The Backyard

The Backyard

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Obamas - They Like It Local and Fresh Too

Our country's whitehouse is going green in the kitchen! No, not vegetarian, but more local and fresh. Sam Kass, a chicago chef, was hired to cook for the Obamas. He will join the head chef who is a holdover from Mr. Bush. Mr. Kass, one of the new breed of chefs who are concerned about the environment and about poor eating habits in this country, has been quoted as saying people in his profession should take the lead in tackling public health issues. "His cooking was very low key and down to earth and delicious," Kuck says. "It was amazing how you could just have this one bowl of soup and it was like nothing you had ever eaten. Sam would buy the ingredients from the farmers' market. He is very accessible and down to earth, very enthusiastic about organic food and all the food issues that we are facing." Civil Eats, a sustainable eating website, has an interesting article about Mr. Kass joining the white house staff. Farmer's Markets in DC, like Fresh Food Market, will never be the same! Eleanor Roosevelt - your greening of the white house has been revived!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Seventh Generation

This company has been around for 20 years, promoting green products and saving the environment long before it became as popular as its becoming today. Seventh Generation sells a variety of products that help save the environment. From their website: Seventh Generation brand-name products include: non-chlorine bleached, 100% recycled paper towels, bathroom and facial tissues, and napkins; non-toxic, phosphate-free cleaning, dish and laundry products; plastic trash bags made from recycled plastic; chlorine-free baby diapers, training pants, and baby wipes; and chlorine-free feminine care products, including organic cotton tampons. I've always liked their kitchen dish detergent -- it doesn't dry out your hands, it suds well, and is biodegradable and phosphate free. And here's an interesting tip from their website:

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Preparing for Canning Season

Cold winter days are invites to cleaning out and getting organized. We lugged our over-sized, energy-inefficient, non-working upright freezer out of our basement and it was time for me to replace the space with canning supplies. I'm blessed with many generations of canning experts; thus, I inherited most of my jars and rings, some coming in a a very cool, 1960's Savannah Girl Scout cookie box. When I started opening the boxes, I had forgotten all the things I had. Jelly jars, wax, glass jars in every imaginable size, and lids and rings were everywhere -- mostly mixed up. So I took the time to separate the wide-mouth from the regular, the jelly from the vege/fruit jars, etc. I wondered why the wide-mouth vs. the regular jar top. Thinking back to my country fair days and managing the canned goods department, I recall the expert canners using bunches of wide-mouth jars. They claimed it was much easier to position the food in the jar for display. And oh those jars were beautiful -- perfectly placed string beans the full length of the jar, evenly sized dried "cow" (black and white) beans -- those gals were my canning idols, and still are. You can learn a lot from experienced canners. Since I'm not planning to display any of my jars, the regular-mouth jars should suffice for things like corn, peas, and dried beans. In the end, I now have a "jelly cupboard" and a "vege cupboard" and separated rings/lids. It was a feel-good, organizing kinda weekend.

Having (Or not) Affluenza

Depletion and Abundance is one of those books you pick up and at first think the author is a crackpot, but you find yourself going back to the ideas and suggestions and actually practicing them time after time. The book is about peak oil, but Sharon Astyk shares SO much more about many things in life, with the chapter on American affluence hitting home for me. Her book has me tempted to get this one too - Affluenza -- although I think I've already passed the test and don't have it any longer. My dear hubby inherited his mother's frugality and will wear a pair of shoes until the holes in the bottoms start leaking and his feet get wet. So we shopped for new shoes for Ricky yesterday. while in the shoe store, I could feel my affluenza coming back. "Oh, look Rick, aren't these the cutest garden shoes you ever saw? And look at these cool slippers -- they would be mega warm. Ahhh... sneakers - can one ever have too many pairs of sneakers. You know you are supposed to get new ones every 300 miles." Truth be told, my garden shoes are my old sneakers and I have at least 20 pairs of them lying around - not to mention I purchased a pair of waterproof workshoes 20 years ago specifically for the garden that I hardly wear. And my three pairs of slippers and dozen or so fleece socks keep my feet plenty warm. All said and done? I didn't buy anything. I kept going back to the thought of, DO I NEED IT and the answer was a resounding NO? I hear folks today say they are hurting -- they don't know where their money goes. It's hard, but you CAN break the frivolous buying habit -- at least on things you don't need to sustain life. Here's an interesting challenge to give you ideas, - The Buy Nothing Challenge. For three months, you limit your purchases to things needed to sustain life -- you know - food, gas to get to work, shelter (warmth!). The basic rules are below on what NOT to buy. The interesting part is it takes 20 days to break a habit, so if you do this challenge, you are in essence curing yourself of Affluenza and will have more money in your pockets!

