Thursday, May 31, 2007

Low Impact Week

Low Impact Week starts tomorrow and here are the things we are planning on doing or already do.

1. Reduce energy consumption -

don't turn the heat above 65 during the day and 60 at night (put on a sweater and dig out those blankies!); for our southern friends, set the A/C to above 90 - we haven't turned our AC on yet and don't plan to for at least 2 more weeks. It got pretty hot last week (88) and wasn't pleasant in the house but we survived.

turn off the TV unless you are actually watching something - we already do this

use the air dry on your dishwasher instead of heat dry - we already do this

use only cold water in your washing machine - We will start doing this

line dry your clothes instead of using the dryer* - I will do this this week

2. Reduce water usage -

turn off the water when you're brushing your teeth - already do this

be aware of water usage when at the kitchen sink - turn it off in between tasks - already do this

save the water in a bucket that is discharged while warming up the shower and use it to water plants or for other things* - will start doing this

3. Change your food habits -

try to buy organic and/or locally grown food - already do this some will look for a local, organic you pick farm and visit the farmer's market more

minimize pre-packaged foods and make more of your own from scratch - doing this more and more every week

use cloth bags at the grocery store instead of getting paper or plastic* - I started doing this a few weeks ago

don't get take-out if it means non-recyclable packaging* - we never get take out

4. Reduce your dependence on paper products -

print out only what is necessary - our printer is rarely used already, I will print nothing this week

try out a a 100% recycled TP and tissue brand - will try this this week

5. Reduce your garbage output -

recycle everything you can (for your area) - already do this

donate used items to a charity (many have pick ups and drop off locations) instead of throwing them out or taking them to the dump - I have boxes of stuff ready to donate, I'll drop it off this week

compost your food waste and soiled paper products* - just started doing this a few weeks ago

6. Reduce Single Occupancy Vehicle usage - I'm afraid I'm not going to do any of these things, but I am really focusing on driving less and will have 2 days next week when I drive nowhere

carpool when taking trips or going out to eat with friends
take the bus or other public transportation to work and on errands*

7. Do something that lasts more than a week -

replace one bulb per day with a Compact Fluorescent light bulb - will do

take your name off of junk mail and mailing lists for catalogs you don't want - will do

set up a compost bin for your food scraps* - already do

set up a rain barrel to capture water for watering your yard* -already do

To see all the suggestions go here:

If anyone else if participating I'd love to hear what you are planning on doing.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

First Harvest

Last night I made my first harvest of my lettuce mixture and 2 peas from my Tom Thumb pea plant. It made for a delicious salad. I realized I will need to plant A LOT more lettuce if we actually want to have more than 2 salads from it.
A picture of the whole garden. I can't wait to be doing this in the ground!
We have 2 baby tomatoes!

The potatoes are growing like crazy! Out of all the sweet potato slips I had only 1 made it once they were put into dirt. I guess I'm going to be hitting up the farmer's market for sweet potatoes at the end of the summer.
My beans are starting to get flowers on them. I need to plant some more soon.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


My Tom Thumb pea plants are getting peas on them.

Isn't this the cutest thing? I love those tiny little pea pods.

These I might actually be able to eat in a few days.

My blackberry is getting flowers. I hope for berries this year!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Genetically-engineered food

Since watching the Future of Food, I've been doing a lot more reading about GE foods. I had NO idea they were so wide-spread at this point. I recently read that up to 80% of our packaged food has at least 1 GE ingredient. If the food has corn syrup, corn starch, maltodextrin, maltose, dextrose, lectithin, or any canola oil in it (as well as many others), they are most likely from a GE source. Most of the corn, soy and canola grown commercially in this country is GE. The more I think about it the more overwhelming it gets. And most of the growth hormone used in meat and dairy is GE. I also found out that 80% of the cheese that is commerically made in this country uses GE rennet. So, an average slice of Kraft american cheese contains at least 3 GE ingredients, the growth hormone in the milk, the rennet and the soy lectithin used as a preservative. I'm really feeling unsure about eating anything!

We already eat all organic animal products and organic produce. But I will admit there are still some non-organic packaged things we eat. And I worry if even the organic things we are eating are safe. I know they don't purposefully use anything GE but those plants spread like crazy! GE plants are constantly getting into non-GE fields and contaminating them. Are the organic farmers sure they aren't growing GE corn, soy or canola? I mean the rice from the test fields got out and it wasn't discovered until another country rejected our rice imports because they were GE. The rice farmers were really pissed since they didn't plant GE rice. There are also test fields of GE wheat that could escape. I really don't want to be eating this stuff and I've just figured out I've been eating it for years without knowing.

We should all be outraged that GE ingredients are in so many of our foods and we don't know it. We should be beyond pissed that the government has decided we don't have a right to know what we are eating. I'm going to start writing to the FDA and my representatives about this. I'm going to find every online campaign I can. I'm not going to accept being kept in the dark anymore. At the very least our food should be labeled so we can make an informed choice.

Here is an interesting article about GE rice and when it got out:

I don't know how up to date this is but here is information about a right to know bill and how to contact your representatives to tell them you want them to support it: I'm going to sign the letter they have online but also write my own using some of their wording to send in individually. Individual letters hold more sway than a mass-signed letter. I'm also going to send a letter to the editor of my local newspaper.

