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Month: June, 2007

DMV line out the door

by Scott Smith

In Michigan, your license stickers are up for renewal on your birthday (Hint: mine is 7/3 and there’s a PayPal button in the Tip Jar page :->). My possible jury duty stint — 6 weeks — begins Monday. I wanted to get this over in case my panel was called.

The Barry County Michigan DMV office has never been crowded. Until Friday. They were out the door and lining the hallway. All I can say is I’m glad I brought a book.

I grabbed my ticket from its dispenser. I was behind 25 people.

Let me interrupt the narrative with this — there are no public bathrooms in the building. I know this because just about every door has that message. If you know me, you know that makes me flinch a bit. Diabetics like me do two things all day long: drink a lot and piss even more.

I settle in and read and people gaze. A lot of teenagers. Really, a lot of teenage girls. Happy teenage girls with their families. I can’t imagine why. They are stuck in a Russian style bread line on a lovely day in a building with no public restroom access.

I return to my book.

The teenagers are every where. I mean aren’t they old enough to just hang at home, get tans, update their MySpace page, and play with their Wii? There are whole families here on a Friday afternoon. Bizarre.

I’m behind 15 more people when I leave the building in search of a public restroom. Found a grocery store down the road.

Ok, back in line. 10 more to go.

One of the DMV guys is walking around with a form pad. I overhear him have a conversation with a dad. He mentions that four high schools had finished their driving programs that day.

Doah!!!! Happy teenagers with their parents at the DMV are there for only one reason — getting their license to drive away from their parents and siblings.

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Evian

by Scott Smith

Do you remember your first bottle of bottled water? I do. I was in Chicago, circa 1988 when my high school boyfriend insisted that I must try some Evian (if you remember him you are probably chuckling over that). He said that it was so good, it was ‘like drinking air.’ He was right. It was the tastiest water I had ever… not tasted. Barb! sent me this NPR link which led me to the article Message in a Bottle which is what got me thinking about that first taste of bottled water.

Bottled water is often simply an indulgence, and despite the stories we tell ourselves, it is not a benign indulgence. We’re moving 1 billion bottles of water around a week in ships, trains, and trucks in the United States alone. That’s a weekly convoy equivalent to 37,800 18-wheelers delivering water. (Water weighs 8-1/3 pounds a gallon. It’s so heavy you can’t fill an 18-wheeler with bottled water–you have to leave empty space.)

The author questioned John Mackey, CEO and co-founder of Whole Foods Market about the ethics of bottled water and got this response:

As for the energy used to transport water from overseas, Mackey says it is no more or less wasteful than the energy used to bring merlot from France or coffee from Ethiopia, raspberries from Chile or iPods from China. “Have we now decided that the use of any fossil fuel is somehow unethical?” Mackey asks. “I don’t think water should be picked on. Why is the iPod okay and the water is not?

Well, for one thing, the iPod is a durable good and really, that question seems like a diversion tactic. As for the other food issues mentioned, I would have to say that local is better on all counts, however, I’m not going to drink 8 bottles of French merlot a day in the same way that I might drink 8 bottles of water. And coffee is also not generally not consumed in the same quantities as water and doesn’t weigh as much since we add our own water once it gets to us (although it does have its own unwieldy set of environmental issues). I think its clearly a matter of efficiency but with all of the global warming and “getting off foreign oil” talk, bottle water seems like an issue we ignore too easily.

So, if I am to minimize my “footprint,” clearly bottled water has to be taken off the list of conveniences I consider available to me. I’ve been working on eating more locally. I guess its time to start drinking more locally too.

The moral health of a nation…

by Scott Smith

I knew there was something I didn’t like about this guy…

Romney placed his family dog, an Irish setter named Seamus, into a kennel lashed to the top of his station wagon for a 12-hour family trip from Boston to Ontario in 1983. Despite being shielded by a wind screen the former Massachusetts governor erected, Seamus expressed his discomfort with a diarrhea attack.

Washington Post link.

New LJR Features

by Scott Smith

We now have a fun poll located in the nav bar on the left.

Another new feature is your ability to create a subscriber account on our blog and receive email updates.

Is there more we could be doing? Leave us a suggestion in the comments.

And thanks for participating.

SiCKO Arrives

by Scott Smith

I watched SiCKO via a stream the other day. Very effective film. On my iGoogle page, there was a headline about the film saying it is Moore’s attempt to shame us. Probably true.

Scoble wrote about a blog his wife, Maryam, follows. Derek Miller just found out he has stage 4 metastatic colorectal cancer. His post about getting the news is not surprising. He’s upset and angry. By the way, he’s not even 40.

Please read his post and note what’s missing. Where’s the part about him worried he’ll sink his wife with hospital bills, causing her to file bankruptcy. Where’s the part about him worried that his children won’t have a college fund after his surgery.

You won’t find it. He’s a Canadian.

Ecological Footprint Quiz

by Scott Smith

I just took a footprint quiz. If everyone lived like I do we would need 2 1/2 planets! It’s because I eat meat and don’t have access to public transportation. So I wanted to know, what can I do to be a better person? Well, I can eat less meat and visit this website and start buying their environmentally friendly products… like disposable diapers.

