Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mother Earth News Fair:
Natural Home Dairy presentation

Last weekend I was in Pennsylvania at the third Mother Earth News Fair to be held at Seven Springs. On Sunday morning, when temperatures were in the 40s, a brave group of souls came out to listen to my talk on the Natural Home Dairy. This is the PowerPoint that accompanied that talk, and it includes a recipe for queso blanco cheese and milk soap.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tonight’s dinner is … broccoli

by Eleanor Boyle

What’s for dinner? Broccoli! Okay, that sounds silly. None of us would eat just one type of vegetable for our main meal of the day. Yet when asked what they’re having for dinner people often respond: “chicken.” Or “pork chops.” Or “shrimp.”

The idea that meat or seafood should be the center of our diets is so powerful that many people now describe their entire meals with just one word. “We’re having steak for dinner.”

That’s not really all they’ll eat. In most households, family members will add a little potato or salad, or a few forkfuls of green vegetables. But those are mere ‘side dishes.’

Yet there’s a global movement promoting a different idea that has large benefits for the environment and health. It’s the simple but radical idea that we start making plant foods the center of our meals. There are countless reasons to do so, as outlined in my new book High Steaks: Why and How to Eat Less Meat, being released by New Society Publishers in early fall of 2012.

There’s nothing wrong with livestock and there’s nothing wrong with meat, in my opinion – in moderation. But we’ve now got so many livestock animals on the planet, and so much animal-source food on our plates, that it’s harming our ecosystems and our well-being.

The average Canadian and American eats more than half a pound of meat each day, and at least 200 pounds per person per year. That’s an increase of roughly 50% in the past half-century, and an even greater percentage increase in the past 100 years. It’s more than most of our distant ancestors ate, and it’s at least three times the amount of meat eaten by average citizens in the developing world.

So what’s the problem? Unfortunately for sustainability, animal-source foods use a lot of land (for pasture and feed production) and a lot of fresh water; large-scale intensive production uses most of our antibiotics, and indirectly huge amounts of fertilizers and other chemicals; and thousands of animals in small spaces produce an amount of manure beyond what can serve as useful fertilizer, which therefore ends up polluting our water. There are other strong reasons that large-scale livestock production just can’t be maintained at current levels and current methods, and those reasons are rigorously documented and summarized in the book.

Unfortunately for health, scientists and nutritionists say we’re now consuming so much in the way of animal fats and proteins, that it’s making us more vulnerable to obesity, heart disease and other ailments.

But any of us can act immediately to cut back on animal products. Without necessarily becoming vegetarian, you can decide to consider more of your meals veggie ones. You can join myself and others in a new trend -- to describe the entire dinner using the name of your favourite vegetable. At our home this evening we’ll be having rice pilaf, steamed carrots and leafy greens, marinated chick peas, and in the centre of the plate sautéed broccoli with a little olive oil, salt and lemon. Dinner tonight will be “broccoli.”

Sources are extensively outlined in Eleanor’s upcoming book. Statistics above are also supported by the World Health Organization, and by G. Stone (ed.) Forks Over Knives: The Plant-based Way to Health, 2011. NY: The Experiment.

Eleanor Boyle, PhD is a writer, educator, and author of High Steaks: Why and How to Eat Less Meat. (New Society Publishers, 2012.) You can visit her online at her blog.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Make your own body scrubs

Although soap does a great job of removing oil and dirt from your skin, it does not necessarily remove dead skin cells. To exfoliate your feet or your back, you can use a loofah, a natural sea sponge, a specially made buffing sponge, or a rough towel. A loofah can be grown in the garden, costing almost nothing and having no transportation costs. You can also use it for scrubbing pots and pans or your bathtub. It will even biodegrade in your compost pile when it is no longer useful.

There are natural substances that exfoliate just as well as expensive commercial products for the delicate skin on the face. My personal favorite is baking soda. That’s the whole ingredient list. I keep a one-cup plastic container of baking soda in my shower. A couple of times a week after washing my face with my homemade soap, I scoop up a tablespoon or two of baking soda with my fingers, rub it between my hands until it’s evenly spread out, and then I rub it across my face and neck. After three or four seconds of massaging all parts of my face and neck, I rinse off the baking soda in the shower. After my skin has dried, it is as soft and smooth as baby’s skin.

A sugar scrub, which contains oils, is good for dry skin. Sugar scrubs are used on the back, hands, and other extremities, but I know some women who swear by using a sugar scrub on the face for very dry or mature skin. When you use a sugar scrub, you can generally forget about using anything for moisturizing afterwards because your skin will absorb the oil in the scrub. To use a sugar scrub, scoop up about a tablespoon of it and rub it on the skin that you want to treat. Rinse with either plain water or soap, depending on how much of the oil you want left on your skin.

Some people prefer salt scrubs to sugar scrubs, but this is largely a matter of personal preference. Salt is reputed to draw out toxins and impurities. Keep in mind, however, that if you have any broken skin, salt will sting.

Keep a small amount of a homemade scrub in a jar on the bathroom counter for regular use, and store the rest of it in the refrigerator because most of these oils go rancid within a few months if left at room temperature.

Shea Butter Sugar Scrub

3 ounces shea butter
2 ounces grape seed oil
2 ounces apricot kernel oil
a few drops of essential oil (if desired)
2/3 cup sugar

   Weigh the butter and oils on a digital scale and mix together either by hand or with a mixer until well blended. Add the sugar and continue mixing until all the lumps are smoothed out.

Light Sugar Scrub

2 ounces castor oil
2 ounces apricot kernel oil
a few drops of essential oil (if desired)
1 cup sugar

   Weigh the oils on a digital scale, pour them into a bowl, and stir to mix. Add the sugar and stir until blended.
   Because castor oil is reputedly anti-fungal, this is a great scrub to use for your feet, especially when combined with tea tree oil or peppermint essential oil.

Salt Scrub

3 ounces sweet almond oil
2 ounces avocado oil
a few drops of essential oil (if desired)
1 cup natural sea salt (non-iodized)

   Weigh the oils on a digital scale, pour them into a bowl, and stir to mix. Add the salt and stir until blended.

Savings: Commercial scrubs can cost anywhere from $7 to $70 for a jar or tube, compared with the Salt Scrub recipe that will cost about $2 or the Light Sugar Scrub, which will cost $1 per batch. Using baking soda as a scrub will cost you less than a penny per use.

This is an excerpt from Ecothrify, which is in bookstores -- or you can order an autographed copy directly from me!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Urban goats

Yes, you can raise goats in the city to provide your own meat, milk, dairy products, fertilizer, and more. Check your zoning laws to be sure it is legal. Like chickens, it seems that there are more large cities that allow goats than small towns. They are legal in Chicago and Seattle, just to name a couple. And they have goats at the Growing Power Urban Farm in the middle of Milwaukee.

I presented the following PowerPoint to an engaged and excited audience at the Growing Power Conference in Milwaukee this past weekend.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Composting 101

I had a great time presenting at the Mid-America Homesteading Conference on Saturday. And, as promised, here is a copy of my PowerPoint presentation on "Composting."

Of course, a PPT is only an outline rather than a complete presentation, so whether you are seeing this for the first or second time and have questions, feel free to ask in the "Comment" section. And here's one little tip -- if something ends with a "?" in the presentation, the answer is probably "no."

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