"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Friday, October 30, 2009

Book Review "Independence Days" by Sharon Astyk

I've been reading a terrific book. It's called Independence Days by Sharon Astyk. It is a guide - a very practical guide - to creating a food store from mostly local and home grown or home preserved foods. Sharon also writes a blog http://sharonastyk.com/ which I highly recommend.

Her book is not only useful, but also down-to-earth, sensible, ethical, spiritual, and funny. Believe it or not, a book about canning beets and storing water has kept me up until one in the morning because I simply can't put it down. Maybe that says something about me, I don't know.

At first, I was rather alarmed. Here, after all, is a clearly smart, sane, sensible and humorous woman - much like myself, I like to think - who is nonetheless concerned about some fairly extreme scenarios. Some of the same scenarios that keep me up at night, in fact. Climate refugees numbering in the hundreds of millions. Decades long drought decimating the food supply and disrupting municipal water supplies. The collapse of safety nets to which we have all become accustomed.

Yet, instead of blithering like an idiot, as I have tended to do, she has apparently been slowly and steadily working on creating a safety net that encompasses not only her own family, but which also takes into consideration the necessity of rebuilding small scale community resources such as village-level energy generation and water and waste management. Sharon manages to talk about such things as rain water catchment and medication shelf-lives without sounding like a crackpot.

One of the concepts I loved in her book is that of the Chatelaine - an honorable office in the middle ages for which there is no modern equivalent. A chatelaine is the "keeper of the keys," the manager of the food stores and the means of production on an estate. The chatelaine would, for example, be in charge of knowing what the consumption needs of the household are - from wheat flour to medicinal herbs - and of procuring them or of organizing the means to produce them. A kitchen garden, an herb garden, maintaining a network of neighbors that can provide necessities that no individual household can. Creating and organizing a pantry. Performing and/or overseeing food preservation and rotation. Probably also knowing and managing the needs of the household animals that provide food like chickens and goats.

I realized instantly that here is this terrific word, this regal-sounding word out of my own ethnic history, that describes and gives importance to the job that I actually do - in addition, of course, to my jobs as mother and wife, as teacher and accountant and scullery maid. And chauffeur and laundress and cook and goatherd and cheesemaker-in-chief and .... blah blah blah. Anyway, here is a word to describe an office of dignity and importance. I appreciate that, even if nobody else in my household is likely to.

Sharon also writes eloquently about the moral obligations of the (globally speaking) wealthy. She rightly points out that every religion and traditional society we know of stresses the importance of hospitality - and that these traditions and religious obligations were formed at times of relative poverty. We have never been richer than we are now. Those of us who can afford to put aside food and water, who can afford to invest in the tools and utilities that will be needed by our neighbors in the future - small scale water collection and purification, communal ovens or wells or tractors or granaries - should do so, not only as a mitzvah (Sharon is a Jew) but also as a means of preserving the common security, including our own.

If I have a complaint about this book it is that it seems to still be more a collection of blog posts than an integrated work of literature. But that is a complaint I have generally about many recent books and it seems like a complaint that should be directed more at the editor than at the author. Hey editors: blogs are great, and I love them, but they aren't books. Help the authors make it a book.

That being said, I urge you all to read this book. It is absorbing, entertaining, thought-provoking, and informative all at the same time. Yay Sharon!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Farewell Xanadu and Valentina

Sold! Xana and Valentina are both sold as bred does. I sold them cheaply, but not rediculously cheaply, considering I really don't want to keep them and feed them over the winter. I don't like either goat or want their genetics in my herd, and I don't want to eat them. Plus, goats are not worth spit on the market right now.

So I'm feeling rather clever and happy to have sold them for enough money to buy hay for probably the rest of the winter.

If I can find a decent deal on hay, that is.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hog (Fuel) Heaven

As I think I have mentioned, the rains have started. With a vengeance. I have no idea how much rain in inches we have received in the last couple of weeks, but I can tell you it's been enough to turn the barnyard into poo soup.

I really don't like wading through the poo soup every morning. It's not good for the animal's hooves, either. I have been remiss about trimming the goat's hooves, and that particular icky task is long overdue. If I let their hooves get overgrown, they will start to rot, and that - if left unchecked - will lead to lameness and infection and even, possibly, death. So yeah, I really need to get on that.

As an aside, why can't anybody manufacture a set of hoof trimmers that lasts more than three months? Has the science of steel really not advanced that far since 500 B.C.? Your basic hoof trimmers (which look like rose pruners, for those of you more familiar with roses than goats) cost twenty bucks and in this wet climate last only a very short time before they are rusted shut. I trim the goat's hooves once or maybe twice and then buy new ones. It's a small but significant drain on the finances.

So anyway. The mud was getting out of hand, as it does just about this time every year. Last year, I spent a lot of money on drain rock, and hurt my back pretty seriously trying to spread it. This year, I decided to spend a lot less money on hog fuel (a mix of chipped wood and dirt, basically) and spare my aching lumbar spine.

