Archive for March, 2012


The Resilient Gardener Wins About.com’s Reader’s Choice Award!

Friday, March 30th, 2012

We got the good news this morning: The Resilient Gardener won About.com’s Reader’s Choice Award for Best New Gardening Book!

From the announcement:

The votes have been tallied and here they are… the winners of the Readers’ Choice Awards for Gardening. Congratulations to all the winners, as well as all the finalists. It was great to read everyone’s comments during the voting process and I hope we’ve piqued your interest in reading even more about gardening.

About The Resilient Gardener:

I have been a fan of Carol Deppe since I was given a copy of her first book, “Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties”, two decades. Deppe has the observant, questioning eye of a scientist and the pragmatism of an experienced gardener and in this book she shares her conclusions and the path she takes to reconcile growing her own food in an era of limited time and finances, uncertain weather and unwelcome changes in diet. These are universal themes and I’m sure that’s what made The Resilient Gardener resonate with so many of you. One huge fan of the book is my no nonsense gardening colleague, Colleen Vanderlinden, who gave the book a hardy review.

Congratulations Carol Deppe. I’m already looking forward to your next book.

Visit Carol’s Page

Tools For Living — Colleges Are Putting Students to Work

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Scott Carlson wrote the following article for the Chronicle of Higher Education, looking at how colleges are putting students to work — literally. There’s a growing trend of institutions using student labor and integrating it into curriculum, helping students gain skills while helping the schools deal with costs.

Amongst Carlson’s examples, he cites Philip Ackerman-Leist’s work with students at Green Mountain College, where they work a small organic farm. 

A friend of mine who works at Saint John’s University and the College of Saint Benedict, in Minnesota, recently told me a story: Her book group read Anna Lappé’s Diet for a Hot Planet, one of many recent books to focus on the vulnerabilities of the industrial food system and the threats posed by climate change. The book’s treatment of the topic held few surprises, and the solutions offered were equally well-worn and deceptively simple: Buy fruits, vegetables, and meats locally, and cook them at home.

My friend’s big surprise came when the students in the group started talking about the solutions—and found themselves stuck: “Almost all the students said they didn’t know how to cook,” she told me, “and even the young, single adult employees in the group admitted they lacked both the know-how and motivation.”

What makes this story even more poignant is its setting: at sibling colleges founded by monasteries, where self-sufficiency and sustainability were once a central ethic, as outlined in the Rule of St. Benedict. The Benedictine women and men here, along with many of the older alumni, can still remember when they milked cows, plucked chickens, and picked potatoes grown on the monasteries’ surrounding land. Bread, furniture, preserved food, ceramics, and other daily necessities were produced by monks, sisters, and students on the campuses. While some remnants of that life still exist, much of it is gone.

I can’t help being reminded of that story when in my daily work as a Chronicle writer I hear the chorus of complaints about the state of higher education. You’ve heard them, too: Higher education is broken; it needs reinvigoration and reinvention to get students out the door and on their own as soon as possible. Lawmakers say colleges need to make students employable and to create jobs. Some critics say colleges should use technology to scale up; others go so far as to bemoan the physical campus as an unnecessary, expensive burden in an online world. In that cultural and economic climate, liberal-arts colleges have been at pains to articulate their usefulness. They have emphasized that they teach students how to think, how to be engaged, world citizens—not merely how to do a job.
I agree that a liberal-arts education provides those intangibles. But maybe it’s time that instruction—at least at some colleges—included more hands-on, traditional skills. Both the professional sphere and civic life are going to need people who have a sophisticated understanding of the world and its challenges, but also the practical, even old-fashioned know-how to come up with sustainable solutions.

The problems that today’s college-going generation will face in the future are enormous—and the stagnant economy is just the beginning. Climate change, fossil-fuel constraints, rotting infrastructure, collapsing ecosystems, and resource scarcities all loom large. Meeting those challenges will require both abstract and practical knowledge. For example, some scientists have fretted over the world’s limited supplies of rock phosphate, which is used in agriculture. Because we live in a country that has more people in prison than in farming, most people could not tell you that phosphorus is one of the three vital nutrients needed to grow food crops, nor could they name the other two, potassium and nitrogen (the latter of which is produced mostly by burning finite fossil fuels). Even if students never work in agriculture, such knowledge could help them as aspiring businessmen, future policy makers, or mere citizens.

Certain colleges, specifically “work colleges” like Warren Wilson College, Deep Springs College, and the College of the Ozarks, have long-established curricula that blend manual skills with a liberal-arts education. But there may be room for more—especially at a time when some people question the practical value of a college degree. These days a number of colleges, particularly those in rural settings, are financially troubled and need new, marketable niches that separate them from the pack. Instead of viewing the physical campus as a burden, why not see it as an asset, even beyond the aesthetic attractions of the quad? With some imagination, couldn’t these colleges use their campuses and rural settings to train students in valuable hands-on skills?

