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Monday, March 30, 2009

Meatless March

This week at the Green Phone Booth I am talking meat, or lack there of.  We are one month in to going meatless for lent!


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What to do?

What's keeping you from being green?  Time, money, family?  For me it is family.  We do a lot in our house to live sustainably.  Although my husband jokingly refers to me "going Amish", he has been incredibly supportive and generally a good sport about the craziness that ensues.  There are however some things that are currently beyond his scope of acceptability.  Having said that, I have been presented with a rare opportunity.  A summer of solitude.

My husband deploys in May for six months, the chitlins will spend the summer at their mother's, and I will be alone.  Alone to do as I please.  No school activities to run to, no dinners to make, no time-clock to punch, no appearances to keep up, no excuses and no roadblocks.  Nothing.  Given this opportunity, what would you do?  

Would you ... Stop shaving?  Go no 'poo?  Unplug the refrigerator?  Use cloth wipes?  Eat local?  Vegetarian?  Vegan?  Cancel the cable?  Buy nothing?  Pee on your tomatoes?  Buy a goat?  Chickens?

It is exciting to think about isn't it?  I have a few plans already.  Mostly to do with cutting costs and a massive garden.  There is lots of work to be done to shrink our yard and expand our food source.  Maybe this summer I will finally figure out what to do with all those walnuts littering the lawn? 

With a free summer schedule and very little responsibility, it is time to delve deeper into my quest for a more eco-friendly, simple, sustainable life.  I realize not everyone has this chance, so I am giving you the opportunity to live vicariously through me.  There are two polls on my sidebar: one asking "What would you do?" and the other "What should I do?".  Both polls will be open until April 30.  At that time I will take into consideration the question(s) with the most votes under "What should I do?" and then do it.  I may choose one adventure for the entire summer or several with the most votes to split into month trials.  I am also open to suggestions not listed on the poll.  I know there are things out there that I have not even thought about!  Leave a comment and I will look into it.  Of course I will blog about it along the way.  Good, bad, and ugly.

So what has been rolling around in the back of your mind and what is keeping you from doing it?


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How to: Live.

Turn off your TV*Leave your house
Know your neighbors
Look up when you are walking
Greet people*Sit on your stoop
Plant Flowers
Use your library*Play together
Buy from local merchants
Share what you have
Help a lost dog
Take children to the park
Garden Together
Support Neighborhood Schools
Fix it even if you didn't break it
Have Pot Lucks*Honor Elders
Pick Up Litter* Read Stories Aloud
Dance in the Street
Talk to the Mail Carrier
Listen to the Birds* Put up a Swing
Help Carry Something Heavy
Barter For Your Goods
Start A Tradition*Ask A Question
Hire Young People for Odd Jobs
Organize a Block Party
Bake Extra and Share
Ask For Help When You Need It
Open Your Shades*Sing Together
Share Your Skills
Take Back the Night
Turn Up The Music
Turn Down The Music
Listen Before You react To Anger
Mediate A Conflict
Seek To Understand
Learn From New And
Uncomfortable Angles
Know That No One is Silent
Though Many Are Not Heard
Work To Change This


Monday, March 23, 2009

Cutting the "Junk" out of Junk Food.

My family husband is a junk food junkie.  Our grocery list routinely states "Candy for Randy".  It is like a staple at the top of the list: Milk, eggs, butter, candy.  I always feel a little odd when the cashier unearths these items.   Hidden under a mass of nutrition from the other end of the spectrum: Organic, organic, milk, milk, milk, organic, produce, produce, orange slices, sour cherry balls, anise dolls, organic, organic, produce...  I try to avoid eye contact.

Then there is the immediate foraging for snacks upon entering the door after a long days work.  After a quick greeting it is straight for the chips!  He will easily consume an entire bag in one sitting, before dinner.   We, he, was going through three or four bags of potato chips a week.  Concerned this may not be the ideal choice, I switched his snacking from conventional greasy potato chips to organic tortilla chips.  Still not exactly healthy, but better I thought.  This was the routine for several months.

Now I have reached the point where I am tired of spending the nearly $3.00 per bag and sick of throwing all those bags away.  Think of all the money and waste we would save by making our own snacks!


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Raising Poultry Successfully - Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Raising broiler-fryers for meat provides a quick return on your money, time, and effort.  With the right variety of chickens, the right feed, and correct care, you can aim for a 4-pound bird on 8 pounds of feed in 8 weeks.  You can figure that a 4-pound bird dressed will yield about 3 pounds of delicious meat (this includes bone).

First, you are going to have to decide whether you want to start with eggs that you incubate yourself, or whether you want to start with day-old chicks.  If you are going to incubate the eggs, you will have to purchase an incubator and a candling device, or locate some broody hens and make a candling device yourself.