I ordered fifteen yards, which is a lot, and they actually brought me something closer to twenty, which is a hell of a lot. Forty minutes with a rake made no appreciable dent in the pile. The animals, however, loved to climb in it and paw it and generally help gravity do it's work, so maybe they will help me out a bit over the next few days. Poppy especially was adorable climbing the pile: her long legs kept sinking in nearly to the shoulder or hip, and she plunged and reared to get herself extricated.

I am looking forward to keeping me feet more or less dry when I do morning chores. I do, of course, have gumboots, but believe it or not, they often get stuck in the awful sucking muck. More than once I have lost a boot to the hideous slurping stew, and I'd much rather rise above it all on a carpet of hogfuel (not that it's particularly aromatic - whew!)

Here is a gratuitous shot of the sky this afternoon. I couldn't help myself, it was so beautiful.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

#@%&*!! Chickens!!

Today I discovered another hen up in the hayloft on a nest of some dozen eggs.

Don't these chickens know it's practically November? Chicks have approximately a 50% mortality rate in June: in November it's likely to approach 100%. What is up with these stupid, stupid chickens?

And what is up with the stupid, stupid human who has not, in nearly three years, devised a method of keeping chickens out of the hayloft?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Shaggy Manes!

The recent hard rains have brought up my shaggy manes! Last year I discovered these mushrooms out on the hard-packed area of the pasture that used to have the old dairy barn on it. I brought some of them to the wild mushroom show and had them identified by an expert as the Shaggy Mane, classified and "edible and delectable" in mushroom guides.

But I never got to eat any of them last year because very very soon after they pop up, they begin to deliquesce into an oozy black mess. You have to get them quick.

I just picked those you see above - maybe a pound or or a pound and a half. There are hundreds of them out there. I'm not sure how to cook them: I'll have to look up some recipes. Just out of an abundance of caution, I will eat some first, and wait several hours before I let anyone else try them.

Can't wait.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fun With Sourdough

My sister, last time she came over, brought with her a gallon sized ziploc bag of sourdough starter. It was given to her by a friend, who told her the starter has been in her family for some 75 years. Whether or not that's true, it is certainly true that there are starters that old and even older which have lost none of their vigor and flavor.

I'd never baked with sourdough before, with the exception of an "amish friendship loaf" some years ago, which I think hardly counts, calling as it does for a pack of Jello pudding mix and other adulterants, including packaged yeast. In the past week and a half, I have for the first time baked true sourdough, leavened by wild yeasts alone, slow risen at October-room temperature, and containing nothing but flour, water, and salt.

Man, I am proud of the results. I have made some serious bread, bread that takes me back to northern European peasant roots. The sourdough caraway rye brought me to the shteltl of my Russian Jewish forbears - thick, heavy, strengthening and nourishing, just like my own great-great Grandmother. I've made a crusty-on-the-outside, airy-on-the-inside San Fransisco loaf, and dipped it into homemade red sauce, made from tomatoes I picked myself. Tonight, at the request of my husband, I made pan de yema - a rich, sweet Mexican egg-bread roll meant for dunking into cinnamon spiced hot chocolate. I don't think pan de yema is traditionally made with sourdough, but I'm here to tell you, it works just fine.

Sourdough starter is a bit intimidating if you've never used it before, but really, it isn't difficult at all. You keep it in the fridge. Every couple of days, you let out the excess air and mush it with your hands. Every fourth or fifth day, you add a cup of flour and a cup of water. That's it.

Astute readers will have ascertained that the starter will double in bulk every fourth or fifth day. Much faster, actually, because of course it grows. It doubles in bulk every third day or so, even in the fridge. That means that even a small amount of starter represents a commitment to bake - bake early and bake often! Even a family that eats a lot of bread (which we are fast becoming) will find the amount of bread produced more than ample after a couple of weeks.

Luckily, as my sister reminded me when I complained that I was gaining weight like a baby blue whale due to the vast quantities of bread I was suddenly consuming, bread freezes beautifully. Bake two loaves, and wrap one tightly in plastic wrap, zip it in a ziploc bag, and toss it in the freezer. If you let it thaw thoroughly, you will not be able to tell it from fresh bread, hardly. Also, sourdough bread seems to keep better than straight-run bread. One of my caraway rye loaves was sitting on the counter, loosely wrapped in a plastic shopping bag, for four days before I breached the crust, and it was still absolutely perfect.

A batch of sourdough starter is a great thing to add to your stores if you have food security in mind. It needs no refrigeration and literally never goes bad, as long as you keep it alive. Most of us come from a bread-is-the-staff-of-life culture and fresh homemade bread would be a great comfort in case of emergency. Starter is not hard to make, either. Try it - the worst that can happen is too much bread. And really, is that a disaster?