Friday, May 18, 2007


No, not the place with the shootings, but one of my favorite plants. I have 3 different columbines planted in my shade wildlife garden. They bloom pretty early in the spring and they re-seed themselves, not to the extent that bee balm does, but they do re-seed. I planted 1 of each type last spring and this spring 3-5 of each type came up. Now, my bee balm I planted 1 last spring and this spring about 30 came up. Bee balm re-seeds like crazy! But it won't bloom until mid-summer so we have a while to wait until I can share pictures of it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

More garden

Carrots, I've removed the weed since taking the picture.


Sweet potato, it is looking a little rough. The caterpillars have been eating it.


My amish paste tomotoes are finally coming up. I have 3 pots of these.

Tom Thumb peas, I also have 3 pots of these. This is the biggest one so far, it even has some flowers on it.

Garden update

Here are pictures of some of what I'm growing and how they are doing. I've got over 20 pots on the deck with various veggies in them. Some are doing well and some are just getting started. Here are the things that are doing well.

My onions are doing great. I hope they are doing as well under the dirt as they are above the dirt.

Ditto for the potatoes.

Purple beans are starting to come up.

My sweet potato slips are actually growing and I planted a few a couple of days ago. I'll post pictures of those soon.

My lettuce. At what point should I eat this?

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Future of Food

I watched the documentary The Future of Food tonight. It is a really good DVD and I recommend it to everyone that is interested in what they are eating. It is about GM food. It is truly terrifying when you think about it. They've changed the genes of plants and these genes have ended up in other plants. The wild corn in Mexico now have the roundup ready gene in it even though they banned the planting of GM corn in Mexico. It is bad enough that the seeds end up escaping and growing in the wrong fields but the fact that the genes are actually ending up in other plants is horrible. Especially because they now have crops with the terminator gene in them, which is a gene that keeps the plant from making seed and growing for another generation. Imagine if this gene ended up in other plants? It could easily become the case that all corn in this country would be unable to make seed (this could happen in any plant, even non-crop plants). I have a PhD in biotechnology related stuff and I know how easy it is for genes to enter other organisms.

I really see the potential for our whole food supply to become contaminated. I don't think people realize how much of our food supply is already GM. Pretty much anything with corn syrup or soy lectithin is GM. There is also a real possibility of the added genes recombining with our own DNA including the antibiotic resistance gene that is included in every GM crop for easy selection of the modified seed.

It is also believed that the pollen from the Bt corn (which is GM corn that contains the gene for an insecticide) might be causing the problems in the honeybee populations.

Here is a good place to read more about GM foods:

Here is a campaign against Monsanto, the producer of pretty much all the GM seed:

Monday, May 7, 2007

Low Impact Week

Crunchy Chicken has come up with the idea for Low Impact week starting June 1. I think it is a great idea and plan on participating. Here are more details, including ideas for what you can do that week:

I'll be sure to update what we do during that week.

Sunday, May 6, 2007


Logan has been volunteering with me since he was 3 or so. We currently volunteer once a week at a cat adoption center and we foster kittens regularly. I'm a backyard habitat steward with NWF, meaning I go to people's houses and help them plan backyard habitats. Logan goes along on all my visits with me and has become a real spokes person for native plants and removing invasive species. It is fun to hear him go off on the evils of invasive plants with adults he has just met. We also sometimes help out the Delaware Nature Society.

Thursday we helped them set up the native plant sale that was this weekend. We volunteered for 3 hours and Logan worked the whole time. We were moving plants into the appropriate spot, this involved a lot of lifting, carrying and pulling of full carts. Logan worked as hard as any of the adults there. They were all really impressed with Logan and how hard he worked without complaining. I hate to admit it I didn't even realize how hard he was working, I knew he wanted to help and I guess I took it for granted that he would do what he could. He loves to help me out at home, especially with gardening stuff, he likes to do heavy physical work.

I think it is wonderful that he is getting the chance to volunteer at such a young age. He really feels like he is making a difference in the world by donating his time. I think it gives him a sense of empowerment. I never volunteered until I was married when I starting volunteering at the zoo. I wish I had volunteered a lot more before then, volunteering is a great way to discover what interests you and the type of work you enjoy doing. I think by doing different volunteer jobs with me Logan will get a good feel for what he'd like to do as an adult.

I hadn't really realized how unusual it is for a kid his age to volunteer until Thursday after all the comments we got. It would be wonderful if all kids got a chance to volunteer at something they enjoy.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

No knead bread

I think I'm the last person in America to make this bread, but I finally tried it yesterday. Being me, I changed the recipe a bit. It turned out pretty good, it had a good flavor and a good texture. I ended up deflating it some when putting it in the oven but I have a plan for next time.

My version of No-Knead Bread

makes one 1.5 pound loaf

Originally published by Mark Bittman in the New York Times

Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery

Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours rising

2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 cup unbleached white flour
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt

1. In a large bowl combine flours, yeast and salt. Add 1 1/2 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees. (I let it go 18 hours)

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Instead of doing the second rise in a towel, I did it on a pizza peal covered loosely with plastic wrap. I let the second rise go 3 hours.

4. 1 hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees with pizza stone in oven. Move dough from pizza peal to hot stone. This is where I had problems and deflated the bread, next time I will use parchment paper on the peal and just slide it onto the hot stone. Bake 30 minutes. Cool on a rack.
I found a recipe for a sourdough version that I want to try.