Archive for May, 2010


Sustainable Living in the Postmodern Homestead: Up Tunket Road

Monday, May 31st, 2010

For seven years Philip Ackerman-Leist and his wife, Erin, lived without electricity or running water in an old cabin in the beautiful but remote hills of western New England. Slowly forging their own farm and homestead, they took inspiration from their experiences among the mountain farmers of the Tirolean Alps and were guided by their Vermont neighbors, who taught them about what it truly means to live sustainably in the postmodern homestead—not only to survive, but to thrive in a fragmented landscape and a fractured economy.

Read an excerpt on Scribd.

Learn more about Up Tunket Road: The Education of a Modern Homesteader in our bookstore.

Buy it on Amazon.com.

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Planting? Think “Permaculture” with Gaia’s Garden: Second Edition

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Many people mistakenly think that ecological gardening—which involves growing a wide range of edible and other useful plants—can take place only on a large, multiacre scale. As Hemenway demonstrates, it’s fun and easy to create a “backyard ecosystem” by assembling communities of plants that can work cooperatively and perform a variety of functions, including:

  • Building and maintaining soil fertility and structure
  • Catching and conserving water in the landscape
  • Providing habitat for beneficial insects, birds, and animals
  • Growing an edible “forest” that yields seasonal fruits, nuts, and other foods

Learn more about Gaia’s Garden, Second Edition: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture in our bookstore.

Buy it on Amazon.com.

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This Memorial Day Weekend, Add Grains to Your Garden with Small-Scale Grain Raising

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

First published in 1977, this book—from one of America’s most famous and prolific agricultural writers—became an almost instant classic among homestead gardeners and small farmers. Now fully updated and available once more, Small-Scale Grain Raising offers a entirely new generation of readers the best introduction to a wide range of both common and lesser-known specialty grains and related field crops, from corn, wheat, and rye to buckwheat, millet, rice, spelt, flax, and even beans and sunflowers.

Learn more about Small-Scale Grain Raising, Second Edition: An Organic Guide to Growing, Processing, and Using Nutritious Whole Grains for Home Gardeners and Local Farmers in our bookstore.

Buy it on Amazon.com.

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LISTEN: An Interview with Waiting on a Train Author James McCommons

Friday, May 28th, 2010

During the tumultuous year of 2008—when gas prices reached $4 a gallon, Amtrak set ridership records, and a commuter train collided with a freight train in California—journalist James McCommons spent a year on America’s trains, talking to the people who ride and work the rails throughout much of the Amtrak system. Organized around these rail journeys, Waiting on a Train is equal parts travel narrative, personal memoir, and investigative journalism.

James McCommons appeared on Up to Date with Steve Kraske from KCUR—Kansas City’s NPR affiliate—on Thursday, May 27 to discuss the stimulus and the future of passenger rail in America.

Listen Now

Explore Waiting on a Train: The Embattled Future of Passenger Rail Service in our bookstore.

Buy it on Amazon.com.

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Oil Spills, Betrayal, and Courage: Riki Ott’s Not One Drop

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

It’s hard not to feel helpless, frustrated anger over the rapidly spreading oil leak in the Gulf Coast. For marine toxicologist and author Riki Ott, it brings to mind the tragedy she experienced firsthand when, in 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, dumping tens of millions of gallons of oil and causing an environmental catastrophe from which the environment and the people of Cordova, Alaska are still recovering.

In her book, Riki Ott, a rare combination of commercial salmon “fisherm’am” and PhD marine biologist, describes firsthand the impacts of oil companies’ broken promises when the Exxon Valdez spills most of its cargo and despoils thousands of miles of shore. Ott illustrates in stirring fashion the oil industry’s 20-year trail of pollution and deception that predated the tragic 1989 spill and delves deep into the disruption to the fishing community of Cordova over the following 19 years. In vivid detail, she describes the human trauma coupled inextricably with that of the sound’s wildlife and its long road to recovery.

Ott critically examines shifts in scientific understanding of oil-spill effects on ecosystems and communities, exposes fundamental flaws in governance and the legal system, and contrasts hard won spill-prevention and spill-response measures in the sound to dangerous conditions on the Alaska pipeline. Her human story, varied background, professional training, and activist heart lead readers to the root of the problem: a clash of human rights and corporate power embedded in law and small-town life.

 
In the News…

The Story, from American Public Media

Beyond Dispersants in the Gulf

Listen Now

Los Angeles Times

Oil cleanup workers report illness

Some fishermen who have been hired by BP to clean up the gulf oil spill say they have become ill after working long hours near waters fouled with oil and dispersant, prompting a Louisiana lawmaker to call on the federal government to open mobile clinics in rural areas to treat them.

Read the whole article here.

WATCH: Fishermen Sick from Cleanup Work in the Gulf

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Fisherman exposed to the toxic fumes from both the oil spill and the chemical dispersants BP is using to clean it up are reporting flu-like symptoms and respiratory illnesses. Dr. Riki Ott saw the same thing in Alaska when cleanup workers were exposed to toxic fumes and chemicals from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. They called it “the Valdez crud.”

WDSU News in New Orleans spoke to Dr. Ott to learn more.

Riki Ott: The volatile organic carbons are a—they act like a narcotic on the brain. And at high concentrations what we learned in Exxon Valdez from carcasses of harbor seals and sea otters, it actually literally fried the brain. Brain lesions.

From gulfoilspill‘s YouTube channel. (Thanks to Brasscheck TV for finding the video.)

Watch the video on YouTube.