No new clothes
No new gadgets
No new furniture or housewares
No salon services (except haircuts)
No new makeup
No new tools
No whatever the hell else people buy
No eating out (yes, this one is new!)

Some of these you will think you can't live without. But guess what - you can! The one that bothered me most was no new makeup. I'm not sure whether folks noticed (they are polite and probably wouldn't say anything!), but I've now gone to work quite a few times without a stitch of makeup on. Not even my can't-live-without mascara. It was awkward at first, but like every habit that can be broken, I got used to it and the feeling of what will people think. I really don't care what people think... I'm doing my tiny part to save the earth! YOU can do the same.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Getting Ready

It's a little early, but the Spring fever is setting in already and the light set-up got a dusting and readying up. The first plants to get started will be the early vegetables: broccoli, brussel sprouts, and maybe cauliflower. Haven't decided for sure on the Cauli because we don't eat a lot of that (well, Rick does, but I don't) and its not a good keeper unless you freeze it. I'm attempting to get away from using up freezer space this year so I'm saving the space for the food that's best frozen - broccoli is one of them. Spring is around the corner!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Affording to Go Green and Be More Organic

There's no doubt it's expensive to be green and buy organic products - a geothermal heating system will set you back $50,000 - the average price of an organic t-shirt is $35.00, and you say you want organic chicken? Be prepared to lay out about $7.00 a pound depending on where you buy it. I noticed Earthbound organic green salad mix is up to $5.99 a pound (wow!). My dear husband has been griping about me laying out money on these things for years, but I keep fighting him and continue to purchase. Well, maybe I'm NOT really buying $50,000 heat systems, but there are some things I can't go without like my beloved $7.00 a pound coffee that's helping to save the neotropical migratory birds. Most advocates tell the same story - you gotta pay the price so it will eventually come down and I've always believed that, and have seen some price relief the past few years -- mainly at the grocery store (believe it or not). I think its timely that my work's newsletter has a wonderful story - Going Green and Making Green, Educating Consumer for a New Industry, about a Pennsylvania company selling green products and part of his marketing effort is educating consumers on the importance of buying green. I'm guessing most of you read my post by now on Knowing Your Cotton so I can relate to the importance of educating consumers (the cotton was interesting to me too - thus why I shared it with you!). His on-line company, Exclusively Green, LLC, promotes only green products. He researches each products he sells to assure the manufacturing process is truly green. What an awesome website! And since he's kinda of local here in Pennsylvania, I may have to check him out. I'm really not too green when I buy my trash bags -- maybe that will now change, thanks to Exclusively Green.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Artisan Bread - Not My Style

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes is my latest cookbook and I'm sorry to say, its just not my cup of tea. For many reasons, I found the book a disappointment. First, there are only two whole wheat "bread" recipes -- the rest called for the less nutritious all purpose flour and a spattering of other types of like rye. Second, there were very few "bread" recipes, and bunches of bunches of recipes for things I couldn't begin to pronounce. One of the author's is a pastry chef... need I say more? And the "breads" take on "artsy" shapes that are a far cry from a loaf of bread. Brioche a' Tete' and Turban-shaped Challah with Raisins. Huh? That's bread?? Now don't get me wrong, if this is your kind of creative thing, then this is the bread book for you. What attracted me to the book was the "five minutes a day" because we all know what its like to bake a loaf bread. But the time saved by not kneading dough, you'll spend trying figure out how to pronounce some of the recipe titles and creating the artisan appearance. Lastly, the dough container takes up a huge amount of space in the refrigerator. You need a five-quart size container, and that's a big container. Stick to your tried and true kneading dough, unless you want artsy, non-nutritious bread.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Garden Seeds are Here!

