Nature & Environment Archive


Make the Most of Your Woods with Forest Farming

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Many people think forests are primarily reserved for timber and firewood harvesting. Not so, according to forest farmers Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel.

In their new book Farming the Woods, they invite a remarkably different perspective: that a healthy forest can be maintained while growing a wide range of food, medicine, and other non-timber products.

Permaculture Magazine calls this book, ”a tome destined to become a classic.” It includes a wealth of information on how to cultivate, harvest, and market high-value non-timber forest crops such as American ginseng, shiitake mushrooms, maple syrup, fruit and nut trees, ornamental ferns, and more.

Check out this excerpt from chapter 4 to learn about the variety of food crops you can grow using forest farming techniques. You just might be inspired to plant a grove of pawpaw trees or elderberry bushes in your nearby woods.

Also, Steve Gabriel is featured in a new documentary film, Inhabit: A Permaculture Perspective, premiering in 2015. Watch a sneak peek of Steve talking about our role in the forest ecosystem.

INHABIT: “Farming the Woods” with Steve Gabriel from Costa on Vimeo.

How to Use Lambsquarter from Root to Plant to Seed

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Some people might take one look at a patch of lambsquarter and yank it out of the ground to rid their garden or yard of an undesirable weed. Not wild-foods advocate and author Katrina Blair. At her home in Durango, CO, she tends to her lambsquarter and a number of other so-called weeds with the utmost care.

Why, you ask? Because according to Blair’s extensive research weeds are entirely misunderstood plants. In her new book, The Wild Wisdom of Weeds, she focuses on the thirteen plants which together comprise a complete food source and extensive medical pharmacy and first-aid kit.

Blair’s philosophy is sobering, realistic, and ultimately optimistic. If we can open our eyes to see the wisdom found in these weeds right under our feet, instead of trying to eradicate an “invasive,” we could potentially achieve true food security and optimal health.

Lambsquarter is one of Blair’s 13 “super weeds.” You can blend its leaves into a green juice, sprout its quinoa-like seeds and use them in a salad, mash its roots into a cleansing soap, and more. In the following excerpt, learn all about the edible and medicinal uses of lambsquarter and find recipes for a variety of lambsquarter-based foods and products.

Happy foraging!

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Edible Uses of Lambsquarter

Lambsquarter is exceptionally nutritious. Our bodies can produce fourteen of the essential amino acids, but eight of them need to be found in external sources. Lambsquarter is one of those valuable sources.

The whitish dust present on each leaf is made up of mineral salts from the soil and is an indication of its mineral-rich value. Often the lambsquarter leaves will taste salty and therefore make quite a nutritious salt replacement or addition to dishes! Lambsquarter seasoning is made easily by drying the leaves and mixing them with other spices.

Lambsquarter is packed with essential vitamins and minerals. For example, 3.5 ounces of raw lambsquarter, which is about 1 cup of greens, contains 73 percent vitamin A and 96 percent vitamin C of your recommended daily allowances suggested by the USDA. It is also a fantastic source of the B vitamins complex including thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin.

Use Like Spinach

Wild lambsquarter vary in their tastes. The flavor is related not only to different species, but also to the stages of growth and to the soil conditions. In general, however, all lambsquarter leaves are edible. The wild greens can be used just like spinach. They can be eaten fresh in salads, juiced, and added to any recipes that call for greens. They are best eaten when younger, however; when the leaves mature with age, the flavor can change due to a greater potency of oxalic acids. I find that when lambsquarter has built up too many oxalic acids, I experience a slight burning sensation in the back of my throat. This is why I recommend tasting the leaves by themselves before harvesting any quantity of them. This is especially important when making green juices or smoothies. When downing a liquid in several gulps, your body does not have the time to tell you to stop.

Harvest Seeds in the Fall

The seeds make a highly nutritious food staple for multiple uses in recipes. They can be harvested in the fall and ground into cereal or used as flour for bread. Similar to quinoa, lambsquarter seeds can be easily sprouted in one to two days. Add the sprouts to any meal to benefit from the rich nutrients.  Lambsquarter seeds also make great microgreens. They start out small and frail looking but given time grow into healthy plants with delicious flavor.