It’s already happening at some institutions, particularly those oriented toward sustainability. In the green dorm at the University of Vermont, students can teach other students in “guilds” devoted to sewing, canning, composting, beekeeping, and other skills. L. Pearson King, a junior environmental-studies major, taught his peers how to carve spoons in a woodworking guild last year. “It’s kind of trivial, but it’s also cathartic and kind of fun,” he says of the project, and the students in his group were immensely proud of their work. “To be active in the creation of an item forms a completely different relationship with that item.”

At Dickinson College, students like Claire Fox, who just graduated with a double major in international studies and environmental studies, can get a practical education on the college’s 180-acre working farm. “It truly enhanced my education,” says Fox, who had never had contact with agriculture before leaving suburban New Jersey to go to Dickinson. “I walk away from college as a different person compared with some of my peers who didn’t have that experience.” And she walks away employed: She landed an internship in sustainable-development work in Costa Rica with the School for Field Studies. SFS told her that her work on the farm was the critical component of her application.

At Unity College, in Maine, students have had a hand in constructing some of the college’s buildings, tending its garden, and working on renewable-energy projects out in the field with Michael “Mick” Womersley, an associate professor of human ecology. A former maintenance engineer in the British Royal Air Force, Womersley tells his students that a lot of relatively simple projects, like installing a $42 programmable thermostat in a home, can make a big difference in energy use, yet few people bother. Why?

“A lot of us are bred out of actually doing things,” he said when I met him at a Maine sheep farm, where he was setting up wind-measurement equipment with the help of two students. “I find that is a big failing of the sustainability movement—we are so busy talking about things, but there is a ton of stuff to do.”

Or consider Green Mountain College, a once-troubled institution in rural Vermont. Green Mountain, which now lands at the top of national rankings of sustainable colleges, has torn up a portion of its athletics fields to start a small farm that trains students in both cutting-edge and old-fashioned techniques in growing food without the help of petroleum. That means using and maintaining human- and animal-powered machines, using solar energy in innovative ways, learning the importance of crop rotations and animal manures, and, of course, getting the basics of growing carrots and tomatoes.

The professors there routinely tie the skills taught on the farm to the sustainability lessons in the classroom. “Many educational institutions pride themselves on preparing students to lead a life of inquiry,” writes Philip Ackerman-Leist, an associate professor of environmental studies who founded the college farm, in Up Tunket Road: The Education of a Modern Homesteader, a book about building his home and farm in Vermont. But “few actually challenge and support students to embrace the ecological questions and immediately begin living the possible solutions—not later but in the midst of the educational experience itself.”

The article continues over at the Chronicle of Higher Education, where you can read the rest and comment.

Can Radical Efficiency Revive U.S. Manufacturing?

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

By Robert Hutchinson and Ryan Matley  | March 16, 2012 |

Editor’s note: The following is adapted from the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era.

Industry has long formed the foundation of America’s economy, from before the first Ford Model T factory to the military-industrial complex that grew out of two world wars to the robust economic growth and high-tech innovation that followed. And whereas U.S. manufacturing is experiencing a resurgence, its old foundation—built on cheap fossil fuels and plentiful electricity—is showing cracks. Rising and volatile fuel prices, supply-security concerns and pressures on the environment are wrecking balls thumping away at many of the underpinnings of our country’s key industries—and thus our prosperity.

Fortunately, we can render these wrecking balls harmless through a systematic drive to upgrade industrial energy efficiency. Even with no technology breakthroughs such an effort can, in just over a generation, transform U.S. industry and provide 84 percent more output in 2050 consuming 9 to 13 percent less energy and 41 percent less fossil fuel than it uses today. This scenario, outlined in Reinventing Fire, a book and strategic initiative by Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), can help U.S. industry build durable competitive advantage and keep jobs from going overseas.

These seem like incredible numbers: Twice today’s efficiency? Output nearly doubled with reduced energy use? The opportunity is so significant because, in spite of efficiency gains over the past decade, plentiful opportunities for energy efficiency remain for industry. The U.S. Department of Energy’s 24 industrial assessment centers, which have offered energy audits for more than 30 years, report that energy savings per recommendation increased by 9 percent between 1985 and 2005. Turning our wastefulness into profit is our biggest opportunity to reinvent fire.

Dramatic efficiency gains in industry can be enabled by transformations occurring in tandem in other key sectors of our economy. For example, the hugely energy-intensive petroleum refining industry will shrink or eventually disappear as vehicles electrify. But efficiency can be doubled in two main ways: applying new technologies to old sectors, and applying old technologies to new sectors.

Adding new technologies to old sectors
A well-known success story is the steel industry. Since it recovered from the capacity overhang and devastating mill closures of the 1970s, it has quietly expanded with state-of-the-art facilities. The energy intensity to produce a ton of steel fell 40 percent from 1978 to 2008. This was driven by a new technology well suited to our scrap-rich economy: the share of steel production from electric arc furnaces (EAFs) grew from 25 percent to nearly 60 percent. EAFs recycle steel scrap in an electric furnace to produce new steel, bypassing the energy-intensive, coking coal–powered step of converting iron ore to metallic iron, and then to steel in a conventional blast furnace. Adding EAFs close to scrap sources has also pulled steel recycling rates up to the mid-80 percent range in recent years.

