Friday, December 26, 2008

Find Your Spot

Here's the list of best places for me to live after I took the Find-You-Spot quiz the first time:

Little Rock, Arkansas
Hot Springs-Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Natchitoches, Louisiana
Norfolk, Virginia
Salisbury, Maryland
Cherokee Village, Arkansas
Heber Springs-Greers Ferry Lake, Arkansas
Alexandria, Louisiana
Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana
Memphis, Tennessee
Charleston, South Carolina
Mountain Home/Bull Shoals, Arkansas
Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Houston, Texas
Jacksonville, Florida
Nashville, Tennessee
Paris, Tennessee
Knoxville, Tennessee
Fort Worth, Texas
Holiday Island, Arkansas
Berea, Kentucky
Oxford, Mississippi

And the second time:

Little Rock, Arkansas
Alexandria, Louisiana
Shreveport-Bossier City, Louisiana
Honolulu, Hawaii
Fayetteville, Arkansas
Valencia, California
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Hot Springs-Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
San Bernardino, California
Portland, Oregon
Santa Barbara, California
Monroe, Louisiana
Santa Cruz, California
Ventura, California
Salisbury, Maryland
Las Vegas, Nevada
Greenville, South Carolina
Norfolk, Virginia
El Cajon, California
Sacramento, California
Charleston, West Virginia
Las Cruces, New Mexico
Silver City, New Mexico
St. George, Utah

Niche farming

Should we see if truffles might grow in Illinois? I'm pretty sure hazelnuts do and of course, oaks do depending on the type..... And then, if only we could figure out how to do morels....

NYT article on niche farming:

Ms. Holmes, 54, and her partner Ann Vowels, 51, bought 110 acres on a mountainside in Anderson Valley, about 100 miles north of San Francisco, 10 years ago with the idea of producing something besides grapes, the “monoculture of the area.”

They first took two years off to build a barn-style home, with a friend’s help. Then, in 2005, they decided to try growing truffles.

Traditionally, truffles — fungi that grow alongside tree roots — have been collected in the wild with the help of scent-detecting swine or dogs, and command prices as high as $2,700 a pound, although most sell for far less.

In doing her horticultural research, Ms. Vowels found a magazine article about Australians and New Zealanders who were growing the tubers by inoculating the roots of hazelnut and oak trees with their spores. This sort of commercial production is thriving in France, Spain and Croatia, but is just getting started in the United States.

Ms. Vowels was taken with the idea of growing a staple of haute cuisine, Ms. Holmes said, while she herself, a “money-driven” pragmatist, “was excited about the potential returns.”

It will probably be four to six years until the crop matures (if it doesn’t fail), Ms. Holmes said. But, she said, both she and Ms. Vowels can afford to be patient.

The founder of three start-ups as well as a consultant and executive coach, Ms. Holmes recently took the post of chief operating officer of Om Direct, a San Francisco-based Web portal for producers and buyers of organic food. Ms. Vowels is a corporate trainer and executive coach.

Though it has been three years since they planted 200 saplings inoculated with the spores of black truffles on a one-acre plot, they understand that it takes time. “All this is very new,” Ms. Holmes said. “But even if it takes us eight years, so what? It’s about doing something unique and producing something we love.”

Ms. Aubrey and Ms. Holmes are apparently onto something. In one measure of the growth in smaller farms (though it does not include “all natural” operations like Ms. Aubrey’s), the number of organic farms in the United States more than doubled from 1992 to 2005, to 8,500 from 3,600, and the land under their cultivation more than quadrupled, to 4.1 million acres from 935,000 acres, according to the Agriculture Department’s Economic Research Service.

“Organic farming has become one of the fast-growing segments of U.S. agriculture,” the service said in a recent report.

Another Research Service study indicated that despite the consolidation of American agriculture, tiny farms were holding their own. The number of farms with annual sales of more than $250,000 in inflation-adjusted dollars nearly doubled to 152,000 in 2002 from 85,000 in 1982, the survey showed.

While midsize and small farms, with revenue ranging from $10,000 to $250,000, declined, operations with sales of less than $10,000 jumped 14 percent over those years, to 2.5 million, from 2.2 million. The reports authors cautioned, though, that technical changes in its methodology exaggerated the increase.