All lambsquarter seeds are edible; however, some are easier to use for a food staple than others. The wild versions have varying natures of seed production. Some varieties are easy to harvest and separate the chaff, while others are quite difficult. When possible, separate the seed from the outer layer and always taste the wild grains alone before adding any seasoning or salt, to get the true taste of the food. This practice will protect you from overeating something that your body would normally tell you to stop eating.

Wild grains are more potent than domesticated grains and a small amount is often enough to sustain your energy. Another way to increase the seeds’ resources is not to cook them, but instead to sprout them. Sprouting the seeds is a natural way to let the outer layer fall off on its own. Using lambsquarter sprouts is a way to increase seed benefits and sustain your winter storage to last even longer! If wild plants are potent already and go a long way, sprouted wild grains are even more concentrated in nutritional value and truly go the extra mile for supporting your optimal health.

Medicinal Uses of Lambsquarter

Lambsquarter is an important source of food that can be considered a key staple, while at the same time it is also an extremely valuable medicine. When the leaves are chewed into a green paste and applied to the body, it makes a great poultice for insect bites, minor scrapes, injuries, inflammation, and sunburn. The greens are beneficial for soothing arthritic joint pain when chewed into a mash and placed directly on the sensitive areas.

The leaves support the decrease of pain by reducing inflammation and bringing about an increase of circulation.

A tea of the leaves is beneficial for diarrhea, internal inflammation, stomach aches, and loss of appetite. The tea can also be used as a wash to heal skin irritations and other external complaints. Soaking the body in bathwater with lambsquarter tea added will support skin health by toning and tightening the tissues.

The green leaves when eaten in their fresh raw state are particularly beneficial for supporting the healing of anemic blood conditions. The leaves are exceptionally rich in iron and help to increase blood cell count and overall vitality of the circulatory system. The greens and seeds are very high in protein and phenolic content, and also have significant antioxidant capacity for eliminating unwanted free radicals in the body.

The roots contain a significant amount of saponin, which creates a natural soapy quality when mashed or beaten. In addition to the roots being extremely useful in making a cleansing soap, the composition of saponin also creates a cleansing and laxative effect in the body when drunk as a tea. Lambsquarter root tea is helpful for removing excesses from the body by the way of assisting elimination.

The young greens, especially when tender in the spring, can be juiced for their calcium and vitamins A, C, and B complex in addition to vital enzymes, chlorophyll, and trace minerals. The juice has a gentle detoxifying nature. Lambsquarter is an important green in this day and age of accumulated pollution. The greens are valuable for purifying the body of unwanted toxins due to their exceptionally high chlorophyll content. The chlorophyll binds with or chelates toxins that may be stored in fat cells and removes them in the urine. Our body is wise and tends to isolate toxins away from our vital organs by storing them in fat cells. When the toxins are released into the bloodstream it is key to have a source of chlorophyll to bind up the toxins until they are discharged from the body. We want to assure that they are not redeposited in the body while in the bloodstream. Fasting is a beneficial way to detoxify the body; however, because of the concentrations of petrochemicals found in our daily environment, it is wise to avoid fasting on water alone. It is best to have the support of wild greens in the form of dilute juices to protect our cleansing bodies from the potential side effects of environmental toxins causing harm on their way out.

The young lambsquarter green juice is delicious, but when the leaves get older, make sure to taste them first to know if the flavor is agreeable to you. The gentle astringent properties of lambsquarter make it healthy for tightening internal organs as well as externally for skin. The juice makes a beautifying and cleansing body wash. It is also a useful mouthwash for tightening the gums and eliminating bad breath.

The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: Lambsquarter Recipes

Growing Food in the Face of Global Warming

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

If you want proof of how difficult it is to grow food in the face of global warming, look no further than the food basket of the United States. There, especially in California, soils are crumbling, drying, and the fight over water resources is increasing between farmers, cities, and rural residents. Crop insurance rates are on the rise as are food prices, and there’s no relief in sight.

This climatic uncertainty is forcing farmers, gardeners, and orchardists to desperately seek new ways to adapt how they grow food in the face of climate change. In his most recent Chelsea Green book, Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land, author and ethnobotanist Gary Paul Nabhan—one of the world’s foremost experts on agricultural traditions in arid lands—offers time-tested strategies to not merely adapt, but thrive, in dry growing conditions.

