Friday, February 29, 2008

#183 - A False Start

Getting Even More Anal About Idling

So I've been putting together my Riot Numbers this week and was a bit dismayed to see that my gasoline consumption is exactly the same as it was in February 2007. Ugh. Of course, I didn't have two kiddos in a preschool that is located ten miles away then, but still, it's depressing.

Depressing to think about all the changes I've made to reduce my gasoline consumption without actually seeing much change in my numbers. And so, here's another change I'm gonna make in an attempt to shift those numbers down.

Here's me today getting in the car to go pick up Ethan at preschool:

I buckle Daphne in her carseat, close her door and then slide on in behind the wheel. The first thing I do is stick the key in the ignition and turn on the car. Then I grab my seatbelt, pull it around my not-so-slim waist and click it into place. I then realize that I'm experiencing some sort of scraping pain in my left eye. Internal dialogue begins:

"What the hell, man?" [remember, this is internal, so I'm not swearing in front of my 2-year-old. Trust me, the girl is a parrot, and I watch the language when she's in earshot] "Jesus on a freakin' Pop-Tart what is in my eye?!?!" I rub said eye furiously, which not only leaves me looking like an Alice Cooper impersonator, but grinds whatever foriegn object is there against my fragile cornea.

"OhmyGod, it feels like a god damn pine cone! Oouuuuuuccccchhhhhsssshhhhhiiiiiiiiiiiitttt". I rotate the rearview mirror for a closer look. There is no pinecone, but an errant lash lies teetering on the edge of my eye-rim (yeah. whatever. don't care what the technical term for that is). I pluck the eyelash and make a wish as I blow it off my fingertip. Now I'm looking at the mess I made of my mascara, but then shrug and decide I don't really care.

I put the rearview mirror back in place and do a double-check on the Dapper to make sure she's buckled, because I have the world's worst short-term memory. I plug in my cell phone to recharge, pop in a Scooby-Doo DVD and release the parking brake. I shift the 'van into reverse and head on out.

Sadly, this start is par for the course. Except the eye thing. That only happens every now and again. But it illustrates a good point: Every time I hop in the car, I start the engine before I'm ready to drive off. And if the engine is running when the tires ain't movin', I am getting exactly ZERO miles to the gallon. That's some seriously crappy fuel economy.

So from here on out, I'll be buckling up, checking the kids, adjusting mirrors, plugging in chargers, finding DVDs, releasing parking brakes and removing pinecones from my eyeballs before I start my engine.


I spend an average of five seconds per start-up just farting around. Granted, that's not much time. But how often do I start up? Let's see....

On an average weekday, I startup to take the kids to preschool. I startup when I leave preschool and head for errand #1. I startup when I leave there to hit errand #2. I startup again to hit errand #3. Then I startup again when I head out to pick up the kids from preschool. Another start to get us headed home.

Now this is assuming I've only got three stops to make on the way home and I don't take the kids anywhere after school. So for this typical day, I've got six startups of five seconds each, or 30 seconds of idling. Doesn't sound like much, does it?

Well, multiply that 30 seconds times seven days in a week and you're looking at 3.5 minutes of useless idling. In one year that adds up to over three hours of easily avoidable, positively useless idling which wastes nearly 16 gallons of gas.

Now chew on this: If all the other SAHMs and SAHDs in America that are out there shuffling their kids around adopted this change, collectively we could save over twelve and a half million gallons of gas every single year.

Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5

Habit. Change. Adjustment. Done.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Hmmmmm..... Very Interesting....

Have you joined your local CSA yet? Started planning a Victory Garden? Checked out the local Farmer's Market?

Yeah... based on this article on CNN, you might want to put those things on your to-do list....

#182 - Technologically Challenged

Joining Melinda's Techonology-Free Day Challenge

Melinda, over at Elements In Time, came up with a great challenge for the month of March. It is to take one day a week and make it a Technology-Free Day. No TV, no internet, no techno gadgets of any sort for 24 hours. This is a tough one for me. Not the tv and gadget part, but the internet. I love to cruise the blogosphere, check my Yahoo! Groups, and play long, drawn out games of Scrabulous with my sister. And I like to do these things every frickin' day.

So I'm gonna step waaaaayyyyy out of my comfort zone and keep everything powered down on Sundays. For twenty-four hours straight.

Now, I was gonna get all philosophical here and praddle on about how difficult it can be to find a balance between our online lives and our real world responsibilities, but you all face the exact same issues, so why bother. Instead, I'll amuse you with one of my favorite jokes:

Two pretzels were walking down the street. One was a salted.

HA! Gets me every time! One thousand four hundred and forty straight minutes with me and my great jokes. Dude, my family is so LUCKY!

If you want to join the challenge, it's easy (the 'joining part', not the challenge itself). The rules are listed here at Melinda's Blog.

C'mon. You know you want to. Just do it already.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

#181 - Where's the Beef? (Part II)

Giving Up Factory Farmed Meats

Well, I did it. I didn't want to. I knew it would make my stomach all icky feeling and might possibly make me cry. But that damn video of the mistreated cows is all over the interwebbies and I couldn't not watch it one more day. Please be warned, this is graphic, nasty stuff and it will make you want to puke and then drive over the owner of that meat processing plant with a forklift and then kick him in the nards for good measure.

Now I'm no dummy. I know where steaks, pork chops and fried chicken all come from. Hell, I grew up as a kid with backyard pigs and chickens that were transformed into bacon and cutlets. But we knew what those animals were fed, how they were treated, and the manner in which they were slaughtered.

Fast forward twenty five years and I have become so disconnected from our food that I couldn't even tell you in what state last night's pulled pork sandwiches were produced.

So I've decided to give up factory farmed meats (beef and pork) entirely. We haven't been eating much beef here anyhow and we really don't miss it. I have enough pork in the freezer to last me a month or two and after that, I'll be purchasing whatever meat we do eat from a local farm. (Once again, thank you Local Harvest for having a kick-ass online database where I can find these sources!)


We eat either a pork or beef item once per week (approximately). So that would be 52 factory-farmed meat products per year.

Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5

It was a little tricky to find a local farm with meat products. More difficult will be stocking up on the meats during typical slaughter times, since I don't have an extra freezer.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

#180 - How Sweet It Is

Buying Local Honey (And Using More of It)

I've been paying close attention to the foods we eat around here. I feel great when I feed my family locally-grown, organic fruits and veggies. I don't feel so great when they grab some Hello Kitty Froot Snax or commercially prepared granola bars - both of which are made with the ubiquitous American food additive - corn syrup.

The overproduction of corn in America has been getting a lot of press lately. From farm subsidies to ethanol, from corn syrup to corn feed. It seems like everything these days is made from corn. This overproduction of a single crop can have a detrimental effect not just here in America, but across the globe. Here are a few reasons why:

Any farmer worth his salt will tell you that crop rotation is an important factor in keeping the ground fertile. Due to the great demand created for corn products, many industrial farms no longer practice crop rotation - they simply grow corn every year. Repeatedly planting these corn crops in the same spot will suck the same nutrients out of the soil each growing season, leaving behind depleted soil. Not only that, but the same crop will attract the same pests year after year after year. This depleted soil will require lots of chemical fertilizers and the bugs will require pesticides. And neither of those are good for the planet.

Also, the huge increase in demand for corn - for everything from food additives, to feed for cattle and pigs, to ethanol for bio fuels - means an increase in the price of grains worldwide. Grains, if you remember your from gradeschool, are the base of the food pyramid and make up the bulk of a decent diet. An increase in the price of grains could have a terrible affect on poverty stricken nations whose people will no longer be able to afford these food basics.

And if that doesn't sway you, how about the fact that it's contributing to the obesity crisis here in America. According to an article at Grist:

Cheap corn, underwritten by the [Farm Bill's] subsidy program, has changed the diet of every American. It has allowed a few corporations -- including Archer Daniels Midland, the world's largest grain processor -- to create a booming market for high-fructose corn syrup. HFCS now accounts for nearly half of the caloric sweeteners added to processed food, and is the sole caloric sweetener for mass-market soft drinks. Between 1975 and 1997, per-capita consumption jumped from virtually nothing to 60.4 pounds per year -- equal to about 200 calories per person, per day. Consumption has generally hovered around that level since.

So basically, it's also making us all fat. Ok, fat-ter. 200 calories per day fatter, to be specific.

Plus, it's just a little freaky. I mean, have you read Omnivore's Dilemma? Have you seen King Corn? Yeah me neither, but they're on my to-do list. And I've heard a lot about them. From what folks are saying, both the book and the movie imply that corn is damn near impossible to avoid in our pre-packaged foodstuffs society. I don't like that. It's like a cheap filler that's used for the sole purpose of keeping the ingredient count up.