Sourdough starter culture

This will take a few days, but is not at all difficult. It's quite amazing that with the repeated additions of only wheat and water, you will develop an active and living sourdough starter!

Day 1

Mix together 1 cup of whole wheat or rye flour with ¾ cup of water. Make sure that all the dough is wet into a ball. It will be stiff, but don't worry about it. Keep in a clean container covered with plastic wrap at room temperature.

Day 2

Mix together 1 cup bread flour with ½ cup of water. Add this mixture to the mixture from yesterday, and mix it all together. Yesterday's dough will likely be a little bit softer than it was, but there will not likely have occurred any rise. Cover with plastic wrap as before, and leave at room temperature.

Day 3

Mix together 1 cup of bread flour with ½ cup of water. Take the dough from the day before, and discard half of it. Mix the new and old dough's together. It will be getting wetter, and there will probably be some rise by now. Cover with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature.

Day 4

Repeat the procedure exactly as from Day 3. A few hours after you have mixed the dough's together, your starter should have doubled in size. It is now ready for use.

Take 1 cup of your active sourdough starter, and, mix with 3 ½ cups of bread flour and 2 cups of water. Mix together well and cover with plastic wrap. After about 6 hours, the dough should have doubled in size, and become quite bubbly. It is now ready to use in a sourdough bread recipe!

You can use this starter right away, or it can be held in the fridge until you are ready to use it. I keep it in a clean large covered Tupperware container in the fridge, and take it as needed.

Armed Aimee?

Goat butchering season is right around the corner.

I had been dithering, thinking that perhaps it would be worth it after all to have the professionals come do it... sure, it's $70/goat, but that only works out to about $3.50 a pound, same as the pig....

But that was before the deer incident. Although we didn't eat any of it, we did skin it and butcher it. It was an icky job and the results were far from professional, but I am rather more convinced that we can cut up a goat now. I think we can and should do it at home. It's all part of self-sufficiency.

However, I want to ensure that they are humanely and above all quickly killed. Homero says he can cut their throats, and I know that would work and is in fact how it is done in most traditions, but I want to shoot them in the back of the head.

Instant. No pain, no fear. Except, that is, for the fear I felt upon entering a gun store for the first time in my life and asking about 22 pistols. My hands would not stop trembling. It's absurd, and I know some of you more experienced folks are laughing at me right now.

That's okay. For me, buying a gun, especially a handgun (I thought about a 22 rifle but on the advice of a good friend have decided on a pistol) is a big deal. I haven't held a gun in my hand since I was 14 and my Dad won a tiny little pearl handled revolver in a game of poker and showed me how to shoot it in the basement of the Pioneer Square Hotel. I think I shot it twice.

I need to get a gun soon, because I want to have time to take a handgun safety and training course before I have to shoot the goats. Right now, I just about know which end of a gun to keep pointed away from me and that's it.

Any advice from knowledgeable gun owners would be welcome.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Redneck Rubicon (WARNING - GRAPHIC)

There's no point in denying it any longer. How can I maintain any semblance of sophistication, how can I pretend that I still have any city polish, when I spent the last three hours butchering a roadkill deer? When I think that my mother was a debutante in Scarsdale, with her picture on the society page... well, let's just not go down that path any further.

To be fair to myself, it was not my idea to bring home the freshly killed doe, nor did I have any say in the matter whatsoever. It was simply there when I got home (I would pay quite a bit to have been a fly on the wall as Homero was lifting this 175 pound animal onto his car. It's a busy road. Many people must have passed by. Nobody offered to help, that's all I know.). If I had been consulted, I would have argued against it.


In less than a month, we will be butchering the goats. We've never killed anything bigger than a chicken before. It seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up. If it was good to eat, we'd eat it. If not, well, it was practice.

Homero hoists the doe up and ties her to the top of the kid's playset - the only suitable place we could find. Now the playset is forever associated in their little minds with blood and guts.
Homero uses his closed fist to separate the hide. He cut a little too deeply at first and some intestine bulged out - but was not perforated.

I attempt to skin the foreleg.

The skinned and gutted carcass with the damaged meat removed. The doe was hit in the right side, and pretty much that whole side was destroyed. We decided we would not use any meat from the right side of the animal, not even the foreleg.

I am looking rather absurdly proud of myself for having removed the left tenderloin without too much destruction or waste. I ran this into the house and submerged it in red wine and garlic.

We then attempted to remove the left hindquarter. We did eventually succeed, but let's just say that no pretty roast was going to be had from that quarter. It was pretty well massacred. I decided to try and dissect what was left, and I did in fact separate it into it's component muscle groups, but I haven't the foggiest idea how to use them. I thought I'd cut it all up for stew meat, maybe.