As Nabhan noted in this New York Times Opinion piece, roughly 40 percent of the net farm income for the entire United States comes from 17 Western states, and the ongoing drought threatens our food security:

[C]attle and sheep production make up a significant part of that, as do salad greens, dry beans, onions, melons, hops, barley, wheat and citrus fruits. The current heat wave will undeniably diminish both the quality and quantity of these foods.

The most vulnerable crops are those that were already in flower and fruit when temperatures surged, from apricots and barley to wheat and zucchini. Idaho farmers have documented how their potato yields have been knocked back because their heat-stressed plants are not developing their normal number of tubers. Across much of the region, temperatures on the surface of food and forage crops hit 105 degrees, at least 10 degrees higher than the threshold for most temperate-zone crops.

What’s more, when food and forage crops, as well as livestock, have had to endure temperatures 10 to 20 degrees higher than the long-term averages, they require far more water than usual. The Western drought, which has persisted for the last few years, has already diminished both surface water and groundwater supplies and increased energy costs, because of all the water that has to be pumped in from elsewhere.

From retaining moisture and nutrients in soils to reducing heat stress on crops and livestock, Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land offers detailed diagrams, descriptions, and real-life examples of how you can implement these desert-adapted strategies for your backyard, farm, or orchard.

As more of North America is impacted by drought, this book is increasingly a necessity for any farmer or gardener, or even eaters who care about where their food comes from and how it’s grown.

Below is a chapter on how to reduce stress on crops and livestock.

Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land: Chapter 5

Capturing Landscape in a Wine: The Unlikely Vineyard

Monday, October 27th, 2014

Is it possible to capture landscape in a bottle? To express its essence of place—geology, geography, climate, and soil—as well as the skill of the winegrower?

That’s what Deirdre Heekin and her chef/husband, Caleb Barber, set out to accomplish on their tiny, eight-acre hillside farm and vineyard in Vermont.

Our farming came from wanting to grow particular vegetables for our restaurant kitchen. Once we started going with the restaurant garden and farm, I also became interested in the process of making wine. I was doing a lot of work representing organic and biodynamic wine growers on our wine list. Intellectually, I knew the whole process of making wine, but I had never done it on my own. I wanted to do that, just for my own edification,” Heekin told Modern Farmer in a recent interview. “In the second year we went to go visit another Vermont vineyard that was making some really lovely wine and it dawned on us. We have a fantastic south facing slope that would be perfect for a vineyard, there are some great people doing it in Vermont — let’s just do it. We left that particular winery with 180 plants that day. We planted that summer. It has been full tilt growing as we go along. We are now in our fifth vintage.”

AnUnlikelyVineyardChallenged by cold winters, wet summers, and other factors, Heekin and her husband set about to grow not only a vineyard, but an orchard of heirloom apples, pears, and plums, as well as gardens filled with vegetables, herbs, roses, and wildflowers destined for their own table and for the kitchen of their small restaurant—Osteria Pane e Salute, a restaurant in Woodstock, Vermont.

But An Unlikely Vineyard involves much more. It also presents, through the example of their farming journey and winegrowing endeavors, an impressive amount of information on how to think about almost every aspect of gardening: from composting to trellising; from cider and perry making to growing old garden roses, keeping bees, and raising livestock; from pruning (or not) to dealing naturally with pests and diseases.

Accompanied throughout by lush photos (Heekin is also an avid Instragrammer), this gentle narrative will appeal to anyone who loves food, farms, and living well.

An Unlikely Vineyard: The Education of a Farmer and Her Quest for Terroir by Deirdre Heekin is now available.

In Memoir, Environmental Insider Calls for Radical Change

Monday, October 20th, 2014

As an influential figure in America’s environmental movement, Gus Speth can boast quite a remarkable resume–co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, founder of the World Resources Institute, dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, environmental advisor to Presidents Carter and Clinton, and the list goes on.

Yet, as a southern gentleman, boasting isn’t really his style. Instead Speth prefers to acknowledge the long list of people that have helped him along the way—his “angels by the river, ” as he calls them.

Speth’s new memoir, Angels by the River, follows his unlikely path—from a Southern boyhood to his career as an influential mainstream environmentalist to his current system-changing activism. He explores the issues, and realities, that have shaped the nation since the 1950s, and that turned an “ultimate insider” into someone who now believes the US inaction on climate change is, as he puts it, “the greatest dereliction of civic responsibility in the history of the republic.”