And did you know that there is some evidence to suggest that eating local honey will help to minimize seasonal allergies? I've got two kids who live on on Zyrtec six months out of the year, so that is a HUGE bonus!

And so, in an attempt to avoid some corn syrup, I'm going on a honey kick. For both me and the kids. I've been using it on my oatmeal in the morning and I made a batch of granola bars for the kiddos last month. I prefer honey to other sweeteners because I can easily find local sources, they're all bottled in glass and it's yumm-o-riffic . Win/Win/Win. Plus? Honey Butter. 'Nuff said.

Well now that I've got this wild corn hair up my ass, expect to see more posts from me on other ways to avoid corn derivatives. In the meantime, go grab a little honey (take that however you want to).

Monday, February 25, 2008

Excellent, Dude!

A few weeks ago I received a rash of memes and awards bestowed upon me by fellow bloggers. Well, after the obligatory forwards and a little bit of prescription cream, the rash seemed to have disappeared. Yesterday, though, I got hit with a totally unexpected Excellence Award from Blue Girl Red State! Thanks, BG!

If you read my blog, you know that I adore BGRS and all the work she does to keep slackers like me in the loop on important political issues. And, to be honest, most of my political news comes from the likes of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, so I really need a reliable source of info.

So, thanks, BG, for tagging me as Excellent. It is very much appreciated and very much mutual.

As for my taggees, I will once again remind you that ALL my daily reads are excellent (why else would I read them?) and they can be found on my sidebar under "Family, Friends and Blogs I Like". If you're listed there, consider yourself tagged! And if you haven't checked them out, give 'em a try. What the hell. You're not doing anything else right now anyhow. :-)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Coffee Talk

With Your Host Burbanmom

After a relatively mild winter cold season, it seems that the Dap-inator has been hit with good one. She spent all day yesterday on the couch with a fever and a nose that was running faster than Marion Jones on crack.

Anyhoo, that puts me on extra-super-deluxe-hover-like-a-hummingbee-Mommy-nurse-duty, which, as you can imagine, leaves little or no time to blog. So rather than stay up past my bedtime (10pm) to write a post, I'm gonna leave it all up to you. I'll give you a topic:

You have recently decided to give up your non-stick dishes due to the health risk they pose. Knowing these risks, do you give them to someone else to use or toss them in the landfill?

I'm assuming there will be two basic schools of thought here:

1. You give them away because someone out there will take them either: due to ignorance; not believing/caring about the PFOAs; or just having an absolute need for something to cook in. You assume that by allowing them to be purchased used, you will be decreasing the demand for new non-stick products.

2. You landfill them because you can't stand the thought of someone else being exposed to toxic fumes due to your actions. And because PFOA will last only +-50 years you assume leaching into groundwater won't be an issue.

If you do give them away, to whom would you give them? Would you want to give them to someone in your family? Your friends? Your neighbors? Or just someone you don't know?

If you do give them away, would you tell the recipient what you know about PFOA? Even if you freecycled them, garage saled them or Goodwilled them?

So there's your topic for today. Discuss amongst yourselves. I'm gonna go snuggle my little one.

Story Hour XIV

Story Hour is a collection of autobiographical short stories, written by my father, about growing up in rural Upstate New York.

Threshing Day

Monday morning dawned clear and cool. The clearness would hopefully stay with us but the coolness would be replaced by the heat of the sun as it rose higher in the sky. Morning chores done, Jack and Dick, after tow starting the Studebaker, loaded the milk and immediately left on the milk run. Dugal, Sally, Alex and I headed for the garden to pick corn and tomatoes for canning.

At this point I must interrupt my story and plead a memory glitch. I will tell this part of the story as I recall it as a nine or ten year old boy. While looking up some facts pertaining to oat harvesting, I started remembering more of the procedure that I had neglected to include. The reaper had cut the oats about a week before threshing day. This allowed the oat grains to dry and ripen to facilitate the threshing process. The bundles of oats were gathered and stacked in bundles of three with one bundle laid across the top to act as a water shed in the event of rain. After the passage of three or four days everyone would gather for threshing day.

So, as it were: Our oats were cut and stooked and ready to be threshed, tomorrow was the big day when the local farmers would come with their teams and wagons and all work together to git ‘er done. We didn’t have a very large oat field so we figured to be done well before night chores. For today there were the usual activities, principally canning. Whatever was in the garden that would provide nourishment through the winter went into a jar and was processed on the wood burning kitchen stove. The hottest day of summer was no deterrent to the canning job.

It didn’t take too long for Dugal, Alex and I to slip off to the shady side of the barn in search of a breeze. I felt a little guilty thinking about Mom, Sally, and Thelma still in the kitchen (but not too much). After all, in those days ‘women’s work’ was women’s work and we men folks had other things to do. Believe me - we would all three, pay for that philosophical outlook many times over during our lifetimes. Times have changed.

Eventually we had cooled off enough to wander back toward the house. Dick and Jack had returned from the milk run and were busy inspecting the oats and the water level down in Sage Creek, along with a few other things that would keep them away from that hot box of a kitchen. The big problem was that we were all getting kinda hungry and the only place we knew of where there was food was in the garden or in the kitchen. Mom looked at us when we walked in.

“Did you get lost between here and the garden?” she asked sweetly. “I’m glad you’re back and just in time too. You boys have got to make four dozen biscuits and four loaves of bread as long as the stove is hot. That will save us a lot of time tomorrow when the men are here. Sally has made bread and biscuits before so you will do as she tells you. I will be right here to so there better not be any problems”.

Three rather crestfallen young men looked pleadingly at their mother and one of them softly said, “Please mom, we’re hungry”. With just a touch of sarcasm she said, “Eat a tomato and get to work.”

Well, yes indeed, Sally knew the fundamentals of bread and biscuit making so with a little supervision from Mom and a lot of superior bossiness from Sally, we sweated our way through measuring and mixing flour, lard, salt, baking soda to produce the required number of biscuits.
As the first pan of golden brown fluffy biscuits came out of the oven mom relented a little, “You may each have one.”

“With strawberry jam?” we shouted.

“Yes,” She replied with a smile.

Bread making was a different matter than simple biscuits. Mom took a much more active part in this effort. In an attempt to prepare us for adulthood, even though we were “MEN” she wisely explained what and why things were done in a certain way: mix and set the sponge (Yeast, sugar salt, flour and warm water) and let it set until the yeast started making bubbles and filling the kitchen with the unmistakable aroma of home made bread.

I seem to recall something about saving the water the potatoes had been cooked in for bread making. This time though we did not have any potato water so we used the well water. At the proper time it seemed like half a barrel of flour was dumped into the biggest bowl we had and an awful lot of mixing took place for a few minutes.

”Take a break,” and out the door we all went. It must have been at least 90 degrees outside but it actually felt cool after being in that kitchen. We all walked down to the end of the driveway to the well and pump, under the big yard maple.

Taking turns with the dipper we all enjoyed a cool drink of water and then the boys took turns holding their heads under the water spout while someone else pumped the water…Oh, did, that, ever, feel, good!

Somewhat refreshed, back to the house we trooped. More work to be done. The canning was pretty much done for the day so Dugal, Alex and I were told to take all the tomato peels, corn husks and cobs along with any other food scraps out to the pigs. Mom and Sally would finish the bread baking while we cleaned up the canning mess. After that we “MEN” would be excused to go swimming at the creek and bring the cows up from the pasture on the way home.

Little did we know of the activity that Jack and Dick had been up to. A few miles away to the west was a larger stream called Deer Creek, and just off the road was an abandoned gravel pit that was now part of Deer Creek. It had been a hot and dry summer so the creeks were quite low. This caused the fish to congregate in the deeper pools and that gravel pit certainly qualified as a “deeper pool”.

Dick always made sure to have survival gear near at hand so he was able to rig a couple of fish poles with the line and hooks he had in the truck. By flipping over stones on the stream bank where the soil was damp he procured fish worms and crickets for bait.

The fish evidently had been trapped in this pool for a few days and were ravenous. Each cast with the smallest piece of bait on the hook produced an instant strike and up would come a very nice seven to nine inch bullhead. Just the right size for the big black iron skillet.

“Supper comin’ up” yelled Dick as he pulled in one. Jack whooped, ”I’ve got another one too.” A quick count showed an even dozen on the grass.

“Let’s not over do it, said Dick, we might want to come back next week for some more”.

“Good thinking,” replied Jack. “We will stop at twenty which will be plenty for everyone, including mom.”

It’s funny but an almost exact repeat of this fish story happened just about a year later to Dugal and I. We, of course didn’t drive but we did walk to the Deer Creek gravel pit with our fish poles. The results were very similar.