Even the conventional route has a more efficient alternative that is starting to make inroads. Steel industry bellwether Nucor recently broke ground on a new direct reduced iron plant in Louisiana. This innovation replaces coal with natural gas in the iron ore conversion step. If the steel industry continues to adopt new technology, it can help lead the transition outlined in Reinventing Fire.

Some old industries have less positive stories. Pulp and paper is still struggling with declining demand for its core product, a dynamic that stymies investment in new and existing facilities. Paper mills are often net-zero or even net energy producers, so many would ask: Why bother? But pulping typically produces a potentially valuable by-product—black liquor. Gasifying it has the potential to transform the industry, unlocking the opportunity for the pulp and paper producer of the past to become the biorefinery of the future—producing a portfolio of products alongside paper, from renewable electricity to boutique chemicals and bulk biofuels.

This is just the first part of the excerpt. Read the rest over at Scientific American.

Illustration borrowed from Nature.

Eating the Whole Chicken

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Reposted from a wonderful poultry and homesteading blog: http://avianaquamiser.com/posts/Eating_the_whole_chicken/

If you’re like me, you learned to cook using chicken breasts, or perhaps the whole carcass if you were feeling adventuresome.  Once you start growing your own broilers, though, you’ll probably feel the urge to eke every bit of goodness out of that animal’s body, both to honor the chicken’s life and to get more food for your work (and money.)  Harvey Ussery’s The Small-Scale Poultry Flock suggested eating more parts of the bird than I’d ever thought possible.

“Unborn eggs.”  This is Ussery’s name for the yolks of various sizes you find inside adult hens.  He harvests all of the yolks from pea size up and drops them into a bowl of hot broth.  My mother-in-law, who grew up poor in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, knew exactly what I was talking about when I started telling her about these eggs — they were her favorite part of the bird.


Chicken fatFat.  Broilers are generally pretty lean, but if you cull an old hen, you’ll find a big deposit of fat on her belly.  Previously, I’ve discarded this fat, but fat from pastured livestock is extremely good for you, so I’m changing my ways.  Ussery recommends heating a cast iron frying pan on low, then adding small cubes of fat.  Gently melt the fat until it has turned into a liquid with a few crinkly bits left behind.  Strain out the cracklings (which you can eat as a snack or like croutons), then store the fat in the freezer for months, using it the way you would butter.  I’ll have to wait until next year to try rendering chicken fat because I found a use for mine as soon as it came out of the bird — I pureed the fat in my food processor then mixed it in with some ground venison to turn the ultra-lean meat into delicious burgers.

Broth.  Over the last year, I’ve come to feel that the broth I make from the carcasses and necks of my birds is the most wholesome and delicious part of the chicken.  Harvey Ussery’s wife Ellen clearly takes broth seriously as well — she has an extensive recipe for broth in The Small-Scale Poultry Flock.  Ellen Ussery recommends not only stewing up the carcass and neck, but also including the feet, hearts, gizzards, and heads.

Feet.  Did you know that if you dunk the chicken’s feet just like you do the rest of the bird before plucking, it’s relatively easy to peel the scales off and leave clean feet behind?  (This is tougher if you have a feather-footed breed like the cochin I experimented with, but is still quite feasible.)  Feet make a great addition to the stock pot when you’re cooking down the rest of the bones to make broth.

Livers.  I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t learned to cook livers in a way I find appealing yet.  I plan to try Ussery’s recipe next year — saute the onions, then add the livers and cook until just rare; deglaze the pan with a little wine or sherry and serve.  Recipe aside, I was glad to read that Ussery agrees with me about old livers — the fresh, red ones from young birds should be eaten, but when they turn yellow and pale, it’s best to discard the organ.

“Mountain oysters.”  Ussery mentions that the testicles of mature roosters are also edible, but I don’t think he’s tried them himself.

Now Available: A Sanctuary of Trees!

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Gene Logsdon, a prolific writer and fascinating farmer, has just published his latest book, A Sanctuary of Trees: Beechnuts, Birdsongs, Baseball Bats, and Benedictions. It’s available now in the Chelsea Green bookstore, check it out!

A Sanctuary of Trees follows Gene’s life from place to place — and from forest to forest — as he discovers an ever-deeper need and appreciation for trees throughout his life. From heating his house in winter, to being able to grow a fence if he needs one, his woodlot truly represents a sanctuary, a solace, and a place of inspiration.

Just before the book hit stores, The Courier, a local paper from Gene’s neck of the woods in Ohio got the chance to talk to him about the new book, farming, and the importance of trees in our everyday lives.

For the love of trees. By Sara Arthurs, Staff Writer

UPPER SANDUSKY — Gene Logsdon has loved trees all his life and is on a mission: to get people to focus on wood rather than plastic.

