Sunday, January 29, 2012

Everyone's A Critic

 I stopped by our relatively small, local library the other day and was slightly surprised to see this book on the shelves, so I promptly snatched it up.  I had been wanting to read it for some time and was delighted to see they had the book.  Actually, our library, though small, has a pretty darn good variety and selection of books, especially on gardening, homesteading and such.  So.  What did I think of the book?  If you are at all interested in gardening, homesteading, permaculture and/ or our environment I would highly recommend the book.  It's a delight to read and even though the facts presented are quite sobering you don't get the feeling you're being flogged about the head and shoulders.  The parts about the turkeys alone are hysterical but it also provides a generous amount of meat to chew on for days (pun only slightly intended).  For instance, one passage states:  "If every U.S. citizen ate one meal per week from local, organic food, we would save 1.1 million BARRELS of oil every week."  Now, that just floored me.  One meal a week.  1.1 barrels a week!  Now, I realize that for what seems like the majority of people, they couldn't give a shit about saving any oil.  They want cheap food now and really do not care one whit about where it comes from.  I've had 'em tell me to my face and be proud of it.  But, for those of us who do care and who are concerned about our food and environment and actually see the connection, that is an astounding revelation, or it was to me anyway.  I mean, I understood that growing your own food would save oil, etc but 1.1 barrels a week? and just for one meal.  I also understand there would be a lot of skeptics out there who would say, how can they prove that statistic?  Well, they actually do give some hard figures and when you realize that petroleum is used to not only run farm equipment, ship food and all but to make fertilizers, pesticides, etc etc. it starts to make sense.

So, it got me to thinking....what activity can we, as concerned people, do that makes the most difference to the health of our world and ourselves?  Now of course, you want to participate in more than one but I hear people going on all the time about if you really want to save the earth we must all be on solar power, electric cars and yada, yada, yada.  I know a number of people who live off-grid, non-consumer based lives but yet, don't grow a large percentage of their food.  This gives me pause.  I'm not saying they are buying all their stuff from California or Mexico but it has really made me think lately.  Especially down here in the south where we have such a long growing season.  Now, I hope to one day be off grid or at least produce some of my own power and this is a fine goal.  But it costs a lot of money at first.  I know a lot of people that drive electric cars or hybrids but they still must use power generated by conventional means.  Most of the off grid people I know are not the ones with the electric cars.  Both can be pricey so I guess you sometimes have to choose.  Anyway.  I know tons of people, places that recycle, reuse and all that and that's wonderful.  But what is the number one action we can take that makes the most difference per person?  I think it's to grow or source locally, a very high percentage of your own food.  We must eat and often several times a day.  If everything you put in your mouth (food that is) has been shipped hundreds of miles, what does that all add up to?  It's freakin' crazy to me when I finally started thinking about it.
Now,  I realize not everyone has the amount of land I have or even lives in a house.  Millions live in apartments and such but for those of us who do have the room it seems a no-brainer to me and it's something that will have a major impact for relatively little start up costs, as opposed to say, going off grid.  And yes, of course, nobody can produce everything they need and I'm not saying we should.  I have no problem with importing a few things.  Humans have traded spices and foods since the beginning.  Make a little money for you, I get a treat I can't make myself...But for us to grow tomatoes down the road and ship them to Wisconsin while we turn around and import ours from California??  Wha???
Since reading this book I decided to challenge myself to find local products to supply what I can't grow or make myself and I have been pleasantly surprised by what I've found.  Alabama makes a lot of stuff!!  I actually found an organic diary!  Well, two actually.  One is in south Alabama and too far to drive but they sell their products in Birmingham ,where I go frequently.  And yes, it is shipped in but 150 miles is a helluva lot better than 600.  And I know their milk is from their cows and their cows only, not cows from Texas and Canada and God only knows where else.  The other diary is much closer, well within driving distance for me, but it has actually been easier to get this other milk for now, as I was already in Birmingham.  It is a bit more expensive but with all the money I save growing my own food, and not buying junk, I have plenty of money to buy the milk.  Plus, I can take a gallon and make my own yogurt and maybe even some cheese as I don't keep a lot of milk for just drinking.  The photo above shows just a few things I already had that is produced locally or in our state.  We make lots of honey and various syrups.  Of course we produce cornmeal and grits!  And only the white cornmeal; southerners know better than to use that yellow crap.  My sister knows a man that grows wheat and corn for grinding on a commercial scale and our state even grows rice!  Not a tremendous amount but some.  I am very fortunate to live in a county that produces tons of fruit.  Apples, blueberries, strawberries, peaches, melons, pecans (yeah, that's a nut), blackberries and much, much more.  Yes, I hope to grow much of this myself one day but for now I can get it within just a few miles.  As I mentioned in the beginning, we want to go solar soon too but until then, I think I'm going to put much more effort into producing my own food or sourcing it locally.  I was meaning to anyway, but this gives me a lot more motivation.  Oh yeah!!  and to this end...I'm going to start growing my own tea!  Annie's Tea Plantation!  Lots of people say, what???  the tea plant is Camillia Sinesis; it's in the camellia family!  Our state flower!! lol! DUH on me!  I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner!
So what do ya'll think?  What do you think is one activity that really makes the most difference to us and our environment?


