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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Bees with lasers? Not yet, but there are two beekeeping fractions at war in New York City. 

So there’s the New York City Beekeepers — in this story represented by a “Mr. Fische” — and the New York City Beekeepers Association — represented here by “Mr. Coté.”

Mr. Coté and Mr. Fischer had once attended beekeeping functions together. But Mr. Coté had a more ambitious plan for a professional beekeeping association and started his own group in 2008.

Coté and Fischer just had a battle over who was going to save 40,000 bees from a broken branch following hurricane Irene. Whoever “saved” the bees would actually become their owner. It’s a pretty good size hive, about half the size of one operated here in Springfield by a local restaurant.

In the end, the Coté faction (NYCBA) won.

Because Mr. Coté’s group regularly worked with the health department and the New York Police Department’s Emergency Services Unit on such rescues, he was able to secure a police van with a crane, a chain saw, and the services of the Police Department’s resident bee handler.

It’s a really interesting a quick read via the New York Times, and reminds me of a story put out by This American Life about shopping mall Santa Clauses and the feuds those chubby dudes have. When passionate people get involved in offbeat hobbies, their arguments, which we would be like “no big deal” are, in fact, huge deals, and generally hugely entertaining.

In 1999 I was in eighth grade. I was a chubby geek who liked to read about conspiracies and watch sci-fi. I obviously was worried about the devastation that would follow the collapse of society because of Y2K. My parents less so. I took it as my responsibility to save canned beans, fill old gallon jugs with water, and other basic survival supplies. As we all know, that New Years eve was unfortunately uneventful. Those cans of beans sat on shelves in the basement until my dad remodel it after I left for college.

That crisis that never happened ruined the public’s ability to be whipped into a mass hysteria. Well maybe not, the cleared shelves in D.C. and N.Y.C. in the days before Irene being evident of our tendency to panic and become temporary hoarders.

This year there is something to add to the Christmas list of those dearest to you concerned about zombies or Skynet crashing the electrical grid: Pedal Power!*

Want to charge your iPod so you have a soundtrack while dispatching zombies? What to split logs so you have heat during those cold winters? Want to churn cat butter? You can do all of those and so much more with the Pedal Power. Plus it will keep you in shape so when you have to run from raiders or the undead, you won’t be short of breath.

*In true Internet and survivor fashion, I tried stealing the video from these guys, but I’m not code ninja, so just visit their site.

I decided to move the blog back to my old WordPress platform, hence the new look. Your feedback will be processed by my horde of interns. Enjoy!

Look to your left, then look to your right, chances are one of those two imaginary friends of yours will be obese in 2030.

From the Washington Post*:

Changes over the past century in the way food is made and marketed have contributed to the creation of an “obesogenic” environment in which personal willpower and efforts to maintain a healthful weight are largely impossible.

I’m going to skip over commenting about the obvious pun the reporter made there, except for that previous clause.

Basically, all the bright packaging, flashy commercials, and high salt and fat content used to make food more appealing to the masses has subverted our ability to eat healthy. I don’t quit buy that. No doubt all of those factors play a huge role, but education and availability can trump them.

Food deserts a a prime example. These are places where residents can only get low nutritional value food. They are located mainly in urban areas where people do most of their shopping at corner stores or convince stores. There are movements afoot to remedy that.

My wife's and mine inherited garden.

Detroit, once the capitol of industry and factories in the country, is one of the leaders in eliminating food deserts. It might seem surprising, but considering how much cheap, deserted property there is in the city, maybe it shouldn’t be.

To me, what is more shocking is this fact: rural residents are less likely to get the recommended servings of fruit and vegetables than city-dwellers. Here in Illinois, only 17 percent of people living in the country are eating enough fruits and veggies, compared to 20 percent of those in cities.

All that says to me is that we need to focus on getting everyone to be more conscious about what they eat and where it comes from. This isn’t just about taste, obesity is one of the main driving factors behind higher healthcare cost. Get people to eat healthy, and watch as your insurance premiums drop. Maybe you could buy a shovel with that money and start your own garden.

 

*The article is based on a report in the British medical journal “The Lancet.”

I had a really good post started about obesity rates and yadayadayada. Then I stumbled across this.

The basics: a young couple meet, fall in love, marry* then turn to careers in agriculture, specifically butchering.