Our modern culture focuses on things made out of plastic to the exclusion of wood and trees and nature, he said. Logsdon, of Upper Sandusky, has written several fiction and nonfiction books. His most recent, “A Sanctuary of Trees: Beechnuts, Birdsongs, Baseball Bats, and Benedictions,” comes out on April 27 through Chelsea Green Publishing. The purpose of the book is to “try to remind people that we once were a wood culture, you know, not a plastic culture. … We’re getting too far away from that,” he said.

The book is a mixture of autobiography and nature writing, talking largely about how Logsdon’s own relationship with trees has changed since his childhood. But he also explores subjects such as a controversy over sassafras tea, which Logsdon believes to be safe despite a governmental ban on the beverage, and trees’ resilience and ability to spread their seeds despite Dutch elm disease and emerald ash borer.

And he writes of how heat from wood kept him and his fellow country dwellers from freezing during a blizzard.

In the book Logsdon touches upon many different issues involved with trees, from objects that can be made from wood to the many edible fruits and nuts that grow on trees to the wildflowers and animals that make their home in or near trees.

Asked what prompted the book, Logsdon said simply, “I love the woods.” He said it was also a “sneaky way” to work autobiography into a book about nature.

In his own life, he said, every time “when I thought I was getting away from the woods, I would always end up back there.” For example, he went off to boarding school only to realize the school was in the midst of the woods.

Logsdon talks about how to identify many species of trees and appreciate the virtues of each. White oaks are probably his favorite, he said.

“They last 200 years if you give them a chance,” he said.

The hard wood of this tree is good for fuel and for building furniture, among other uses, he said.

Logsdon said people in cities as well as rural areas love trees. City parks provide urban dwellers a chance to get close to trees. In the first chapter of the book he talks about Central Park in New York City.

Fly over nearly anywhere in an airplane and even the cities may look like forests from above, with trees everywhere, he said.

“People love having trees around,” Logsdon said.

For people who live in cities, parks are “a great way to learn about trees,” Logsdon said. Others may be able to buy land in the country. In Ohio, buying 5 acres of woodland is more affordable than in some parts of the country and “you’re buying yourself your own vacation spot, your own retreat from anxiety,” Logsdon said.

One area Logsdon is interested in is Shaker Heights in Cleveland, where there are trees two or three centuries old.

“This is really old-growth forest,” he said.

Logsdon, 80, said attitudes about trees have changed in his lifetime. When he was a child it was in vogue to clear the land of trees for farming and there was “a feeling that trees were pests,” he said. Then attitudes swung the other way and trees became considered “sacred” and something that shouldn’t be cut down.

Logsdon said as trees age it is natural to harvest them for wood. Trees grow old and die, and new trees are planted, he said.

Logsdon said trees are interesting not only on their own but because many flowers live under them and many animals live in them.

“It’s all the flora and fauna that comes along with woodland,” he said.

Trees also cleanse the air, increasing the amount of oxygen and getting rid of carbon dioxide, Logsdon said.

Logsdon said he also enjoys the beauty of wood.

“It’s much prettier than plastic,”he said. “And you can make all sorts of things out of it.”

In China, bamboo is used to make bicycles, he said.

“The tensile strength of bamboo, if you work it right, is just as good as metal,” he said.

Different types of wood have different grains and colors and can be used for woodworking, Logsdon said.

Logsdon said wood is also a good fuel for heating your home, although there are pollution concerns in cities, but in the country it is frequently used. With concerns about energy and oil prices, wood may play a role, he said.

Logsdon said his grandchildren, when they walk through the woods, tend to be looking at electronic gadgets. The younger generation is ” so taken up with their cellphones and their iPads,” he said.

But Logsdon is not opposed to technology altogether and said the Internet was a great help when he was researching the book.

Logsdon said his books, both fiction and nonfiction, focus on rural life. One novel he wrote, “Pope Mary and the Church of Almighty Good Food,” has to do with the local food movement. One of Logsdon’s next projects will be to write a nonfiction book on the subject.

He said at first he thought the interest in locally grown food was “just another fad” but he has changed this opinion.

“I really think there’s something very significant going on here,” he said.

People who may have different ideas about politics and religion may be united in their desire to eat good, locally farmed food, he said. He wants to look at whether there is a way to “keep all these people in the same camp.”

A Sanctuary of Trees is available now.

Join Diane Wilson in Houston Oil Refinery Protest! Jail Time Optional.

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

This just in from the special, bright-red, flashing email inbox that lets us know when Diane Wilson is soon to be gettin’ herself into all kinds of interesting trouble again. Hey, we can’t blame her! If “civilized” actions like voting or buying things could help change the game, save the planet, and alleviate the suffering of the exploited we might tell her to just stay home. But is that the case, ladies and gentlemen? I ask you, is that the case?!

I think you know the answer. So if you’re incensed about the crime that is the Keystone XL Pipeline, take a gander at this here protest a-formin’ on the western front…and yes, there are ways for you to help that may not necessitate getting locked up.