If only we could get in the garden now. Its been cold and snowy here in Central PA -- minus 6 this past weekend -- and the dreams of warmer weather are stronger than ever for many reasons. I'm CRAVING fresh greens! And when my Fedco seed order arrived it heightened the longing for spring and digging in the dirt. Fedco's owner, CR Lawn, always puts a letter in with the orders and this time, he talked about how his company is not feeling the downturn of the economy and no one needs to worry about a seed shortage. He claims his business is actually growing and his early bird seed orders doubled this year. He's happy with business, and I'm happy with the seeds! Seeds are so rewarding to start. From a tiny speck, you get a bountiful harvest for a buck or two. Its definitely work, but well worth it. From planning what to grow, starting it, growing it under lights, hardening the seedlings off, planting them, nursing them to produce, harvesting, storing, and eventually eating -- a lot of time is consumed, but time very well spent. To me, gardening is a satisfying and therapeutic experience. But for now, in the cold winter months, I'll have to keep dreaming -- or start some seeds in the sprout machine!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Know Your Cotton

My cube neighbor at work was offered a pair of organic cotton slippers by her sister and she says to her sister, "what difference does organic cotton slippers make?" What?! So not only did she hear the scoop from her sister, she heard it from me too (poor thing). Beautiful, soft, cotton, is an earth-resource, depleting crop when commercially grown, using the traditional commercial methods. Cotton is a major crop in India and other countries, not as much here in the states. Cotton farming is dependent on water, pesticides, genetically modified seeds, and a lot of acres that end up soil-depleted. Some claim cotton accounts for 25% of all pesticide use because crops are typically sprayed numerous times a season to prevent the dreaded bollworm and other pests from feasting on their crops. To combat pesticide use, seed giant Monsanto developed a genetically modified cotton seed with pesticide built in that initially improved cotton crop production (early 1990's), but through the years, is simply not working any longer. The seed is costing farmers a fortune (seed is expensive and farmers can't save the seeds from year to year) AND they are discovering other pests are resistant to the seed and are invading the crops. This has been found in Arkansas and China too. While some very poor countries in India and Africa are finding cotton a way to improve local economics, they are also saying its killing them . Those of you that like to stay away from petroleum produced fabrics (acrylic, polyester, nylon, etc), and opt for natural fiber clothing like wool and cotton? Please buy organic. Yes, it IS expensive, but the earth and you are very much worth it. An alternative? Buy 2nd hand. When you buy non-organic cotton, you are supporting one of the most pesticide laced crops in the world.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ditching the Shampoo?

A recent post in Simple, Frugal, Green Coop kind of shocked me, being the not-as-green-person as I like to think I am. There are people who never shampoo their hair -- they ditch the shampoo for green reasons, and simply rinse their hair with water, use baking soda or vinegar, or herbs in some cases. Its being called "Going Poo Free". Even a Chicago News Reporter tried it. It supposedly is a new trend gaining momentum. I like the thought of ditching the chemicals, but not washing my hair at all? That sort of set me back having washed my hair with shampoo every day for past 40 years. BUT, the folks who have done it claim their hair is just fine -- not oily or stinky. They claim shampoos strip your hair of natural oils, thus the daily washing and conditioning needs put back in because of what you are stripping. So when you stop the chemical use, after about two weeks, the natural oils come back to your hair and only need rinsing every couple days. When you read what's in a bottle of shampoo, that alone is enough to make you stop using it - lots of petroleum products and processing all wrapped up in a pretty plastic bottle. I have to be honest here -- I stopped using shampoo too about 2 months ago; but not because of wanting to stop for enviornmental and ethical reasons. It was mainly because I didn't want to spend the money for organic or plant-based AVEDA shampoo (way too expensive and processed). I had a good supply of Dr. Bronner's liquid castile soap on hand at the time that Dr. Bronner claims is good for multiple uses -- hair included. Low and behold, I liked it and have been using it since. No chemicals, and its organic, fair-trade, etc. For now, I think I'll stick with Dr. Bronner. Its fairly hard for me to grasp not ever washing my hair!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Eating Goat?

Goat was never a meat to me. I grew up with "Julius" and "Billy", two pet goats that I adored. I can't say my mom liked them all that much when they pranced on the roof and hood of the car, and ate everything in sight -- all of our trees and shrubs were neatly "trimmed" as far up as the goats could reach. When I search for local foods, a goat farm only 3 miles from home keeps popping up, Max Boer Goats. Their goats are beautiful, and I always get a kick out of watching the herd run when I ride by on my bike. It never occurred to me, that these goats are raised for meat. It saddens me to know where they go (like many other animals produced soley for meat), but its comforting knowing these field-raised goats lead good, happy, free lives up until slaughter. Goat Meat? Well, apparently its a growing commodity in the United States. Used for years by other ethnic groups worldwide, Americans are finding goat an alternative to lamb and beef and are jumping on the goat wagon. Part of the reason is the ease in raising goats and the healthy meat produced as a result of low maintenance. Goats are pasture-raised and very popular in the sustainable farming community. And because the goats are field raised, the meat is less-fatty and comparable to veal in flavor and texture, say the experts. Like the chickens, to me, a goat or two would make wonderful pets. Actually, a goat has another extremely useful purpose as I've seen by the Amish -- grass cutting! Los Angeles would agree. So get your goats, for whatever reason!

Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture

The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, a.k.a. PASA, is the Pennsylvania source to promote and find local food. Not only do they promote Pennsylvania products (and Pennsylvania is blessed with sustainable food production), but they promote the importance of eating local, and supporting sustainability with their Buy Fresh Buy Local campaign. In short, these are the go-to guys for Pennsylvanians to learn about local eating. Their mission statement is:
"Promoting profitable farms which produce healthy food for all people while respecting the natural enviornment."
PASA is for both the farmer, and the consumer. Their website has a nice map whereby you can enter your zip code and find local food. They are hooked up with Local Harvest, which is how I found the local organic spelt flour. "Local" I think should be more defined. Most locavores term local within 100 or 150 miles. Some go as far as 250 miles, others, myself included, term local within 30-50 miles. I live in a very rural area of Pennsylvania about 35 miles from any real "cities." When I'm not at work, I view "local" as within my valley -- about a 30 mile radius. So that's what I'd like to focus on as local. I can't see spending money and precious fuel on driving more than 30 or 40 miles just to get something local. Now if I'm in the City, and its on my way home (I work in the Capitol, Harrisburg), I'll certainly stop. But I won't leave the valley just to drive for food, thusl; I'm guilty of buying tofu and soymilk at the grocery story or other staples I can't get locally.

Vegan Pizza

Rick and I have been pizza eaters for many years -- just like about a gazillion other folks in this country. Although lately not as many slices have been hitting our mouths because we both complain about weight gain afterwards -- we think because of the salty cheese combined with the processed low-nutrient carbs in the crust (we seldom made our own). Bad, bad, bad (for us.) When I first met my husband, he made homemade pizza, but lack of time and convenience of ready-made pizza led us astray over the years. So yesterday, we made our own again (courtesy having time due to a snow storm!) and it was delicious. The difference this time is my half was totally vegan. No, I didn't do the vegan cheese thing -- I really don't care for soy cheeses or soy fake meats -- both are too processed and to me taste bad. Rick couldn't bear the thought of pizza without cheese, so we sprinkled a tad on his half (very little), but we were both happy with the turnout. It was very simple. Here's the Vegan Crust recipe, courtesy one of the Whitegrass cookbooks (our - yes I said "our" - even my meat-eating husband likes the vegetarian fare! - absolute favorite place in the world to eat, although West Virginia is a little far to go out to eat!). And what did I think of pizza without cheese? Like I told my husband, it was different, but something I could get used to very easily. It's all in the veges you put on top - we used broccoli, marinara sauce, tomato, mushroom, garlic, and pepper.
Vegan Pizza Dough
1 package dry yeast
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 cup very warm beer (80 to 90 degrees - set opened bottle of beer in hot water to warm it up).
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Place sugar and yeast in mixing bowl - add warm beer. Stir until yeast dissolves. Let sit 5 minutes. Then add salt, pepper and flour, a cup at a time, and mix well. Work the flour into the dough and knead for 10 minutes, or until dough is soft. Let it rise 1 to 1-1/2 hours, or until double in size, then press in a greased pan or onto a stone. Load up with the your favorite toppings and bake at 450 for 20 minutes or until crust is brown.
Topping ideas:
Marinara sauce
sliced fresh tomatoes
artichoke hearts
grated carrots
hot peppers

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Food Talk - With A 90-Year Old Woman

"This country's in bad shape," said Geraldine, my 90 year-old, dear mother-in-law. "Is it?" I said. "It's heading toward the depression," my husband said.

Geraldine said "I remember the depression. I was a teenager."

"Do you remember food lines and people out of work?" Jill said.

"No. It was no different for us... we didn't have anything in the first place. But it (food) was different back then. We raised everything ourselves in the backyard. We grew it all. Nowadays, everything comes in a PACKAGE (she said PACKAGE with emphasis and disgust). A PACKAGE of this, and PACKAGE of that. PACKAGE, PACKAGE, PACKAGE. We didn't have packages of anything. People today go to the store and buy packages. It doesn't taste as good either."