The water was low the fish were hungry and biting. We had bait with us and soon had all the fish we wanted. As we started to leave I noticed, sitting on the edge of the water the biggest bull frog I had ever seen.

Quickly I put a very small piece of worm on the tip of my hook and dangled it directly in front of “Jeremiah”. WHACK, went his tongue and he was mine. I quickly gave him a resounding whack on the head to prevent his suffering and into the feed sack he went. That was a special treat for mom that night. She did dearly love frog legs and fish.

Anyhow, Dick and Jack gathered up their gear and fish, jumped into the truck and headed home to clean the fish before chore time. When they arrived home the bread was just coming out of the oven and it was a little too hot to cut so they cleaned the fish first. Mom was tickled pink to see that mess of fish.

“Sweet corn, sliced tomatoes and fried bullhead, you can’t beat that for supper,” said Mom.

“Don’t forget the fresh bread.” added Dick as he reached for the bread knife to cut a slab.”

I always thought it peculiar that we liked to visit our cousins in Pulaski because they had store-bought, sliced bread and they used to like to come to our house because we always had home made bread. They had many other food items that we did not have - peanut butter was a rarity at our house. Mayonnaise, sliced bologna, cheese and even butter were unknowns to us. Soda (Coke, Hires, Seven-up) were nothing but words that had no meaning or identification to us. Lack of that, which we did not know about, did not bother us. The term that comes to mind was, “Fat, dumb and happy”, but we weren’t fat or dumb...

Slab of bread in hand, Dick looked out the window to see the cows coming up the lane with the three musketeers with stick swords battling along behind. “Chore time,” he announced and headed out the door.

Once again mom excused herself a little early from chores with the suggestion that the three youngsters could help finish up. I have to admit that Alec was an unusual worker. I do believe that if we had wanted to we, could have sat down and watched him do all the work by himself. He was usually quiet, serious and dedicated to whatever the task at hand.

When all was done, we headed for the house. Quickly we washed up and sat down at the table. There was a veritable feast laid out before us. A heaping platter of fried fish still smoking hot from the pan, nicely steamed ears of corn, a plate of sliced red ripe tomatoes, a plate of fresh slabs of bread with a jar of strawberry preserves A jar of home made chili sauce replaced the bottle of ketchup that we never had (or missed).

All in all, it had been quite a day. Much had been accomplished and we were in good shape for the big day tomorrow. Dishes out of the way and the kitchen neatened up, it was time for the radio and a little relaxation. I had read everything in the house that had print on it so I had to be content to listen to the Lone Ranger with the rest of them. I asked Dick and Jack if they could get some old “Street and Smith” paperback books from their friends that liked to read the pulpers (dime novels). I received an affirmative grunt and a “yeah” as the program had started and there were to be no more interruptions.

After the show ended, even though it was not yet real dark, I headed up the stairs to bed. It had been a long day and I was tired out. There were no left over fish as mom ate the last one and smiled. Life was good.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Story Hour XIII

Story Hour is a collection of autobiographical short stories written by my father, about growing up in rural Upstate New York.

Everyone was up early the next morning. It was Sunday, but on a farm with animals it is just like any other day. A cold breakfast was eaten and Dick and Jack got the Studebaker running and went to check the road block. They were back very shortly to tell us that the road block was not there. A brief discussion with mom and they headed for the milk house to get the milk from the previous evening and the milk from the morning milking.

Covering the milk cans with the tarp and, hearing a few words of caution from mom, they headed up the hill towards Pulaski. They encountered no difficulties and found they didn’t have to wait in line at the milk plant.

“I guess you boys got the word early, eh?” queried the milk tester as he knocked the can covers loose. Not waiting for an answer he sniffed each can for odors, then stirred the milk with a long metal paddle and dippered a small sample to test for butterfat content.

These procedures out of the way, he dumped the milk which had been weighed into the refrigerated holding tank and placed the cans and covers upside down on the can washer conveyor. In the meantime, the tester had done the butterfat test and gave the receipt to Jack.
The receipt had all the information on it: date, time, farmer’s name, weight of milk and butterfat content. Moving the truck to the washer can discharge, there was a short wait until the cans came out. It was advisable to wait a few minutes before grabbing the cans as they had just come out of a sterilizing steam bath and were very hot. Cans loaded and covered with the tied down tarp they were on their way back home.

Arriving at the farm they went right to the milk house and unloaded the cans and then went back to the house. “Strike’s over!” they shouted as they walked into the kitchen.

Mom and Sally were canning tomatoes again, so of course the kitchen was very hot. Extra pans held water heating on the stove for cleaning the kitchen. “Well I’m certainly glad to hear that,” exclaimed mom. “Now we can clean the kitchen and get ready for the threshing crew on Tuesday. We will, however, have cake and cream one more time on Monday night when your father comes home. I think the cream I have in the pantry will hold another day if we keep changing the water so it stays cold.”

Everyone grabbed a rag and, using yellow laundry soap, proceeded to wipe down the table, chairs, the wall behind the table, and the door casing leading into DG’s room. That was the last place you would want to leave a sticky gob of whipped cream. Dick picked up a mop and dunked it in a pan of hot soapy water and started sloshing it around on the floor. No need to worry about finished hardwood flooring in this old house. Plain old yellow pine boards, tightly nailed, served the purpose quite nicely, thank you. It wasn’t long before mom looked around with a pleased look on her face and allowed as how we had done a good job.

Alex picked up a damp cloth and carefully removing the chimney from the lamp, wiped off a smear of cream and cake crumbs and handed it to mom to put it back on the lamp. For a little guy he was pretty smart. Mom looked at the lamp chimney and, taking a small piece of newspaper from the kindling box, proceeded to wipe the inside of the glass. For some reason everyone said that newspaper was the very best for cleaning soot from lamp chimneys. There was usually a newspaper that DG brought home with him by the wood stove, to be used for starting a fire.

Dick told mom that he was going up to the woodlot to look for trees for the winter’s firewood. He would prefer to find standing dead hardwood trees that had not started getting punky yet, but we kept them culled out on a regular basis. The next best was a split crotch or half broken trunk, or a blown down tree with most of its roots in the air.

What we were actually doing was housekeeping in the wood lot and keeping our woods in good order. When one uses wood for fuel it warms you many times over, when you cut and split it, stacked it in the wood shed, carried it in to the stove and when you took the ashes out. An added plus was the fact that it cooked your food too.

Dick had brought along his 22 rifle with the idea that maybe we would have something besides pork belly and milk gravy for supper. Silently moving deeper into the woods, he knew where there was a group of beech trees that would be heavily laden with beech nuts. As he approached the gray trees he could see several fat gray squirrels scampering from branch to branch. Their cheeks bulging with the nuts they were hiding in various crevices and holes in the trees. Some they buried in the leaves covering the ground. These locations were frequently forgotten about and after the snow and cold of winter, the return of the spring sun shining through the leafless trees warmed the earth. The small seeds would sprout and ensure the beech trees would continue the cycle as nature intended.

The squirrel activity ceased as they noticed the stranger in their midst. Sitting quietly on a stump, Dick waited. He knew that it wouldn’t take long for the creatures to ignore him and resort to their previous activity, which they soon did.

As Dick sat there waiting for the opportunity to make a “one shot clean kill” he thought about the squirrels as a family group, hard at work, laying in their winter’s supply of food (much as we were). Plus the fact that one, two or even three squirrels would not be enough meat for our hungry family. Taking more than that from this group would mean the others might have a hard time making it through the winter.

As an added inducement not to shoot he thought about the costs of the ammunition in relation to the meat provided per shot. It seems he had a bit of Scots frugality in his blood too. This decided, he stood up, the squirrels froze momentarily and he quietly moved away from the beech grove.
At the edge of the woods he paused and looked out over the meadow where the hay had recently been mowed, raked and transported to the barn. Woodchucks were a different matter than squirrels. They were bigger - meaning more meat per shot - and what was worse they dug burrows in the hay fields, thus they were considered varmints or undesirable.

The problem came about if a horse stepped into a chuck hole and broke a leg. This was indeed a disaster as it usually meant the horse had to be destroyed. Standing in the shade looking out into the bright sunlight made it easy to spot a dark shape in the stubble of the field.

Holding his rifle in the ready position he gave a short sharp whistle. Immediately the chuck sat up and looked around for just a split second. That’s all it took. Dick had his “one shot clean kill.”
He knew without even walking over to look the chuck was dead from a bullet in its brain. After replacing the spent shell, he waited for a couple of minutes to see if another curious chuck would pop up. Sure enough about 3o feet beyond the first chuck hole was a slight movement in the stubble.