In Honor of Struggles Against the Extraction Industry Everywhere, In Memory of the Workers Whose Lives Were Taken By BP Two Years Ago, Join Us In Saying:

“CLEAN AIR AND WATER FOR ALL”

“TAKE BACK EARTH DAY!”

LET’S SHUT DOWN THE TAR SANDS AND BLOCKADE AN OIL REFINERY!

  • What: A festival of resistance and alternatives to the fossil fuel economy, in the shadow of the Houston Valero refinery, culminating in a refinery blockade.
  • When: April 19th-24th
  • Where: Hartmann Park, Manchester Neighborhood, Houston, TX
  • Why: The Alberta Tar Sands project is uprooting and poisoning Indigenous people in Canada while destroying the ancient boreal forests that are their home. The huge amount of carbon released will seriously worsen global climate change. The Keystone XL Pipeline will take oil from one of the most ecologically devastating projects on the face of the planet to Houston.

In Houston, the oil will be refined by Valero and other companies. These refineries are surrounded by working-class neighborhoods throughout the Gulf, bringing cancer-causing toxins directly into their backyards. The majority of the Tar Sands oil processed in these refineries will be shipped overseas, ensuring that North American oil workers and those whose rights and lives have been uprooted by these companies won’t even see any long-term benefit for themselves.

Meanwhile, two years after the Deep Water Horizon explosion that killed 11 workers and devastated the communities of the Gulf, BP has had a record year of profits. BP has escaped justice yet again in its recent legal victory against the shrimpers and fishermen who they’ve put out of work and the families of the workers who died under their watch.

We invite those who oppose the Tar Sands Project and who want clean air, water and soil for all to come down to Houston for a festival of resistance and alternatives to the fossil fuel economy. Let’s continue to build the power of our communities, amplify the voices of those most affected by companies like Valero, and join together in nonviolent direct action to blockade a refinery.

Friday, April 20th will be the beginning of a historic escalation in the battle for our rights to clean air and water, the struggle to
bring justice to those who wreak havoc on Gulf communities, and the fight to stop these companies from destroying the planet.

We plan to wake up an oil refinery Saturday and Sunday too, escalating our blockade as necessary. And we will use our rights to
public assembly and protest — rights that have been under increasing attack.

Waves of support will be welcome and needed.

How You Can Participate:

We need it all. There are as many levels of involvement and risk as there are individuals, affinity groups, and organizations willing to
participate.

Not everyone will want to risk arrest by participating in the refinery blockade. That’s OK. However, many people are willing and able to take that risk. We appreciate all levels of commitment.

There will be room and plans for those who wish to cooperate with the police, and there will be room and plans for those who do not wish to cooperate with the police that wish to engage in jail solidarity tactics. Come prepared to tell us what you want to do.

Contribute to the Festival: Anyone who has a desire and ability to teach a class or hold a training as part of this event should contact us. Want to present a workshop or training? Please contact our Recruitment, Training, and Personnel Committee at:
otmrecruitmentandtraining[email protected]

Offer Material Support: Donate through our website, offer a rideshare or bring a bus, bring medical supplies, donate or bring food, come prepared to cook food, bring educational materials like zines and books!  Able to contribute materials for this campaign? Please contact the Logistics Committee at: [email protected]  Able to contribute monetary support? Please contact the Fundraising Committee at: [email protected]

Be the Media: Bring your own video camera or audio recording equipment, blog on site, bring portable wireless devices, write
articles, embed reporters with us!  Interested in contributing to the media team? Contact our Communications and Outreach Committee at: [email protected]

Be the Blockade/Bring the Blockade: Come prepared with others to participate in non-violent direct action. Once you arrive, we will train you in the tactics and strategy we plan to use to sustain this blockade. Bring puppets, bring inflatables, bring signs, bring anything that could be useful. Come in caravans, bring your friends. Have questions about joining the blockade? Contact the Recruitment, Training, and Personnel Committee at: [email protected]

–The Occupy the Machine Coalition

Have general questions, comments, or not sure where to direct your query?
Contact us and let us know at: [email protected]!

More information here: http://occupythemachine.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/otmhoustoncampaign/

Gathering Low Hanging Fruit is Not Enough to Green Industry

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

This is the fourth in a Rocky Mountain Institute series on the steps business leaders can take to seize the economic and competitive opportunities outlined in Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era. Other installments in the series from GreenBiz are listed here.

America’s industrial sector generates more than 40 percent of the country’s GDP and employs almost 20 million people in refineries, paper mills, chemical plants, smelters and countless other facilities. This mighty engine consumed one-quarter of all U.S. energy in 2010 — 91 percent of which came from fossil fuels — in many diverse segments, in a dizzying array of complex processes.

If we are to move off of fossil fuels, U.S. industry must lead with investment and innovation. This is not only possible, but critical to capturing durable competitive advantage, according to Rocky Mountain Institute’s Reinventing Fire — a blueprint to a 2050 U.S. economy powered by efficiency and renewable sources of energy.

