Monday, March 31, 2008

A sausage a day increases your cancer risk by 20%

A recent British study has shown that consuming 50 g of processed meat a day -- a sausage or around three strips of bacon -- can raise the likelihood that you'll develop cancer by 20%. The cancer in question is bowel cancer and according to the study, any processed meats preserved with salt or chemical additives will increase your risk. It's not just a question of cutting back; one of the researchers involved has stated that processed meats should be avoided completely.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

On why it's sometimes hard to be a populist

So where to start? Is it a gun control issue? Does the decline in customer service over the years need to be addressed? Do governments need to do more to dissuade people from becoming couch potatoes? Should more be done to instill anger management techniques in kids in school? Or should shop class (and knowledge of basic tool usage) become mandatory?

Guns don't kill people; satellite TV kills people.

Earth Hour

Eekamouse! I almost forgot to mention Earth Hour. First started by the World Wildlife Fund in Australia a few years ago, this event has obviously spread like mad. I've been reading about it all over the place online, in newspapers, and even got an email about it from a politician.

Basically, the idea is for people around the world, wherever they are, to turn off their lights and non-essential appliances this evening at 8 pm (whatever their respective time zone
). Cities, organizations and individuals around the world have already committed to participating through the official Earth Hour website. Depending on what you're reading, reports cite reduction in energy consumption in participating cities during lights out as ranging anywhere from 2% to 10%. I think what's most important, though, is that this sort of thing provides people with a large-scale prompt to be mindful of consumption. It gets people thinking and talking about energy conservation, and then actually spending an hour not relying on electricity. Some critics are saying that it's just a token gesture. I say every single action helps. Hell, every month should have an Earth Hour.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Vegan soup recipes in the news

The Victoria Times Colonist ran a decent article by Eric Akis the other day. It's well worth reading just for the great instructions on how to make a flavourful vegetable-based stock (and includes a recipe for one). As a bonus, he included recipes for Curried Yam Soup w/ Coconut and Lime, Classic Mushroom Soup and Lentil Soup w/ Herbe de Provence.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

One drop at a time

There are a number of painless changes that can be incorporated into daily rituals with little or no inconvenience that can significantly lower your personal energy consumption and water usage. Some may seem drastic, but most are the kinds of changes that so easily become second nature after a surprisingly short while. For instance, when I was a teenager and became concerned with water conservation, I adopted the practice of not letting the water run while brushing my teeth. Sounds simple, doesn't it? The thing is that turning the tap off while brushing your teeth can save 5 (or more) litres of water a minute. Let's assume that it takes me four minutes to brush my teeth and that I do so three times a day. That's 60 litres of water a day --21900 litres a year. If I've been doing this roughly 20 years, that means I've saved 438,000 litres of water. That's almost twice the amount used to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool, and it's something I don't even think twice about doing anymore. Letting the water run would now feel weird.

Recent accounts in the media show an increase in droughts or boil orders hitting populated areas in North America, where water's previously been treated as an unlimited resource. As we continue to pollute our water supply and divert it to factory farms, and as global warming continues to affect our climate and water tables, expect to see this worsening. People living outside of cities and who rely on wells for their water -- whether they're on homesteads or merely living in less populous areas -- are likely much more aware of this than the average city-dweller. Sometimes you've just gotta live it to accept it.

In the interim, here are a few other really small changes that are easy to
incorporate into your life to conserve water:

1) When you run the tap waiting for hot water to come out, collect it in water cans for your houseplants or for the garden. Same with any water you allow to run out the tap to warm up before you take a shower.

2) Start taking shorter showers and install a water-saving shower head. Skimming a minute or two off your total can save over 2500 litres of water a month per person. My father used to take ''navy showers'' from years of working as a lumberjack in wooded areas where obtaining usable water involved lotsa lugging. Not wasting water had become second nature to him. Read more about navy showers here.

3) Only run your washing machine or dishwasher when they are full (or when doing lau
ndry, match the water level to the size of the load).

4) If washing dishes by hand, don't let the rinse water run. If you have two sinks, u
se one to wash and fill the other with rinse water. Do the same when rinsing produce -- rinse it in the sink or in a bowl, rather than running the water (and use the water from the rinsed produce for your houseplants).

5) Keep a pitcher of water in the fridge rather than letting water run to get it cold enough for a drink.

6) Use aerators on all of your faucets.

7) Use a low-flow toilet, or fill a jar with water and put it in the tank. Consider adhering to the following: If it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown, flush it down.