Dick stood with nothing moving but his eyes, calculating the distance, no wind to allow for, no appreciable drop because of distance. These thoughts went through his head automatically. After a moment the chuck lifted its head for a quick peek. Dick was still standing in the shade of the woods and the chuck being in bright sunshine could not see him. Seeing no reason for alarm the chuck stood up on his hind legs, which proved fatal. “two for two,” thought Dick…..”Not bad", as he replaced the spent shell.

Quickly he walked to the nearer animal, laid his rifle on the ground and pulled out his jack-knife which he always kept sharp. With one quick slice he opened the animal and removed the viscera. From another pocket came a short length of baler twine which he used to tie the hind legs together.

Picking up his rifle and the chuck, he headed towards the other one to repeat the evisceration. The offal was left on the stubble as a treat for a bird of prey or a hungry fox prowling the night. Now that he had something to show for his time he hurried back towards the house.

Hanging the chucks by the back door of the woodshed he went into the house to wash his hands and jack-knife. The kitchen was hot as the canning session was still going full blast. “I’ve got supper, two young chucks” Dick told mom. “That’s great”, said mom. “Get them skinned out real quick so I can par-boil them a bit, and be sure to get the glands out from under the legs.”

Dick of course knew about the glands but said nothing as he headed out to skin the animals. Having done this job many times before it did not take long to prepare them to mom’s orders and deliver them to her in the kitchen. She had already sent Sally to the garden for three nice onions which would go into the pot with a little salt to parboil the meat. The parboiling tenderized the meat and the onions added a little flavor.

Jack had, in the meantime, carefully mowed around the house, along the sides of the road for a distance on both sides of the house, the front lawn and around the barn buildings to reduce the danger of fire. This had made the farm look a little neater and also took some of the energy out of Tom and Jerry. If they were idle too many days in a row they got a little edgy and more apt to run away. He wanted them to be not too frisky on Tuesday so we would find some more “Look busy” work for Monday.

They had been unharnessed and put back in their stalls with a handful of oats and a bucket of water. Dugal and I had gone down the lane “exploring” with the idea that we would drive the cows up for milking when it was time. This also kept us out of trouble and avoided work assignments.

Next to the cow’s lane to the pasture, this year we had planted field corn. This needed to be checked out. Neither one of us could reach the top of the corn plants and the ears were forming up fat and heavy. By the time we had gone in four or five rows there was nothing to be seen in any direction but CORN.

“A guy could get lost in here,” allowed Dugal, “and wander around in circles forever.”

I had a suspicion he was leading me on so I replied, "If he had any sense at all he would know that if he stayed in one row and kept walking he would either come out by the house or on the other end he would be at the pasture. If he kept walking across the rows he would be at the far meadow or at the cow’s lane."
I was walking ahead of Dugal as this exchange took place and I suddenly felt a corn stalk thump me over the head. “CORN WAR!"

Grabbing a large ear of corn I snapped it off the stalk and whooping like a wild Indian I charged at Dugal swinging that ear of corn like a war club. I think this took him by surprise because usually I would have started bawling and headed for the house. He immediately started running away with me in hot pursuit.

All of a sudden I dropped the corn and started laughing. He stopped running and started laughing too. It was a good thing I hadn’t hit him with that ear of corn as I would have knocked him sillier than he already was.

By now I could hear a cow bell clanging in the distance which meant the cows were smarter than us and were headed towards the barn on their own. We fell in behind them, after taking a quick count to make sure they were all there.

Once the cows were locked in their stanchions and the milking started, Dugal and I quickly started our chores. Grain hay and water for all the cows, calves, horses, chickens and pigs. The sour milk would be coming to an end in a day or so but we didn’t tell them that.

When we finished we went into the milking barn where mom instructed us to help Jack and Dick finish up on the chores as she had some stuff to do in the house. We scattered some fresh bedding for the cows and did a couple more odd jobs and headed for the house. Dick drove the Studebaker up to the house so the battery would be handy later on.

When we walked into the kitchen it was hot but it smelled different too. The big black iron skillet was on the stove and the smell of hot lard was noticeable. Potatoes were boiling and corn ears were steaming in their pot. Sliced tomatoes and cucumbers were already on the table. Mom was busily dusting the parboiled pieces of wood-chuck with salt, pepper and flour. Carefully she placed the pieces of meat into the hot lard where they sizzled and popped. OH, did that smell good. When the last piece reached the proper degree of doneness and was the right crisp brown color she announced,”Let’s eat”. And so we did.

It was good! After too many days of side pork and milk gravy we were all ready for a change of diet. These chucks were young and tender and the parboiling with the onions didn’t hurt at all. In fact the beef-like taste of the meat was complimented by the oniony flavor. This was by far the best meal we shared in a long time.

”Three cheers for dead-eye Dick,” said Jack as he reached for another piece of meat. Six year old Alex immediately jumped up from his chair, raised his arm in the air and shouted (quite loudly), “YAY! YAY! YAY!” Everyone laughed and Dick turned bright red and smiled, obviously proud of his accomplishment.

There was no whipped cream cake for dessert that night.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Clothesline

Well, I finally got my clothesline installed and I LOVE it! The electrical savings, the sunshiney smell of the clothes and best of all, it's a fun activity I can do with the kids!

**Not actually me and my daughter, photo came via one of those "aren't these all so adorable" emails that has been forwarded a million times and you have to scroll down a mile before you even hit the first picture.

#179 - Blame Management

Managing My Leftovers

Wow. I remember when I had a life. I remember parts of it at least: managing escrow accounts, managing meetings, even managing people. Apparently having children is like a giant life demotion, complete with reduced pay, slashed benefits and limited responsibility.* Because now? Now I'm managing grocery lists and leftovers. Hell, somedays? I'm just managing to stay awake.

But back to the leftovers. That's the real meat of this post. hehehe. No matter how precisely I measure, or how carefully I plan, we always end up with leftovers. Well, not ALWAYS, but often. Often enough that I need a plan to deal with them so they don't end up getting all nasty in the fridge. Well thanks, once again, to Crunchy's NO WASTE challenge, I've put myself to task to devise a solution that will keep us from tossing out that extra food. I've adopted the Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle Mantra for my leftovers.

1. Reduce - Nobody likes to see a half empty plate at suppertime. And I hate the thought of someone leaving the dinner table hungry so what do I do? I make smaller portions of the "main meal" and add more side dishes on the table. Here's the key though - the side dishes need to be something that will last well in the fridge or pantry. Things like applesauce, cheese cubes, baby carrots, baked beans. So now, instead of each of us getting a 6 ounce serving of chicken and a cup of rice, we each get 4 ounces of chicken and 1/2 cup of rice. BUT, we get to add as much (or as little) side dish action as we like. At the end of dinner, the side dishes go back in the fridge where they will patiently wait for tomorrow's return.

2. Reuse - I try to eat up any leftovers the next day for lunch. I don't "food fatigue" as quickly as everone else around here and hey, I'm the eco-dork who decided to go green, so I feel it's my duty anyhow. If there's more than I can eat (or should eat) for lunch then I will wrap it, label it, date it and freeze it. (That's date as in "circa 1959" not date as in "let's go to the movies with the chicken cutlets") To ensure that I don't just forget about it, I write the item down on next month's calendar as part of the menu, along with a note that it's already in the freezer.

3. Recycle - One word: Soup. Friday has become soup day at Casa Burban and whatever appears to be "on its way out" ends up "finding its way in". In to the soup pot, that is. Add a little broth and some spice. Maybe whip up some homemade bread and Voila! A hearty crockpot meal that doubles as a fridge cleaner! BAM!

So there you have it, kiddos. Leftover Management 101. Don't remember taking that in college, do you?


Lots and lots of fuzzy green leftovers.

Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5

I tend to forget to check the fridge first for lunch options. I get my face all fixed for a sandwich and then realize "crap! I'm supposed to eat up this stir fry from last night". It's a crazy rollercoaster of food emotion. But I'm coping.

*Note to angry SAHMs/SAHDs who are devoid of a sense of humor: this is a joke. I understand that raising my children is life's biggest responsibility and I actually do enjoy it (most of the time). Stop sending me hate mail and let it go already.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I'm So Glad Someone Pays Attention to These Things

Because Obviously, I Don't

My big thanks go out to Blue Girl, who has once again been delving into some environmental issues via the farce that is our American political scene. If you've got a minute, please read her article about Sunflower Electric Power Corp. attempting to bribe the Kansas State Legislature into allowing the creation of two new coal plants in Kansas.

And if you think Blue Girl is your typical news drivel, copy-and-paste-what-the-big-guys-are-publishing-but-put-my-own-spin-on-the-last-paragraph type of blog, let me assure you, it's not. It is thoughtful and insightful (who'd believe I'd even know what those words meant ;-) and easy to read. Let me give you an excerpt from the story:

But House Speaker Melvin Neufeld (Wingnut, Ingalls) thinks it's a jolly good notion, that the state should just flip up her skirts and let Big Coal have a go.