HERE is a little video that explains their back story, beliefs and future plans. It’s pretty well done, which is essential if you hope to raise money they way they are, through kickstarter.com**.

They bring up some really good points, and while I tend to wonder just how much of an agriculture renascence is actually going on, I have to say that I think people do want good food prepared in a way that isn’t more synonymous to building a car than actual husbandry.

I know that I want to see an agriculture renascence, or revolution or maybe even a revolt. Inspired first by my dad’s efforts to grow a garden in our yard ever since I can remember, then later by Michael Pollen, then by the first wave of agricultural renascnecees Wendell Berry*** I want to see people care a lot more about where their food comes from.

That’s why I couldn’t be more excited about moving into a new apartment with my wife. We are lucky enough to have a great landlord who owns the lot next door and is willing to let us take over an abandoned garden.

It’s also the reason that I am taking up hunting again. The people with whom I’ve hunted with in the past are some of the biggest conservationist I know. They treat their land well because they realize just how much we depend on it for food and therefore our health.

All of that to say that if I had more that $14.96 in my checking account, I’d probably kick Farmstead Meatsmith a few bucks. Maybe you should too. Or just look at their cool videos of delicious meats.

*The husband has a M.A. in English and the wife a Master of ? in theology. I’m not sure if they came to their current place in life in spite or because of their educational background. Both my wife and I have Masters and we talk books and religion on a regular basis, just sayin.

**Kick Starer lets you ask for or give money to cool projects. In exchange for donating, you receive incentives like a hand-written letter or in the case of Farmstead Meatsmith, give $500 and you get a slab of their bacon. There’s a pretty comprehensive article in the New York Times Magazine if you want further reading.

***In all fairness to Berry, he has always preached sustainable farming, even when that was the only kind of farming around. The guy is as old as the dirt on his Kentucky farm. I’d really recommend checking out some of his essays. His fiction isn’t bad either, and has some of the same messages woven throughout, I’ve just never gotten on board with it.

It’s hard to believe that O Brother, Where Art Thou? is 10 years old. Like nearly every other Coen Brother movie, its filled with memorable scenes full of poetic, fast-moving dialogue. 

But this movie, more than any other of the Coen’s, has a stellar soundtrack, in fact I’d say that the soundtrack is better than the movie. I still listen to it on a regular basis. It’s what got me into old-timey and bluegrass music, and just like weed, one puff of that sweet banjo and yodeling from the title track and I moved onto the crack-cocaine of Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley (Stanley, if you didn’t know, is actually on the soundtrack. He’s the one who does the haunting A Capella song about death). 

All that to say that they’ve come out with a clever marketing scheme that the Coen’s seem to like to follow with their successful projects — a 10-year re-release with new material. (Example: Big Lebowski) I’m not sure if it’s worth picking up, maybe I’ll just download the new tracks off of iTunes. 

Today for me and Jamey is farmers’ market day. We generally traipse downtown before work, grab some coffee and a ham and cheese croissant while taking in the colors and smells of fresh produce. It’s days like that that inspired to start canning in an attempt to save not only the tastes of these summer days, but the memories too. 

Encouragement from my wife and these twice-weekly visits to the open air markets have even made me think about starting some kind of small scale farm, selling our goods at farmers’ markets and to restaurants around town. (Want to get in the ground level of that? Let’s talk). 

That’s why this article from Grist was encouraging. 

With more public focus on healthier eating, sustainability and generally taking food more seriously, you’d expect farmers markets to sprout widely. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently reported that their numbers have expanded at an astonishing rate—more than 1,000 new farmers markets were recorded this year compared to last year, for a grand total of 7,175.

Yes! Grow farmers’markets grow! More farmers’ markets means more people willing to shell out the cash for good food. Plus, as Grist points out, as any industry expands, it creates jobs, something this terrible economy of ours is desperate for. Good news all around, right?

Well, not quite, maybe. The New York Times, repository and authority of all that is newsworthy, is a total buzz kill over the expansion of farmers’ markets. They cite the same Dept. of Ag stat as Grist. 

Some farmers say small new markets have lured away loyal customers and cut into profits. Other farmers say they must add markets to their weekly rotation to earn the same money they did a few years ago, reducing their time in the field and adding employee hours.

I guess all those new farmers’ markets are kind of a wash. Maybe we should just expand our current farmers’ markets, just sayin.