8) Cook food in as little water as possible. To enable this, use proper-sized pots and pans. Not only does this save water, but it minimizes the loss of nutrients during the cooking process. Save the water you use in a container and throw it in your freezer to use later to make soup (or to boil whole grains or rice).

9) Water your vegetable garden in the morning to minimize evaporation from heat. Use mulch to retain moisture in the soil.

These are just a fraction of the small changes or habits that will enable to average urban dweller to start adopting a less water-wasteful mindset. The truth is that there are so many more things that can be done every single time you turn on the tap.

Vegetarian teens in the news...

The Hagerstown Morning Herald has a brief article for parents dealing with a teenager's recent decision to become a vegetarian. My beef with it -- if you'll pardon my use of the word -- is that it brings up the completely non-vegetarian notion of ''semi-vegetarianism''. From what I've seen in online vegetarian communities, it's tricky enough for teenagers to explain their reasons for eschewing the consumption of meat to their parents without articles suggesting that that certain types of meat eating could indeed fall under the definition of vegetarianism. (''But little Johnny, chicken is vegetarian! Now you're just being difficult!'') That being said, the article does raise the importance of educating oneself about healthier eating habits (i.e. whether or not you're a vegetarian), and it is fairly positive overall, even though it is rather fluffy and spotty reading.

Syracuse's News 10's website also included an article on dealing with a teen switching over to vegetarianism. There's a bit more information about nutrition -- the importance of eating a variety of items and ensuring that certain vitamins (e.g. B12) and minerals (e.g. iron, calcium and zinc) aren't missed. Unfortunately, when discussing iron, the writer asserts that you can get ''a whole lot of iron from eggs'' when the truth is that the iron content of an egg can be found in around 1/4 cup of cooked spinach, 1/8 cup of almonds and less than 1/4 cup of raisin bran. Eggs aren't really high in iron, so presenting them as a good part of a vegetarian diet to provide iron is misleading.

The Baltimore Sun features an article on the increase in girls (and young women) becoming vegetarian (and vegan) and is definitely the most informative and well-rounded piece of the three articles on the topic. It's entertaining and hip. It really gets into the ethical reasons that some may choose to stop consuming animal products, and, most importantly -- the writer of the piece actually interviewed three younger women who'd become vegetarians at an earlier age to get their input into the matter. In doing so, it addresses the pressure younger vegetarians can face from their peers because of their dietary choices. Thumbs up to the Baltimore Sun for a decent article!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A couple of veg recipes in the news...

Carolina's News 14 has a recipe for Vegetarian Borscht today. Opt for vegetable stock and a soy-based ''sour cream'' like Tofutti's and the recipe is easily veganized.

The Orillia Packet & Times has an Asian-Style Vegetable Noodle Bowl recipe from Eric Akis' Everyone Can Cook Midweek Meals. (The egg noodles are easily replaced with an animal-free alternative.)

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Ginger is the common name of the plant
Zingiber officinale, thought to have originated in Southeast Asia -- quite possibly China. Some sources state that the finest varieties of ginger actually originated from the West Indies or from India. Whatever its origins, today it's cultivated in a number of tropical countries from West Africa to the Caribbean. It's even cultivated in parts of the United States (e.g. Florida). It's a perennial reed-like plant with sword-like leaves that grows two to four feet high and produces remarkably fragrant flowers. It grows best in shade and rich, well-drained soil.

The part that we use is the root or rhizome. The young pinkish roots can be pickled or boiled in water to make ginger tea (often sweetened with honey and served with a squeeze of lemon juice). The slightly older root, knobby and woody looking and tan in colour, is what we customarily find fresh in the grocery stores. It's also commonly found in its dried and powdered form. The rule of thumb is to substitute two tablespoons of freshly grated ginger for every teaspoon of ground ginger called for (although it should be noted that ground ginger tastes quite different from the fresh). Here's a bunch of information on its storage and preservation.

Ginger root has long been used as a a home remedy -- all over the world -- for colds and the flu, often taken in the form of ginger tea at the first sign of a chill or the onset of a cold. It's also recommended to combat nausea and vomiting, especially if they stem from motion or morning sickness, or chemotherapy. Its effect on the digestive system is reported to extend to alleviating gas and indigestion, as well as being beneficial for colitis and for cleansing the colon. It's also thought to combat menstrual cramps and hot flashes. It's known to promote sweating and, through this, the elimination of toxins from t
he system. It's thought to stimulate circulation, and is therefore sometimes taken as a remedy for cold hands and feet. It's also been shown in some studies to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. For more detailed information on its benefits, check out the section on it featured on the (not vegan) World's Healthiest Foods' website.