She's SO right. I tried to get out of her WHAT they ate, and she kept saying "what they grew." So you can imagine the plethora of fresh vegetables that were grown, then canned for the winter. We have a lot to learn from our elders.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Organic Gardening Magazine and Rodale

In my humble opinion, Organic Gardening magazine and Rodale are still the aboslute best sources for organic information and healthy living available. Rodale is the great-grandparents of it all (since 1931!) - organic gardening, healthy living (founder of Prevention magazine and many others), and continue to provide useful information and a wealth of resources. Their books are the best, and the magazines are worth the subscription. Check out their mags! (I've read all of them at one time or another, other than "Best Life." ) And they have literally hundreds of books to choose from. Enjoy! (Oh, and they are a Pennsylvania-based company too).

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Foie Gras-Please Don't Support the Production of It

Foie Gras, pronounced “fwah Grah”, I’m proud to say is a food I never heard of until I became an adoptive parent of a rescued chicken, Mr. Pickles. His home, The Farm Sanctuary, takes in all kinds of farm animals rescued from factory farming or inhumane food production sources. The beautiful calendar I received as part of my adoption, has a gorgeous duck named Julep on the January photo. Each month features a rescued animal, and their story. It turns out, Julep was part of a Canadian Foie Gras production facility, where she was thrown on the dead pile as a hatchling, because she’s a female. Farm Sanctuary rescued her and several other ducks from in the trashcan. Foie Gras is fatty duck liver, and the production is just horrid – they force feed male ducks 4 lbs of corn meal mush a day (that’s equivalent to 60 lbs of mush force fed to a human), over a 2-3 week period to fatten them up – mainly to enlarge their liver for a “delicacy” dish that some restaurants offer. I was again in tears seeing pictures of these poor ducks being force fed with tubes of mush. I have to stop looking at these websites… its tearing me apart! My husband thinks I’m insane when he sees me crying…. over a duck or a chicken. Sorry honey, I’m just an old farm-animal loving country girl – its in my genes! (my parents would cry too at these things). After seeing this, and reading more on animal cruelty, I'm officially giving up meat (yet again!) and this time I'm including dairy – if you drink milk or eat any dairy products, you are supporting the veal industry and I absolutely will not advocate veal production either. Farm animals need more rights! I may end up totally vegan; something I thought about and toyed with a little bit for quite some time and I think now is the time to officially do it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Yup - You Too Can Be Buried "Green"

The concept never crossed my mind, but even funerals are going green these days. So you're a natural kinda person? You'll want to read on. Natural Cemetaries are popping up all over the country. One of the largest, is 2,100 acre monastery in Conyers Georgia, called Honey Creek Woodland Preserve. There are no sealed caskets, concrete vaults, and toxic embalming chemicals. Instead, you have biodegradable coffins, shrouds, even family quilts can cushion your loved one. Family is encouraged to dig the hole, cover your loved one back up with the same dirt you dug out, and plant flowers on the gravesite when done. Actually, you MUST plant vegetation when done and you are encouraged to use native plants to Georgia -- that's the idea of a "natural" grave. Stones from the surrounding landscape are used as tombstones and GPS coordinates are used to find the grave in future visits. My husband found this very, very hard to believe. His comment was, "how 'bout cremation -- isn't that cheap and "green?" Interesting, very interesting.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Gardening Books Always On Hand

There must be a thousand gardening books and writings – there’s certainly no shortage of information when one has gardening questions. Where were we without the Internet? Well, I’m old enough to be able to answer that! When I first starting thinking about gardening, I was 30 years old – 19 years ago – well before the Internet. My husband and I were planning the construction of our new home and I knew I wanted the property landscaped to perfection. My first book to guide me to that perfection was Theme Gardens, by Barbara Damrosch which taught me a ton of stuff – gardening for wildlife, gardens for songbirds, gardens for dying clothing, gardening by color, etc. My second book was also by Barbara Damrosch and to this day is a best seller and used frequently in my repertoire of books – The Garden Primer. It’s filled with how-to’s and details on just about anything that grows. Over the years my gardening book collection has grown to no less than 50 in all areas of interest – seed starting, antique roses, theme/historical gardens, topiaries, herb gardening, organic gardening, controlling pests, bug books, wildflowers, native plants, pruning, four-season gardening (of course by Barbara’s husband, Eliot Coleman!), plants in crafts, edible flowers, botany for gardeners, plant dictionary, and another one of my bibles, the Penn State Master Gardeners Manual. It's a huge 3-ring binder with tons, and tons of incredibly useful reference material on anything from turf to fruit trees. And yes, today the Internet is at our beckoning call, but I still reference my plethora of books before I hit the keyboard. There’s something to be said for a library of good gardening books to peruse when the power goes off, or sitting under a tree in the summer, or just relaxing on the sofa. My point? Keep a couple of really good gardening books at arm’s length – they are worth their weight in gold and will be referenced for years to come. I already mentioned and linked above my top choices for you. Happy reading and garden planning!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Low Down on Organic Coffee