Hey. As long as we’re all on the same page.

4 Season Harvest

by Scott Smith

I borrowed Eliot Coleman’s Four Season Harvest from a neighbor nearly a year ago and only just started reading it the other day. Its a book I’ve been aware of for a while as a gardening classic and now I know why it is so loved and recommended. If you are even a little bit interested in growing your own food you’ll be ecstatic about it after you read this book. Okay, maybe you have to be a little more than a little bit interested to reach ecstasy but I’m pretty excited. If it weren’t so darn hot today I’d probably be outside laying out garden expansions. Perhaps I will simply peruse some online seed catalogs and make plans for my late summer and fall plantings.

Actually its a little hard for me to sit on my hands right now because I want to put all of the Coleman’s (his wife, Barbara Damrosch, is also a writer) practices into use right now but I’d have to destroy my current crops in order to do that fully and I’m not giving up all of those promising green tomatoes to do it. Plus, that would just be silly and its not the intention of the book to force you to start from scratch. If you are starting from scratch they give you some excellent plans to follow for doing that.

I am going to stop pulling the clover out of the beds. If I could find seeds quickly (and for free at this point in the month) I’d be out there throwing down more seeds so that the entire bed could be covered in clover. Clover is a ‘green manure‘ that organic growers use to protect soil. Clover stores nitrogen and can later be turned for soil improvement. I think the term used for the practice of planting it along with your vegetables is ‘under cropping.’ Farmers who are certified organic are required to use clover or other cover crops for overwintering their fields.
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Basically by using this practice in your garden you are choosing a weed you and your tomatoes (for example) can live with which in turn helps to keep other weeds at bay and improves your soil at the same time. I actually saw a picture in a magazine of some tomatoes under cropped with sweet alyssum which was lovely and apparently there is a pest that the alyssum keeps away as well. I don’t know alyssum would actually improve the soil in any particular way though – I haven’t found anything outside of pest control which is no small matter by itself (I wonder if you could mix alyssum and clover and have the best of both worlds?).

So, get yourself a copy of Four Season Harvest or head over to Four Season Farm. The book has been around long enough that your local library probably has a copy.

The Weight of Words

by Scott Smith

A lot of people feel (well, know) that the term ‘organic’ doesn’t mean what it used to since the government got a hold on it. Many small scale farmers have turned their backs on the word since the government has started making exceptions (organic sugar is above $3/lb? That’s okay, buy the regular stuff and we’ll still call it organic). I noticed a new term the other day… ‘authentic food.’

‘Authentic’ could mean a lot of different things when it comes to food. I suppose it would depend on to whom you were talking. There is a company called ‘The Authentic Food Company‘ but their shtick seems to be authentic as in authentically Italian, or authentically ‘oriental’ (yeah, that ‘oriental’ thing is a topic for another post). What I think the term means in the context I originally saw it in is the same thing that organic used to mean. It used to mean that you didn’t put chemicals on your crops or in your chickens and you didn’t raise anything in a way that was destructive to the environment.

Words lose their weight when you dilute their meaning. ‘Organic’ has become white noise. The only thing I can count on when I buy organic bread now is that it doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup listed in the ingredients. But I wonder if they can put that in when regular sugar is too pricey??

Spinach with Clean Dishes

by Scott Smith

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The kids and I worked on some garden maintenance this afternoon before Coleman’s baseball game. Since the spinach had gotten overgrown and isn’t really good for salads anymore I’m chopping it in my food processor and freezing it in little blocks like you can buy at the grocery store. I added chopped spinach and garlic to some alfredo sauce and it was a big hit, even with Scott who is still not the greatest vegetable eater ever.

Many Tips

by Scott Smith

I stumbled across this great blog by Kenny Point. Veggie Gardening Tips is all about Kenny’s organic, ornamental AND edible garden. There are scads of postings on plants that are beautiful as well as edible and, of course, tips on how to grow them. His Top Ten Reasons for Growing Vegetables is a lot of fun (and more encouragement for those just getting into food production).

I planted okra this year. Mostly because I got a packet of seeds as a gift, but also because it makes me think of my Uncle Clifton. Okra is a southern favorite and I think Uncle Clifton was probably as southern as you could get in Northwest Indiana (it’s my understanding that it was his dream to return to Kentucky to live). Seeing my uncle bring okra in from their huge vegetable garden is my only memory of okra from childhood. We certainly didn’t eat it at my house – I would have instantly turned my nose up at it. My only actual experience with okra was deep fried from Brown’s Chicken with LOTS of ketchup. It was pretty mediocre as far as culinary experiences go. I’ll be more daring with it at harvest this time.

After reading Kenny’s entry on growing okra I’m on my way out the door to see if I can transplant mine. Somehow I missed that it grows 4-5 feet tall! It would make a quick and lovely screen to hide anything unsightly. I realize now after looking at some pictures online that this is the same plant that I marveled over planted out in front of the Rennselaer Dairy Queen once.