How to grow it:
Using a firm, heavy and unblemished piece of root purchased in a grocery store, ginger can be grown indoors in a pot if kept in a warm and moist atmosphere.
In the north, it's ideal to start it indoors around January, then move it outside once all chance of frost has passed. Ideally, night temperatures should be at least 55 F. If you choose to keep your ginger indoors, place your pots on pebbles in trays with water to keep the air around them humid; if you move it outside, make sure that it's given good shelter from the wind. In warmer climates with longer growing seasons, it can be planted directly into an outdoor garden in the spring. Ginger supposedly thrives in sunny sites in foggy coastal areas where it can receive full sun to partial shade; however, if grown in an area where sufficient water and humidity will be issues (i.e. if it's just plain ol' too dry and hot), try to ensure that the plant is in the shade at least a third (and up to half) of the day.

What you do is get a root at the grocery store, cut it into 1- to 2-inch pieces, each with at least one "eye" or knob on it, and place them (knob upwards) at least 2-3 inches deep in pots of rich soil that needs to be kept moist, albeit with really good drainage so that the roots don't rot. If after a couple of weeks, no shoots have appeared, dig up your pieces of root and check them out. If they haven't changed, clean them off and use them (i.e. in cooking). If you spot little ivory bumps on them, replant them; this means that shoots will soon appear. Don't give the shoots more than around 2 hours of sun a day until they're a few inches high.
Ginger is a heavy feeder, so make sure to work a good compost mix into the soil, wherever you
do grow it.

In Zone 7, ginger will freeze over the winter, but the roots will re-sprout in the spring. In Zone 6 or colder, ginger will need to be brought indoors over the winter. Otherwise, you can just harvest them completely and start from scratch for the next growing season. Baby roots -- still pink and mild-tasting -- can be harvested off the main roots early in the season and used to make pickled ginger. Otherwise, harvest the large hand-like clumps of roots in the fall once the plants have withered.

Basic pickled ginger
How to make quick ginger beer (which is, of course, non-alcoholic)

(Listening to: The Replacements' Let it Be)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Documentary: Money as Debt

This animated 45-minute documentary explains how what we now know as money was created, and it explains how the fractional reserve banking system that's evolved now props up and controls entire economies by encouraging and ensuring debt; it also suggests the need for reforms to this system. Your notions about work, the value of a dollar, and the banking system will be irreparably changed after you've viewed this.

Producer Paul Grignon says of it:

Money created as interest-bearing bank credit is a magic trick, a fraud - now 3 centuries old; one that very few people have seen through despite, or rather because of, its utter simplicity.

It is my intention to make this mysterious debt-money system comprehensible to everyone. It is also my intention to foster sufficient understanding of the problems with this money system that citizens will be motivated to join the monetary reform movement and/or create local alternatives to the global monetary system - a system in which most of the productive people of the world are collectively chained to an ever-increasing and perpetually unpayable debt.

Recipe: Brazillian Black Bean Stew (aka Feijoada)

This is a recipe adapted from one found in an old issue of "Vegetarian Times". Traditionally, feijoada -- a dish popular in both Brazil and Portugal -- is meat-laden, but this animal-free take on it is delicious, as well as more nutritious and much lower in fat and cholesterol. Feijoada is known as Brazil's "national dish" and it's apparently commonly served in most restaurants there, however fine the dining. The "Vegetarian Times" article suggested serving it with steamed Swiss chard wrapped in warmed tortillas. Traditionally, it's a thick stew served with a pot of hot pepper sauce and the following side-dishes: rice, chopped and refried kale or collard greens, lightly roasted (coarse) casava flour (called farofa), and orange segments. Sometimes it's served with deep-fried casava or deep-fried bananas. It's usually enjoyed with caipirinhas (a popular Brazilian alcoholic beverage) or beer.

Brazilian Black Bean Stew

1 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2-3 medium garlic cloves, minced or crushed
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 (or more) hot green chili pepper, minced

half a large (28 oz / 796 ml) can of diced tomatoes -- don't drain 'em
2-16 oz cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted and diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/4 tsp salt

Optional: Cooked rice, chopped steamed (and fried, if you'd like) kale / collars / Swiss chard, orange segments.

Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until it's softened. Stir in the garlic and cook an extra 3 minutes until the onion is golden.

Stir in the sweet potatoes, peppers, tomatoes w/ liquid and bring to a boil. Lower heart and simmer around 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are tender but still firm. Stir in the beans and simmer uncovered, ever so gently, until everything is heated through.