Then you will have to decide which breed to raise, and order either eggs or the chicks.

Before those eggs or chicks arrive, you need to build a chicken house, either from scratch or by renovating an existing building.  You will have to equip it with feeders, waters, and a heat source.  Next, you need to lay in a source of feed.  Then, you will finally be ready for those chicks or eggs to arrive.  But, it really isn't as much work as it sounds.

The best time to start your flock is from March until June.  Then the weather is on your side.  Day-old chicks, whether you buy them live or incubate them yourself, will need a source of heat for the first 6 to 8 weeks of their lives.  Your costs will be lower if you wait for the warm weather.  Although in this day and age, raising broilers commercially is a year-round business, you will need all the help you can get from Mother Nature.  If you live in the Sunbelt, buy your eggs or chicks in March or April.  If you are located in the North, wait until May or June to begin your flock.

How do you want to start the flock?  Do you want to incubate the eggs yourself, or do you want to start with day-old chicks?

The incubation process takes 21 days and is full of perils, whether you use natural incubation methods (setting the eggs under a broody hen) or artificial incubation (in a relatively low-cost incubator).

First, there is the problem of obtaining hatching eggs of the breed of chicken that you want.  Unless you live within a reasonable driving distance of a hatchery that will sell fertile eggs of the variety you desire, the eggs will be shipped to you via Air Parcel Post.  The shipping costs will be more expensive than for live chicks as 1 egg weighs more than 1 day-old chick.

Only a small number of hatcheries that do sell eggs for incubating only will sell them in minimum lots of 50 or 100.  All of the hatcheries that sell hatching eggs issue a disclaimer that they will not guarantee either the fertility or hatchability of the eggs.  In contrast, any reputable hatcher will guarantee 100 percent live arrival of baby chicks, or refund your money.

Hatcheries that do sell fertile eggs and will ship them, charge from $.50 to $1.00 per egg, with no guarantee of results.  I have had the personal experience of having only 50 percent of the eggs I incubated hatch out.  The national average for successful hatching is about 60 percent, although the makers of artificial incubators claim an average of up to 70 percent hatching success with their machines.  I know of some small-flock poultry farmers who have experienced total failure in incubating eggs.  Twenty-one days of anxious care and then, zilch!

If you want to put meat on your table in as short a time as possible, you will want to start with day-old chicks.  If you order from a reputable source, your chicks are guaranteed to arrive alive.  And you will avoid the expense of incubating machines and the fuss of watching over the incubation process.

There is, however, 1 strong reason to consider incubating eggs.  Although the incubation process, whether by natural or artificial means, seems like a big hassle, I would like to say that it is not my intention to discourage anyone from incubating eggs.  Although it is usually touted as a good project for rural children, 4H club members, Future Farmers of America, and science classes, there is no reason an adult cannot enjoy the experience of incubating eggs.  The miracle of birth never ceases to amaze and delight me, whether it's the birth of a chick, duckling, gosling, turkey poult, piglet, lamb, calf, or colt.

Whether you are incubating or starting with chicks, if you are a beginner, I suggest you start with 25 broiler-type chicks.  This means that to be on the safe side, you will need 4 dozen fertile eggs, assuming that about 60 percent of them will hatch out live.  Four dozen fertile eggs, at the minimum price, will cost about $12.00 with no guarantees.  You can buy 25 day-old broiler chicks for about $14.25, guaranteed live arrival at your local post office.  Be sure the fertile eggs you buy are for meat birds.  A Cornish-Rock cross is recommended.

It is my intention to provide alternatives.  If you are on of those people who are in a hurry to put meat on the table, stay tuned for buying broiler-fryer chicks.  Otherwise, tune in next week to read about incubating eggs.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Getting "on" with it.

On the to do list:  Order seeds!

On the grocery list:  Granola

On the shopping list:  Bird Seed

On the wish list:  Worm Factory

On the night-stand:  "In Defense of Food" by Michael Pollan

On the stove:  "Turkey" Noodle Soup

On the cooling rack:  Homemade Crackers

On ice:  Strawberry Freezer Jam

On the jukebox:  Frank Sinatra

On the basement clothesline: Darks

On the sewing table:  Christmas Decorations  ...still.

On the computer:

On the calendar:  Green Drinks

On the agenda:  Meetings, Meetings, Meetings!