While I was wrestling with a ribcage, a hind leg, and a foreleg in the kitchen sink, Homero had disposed of the rest of the deer by dragging it out to the farthest section of the property and leaving it for the coyotes (whatever is left tomorrow we will bury). Then he sat down at the computer and did a little research. Which convinced him we shouldn't eat any part of the deer.

I wonder how many women, in this day and age, when presented with a freshly killed large animal would gird up their loins, get out the knife sharpener and the kiddie pool, and get to work. How many would go look up on the internet how to cut around the anus and then actually do it - how many would throw a whole bleeding haunch over their shoulder and throw it down on their kitchen counter? Figure out how to cut it up? Wrap it in plastic wrap and tinfoil and put it in the freezer? Marinate the choicest cut and seriously intend to cook it up and eat it?

I'd wager it's not a really big percentage. I'll be frank, it took some time - and some fortitude - to psyche myself up to tackle that animal. It wasn't a whole lot of fun, but I did it. I was fairly pissed off when Homero suddenly decided we weren't going to eat any of it. Not even the dogs, he decided, could eat any of it.

Well, what the hell did you bring it home for??

It was good practice, I'll give him that. It was good practice.

Look What the Cat Dragged In

When I spoke to my husband today, he said "wait till you get home. I have a surprise for you. I think you're going to like it."

My husband has some weird ideas about what I might like. Flowers, now I like flowers. A surprise date, dinner and dancing? Lovely. He's done the dishes or the laundry for me? Hooray!

Dead deer on my car?

Not so much.

He found it on the road early this morning. It was still steaming. I'm sure it would have been fine if he had hung it up and bled it right away. But he just slung it on the hood of the car and went to work. Now, it's nearly twelve hours later and I'm not at all sure it will still be good.

It's still warm enough to have a tick on it, I saw that. They haven't left yet. It's mostly stiff, but the legs have some play at the joints. I don't know if it's going into rigor mortis or relaxing out of it. No puffiness yet. And there's barely a mark on it, just blood from the mouth.

It - she - is gigantic. Probably weighs at least 150, maybe more. What the hell, it will be good practice to cut it up, since we do have to butcher the goats pretty soon. If the meat doesn't look good to me, we can always feed it to the dogs.

Homero will be home any minute; I told him under no circumstances can he wait until tomorrow. He got himself into this; now he's got to deal with it RIGHT NOW.

And that includes digging the hole for the carcass.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Blog Party

Picked up from Farmer's Daughter:

1. What is your favorite thing to snack on while you’re blogging? Bourbon. What do you mean, that's not a snack?

2. What is one thing you wouldn’t want to live without? My family.

3. Beach, Mountains or Farm? I live on a farm within 10 miles of the beach and twenty of the mountains, so I'd say I've got all bases covered.

4. What’s your least favorite chore/household duty? Trimming goat hooves in the rain.

5. Who do people say you remind them of? I really haven't the foggiest. Has anyone ever said I remind them of anybody? Seems likely, but I can't remember.

6. Prefer parties and socializing or staying at home with the farm? I'd like to socialize on the farm.

7. What’s your all time favorite movie? Oh gosh this is impossible. The one that springs to mind is One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest with Jack Nicholson.

8. Do you sleep in your make up or remove it like a good girl every night? I haven't worn makeup since 1996.

9. Do you have a hidden talent or a deep desire to learn something that you’ve never had a chance to learn? What is it? To play an instrument, preferably piano though it would be kickin' to play the harp (harmonica, that is).

10. What’s one strange thing you’re really good at? I am good at so many things ;) A strange thing? Whistling...?

11. What first attracted you to your spouse? His amazing, light up a city smile.

12. What is something you love to smell? Right now, the fallen autumn leaves.

13. Tell something about you that you know irritates people. I am an insufferable know-it-all.

14. When you have extra money (HA!) what’s the first thing you think to do with it? Buy something we need for the homestead, like a centrifuge to clean waste veggie oil.

15. Are you a silent laugher or a loud laugher? What makes you laugh the hardest? I guffaw like a crazed donkey. Lots of things make me laugh, but I'm going to say my daughter Rowan makes me laugh most often.

16. Where is your favorite place to shop? A good grocery store.

17. What’s one thing you’d do more often if you had more time? Stay in bed with the husband.

18. Are you a big spender or frugal? Pretty frugal. Some might say cheapskate.

19. Who is your favorite character of all time (from a movie or book)? Atticus, from To Kill a Mockingbird.

20. Would you want to be famous? Hell no. I value my anonymity.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Apples Kicked my Ass

After the girl scouts went home, a lovely older couple from Lynden showed up with a full barrel (or more) of Russet apples off their antique tree.

I've heard of Russets before but I hadn't ever, to my knowledge, eaten them. They are kind of a homely apple; small, greenish-brown, and speckled. But they are also a freakishly delicious apple. Crisp, sweet, and juicy.

