Posts Tagged ‘local’


I’m Back to the Blog and My Green Ways

December 12, 2010

Did you miss me?  Were you less inspired to do green things without my constant push in the ecofriendly direction?  You know what?  I found myself slacking without the blog as a background motivator, without that little voice saying “You could post about this” or “You’ll have to fess up that you didn’t bring a bag to the grocery store.”  But I wasn’t a total slacker and it was interesting to see what types of behaviors have become second nature.

The quick take is we recycle. DSCF8656We take our lunches to work and school in reusable containers. We have greatly reduced our use of plastic bags. We drive cars that get respectable gas mileage, try to buy fresh, local, organic, and/or fair trade whenever possible.  We put effort into trying to conserve energy. And we eat our own,or our own bees’, honey.

Where do I slack?  The reusable bags seem to be in the kitchen more than in the car (but we do reuse the grocery store bags) and the house generally has more lights on than necessary.  I bought non-recycled wrapping paper for Christmas (I just couldn’t afford the recycled stuff, nor have time to make fabric gift bags) and not only did I accidentally buy a set of 3 little lit trees with non-LED lights (the horror!) – they are in the back yard, lit (and look cute, actually).  I figure this is probably offset a little bit by


It took a year and a 1/2, but we have them and they are turned on (just in time for the darkest days of winter).  We have saved about 33lbs of carbon from the atmosphere (the readout on the inverters also tells how many kilowatt hours the panels have made that day and cumulatively – but lbs. of carbon is less abstract for me – I wonder how long before we’ve saved my body weight in carbon – or a ton? (my body weight does not equal a ton)…. you know you’ll read it here).

It’s nice to be back to the blog. 



Earth-related Fun

April 24, 2010

I celebrated Earth day about a week early on April 14th.

Ed Begley Jr and Jill and I - croppedFirst, a friend and I saw Ed Begley, Jr. at Illinois State University.  He’s not an expert, just a guy making a point of living his principles.  His message was do one cheap little something and when you save enough money (because the cheap little something, like using CFLs or turning down your thermostat will save you money) then do another cheap little thing.  I think what I was most impressed by was that he drove his Prius from LA to Central IL.  It took him 3.5 days (he told me that at the book signing – I bought Ed Begley, Jr.’s Guide to Sustainable Living  – haven’t started it yet; not a great shot of course – cell phone quality).

My friend and I then went A meteor was sighted over much of the Midwest on April 14, 2010. This screen grab is from a University of Wisconsin-Madison webcam.out to dinner  and on our way home (separate cars – we met after work) we saw the April 14th midwest meteor.  This is NOT what we saw.  If I had seen that I would have thought we were under attack.  This is a screen grab from the University of Wisconsin/Madison video that I got off of NPR.  What my friend and I saw was a flash that made me look and then I saw a small ball of yellow light – a plane? no, a part of a firework? no…. then within probably 3 seconds it was gone.  Still, it was bright enough that I was very surprised to find it had fallen several hundred miles away.

The other significant earthy thingpackage of bees I did the week of Earth Day was install a package of bees in the hive where the colony had died.  Here is the generous 3lb package of bees from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms.  My son wielded the camera as I installed the bees.  Here they are going in.  shake and dump I have checked on the bees since then.  The queen is out and the girls were filling the bottom box so thoroughly that I added a second box.  I do not want my hives swarming again this year!  I’ve been feeding them a little honey, but I have seen them bringing in pollen, so they probably really don’t need me to.

The other colony is going great guns.  I have 4 boxes on that hive – as many as I had at the end of last year.  I hope they’ll stay happy and make honey for all of us (MaryAnn – I haven’t forgotten you!).

For Earth Day itself I can’t say I did anything in particular.  I was doing my civic duty at a meeting that went extra long in the early evening, so I didn’t even get to have dinner with my family – local chicken and fresh asparagus from the garden cooked on the grill.  They did save me some though and it was gooood.

And while I’m here.  Let me apologize for the paucity of posts – both recently and in the near future.  It is so hectic between work and family that there just isn’t enough hours in the day.  But in less than a month my schedule will loosen up considerably and then the posts will come fast and furious. 


Dark Days 18 – – this is getting really hard

March 21, 2010

This is why animals are in danger of starvation in early spring – there is nothing left to eat! 

We’ve tossed the last of our carrots – ewww they were getting really icky.  The potatoes and sweet potatoes are history too.  The local flour is no longer available – I reckon they sold what they’d made from Fall’s harvest.  I feel like the grasshopper from the grasshopper and the ants – I clearly didn’t work hard enough in the Summer and Fall to store up enough for the Winter and Spring. 

So, we made an effort this week, but I’m not sure any one item on the menu meets the Sustainable Organic Local and Ethical guidelines – different items are good on a couple and lacking on the others – some are totally lacking, period..  And it isn’t a highly coordinated meal either – more of a “what can we put together that’s close to SOLEful and relatively balanced?”

