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Month: September, 2007

Cardamom Bread

by Scott Smith

I stumbled across Alfred Lunt’s recipe for Cardamom Bread on NPR.org while I was looking for that cookbook from Friday’s post. When I saw it I thought, ‘FABULOUS! Now I can use up some of that unreasonable supply of cardamom that I have.’ I wonder how much 18 seeds of ground cardamom seeds is… 1/4 teaspoon? 1/2 teaspoon?

Dean Schmitz’s version of Alfred Lunt’s cardamom bread. Ten Chimneys Foundation

I’m definitely waiting until some brisk, October day to do it though. And I’m definitely skipping that coffee recipe.


Free Range Hogs|Low Impact Farming

by Scott Smith

I love this picture and I love this article.
Free Range Sow

“No matter who you are or what your background is, everyone has a ceiling to break through,” [Mike Jones] says. “All my ancestors on both sides of my family have been farmers, but they never owned land. So mine was to own my own farm.”

It took him more than 20 years to reach his goal. Determined to make something of himself, Jones became the first in his family to attend college. He finished his degree with help from the GI Bill, then worked for several confinement hog farms—many of which now contract with Smithfield Foods—to learn the business. He did well, but kept looking for ways to improve the system.

“Finally I came to the conclusion it couldn’t be done,” he says. “I didn’t see how the environment could be managed in a way that was tolerable to me. The profit was there, but I didn’t want to be there.”

Jones’ decision to leave was one of conscience.

“I began to get callused to animals’ suffering, and this bothered me,” he says. “I thought, ‘This is how human rights abuses get started.’ First the animals get abused, then the people.”

There’s a reader comment at the end that claims it would not be feasible for all pigs to be raised in this way. He may be right that not all pigs could be raised in exactly this way, but I think all pigs can be raised in a better way than an entire lifetime spent on 6 square feet of concrete. We can all eat less meat and, most of all, stop turning our noses up at certain cuts. Our pig lasted us nearly a year. We didn’t get to eat bacon and pork chops everyday. Some of those days we ate soups made with neck bones and hocks. There is a cookbook out there about the moral necessity to use the entire animal if we are going to eat it, but I can’t find it. I heard a brief section of an interview with the author on NPR a while back but I’ve searched for the program a number of times to no avail. Does anyone know what this book is, or did I dream it?

Learn Me Good

by Scott Smith

I was watching Coleman Jones (a/k/a Jones Soda) play his latest driving game on the Game Cube. He switched to a track that required drift — for the uninitiated game players, that’s driving into curves at high-speed without too much braking if any.

The track exaggerated  the drift, giving him a track that’s S-curves.

The game was training the young boy, teaching him. The key was teaching without the usual pedantic methods we use in schools, business, and home.

I want to apply the idea of learning by doing with PmWiki and WordPress. How do you teach and leave the pedantic, ineffective method of lectures and the like?

When I think of my learning style, I know something when I can teach someone. Before that, I rely a bit too much on instinct. You learn by teaching and doing.

I admire game makers for their ability to teach a whole system and leaving the docs behind. However, they build the learning into the system.

I remember an early version of my beloved Age of Empires basically forced you to use their tutorial before setting you lose on the various scenarios.

PmWiki and WordPress have no built-in learning system that allows you to create a document within a tutorial (going back to learning by building/doing).

Adobe and other makers have software that allow you to build tutorials based on a system. I find them too far removed from the program.

I’m not too sure how I can help others master PmWiki and WordPress more effectively. I mean, that’s the key, right? If I spend two hours on X, it will save me eight hours on Y. ROI – Return on Investment.

Well written documentation is good; screencasts (videos of software how-tos) is good; tutorials requiring user interaction is good. Still, not as effective or efficient as the drift tutorial Jones Soda experiences in his video game.

Animoto Fun

by Scott Smith

Have you all seen Animoto? It’s a whole lot of fun. Mom… another good gift idea (year long membership, unlimited, full length videos).

Hoof and Mouth Disease

by Scott Smith

New Foot-and-Mouth Case in Britain, New York Times, Sept. 13, 2007.

