Archive for November, 2012


Recipes from Home Baked

Friday, November 30th, 2012

“There is magic in grain: when it’s in the field, when the grains are ground to four in the mill, when the flour is turned to dough, and when the dough is baked to bread.”

So says Hanne Risgaard in her introduction to Home Baked: Nordic Recipes and Techniques for Organic Bread and Pastry.

Risgaard knows this magic well. Along with her family, she grows organic grains on a small island off the coast of Denmark. The farm is called Skaertoft Molle or Cut Road Mill, and there the Risgaards produce some of the highest quality, stone-ground, organic flours you can buy (except, unfortunately, you’d have to live in Europe to do so…we published this book at least partly in hopes that some ambitious farmer here in the USA would get inspired by the stunning, simple breads and start growing, grinding and selling flour as fantastic as the Risgaard’s!).

In this excerpt, you can read the rest of the introduction to the book, and try your hand at two of the recipes: lavender bread that bakes up with a subtle floral scent, and a lemon pie that looks simply divine.

An Excerpt from Home Baked by Hanne Risgaard

Slow Money Success Story: How Local Finance Helps Business Grow

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Recently, the environmental blog Treehugger featured a Slow Money success story from North Carolina.

Slow Money is a movement founded on the idea that our economy can no longer afford to ignore the health of the soil, the happiness of people, and the importance of a robust food system that’s feeds communities instead of producing commodities.

Chelsea Green was proud to publish Inquiries Into the Nature of Slow Money, a rallying cry for the movement, back in 2008, and we’re always thrilled to spread the word about communities who are seeing the ethic of Slow produce big rewards. Author Woody Tasch has continued to grow Slow Money into a vibrant organization with fun, inspiring annual events, and we have continued to publish the work of people dedicated to the mission of bringing money back down to Earth.

Local Dollars, Local Sense, by Michael Shuman, is the most recent addition to the Slow Money bookshelf. Local Dollars was the first in our Community Resilience Guides series, a partnership with the Post Carbon Institute (learn more about the project at Resilience.org). You don’t have to choose between improving the financial health of your community and increasing the wealth in your portfolio. Shuman’s book shows you how to harness the power of local investments such as crowdfunding for new businesses, community buying clubs, local stock exchanges, and more.

The second guide in the series, Power from the People, showcases communities around the world that have planned, financed, and built renewable energy infrastructure — all by themselves.

Now, let’s pop on down to North Carolina and see what’s happening!

From Treehugger: How Slow Money Financing Helps Food Businesses Grow by Sami Grover

I once proposed the idea of Slow Business as a means to reclaim our lives. That meme never really took off, but Slow Money, on the other hand, has. A movement that facilitates direct loans between private individuals and sustainable food operations, Slow Money is becoming a powerful driver for grassroots business activism.

I recently had the opportunity to talk to Carol Peppe Hewitt, a founder of the vibrant Slow Money movement here in North Carolina, as well as some of the business owners who have borrowed through Slow Money NC.

“When you run a small business for years, it’s like you see a snapshot of what is going on with the wider economy.”

That’s how Carol Peppe Hewitt describes her entry point into Slow Money.

She had been running a successful artisan pottery business with her husband Mark for decades, and observed how hard it was for small businesses to access affordable credit. This was particularly true within the local food movement – where farmers, small processors and producers were unable to get loans to start up or expand their business.

KEEP READING

The Season of Snow Moon (and a recipe for Kimchi)

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

Jessica Prentice’s cookbook Full Moon Feast combines simple recipes with food history and the meanings of various meals throughout the seasons. Food has become a commodity in our time, something to be consumed quickly, and to be measured in terms of nutrient levels or cost. Flavor takes a backseat to cheapness and quality has given way to quantity. But as readers of Chelsea Green books probably know, the true value of food comes from the care that went into its creation, and joy is not something you can quantify as simply as a broker trading futures of high fructose corn syrup on Wall Street.

Simple foods made from easy-to-find ingredients, put together with love, make any season warm. This winter, try Prentice’s recipe for some spicy kimchi, a savory garnish made from fermented cabbage, plus radishes, carrots, chile peppers and other spices.

The following is an excerpt from Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection by Jessica Prentice. It has been adapted for the web.