Stir in the mango and cook another minute, until heated through. Stir in cilantro and salt to taste. Preferably using ceramic bowls or platters for authenticity, ladle the stew on top of a mound of rice. Place the chopped greens and orange segments (if using) around the edges of the dish. Sprinkle the chopped greens and orange segments with farofa (if available) and splash some hot sauce on the side of some of the stew. Eat while hot! Serves 6.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Having a feline companion cuts stroke risk by more than a third

So sayeth researchers at the University of Minnesota after a recent study they conducted. In fact, according to these scientists, the effects even last well after you've shared your home with a cat.

So, uh... I wonder if this means that being a human slave to four of them means you're in the clear for life? Or better yet, does it work like carbon trading? Can I trade kitty anti-stroke points with the cat-less? This could get interesting...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Veganism in the news -- a recipe and more!

The Canadian Press issued a recipe from Laura Mathias' ExtraVeganZa -- Quinoa Three Bean Salad w/ Toasted Almonds.

The Weymouth News featured a guest article -- accurate and concise -- about the cruelty inherent in the production (and associated consumption) of eggs.

Perhaps most significantly, there are reports all over the news this morning about a recent study that shows that a gluten-free vegan diet raises natural antibodies and lowers bad cholesterol (no surprise!), and may help sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis by reducing what is currently their elevated risk of having a stroke or heart attack.

Monday, March 17, 2008

When ''organic'' doesn't mean organic

The Organic Consumers Association just released the results of a study where several well-known personal care products labelled ''organic'' or ''natural'' were found to contain concentrations of a substance called 1,4-dioxane, which is a by-product produced when foaming agents are processed with certain petrochemicals, with the intention of softening the harshness of the detergents in the products. It is an eye and respiratory tract irritant and is highly suspected of causing central nervous system damage, as well as liver and kidney damage. It has also been classified as a probable carcinogen.

It is commonly found in personal care products that aren't organic, and in the US, the FDA does not regulate it with any set standards. There are currently no standards in the US controlling the usage of the terms ''natural'' or ''organic'' with reference to personal care products. I plan to do some research on what the status quo is in Canada at this time concerning 1,4-dioxane.

Some of the products on their list include well-known brands such as Kiss My Face, Jason and Nature's Gate -- all products I've bought in the past, myself. The Whole Foods private label ''365'' is on the OCA'S list, as well.

The LA Times jumped on the story last Friday. I suspect we'll be hearing more about it over the next few days.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Recipes: Got a date?

These are simple no-cook recipes for healthy snacks that are great for kids or adults.

Date Treats

1 lb pitted dates
1/4 cup peanut (or other nut) butter
1/2 cup chopped pecans, walnuts or other nuts or seeds

Mix the nut butter and chopped nuts / seed and stuff dates with mixture. Yum!

(This was adapted from The Deaf Smith Country Cookbook.)

Date Balls

1 cup cooked dates
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup chopped nuts
2 cups organic cereal flakes
coconut (optional)

Cook the dates in water until they're soft. Add the nuts and remove the mix from heat. Stir in the cereal flakes and shape into one inch balls. Roll in coconut. Serve immediately.

(This was adapted from a regional Seventh-Day Adventist cookbook.)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Animals in the news

As if having the Olympics in a country with a proven track record of human rights violations and where censorship is the norm wasn't bad enough: Thousands of cats massacred in Beijing in preparation for the Olympics.

The upcoming slaughter of 400 kangaroos on an abandoned naval base in Australia has animal rights activists and aboriginal elders coming together in protest.

The EU will decide this month whether to impose a ban on importing Canadian seal products. This comes after a December report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) which concluded that seal slaughterers don't always adhere to regulations and that the seals do indeed suffer pain and distress during the annual ''cull''. The EFSA also stated that the hunt should be open to independent monitoring and inspections without interference.

More vegan recipes in the news

The Star features a recipe adapted from Dreena Burtons's Eat, Drink & be Vegan -- Avocado, Bean & Corn Tortilla Lasagna.

The Erie Times-News has a recipe for Penne w/Spinach Cilantro Pesto and Arugula from Laura Mathias' ExtraVeganZa: Original Recipes from Phoenix Organic Farm.

The Chicagoist
has an Easy Tomato Bruschetta recipe.

The Washington Post has a recipe for Spicy Stir-Fried Broccoli w/Tomato-Chickpea Ragu by chef Tracy O'Grady, as well as an Okra Gumbo from the Creole Restaurant and Music Supper Club in East Harlem.