ErinFromIowa said...

I can already tell the tea plantation process is going to be very interesting! Wee!

newcracker52 said...

Very good post. I am going to see if I can find that book to read. We have a farmer's market here in the summer which I need to chek out better. Thanks

Tom Stewart said...

This book is # 1 on my list to order from "Amazon" when the taxes come back! It, along with others I already have, I will read over and over again and again! The information they contain can help me to reach the dream I have of "Doing it Myself"
Another book I have that gets a lot of attention from me is "The Encyclopedia of Country Living" By Carla Emery. I have had this book for years and it was the book I took with me on Deployment when I was in the Navy. I wore out two copy's and I'm on my third!
Raising Worms is my first step in making a diff.

edifice rex said...

Hey Erin! Weee! yeah, it should be fun! I'm excited to see how well it grows here.

Hey New! thanks! it's a pretty popular book; you should be able to find a copy without too much trouble.

edifice rex said...

Hey Tom! yeah, I've seen the Encyclopedia of Country Living and started to buy it several times. Do you sell your worms or their poo? or just raise them for your own use?

John said...

Better use of our water. When we lived in town, it would just burn my a** to see people watering the curb and letting it run down the street. I use a lot of soaker hoses and mulch. It all helps.

Anonymous said...

I agree, honey, tea, veggies from the local market. It all taste better. I drive a hybrid, used to and from work, and it saves me $150/month on fuel compared with my other ride, which I use to haul a kayak and other stuff. Solar and wind power I think would be awesome too. I got a tankless water heater, efficient heat pump and want to do more. Not having much luck growing stuff, but I keep trying. I want to read this book too.

Sissy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sissy said...

Barbara Kingsolver is one smart lady and a fantastic writer. I thought I'd read all her books this fall and winter. Missed this one. Her novels are chockful of good information too, if you stay alert while reading them. Much research is done before she writes one. She weaves her common sense of the good life into every story.
Tea, huh? Now just where does one get tea seed?

Sissy said...

Don't know if your library participates in borrowing books from other libraries but I have success here. I NEVER buy books now; just make a request for one and wait patiently and sometimes impatiently. Usually the lending period is longer too; then there is the "renew" option tacked on that gives me plenty of time to read/study to heart's content.

HermitJim said...

I was wondering just what you were going to do with all the spare time you I know!

One thing about you and Jack, you don't let the grass grow under your feet! Always got a project going!

More power to ya!

Floridacracker said...

Kicking the ridiculous national bottled water habit would be a quick improvement.

Tom Stewart said...