If you are wondering how to make a difference in this increasingly complex world and looking for inspiration, let Gus Speth’s own life’s arc be a guide, and his clarion call for widespread system change be your call to action. Listen to his interview on Vermont Public Radio about his reflections on the environmental movement. Chelsea Green’s Shay Totten also sat down with Speth to talk about his new book and what it has been like to live his life on the front lines of change. See below for their conversation.

Angels by the River: A Memoir by James Gustave “Gus” Speth is on sale now.

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A Conversation with Author Gus Speth

ST: Let’s start with the title of the book – who are your angels, and what role did this river of your youth have in shaping your early thoughts about nature and life?

GS: Starting with a real river, the Edisto in the South Carolina lowcountry, I imagine my life as a journey down a river, and around almost every bend there have been angels waiting. It’s very clear to me that without the love, support and intense collaboration of the angels in my life, starting with my family, I would have gone off in some terribly wrong directions and many key things simply would not have happened. I wrote this memoir in large part to recognize these remarkable people.

Imagination aside, the Edisto, with its dark, tannin-stained waters and ample hardwood bottomland swamps, was where I first discovered the natural world, and girls.

ST: Your hometown of Orangeburg, South Carolina was the scene of the horrific Orangeburg Massacre. That year, 1968, is often remembered as a pivotal year in US history. You were at Yale Law School at the time of the shootings, but you had been living in, and writing about, some of the tensions that preceded the shootings.

GS: In the mid 1960s I did what I could to support and encourage the moderate whites in Orangeburg to move forward on the civil rights demands of the town’s black community. And they did try, indeed try hard, but without success. I relate that story in the memoir.

Orangeburg had been a hotbed of resistance to racial progress since the early 1950s, and that continued through the 1960s. This situation helped set the stage for what happened there in 1968, a great national tragedy but one that has been little noticed outside the state, even today.

ST: Did attending a Northern school – Yale University and later Yale Law School – help to shape, or reshape, your views about the world, and in particular that of race? If so, how? What did you intend to study at Yale, and what did you end up studying?

GS: I devote a chapter in the memoir to what happened to me when I “went North” to school. The chapter is called “Things Fall Apart,” and at Yale my views on race, society, and the South did in fact come crashing down around me. As I explain in Angels by the River, that can be a terrifying experience, but I discovered in the end that that unmooring from the past was entirely liberating and that I was free to think afresh about the world. I realized also that I had uncritically accepted the status quo and that I never wanted to do that again.

I went to Yale to study science and was a biochemistry major for two years, but in the nick of time I realized I wasn’t getting a rounded liberal arts education and so switched to political science and later to an individualized curriculum Yale allowed me to create.

ST: You helped found the Natural Resources Defense Council. What was missing from the environmental movement at the time that the NRDC was created? Did it achieve what you had hoped?

GS: When big new causes open up, as happened for the environment in the late 1960s, there often occurs an intense period of institution building—a creative period when organizations rise to meet the occasion. In a chapter called “The Greening,” I describe how I and others, seeing the moment, were able to launch two much-needed environmental groups, NRDC and the World Resources Institute. Both are powerhouses today. I often joke that all my groups do better after I leave.

I shudder to think where we would be without the successes of our mainstream environmental groups, but it is obvious now that America’s mainstream environmentalism is not up to today’s environmental challenges, like climate change.

ST: What changed for you personally that led you, someone known for groundbreaking legal and policy work, to get arrested in front of the White House?

GS: In 2012 Wen Stephenson interviewed me for an online article and when it appeared, here was the title: “’Ultimate Insider’ Goes Radical.” I spend a generous portion of the memoir describing how a conservative, Southern white boy became a civilly disobedient, older, still white guy bent on transformative change to a new system of political economy. Among other things, we’ll need a new environmentalism in America to make this transition, one that is deeply committed not just to traditional environmental goals but also to challenging consumerism and commercialism and the lifestyles they offer, rejecting growthmania and pioneering a redefinition of what society should be striving to grow, challenging corporate dominance and seeking a redefinition of the corporation and its goals, joining the struggle for social justice and fairness, and launching a powerful assault on the anthropocentric and contempocentric values that currently dominate American culture.

To drive these deeper changes we’ll need a powerful movement and the rebirth of activism, protests, demonstrations, and sometimes civil disobedience.

Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

While no single book can definitively answer the thorny question of how to feed the Earth’s growing population, Defending Beef makes the case that, whatever the world’s future food system looks like, cattle and beef can and must be part of the solution.

In Defending Beef, Nicolette Hahn Niman — a longtime vegetarian — argues that cattle are neither inherently bad for the Earth nor is meat bad for our own nutritional health. In fact, properly managed livestock play an essential role in maintaining grassland ecosystems by functioning as surrogates for herds of wild ruminants that once covered the globe.

Hahn Niman, a former environmental attorney and activist, dispels popular myths about how eating beef is bad for our bodies. She methodically evaluates health claims made against beef, demonstrating that such claims have proven false.  Grounded in empirical scientific data and with living examples from around the world the author shows how foods from cattle – milk and meat, particularly when raised entirely on grass – are healthful, extremely nutritious, and an irreplaceable part of the world’s food system.

She also criticizes the modern, industrial food system — especially as it pertains to meat production — for being harmful to animals, the environment, and our health. Here’s a short excerpt from the book’s final analysis:

“I will be the first to agree that industrial methods for raising farm animals are indefensible, and I believe all people should join in rejecting them. Having seen it in all its gory details, I have no qualms about calling industrialized animal production a routinized form of animal torture. While Prohibitionists attacking innocent apple trees with axes seem absurd to us today, a lot of discussion over the ethics of meat eating likewise focuses on the wrong villain. Industrial animal production is rightly vilified; animal farming, on the other hand, is not.

What has really fostered my interest in the debate over meat eating is not a desire to encourage meat consumption but a longing for some nuance in the discussion. The issue is far from black-and-white, and polarized camps lobbing accusations at each other only hinder movement toward a better system. Building a food system that is more ecological and more humane is far more important to me than whether or not so-and-so is eating meat.

I believe the real issue is whether we humans are living up to our responsibilities of good stewardship of animals and the earth. Michael Pollan and others have proposed the idea that animals “chose” domestication based on a sort of “bargain” with humanity.  (…) However, it’s reasonable to assume, as well, that animals would never have opted for such an arrangement if torture had been part of the deal. Stated simply: By raising animals in factory farms, humans are violating their age-old contract with domesticated animals.

(…)

Individuals and groups are rightly concerned about adequate food supplies for the future. But they would do well to focus their attention on this imminent crisis, and on the way livestock are managed on the land, rather than on the absolute number of livestock, which has little significance. Properly managed grazing animals are an important part of the solution to feeding the world in the future.”

 For more from Defending Beef, click here to read the Preface and Introduction.

Chelsea Green Celebrates 30 Years of Craft and Cutting Edge Books

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

We here at Chelsea Green have always had a nose for authors and books that are years ahead of the cultural curve. That knack is clearly on display in a new anthology that we’re making available to celebrate our first thirty years in publishing.

More than one hundred books are represented in this collection and reflect the many distinct areas in which we have published—from literature and memoirs to progressive politics, to highly practical books on green building, organic gardening and farming, food and health, and related subjects—all of which reflect our underlying philosophy: “The politics and practice of sustainable living.”

The Chelsea Green Reader offers a glimpse into our wide-ranging list of books and authors and to the important ideas that they express. Interesting and worth reading in their own right, the individual passages when taken as a whole trace the evolution of a highly successful small publisher—something that is almost an oxymoron in these days of corporate buyouts and multinational book groups.

“I like to think of these brief excerpts as individual stones in a cairn. A cairn is a landmark, a pile of rocks built by hikers high above tree line in the mountains. It grows larger and larger over the years as new hikers passing by contribute a new stone, or replace one that might have fallen. A cairn is there to confirm, even on a foggy day, that we are on the right path, and it indicates the way forward, to the summit,” writes Senior Editor Ben Watson in the book’s preface.

“Every book is a stone, or a brick in the wall, of an edifice that is always being constructed, constantly evolving, and never quite finished. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that a publishing company is colloquially referred to as a ‘house,’” Watson adds. “At Chelsea Green we continue to build, with our authors and their ideas, a great house, one that represents our deeply held values and beliefs, our hopes and our dreams.”CGP_grasshopper_olive green

From the beginning, Chelsea Green’s books were nationally recognized, garnering positive reviews, accolades, and awards. We’ve published four New York Times bestsellers, and our books have set the standard for in-depth, how-to books that remain relevant years—often decades—beyond their original publication date. Books in this volume range from ones that appeared in our very first catalog in 1985 (and remain in print today) to ones that have long since gone out of print, but not forgotten as important touchstones for us as a publisher.