The Janesville Gazette has one for Garlic Mustard Pesto from ''America's best-known forager'' Steve Brill (see my link to his website to the left of your screen).

And finally, to cap things off without a recipe, but on a related note -- has a clever little story in their Lifestyle section about the modern-day dilemmas facing people trying to throw together dinner parties.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Seedy Sunday

''Seedy Sunday'' (or variations thereof) is an event usually held in the spring in any given Canadian community where people come together to swap seeds. Whether to share organic seed, encourage biodiversity, preserve heirloom varieties or to just plain old meet other gardeners, these events are happiness-inducing (!!) reminders that spring's just around the corner and that another growing season is arriving.

Here's a list of Seedy Sunday (and Seedy Saturday) events happening in Canada in 2008. Some have already happened, especially in more southern parts of the country.

I'll see if I can find some information on similar events happening
outside of Canada and update the post at a later date if I find anything.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Gary Francione's abolitionist theory

Gary L. Francione is Distinguished Professor of Law and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy at Rutgers University School of Law-Newark and an author of several animal rights books (including Rain Without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement pictured in this post). I mentioned him briefly a few months ago. He is a proponent of abolitionism and in his work he examines how, in order to truly make some headway to reduce animal suffering, we need to destroy our view of animals as property -- i.e. to abolish the concept of our right to legally own them. He also argues that animal rights supporters need to set veganism as their moral baseline to avoid what he calls ''moral schizophrenia''.

Francione compares supporting animal rights while eating animal products to being against
slavery while owning slaves.
He also stresses that there is as much suffering in a bowl of ice cream as there is in a piece of steak (since animals raised for milk production are often kept in condition similar or even worse to those raised for their flesh, plus are kept longer before their production value is deemed worth of being sent off to slaughter). To claim to be an animal rights advocate while continuing to contribute to their suffering by eating their flesh or products (e.g. milk or eggs) because one enjoys their taste, therefore, would be illogical and even hypocritical.

Francione is an outspoken critic of animal welfarist groups, into which he also counts PETA. He argues that these groups have evolved into corporate-like entities and have become effective at merely making people more comfortable with consuming animal products (e.g. consuming eggs from hens kept in barns rather than battery cages, rather than considering not consuming the eggs so that how the hens are treated becomes a non-issue in the first place). Some members of the animal rights movement, as well as animal welfarists who advocate more moderate reforms, criticize Francione by calling him divisive and claiming that his position concerning animal welfare reforms only harms the animals in the end. In response to this, he asserts that large animal welfarist groups such as PETA as stifling dissent and discussion and creating a false dichotomy -- you either support moderate animal welfare reforms, or, you're against the animals!

In the following two-part interview with Claudette Vaughn of Abolitionist-Online, Francione discusses his abolitionist theory in greater detail, explaining why it's the only logical approach to ending the the suffering imposed on animals through our use of them for our own consumption.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Animals in the news

The SPCA recently seized 100 starving Arabian horses from a ranch northeast of Edmonton, AB in Canada. Public complaints led to the seizure, which came too late for 27 horses found dead. Neglected ducks, rabbits, chickens, goats and sheep were also found on the ranch owned by Hinz-Schleuter Arabians.

The Canadian government is apparently imposing new rules for seal hunters. According to Reuters: ''From now on, hunters will have to follow a three-step process recommended by an independent panel of veterinarians. After clubbing or shooting the seal, a hunter must check its eyes to ensure it is dead and if not, the animal's main arteries have to be cut.'' Previously, all that was required if seals were found to be alive after an initial clubbing was that they be bonked on the head a second time. These new rules are supposedly going to make the process more -- er --''humane''.

J.D. Irving Ltd. is launching a constitutional challenge of Canada's Migratory Birds Convention Acts, which protects migratory birds, as well as their eggs and nests. February of 2007, the company had been charged with disrupting a Great Blue Heron nesting colony the previous summer by building a logging road through the middle of it and completely destroying 12-20 nests. At the time, they entered a plea of not guilty, claiming they'd exercised ''care and diligence'' to protect the Great Blue Herons' habitat.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Annie Leonard's The Story of Stuff

Annie Leonard's The Story of Stuff examines -- in a clever, clear and concise manner -- the cycle of consumerism that was kick-started around the end of WWII in the United States (although the same could be said for Canada or other Western countries). For a better version of it, as well as for more information on the video, go to the Story of Stuff website.