I do use the library for books to read for pleasure.
But if I figure that it might help me down the road to my dream, I buy it. That way, I have it for all the times I want to reread the info it contains!
That's why I have purchased Carla's book 3 times! I wore the first 2 copies out!
The Worms I raise are for me right now. The home place was part of a crop field and is mostly sand. And the farmers used it quite badly! Chemicals, hard packed the sub-soil and there is no organic material in at all. NONE!
So I harvest the Worm casts and add them to my raised beds, Also add leaves, grass clippings, cardboard, newsprint, manures of all kinds and anything I can get my hands on to help bring some fertility back!
The worms also help me to reduce my carbon footprint consuming all the kitchen scraps and paper trash I produce. After all, they are Mother Natures most "Perfect Eating Machine". They will consume thier own body weight in food material each day. I know that doesn't sound like much, But when you have 5 - 10,000 of them, it all adds up!

edifice rex said...

Hey John! oh, I know what you mean! you should see the amount of water wasted in commercial construction when they install the final landscaping. Letting it run for days and days down the streets. It would make me furious!

Hey Anon! Those are all great things! I really want to get the solar power and water going here and we may be close! Yes, keep trying on the growing stuff; it'll happen!

Hey Sissy! I have not read any of her other books but may check them out now! I love her writing style.
You can actually buy the tea plants, up to 5 gallon size. There are many web sites but I like '' They have some really cool stuff!
I don't know if our library borrows books but I do know you can request certain books and they'll buy them if they feel many people would like it.

Hey Jim! thanks! ya, we keep busy! maybe too busy sometimes! ha!

Hey FC! Agreed!!!

Hey tom! their own body weight a day!?? wow!! that's all very interesting.!

Aunty Belle said...

I'll take 12 tins of tea per year, pleeeze.

Annie, this is a fabulous post! Youse right on the money--an' how odd is this:

I mah non-Aunty life I'se a journalist, an' mah current assignment is on the evils of GMOs, but I git up today an' scan the blogs an heah ya' have gone an' summarized my article--take the power away from global food brokers by eatin' local organics--an grow some of yore own. Amen.

BTW, see if yore library has Wendell Berry's Another Turn of the Crank-- a great (SHORT) book on why the local economy MUST be salvaged for the sake of our health, our communities an' our freedom--yep, freedom. We simply cannot permit big ag, big gov to dictate the GMO food we's been duped into dependin' upon.

Ooops, sorry fer the rant, but ya got me goin' today.

edifice rex said...

Hey Aunty! Ranting is okay here!! lol! that's interesting that we would be writing about the same thing lately! Great minds and all that you know! ;)
I will certainly look for that book and yes, you have first dibs on the tea if I can get it to produce!

Aunty Belle said...

Annie, fer a fun read on trouble in chicken coops--buying local, etc. please go read this French woman's story--hilarious.(yes it's in English)

Anonymous said...

What a coincidence! I've been wanting to read this book since it came out, and I happened to stop by the 1/2 price book store in town (for a totally different reason) and saw AVM for about a 1/3 of the cover price. I totally bought it!!

I agree with John. Seeing people's sprinkler systems water the sidewalks and driveways drives me batty, which is why I refuse to have one. My lawn shows it too. lol

I'm working on growing some of my own veggies, some years are better than others. There is a farm not too far from where I live that started a CSA last year and I'm considering signing up this year.

Ashley in Nebraska

edifice rex said...

Hey Aunty! oh that was a great little story!! thanks for the link! but now Jack is terrified something may happen to Runt, our rooster! lol!

Hey Ashley! welcome! wow, that's great you got the book for a discount! and yeah, the sprinkler thing pisses me to no end too. I don't see how people can be that stupid or uncaring.

pamit said...

I've read all of Kingsolver's books, including A/V/M. Highly recommend "The Poisonwood Bible" and "The Lacuna". Kingsolver's a biologist and that informs her fiction as well.

farmer_liz said...

I agree, we should all be making the effort to grow our own or at least buy local, its not that hard, we have just become too accustomed to "convenience".

edifice rex said...

Hey pam! welcome! I really want to read the Poisonwood Bible.

Hey Liz! you got that right! we have gotten far too accustomed to convenience. thing is, it's not that inconvenient to grow a bit of your own food.