OK, so that particular quote doesn't really give you the meat of the story, but it definitely illustrates why I read her more than I do CNN. It's news written in a way I can get on board with and not fall asleep reading. Plus it's very liberal. Like me. She does her research and has even scooped The Washington Post on some topics. If you haven't read her blog before, I'm tellin ya, you're missin out.

Oh yeah, there's a new post under this one....

#178 - Your Face Will Freeze Like That

Changing Up My Nightly Face-Washing Routine

Despite my previously discussed pre-rinsing compulsion, conserving water is actually one of my favorite things to do for the environment. Water conservation changes are nice, immediate-feedback kind of changes. They're easy to calculate, requiring just buckets and measuring cups. And I love that I can visually see what I'm saving, rather than just talk about invisible kilowatts or therms.

So whenever I find an opportunity to make a little water change, I jump on it. In fact, I started instituting this face-washing change several months ago, but didn't have it tweaked to where it was a convenient enough that I was sure it would stick. Until now.

Let's say it's time for bed. What do I need to do? Well, I need to wash my face, put on astringent and my rosacea cream, then brush my teeth before hitting the sack. Now I already managed to save 76 ounces each day with my new tooth brushing routine, and I needed to cut down on the face-washing water waste as well.

The biggest problem I had was waiting for the water to warm up. For some reason, it takes a good 30 seconds or so before the hot water gets up to our bathroom sink. In the meantime, all this perfectly clean water is being lost down the drain. What a waste. Then, even when the water is warm enough, it's still running down the drain while I wet my face, lather up and rinse off. All told, it took 18 cups of water to wash my face. And I was repeating this process every. single. night.

So here are the issues I've been facing (pun intended) while trying to tweak my routine:

1. Washing my face with freezing cold water at bedtime? Not so much with the relaxing, getting sleepy feeling.

2. I have to use splashy water on my face. I can't use a washcloth because my lovely rosacea skin will have a nasty reaction to the scrubbing and I'll be the one googling scab terms.

So, bearing those two issues in mind I've come up with a workable solution. It's not perfect, but it's better than it was:

First off, I've mimicked my handwashing rountine so that now I don't turn the faucet on full blast and I shut the tap off while I lather up. That saves six cups.

Secondly, I switched my face-washing routine from bedtime to "get in our jammies" time, which happens at 7:00 pm sharp (I have kids, ergo, I have schedules). So now it doesn't matter if the faucet is spittin' ice cubes. In fact, the cold water actually helps me get through the rest of the evening without dozing off. So not waiting for the warm water saves another six cups.

The downside to all of this is that, being such an Anal OCD Annie, this means that I also have to brush my teeth at 7:00 pm because you can't wash your face and NOT brush your teeth. But, as it turns out, this is also helping me with the NO WASTE challenge, since it means I can't eat anything after this point.

So now with my every-so-tweaked face washing routine, I'm saving twelve cups of H2O down the drain - that's a 66% reduction in what I had been using.


From where I was six months ago: twelve cups per night! But, again, I've been working on this and tweaking it for a while now, so the true change from yesterday to today is considerably less. However, I like to accentuate the positive, so I'm going with the 12 cup figure and say that I'm saving nearly 275 gallons of water per year, just by changing my routine a tad.

Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5

Obviously, the difficulty in this change was devising the plan. Now that I've figured it out, it's as simple as can be. Just shows you what perserverance (and the ability to withstand frigid icewater being splashed on your face) can do.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

#177 - Choppin' Brocc-o-leeeee

Yeah, just had to put that in there. For you youngins, that's from SNL, back in the day of the Church Lady, Fernando's Hideaway and The Anal-Retentive Chef (my personal favorite, although I don't see what's so funny ;-).

So this post is about, you guessed it, Choppin Broccoli. You see, my little girl LOVES broccoli. It's one of her favorite foods. I think it's because they look like little trees and she gets to do a whole Godzilla thing while she's chompin' em down. Anyhow, being the moderately decent mom that I am, I try to shove as much broccoli in her face as I can, to make up for those damn Hello Kitty "froot snax".

But, being the moderately decent, LAZY mom that I am, I buy frozen broccoli. Because I suck. But also because you never know what Daphne's vegetable preference du jour will be until it's almost du dinnertime. And I would hate to waste a head of fresh broccoli if Daphne decided to boycott the mini-trees for a week.

So this is me at the grocery store: Look at Me! I am Super Enviro-Mom with my returnable glass milk bottles, my paper-wrapped meat products and my reusable canvas grocery bags... filled with plastic bags full of pesticide-laden, frozen vegetables.

So starting today (since I used the last of the frozen broccoli last night), I will be choppin' broccoli every week and freezin it myself. And I will be singing that damn song the whole time.


One non-recyclable plastic vegetable bag per week. 52 bags a year, nearly 1,000 bags before Daphne heads off to college. Or trade school. Or anywhere but here.

Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5

Not difficult, especially since I only have to do it once a week. I hope my CSA grows broccoli.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Going Green PSA

I've got a little stats program that I use with my blog. It tells me how many hits I get each day, what link people came from and keywords used to find my blog. I like reading through those search terms because sometimes you'll find something funny.

My personal favorite was a google search someone once did with the following keywords:

My teeth are going green

Yesterday, however, someone, somewhere, typed in the following search:

red sores mainly on front of body get scabs something in scab

Um, yeah. Dude, if you are still out there surfing the net and whatnot - you might want to think about calling your doctor. Because that can't possibly be good.

#176 - Change Is Good

Changing (Or At Least Checking) My Furnace Filters Monthly

Do you do it? I don't. Not as often as I should anyhow. In fact, it's been longer than I'd like to admit. And when I say "longer", I mean "I don't remember the last time I did it".

But it's something I should be doing every single month. I don't necessarily have to replace the filter at that time, but I do need to check to make sure it's not all clogged up. Because a clogged furnace filter means my furnace isn't moving as much air as it was designed to do, which means it has to run longer to heat the house, which means we're using more gas and electricity than we should.

So why would I suddenly start doing something that I already knew I should be doing? Because, as of today, it is on The Calendar. And anything that goes on The Calendar gets done. So from this day forward, the 19th of the month shall henceforth be known as "Filter Checkin' Day". Should make for a fun Anniversary activity come September.


Difficult, if not damn near impossible, to calculate. But it will result in a savings -- even if it's a small one.

Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5

OK, I'm sure no one's furnace is located in a super-easily accessible spot, but ours seems particularly hard-to-reach. I have to pull out the 12' ladder in the garage to access the furnace panel. And then there's the whole unscrew the panel thing and find a place to set it while I'm six feet up.

Whew. I'm breaking a sweat just thinking about it. Maybe I haven't forgotten the last time I changed it so much as I've blocked the horrid event from my memory.

Monday, February 18, 2008

#175 - Stickin' It to the Man Pan

Giving Up My Non-Stick Pans

I've had this change on my list for a while, but I just finally got around to doing the research on non-stick and I've got one thing to say:

Holy Toxicity, Batman!

According to several online resources - including the Environmental Working Group, CorpWatch, the EPA and (here's the kicker) DuPont - use of non-stick pans has the potential to release toxic fumes, including chemicals that are likely carcinogenic. Not good.

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is a synthetic chemical that was recently found by the EPA to be a "likely human carcinogen". PFOA is used as a processing aid in the manufacturing process for non-stick pans and is also released as toxic fumes when these pans are heated to temperatures exceeding 660 F. Here's some groovy scientific info I found:

PFOA is a stable, synthetic chemical, which, when produced, lasts 50-60 years. PFOA is both water and oil resistant. It is found in dolphins, trout, polar bears, humans and many other species throughout the world - from the Arctic to the South Pacific. PFOA can cross the placenta, which is why it is even found in the bloodstreams of newborn infants. Some adverse effects of PFOA found in labratory animals studies include hepatotoxicity, carcinogenicity, immunotoxicity, hormone imbalance and developmental toxicity.

The most interesting (and easiest to read) information I found came from an article called "Toxic Teflon", published by the Environmental Working Group, who also released another Teflon article just last week entitled "Chemical Used In Non-Stick Cookware Continues to Prove Its Toxicity"

I could go on and on about the oodles and oodles of information I found, but I think a brief synopsis of the findings might be more helpful:


DuPont's argument (you knew they'd have one, didn't you?) is that the PFOA is not released unless the pan reaches a temperature of around 660F degrees. DuPont stated that this is well-above the scroch point of butter and most cooking oils, so we needn't worry about the toxic fumes since no one would ever scorch butter.