Recent book purchases

For a whopping total of $4.50 taxes in (and in like-new condition, although they're used):

Marcia Nozick's No Place Like Home: Building Sustainable Communities

From the back: "A book which challenges the conventional wisdom on social and economic development. No Place Like Home provides an alternative vision of how we can develop sustainable communities. Both critical and constructive, and written in language which everyone can understand, this book draws together five major themes, each a component of sustainable communities: economic self-reliance,; ecological development; getting community control over resources; meeting individual human needs; and, building a community culture. How these five themes interact and reinforce each other in practice is illustrated with examples drawn from communities across North America. The result is a book which cannot fail to inspire community workers everywhere and give researchers and urban planners much to think about."

Roy Genders' Money From Mushrooms: Supplement Your Income (which was published in 1969 and seems to be off Google's radar completely)

Charles Long's How to Survive Without a Salary: Learning to Live the Conserver Lifestyle

In a nutshell, this book seems to be all about how to avoid the trap of consumerism and learn to budget and make due with less -- while thriving -- so that you can leave the 5-day-a-week rat race and focus on enjoying living a more meaningful life.

Saturday, March 08, 2008


Sauerkraut, which in German means "sour cabbage", is this food that people either seem to love or loathe. Long regarded as a digestive aid, sauerkraut is quite nutritious, containing Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, folate, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and copper, as well as probiotics. It also contains isothiocyanates, which have been found in some studies to have anti-carcinogenic properties. A friend of mine who got me thinking about the stuff recently swears by Bubbies sauerkraut.

On the other hand, sauerkraut is also quite high in sodium (according to a the nutritional information on a jar of it, a cup contains around 23-25% of the maximum amount of sodium one should consume daily). There are other health risks to consider that stem from sauerkraut's content of potentially carcinogenic nitrosamines, which are commonly found in salted, preserved foods. A couple of Google searches will show you that nitrosamines are frequently injected into lab rats to induce tumors for cancer studies. Vitamin C prevents the creation of nitrosamines, however, and there seems to be a lot more information circulating about sauerkraut's cancer-fighting abilities than there is about its being a potential

YouTube has a couple of videos on how to make sauerkraut. This one pretty much illustrates the basic no-frills method. I've never tried to make it myself, but intend to do so over the next few days. A small batch, anyway.

People have all kinds of variations on it. Many involve adding caraway seed or sour apples (or both). Some add fennel or celery seed, minced dill, scallions or shredded carrot. Red (or purple) cabbage makes a particularly attractive sauerkraut. I think that my first (or second) experiment may very well involve red cabbage, shredded carrot and some caraway seed.

World's 25 Weirdest Animals

Gotta have a little bit of downtime on a Saturday morning, no? This little guy from Madagascar is one of my favourites, up there with the star-nosed mole and blobfish.

See the rest of them here.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Sharon Astyk's list of 100 Things You Can Do To Prepare Yourself for Peak Oil

Sharon Astyk is a writer and subsistence farmer in rural upstate New York. I've been seeing her name pop up on various Peak Oil and organic farming websites, discussing everything from relocalisation and self-sufficiency, to the future of agriculture in a post-carbon world. I recently found a list she created of 100 things a person can do to prepare themselves for life after the crash on The Organic Consumers Association's website. Her original list is broken down according to seasons on her own website. The Organic Consumers Association, however, featured it broken down into general areas of interest (e.g. home, garden, clothing, etc.) in two separate articles, here and here. Some of the tips are things that could be incorporated into the daily lives of anyone just wanting to lighten their load on the environment, or lower their cost of living. Some of the tips take it further and bring up scenarios that you'd never think of having to deal with, but that will definitely become issues as oil becomes scarce. They're worth a read.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Cheap Eats: TVP (and a recipe for TVP Gyros)

TVP is textured vegetable protein made from defatted flour. It's ridiculously inexpensive bought in bulk in supermarkets or health food stores (e.g. I pay around $1.00 for 2-3 cups of the chunks from the local health food store's bulk bin). It's quick to cook and is usually used as a meat substitute. It comes in granular form or a variety of chunk-like shapes. Usually tasteless by itself, it will readily absorb the flavour of whatever liquids and seasonings are used to rehydrate it.

It's loved and used by vegans, as well as by people interested in frugal living. It's light and stores well, and is also sometimes used by campers and backpackers because of this.

The granular form is fantastic in chili, Sloppy Joes, tacos, cabbage rolls -- anywhere you'd use crumbly hamburger in that sort of way. The chunks are great in stews and casseroles. A quick Google search will bring up all kinds of recipe ideas. For example, you can find a bunch here, including instructions on ratios to follow to substitute the granular form of it for hamburger. One of my favourites is
is a recipe adapted from Dorothy R. Bates' TVP Cookbook. I've made it for omnivorous friends and they've liked it as much as I have.