Eliminating the use of fossil fuels will result in a healthier environment by reducing toxic air and water pollution while stabilizing CO2 emissions at levels that avoid the most damaging impacts of climate change. In addition to improving the environment and stabilizing the climate, Reinventing Fire is also an enormous business opportunity.

Firms that lead this transition will benefit from reduced operating costs, improved profits and product quality, reduced fuel price volatility and supply risks, the creation of new markets and a competitive edge at home and abroad. While the work is not easy, one key technique can help industry make fast strides: energy management systems.

To capture energy savings in industry, it is not enough to merely gather up low-hanging fruit either when capital is available or cost-cutting is required. Leading firms are attaining dramatic results by pushing far past that opportunistic paradigm, establishing a continuous improvement mindset to monitor and manage their energy use in good times and bad.

For example, Frito-Lay cut its electricity energy intensity by 25 percent, natural gas intensity by 33 percent and water by 41 percent from 1999 to 2008. These energy savings investments not only brought a financial benefit, with an IRR of 25 percent and $55 million added to the bottom line, but they also reduce risk. These investments have even generated marketing benefits, especially as consumers get more savvy about where their products come from and how they are made. The installation of solar thermal power at Frito-Lay’s Modesto, Calif., plant enabled the use of the tagline “Sun Chips are now made from the sun.”

….

To read the rest of the article, head on over to GreenBiz.

Vermont Women: Kunin On Public Life

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

From Vermont Public Radio

 

(Host) In collaboration once again with the Vermont Commission on Women, VPR celebrates Women’s History Month with a week-long examination of the long process of establishing legal rights for women in Vermont, Vermont Women In History. Author, educator and commentator Madeleine Kunin served as Vermont’s first woman governor – and the nation’s fourth. Today she reflects on women in politics, as well as women’s suffrage and some of those who opposed it.

(Kunin) Vermont can be proud of the number of women who have served in public life.

Consuelo Northrop Bailey was the first woman in the nation to be elected Lieutenant Governor – in 1954 — and she was the first woman to appear before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Vermont has ranked in the top two or three states in the percentage of female legislators. And I was the fourth woman in the nation to be elected Governor in my own right. But I regret to say that my footsteps have not been followed. Five women have been candidates: Stella Hackel, Ruth Dwyer, Gaye Symington, Deb Markowitz and Susan Bartlett.

This gives us bragging rights. But other chapters of our history reveal a more mixed picture. Vermont was not one of the states to ratify the 19th amendment that guaranteed women’s suffrage in 1920.

The legislature voted for a suffrage bill in 1919, but Governor Percival Clement of Rutland vetoed it. When pro suffrage legislators pleaded with him to call a special session so that Vermont could be the 36th – and final – state to ratify the 19th amendment, he refused. Instead, that honor went to Tennessee.

When I look at Clement’s portrait in the Vermont State House, I see an elegantly attired gentleman. There are few clues to his thinking. We know he was president of a bank, the owner of the Rutland Herald, and the father of nine children. In his farewell speech to the legislature, in 1921, he firmly opposed Constitutional amendments.

Photo: Vermont Historical Society

Consuelo Northrop Bailey

 

The fight for suffrage was followed by a prolonged battle for the right of women to serve on juries. Thanks to state archivist Gregory Sanford, we gain insight into the pros and cons of that debate, which began in 1923 but did not conclude until 1942, and then only after legislative approval and a state-wide referendum. Supporters wished to give “…the women equal rights and privileges with men.”

Legislator F. Ray Keyser differed: “I, for one, would not like to see my wife serving on a jury. There are things at home to be taken care of.”

Vermont claimed its first female attorney, Jessie Bigwood, in 1902. It took ten years for another female lawyer to hang out her shingle. In 1978 the state celebrated a milestone: 100 women had been admitted to the Bar.

On the minus side, Vermont is one of four states never to elect a woman to Congress.

No doubt our achievements for women’s equality outweigh our lapses, but this is no time to be self-congratulatory. Vermont will become a state that gives equal opportunity and responsibility to women only when political power is equally shared.

Listen to Madeleine’s commentary here.

And be sure to check out her forthcoming book, The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family

 

The Physic of Spring: An Excerpt from In Late Winter We Ate Pears

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Is asparagus popping up in your neck of the woods? Today is the Spring Equinox, and to honor it we’d like to share this excerpt and simple recipe from In Late Winter We Ate Pears by Deirdre Heekin and Caleb Barber.