Robert Hoppe, an Agriculture Department researcher, recommended the slow and steady approach being taken by Ms. Aubrey and Ms. Holmes. This could be a good time for entrepreneurs to start a farm, Mr. Hoppe said, “particularly if they have other sources of income.”

Ms. Aubrey says a convergence of several trends explains the allure of small farms. For starters, she says, the consolidation of the agricultural industry in the 1970s and ’80s displaced a lot of people, now in their 30s and 40s, who are being drawn back to the land.

More generally, she says, Americans share a longing for their pastoral past. “People have gotten so far from their agricultural roots, and now they are rediscovering them,” she said. “You can see the emotions on their faces when the talk about their herb gardens and their vegetable gardens and about putting up the hay.”

Moreover, as organic farming, farmers’ markets and cooperatives have gained in popularity, and food scares have been the stuff of headlines, many consumers are paying more attention to their food, “what’s in it, where it’s produced,” she said.

For entrepreneurs tempted by the rural life, Ms. Aubrey and Ms. Holmes offer these bits of advice:

¶Do market research. Go to farmers’ markets. See what products are common and which ones are missing. Talk to people. Ask if they would buy your product.

Ask yourself whether you will be able to adapt to the lifestyle, notably long hours of hard toil. If you doubt you will enjoy bending over crops under a hot sun, find another line of work.

¶Do not make the common mistake of growing too big too fast. You will risk discovering you do not have the cash flow to buy the equipment that you need to meet the orders.

¶Choose a “value added” niche product, like gourmet mushrooms, that is not sold widely in your area.

“Make sure they’re unique enough for people to buy them and eat them,” Ms. Aubrey said. “If it’s unusual and tastes good, people will buy it.”

Colton's presentation

Colton can really perform for the camera these days. Catch Logan's laugh at end.

Sam and I did not travel north for the holidays. We rarely do these days. Instead we've developed our own private celebrations in Florida. We love to do a long trek at Honeymoon Island on Christmas morning because it's usually uncrowded, extremely beautiful and a very high contrast to our traditional Christmas when growing up in Illinois. This year it was as though the island was presenting us with the most wonderful holiday gifts - several dolphins to watch lazily swimming by as we walked; a flock of roosting wood storks; more than a dozen ospreys circling together and fishing right above us; willets, sand pipers, curlews, plovers. It was so warm and sunny that I was able to go wading and sent this picture to my family having a champagne brunch in Peoria.

I quickly received these 2 text messages in reply:
Comments: "that's disgusting!" "Hope she sits on a crab." "Delaney, don't throw the phone!" "Wish you were here." Aunt ruth asks when you need her boxes for moving!

Love, the family

"Nice! You are creating quite an uproar here!" Devon

Then they sent this photo of my sister's sidewalk.

It was about 6 degrees there....

Monday, December 22, 2008

Now that we've dodged the hurricane bullet for another few months, I wanted to post these. I can look back at them during the 2009 season if I need some laughs.....

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gateway Farm

We've been volunteering at our CSA farm for a few weeks now. Mostly, we've helped harvest but have also prepared flats of various kinds of lettuce seeds in the greenhouse and then fed those seeds after they sprouted.

Here at 423 Grant, the tomatoes are green and still blooming and setting fruit and the okra has attracted aphids. So far, I've just been washing them off. I also just planted a pot of arugula and a pot of lemon grass that Pamela gave me last Saturday at the farm. I had never used lemon grass before and I really like it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Bank Coupon

I thought this was a wonderful way to portray our current situation.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Obama Rally - Yes we DID!

Meant to post these pics at the time, but....

Inspiration - havin' a great life

"Inspiration enters at the border between hard
work and laziness." That suggests you've got to work hard and discipline
yourself in order to earn the right to inspiration, but often the inspiration
flows in when you're goofing off or giving yourself some slack.

says an
ancient Chinese book called *Poets' Jade Splinters,*

About Permaculture

A Brief Overview by Bill Wilson

Simply put, permaculture is really about relationship - our relationship as humans to the world around us. Will/do we work with the natural abundance and flows of our world and universe, or will/do we ignore these? Working with them will allow us to create sustainable or permanent cultures (permaculture).