“Chelsea Green was born from a single seed: the beauty of craft. Craft in writing and editing, in a story well told, or a thesis superbly expressed,” writes cofounder and publisher emeritus Ian Baldwin in the book’s Foreword.

This attention to craft has even informed our business model: In 2012, Chelsea Green became an employee-owned company as a way to “practice what we publish” and lay the groundwork to ensure that the founders’ legacy remained intact in the decades to follow.

The move made Chelsea Green unique among book publishers in an industry dominated by investor-driven, multinational corporations. Only a handful of independent book publishers can claim employee-ownership status, and of those Chelsea Green will be near the top in terms of the percentage controlled by employees.

With the rise of the Internet, new media platforms, and a constantly shifting bookselling landscape, the future of publishing is anything but predictable. But if Chelsea Green’s books prove anything, it is that, despite these challenges, there remains a hunger for new and important ideas and authors, and for the permanence and craftsmanship of the printed word. Today our ongoing mission is stronger than ever, as we launch into our next thirty years of publishing excellence.

“People are moved by what they read,” adds Baldwin in his Foreword. “That pertains whether they read an ebook or a printed one, and they want to connect with the writers who make their lives richer. Part of the publisher’s role is to help make this vitalizing connection. This nexus among author, publisher, and reader is, I believe, unlikely to wither anytime soon.”

Carbon Shock-onomics: Climate and the Economy

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Millions of people take to the streets this weekend around the world — with tens of thousands headed to New York City for the People’s Climate March — to show that people want action from global leaders, not more talk when it comes to responding to the growing climate crisis.

Investigative journalist Mark Schapiro, author of Carbon Shock, has pulled together some key facts that all climate marchers should know about the climate and the economy — today, and going forward as climate talks take shape next year in Paris.

carbon-shockTHE COSTS
Climate change is the biggest economic challenge of our times. The world’s two biggest economies—the US and Europe—estimate hundreds of billions of dollars in costs from heat waves, floods, and an accelerating wave of climate refugees fleeing lands on which they can no longer sustain themselves.

WHO PAYS?
The public takes the risk and the fossil fuel intensive industries make the profits. That’s why the true costs of fossil fuels are called ‘externalized’ costs—costs that are often hidden through dishonest, but perfectly legal, accounting. Who pays those costs? Taxpayers. You and me.

WHO’S RESPONSIBLE? The Companies
Just 90 companies are responsible for two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions. Three thousand of the world’s biggest companies cause $2.15 trillion in annual environmental costs, most of those relating to climate change, according to a UN report.

WHO’S RESPONSIBLE? The Consumers
A quarter of China’s greenhouse gases can be attributed to the production of goods for export to the US and Europe. Who is responsible for those emissions: the producer or the consumer?

THE TRADE WARS
The first climate trade war is being fought by the US, China & Russia against Europe, over the European Union’s effort to regulate greenhouse gases coming from airplanes, which contribute more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than any other form of transportation.

FOOD & WATER
Two of the greatest threats to the US government’s finances are the looming costs of the federally subsidized crop insurance system, due to climate-related drought and intensifying heat, and flood insurance.

AN OIL SPILL A DAY
Whether greenhouse gases are emitted from a car’s gas tank in New York or a gushing oil rig off the Louisiana coast, to the planet it’s the same: We’re letting loose an oil spill a day into the atmosphere. Every conventional U.S car comes with $2,000 in greenhouse gas-related lifetime costs, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

WHAT WE MUST DO
Honest accounting: Set a global price for carbon to reflect its damage to the planet. Take the green dividend and invest in a low-carbon, equitable, economy that supports renewable energy, local food, public transportation, and livable communities.

 

Climate March Poster by Shepard Fairey

Farm the Woods: Grow Food and Medicinals in Forests

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

In the eyes of many people, the practices of forestry and farming are mutually exclusive, because in the modern world, agriculture involves open fields, straight rows, and machinery to grow crops, while forests are reserved primarily for timber and firewood harvesting. In fact, history indicates that much of humanity lived and sustained itself from so-called “forest farming,” and only recently has the forest been traded for the field.