Fifteen days after the fact, the radio weather forecaster tells us that March fifth was really the first day of spring, the day the earth’s pattern began to change significantly. Although we’ve noticed the sun rising earlier and that it’s still light out when we drive home from work at night, this is a fool’s game I think: up here in northern New England we’ve had more snow since the first of March than we’ve had all winter. Three feet, six inches on top of the eighteen inches already on the ground, with a prediction of two more feet by the end of this week, a storm I overheard someone say began as rain in Peru. Maybe time leaped both backward and forward since the last day of February. I think the leap confused the clocks, confused the spring birds whose calls have started to punctuate the silence of the landscape, confused the skunk who came out and fended off a dog the other night in front of our restaurant. The leap even confused the porcupine who stopped to look over his shoulder at my husband Caleb when he drove home the other night, and of course our cat, Tommasino, who sits at the door ready to go outside. How rudely surprised he was when the door opened to be blinded by the great wall of white snow our shovels and the plow have made, a solid barricade bordering our front walk. Tommasino looked out in disbelief—hair on end and trembling from the cold—and turned back inside. Maybe April Fool’s Day has inverted itself, like one of those undulating principles in physics, and this whole month of March in Vermont will be one long, cruel joke, these thirty-one boxes on the calendar displacing the twenty-four hours of a single day. But why am I surprised? Isn’t it always like this?

We battle these late-winter days with an effort toward spring. Skiers from New York and Boston arrive each weekend, slowing the highway veins leading to our point—Woodstock, Vermont—every Friday night, clear weather or blizzard. Each weekend threatens to be their last of the ski season, and they embrace each chance to enjoy what may be their final run. At our restaurant, we feed them hints of spring: mashed fava beans with garlic, salt, and pepper served on crostini with a curl of parmigiano, or early asparagus, tender and thin, with two fried eggs and a grating of hard cheese from Lombardia. Or il raviolo, our handmade pasta, one large pillow the size of a large, flat soup bowl, stuffed with fresh ricotta, spinach, and an egg yolk served with butter and fresh sage. We’ve filled tall vases with pussy willows, those naked stems taunting warmer weather. And the days are warmer, the sun bright, and the sky blue in the face. The sap has begun to run, the signs of sugaring season dotting the edges of forest outside the village. We forgive the balance of cold nights for keeping the old tradition of maple syrup alive.

Caleb and I stave off doldrums by poring over big Michelin maps spread out on the floor in front of the fire, our well-worn Italian guidebooks, dictionaries, and wine compendiums in piles all over the living room. We’re planning our spring trip—yes, another attempt to thumb our noses at the longest Vermont season. We leave in ten days for Paris, from where we’ll make our way to Torino and then north to the dramatic mountains of Aosta, exploring the sights, tastes, and hospitality of the Piedmont region, where we’ve never been. We yearn to taste ruby wines in ancient cantinas, take baths at one of the hot springs, visit a couple of cheese farms—whose La Tur, Rocchetta, and Robiola we stock in our cheese case, creamy cheeses made from goat, cow, and sheep’s milk, all with a rind blushed with white mold.

We crave an antipasti plate with raw celery and carrots, sautéed eggplant and zucchini, steamed red peppers, all served with bagna cauda, a traditional dip made with garlic and anchovies long simmered in butter and olive oil. Or we imagine a deep wine-red risotto made with Barolo, and beef braised in red wine too, with more carrots and celery, the meat so tender. We remember days spent north of Milan on a lake where we ate the first spring asparagus served with the surprise of fried eggs and shaved parmigiano.

On the first day of spring as we know it, this twentieth of March, we’ll serve that asparagus with two gently fried eggs with parmigiano, or tagliatelle with shrimp, tomatoes, and black Ligurian olives, or a sauce of artichoke hearts sautéed in white wine. The past two weeks have been crazy with visitors, a strange coincidence of people who are from the Piedmont, or know people who live there. Strange because, though we know no one there, we suddenly have a wealth of names and places to visit. After long talks at our bar regarding the culture of Italian coffee and why the zucce (the pumpkins) in Mantova taste different from any other pumpkins in the world, one gentleman from Verona—who now lives in New York—tells us he will secure a room for us at his company’s hotel in Torino. And we’ve met another couple from the city, a wine and food writer and his wife, a food photographer. They make us lists of places to see, eat, visit, and include names of friends in Torino or La Morra with whom we should talk. Go see the chocolatier in Torino, or tour the Lavazza factory, or the small, artisanal pastaficcie, and meet with the winemaker in Annunziata and talk with his viticulturalist. Compare the modern wines with the classical methods. Eat at the Tre Galline, make a reservation in advance. In exchange for an espresso, biscotti, and hot food after a ski, they offer us such gems. Then there’s the guy who moved away, back in Woodstock for his fortieth birthday, who will call his friends who live outside Torino, who’ve also eaten at our restaurant, an older couple who have a castle, a vineyard, horses, and one floor devoted to a ballroom. “Wait until you see the ballroom!” he exclaims.

Just two days ago a woman originally from Torino came in. I’ll call her Carolina (because she reminds us of Caleb’s mother, Carol). She traveled to this country when she was twenty-two and hasn’t been back to Italy for many years. Our white vanilla meringhe look just like the sweets of her childhood on the corso, and she relishes the scent of the panino Caleb makes her, prosciutto and arugula with olive oil. She and her husband chat with Caleb for over an hour. I listen as I lean into the pastry table shaping biscotti di dina, round orange-lemon cookies. Carolina is overcome with memories, the sharing of stories and recipes exchanged, and can hardly take all these thoughts and emotions in at once. She wants to tell us everything, and breathlessly talks of her siblings, her family, a twin sister who died not long ago, a brother who still lives in Torino with his wife and family. She tells us about her mother who’s since moved to the seaside, and how she used to send dry goods like pasta, beans, and chocolate to her and her twin when they first came here, when they spoke no English, and life was hard. She asks us to go to her old street in the city where the buildings are of white marble, yes, white like the meringhe, she says, and will we come back and tell her all that we’ve seen? She’ll make us lunch, or dinner, we can stay as long as we like, and she’ll teach us all her mother’s old recipes. We can lean over her shoulder while she cooks.