Riiiigggghhhhhht. I don't know about you, but I don't use a fancy egg timer or thermometer to tell me when my food is cooked. I use a smoke detector. That, my friend, is how you know dinner is done.

Not to mention that PFOA is used during the manufacturing process and so, by purchasing new Teflon products, we are encouraging the production of more PFOA. Wonder where that all ends up. Hmmmm..... Well, I doubt the previously mentioned dolphins, trout and polar bears are cooking with Teflon so you draw your own conclusions.

And so, in the name of saving the planet and my own lungs, I hereby say goodbye to my jumbo non-stick frying pan and my non-stick omelette pan. Sianara to my professional style wok. Au revoir to my griddle and so long to the waffle maker I pilfered from my sister's kitchen last year. *sniff* I shall miss you all.


I have my awesome, seasoned cast-iron skillets -- the ORIGINAL non-stick pan whose only side-effect would be anemia relief. And those babies work like a charm!

Now for all of you PFOA experts (and even you novices) I found a lot more information than I bargained for while researching Teflon pans. I found PFOA is found in many everyday items that we have in our homes. Honestly, I've simply run out of time to write it all up. I'll post more on this topic later. But if you just can't wait, a google search of "environmental hazards PFOA" will yield many more results than you would hope for.


Release of toxic chemicals into our waterways and our bodies.

Difficulty Level: 3 out of 5

This could be difficult if you didn't get a couple cast-iron skillets for Christmas like I did. But, I gotta tell ya, I picked up a nice 8" cast iron skillet at Goodwill last week for $5. Check your local thrift shop, garage sale, craigslist and freecycle for skillets before you buy new. Odds are you can get a nice set of pans on the cheap. And since these puppies are damn near indestructable, they should serve you for years and years and years to come.

Oh, BTW, if you find a nasty-ass, rusty old cast-iron skillet at a garage sale, buy it! You can easily clean it, season it and use it!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Story Hour XII

Story Hour is a collection of short, auto-biographical stories written by my father, about his childhood memories growing up on a farm in Upstate New York.

The Milk Strike - Part IV

Saturday morning dawned cool, dry and clear. Milking and other chores were done in the usual manner and Dick and Jack left on the “milk run” to check the strike status.

The pigs' milk barrel had reached the proper degree of sourness and had the customary cloud of flies buzzing around it. The combination of weeds, sour milk and corn meal certainly agreed with the pigs and they were content to snooze in the shade of the cherry trees during most of the day.
The chickens were free to wander and scratch where ever they wanted. They enjoyed the concept of “free range” long before it became a fashionable term. They generally returned to the coop for their egg-laying duty but occasionally a hen would get “broody” and start a nest in some secluded corner or under a building. It was not too unusual to discover a new momma hen strutting around the barn yard with a flock of fuzz ball chicks trailing along behind her. This was good as it allowed us to cull the older, nonproductive birds for our consumption.

I do recall that on one occasion someone discovered a long forgotten nest under the corner of the old cider barn. It happened to be on a day that one of Dick’s school friends was visiting for the day. It stands to reason that a group of teenage boys and rotten eggs was a disastrous combination. After a brief but intense exchange of stinking egg missiles it was obvious that a trip to Sage creek swimming hole was mandatory. For a change this would not be a skinny-dipping swim but a washing of clothes as well. A bar of yellow laundry soap was provided by mom with the advice to not come back until they smelled a little better.

Jack and Dick pulled in around 8:30 and after reporting that it looked like the strike would be ending “soon.” We headed to the garden to pick some sweet corn for Sandy Pond. Mom had figured that if we were to sell 15 dozen it would be a good trip.

Once the corn was picked and loaded in the truck, Dugal and I with our baskets jumped into the back of the truck and away we went. We didn’t take any tomatoes as mom wanted to can as many as she possibly could. Her thinking was that a jar of tomatoes in February would be worth a lot more than a few nickels in August.

Arriving at the Wigwam, we followed the same routine that had proven itself previously and we found the people more than ready for fresh corn.

Relating this story reminds me of one of the most devastating moments in my life. It was on a corn-selling trip with DG. I had my basket with a dozen ears of corn and was acting as the delivery man for DG. He was proceeding up the road and talking with people as we went along. We sold a dozen and I went back to the truck to replenish my supply. As I started walking to catch up with him I heard a young girls voice LOUDLY calling “RODDY”, pause, "RODDY", pause, "RODDY”……… I thought I would literally die.

A nine year old BOY being called by name by a GIRL, IN PUBLIC. Embarrassed almost to tears I hurried up the road, mainly to shut her up. She was still calling as I approached her.

“Your father told me that you would bring us a dozen ears of very good fresh sweet corn, did you? My name is Joan and my father owns the Wigwam Hotel and we spend all summer here at the pond and we have a house in Pulaski where we live in the winter,” She said without stopping.

“Yes, I have your corn”, I replied, where would you like me to put it?”

“In the sink please I’ll show you where” which she did.

Trying not to be too obvious I quickly headed for the door. “Gotta go get more corn, Thank you” and I was gone.

Strangely enough, in a few more years our paths would cross again. When we moved back to Pulaski and I started school in the seventh grade I found my desk in close proximity to a girl that looked familiar. It was she, Joan Hadley, who would be my classmate for the next 5/6 years.

I never mentioned our previous meeting as I’m sure she had immediately forgotten about it. I couldn’t forget it for quite some time as my older brothers wouldn’t allow it, ”Roddy's got a girl friend” was a term I grew to hate! We were never close friends but I felt sad when I read her obituary fifty years later.

Anyhow, by two o’clock we were sold out and on our way home. Possibly we could have sold a few more dozen but there weren’t very many cottages that we didn’t call on. We were content that we had done well and mom agreed as Jack gave her the three dollars and seventy five cents.
While we had been gone mom had fired up the kitchen stove and, with Sally’s help, picked some tomatoes and proceeded to can them. The blue enamel canner held 7 Quarts per batch and there were 14 jars of tomatoes cooling on the table with seven more in the canner. While the oven was hot she had also made a cake and gathered the cream from the milk house. No surprise that night.

There was one other incident pertaining to the sweet corn selling project that had an impact on my life. I vaguely recall, slowly becoming aware that I had been sleeping or dreaming. Something was wrong. I was confused. I heard someone softly playing a guitar and a voice singing to me. My head hurt.

I was in DG’s bed. I opened my eyes and the pain intensified. My head felt as though it was wrapped in cloth and the skin was sore. Sitting in the chair, playing the guitar and singing was Ken Nicholson, our hired man. I moved and my body hurt all over. I raised my hand to my head and found that it was indeed wrapped in cloth. Ken rose and went to the kitchen door and softly said, "He’s awake.”

Ken left the room and mom, followed by all my siblings came in. They tell me, the first thing I said was, "Why did Dugal hit me?”

Mom said, "As far as we know he didn’t. Don’t you remember falling out of the truck?”

“No, I answered, what happened?”

Mom then explained that earlier that day my brothers and I had started for Sandy Pond with some corn to sell. When we reached the “Y” to Sandy Pond, either Dick didn’t slow down enough or, more likely, I was standing up without hanging on to anything and took off like a rag doll, landing on my head on the pavement. I had been unconscious for more than three hours.
They had picked me up and taken me home and Jack had immediately gone to Pulaski to get Dr. Crocker. He came right out to the farm and attended me. He cleansed my wounds and put several stitches in my left eyebrow, advised mom to keep me quiet when I woke up and left. There wasn’t much more that he could do at that time.

I still, to this day don’t remember getting up that morning or any of the events up to my regaining consciousness. I sometimes wonder if perhaps I suffered a little brain damage considering some of the stupid things I have done in my life. It took a week or two for the stitches to fall out and for all the scabs to fall off. From then on I was as “normal” as could be expected.

"As long as you boys are back early, why don’t two of you grab a couple of hoes and hill up the potatoes and the other two pull some weeds out of the rest of the garden for the pigs." suggested Mom. We figured real quick that the next time we sold corn we wouldn’t be in as big a hurry to get home.

Chore time was soon upon us and we abandoned the garden work and headed for the barn. Milking was done, the animals fed and the cows let out for night pasture. We were content that we had done a good days work as we headed in for supper.

Mom quickly prepared the usual fare and mentioned that she would be glad to see Tuesday come - in spite of all the extra work. She obviously was looking ahead to the chicken and biscuits for a change of diet. We all were too, but didn’t say anything.

Supper quietly progressed and soon it was time for mom to bring in the cake and whipped cream. No one said anything and you could almost feel the tension in the air. Milk strike, oat threshing, hot, monotonous diet, flies, endless chores and a multitude of annoyances were pushing to the surface.

