Saturday, February 26, 2011

Slacker, That's Me

I know I've been a blog slacker on this blog. What can I say? I only have time to write this right now because I'm in a hotel room with nothing else to do. I coach my son's high school aged FTC Robotics team and we're going to the State championships tomorrow. So I have a few minutes to post. But the last few months have been total chaos.

Every day, I think of dozens of really cool things I could post about in the realms of sustainability, food security, people-powered transportation, gardening, etc. but I somehow never manage to do just that. I'm going to try to be better in the next few months.

In the meantime, we've just been keeping on. Our garden is in its usual winter hibernation, though with the cold frames I'm going to plant lettuce next week and see what happens. My kale made it through the winter in the cold frames which was nice. Even though it was 9 degrees this morning! Our kids are looking forward to getting some spring chicks to add to our flock in the next few weeks. And other than this morning when ice on our hill was too scary, I'm back to commuting on my bike as often as I can.

That's about it from our Urban Farm. Hopefully more to come soon...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Your Car Is Not A Space Heater

I'm constantly amazed at how many people are unaware of the toxic effects of idling their car. This time of year, I frequently see people sitting in cars (most often parents at a school or an event like a soccer game, frequently with other children in the car), and they are idling the car, presumably to keep the heaters running. I don't think they know the increased risk they are putting on themselves and their children. People will actually wait five to ten minutes in a drive-through line at Starbucks or McD's when getting out of the car and going in not only saves them fuel and exposure to the toxic pollutants of idling, but time as well (often the line inside is minimal at rush hour, while the drive-through lines are long).

I made up a simple document that is small enough to hand to people and outlines the dangers of idling in a bulleted format that's quick to read. If you have Idlers in your area who are not aware of these issues, please feel free to copy and print these to hand out!

Please Don’t Idle Your Car
For the sake of your health and of those around you

A Few Idling Facts:

Ø       Vehicle exhaust is the leading source of toxic air pollution in Oregon.
Ø       Vehicle exhaust contains at least 21 air toxics which are hazardous to human health.
Ø       Emissions from idling vehicles can be as much as 20 times greater than those from one traveling at 32 mph.
Ø       Inhaling these pollutants can:
o         aggravate asthma,
o         cause coughing or difficult breathing,
o         decrease lung function,
o         exacerbate cardiovascular problems and
o         lead to chronic bronchitis.
Ø       Children are especially sensitive to the eff ects air pollution because they breathe more quickly and take in more air than adults.
Ø       Children inside an idling car, or directly in the vicinity (as in school drop-off zones) are at increased risk for health problems due to inhaling pollutants
Ø       Asthma is the third leading cause of hospitalization for children under the age of 15. Asthma is also the most common chronic illness in children.
Ø       Studies have linked pollution from vehicles to increased rates of cancer, heart and lung disease, and asthma.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Apples to Apples

This time of year, it amazes me how much fruit is left on trees around town. I wish there was a way to better hook it up with people who need food, since it seems positively shameful to waste nature's bounty like that. Yesterday I found an apple tree in an abandoned lot, just full of fruit. The leaves are all gone, so it looks like a Christmas tree except hung with perfectly bright red globes of fruit. I stuffed my jacket pockets as full as I could get them of the wonderfully tart/sweet apples, and I'm coming back next week with a bag. Applesauce anyone?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Getting Ready For the Dark Days Challenge

Yes, it's that time of year again. Over at the Urban Hennery, they are once again challenging us to think local, to source local, to eat local. It's the 4th Annual Dark Days Challenge and I'm planning to do it again. Yes, it's tough to find local foods in the dark of winter when the garden is buried under snow and the locally available vegetables consist of kale and, well, kale. I like kale, so that's not a problem, but there's only so much of it one can eat.

One thing I've found from participating in the challenge in the past is that when you forge new local connections for food sources, you tend to keep utilizing them in the months to come. Or you think out of the box and plan for ways to eat more locally in the winter. For instance, I cut the Zucchini That Ate New York into small cubes and put it into freezer bags in my chest freezer. I like to use zucchini with my eggs in the morning, so I can just take a handful out of the freezer and fry them up whenever I need them. That's a great easy way to add local vegetables during a season when I can no longer grow them.

My locavore omelette includes eggs from my chickens, local goat's milk, spinach and tomatoes from my garden, pork sausage from a local pig (in my freezer) and chantrelle mushrooms harvested locally. I'll be finding more ways to eat locally in the dark days to come!

Monday, November 08, 2010

What Bicyclists Lost in the House and Senate

I know that people in many states are feeling strongly about the outcome of the recent elections. But regardless of your political stance, from a bicycling and cycling advocacy standpoint, we lost some big supporters in the House and Senate last week. We  lost our biggest champion on the transportation committee, Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN) and more than 30 members of the Congressional Bike Caucus in the House. Congressman Oberstar was instrumental in passing much of the important cycling and pedestrian legislation in the last two decades. Things like Safe Routes to Schools were shepherded through by this tireless public servant.
Here in Oregon, I'm incredibly grateful that Peter DeFazio is returning for another term. He has been a long-time supporter of sustainable bike and pedestrian legislation and in fact my favorite bicycling bridge here in town is named after him. If I lived anywhere near Washington D.C. or had the money to travel there, I would definitely be attending the National Bike Summit to make sure our congresspeople know that cycling is a huge priority for our communities.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Green Bean Bonus Makes More Dilly Beans

Unfortunately, I can never make green beans last around here. I love dilled green beans so much that even if I have a bumper harvest, there's never enough to can. I can eat a jar like this in two days flat. Lucky for me, our green beans took advantage of the late warm fall weather to produce a second harvest. I got a couple of colanders full, and now I have at least a few days supply of dilled green beans.

Here's my easy-peasy way to make dilly beans (from my mom):

1. Save the pickle juice from a big Costco-sized jar of dill pickles.
2. Remove stems from green beans and snap in half
3. Lightly steam them just until tender
4. Throw them in the pickle juice for a few days
5. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

How To Sling A Pumpkin

This year my rogue pumpkins (all volunteers) even started climbing my fences. This one started setting a fruit while twining up my flimsy fence. I knew it would break off from the vine as soon as it started to get heavy, so I put on my thinking cap for a minute mesh shopping bag to the rescue! Now I have a pumpkin sling, and these mesh bags are great because they expand so much, this pumpkin could get quite large before it tested the capacity of this bag. As you can see, the pumpkin is starting to ripen up nicely, and I think it will survive to maturity in it's happy little sling.