In a report on the August outbreak, the government said that it had most likely been caused by drainage problems at two animal-disease research laboratories — one privately owned, the other run by the government — at Pirbright, in Surrey. Milton Park Farm is about 10 miles from Pirbright, but Ms. Reynolds said it was too early to determine the cause of the latest case.

I keep reading about all of the family farmers who have been put out of business in England because all of their animals had to be culled. If it turns out to be true that the research laboratories are responsible for the outbreak, shouldn’t all of those families be reimbursed for their losses so that they can continue making their living? Does it not work that way in England?

Hard on the Hens

by Scott Smith

Rough week or so for the hens. Two were attacked by groundhogs (a guess) — one of them dying. Yesterday, another died of old age. Another hen got lost, but returned this morning.

I really don’t want to cage the girls up. Not sure what the answer is.

I know a farm in western Michigan has started to use portable fencing and a hen house. That’s beyond my scale. I can appreciate the benefit though. The birds are constantly moved and fenced-in.

Hanging with a Bad Crowd: Domestic Bees and their Wild Counterparts

by Scott Smith

Barb! sent me an e-mail about a colony of honey bees in her neighbor’s woodpile which led me to look into what a person should do when they find a wild colony which led me to an interesting article on the role wild bees play in pollination.

When honey bees interact with wild native bees, they are up to five times more efficient in pollinating sunflowers than when native bees are not present, according to a new study by a pair of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and UC Davis.

FIVE times! That’s a lot of efficiency. When I first started reading the article I thought that the reasoning would have something to do with the secret language of bees… you know, a domestic bee meets a wild bee and the wild bee does a little dance and gives the domestic the lowdown on the good local flora, but no. It turns out that the domestic bees are simply avoiding the wild bees. It’s hard to say if the domestic bee is a snob or afraid, but either way, the avoidance is what works.

Now, this big difference is all happening in a commercial farming setting. The study was done on a sunflower seed farm and on sunflower seed farms there are rows of girl sunflowers and rows of boy sunflowers. Bees all have specialized jobs. Some of the bees collect nectar and some of the bees collect pollen. So a bee left to its own will just go right down one row and will rarely switch from boy to girl sunflower. Enter the wild bee and the domestic bee hightails it on out of its way. TA DA! The domestic bee finds a safe place to land on a flower it wouldn’t, through it’s normal job description, ever have a reason to land on.

So, it’s in a farmer’s best interest to maintain some wild habitat amongst his (or her) regular crops because:

“Growers can throw more and more honey bees out there, but they’re not going to get more pollination if the bees visit only one of the cultivars,” Kremen said. “Wild bees make the honey bees more skittish so they move more frequently between the different cultivars. Each time they move, they have the possibility of transporting the pollen between the rows.”

Considering the big scare at the beginning of this particular growing season regarding disappearing honey bees and how we’ll basically end up eating bread and water without sufficient pollination I think Barb!’s neighbor should consider leaving the bees alone or paying a professional to move them to a spot where they can be useful to us.

Wild bees make honey bees better pollinators

Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus

by Scott Smith

Yesterday an update on Colony Collapse Disorder hit the news (thanks to all who sent me links). Scientists have discovered a virus that shows up in bee colonies affected but not in healthy colonies – unless it’s a bee in Australia… those bees seem to handle the virus well.

“There are no cases [of Colony Collapse Disorder] in Australia at all,” entomologist Dave Britton of the Australian Museum told the Sydney Morning Herald last month. “It is a Northern Hemisphere phenomenon.”

It’s interesting to me that this is happening in mostly big, commercial operations that move their hives around the country pollinating big corporate farms. Some scientists believe that it is not that the virus is so bad, but that colonies with immune systems weakened by a multitude of stresses can’t fight off the virus – I heard it compared to HIV on NPR. I wonder if mono-culture might be one of the factors. Bees are trucked around to pollinate huge crops of single plantings…

“I still believe that multiple factors are involved in CCD,” said Jeff Pettis, “and what we need to do is look at combinations such as parasites, stress and nutrition (together with the virus).”

People who eat only one type of food don’t tend to be healthy either.


Sending Alice Off to School

by Scott Smith

Our dear friend Alice stopped by the homestead on her way to Rochester, NY.

Click a photo to see larger versions.
Note Alice’s doll in the window.Alice (Alice is the tall woman not the chicken) next to her Ford.