The cake and cream were passed around until everyone had their serving in front of them. Thelma stuck her finger into the cream, then into her mouth and squealed with delight. It still tasted good to her. Jack, ever the instigator, took up a spoonful of whipped cream and with quick aim flipped it in Dick’s direction. His aim was good and it hit Dick right on the side of his nose.

There was, of course, instant retaliation with much shouting and flailing of arms as cake and whipped cream flew in all directions. Shrieks of laughter and shouts of joy resounded over mom’s pleas to stop. Her pleas went unheard so with no recourse she took up a handful of cake and cream and hit Jack full in the face. “So there mister, just remember, you started it,” she said with a laugh. This brought a cheer from around the table.

“I’m glad you all had fun because tomorrow you will all have to help clean up the kitchen. And I don’t want to hear any talking about this in the future.”

The worst of the mess and the dishes were taken care of and everyone washed the stickiness off their hands and faces. The tension had been broken and a feeling of relaxation and ease settled over the group. “Time for the radio” said Dick as he headed out to get the battery.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Story Hour XI

Story Hour is a collection of short, auto-biographical stories written by my father, about his childhood memories growing up on a farm in Upstate New York.

The Milk Strike - Part III

The next morning after chores and breakfast and prior to DG’s departure we had a gathering in the kitchen. A general discussion touched on the milk strike, the oat crop, selling sweet corn at Sandy Pond getting in the fire wood for winter, possibly getting a tractor, digging a new pit and moving the out-house. No decisions were made as everything kinda depended on the settling of the milk strike problem.

Jack and Dick left first as they didn’t have to horse-start the Studebaker truck. For some reason the battery was not run down. Dugal and I managed to slide out the side porch door hoping to avoid the usual words of caution and advice that came with this type of farewell. We succeeded, and went on our way looking for mischief.

The smaller kids, of course said their fare-thee-wells and received the customary orders to “Behave, and do as your mother tells you”. A quick, “Be back in three days” and he was in his car and driving out the driveway. Sally and Alex disappeared, leaving Thelma with mom to enjoy a moments silence and reflection on what needed doing first.

Dishes out of the way, mom and Thelma headed for the sweet corn patch to check the quantity and quality of the crop. There was no question but what it was time for a sweet corn selling expedition to Sandy Pond.

As soon as Jack and Dick came back to report the road blocks were still in place, they were put to work picking corn and putting it into feed bags. Mom suggested they stop at ten dozen with a couple extra ears for this first trip. Dugal and I were enlisted to each grab a basket (1/2 bu. for carrying) and get into the back of the truck. We were off!

Down the road to the Y, bearing left, across Rte.3 and heading down the road towards “The Wigwam Hotel”, the social center of Sandy pond. This was not our destination but it was the hub from which radiated the roads that the camps were built on.

Dugal and I each put a dozen ears of corn in our baskets while Jack and Dick each grabbed a half dozen ears in their hands and we started heading towards separate camps. Knocking on the doors quite frequently produced no results as many people were enjoying the water, swimming, boating or other activities.

“Hey Rod” I heard from Jack across the street, “Bring a dozen over here.”

I quickly complied as he collected the 25 cents. Returning to the truck I placed another dozen ears in my basket and went to the next camp. The lady answering the door appeared glad to see me and allowed as how she was just wishing for some nice fresh corn for supper. Collecting the quarter and putting the corn carefully in the sink I thanked her profusely and headed back to the truck.

We all arrived about the same time and determined that we were doing OK and would move the truck further up the road to the intersection. From there we took off in different directions. It took a couple of hours and several moves before we ran out of corn. Jack, as the oldest, took charge of the money, after all, $2.50 was an enormous fortune to us and we excitedly discussed the possibility of coming back the next day and maybe bringing some tomatoes too. With that thought in mind we headed for home.

We walked into the kitchen where everyone was and with a flourish, Jack presented mom with the money.
“Well, you boys did pretty good, didn’t you?” asked mom. “Tomorrow being Saturday you should do very well.” She continued, “The oat thresher was here and he is planning on threshing here on Tuesday. Your father will be back Monday so he will be here to help with the work too. Dick, I will need you to cull two hens the first thing Tuesday morning so that I can cook them for chicken and biscuits for the crew’s dinner."

"I will need you two to get stuff from the garden as I need it on Tuesday morning,” she said to Sally and Alex. “We will need a lot of food for that bunch of workers. There will be four farmers and two hired men, the thresher man and his driver, plus all of us. That adds up to about fourteen adults and two or three kids. Dick, better make that three hens. Let’s hope the weather holds good.”

Dugal and I were sent on a feedbag round up. Around the feed bins, the chicken coop, the calf pen, in front of the horse stalls, in the tool shed, by the cider press in the old barn. Any place that might have a feed bag that was cast aside and forgotten about was checked closely. We ended up with a pretty good pile on the main floor of the barn between the hay mows. Now came the dirty, dusty part of shaking then out and checking for holes.

The good sound bags were neatly placed in one pile, ready for use the ones with small holes and tears were not so neatly piled to one side. The ones that were beyond repair went into a heap for salvage. The pile of good bags was moved over by the door where they would be handy. The salvage bags were placed into one of the bags to keep them together and the bags beyond repair were stuffed into one bag and put over by the chicken coop door.

This accomplished, we wandered over to the horse stalls where Jack and Dick were checking harnesses. A broken tug strap was more than an inconvenience on thrashing day. It was down time that cost money. Tom and Jerry would be the main team on Tuesday with Babe and Elmer as back up.

The owner of the threshing rig would drive his tractor over on Monday, towing the machine and the reaper behind. Quite a parade. Once parked, the tractor was unhooked from the thresher and hooked up to the reaper and headed for the oat field. At that time, anyone that wasn’t busy doing something was expected to go to the oat field and stack the little bundles of oats into bigger bundles of oats in small pyramids to keep the seed heads off the ground and make it easier and quicker for the loaders to get loaded and headed for the machine.

The straw bay, as I recall, was to the right of the barn main floor, over the chicken coop, between the ice house and the cow barn. This arrangement gave the chickens considerable protection from the cold temperatures of our winters.

The straw was used for bedding - mixed in with the weedier hay that the cows would not eat and kept pushing aside. It was also used to mulch the strawberry plants over the winter to protect them from the winter sun during periods of thawing weather and temperature variations. This prevented premature growth which could kill the plants when the wintry weather returned. It also delayed the spring bloom which could be damaged by late frosts and make for a very short crop.

The bags for the oats were ready, the harnesses had been checked and the hay wagon was ready to go as the wheel bearings had been greased before haying season started. This brought us near to milking time so we decided to check in at the house to see what was going on there.

Mom had, of course, been to the milk house and gathered some more cream. Now I knew why she wanted 2 milk pails as she had been putting the cream into pint and quart jars and setting the jars in the milk pails which she then filled with water fresh from the well. (Ground water temperature will run around 42/44 degrees). She also had a fire going in the cook stove and you could smell vanilla as though someone were making a white cake.

Three nights in a row? Oh well, "enjoy it while you can" was the thought that seemed to pass unspoken around the room. The pails of cream and cold water were in the cool pantry of course with the door shut to keep out the heat from the stove. It was very hot in the kitchen but nothing compared to what it would be like on Tuesday, threshing day. Sally was told to keep her eyes on Alex and Thelma as mom was going to the barn to help with milking. Dugal and I had our chores to do also so away we all went.

Milking and chores went very smoothly and were done in minimal time, including dumping the skim milk into the pig’s barrel, so we drifted back towards the house. None of us were really anxious to go back into the heat but we were hungry so there wasn’t much choice.

Mom quickly cooked some potatoes and gravy, sweet corn, sliced tomatoes and cukes (not much variety but lots of it) and let the stove die down and go out. By morning it would almost be cool in the kitchen. As long as no one wanted oatmeal, eggs or coffee the stove would stay cold for a while. When we were almost through eating mom got up and went to the pantry.

We all knew what was coming so it was no surprise to see her coming out with a cake and a big bowl of whipped cream. "Dessert?” she inquired. There were two or three half hearted, yeahs, so she proceeded to dish it up. It didn’t disappear as fast this time as it had in the past couple of nights, in fact there was a small dab that was destined for the pig slop pail, Boy would they squeal for that!

There was enough hot water left in the reservoir on the stove to do dishes so they were quickly dispensed with by mom and Sally. The battery was brought in from the Studebaker truck and hooked up to the radio in time for some favorite programs “Don’t stay up too late. You all have a busy day tomorrow”, said Mom as she headed for her room with Alex and Thelma in tow.