In Farming the Woods, authors Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel demonstrate that it doesn’t have to be an either-or scenario, but a complementary one; forest farms can be most productive in places where the plow is not: on steep slopes and in shallow soils. Forest farming is an invaluable practice to integrate into any farm or homestead, especially as the need for unique value-added products and supplemental income becomes increasingly important for farmers.

“That Ken Mudge and Steve Gabriel believe people should be empowered in pursuits of integrated, multifunctional forest management is clear. As a result, the book is better positioned to positively impact forest owners, farmers, policy makers, and general readers alike,” writes John Munsell in the book’s foreword.

At your fingertips is a useful and inspirational forest farming guide,” Munsell adds.

Farming the Woods: An Integrated Permaculture Approach to Growing Food and Medicinals in Temperate Forests invites readers to view agriculture with a remarkably new perspective: that a healthy forest can be maintained while growing a wide range of food, medicinal, and other nontimber products. To get a sense of what useful information and resources the book offers, read a sample chapter — Food from the Forest: Fruits, Nuts, and More — below.

It’s common knowledge that many of the daily indulgences we take for granted, such as coffee, chocolate, and a variety of tropical fruits, all originate in forest ecosystems. But few know that such abundance is also available in the cool temperate forests of North America. Farming the Woods covers in detail how to cultivate, harvest, and market high-value forest crops such as American ginseng, shiitake mushrooms, ramps (wild leeks), maple syrup, fruit and nut trees, ornamentals, and more. Readers are also provided comprehensive information on:

• historical perspectives of forest farming;

• mimicking the forest in a changing climate;

• cultivation of medicinal crops;

• cultivation of food crops;

• creating a forest nursery;

• harvesting and utilizing wood products;

• the role of animals in the forest farm; and,

• how to design and manage your forest farm once it’s established.

In addition, Farming the Woods includes profiles of forest farmers from around the country who are practicing many of the techniques detailed in the book.

“Forest farmers profiled in this book offer a vision for how more people can live—with and in the forest rather than outside it, as a foreigner who only visits from time to time. Human civilization is at a time when the decisions we need to make are unlike those any generation has had to make before,” write Mudge and Gabriel in the introduction. “With increasing inequality, the collapse of ecosystems around the world, and the uncertain effects of climate change, there is not a better time to consider farming the woods.”

Farming the Woods is now on sale for 35% off until September 24.

Farming the Woods – Sample from Chapter 4: Food from the Forest by Chelsea Green Publishing

Replacing Windows? Understand Your New Glass Options

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Having been in my passive solar home for 35 years, my original Alcoa windows were showing their age. The time had come to upgrade. My current experience of selecting which window and glass type to purchase turned out to be more formidable than I anticipated even as a professional in solar home design. There now are multiple choices of window types. Some of these new high efficient windows, however, may actually decrease the effectiveness of a passive solar home.

I didn’t expect to run into any problems with purchasing my new windows. Unfortunately, I was in for a surprise. What follows are some useful tips that I hope will help others select which glass option to purchase and help them to navigate the confusion, mis-information and lack of knowledge that I encountered.

When I was designing and supplying prefabricated Green Mountain Solar Homes, Alcoa windows were a ”price” product. Those Alcoa windows, along with other material savings, allowed me to supply these homes at affordable costs – including my own.

As Green Mountain Homes grew, we became Andersen window dealers. Having had lots of experience with Andersen’s products, I decided to use Andersen’s casement windows in our prefabricated homes.

When I built my solar home, I used Alcoa’s standard dual glazed windows with U-Value of 0.52 and Shade Coefficient of 0.88 (1993 ASHRAE Handbook Values). As some readers may know, the windows and patio doors in a passive solar home serve as solar collectors and are strategically placed on the east, south and west walls of the home. The U-Factor and Shade Coefficient are important considerations in choosing windows as solar collectors. The lower the U-Factor, the less heat is lost back out the windows. The higher the Shade Coefficient, more free solar energy is passed through the glazing.

