Matt Simmons on the GAO Report

March 30, 2007

Watch this video clip from CNBC yesterday. This is a major media network discussing what could very well become the biggest economic threat any of us have seen in our lifetimes.   This is serious stuff, folks.  Pay attention to what Matt Simmons has to say about a potential crunch hitting the USA (and the world I expect) in late summer as oil demand is projected to surpass available supply.

“The biggest new oil basin we will find is called conservation.”


Book Review – “Wild Fermentation”

March 29, 2007

In the last few years I’ve spent more time learning how to prepare food. While I’m still no wizard in the kitchen, I am learning and there are a few things I can actually do better than my wife, who is quite the cook. Most of these talents are based around fermented foods: bread, beer and wine. The process of fermentation brings many benefits to food; it can improve the flavors and nutritional value as well as greatly lengthen the amount of time it can be stored before spoiling, even without benefit of refrigeration.

With my interest in fermenting piqued, I recently picked up the book “Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition and Craft of Live-Cultured Foods” by Sandor Katz. Part recipe book and part manifesto, “Wild Fermentation” is a very good introduction to the world of fermented foods and beverages. In its pages, Katz details the nutritional benefits of fermenting, along with a discussion of how modern society’s obsession with eradicating bacteria and micro-organisms is in many ways counter-productive to the health of both our bodies and the planet as whole. There is a personal angle to Katz’ discussion on health; he is a long-term HIV/AIDS survivor and believes that having fermented foods making up a large part of his diet enhances his body’s ability to heal itself. He also briefly discusses the history of fermentation throughout history, showing that most every culture in the world has a history of fermenting food.

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GAO: USA Needs a Peak Oil Strategy

March 29, 2007

The Government Accountability Office is the closest thing we have to a neutral, non-partisan research body in the federal government. They are the government’s auditors, and are one of the few bodies that seem to regularly rise above the usual partisan BS that inundates Washington D.C. to deliver factual information regardless of it’s content or political sensitivity.

Representative Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) asked the GAO to investigate the theory of peak oil, and to see how well prepared the United States is for the ramifications of a permanent decline in oil production. Well, the GAO has finished their investigations, and their conclusions will dismay cornucopians and techno-optimists. Peak oil is a real threat, and while they don’t know when oil production will peak, once it does, it could be very harmful to the US economy and way of life. The closer peak is, the worse the effects will be.

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Tiger’s Eye Seeds

March 28, 2007

I apparently jumped the gun in my whining about missing the Tiger’s Eye Seeds from Seed Savers… they arrived today.    I didn’t see any mention of these seeds shipping in a separate package, but that may very well be just me not paying attention, which, as my wife would tell you, is quite common.


New Low-Cost Bus Routes for the Midwest

March 28, 2007

For those of you in the Upper Midwest aspiring to be car-free, or at least reduce your use of the automobile for long-distance trips, here’s another option for you – Megabus. A one-way trip from Minneapolis to Chicago for $25 is pretty good. You’d have trouble driving there that cheaply, and it’s less than half the price for riding Greyhound…

Unfortunately, Minneapolis is the northwestern-most city Megabus serves, with the hub of their service network located in Chicago. It appears that they are expanding their operations as time goes on, and another inexpensive option for public transportation can only be a good thing.

HT: Ran Prieur


Weekend Update

March 26, 2007

It’s late March in Minnesota, and I’m sitting here with the windows open, wearing shorts and a T-Shirt while I’m writing this post. We shattered the high temperature record for today, topping out around 83F or so. Freakish weather for this time of year. I celebrated it by cleaning four month’s accumulation of dog crap in my backyard, supervised by my son. More compost for the scrub pines growing in the back corners of my yard. Woe be unto any of the neighborhood kids that dare fool around back there.

We celebrated my daughter’s first birthday on Sunday. My wife’s family tradition is to throw a huge party for the extended family, so we invited nearly 30 people, most of which attended. My wife made her fabulous lasagna, and I received several requests to make the Pane Rustica that I am now famous for. So, I started fermenting four loaves of sticky dough the night before the part, and then baked the bread in shifts.

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Plant a Pollinator Garden… Please!

March 24, 2007

If you haven’t read about the rising wave of problems with crashing bee populations worldwide, get on Google and check it out. In a nutshell, bee colonies are dying off around the world, and no-one really knows why. There are several possible reasons people are talking about:

So, there are a number of possibilities for why this is happening, but it’s bad news regardless of the underlying reason. Did you know that bees are used to commercially pollinate more than $14.6 billion dollars’ worth of fruit, nut and vegetable crops every year in the US alone? Without these incredibly helpful insects, these food stuffs would be much more costly if they were available at all.

There’s plenty of information out there, and most of it is ominous. One of Albert Einstein’s famous quotes is making the rounds lately with regards to this, and it bears repeating here:

“If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

So, if you have any open space in your yard, plant a pollinator garden. If you don’t, spread the word with friends and family. This affects all of us in the end. I’m doing my part, and I hope you can do yours.

For some links on what to grow, you can consult your local county extension office, or you can check out some of the following links:

NOTE:  I’ve crossposted this to Groovy Green as well.


Slow Food Minnesota

March 22, 2007

I just found the website for Slow Food Minnesota, my local chapter of Slow Food USA.   I’ve been familiar with the Slow Food movement for a while but had never bothered to look up any information about the local group that I vaguely knew about.

The local group’s event list definitely trends towards highbrow cuisine at some of the nicer restaurants in town, which may not be what some people are looking for, but they do focus on local food, which is a good thing.

The local chapter also has some interesting links for local food producers and purveyors.

Worth a look, especially if you’re in the Twin Cities area.   I wonder if they’d be interested in a tightwadder’s potluck event…


Thanks for Purchasing at Amazon!

March 22, 2007

A quick note of thanks to the person who purchased a few books off of my booklist this week.   I get a small referral fee for each item purchased via this site (it costs the purchaser nothing).  Eventually, it’ll add up to be enough for me to get a free paperback book or something similar.

Thanks again!


Placed My Seed Order…

March 20, 2007

The only thing of note I’ve done in the last week or so that readers may be interested in is that I’ve placed my seed order for this year’s garden.  I ordered from Seed Savers this time around… here’s what I ordered:

  • Seed Savers Lettuce Mixture
  • Amish Paste Tomato
  • A & C Pickling Cucumber
  • St. Valery Carrot
  • Kentucky Wonder Bush Bean
  • Tiger’s Eye Bean
  • Wisconsin Lakes Pepper
  • Rosemary
  • Bee Balm/Lemon Mint

I’ve also got some leftover basil, hot pepper and tomato seeds from a few years back, so I’ll try and germinate some of those as well.

The carrots and green beans were special requests by my son, who’s excited that dad’s gonna grow stuff.   The cukes will be used for salads as well as my first attempt at pickling.  We’ll see how that goes.

I’m not going to plant too many of the Tiger Eye beans.  My main goal here is to help improve the soil quality and get some experience harvesting dry beans.  Hopefully I’ll get enough for a pot or two of chili or refried beans, but if I don’t, that’s OK.

The Bee Balm will be planted all around the house in open spots in garden beds to help attract pollinators.

This being the first year for the garden, I’m not expecting great results.  I’ll get a yield, but it’ll likely be fairly small .  The main goal is to break ground, till in some compost & amendments and start building soil tilth & fertility.  I’m guessing that underneath a thin strip of black dirt there’s a mix of sand and clay, so I’ve got a lot of work to do on that front.

I’ve also got some tools to acquire… a garden spade and wheelbarrow for sure, and perhaps another spading fork, since mine appears to have gone AWOL since we moved.


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