For several years, I've been buying organic coffee (its one of my "exceptions" to buying local), "to save the birds." Translated, I want the birdies - in particular the hummingbirds and bobolinks (a.k.a. neotropical migrants) - to come back to Central Pennsylvania each year to nest and raise their young. Hummingbirds migrate to Central America while the Bobolinks travel about 7,000 miles to Argentina and Chile' each year. Birds are an integral part of an organic garden in many ways with insect control and pollination topping the list. Buying organic, shade-grown coffee guarantees their return because typically organic coffee is shade grown and no forest destruction occurs as it does for sun-grown coffee (the "normal" coffee plantations) - at least that's what I believed, or in this case, knew. It actually goes deeper than just "organic" coffee. If you live in Northeast America and your goal is to have the neotropical birdies come back each year, then you want to stick to South or Central American Coffee, which is the home of most of the migratory birds in PA. I hadn't really thought that through when I purchased my Sumatran coffee because "it smells and tastes good." Doh! Like the birds in Pennsylvania migrate to and from Indonesia. Boy am I dumb. Jeff Cox, wrote an interesting organic coffee article and he clearly describes this. My dear Bobolinks are indebted to Jeff! And here's a good article on migratory birds and Bird-friendly coffee. And where to find it and be guaranteed it bird friendly? You can start your search at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Institute, but google local roasters in your area also. National Audubon Society provides a convenient monthly coffee club so you don't have to reorder -- it comes to you automatically so its one less thing to keep track of. Green Mountain Coffee also has a monthly recurring order, but their National Wildlife Organic Coffee isn't certified by the Smithsonian (but guarantee bird-friendly).

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Mr. Pickles Adoption Papers and His Friend, Betty

More tears for chickens - why do I react that way when I see the hell factory animals are put through - mainly chickens? I received my adoption papers on Mr. Pickles, a glossy photo, and info on Farm Sanctuary. If you haven't been following, my wonderful boss adopted a rescue chicken, Mr. Pickles, for me as a Christmas gift -- I'm still ecstatic over it. In the info I received for Farm Sancutary, was a story and picture about Betty. Tears started running down my face as soon as I saw her. She's a rescued battery caged, egg laying hen. (If you are unfamiliar with factory farming egg layers, please, please, please read this and never buy "cheap" eggs again!) She has no beak -- that's where the tears started. I knew about the debeaking for many years (thus, I haven't eaten chicken since I first learned about the torture reading Fast Food Nation), but it hit home when I saw this beautiful, happy bird - without a beak. They say she's doing fine and is eating well, but its SO sad to see. I think part of the reason it hurts so much is because I live in the middle of battery-caged egg country. About a mile from my home, are 11 HUGE chicken buildings, and while I've never been inside, my husband has and its stuffed with caged birds. And I'm helpless! There's absolutely nothing I can do for them. The company that uses the eggs is a huge agribusiness - Michael Foods. Local grocery stores sell the eggs with "Local Hegins Valley Eggs" on the carton! Now there's a reason NOT to buy local! Please, only buy cage-free eggs, (or don't eat eggs and chicken?). Maybe there should be some "real" pictures on the egg cartons -- caged, debeaked birds - not "local" eggs.

Friday, January 2, 2009

One of my "vows" of present, past, and future is organic food - no matter the cost! Starting the new year has me looking for fresh, new organic websites to peruse. Of course, Organic Gardening magazine is tried and true, but I also found was packed with info - recipes, gardening advice, and opinions from great gardening experts such as Rosalind Creasy and Jeff Cox among others. Excellent info -- now added to my daily BLOG perusal.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Delivery - A Load of Horse Manure!

There are a handful of things that get me REAL excited -- that jump up and down with glee kinda feeling when you are really happy about something. You know, you feel like you want to scream because you are SO excited and happy about something - tears of joy may even run down your face. I guess I'm a true Pennsylvania Dutch country girl, because when my father delivers a load of horse manure, I can't contain myself. I have to go play in it -- dig in it, stand on it, smell it, take pictures of it, separate it into smaller "piles." Its like gold to me, and always will be. The other excitement? Chickens!