On my mind:  Spring


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The plain enemy

Hello Greeen Sheeepers.  I have kidnapped this blog out of sheer desperation.  I am concerned about my wife.  You see, her behavior has changed dramatically in the last few years.  The woman who was once an animal eating, SUV driving "normal" person has turned into something else.  She says she has gone "green".  I believe it is something more sinister.  Something so dark and so disturbing that I am fearful of even talking to you about here on these electronic pages.  The boundless love for my wife pushes me on however.  Dear readers, be warned.  Look long and hard into your souls and consider your own fate before deciding to read further.  The evil forces at work may look in your direction next. 

I do not believe my wife has gone green...I believe she has gone...Amish.

That's right.  She has fallen  victim to Mennonite Mendunugu magic! 

Before you dismiss me as a crazy, insane, mad, demented, deranged, unbalanced, unhinged, mental, dotty, crack-brained, out to lunch, bananas, cuckoo, dippy, batty, daffy, loony, absurd, foolish, nonsensical, inane, ridiculous, preposterous, laughable, ludicrous, asinine, stupid, harebrained, out to lunch screw ball hater of the plain people who's cheese has slipped off their cracker, nut job, let me present my evidence:

Just a few short years ago, this was my wife.  A snowmobile racing, demolition derby driving, environment killer.  (Damn I loved that)!  Then one shadowy day things changed.  

She announced that she would no longer be using any chemicals in the house for cleaning.  I found this rather odd.  She explained that they were harmful to your health.  I rebutted as any good Republican would  that large corporations would not harm people just to make a few billion dollars. This had no effect. (The Amish infection had already taken hold). So what will we be cleaning with?  She proudly proclaimed that we would only be using vinegar!  I was confused, but seeing the proverbial writing on the wall agreed. (But only after she explained how much money it would save us).  Every day since, I come home to a house that smells like someone just got done canning pickles. 

That is a great segue to my next piece of proof.  Soon she is turning the back yard into an organic garden. (Again with the whole no-chemical business).  And what are we going to do with all of this bounty of nature?  Can it of course.  Well at least if the house is going to smell like pickles, I may actually get to eat one.  A garden needs fertilizer.  So naturally a compost pile was next to rear it's egg shell and banana peel encrusted head. 

The no chemical illness next manifested itself in the form of aversion to known bodily hygiene products.  Suddenly deodorant, soaps, and shampoos were replaced by A Dr. Bronner and his "magic" hemp oil elixir.  Even shaving cream became a victim of the good doctor.  Next the razors themselves fell prey. Exchanged for some archaic metal contraption that appears to eat the blade.  It wasn't long before deodorant fell under her scrutiny.  Good bye Secret and your powder fresh scent, hello Arm and Hammer and your...powder.  And if you don't think it could get any weirder than did.  She may not enjoy me sharing this with you, but I will anyway.  She started making her own "feminine hygiene products" out of felt or something...I don't know...they are purple and kind of fuzzy.  I try not to touch them.

The move to Amishness started speeding up as the summer grew hotter.  The Maytag Neptune dryer that was once her prized possession was now an object of wasteful disdain.  Our clothes now dried non-pollutingly in the wind like sun dried nuts. And were nearly as crunchy.   But summer drew to an end as it has an annoying habit of doing.  The clothes had to move to new accommodations in the basement.  If she gets her Christmas gift request they will be joined there by a worm composter.  One can only dream.

As the cold Wisconsin winter settled in, the old fuel oil furnace in the basement came to the chopping block.  Lacking the funds to replace it with a geothermal unit the only course of action was to turn the thermostat down to 55 degrees.  If we had a fireplace, I can assure you I would be getting real familiar with an axe.  

As winter begins its slow retreat we start to dream of spring.  While most peoples heads are filled with visions of beaches and boats.  My newly Amish wife can only think of replacing my riding lawn mower with a goat.  

All electrical appliances are now plugged into power strips that must be shut off when said appliance is not being used.  Curtains are opened and lights are not turned on during the day.  I know in the deepest regions of my heart that the day is not far off when the electricity is gone forever.

I was finally compelled to face this evil menace when I discovered her making butter in the kitchen.  She was using a Kitchen Aid mixer, but the vision of her not behind the wheel of a derby car but behind a butter churn was disturbingly easy to conjure.  Do not fail to head this warning.  The threat is real.  Don't let hard work and polite manners of the Amish fool you. They exist only to lure in new members under a green guise.  

Amish Paradise - Watch more funny videos here


Monday, March 2, 2009

What, no bacon?

This week at The Green Phone Booth the family and I embark on a meatless Lenten journey.  Blazing blindly down a trail we have yet to travel, I ponder "What will we eat?".  Feel free to leave any vegetarian tips, links, or recipes in the comments.  Preferably non-pasta!  We already eat a lot of it and I fear we will be on pasta overload at the end of our forty day fast.