For folks who have read The Passive Solar House, note that the Shading Coefficient (SC) has been succeeded by Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) in the United States, however older windows and doors may still refer to their SC value. The relationship between SHGC and SC may be approximated as: SHGC = SC × 0.87. [As a side note: The SHGC is not to be confused with the Solar Heat Gain Factor (SHGF). Solar Heat Gain Factor’s for each North Latitude are published in the ASHRAE Fundamentals and are also listed in Appendix 2 of The Passive Solar House. The SHGF is used to calculate the total amount of heat gained for each month.]

To refresh your memory, U-Factor is a measure of the rate of heat loss. SHGC defines the amount of solar radiation that will pass through the glass. Again, the lower the U-Factor, the less heat is transmitted out the window. The higher the SHGC, the more solar radiation (free heat) will be transmitted into the home.

Going to Andersen’s website, I found that the Series 400 is available with four different types of Annealed Glass:

1. Low-E4
2. Low-E4 Sun
3. Low-E4 SmartSun
4. Low-E4 PassiveSun

Note: The above designations are all registered trademarks of the Andersen.

Now the decision of which of the above would be the correct choice for my solar home in terms of efficiency in heat loss and effectiveness as solar collectors.

Using the “No Grilles” coefficients, the U-Factor and SHGC are as follows:

U-Factor                  SHGC

1. Low-E4                                       .28                         .32
2. Low-E4 Sun                               .28                          .20
3. Low-E4 SmartSun                     .27                          .21
4. Low-E4 PassiveSun                 .30                          .54

Note the significant changes in these coefficients from my original Alcoa windows to Andersen’s Low-E4 PassiveSun:

Old Style Alcoa Dual Glazing                                 New Low-E4 PassiveSun

U-Factor                                                      .52                                                                              .28
SHGF (SC x .87)                              .88 x .87 = .76                                                                       .54

In other words, Low-E4 PassiveSun will lose about half of the heat of my old style glazing, but will admit only 71 percent of the solar radiation. Low E glass has almost become the new standard window; however, if I selected Low-E4 glass, only 59 percent (.32/.54) of the free solar heat will get into the house. It’s obvious that Low E glass is best for applications that are purposely trying to keep heat out.

To help me further I decided to do some comparative calculations.

1. As the basis of the calculations, I will use the Saltbox example given in Chapter 6 of The Passive Solar House, which has the same windows in my own home. Table 6-15 shows the Saltbox to be 48 percent solar in Hartford, Connecticut.

Total Heat Load = 65,170,000 Btus/year
Purchased Energy = 33,710,000 Btus/year or 343 gallons of oil per year

2. Substituting Low-E4 PassiveSun glazing and entering the same data into CSol (The Design Software included in The Passive Solar House), we get the following comparison:

The Passive Solar House book example using old style glazing:

Total Heat Load = 65,170,000 Btus/year
Purchased Energy = 33,710,000 Btus/year or 343 gallons of oil per year
% Solar = 48

Using Andersen Low-E4 PassiveSun Glazing:

Total Heat Load = 55,510,000 Btus/year
Purchased Energy = 34,970,000 Btus/year or 356 gallons of oil per year
% Solar = 37

Note that the percentage of Solar went from 48 to 37 but the Purchased Energy is almost the same.

3. One more example, let’s see what happens if we select the now standard Low-E4 glazing.

Total Heat Load = 55,510,000 Btus/year
Purchased Energy = 42,760,000 Btus/year or 436 gallons of oil per year
% Solar = 23

The above examples make it clear that the best choice for my replacement glass for my passive solar home in Vermont is the Low-E4 PassiveSun glass option. Using the standard Low-E4 glass simply was not the correct choice for me, as it would result in higher fuel usage (22.5 percent) in my Vermont solar home.

Armed with this information, I went to two suppliers for price quotations. One is a national supply house and the other a local supplier. They couldn’t price out my requested Series 400 Low-E4 PassiveSun glazing option because Andersen’s pricing software only allows the supplier to price out the first three options listed above. In fact, both suppliers had never heard of Low-E4 PassiveSun glass. It took several emails and phone calls to Andersen to find out that there is an upcharge for Low-E4 PassiveSun glass. Further after placing the order, I later was advised that there would be a delay in getting my “special” order.

The lesson? Whether you are building a new passive solar home or upgrading an existing one, great care has to be taken in choosing what window type will be best for you.

This is a guest post by author James Kachadorian, who wrote The Passive Solar House, Revised and Expanded Edition.


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