This gentleman's apples were terrific, clearly from a very healthy tree. They hadn't a scab, a wormhole, or a bruise on them anywhere. The cider they made was, like the apples, rather homely and kind of brown, but extremely sweet and flavorful. They took home about six gallons of cider, and I got about four - plus all the extra apples, which amounted to a couple of tote bags full. I think we will mostly just eat them as is, but if there are too many for us to eat in a timely fashion, I'll have to see how they cook up.

I believe I might be done with cider for the year. There are ten or more gallons frozen in the chest freezer, and a couple of gallons in the fridge. My arms and legs are killing me, and I got a wasp trapped in my dress today. It didn't sting me; it was far too drunk on apple cider. But still.

Community Service

Just got finished pressing cider with a troupe of girlscouts. I didn't even keep any of the cider: it was a purely altruistic endeavor. Here's hoping the scouts learned something worthwhile.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Baking in the Rain

Last week, my sister brought me some sourdough starter that a friend had given her. The friend says it's an old family starter more than 75 years old. I can't vouch for that, but I can say it makes some wicked awesome bread.

I'm not usually much of a bread person, actually. We are more of a tortilla family. But the bread I made with this starter was so delicious, so toothsome, so crusty and yummy, that I have been baking practically non-stop ever since.

I have a loaf in the oven right now. Probably I should go check on it.

Rainin' in Paradize

...Song on the tremendously awesome album Radiolina by Manu Chao. Also a descriptor of what is happening here.

It is raining like nobody's business. It is raining like the end of the world. It is raining like I don't even know what.

The crisp, cool, beautiful days of fall are gone, and now the season of rot, mud and darkness has begun.

All hail Hecate!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

National Blog Action Day is Here!

Now that the big blog day is here, I find I have very little else to say. I certainly am not going to try to convince anyone that climate change is real. In my opinion, anyone who isn't convinced by events hasn't been paying attention or is in the grip of denial.

We are all, of course, still in the grip of denial. As a nation, as a world. We are closing our eyes tighter and tighter to the painful reality. If we can still change the trajectory of our future (and I'm not at all sure that we can), it will take a massive restructuring of society as we know it, in all nations, in all areas, for all people. Many people say it can't be done. Many people would rather live in denial than take on the hard work of changing the world.

Many people are in despair. I often despair. I have not made the changes I know are necessary in my own life. I have taken small baby steps, and tried to convince myself that those have some effect. I am preparing for the worst, as best I can with the resources that I have. I have given in to panic, and have spent my time thinking about how I can mitigate the devastating effects for my own children, how I can create some kind of stable island for them.

That is not enough.

I - and all of us who give one tiny little shit about our planet's future - must work to overcome both denial and despair. We must stand together and shout, loudly, to our elected officials that we DEMAND action. The strongest possible action. There are links at the end of this post that can guide you in contacting your senator, in organizing events, in making changes in your own lifestyle. I urge you - I beg you - to follow them and get started making your voice heard.

But before you do, take a look at what is on the line. Take a look at the immense beauty that has been given us by our creator. Take a look at what has been entrusted to our care.

Act now | 1Sky

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Well, That Didn't Take Long

Note for my Goat Book: All my females were most likely bred today. My Rent-a-Buck, he of the infinitely aromatic testicles, has quickly forced most of my does into heat.

This afternoon, during a sunbreak, I decided to let my goats out to browse while there is still anything alive for them to browse on. I used one of my goat beaters (long sticks) to prevent the Rent-a-Buck from following them out through the gate. I didn't want to risk him getting hurt on the road or eating anything poisonous or whatever, as he isn't mine.

Needn't have bothered. It took him all of two minutes and two attempts to jump the fence. He was not going to let any of those does out of his sight. During the thirty minutes the goats were out, I definitely saw him tag the two little girls (who probably shouldn't be bred yet; they are still pretty small) and Xana. He attempted to breed Django and Flopsy, but I don't think he closed the deal.

The funny part was watching our little buckling, Storm Cloud. Having a senior buck around to observe and emulate has certainly advanced his development. You can see him watching and copying the older buck. It's hysterical. In a previous post, I have described goat sex, which is pretty funny. The male goat "blubbers" to excite the female, which means he sticks out his tongue and goes "bblvlblblblblbldlfv" like a frat boy all over her. Storm Cloud learned to do this from watching Rent-a buck. Until now, he simply tried to jump on the girls without preamble, which didn't work at all.

As any woman could attest. Fellows, you gotta blubber first.

Finally, Unequivocal Good News

Billion Tree Project

Surpasses Goal of 7



New York/Nairobi, 21 September 2009. The global public’s desire to see action on climate change was clearly spotlighted today with the announcement that the Billion Tree Campaign has reached 7 billion trees—one for every person on the planet.

Over the past three years millions of people ranging from scouts to presidents and from schoolchildren to city dwellers and corporate heads have been rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty for the environment through tree planting.