Salad – local and hydroponically grown greens – that’s probably the best.

Cheese – the cheddar blue we found a couple of weeks ago made by a local creamery – great on salads.

Milk – the local, ethical, non-hormone enhanced but not organic Kilgus milk (this milk has led to more hits on my blog than anything else).

Butter – made from heavy cream from the same dairy as the milk – so local and ethical… I made the butter in the food processor – I’m getting better at that.

Bread – homemade with organic unbleached flour and buttermilk leftover from the butter making – the wonderful whole wheat flour we’ve been using is no longer available.

Ground pork – I know the farmers – they are among my best friends – so the hogs were treated ethically because I know they really do care about the animals – but it is a pretty conventional hog farm and it is neither organic nor sustainable – but definitely local.

Honey – local honey (the only type to EVER buy! DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY ON ANYTHING BUT LOCAL HONEY! – sorry for yelling, but I’m a bit passionate about the honey thing – guess I should do a post on that, huh?).  Anyway, the honey was great on the pork (my daughter used maple syrup which is good too, and while organic, not local – we’ll assume the trees weren’t tortured though).  The honey was also used in some honey mustard – the mustard was not local or any of the other good stuff – but I saw a recipe for mustard – so next year….)

My husband and daughter had bottled mass-produced salad dressing – sorry.

We’ll try to eek out one more dark days meal for next week, and then I think we will call the challenge met.


Dark Days – Potatoes Au Gratin

December 12, 2009

It is the end of the semester for the two family faculty members, plus the usual meetings, the occasional holiday concert, etc. etc.  I am not whining, I’m explaining.  Dark Days week 4 was in danger of sneaking by with nothing au gratinto say for itself.  But we pulled our act together and my husband made potatoes au gratin.

We used the natural/ethical/local milk we are fond of and local cheddar cheese.  I made butter from cream from the same dairy that our milk comes from.  And the potatoes came from our own organic (and of course, sustainable and ethical, and needless to say, local) garden.  A baked potato for the youngest and hydroponically grown local salad for the oldest (and any other takers).

My husband is a tad lactose intolerant and the milk in this meal put him over the comfort edge, so we probably won’t repeat it.

Butter making does not seem to be as straightforward as you would assume.  Beat the milk until it cries Uncle has always been my recipe.  This time I beat it and beat it and it got to the consistency of very very hard whipped cream or very very light butter, but never clumped together and separated from the butter milk.  I don’t know the variables that might affect butter making.  I don’t know if freshness of the cream matters, or how rich that cream is to start with, or the temperature, or the mood of the cow.  I just don’t know. I suspect I could have/should have beat it longer.  But then again my husband has declared this the best butter he has ever tasted.butter and baked  So perhaps I’ll aim for this consistency in the future.

Luckily, I have this cute butter dish to put it in.  It is incredibly light (the butter, not the dish) and it is awfully tempting to spread it on bread like it is cream cheese rather than butter. 

Next week? Who knows which direction the muse will send us.


The First of the Dark Days

November 18, 2009

Today (Wednesday) was our last chance this week for a dark days meal (a sustainable, organic, local, ethical – SOLE – meal – – click the button in the side bar for more information).  I am going to Chicago for a conference tomorrow and won’t be back until the first week will have passed – – we couldn’t mess up on a challenge the very first week.

My husband stopped at the year round farmer’s market (heavy on the organic) on the way home yesterday and got greens (hydroponically grown) and pork chops.  chops He also made baked potatoes with our own potatoes.  [I hadn’t eaten the potato yet, just smushed it up with the butter before I remembered I wanted to take pictures.)potato Our son is not an adventuresome eater (as if pork chops and potatoes require bravery) – he had a salad with the greens and some green onion cheddar from a local cheesemaker.  The salad included carrots from our garden.H's salad

My husband also brought home a pint of heavy cream from the sustainable, ethical local, natural (nearly organic) dairy – – as close as we can get, so I’m calling it good.  This morning I made butter with it. butter There was a glass of buttermilk left that my husband will use to make some bread this evening for us to eat whenever.

To accompany dinner, my husband and I had wine made by the Benedictine monks at a local Abbey.agape1

But wait – we aren’t done yet.  We are celebrating my son’s birthday tonight (once my daughter gets back from dance class).  His birthday is Saturday, but I’ll be gone.  I had initially thought I’d bake a cake – and I could have at least gotten an organic mix (I am not the bake a cake from scratch kind of woman).  But, no, that wouldn’t be SOLE – – what to do what to do. 

First I decided on chocolate – an exception to the local part of the SOLE – but organic chocolate is readily available, and my understanding is that if it is organic than it is automatically fair trade and ethical (i.e. all organic chocolate is fair trade, but all fair trade chocolate is not organic – at least that is my understanding, correct me if I’m wrong.)

