercial product achieves only a 30 percent efficiency gain, the company says it has achieved 50 percent in the laboratory. No lighting manufacturer has agreed yet to bring the latest technology to market, but Deposition Sciences hopes to persuade one.

"We built a better mouse trap," said Bob Gray, coating program manager at Deposition Sciences. "Now, we're trying to get people to beat a path to our door."

With the new efficiency standards, experts predict more companies will develop specialized reflective coatings for incandescents. The big three lighting companies - General Electric, Osram Sylvania and Philips - are all working on the technology, as is Auer Lighting of Germany and Toshiba of Japan.

And a wave of innovation appears to be coming. David Cunningham, an inventor in Los Angeles with a track record of putting lighting innovations on the market, has used more than $5 million of his own money to develop a reflective coating and fixture design that he believes could make incandescents 100 percent more efficient.

"There's enormous interest," Mr. Cunningham said. "All the major lighting companies want an exclusive as soon as we demonstrate feasibility."

Both Mr. Cunningham and Deposition Sciences have been looking into the work of Chunlei Guo, an associate professor of optics at Rochester University, who announced in May that he had used lasers to pit the surface of a tungsten filament. "Our measurements show that the treated filament becomes twice as bright with the same power consumption," Mr. Guo said.

And a physics professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Shawn-Yu Lin, is also seeing improved incandescent performance by using a high-tech, iridium-coated filament that recycles wasted heat. "The technology can get up to six to seven times more efficient," Mr. Lin said.

Despite a decade of campaigns by the government and utilities to persuade people to switch to energy-saving compact fluorescents, incandescent bulbs still occupy an estimated 90 percent of household sockets in the United States. Aside from the aesthetic and practical objections to fluorescents, old-style incandescents have the advantage of being remarkably cheap.

But the cheapest such bulbs are likely to disappear from store shelves between 2012 and 2014, driven off the market by the government's new standard. Compact fluorescents, which can cost as little as $1 apiece, may become the bargain option, with consumers having to spend two or three times as much to get the latest energy-efficient incandescents.

A third technology, bulbs using light-emitting diodes, promises remarkable gains in efficiency but is still expensive. Prices can exceed $100 for a single LED bulb, and results from a government testing program indicate such bulbs still have performance problems.

That suggests that LEDs - though widely used in specialized applications like electronic products and, increasingly, street lights - may not displace incumbent technologies in the home any time soon.

Given how costly the new bulbs are, big lighting companies are moving gradually. Osram will introduce a new line of incandescents in September that are 25 percent more efficient. The bulbs will feature a redesigned capsule with higher-quality gas inside and will sell for a starting price of about $3. That is less than the Philips product already on the market, but they will have shorter life spans. G.E. also plans to introduce a line of household incandescents that will comply with the new standards.

Mr. Calwell predicts "a lot more flavors" of incandescent bulbs coming out in the future. "It's hard to be an industry leader in the crowded C.F.L field," he said. "But a company could truly differentiate itself with a better incandescent."


Ms. Brahmin

Having never had a bantam chicken before, I did not realize: this one is a hen! I thought it was just a young roo, as most of the others so obviously were, but experienced banty owners assure me it is a hen, one that was "broody" recently (hatching a brood of chicks) by evidence of her plucked tummy which creates more heat for the eggs. No wonder she is so fat! She is quite friendly and adventurous. Last night, she let me give her a bath with no fuss whatsoever. She appears to be a cross between an Old English Game Hen (Bantam size) and a Bantam Buff Brahma. Looking forward to seeing some wee eggs next month sometime! Chickens don't like to lay when they are stressed or broody, so I don't expect to see any for a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, she is eating and drinking and acclimating nicely. She really wants to go out with the other chickens to free-range, but it's too soon. Maybe next week...

Blueberry Preserves & Green Bean Woes

I'm very disappointed in my pole bean teepee. My plants all grew beans on them (I pulled them off yesterday and put them in a quiche) but they are only 1 foot tall!! We have had a month of nothing but rain, almost no sun, which I believe is the culprit. I am hoping once the sun comes out they will take off -- and still produce beans??? They are blue lake pole beans which are supposed to be a"renowned pole bean for its stringless, tender pods. 15 cm long. Early. Nice fresh or for freezing and canning. One of the best. 60-65 days." HAH! As if. These are closer to three months old. Does anyone have any idea what might have gone wrong other than the weather? Ah well. The fava bean plants are doing better -- two feet tall, and full of flowers.

Yesterday I made blueberry preserves -- they were on a major sale at the market, 4 pints for $5, so each jar cost around $1.00. These are very easy to make, and take about 1 hour.

* Blueberry Preserves *
6 cups washed blueberries
2.5 tsp fresh lemon juice (or Apple Cider Vinegar)
3 Cups Sugar
1/2 Tsp Cinnamon
1/4 Tsp ground nutmeg
1 Vanilla Pod, opened and scrapped into the pot

Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil, cook to gell point. Sir often.
Ladle into hot, prepared half-pint jars. Leave 1/4 inch head space and cap with hot lids. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.