Snow Moon

When autumn is becoming winter, we move into the lunar cycle called the Snow Moon in sixteenth-century England. Northern dwellers could expect their first snowfall, and waterways and reservoirs might start to freeze. For many peoples, this was the last opportunity to preserve food and ensure that there would be stores of necessities to last through the winter.

Nowadays we take for granted our ability to freeze and chill food in our own kitchens. But the mechanical refrigerator is an extremely modern invention. The first practical domestic refrigerator was sold in the United States in 1918, so for most of human history cold storage has ranged from elusive, to seasonal, to almost constant, depending on the local climate. Cold needed to be found and used where it was—like a root cellar dug deep in the cool ground. My father-in-law grew up in the 1920s on a Texas farm equipped with a cistern—an underground reservoir for water collected during the rains, used like a well. Dairy products and meat that needed to be kept cold would be lowered in a bucket into the cistern, so that the bucket was just immersed—but not submerged—in the cool underground water. That was their refrigeration.Some people, of course, didn’t need to look far for a source of refrigeration.

The Inuit could store their food simply by burying it in the snow or ice. But other peoples often went to great lengths to harvest ice and create the conditions for natural refrigeration. The ancient Romans had snow brought down from the Alps to be used for keeping perishable foods cold. In places where there were cold winters and warm summers, ice would be harvested before the first thaw and stored in insulated icehouses. The icehouse would then be used to preserve food throughout the warm months until the return of the Snow Moon.

The challenges of refrigeration were one of the reasons that our ancestors developed such a wide range of technologies to preserve food. We have a tendency to think that indigenous people ate their food fresh from the forest, farm, or garden, and that processed foods are a modern invention. This misimpression is based on our notion that processed foods means factory-processed foods: chips and other snack foods, cookies and sweets, boxed cold cereals, and everything that falls into the category of junk food. But the staple foods of many traditional diets were actually often quite processed, in the sense that they were taken through a process—sometimes an elaborate series of processe—before they were eaten. The difference lies in how they were processed. While our food processing is mostly done in factories
using heavy machinery, traditionally foods were processed on a relatively small-scale basis (what we would now call artisanal), and generally in the context of community.

Quick and Simple Kimchi
Makes about 1 quart

This is an easy starter version of kimchi, but it is delicious. After it is fermented, I make a quick meal by serving it in a bowl topped with soba noodles drizzled with toasted sesame oil, and a well-seasoned beef or chicken broth (such as the one I use for Asian Egg Drop Soup, page 67). You can add some cooked meat or just a sprinkling of scallions for an easy lunch or dinner.

1 head napa cabbage
1 daikon radish
1 black Spanish radish (these are common in local farmer’s markets—if you can’t find it, just leave it out or replace with another kind of radish)
1 turnip
2 carrots
2 tablespoons sea salt

1. Rinse the cabbage and cut into ½-inch strips (not the tough core). Cut the radishes, turnip, and carrot in half and then slice thinly on the diagonal. Mix the vegetables together in a bowl and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Cover with filtered water, cover with a towel, and let sit for 3 hours.

2. Meanwhile coarsely chop the garlic, ginger, and scallions. Remove the stem and seeds from the pepper and cut the skin into a few pieces. Put these ingredients into a mortar and pestle (what I use) or a food processor and mash into a paste.

3. Drain the soaking liquid off the cabbage mixture and reserve.

4. Mix the ginger paste in with the cabbage mixture and pack into a mason jar. Press the mixture down repeatedly with your fist until liquid begins to rise up. Then add enough of the soaking water into the jar so that all the vegetables are covered with liquid.

5. Now gently weigh down the top of the mixture, with a smaller jar filled with water as for the Quick Kraut above, so that the liquid rises above the solids. This pushes the vegetables down but allows the liquid to come up over the top.

6. Place the jar with the weight inside on a counter and drape a cloth napkin or tea towel over it.

7. Ferment at room temperature for 1 week, checking daily to make sure the vegetables are submerged in the brine. (If you find that you need more brine, dissolve 1 teaspoon sea salt in N cup water and pour enough liquid into the jar so that the brine covers the vegetables.)

8. Remove the plastic lid and weight, screw the top on the jar, and transfer it to the fridge. This will last for several months.

Save 35% on Taste, Memory This Week

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

If the concept of “food biodiversity” seems abstract to you, our new book Taste, Memory: Forgotten Foods, Lost Flavors, and Why They Matter, will make it clear and tangible as the crisp tang of an heirloom apple.