Soak for 10 minutes:

1 cup TVP chunks or slices
1 Tbs ketchup
1 cup boiling water

Cover tightly and nuke in a microwave on high for 5 minutes. Check to see if tender and then chill in refrigerator.

Mix the following ingredients for the marinade / dressing:

1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbs red or white wine vinegar
1 tsp each basil and oregano
1/2 tsp of salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Mix marinade with the cooked, drained and chilled TVP for a few hours. You can also increase the amount of marinade and let the TVP marinate overnight.

Get the veggies ready:

1 large tomato, diced
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1/4 cup kalamata olives, sliced
2 Tbs fresh mint leaves, chopped or 1-2 tsp dried mint (fresh is better)
3 cups lettuce, shredded

You'll need:

Six (6) pita breads, cut in half (you can warm these in the oven in advance if you prefer). Toss the veggies w/ the TVP and fill the pita pockets. I usually opt to cut a pita bread and tuck one half inside the other to make a stronger bread. Alteratively, I also like to take a whole pita bread and treat it like a wrap (i.e. the way pita is usually wrapped around donair meat in the Maritimes), securing it with aluminum foil or waxed paper to hold it together and to keep it from dripping. If you fill half-pockets, you'll get 12 gyros, and if you use either of the other two methods, you'll get 6.

Vegan recipes in the news, redux.

I think that, just for kicks, I may turn this into a daily post. Or at least do a summary every other day. The concern with newspaper websites is that links change and that content sometimes disappears, otherwise I'd consider doing it weekly. I'm not even sure if anybody's actually checking these out, so any feedback is welcome.

Oregon's The Register Guard spotlights the raw food diet by offering up recipes for Zucchini Linguine, Parsnip Veggie Dip, Pecan Pie, Raw Bloody Mary and a Groovy Green Garden Dip.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

And yet again, more vegan recipes in the ''news''


The Welland Tribune offers up Vegetarian Chili Pie (easily veganized if the cheese is switched to a dairy-free soy cheese).

The Orillia Packet & Times has a recipe for a dill-seasoned Tofu ''Egg'' Salad (Nayonaise or Vegenaise can be used instead of the real stuff).

The Atlantic's Megan McArdle features recipes for Mushroom Crostini and decadent Chocolate Pancakes w/ Berry Sauce.

The Killeen Daily Herald has a great article on vegan nutrition that features a recipe bonanza: Smokey Curry Veggies and Basmati Rice, Mediterranean Vegetable Pizza for starters, then Penne Vodka from Veganomicon, (by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero) and a Scrambled Tofu recipe from Vegan With a Vengenace (by Isa Chandra Moskowitz).

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Earthlings - Part 1 of 3

Earthlings is a multi-award winning 2005 documentary by writer/director Shaun Monson, which took around five years to put together. Narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, it examines, in a frank and often jarring manner through the use of facts and footage, how humans have come to completely rely on non-human animals, using them for food, clothing, entertainment and experimentation. We breed and exploit them for profit. As sad and awful as some of the images are in this documentary, they're an accurate portrayal of what goes on "out of sight". There's no sensationalism in this film -- just reality.

Part 1, as presented in this YouTube video, features animals raised to become our pets, as well as animals raised to become our food.

Earthlings - Part 2 of 3

Part 2 continues to examine how we raise animals for food. It also focuses on the seafood industry, including the health issues surrounding it. It goes even further to examine the whaling industry and Japanese dolphin hunts. I won't pretend otherwise -- these images are some of the most difficult things I've seen myself in a long time.

Part 2 also examines animals we use for clothing -- for their skin or fur. It also starts looking at animals used for entertainment by featuring images from rodeos and it takes a glimpse at hunting and fishing at the very end.

Earthlings - Part 3 of 3

The final third of the documentary focuses on the gruesome lives of circus animals, on the rigging and cruelty of bullfighting, and then, finally, on animal experimentation.

US factory farming to be exempt from Clean Air Standards?

A friend over at a vegetarian forum posted a link to a story on the Organic Consumers' Association (OCA) website that sounds ludicrous enough that it may as well be straight out of The Onion. It seems that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States is proposing to eliminate the requirement that factory farms report (i.e. to local, state or federal agencies) hazardous substances they are releasing into the atmosphere that come from animal waste, except in emergency situations. Basically, according to the OCA, the government is proposing this because current legislation is a joke. It's seen by the EPA as a ''burden'' on the factory farms, and, it seems that the government isn't really doing anything to violators anyway, so imposing the regulations at all is just a lot of posturing. To quote the EPA, ''these reports are unnecessary because there is no reasonable expectation that Federal, state or local emergency responders would respond to such report(s)''.