Today’s milestone was reached with the news that the Government of China has planted 2.6 billion trees as part of this unique campaign, bringing the total to 7.3 billion trees planted in 167 countries worldwide.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said: “Seven billion trees, seven billion commitments to action and seven billion reasons why governments should be inspired to Seal the Deal at the crucial UN climate change convention meeting in Copenhagen in less than 80 days’ time.”

“When this campaign was launched in 2006, there were those who said it could not be done. But day after day and week after week, people have got out into their gardens, parks and cities and into the countryside and the rural areas to prove the doubters wrong,” he added.

“Above all the Billion Tree Campaign shows that the simple act of planting a tree resonates and unites the child in the slums of Africa with a president in Mexico, or a corporate CEO in Paris with UN peacekeepers in Timor-Leste. It is the kind of solidarity that now needs to be expressed at the level of all governments and heads of state between now and December in order to move economies towards a low carbon, sustainable path,” said Mr Steiner.

The Billion Tree Campaign was launched jointly with the World Agroforestry Centre during the UN climate convention meeting in November 2006 in Nairobi, Kenya, under the patronage of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Wangari Maathai and His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco.

Its initial goal was to catalyze the pledging and the planting of one billion trees as a way of giving public expression to the challenges of climate change and also forest and ecosystem degradation.

Since then the Billion Tree Campaign has more than surpassed its aims, evolving into a true ‘People’s Campaign’ – more than half (52 per cent) of all the participants are private individuals.

Furthermore, tree planting has become both an inter-faith and an inter-generational activity, with the trees symbolizing connections between children and parents and bringing together people from different religious backgrounds.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai, the founder of the Kenyan Green Belt Movement and the campaign’s co-patron, said: “Let’s plant even more trees to celebrate this wonderful achievement, the fruit of collective action from people all over the planet. By making the Billion Tree Campaign such an incredible success, people from every continent are calling their governments to truly start caring for the planet and to find unity in the fight against climate change.”

His Serene Highness Albert II, the Sovereign Prince of Monaco and the campaign's co-patron, said: “I have always had a strong belief in the symbolic strength of the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign and I am delighted that it has exceeded our greatest expectations, far beyond the welfare linked to replanting trees, to benefit future generations.”

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


As my adorable spotted buckling Storm Cloud is still too small to impregnate my does (probably), I advertised for a mature Nubian buck on Craigslist and came up with this handsome specimen. He is not terribly big, but he's proven, and I like his coloring. He reeks to high heaven, as a buck should, and was trying to mount the girls within ten seconds.

Of course, they were having none of it, not being in heat at the moment. Here is Django telling him in no uncertain terms to step off.

However, his mere presence and his overwhelmingly manly hormones will shortly force the does into heat - within a couple of days they will be flipping their tails all over the place and standing still for his attentions. Bet you men out there are a little bit jealous, aren't you? Oh come on admit it. All a woman has to do is smell your armpits or your unwashed socks and she suddenly just...can't.... help herself....

Good News is Hard to Find

When I decided to participate in the blogger's action day on Climate Change, I knew I was not going to post a litany of scary statistics. I've read all those things and it hasn't made me hopeful or optimistic. Instead, I wanted to ferret out and post some good news, news about how the world may be adapting and how people are coming up with good ideas.

Good news is hard to find. I've looked for about seven hours, total, and come up with only three articles which I think are hopeful enough to include. There are others that have a hopeful sounding headline but which when you read them, are actually gloomy as hell. For example, the headline "Global Warming expands Trees Range" would seem to be good news. But in fact, the article went on to detail the results of studies on whether or not trees can grow at higher latitudes/altitudes due to temperature changes. The widespread assumption was that yes, they uniformly would. Turns out, not so much. Only half of the sites examined showed any evidence of saplings growing in previously inhospitable areas. In a few areas, treelines had retreated.

This brings me to another thing. One of the things I hear a lot from skeptics is that global warming - if it's even happening - is good because plants can use more CO2 as fertilizer and will increase their growth rate. Well, that's true up to a point - and the point isn't very far away. First year Ecology, people. Ecology 101. Growth is limited by that necessary factor in the environment which is present in the LEAST amount. In other words, jack up the carbon dioxide all you like, but your hours of daily sunlight ain't gonna change. Or your soil quality. Or your WATER. There are a lot of marginally productive areas which are rapidly losing their margin due to desertification.

Okay. I did find one tiny scrap of halfway decent news today. If you can call it that.
Nic Fleming, contributor

Those depressed by the seemingly relentless combination of economic and environmental gloom in recent months have something to be cheerful about.

In the first major study of the effect of the recession on climate change, theInternational Energy Agency (IEA), which advises its 28 member countries on policy, is predicting a drop in carbon dioxide emissions of around 2.6 per cent in 2009 - the largest in 40 years.
The Financial Times reported yesterday that the fall in production of the most abundant human-made greenhouse gas was largely down to declining industrial output, and other economic factors such as the shelving of plans for new coal-fired power stations.