Author David Buchanan has been saving rare varieties of food plants for years, from cider apples to beans and corn, and looking for answers to important questions about food and place, heritage and history. Taste, Memory is the story of his journey.

Chapter One, available for you to read below, traces the provenance of Buchanan’s obsession as he looks back from his present-day life somewhere between market-farmer and plant-museum-steward.

“It was never my goal to become a farmer, and that’s not exactly what I’m up to here. This project is more like an attempt to come to grips with an old obsession, to find a way to connect biodiversity to something larger than my own gardens. It’s as much about collecting rare varieties of fruit trees, berries, and vegetables as it is a working farm. Call it an effort to bring regionality, cultural difference, and flavor back to the plate, and discover what place these foods deserve in the modern world.”

Recently, Taste, Memory was included as one of Amazon.com’s top ten Food Literature books of the year. And, author David Buchanan appeared on Maine Public Radio’s daily public affairs program “Maine Calling” to talk about Thanksgiving food traditions and some of the foods and flavors we’ve lost to the region in the past 100 years.

Booklist Reviews praised the book, calling it, “Not just a feast for the palate, Buchanan’s book is a feast for the souls of those concerned about a fast-food culture that prizes uniformity and convenience over the kind of tastes that cannot be produced on an assembly line.”

Perfectly timed for the holiday season (just in case you’ve got a passionate locavore or small-farmer on your gift list), we are offering a 35% discount on Taste, Memory this week.

Taste, Memory: Chapter One – Seeds of an Idea

Preserving Food 101

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

We talk a lot about preserving food here at Chelsea Green, but it’s not to be didactic! It’s because we believe in the possibilities of having power over one’s food supply, and being able to seek a more sustainable life, with a stocked larder. We believe in food that is affordable, in spaces for gardens even in the most urban of places, and the RIGHT to grow and process one’s own food.

Just last weekend we participated in the Weston A. Price Foundation conference, a convergence of raw-food advocates and fermentation fans. Three of our authors gave talks on the importance of taking control of your food, in small but significant ways, from experimenting with simple vegetable ferments to making artisan cheese, to fighting corporate control of agriculture on a national level.

But maybe we should take a moment and rewind, and revisit the whole idea of preserving food from a fundamentals standpoint. Let’s think about the WHY. And the HOW.

From our piece on Planetgreen.com:

There are plans in the works for the world’s largest telescope–one that can see back in time to the first stars and their formation. I know, right? Blows your mind. But while you wait for this magnificent (and seemingly impossible) invention, you can turn back the clocks of time in your own home. Starting in the kitchen. And by the way, you don’t even need to have a garden! Try something new: turn your produce into preserves, without nutrient loss. You’ll be eating fresh veggies even in the coldest of months, and as for your hors d’oerves platter—it’ll be the talk of the town.

The Gardeners and Farmers of Terre Vivante, an ecological research and education center located in southeastern France, are masters in the art of preserving food. But their technique is not as simple as stuffing food in your freezer, or storing them away in mason jars. They implement more traditional and old-fashioned methods using salt, oil, sugar, alcohol, vinegar, drying, cold storage, and lactic fermentation. In their book, Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation, they give tips and recipes on how to preserve food, the traditional ways.

The History of Canning and Freezing

According to the folks at Terre Vivante:

“These days, frozen foods tend to replace canned and bottled goods, since foods lose fewer nutrients through cold than through heat. But freezing is not very satisfactory either: it is expensive, consumes a lot of energy, and destroys many of the vitamins. In the home kitchen, we observe the same development as we have seen in industry: Canning, which was very popular in the 1960s (country folks each with their own sterilizers, putting up their own green beans, shell peas, and tomatoes), has given way to freezing. Emerging relatively recently (sterilization in the nineteenth century, freezing in the twentieth century), these two processes have relegated traditional food-preservation methods to obscurity, if not complete oblivion, as their scope of application has dwindled away. By far, the best example of displacement is lactic fermentation. Formerly used to preserve all sorts of vegetables, it has survived solely for making sauerkraut, and at that, more for gastronomic reasons than as a preservation process in its own right.

Fortunately, the traditional methods of preservation still live on in the French countryside, although they are rapidly disappearing. There is a wealth of knowledge to be gathered here before it falls into anonymity.”