The Sierra Club responded to news of this proposal back in December, pointing out the existing public health hazzard posed by factory farms and the toxins they release into the air and how illogical it would be to suddenly exempt them from having to continue to report what it is which they're releasing. According the the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), lack of regulation and enforcement has already proven to be disastrous in terms of what factory farms in the United States are currently permitted to do to the water and to the air.

The US government is accepting public feedback on this until March 27. The general docket info is available here and you can submit comments to them directly here.

The OCA has initiated a letter writing campaign by which they'll also forward your comments to the EPA. Take a few minutes to write in and express why compromising people's health and compromising the environment shouldn't be allowed to happen just because various levels of government are unwilling or unable to enforce existing legislation.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Eliot Coleman and The New Organic Grower

I first heard of Eliot Coleman when a friend of mine -- an enthusiastic hands-on student of organic farming practices -- mentioned a book of Coleman's that he'd just picked up a while back. He insisted that it was a must-read for anyone serious about organic gardening or farming. The book was The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener (A Gardener's Supply Book). I've since picked up my own copy, and not only has it left me looking forward to spring when I can get my backyard garden going again, but it's made me excited about the prospect of someday obtaining my own parcel of land and getting out of the city for good.

First published in 1989, then revised in 1995, the book discusses the various methods and techniques which Coleman has gradually developed during his own (more than a) quarter of a century of smallish-scale organic farming on his own land, on others' farms, as well as in more experimental / educational settings. The information in the book is geared towards maximizing productivity and efficiency (e.g. through techniques such as effective crop rotation), without compromising quality or sustainability. Coleman focuses on ways to ''build'' the soil to improve its fertility, and by extension, to improve plant health without falling back on commercial fertilizers (which ultimately ruin the soil) and toxic pesticides. Of particular interest to me (as I gaze out the window at the fresh heap of snow dumped on my small city these past days) is how Coleman, whose small farm is located in Maine, has learned to extend short growing seasons using unheated and (or mostly unheated) mobile greenhouses (amongst other things) so that even an organic farm exposed to harsh New England winters can operate year-round, and do so with with little or no reliance on fossil fuels or expensive machinery.

His book is regarded as the organic farming guide and the information in it is as useful to the urban backyard gardener as it is to the homesteading market farmer with a 1-5 acre farm. He has a ''small is better'' attitude, asserting that 2.5 acres per person is more than enough land to handle and that those 2.5 acres are sufficient to grow a plentiful variety of vegetables capable of feeding up to 100 people for a year! Throughout the book, he describes a farmer's most valuable tools as those of observation and common sense -- to take notice of what works or what doesn't, and while not being afraid to think outside the box, to always, always learn from your mistakes and then use those mistakes to improve your methods. While farming, Coleman would document everything from seeding and harvesting dates to the daily weather and refer to those notes in later years, for instance. For a sneak peak at the book, here's the table of contents (with links to some excerpts) that he features on his Four Season Farm website.

So I've been curious about what led Eliot Coleman to become the organic farmer's organic farmer. Wikipedia offers up some data about him. Other internet explorations led me to find out that it was reading Scott and Helen Nearing's back-to-the-land homesteading classic Living the Good Life in his mid-twenties that triggered his initial interest in growing food. In 1968, he purchased 60 acres of land from them in Harborside, Maine (then selling 20 of those acres at the same price he'd paid for it them). He and his first wife Sue settled in to a simple life of homesteading, clearing the land and using the Nearings' methods as a starting point. The typical daily routine of their first few years there with their young daughter are discussed in this 1971 Mother Earth News article.

The rest of Coleman's life up until the 1990s involved a lot of travel and a variety of pursuits, mostly centered around the practice and politics of organic farming, and some of which I'll likely write about at a later date. For now, I'm looking forward to finishing up this amazing book and putting in a seed order so that I can start planning my own little garden, incorporating some of his methods.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Richard Heinberg on the future of agriculture

In this 2006 address to the E. F. Schumacher Society, Richard Heinberg talked about peak oil's impact on agriculture (an incredibly highly fossil fuel reliant and mechanized system right now) and on the food supply. We live in an age of abundance -- of ridiculous excess, thanks to the oil age. As the cost of oil continues to rise as its quantities diminish, the effects will go well beyond how frequently we choose to visit the gas pump.

Folks like these
have the right idea.