 
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Jeffrey Roberts Spreads the Word about Vermont’s Artisan Cheeses

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Chronicler of handcrafted American artisan cheeses and their producers, Jeffrey Roberts has been spreading the word about these surprising delicacies for over a decade, since the time he first sampled a handcrafted goat cheese at a farmers market and struck up a conversation with the local producer. On June 6 he’ll be headlining a fundraiser in Marshfield. He’s currently working on a guidebook of American craft beers.

From the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus:

Jeffrey Roberts of Montpelier claims he can drive to just about anywhere in the country and nose his way to good food. He is more interested than most people in where it came from. Who made it? Where was it grown or raised?

Once while eating at a remote roadside diner in Montana, Roberts asked if the place got its beef from the herd of cattle he could see right across the road. Well, no one knew. So an employee went to check the wrapper on some meat that was still in the cooler. Best he could tell, the restaurant bought its beef from a processor in another part of the country, and there was no telling where the animals themselves came from.

American consumers and their food sources have suffered a giant disconnect over the past 60 years, stemming from the industrialization of food production, the shift from small farms to factory-like agribusiness and the rise of convoluted global distribution schemes. Roberts’ eyes tighten as he speaks about it. But he brightens wonderfully when he talks about local artisan foods.

Especially cheese.

Some 15 years ago, on Roberts’ second day as a new resident of Vermont, a bit of reconnaissance led him to the Capitol Farmer’s Market in Montpelier. He approached a woman tending a booth offering samples of goat’s milk cheese, and he asked her, “So who made this?” The woman answered, “I made it myself. What’s it to ya?” And thus began a great friendship — and a budding collaboration in growing markets for artisan cheesemakers.

Over several years, Roberts gained more such friends and collaborators. Then, in a pivotal move, he helped bring 85 varieties of American handcrafted cheeses to a prestigious international exhibition called Cheese 2001 in Bra, Italy. The showcase event attracted some 60,000 neo-gastronomes and fired-up cheese tasters from around the world. Begun in the 1990s, Cheese was organized by the group called Slow Food International, which espouses the ideals of “good, clean and fair food.” This means food produced in accordance with high standards of quality and safety, and with fair profits to producers.

Until that point, Europeans had long regarded America as a kind of cheese wasteland, on the assumption that we mainly ate mass produced, gelatinous bricks of orange “cheese product” and jars of school-paste-like spreads, heavily comprising vegetable oils and unsavory chemicals that were a cheap staple of many of childhoods.

But lo, the American artisan cheeses of 2001 were revelatory to the Europeans. The U.S. entries were deemed on a par with entries from Old World countries where cheese artisanship was honed and handed down over centuries. Notably, more than a third of the cheeses showcased at Cheese 2001 came from Vermont producers.

Read the whole article here.

Author photo courtesy Lizzari Photographic.

 
Related Article:

How Wall Street Looted Local Governments, and What We Can Do

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Author Les Leopold (The Looting of America: How Wall Street’s Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity—and What We Can Do About It) has the perfect analogy for collateralized debt obligations, the financial WMD that Wall Street inflicted on the rest of America: they bought insurance on somebody else’s house, and when it burned down they collected the money.

From Capitol News Connection:

WASHINGTON — Although Senate passage of the sweeping financial reform bill promises increased protection against the banking abuses that triggered our economic meltdown, it does little for the state and local government victims of that fiscal catastrophe, says the author of a leading book on the subject.

Les Leopold is the author of the 2009 book The Looting of America: How Wall Street’s Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions and Prosperity, and What We Can Do About It.

He’s also a leading advocate for the local governments across the country whose budgets were cratered by exotic derivative deals gone bad.  ( See CNC Special Report: Derivative Disaster Spreads to Local Governments )

The just-passed Senate bill includes measures to regulate the trading of derivatives through exchanges and requires banks to spin off their derivative divisions. But is that enough?

‘Long way to go’
“We have a long way to go,” Leopold said in an interview with Capitol News Connection. “They sold billions of dollars of this crap to pension funds and state and local governments.”

By “they,” Leopold is referring to Wall Street and its major banks, as well as some foreign institutions.

The author is a 1975 graduate of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and co-founded two non-profit educational institutes. He remains heavily involved in issues related to the economy, environment and occupational safety and health.

The lack of regulation of derivatives over the past decade, Leopold said, has created “an entire financial set of leveraging and pyramid schemes and new securities. I don’t think you can view it any way other as looting.”

Read the whole article here.

 
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Cheesemonger Gordon Edgar on The Splendid Table

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Cheesemonger Gordon Edgar explains how handcrafted cheeses are helping to save the small family dairy farm, and reflects on the intersection of artisan cheese, punk rock, and politics in this episode of NPR’s The Splendid Table.

Lynne takes us deep into the issues facing independent cheese producers with Gordon Edgar, author of Cheesemonger, A Life on the Wedge.

Listen Now (The Cheesemonger segment begins at 13:25.) 

To download this episode visit The Splendid Table online.

 
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WATCH: The People v. Bush Author Charlotte Dennett Interview on Chelsea Green TV (Extended)

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Author and one-time candidate for Attorney General of Vermont Charlotte Dennett makes the case for the prosecution of former president George W. Bush for murder in this video interview with Chelsea Green Publishing.

It happened that a friend of mine put a copy of Vincent Bugliosi’s book in my hands, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, and there is a section in the book that says that any District Attorney or any Attorney General can prosecute Bush, and I thought, “I’m running for Attorney General.” I’d already decided to run before she even gave me the book. And i was considering what the issues were going to be, and then when I read that any Attorney General could do this I thought, “Well, I’m not an Attorney General yet, but I could make it part of my campaign.

 
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