Choosing a Method of Preservation

So what to choose in lieu of freezing and canning? According to these gardeners and farmers:

“Three methods overwhelmingly dominate the history of food preservation before the industrial age: cellar storage under cool, dark conditions, for certain fruits and winter vegetables (such as root vegetables, tubers, apples, and pears); drying, for fruit; and lactic fermentation for most other vegetables. Natural-state preservation in a cellar is the most basic way to preserve foods that take well to this method. Although it is possible to dry apples and to lacto-ferment carrots, winter provisions have traditionally relied on apples stored in a cellar in their natural state, and carrots preserved likewise in a root cellar, or in the ground.”

[...]

Read the entire article here.

In Memory of Lynn Margulis

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

Lynn Margulis died in late November 2011. She was a longtime friend of Chelsea Green Publishing, and collaborated with us on the Sciencewriters Books imprint to develop outstanding science books for the general public.

A recent article in Orion (“State of the Species”) by Charles C. Mann, captured some of Lynn’s unbending scientific mind matched by an equally caring and playful spirit. Mann lives in Amherst and would often encounter Lynn while walking through town.

What follows is a brief excerpt from the article, but if interested you can also listen to Mann talk about Lynn in this Orion podcast interview about the article.

Bacteria and protists can do things undreamed of by clumsy mammals like us: form giant supercolonies, reproduce either asexually or by swapping genes with others, routinely incorporate DNA from entirely unrelated species, merge into symbiotic beings—the list is as endless as it is amazing. Microorganisms have changed the face of the earth, crumbling stone and even giving rise to the oxygen we breathe. Compared to this power and diversity, Margulis liked to tell me, pandas and polar bears were biological epiphenomena—interesting and fun, perhaps, but not actually significant.

Does that apply to human beings, too? I once asked her, feeling like someone whining to Copernicus about why he couldn’t move the earth a little closer to the center of the universe. Aren’t we special at all?

This was just chitchat on the street, so I didn’t write anything down. But as I recall it, she answered that Homo sapiens actually might be interesting—for a mammal, anyway. For one thing, she said, we’re unusually successful.

Seeing my face brighten, she added: Of course, the fate of every successful species is to wipe itself out.

Pure Lynn.

When Lynn died, she left behind a groundbreaking scientific legacy that spanned decades and inspired thousands of scientists, environmentalists, writers, and thinkers around the world. This unique anthology, collated by her son Dorion Sagan, includes essays that cover her early collaboration with James Lovelock, her critique of neo-darwinism, her support of David Griffin’s critique of the official account of 9/11, her love of Emily Dickinson, her inspiration of young scientists, especially women, and much more.

The book includes contributions from Dorion Sagan, Jorge Wagensberg, Moselio Schaechter, Andre Khalil, James Lovelock, Bruce Clarke, Niles Eldredge, Michael F. Dolan, Jan Sapp, Michael J. Chapman, Martin Brasier, Denis Noble, Josh Mitteldorf, Stefan Helmreich, William Irwin Thompson, David Ray Griffin, John B. Cobb Jr., David Abram, Peter Westbroek, Rich Doyle, Joanna Bybee, Terry Y. Allen, Penny Boston, Emily Case, David Lenson, Betsey Dexter Dyer, and Lynn herself.

Below are some early reviews, and praise, for this tribute to Lynn’s lasting legacy.

“Margulis’s complex personality beguiles, frustrates, charms, and elevates various writers, resulting in a stunning portrait that no single remembrance could have captured.” — ForeWord Reviews

“Her insistence that most evolution involves symbiogenesis led to a lifetime of debate. It also leads to some inspired writing in this book of essays. This is a captivating read for anyone interested in what powers great scientists.” — Publishers Weekly

“I can’t imagine what the world of biological science in the twentieth century would have been had Lynn Margulis not come along. In this volume, we can read about some of the vast range of intellect she influenced.” — Wes Jackson, president, The Land Institute

“Lynn and I often argued, as good collaborators should, and we wrangled over the intricate finer points of self-regulation, but always remained good friends, perhaps because we were confident that we were right.” — Dr. James Lovelock, contributor, and author of The Vanishing Face of Gaia

