Posts Tagged ‘Saving the Planet’
If necessary one can live without an accountant, a lawyer, and a great many other service providers, but how long do you think you would last without a farmer? Check out the Know Your Farmer website from the USDA. The videos are pretty awesome too.
I recently spent a weekend roaming around Thomas Jefferson’s estate, Monticello, outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. It is an amazing place and while I love taking the tour of the house that he designed, it is the grounds that I love best. Specifically the gardens. There is an area off of Mulberry Row, which was the main throughfare of the estate, where Jefferson had the vegetable garden for the plantation. Jefferson’s household vegetable garden was over 1000 feet long and covered 2 square acres. It overlooks an 8 acre orchard and a separate vineyard. I should be so lucky to have such a garden plot. Forget the 5000 acres of woodlands that go with it.
My gardening is limited to container gardening in my postage stamp sized backyard of my townhouse in Massachusetts these days. However, I have managed to bring home a small part of Monticello that I hope to enjoy as the growing season begins in New England. One of the things I love about Monticello is that they have the Thomas Jefferson Centre for Historic Plants. The Center collects, preserves, and distributes historic plant varieties and strives to promote greater appreciation for the origins and evolution of garden plants. One of the things that the Center does is sell Heirloom seeds to the public. What are Heirloom seeds you might ask and how are they different from any other seeds you might purchase and plant this Spring. I’m glad you asked…
Typically there are 3 types of seeds familar to most gardners. The first kind is called First generation hybrids (F1 hybrids). These seeds are hand-pollinated, and are patented and often sterile. These seeds are genetically identical within specific food types and are sold exclusively by multinational seed companies. Since they are usually sterile you get to buy new seeds every year to grow your beans, tomatoes, flowers, whatever. Hence, you are a permanent repeat customer for the seed companies.
A second type of seeds are genetically engineered. Bioengineered seeds are rapidly contaminating the global seed supply and threatening the genetic integrity of seeds everywhere. The DNA of the plant has been changed permanently when it is artifically modified. A common trick is to splice DNA from a fish that survives in extreme cold water into strawberries so they become frost resistant. Not a bad idea on the surface, but the biological implications are quite frightening.
A third kind of seeds are called heirloom or open-pollinated. Typically, heirlooms have adapted over time to whatever climate and soil they have been grown in. Due to their genetics, they are often resistant to local pests, diseases and extremes of weather.With heirloom seeds there are thousands or 10,000s varieties of a type of fruit or vegetable, compared to the very few F1 hybrid types of the same fruit or vegetable. This is good. If a disease attacks and destroys a particular variety of tomato there are still a few thousand varieties around that may resist that disease.
The loss of genetic seed diversity facing us today may lead to a catastrophe far beyond our imagining. The Irish potato famine, which led to the death or displacement of two and a half million people in the 1840s, is an example of what can happen when farmers rely on only a few plant species as crop cornerstones.
We can help save heirloom seeds by learning how to buy and save these genetically diverse jewels ourselves. There are a number of sources of information regarding heirloom plants and seeds as well as a variety of suppliers where heirlooms can be purchased. A few are listed below. As Spring gets kicked off consider supporting biodiversity by planting heirloom seeds and plants. Besides they taste fantastic!
Yesterday, Feb. 14th, was the beginning of the Chinese New Year. 2010 is designated as the Year of the Tiger, the Metal Tiger to be exact. According to Chinese astrology this year is one where strength and speed will be rewarded. So with that in mind I would like to direct your attention to the plight of the wild tiger.
Tigers have been on the endangered species list since the 1960s. At that time it was estimated that only 35,000 tigers remained in all of Asia. After more than 30 years of world wide conservation, in 2009 less than 3,500 wild tigers remain.
Massive infrastructure development throughout Asia has destroyed the majority of the tiger habitats and threaten the few remaining ones every day. Additionally, the growing economic prosperity in Asia has spawned a huge illegal trade in products made from tigers. Tigers are being treated as commodities to be traded as opposed to ecological assets to be protected and conserved. It is now considered a sign of status to serve Tiger meat to your dinner guests in some parts of Asia.