I spent too much time scanning the Internet and finally decided that I could make something tasty that wouldn’t kill us, would be relatively SOLEful, and would be something my son would like. 

I bought some organic chocolate chips at the health food store (I also found local whole wheat flour – that was a great find for my husband to use in bread making).  I then bought another pint of heavy cream and a quart of 2% milk from the above mentioned dairy of high morals. 

I melted the chocolate and mixed it with a cup of milk (what I’ll do with the rest of the milk I’m not sure – maybe make pudding).  Then I put it in a cake pan (9 x 9).  Meanwhile, I had whipped the cream and then combined about 1/2 of it with the milk and chocolate in the cake pan.  That went in the freezer.  I mixed a tiny bit of organic powdered sugar in with the rest of the whipped cream – that’s in the fridge.

When my daughter gets home we’ll have my frozen chocolate yummy (that will now be the official name) with whipped cream and my son will open his computer-oriented presents (he has taken to making stop action films – at least he was doing that last month – – so we bought him a video capture device to turn analog tapes into digital and a computer game – and this weekend the computer will be upgraded with more memory and a graphics card – plus fixed because all of a sudden it is incapable of accessing the internet and the printer spooler has ceased to function… virus perhaps?)

Back to the dark days – so, what were the exceptions? What didn’t quite stack up on the SOLE criteria. Well, I mentioned the chocolate – that was not local.   And we did have salad dressings and they were just store bought.  I was proud of my son who thought better of mixing blue cheese dressing with green onion cheddar cheese (a pretty strong flavor in its own right).  So he was dressing-less. Oh, and the mustard in the honey mustard for the pork chops was just your basic brown mustard – but the honey was local.

We did ok – we’ll see if we can do better in future meals.


More Milk, Please

November 8, 2009

So, yesterday I posted about our milk options and our choice being Kilgus milk.

In today’s Sunday paper there is a featured article on their farmstead

The big thing I learned from this article that makes me happier than ever about my milk choice is their emphasis on “cow comfort”.  Apparently the cows on farms that provide milk for the big milk companies are milked 3 times a day.  These cows have a life expectancy of about 4 years.  The Kilgus farmstead cows are milked once a day.  These cows have a life expectancy of 10-12 years.

In general, the Kilgus family and employees (of which there seem to be only a couple), seem to really focus on the comfort of their 70 Jersey cows.  In addition, they pasteurize, bottle, and distribute their own milk.  I learned of 2 other locations where I can buy their milk.  Both are relatively close to where I work (and in the same shopping center – which is a bit silly) – a local meat producer’s retail shop and a natural food store. Handy knowledge for when we’re low on milk.

So – high marks for ethics for Kilgus Farmstead (now if they’d just grow their grain organically…)


My Milk

November 7, 2009

toy cows and milk jug 

The Dark Days are coming – by which I mean the Dark Days Challenge where my family will eat one meal a week made of SOLE food (sustainable, organic, local, ethical).  The challenge begins November 15th.  My local year-round farmer’s market (which doesn’t have a website or I would link you right to it) will be seeing even more of our business as we try to fill in gaps in our own stocks.

One item we now buy routinely from this market is milk.  We buy Kilgus milk made by the cows on a farm in Central Illinois.  I e-mailed the owners to get a bit more information than I could glean from their pamphlet – and Jenna Kilgus was very forthcoming.  She made clear they are not an organic farm.  They are grain farmers and the grain is not grown organically.  That grain also is fed to the cows, so not organic.  However, the animals do graze on “natural pasture” from April to November, so that is good news.  Also, the cows are not given any growth hormone (rBST) and that, to me, is very important.  Another plus, the milk is non-homogenized, which means the fat particles that are in the milk are not broken down by the homogenization process and so will not pass so easily through intestinal walls.  Apparently there is some evidence that non-homogenized milk helps keep cholesterol levels down.  The milk is pasteurized, but not ultra-pasteurized, which maintains vitamins and enzymes. 

Oh, and by the way, this milk is tasty.  We buy the skim milk and the kids and I go through two gallons a week. 

I have a few other milk alternatives. I can buy organic milk at the bigger grocery store.  I have done so on occasion and when I do I try to choose one with the closest distribution center.  But it isn’t local.

I can buy more “conventional” milk distributed by Prairie Farms.  This has some plusses.  It is a co-op of over 700 farms and the main headquarters is in Central Illinois.  The milk and milk products (butter, yogurt, ice cream) are local, but not organic.  There is no indication that there is anything particularly “natural” about their products, other than the milk comes from cows.  So, I assume the worse – that they are given hormones and graze minimally.

Finally, there is a milk cooperative nearby that produces organic milk.  I did look into it but I couldn’t make times for pick-up, periods out of town, and the money work with our lifestyle. 

So, for the time being we will settle for natural and local but not organic milk.  Life is full of compromises.