“It was life—profligate, teeming life in all its weirdness—that held the magic for her, not this featherless biped with its confused aspirations. Lynn intuited and doggedly gathered evidence to show that most anything we two-leggeds take special pride in—our capacities for cogitation, conviviality, and culture—had been invented, eons before, by the microbial entities that compose us.” — David Abram, contributor, and author of Spell of the Sensuous

“It’s the ideas that really matter—and Lynn certainly had hers. They were novel and profound, and she simply wanted all the rest of the world to adjust their thinking to accommodate and embrace what she saw were the simple, beautiful truths that she had uncovered.” — Dr. Niles Eldredge, contributor, and author of Darwin: Discovering the Tree of Life

“I hope that in due time she will be recognized as one of the greatest scientific thinkers of our time.” — Ernest Callenbach, author of Ecotopia

To see “indomitable Lynn” for yourself, watch this video of her debate with Richard Dawkins at Oxoford.

And for sense of the reverence and love the book contains, read Dr. James Lovelock’s essay, On Lynn.

Project: Save Energy with Insulated Shutters

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Unless you’ve taken special preventative precautions, it’s likely that on cold days much of your house’s heat pours out through your (closed) windows. Most houses—especially old houses—have drafty, uninsulated windows that do little to prevent heat from dumping out into the cold night. Even if your windows aren’t drafty, the expensive heat your furnace has been generating could be escaping.The only way to know for sure is to conduct a home energy audit—either professionally or on your own. Included in a home energy audit is a thermal image of your house on a cold day. This image will show you the hot spots on the exterior of your house—usually around the doors and windows—where (and how much) heat is escaping.

Once you’ve conducted your home energy audit, or decided that your windows are probably leaking heat anyway, you can get to work sealing up the windows to save money, fuel, and energy this winter. Stephen and Rebekah Hren, authors of The Carbon-Free Home, have offered the low-cost solution to window heat loss below.

From The Carbon-Free Home: 36 Remodeling Projects to Help Kick the Fossil-Fuel Habit, by Stephen and Rebekah Hren:

Insulated Curtains and Shutters

A variety of systems have been devised over the years to stop heat transfer through windows. The most obvious is the curtain. While curtains do address heat transfer via radiation, when improperly installed they can increase the convection over the window and potentially lead to a net heat loss. This happens primarily from top to bottom when a large gap allows warm air to be pulled downward from the ceiling between the curtain and the glass. This cools the air, causing it to drop down below the curtain level and escape back out into the room. The cool air entering the room is replaced by additional warm air near the ceiling, and a thermosiphon effect can become established, quickly sucking the heat out of the room.

This can also occur to a lesser degree when curtains have large gaps between the sides and the wall. To make the application of curtains worthwhile from an energy conservation standpoint, it’s necessary to go to some trouble to reduce as much as possible all gaps around the edges of the curtains. Historically, the thermosiphon effect has been reduced by the application of a valance (also called a pelmet) at the top of the window. Often these are applied with aesthetics as the main concern (covering the curtain hardware) instead of energy conservation. To be effective, the valance needs to hug tight to the wall above the window to prevent thermosiphoning. Cloth valances rarely achieve this end. Constructed wood valances, sometimes found in older homes, are more effective.

For windows without curtains or with poorly functioning curtains, there are two options: insulated curtains or shutters. Typically, insulated curtains are held tight to the wall by embedded magnets (or Velcro) in the curtain and window trim. Insulated shutters are typically hinged on one side, although they can be hinged on the top and opened via a pulley and held against the ceiling. They typically consist of a simple 2 × 2 frame with metal on both sides and insulation sandwiched in between, typically high-R-value foamboard. (See image.)

stormwindow.jpg

Insulated curtains are either homemade or purchased affairs. Beware—many big-box retailers sell what they call insulated curtains, but these are thin and don’t seal around the edges. Solar Components (www .solar-components.com/quilts) sells insulated material for making your own sealing insulated curtains. Cozy Curtains (www.cozycurtains.com) will custommake sealing insulated curtains for around $10–12/ square foot. Generally, windows with sealing insulated curtains achieve an R-value of around 7 or 8. The curtains also have excellent sound-deadening and light-blocking qualities.