She now lives in Danville, Vermont, nearly a two-hour drive from here. We give her two loaves of bread to take with her and she takes my face between her hands and says, “Bread like this is a gift from the mouth of God. I am blessed, and He will bless you.”

I feel like we are blessed in these past few weeks—even though the snow falls hard today, the electricity has gone out, and one building contractor for our house can’t fit us into his schedule so we’ll have to find yet another, this will be the third, and because I can’t reach the plowman on the phone I will have to shovel my car out of the driveway. In these past couple of weeks, the restaurant has been filled with life-lines intersecting: each junction allows the flow to change course. We’ve been given a gift to include these new people whose lives and stories are now part of ours, simply because of these chance meetings, and their experiences will change us, move us forward. Days will move forward. Though time seems to keep pulling us back into winter, it only seems to be regressive, because eventually the electricity will return, spring will come, and we will travel to Paris and northwest Italy. Like stepping into a page of a storybook, we’ll go to Carolina’s childhood street. We’ll eat fanciful chocolates, walk through vineyards tasting new wines, and fall asleep in featherbeds with big white goosedown comforters that look like mountains of fresh snow.

Time won’t stop. A page will turn. Eventually, we’ll return to Vermont. Physics will play a role here too, the lines of time, circumstance, and chance rolling and intersecting. Two places on a map, thousands of miles apart, will become one and the same. Because of our history and love for another language, food, landscape, our notions and feelings about home will somehow encompass both locations. We’ll leave part of ourselves in Italy, and come back to the part of ourselves in Vermont. We will be blessed by this largess. I imagine us like Carolina, moved by the crossing of her life in Vermont with her childhood in Italy, and I know our true fortune lies in our return to a country in which we used to live, in which we learned to love, and—anyway we look at it—whether we’re headed east or west, we get to come home again.

*****

Asparagi alla Milanese

Asparagus with Fried Eggs

This is the dish to eat on a warm June day, outside in the sunshine, with a basket of crusty rolls and a glass of cold beer or crisp Lugana from the shores of Lake Garda. It is simple and satisfying, especially if you are blessed with your own asparagus patch, or a neighbor who has one, as freshly cut asparagus is worlds beyond that which must travel far to reach your local produce purveyor. This recipe is for one person, but simply multiply to suit the number dining at your table.

  • 2-inch-thick bundle fresh asparagus
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons butter
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano

Wash and trim the asparagus of any tough, fibrous ends. If the asparagus is quite large, you can peel the bottom half of the shoots to remove the tough outer layers. In a large skillet with a lid bring 1/2 inch of lightly salted water to the boil and lay in the asparagus. Cover and cook until the bottoms of the shoots are just tender when poked with a fork. (Very slender asparagus will cook in 6 to 8 minutes, and fat shoots can take up to 15 minutes, but you must pay attention, as overcooked asparagus is limp and all wrong for this dish.) Using the lid to hold back the asparagus, pour off the water. Melt a little butter in the pan with the asparagus and season with salt and pepper. Remove the asparagus immediately to the serving plate(s) and quickly wipe out the skillet with a paper towel if there are bits of asparagus remaining in the pan. Restore the heat under the pan to medium low, melt a little more butter, crack the eggs into the pan, season with a little salt and pepper and gently cook them to your preferred state of doneness. (At a café, this dish would be served sunny-side up or over easy so the broken yolks provide a dressing for the asparagus.) Slide the cooked eggs directly on top of the asparagus. Top with a blanket of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve immediately.

The Holistic Orchard Wins American Horticultural Society Book Award!

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

Each year, the American Horticultural Society recognizes outstanding gardening books published in North America with its annual Book Award. Nominated books are judged by the AHS Book Award Committee in qualities such as writing style, authority, accuracy, and physical quality.

The Holistic Orchard: Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way by Michael Phillips was one of this year’s winners! From the AHS press release:

“This richly illustrated, comprehensive guide is ‘like spending a weekend with the guru of organic orcharding. He helps his readers truly understand fruit trees and berry bushes by putting them in context as part of the larger ecosystem,’ notes Kathy LaLiberte. ‘No other author covers the subject so completely, understands it so well, and still manages to make it accessible,’ says Susan Appleget Hurst. ‘This book offers a fresh perspective on growing food in harmony with the natural world,’ says W. Gary Smith, adding that “the depth and breadth of information is huge but not a bit intimidating.’”

For more information about the American Horticultural Society, check out their website.


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