To learn more about the importance of tigers in the ecosystem and biodiversity check out the Save the Tiger Fund and download the free ebook, Ride the Tiger, Tiger Conservation in Human Dominated Landscapes.
Let’s not lose these magnificent cats to the cold cut platters of a dinner party. Let us act with strength and speed to save these big cats and the habitats that are necessary for their survival, after all it is the year of the Tiger.
Okay, I admit it. I am a gadget freak. If there were such a thing as AA for technology addicts I would be forced to stand up and say, ” Hi, my name is Kathryn and I am addicted to anything that has gears, microprocessors and blinking lights.” But occasionally my fascination with gadgets leads me to stumble across really amazing technology that is not only gee whiz cool but also supports saving the planet. That happened a few months ago while visiting friends in Florida.
My friend Pat is not a gadget freak, but she is a die-hard gardener. She showed me this amazing gadget she had in her house – an electric composter! This fascinated me. I have had compost bins before. They usually require a good deal of space and a fair amount of work if they are going to be successful and there is always the issue of the smell if you put the wrong things in them. Not very pleasant. Since I now live in an apartment I thought any hope of composting was out, but here in a relatively small ((20″x20″x12″) container I could make compost in my kitchen! The issue of smell is taken care of by a carbon filter built into the system, so absolutely no smell – how great is that. So for Christmas, Santa brought my household a NatureMill Plus XE Compost Bin like my friend Pat’s. We have been using it for a few weeks now and here is what I think about it.
My composter lives in my kitchen, so even though the spec sheet said you could put meat, fish, dairy, even pet waste in the thing, I started out with more traditional stuff like vegetable scrapes. If there was going to be any kind of compost meltdown I wanted it to be manageable. When the composter is running it is quiet too. It doesn’t make as much noise as any other appliance in the kitchen. Nice. Even when you open the door to add more scrapes you are not hit with the trash can smell. The compost items are processed continuously, mixing every 4 hours, until they are completely ground down to small particles.
Week 2 saw me getting braver and adding meat, fish, and dairy scraps to the composter. I have to admit I did this with some trepidation. But because this is an electric composter that uses high heat to decompose the compost items it makes adding these items possible without the smell and “uck” factor. One of the cool aspects of the NatureMill composter is that it has an Energy Save Mode that reduces energy consumption by 75% over the standard usage. Over the next month or so I plan to track how much energy it actually uses. I could bore you with a lot of technical details that you can find on the product website, but I won’t. I will give you the website and suggest that if you aren’t composting because you don’t have the time, space, etc. you check out the NatureMill product line. It is another way to save money (have you priced bags of compost at the local garden store?) and go green all at the same time.
Check out NatureMill’s website: www.naturemill.com for all the details on their products and ordering information.
When I was a little kid growing up in the South I remember my Mom hanging clothes out to dry on the clothesline in our backyard. I use to love to walk between the lines and smell the sheets as they were drying in the hot summer sun. The smell of those sheets as I went to bed at night or when I pulled on my shorts and shirt to go out to play each day always held the faint sent of the honeysuckle that grew on our back fence and rooted me to home. These days our clothes usually smell of of whatever variety of dryer sheet we threw in with the load and don’t connect us in any way with our environment.
Except for refrigerators, the biggest energy consumers in most homes are the washer and the dryer. The good news is that it’s easy to to dramatically reduce the energy these appliances use. By washing all clothes in cold water, you can reduce consumption by as much as 90%. Unless clothing has grease or oil stains, cold water will clean just fine and will keep colors brighter longer. What’s more, by drying laundry on a clothesline or rack you can save $75 and 700 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions a year. The simplest fix of all: don’t wash your clothes until they look dirty or they fail the sniff test.
Let’s bring back that real nature fresh scent to our laundry and make Mother Earth proud.