Project: Sealing Drafts.
Renter friendly.
Project Time: One weekend.
Cost: $5–50.
Energy Saved: High. Drafts can suck much of the heat out a home very quickly.
Ease of Use: N/A.
Maintenance Level: None.
Skill Levels: Carpentry: Basic.
Materials: Caulk, silicone.
Tools: Caulking gun, pry bar, screwdriver, incense or smoke stick.

Blow-in insulation. For older homes, the best way to seal up a drafty house is often by blowing insulation, either

cellulose or fiberglass, into the walls and attic. Loose-fill insulation can reduce airflow to the point where air infiltration is essentially eliminated. If your home is poorly insulated, blowing in insulation in the attic and walls should be your top priority. It’s probably best to hire someone for at least the wall insulation. The reason to hire out is because blowing in sufficient insulation to get up to R-13 or so requires pressure created by a high-powered compressor that is not easy to rent. Walls and attic can be done in an afternoon by a professional. However, the attic doesn’t require high pressure and can be a DIY job if you’re so inclined. Many rental places or big-box stores have the equipment needed to blow in attic insulation.

Checking for air leaks. If your walls are already insulated, you’ll want to check all protrusions into the interior wall

space for potential air leaks. This is easy to do with a stick of incense, when the interior temperature is substantially different than the exterior temperature. Hold a smoking stick close to things such as outlets, tops and bottoms of baseboards, chair rails, picture rails, window trim, plumbing intrusions, and vents, and watch the smoke. If it’s not floating straight up, you found one.

Outlets and switch seals are made of rubber and match the profile of the outlet (receptacle or switch). These can be purchased at most hardware stores. Remove the outlet cover with a screwdriver and stick the seal in between the cover and the wall. Be cautious of live wires; to play it safe turn off the breaker for the circuits you will be working on whenever removing outlet covers.

Drafts from gaps in trim or plumbing and HVAC intrusions can be sealed with either pure silicone (which is preferred as it stays flexible, but it is not paintable) or painter’s caulk with some silicone added. Expandable foam is an option for large cracks (more than a ¼ inch), although it often contains potential toxins like benzene and often uses HCFCs for blowing agents, known to be potent greenhouse gases.

Stopping vertical airflow. If your home is old and your interior walls are extremely drafty, you have two options. The first is to seal either the basement or the attic. This will close either the entrance (basement) or the exit (attic) for the cold air. Again, blowing in insulation in the attic does a great job of essentially eliminating potential basement-to-attic airflow through interior walls. The cheapest (but most difficult) choice is to go into the basement or crawl space and clog any holes made in the floor and walls for systems such as electrical and plumbing. There are often a surprising number of these. This can be done with expanded foam or by stuffing bits of fiberglass insulation into the holes. While fiberglass insulation does let through some air, it reduces airflow by over 90 percent.

If your house is on piers and not enclosed, you’ll need to insulate your floor. This is an unpleasant and difficult task but will go a long way in sealing up your home. Flexible rods are sold to hold floor insulation in place, but we’ve seen these fail on a number of occasions. The best method for holding floor insulation in place is to start with a few of these flexible rods and then staple chicken wire to keep it in place.

Recessed lights and electrical boxes in the ceiling are a common escape route for air. Again, blowing some insulation in the attic will do wonders. Fiberglass batts in the attic also benefit from this treatment, as the gaps between the edges and the joists can let out a fair amount of heat.

Check all ductwork. If you have a conventional furnace or heat pump with forced-air heating, you’ll need to check your ductwork annually. This is because some piece or other has quite likely become detached over the course of time and is lying on the crawl space floor, keeping the crickets warm. To detect a detached duct, check each heating vent in your house, while the heating system is running, by placing your hand over the vent to feel for airflow. What you can’t check from above are slightly detached or leaky connections, which occur with great regularity. Grab the incense stick and check all the lines for leaks, using real duct tape (black, not gray, and quite expensive) to seal any problem areas. Also check for crimped ductwork or holes from squirrels or rodents. Repair any problem areas.

In a really well-sealed home, there’s the potential to have an inadequate amount of fresh air coming in from the outside. If you’ve done a great job sealing your home, and especially if you heat with wood (which uses up a lot of oxygen), you’ll want to install an air exchanger. This brings in fresh air and exhausts interior air through a highly conductive metal passageway that exchanges much of the heat of the outgoing air with the incoming air.

Celebrate Homemade Bread Day!