Fighting them requires excess time, money and vast amounts of energy from the burning of non-renewable resources (coal, oil, gas), the very resources that all future generations are entitled to have access to, but that we are consuming in just a couple of short generations.

More specifically, permaculture explores practical ways to improve the quality of our lives by re-thinking or re-designing our relationship to:

The land around us and how we use it to provide our food and other needs.
Our homes and how we design and build them for optimum joy and use.
The energy we use - why we use it, how we use it, and how we generate it.
Our work—does it reflects who we truly are? Is our work of true service to anyone or anything?
Our relationship with each other - our families and communities.
Definition of Permaculture:

Permaculture is a creative and artful way of living, where people and nature are all preserved and enhanced by thoughtful planning, the careful use of resources and a reverent approach to life. Thus embraced, these attributes create an environment where all may thrive for untold generations.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Worm Update

The worms never settled down indoors. Then I read an article in Florida Native Gardening about how to do one outdoors in Florida. The worms only "visit" the bin. They have access to the ground underneath in order to stay cool and/or warm enough. So I moved the bin outdoors to a protected area under the balcony. I've put new kitchen scraps in twice. The second time, it appeared that the first bunch of scraps had been processed - but I also had 3 to 4 tiny frogs jump out when I removed the lid! I'm not sure what that means but Sam wants to come with me tomorrow when I put in more scraps to see if there are more frogs!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial on Why They Endorse Obama for President

This is superbly written and states exactly what I believe:


Over the past nine months, Mr. Obama, the junior senator from Illinois, has emerged as the only truly transformative candidate in the race. In the crucible that is a presidential campaign, his intellect, his temperament and equanimity under pressure consistently have been impressive. He has surrounded himself with smart, capable advisers who have helped him refine thorough, nuanced policy positions.

In a word, Mr. Obama has been presidential.

Meanwhile, Mr. McCain, the senior senator from Arizona, became the incredible shrinking man. He shrank from his principled stands in favor of a humane immigration policy. He shrank from his universalcondemnation of torture and his condemnation of the politics of smear.

He even shrank from his own campaign slogan, "County First," by selecting the least qualified running mate since the Swedenborgian shipbuilder Arthur Sewall ran as William Jennings Bryan's No. 2 in 1896.

In making political endorsements, this editorial page is guided first by the principles espoused by Joseph Pulitzer in The Post-Dispatch Platform printed daily at the top of this page. Then we consider questions of character, life experience and intellect, as well as specific policy and issue positions. Each member of the editorial board weighs in.

On all counts, the consensus was clear: Barack Obama of Illinois should be the next president of the United States ...

John McCain has served his country well, but in the end, he may have wanted the presidency a little too much, so much that he has sacrificed some of the principles that made him a heroic figure in war and in peace. In every way possible, he has earned the right to retire.

Finally, only at this late point do we note that Barack Obama is an African-American. Because of who he is and how he has run his campaign, that fact has become almost incidental to most Americans. Instead, his countrymen are weighing his talents, his values and his
beliefs, judging him not by the color of his skin, but the content of his character.

That says something profound and good — about him as a candidate and about us as a nation.

Billy Collins and synchronicity

I love Billy Collins' poetry and eagerly awaited his new book of poems titled Ballistics.

This morning I received an update from Jess on GoodReads about a book she just finished and gave 4 stars by an author I'd never heard of named Jose Saramago.

Just a few minutes later, I read this poem in Ballistics

Old Man Eating in a Chinese Restaurant

I am glad I resisted the temptation,
if it was a temptation when I was young,
to write a poem about an old man
eating alone at a corner table in a Chinese restaurant.

I would have gotten it all wrong
thinking: the poor bastard, not a friend in the world
and with only a book for a companion.
He'll probably pay the bill out of a change purse.

So glad I waited all these decades
to record how hot and sour the hot and sour soup is
here at Chang's this afternoon
and how cold the Chinese beer in a frosted glass.

And my book - Jose Saramago's Blindness
as it turns out - is so absorbing that I look up
from its escalating horrors only
when I am stunned by one of his arresting sentences.

And I should mention the light
which falls through the big windows this time of day
italicizing everything it touches -
the plates and teapots, the immaculate tablecloths,

as well as the soft brown hair of the waitress
in the white blouse and short black skirt,
the one who is smiling now as she bears a cup of rice
and shredded beef with garlic to my favorite table in the corner.