The news comes as about 100 world leaders meet at United Nations headquarters in New York today for a one-day summit. The unprecedented gathering - the highest-level meeting on climate change ever held - is an effort to invigorate negotiations in the run-up to the UN climate conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December, when nations will be asked to agree on a new deal to tackle climate change.

So far, international negotiations have been slowed by national interests. Efforts to break the deadlock could be given added momentum by the IEA's estimate that a quarter of the emissions reduction expected to be achieved this year will be as a result of government action.

According to an excerpt of the IEA's annual World Energy Outlook, due to be published on 6 October, Europe's target of cutting emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, US car emission standards and China's energy-efficiency policies have had the greatest effect.

Speaking to Reuters, Fatih Birol, the agency's chief economist, said: "This fall in emissions and in investment in fossil fuels will only have meaning with agreement in Copenhagen which provides a low-carbon signal to investors."

Meanwhile The Guardian reported that the aviation industry will pledge to halve CO2 emissions by 2050 in an announcement to be unveiled to the world leaders meeting in New York today.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Small Piece of Good News

This video GOOD News: Climate Change Changes Climate Change - Video is rather silly in appearance, but the news in it is not. This is a rare example of a negative feedback loop in climate change - melting ice releases minerals which increase photosynthesis in plankton, thus absorbing CO2.

Unfortunately, much more common are examples of positive feedback loops, such as the melting of the permafrost in the tundra releasing vast quantities of methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas. But my hope is that there are in fact myriad negative feedback loops that we either a) have not discovered yet, or b) have not been publicized.

I will continue to search for examples in advance of Global Blog Action Day (or whatever they call it)!!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mountains Beyond Mountains

... the title of a truly excellent book by Tracy Kidder which I should not appropriate. However, what else can I call this collection of photos?

I don't know if there is another mechanic on the planet with a view like this.

Today was a cut-crystal day with a spectacular sunset. Visibility infinite. Temperature pleasant, in the high fifties. Breezy, but not windy. The kind of day that makes the animals kick up their heels.

The goats were in high spirits when I let them out to browse. Ivory helped me get them back in; she's becoming a better chivera all the time. Now I can point to the goat I want her to get and she gets it more often than not.

Ivory chases the goats towards the pen

Ivory gets them through the gate

All the goats at home. Hooray Ivory!!

Today's Hopeful Climate Change News

Researchers say they have found a way to 'green' the Sahara desert with swathes of trees - and put the brakes on climate change at the same time.

Planting trees in the Sahara Desert could have a dramatic impact on climate change

Leonard Ornstein, a cell biologist from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in the United States, and NASA climate modellers David Rind and Igor Aleinov, say that water from the desert's neighbouring oceans could be desalinated and transported inland with pumps and aqueducts.

Heat-tolerant, fast-growing species such as eucalyptus could be planted, with drip irrigation - using plastic tubing to deliver water to roots - to minimise evaporation.

Such forests could cool the Sahara by up to eight degrees Celsius and return rain to the region, they say. Clouds would also help to reflect the sun's rays. The fast-growing trees could absorb eight billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year - the amount emitted from burning fossil fuels and forests today - and could do so for decades.

The price tag of US$2 trillion a year is not low. But Ornstein and colleagues say that after several decades the forests would provide a sustainable source of firewood, making them carbon neutral.

Drawbacks of the increased moisture are the possibility of more locust plagues and the prevention of iron-rich dust blowing into the Atlantic Ocean where it feeds sea life, the researchers say.

Nevertheless, the idea "is incredibly important and definitely worth taking seriously," says atmospheric scientist Richard Anthes, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Blog Action Day Climate Change

Every year - for the last few, anyway - there has been a national day of action blogging on a specific subject. Everyone who blogs is invited to sound off on the chosen topic, no matter where they stand. This year's topic - chosen by e-vote - is climate change. A subject that those who know me know I care deeply about. I can't possibly imagine, in fact, why anyone wouldn't. Maybe a misanthropic hermit with no descendants. We all have a stake in this fight. The biggest stake imaginable - our children's survival and quality of life.

For more information on the national blog action day, or to enroll your blog, please click on the link on my sidebar.

For the next few days, I'll be posting anything interesting I come up with on the subject. I'm focusing on positive information and concrete suggestions, since I've had enough gloom and doom to last me a long time. Like, until I'm up to my knees in warm water. Not as long as I'd prefer, actually.

Above, I've posted a fantastic graphic illustrating how much land area it would take to meet 100% of the world's energy needs in the year 2030 - given a 44% increase over today - with solar power alone. I think if you click on it you can blow it up: as it is, the areas required are so tiny you can't even see them. Ha!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Mid-Autumn Pastoral

We've had the most lovely stretch of weather. After a long, dusty, too-hot summer, we finally - a few weeks ago - had a series of quenching rains, rising occasionally to the level of torrent. Still being the growing season, the grass and trees revived vividly. The dust settled, and green came back into the world.