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Do you remember the story of the little red hen?She found a grain of wheat, and wanted to turn it into bread. She tried to get her friends in on the action, but they were lazy or uninterested — or maybe they were gluten-intolerant and she just didn’t realize that.

Anyway, she had to do all the work herself, from planting the wheat to harvesting it, to milling the flour and finally, baking the bread. She wins in the end though, because when all her hungry friends come by all excited for some fresh bread she’s like, no way guys, I’m going to eat it all by myself too!

We hope your friends won’t be so unhelpful, because there’s nothing better than breaking bread with loved ones — even better if you’ve made it from scratch. And EVEN better if you did in fact grow those grains yourself.

To celebrate Homemade Bread Day, we’ve put a selection of books on sale to take you from seed to scrumptious loaf. The books below will be on sale for one week, at a discount of 25%.

Small Scale Grain Raising
Reg. Price: $29.95
Sale Price: $0000

Small-Scale Grain Raising: An Organic Guide to Growing, Processing, and Using Nutritious Whole Grains for Home Gardeners and Local Farmers, Second Edition

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.

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Reg. Price: $39.95
Sale Price: $25.97

The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World

The Art of Fermentation is the most comprehensive guide to do-it-yourself home fermentation ever published. Sandor Katz presents the concepts and processes behind fermentation in ways that are simple enough to guide a reader through their first experience making sauerkraut or yogurt, and in-depth enough to provide greater understanding and insight for experienced practitioners.

Once you’ve harvested your grain of choice, you can add flavor and nutrition to your bread by fermenting the flour before you bake it. Get the tips on starting and maintaining a healthy sourdough here.

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Home Baked
Reg. Price: $39.95
Sale Price: $25.97

Home Baked: Nordic Recipes and Techniques for Organic Bread and Pastry

Home Baked is more than a bread cook book. The authors are reminiscent of the little red hen from the fable: they grow, harvest, and grind the grain they use to bake the beautiful, organic, and unique breads featured in the book.

Perfectly timed for the growing interest in Scandinavian, and particularly Danish, cuisine, Home Baked is a must-have book for any bread lover’s library.

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Build Your Own Barrel Oven
Reg. Price: $18.00

Sale Price: $13.50

Build Your Own Barrel Oven: A Guide for Making a Versatile, Efficient, and Easy to Use Wood-Fired Oven

You’ve got your homegrown, naturally-leavened dough rising away in the kitchen, but your homemade bread mission can still go one level of DIY farther: build your own efficient, wood-burning oven to bake it in! Not even our hero the little red hen was that badass.

In this new book, Max and Eva Edleson offer a comprehensive guide for planning and building a practical, efficient and affordable wood-fired oven. The barrel oven offers surprising convenience because it is hot and ready to bake in within 15-20 minutes and is easy to maintain at a constant temperature.

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Bread Builders
Reg. Price: $35.00
Sale Price: $22.75

The Bread Builders: Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens

Daniel Wing, a lover of all things artisanal, had long enjoyed baking his own sourdough bread. His quest for the perfect loaf began with serious study of the history and chemistry of bread baking, and eventually led to an apprenticeship with Alan Scott, the most influential builder of masonry ovens in America.

Alan and Daniel have teamed up to write this thoughtful, entertaining, and authoritative book that shows you how to bake superb healthful bread and build your own masonry oven.

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Now Available: Nuclear Roulette

Monday, November 19th, 2012

“Since the first toss of the atomic dice at a desert test site in Alamogordo, New Mexico, incalculable harm has been done to our planet—its air, its water, its land, and its peoples. Tragically, much of this damage will remain as an invisible legacy that will shadow the lives of our children for generations. But if we continue to marshal our outrage, energy, and intelligence in the cause of principled and progressive change, there is still time to start turning our poisoned planet away from the deadly atom and toward a future where the sun shines far brighter than the lethal core of a reactor. We must demand a new paradigm for planetary survival, and a large part of that transformation will require a new conservation ethic and renewable renaissance.” — From the Introduction to Nuclear Roulette

Nuclear energy has entranced the industrialized world since it first emerged as a (supposedly) safe and benign use of the horrific power unleashed on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. Praised as pollution-free, and “too cheap to meter,” atomic power seemed almost too good to be true. And it was.