Monday, October 6, 2008

My worms are escaping!

So I finally got my worm bin set up. Followed the directions that came with the bin. They were not very detailed, but then, it's supposed to be easy. I purchased some red wigglers from a bait shop. (Did you know that you only use worms for fresh water fishing? I didn't.) My worms do not seem to like the environment I created for them, though. They continue to try to leave. Of course, when they do that, they die. The on-line information says if you change their environment, they don't like it. It's definitely changed - they were in plain dirt at the bait shop as far as I could tell. It didn't look like worm castings. Anyway, I don't think enough bedding was provided in the kit after studying the on-line posts. I've added more shredded paper, but I still have some evacuees. I'm actually not sure how many live worms are left inside the bin at this point, but for now I'm just see if they adjust, perhaps? Who knows?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

This comparison to dry-stone walling of poetry reading is apt

"To do it's noticing and judging, poetry balances itself on the pinprick of the moment. Slowing down, stopping yourself completely, to read and understand a poem is like trying to acquire an old-fashioned skill like dry-stone walling or trout tickling."
Ian McEwan, Saturday

Although I have yet to do any dry-stone wall work, I have wanted to for many years. It is certainly on my bucket list (with qualifications - I want to learn it while helping restore an ancient village in Italy or southern France). Guess I could combine that with learning Italian....maybe learn Italian while quoting poetry during the wall sessions!!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ecuador Constitution Grants Rights to Nature

E.O. Wilson isn't the only one who would like to see this included in constitutions world-wide!

By Andrew C. Revkin

News accounts of Ecuador’s vote on Sunday approving a new Constitution mainly focused on how its terms could help the country’s leftist leader, Rafael Correa, an American-educated economist, gain and hold more power. Details are in Simon Romero’s article on the Ecuador vote and its implications.

But as I mentioned last week, the Constitution includes a novel set of articles that appear to be the first in any Constitution granting inalienable rights to nature. Cyril Mychalejko of wrote an interesting column exploring the political subtext and explaining how realities on the ground in that turbulent country may limit the significance of the language. Still, the wording alone is fascinating, as is the simple fact that the provisions were included.

One passage says nature “has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution.”

[UPDATED:] The language in these provisions was written by Ecuador’s Constitutional Assembly with input from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a Pennsylvania-based group providing legal assistance to governments and community groups trying to mesh human affairs and the environment. The group says it has helped more than a dozen communities in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Virginia draft and pass laws “that change the status of ecosystems from being regarded as property under the law to being recognized as rights-bearing entities.”

My guess is that Edward O. Wilson would love to see this language adopted everywhere.

Simon Romero, my colleague covering the news, told me in e-mail Sunday night that this particular provision “has been derided within Ecuador” given the history of pollution from state-run and private oil companies in the Amazon and the government’s need to keep oil flowing to sustain the economy.

Earlier this year, Nick Kristof, our peripatetic Op-Ed columnist, filed a column and nice video from the Ecuadorian Amazon showing one approach to economic development shaped around the living forest.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Good Reads

I want a link on this blog to my booklist. Even though it seems fairly simple I haven't figured out how to make it work within my profile. There are several other glitches I haven't had time to work out as well. It will be interesting to see if I can.

my 'read' shelf:
 my read shelf

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Chicago's Climate Plan

Image source: Chicago Climate Action Plan

Yeah, Richie!! Keep it up!

Mayor Richard M. Daly laid out a plan to cut Chicago's emissions to 3/4 of 1990 levels by 2020, announced yesterday in an ambitious and comprehensive Chicago Climate Change Action Plan, reports Chicago's NBC5. Not only is this plan designed to slash greenhouse gases, but it will also improve air and water quality and environmental health, ultimately improving quality of life. The plan includes 29 actions that the city must take, which the Natural Resources Defense Council says are challenging but do-able. Businesses, Residents and Visitors can all be part of the action by checking out the plan online: Chicago Climate Action Plan

Part of the plan also includes nine adaptation measures to deal with changes that are going to come and can't be avoided. Things like "a heat warning system, reducing summer energy use, improving air quality, preparing for increases in rainfall and flooding, reducing erosion along Lake Michigan's shoreline and planting vegetation that can adapt to climate change." Funding has been set aside for some of the changes, but additional funding will be needed to complete all projects.