Biofuel Issue

As long as you're just sitting there surfing, take a moment to read this intereting article by Blue Girl Red State about one of the problems associated with the demand for biofuels. I don't have all the answers - hell, half the time I don't even understan the question - but I'm starting to think that Wind Energy + Electric Car = Good. I dunno.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

#174 - Main Menu

Meal Planning To Save on Food Waste

You're going to be seeing quite a few posts from me on reducing food waste. It's all part of Crunchy Chicken's Project NO WASTE, a challenge that combines reducing both individual caloric consumption AND household food waste. I LOVE this challenge as it involves both my poor body image and my struggling budgeting skills.

Anyso, one of the most effective means I have found for reducing our household food waste is to create a bi-weekly meal plan. I have been an on-again, off-again meal planner for ten years now and I can attest that meal planning does more to reduce my monthly grocery expenditures more than coupon-clipping and sale-hunting combined. This reduced expenditure translates directly into less food waste for us. The less we buy, the less we toss, you know.

I don't know how a professional meal planner goes about it, but here's what I do:

Step 1: See what you've got. Check the pantry, fridge, freezer and garden. What have you got that needs to be used up? How can you incorporate it into a meal? Can certain items be combined (ie: lots of tomatoes and some frozen ground turkey sounds like the start of a good chili, goulash or spaghetti & meatballs)?

Step 2: See what's on sale. Check the flyers for your local grocery store. What are they putting on sale this week? Can you stock up on certain items? Do you have space in your freezer, fridge or pantry for them?

Step 3: What are your meal goals? My main goal is to ensure variety in our weekly menus. I hate having chicken two nights in a row. Since I'm also trying to reduce my caloric intake, another meal goal of mine is to make sure each dinner is around 500 calories.

Step 4: Make the menu. I write my meals on the family calendar so I know I'll look at it every day. Write out not just the main dish, but whatever sides you're going to serve too.

Step 5: Now use your menu to make your list. You saw my super-anal grocery list a couple of months ago. You may laugh, but this uber-organization keeps me from trapsing back and forth through the store (which would most likely result in me tossing more crap in my cart).

Now there are two exceptions to the list...Ethan and Daphne. My little helpers go shopping with me and the highlight of the trip for them is to be able to pick one item out of the "snack" aisle to put in the cart. It ain't always nutritious and it's never organic, but it is usually damn tasty, and might even sport a picture of Spiderman or Hello Kitty on the front.

So that's my style of menu planning. When I don't do it, my bill runs about $200 per week, when I DO meal plan, it runs between $125- $150. Need I say more?

I'd love to hear any tips or suggestions you might have on the subject, since I tend to overlook the obvious!

And Speaking of Blowing....

Happy Valentine's Day, Friends!

I hope you're having a lover-ly one and thought that today would be a good day to talk about love, destiny and the winds of change. Minus the love and destiny part.

Today's post isn't about me ::gasp:: it's about my super-cool Aunt Anita and Uncle Jim. You know what they did last year? They installed a windmill on their property! How awesome is that?

Now before you start thinking that AA and UJ are super-rich or uber-eco, let me tell you, they are as average as the rest of us. They live in a modest, but beautifully restored farmhouse in upstate New York. Uncle Jim worked for the local paper mill for many years and Aunt Anita raised four sons and a daughter.

But back to the Don Quixote side of the story. Aunt Anita has been keeping me in the loop with their wind-blown activities and she sent me the following information and told me I could share it with you all.

I thought you'd like to know that last month we produced more electricity than we used (800 kWh) so all we owe National Grid this month is the $16.00 equipment use fee that everyone has to pay to be hooked to the grid. That was our first full month with the windmill in use so we are very pleased. At the time the meter was read we had about 40 KWH stored on the grid. That's not the case at this time but we still have a few weeks before the meter is read again so if we get enough windy days we might have another good month. If only I could find a way to dry clothes in the winter??? The dryer uses about 5 kWh a load and on wash day it really drives up the usage. I guess this summer I'm going to be using my clotheline for something other than a place for the birds to perch.

Yeah, that's right, everybody in my family is a comedian. ;-)

Anyhow, Aunt Anita was kind enough to also pass along a link to Bergey Wind Power Company, the manufacturers of their wind turbine. The have a ton of information and FAQ's on wind power, so if you're interested check them out.

Also, did you know that there are a number of government programs, grants and tax deductions available to homeowners who implement alternative energy sources such as windmills and solar panels? Most of the money available for these programs are state funded, so do a Google search for "[Your State] grants windmill" or "[Your State] grant solar panels" to see what is available in your area.

I guess what I want you to understand is that you don't have to be a live-in-the-woods, eat-off-the-land, wear-animals-for-clothes and compost-your-own-feces type of environmentalist to go off-grid. But if you can't install your own windmill and the sun don't shine enough where you live, at least switch your energy supplier to a renewable energy source today! It's a lovely way to show how much you care -- about the planet.

Happy V-Day!


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

#173 - An Eco-Friendly Blow Job

Not What You Think

First off, my apologies to all of you porn-surfers who accidentally clicked on this link from your Google results. An eco-post about dust removal is probably not what you were looking for. And if it is, well, my condolences to you.

What this post is actually about is maintaining my sewing equipment. Spring orders are starting to pour in at The Very Merry Seamstress and the serger and sewing machine both require weekly blow-outs to keep them from jamming up. If you're not much into sewing let me give you the technical low down on what happens.

Every time I sew a garment, little bits of fiber, similar to dryer lint, come off the fabric and get lodged in the myriad of tiny gears and other internal mechanisms of the machine. After five or six straight hours of sewing, the machines start to bear a striking resemblance to a Persian cat.

It would be im-freakin-possible to try to pull this fuzz off all the itty-bitty nooks and crannies with my fingers, so the only efficient way to remove it is by blowing it out.

And not by leaning in and giving a blow. First off, I smoked for 15 years so I can't exhale hard enough and I would pass out long before the machine was unclogged. Secondly, blowing straight at the machine often results in ME bearing a striking resemblance to a Persian cat (don't ask how I know).

So my "blow" of choice up until now has been this stuff:

Yup, bottled, compressed air. You've seen it. It's in craft stores, office supply stores, big box stores... pretty much anywhere you shop. It's used by seamstresses, crafters, PC techs, bored adolescents, etc. One bottle generally lasts me about two or three months. Then it gets tossed and I have to pay another $6 to buy more air in a new container. This isn't just bad for the environment, it's bad for my balance sheet.

Well I've been racking my brain for a month now, trying to come up with a viable alternative - hopefully utilzing something I already own. So yesterday I hit the garage - land of power tools, excercise equipment, camping gear and sports stuff - but no car (afterall, where would it fit?).

The first find was hubby's air compressor that he uses for his really cool tools, like nail guns and such. But that thing is so heavy and loud, I really wouldn't want to drag it upstairs once a week. So then I headed over to our camping gear and sport stuff and found two great alternatives - a manual pump for inflating our camping mattresses and a little hand pump that we have for blowing up soccer balls and what not. I tried them and they both work like a charm!

So, that's four points for checking my own house before hitting the store to buy something new. PLUS, six additional bonus points for tricking the porn crowd into learning a little something about environmentalism.


Approximately six cans of compressed air per year. Over the course of a sewing lifetime, that could easily add up to hundreds of cans!

Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5

Devising a solution took a bit of noodle power and wading through the piles of garage crap was work-like, but implementing the change was easy peasy. Plus, the new blowers give the kids something to play with while I sew. You know, other than the pin cushion and scissors I usually give them.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

#172 - When You Care Enough to Make the Very Best

Making My Own Valentine's Day Cards

Valentine's Day is just around the corner... in fact, it's only two days away, gentlemen. So if you're gonna do something sweet for your sweetie, you need to get your ass in gear NOW. We ladies have been done for several days now.

And don't think that the pathetic, crinkled, leftover card, the mismatched, too-large envelope and the Whitman's Sampler you're gonna pick up at Walgreens on your way home from work Thursday is gonna pass muster.

It's almost like I'm psychic, isn't it?

Well never fear, Burbanmom's gotcha covered. Here's what you do: Grab some paper and a pen and write her a love letter. Sound simple? It is. And your [wife/girlfriend/mistress/sig ot/life partner/stalking victim] will treasure it more than any Hallmark you could ever purchase.

You don't have to be a poet, either. Just keep it simple, honest and from the heart. Tell her how beautiful she is, tell her how smart she is, tell her how having her in your life makes you happier than you ever thought possible. But most of all, tell her that you love her more every day.

If all that doesn't work, tell her you saved $4.95 on a card. That's sure to impress her.

Happy Almost Valentines Day!

PS... yes, that's the actual card I made for hubby for Valentine's Day. Eat your heart out, Vera. ;-)