Gar Smith’s new book, Nuclear Roulette: The Truth about the Most Dangerous Energy Source on Earth, is now available in our bookstore, and it explains with crystalline clarity the reasons why this magical energy source is too dangerous to use. From the insolvable problems of storing radioactive waste products, to weapons proliferation, to the surprising fact that if you look at the total life cycle of a plant nuclear power isn’t even efficient, the book lays out a strong case against this power source.

Also featured in the book are the five worst reactors in the country. Including the infamous Entergy plant Vermont Yankee.

Below is the Foreword by the late Ernest Callenbach and Jerry Mander, as well as Gar Smith’s introduction to the book.

Nuclear Roulette: Foreword and Introduction

Project: Shag Carpet Your Refrigerator

Friday, November 16th, 2012

Refrigerators are one of the single largest users of energy in the average home. They seem to do a decent job of keeping things cold, but they’re typically not very well insulated. This may have become abundantly clear to any of you who lost power during Hurricane Sandy recently. Food stored in a fridge that has lost power goes bad very quickly. Luckily, adding insulation to your existing fridge is a simple project you can tackle this winter with the tips below.

Stephen and Rebekah Hren, authors of The Carbon-Free Home, are serious about saving energy. And if that means wrapping shag carpeting around their refrigerator to save energy, then by gosh, bring on 1973!

This is one of our favorite projects from The Carbon-Free Home. It wins on sheer style!

Project: Insulation Of Existing Fridge

Renter friendly.
Project Time: Weekend.
Cost: Inexpensive ($50–100, depending on type of insulation used and size of frame to hold it).
Energy Saved: High. Average refrigeration uses 8 percent of the household energy budget. Insulating your refrigerator can reduce energy use by up to 50 percent.
Ease of Use: Easy. Does not affect day-to-day use.
Maintenance Level: Low. Lengthens life of fridge by reducing the compressor load.
Skill Levels: Carpentry: Moderate.
Materials: 2 × 4s, insulation, paneling, connector plates, screws, and nails.
Tools: Saw, drill, hammer.

Most household refrigerators needlessly use excess energy simply because they are poorly insulated or they do not close properly. Insulation can be added to the sides, top, and doors to greatly improve your existing refrigerator’s performance. If you are considering putting a wood cookstove in your kitchen, then extra insulation is a must. Ideally, your fridge would be separated from any heat source by being enclosed in its own closet. Before covering the sides with insu­lation, however, check that the coils usually located at the back of the fridge aren’t actually on the side by feeling if one of the sides is especially warm.

Because refrigerators work by radiating heat off the coils attached to the back (often covered with sheet metal in newer models), it is important to maximize airflow on this side, so insulation here is not a good idea. On every other side, the poorly insulated walls of the fridge allow precious cold air to leak out.

The easiest if not the most attractive way to insulate an existing fridge is to glue or tape insulation board to the sides and top. Cut the side panels so that they extend beyond the top of the fridge to the height of the insulation you put on top. Carpet or corkboard or other panels can be used to hide the insulation and add a little more protection. Alternatively, corkboard or carpet can be applied on their own, although the insulating effect will be substantially reduced. Use only a few dabs of construction adhesive to hold the insulation and carpeting or panels in place, or use plenty of two-sided carpet tape, and make sure the surface is clean and dry.

For the fridge and freezer doors, it’s probably best to skip the insulation, as the constant opening and closing could result in the bulky panels getting knocked off. Apply corkboard or carpeting directly to the doors, working around the handles. Clean the front of both doors with a nontoxic household cleaner such as vinegar or baking soda. Then simply cut out the right size of carpet or board and apply two-sided carpeting tape or a few daubs of construction adhesive around the perimeter and in a few strips in between. Get your edge lined up properly (rolling up the carpet will help), and then slowly apply the material. Shag carpet looks best and will impress your friends, who will secretly pet your fridge as they reach in for a beer.

For a top-notch insulating job that will look like fabulous cabinetry, build a 2 × 4 wall on each side, to a height of 3½ inches (one stud width) above the top of the fridge. Run a 2 × 4 along the front and back in between the two walls and connect with a plate. Fill in the two sides and top with the insulating material of your choice (see chapter 7). The sides of the box can be paneled and the front trimmed out for a sharp-looking fridge upgrade. Again, for the doors apply corkboard or carpeting directly.

[Editor's Note: Your friends are only entitled to beer if they help you with this project. That means you, Dennis....]


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