More recently, we've enjoyed a revival of blue skies and sunshine. It's cooler, of course - we had to buy propane to heat the house at night - but it's beautiful. The days are bright and blustery, the leaves are turning, or have turned, or have fallen and are racing along the ground with the gusts. But it's still T-shirt weather, for those with a hearty constitution, as I am raising my girls to have.

The seasons have indubitably changed. All the pears have fallen off the pear tree. We mowed the lawn for the last time last week. The garden has been fully abandoned. Nobody is even coming by with apples to press anymore. But it is still early to mid fall, my favorite time. It's still bright and crisp, not yet soggy and freezing. There is still light in the sky when I awake and when I get home in the afternoons. The long dark season of pure endurance has yet to commence.

I feel like throwing a bonfire and a feast. It feels like harvest moon festival time. It feels like Samhain. It feels like time to throw the last shindig of the year before we all dig in and get cozy for winter.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Disappearing Chickens

Oh No!!!! The lesbian hens are back together with their little clutch of three, but black mama (2) and her brood of five are missing! All of them!

Aaaahhhhh! Chickens!!!!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Same-Sex Chicken Experiment

Well, my happy little lesbian hen family has not survived. Chick envy appears to have been the problem. The yellow and one of the black mamas had been happily sharing their little brood of three for nearly two weeks without problems, and it looked like all would be well.

Then I let the other brood out of the rabbit hutch and out into the barnyard. Another black mama (2) has a brood of five, about a week old now. When black mama (1) saw the new brood, she promptly tried to steal it. The two black mamas were fighting viciously.

Unfortunately, I couldn't tell them apart, so I had to grab one and hold it while I watched to see if the chicks would run under the one remaining. I grabbed the wrong mama first and had to switch. I tried to put black mama (1) back with her family, but she just kept trying to fight with black mama (2). She didn't even care about her three chicks anymore! She abandoned them to yellow mama.

So I had to put black mama (1) in the mama barn overnight to chill out, and now my same-sex chicken experiment is over.

Is that clear?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sudden Abundance

Ever since the ladder broke, I haven't been able to check the hayloft for eggs. I had thought that perhaps without the ladder the hens couldn't get up there anymore, but they can.

I boosted Hope up (brave girl) and she started handing me down eggs. 1,2,3... 8,9,10.... 13!!!

Then we noticed that one of the boards that blocks off the underneath of the barn had fallen off. So I sent Hope scooting to see if there were any eggs under there. Of course there were... another ten, in fact. We had to check those ones by dunking in water to see if they were good or not. Good eggs sink; bad eggs float. They sank.

So now I have about four dozen eggs all of a sudden, a rich trove for this late in the season.

If only I could get at the eggs that some of the hens are laying deep in the blackberry bushes!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Cajeta is Love

Cajeta, for those of you so deprived as to have never heard of it, is a delicious Mexican sweet. It's basically caramel, made with goat's milk, vanilla, and lots of sugar, all boiled together for a long, long time. That's simplifying, but only a little. A recipe is kind of redundant.

You can boil it for two or three hours, into a thin sauce such as you might use on pancakes, or you can simmer it all day and end up with a sticky paste just right for spreading on toast. I like to split the difference and make a thick syrup. In Mexico, I've seen it made into candy, almost like maple sugar candy, and into a taffy-like substance on a lollipop. But I think those applications must involve other ingredients and techniques that I don't know about.

We mainly use cajeta for sweetener/lightener in coffee. It's delish. But it is also heavenly as an ice cream topper, stirred into a bowl of yogurt and fresh fruit, or even drizzled on a cheesecake (do that when you want the guests to swoon.)

Aside from a basic inborn sweet tooth, I make cajeta because it is easier than making cheese, and can be made with less milk. It's pointless to make cheese with less than a gallon of milk, but you can make cajeta with a half gallon and end up with a pint or so of cajeta, which lasts quite a while.

Now that my goats are giving less milk (Flopsy is essentially dry) it's hard to get enough milk to make cheese. Plus, I have a pretty good store of cheese already. Unfortunately, I found that the cajeta I made last year and canned did not store well. I'm not sure why; everything I read says milk can be canned in a pressure canner. And my cajeta didn't spoil. But it separated, into a thin, rather sour liquid and a thick, cheesy/sweet solid. Pretty gross. I tossed it. This year, I'm only making amounts that can be kept in the fridge. It does last a pretty long time in the fridge; perhaps six weeks.

That's a lot of coffee.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

I Never Thought I'd Live to Hate Tomatoes

Lord in heaven. How can it be that the amount of tomatoes I can pick in 45 minutes takes 3 days to process? I am heartily sick of tomatoes in all thier forms.

But I'm sure that will not be true come January.