What is included in the plan?

The plan includes 29 actions that are broken down into different sectors. Commercial buildings will be encouraged to reduce energy consumption and building codes will be updated to promote construction and redevelopment around the city using better technology. Citizens will be given incentives for improving home energy use. Solar on commercial rooftops, alternative vehicle fueling stations around the city and incentives to improve public transportation use are also under consideration or planned for development.

Chicago has also distributed over 1 million CFLs over the last few years and planted over half a million trees. Not to mention Chicago has been a big fan of the green roofs, installing them all over downtown, and even passed a comprehensive stormwater management ordinance recently.

Chicago and Climate Change

Chicago currently emits 34.6 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and when you include the surrounding county, that number skyrockets to 103 million metric tons. Since 1980, temperatures in Chicago have already risen 2.6 degrees F on average (4 degrees F in the winter) and scientists in the Netherlands predict that summers in Chicago could top 115 degrees F by the end of the century if emission levels continue unabated.

Its great that Chicago is taking such a strong stance on climate change. Committing to and actively working to drop emissions way below 1990 levels and in a fairly short time-frame. The best that we can hope is that Chicago will be using the best available technology today and achieving its goals, with the hope that a few years from now, with new technology they can even beat their stated goal with even greater reductions. Aim high, Chicago!

Chicago is a member of the ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Disaster Simulation

CERT is about readiness, people helping people, rescuer safety, and doing the greatest good for the greatest number. CERT is a positive and realistic approach to emergency and disaster situations where citizens will be initially on their own and their actions can make a difference. Through training, citizens can manage utilities and put out small fires; treat the three killers by opening airways, controlling bleeding, and treating for shock; provide basic medical aid; search for and rescue victims safely; and organize themselves and spontaneous volunteers to be effective.

We attended our CERTification disaster simulation last night. Everyone from our class met up wearing "gear" (cargo pants, long-sleeved shirts, boots, vinyl gloves under leather gloves, goggles, hard hats, reflective vests) at one of our fire stations, received our scenario - a Cat 4 hurricane, naturally - and started the simulation. We had to choose an Incident Commander, divide into teams of 2, do search and rescue, triage, transporting of victims, noting, logging and mitigating hazards in the area, put out small fires. First, we did it in daylight and then again after dark. It was only 94ยบ when we started the exercise!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cheap Pride Platform

From the Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches:

We are too self-confident and too smart to let others convince us that more is always better and that we need things we don't.

We live within our means always and below our means when we can.

We understand that we need enough - and we know exactly what enough is for us - and beyond that we need no more.

We believe that waste is morally wrong and that excess is waste waiting to happen.

We would rather learn to do things for ourselves than to rely on money to get others to do things for us.

We consume things sparingly, thoughtfully and fully; therefore things do not consume us.

We take care of ourselves, our possessions, our planet, and others, rather than pay a higher price to repair benign neglect or do nothing as it occurs.

Written and followed by Jeff Yaeger originally from rural Ohio of German ancestry - probably beliefs passed down to him by Mennonite forebears!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

She Speaks for the Trees - Literally

Wangari Maathai has long been on my heroine list. Now, more children will hear her story due to new books just published about her:

Check it out!

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Real Issues for the U.S. in Coming Years

An article published in the Washington Post on Wednesday predicts what I agree are the true issues confronting Americans and the rest of the world in coming years. Taken from a report by Thomas Fingar, top analyst in the U.S. Intelligence community, it is similar in tone to the recently published book by Fareed Zakaria, The Post-American World.

Reduced Dominance Is Predicted for U.S.

Analyst Previews Report to Next President

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Large Hadron Collider is ON!

They flipped the switch today. The LHC at CERN is operational. We may find some answers about anti-matter and what the other unknown 95% of space is eventually, but I don't feel like I'm living in a parallel universe yet. I'm not sure I would know how it feels, however, so the possibility is still out there.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Wallace Stevens has always been one of my very favorite poets, but I only recently discovered this poem:

Of Mere Being

The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze distance.

A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.

You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.

The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird's fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

-- Wallace Stevens, 1954

It may very well become my all-time favorite!