Friday, December 2, 2011

Happy Holiday Month!


Over the weekend we will be posting some tips about minimizing waste during the holiday season, the greenest decorations and holiday card re-purposing. In the meantime, check out the littlest Eco-Goat in her holiday sweater!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Really?



I knew I should have stayed up for Saturday Night Live over the weekend. Kermit the Frog and Seth Meyers addressed the absurdity of the "pizza counts as a vegetable" ruling.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Does Healthy Eating = Healthy Environment?

Whenever I order the vegetarian option on a menu or say "no thanks" to a steak from the grill, I end up in a discussion about the evolution of farming methods, meat-eating, and the health of the average American diet.

The truth is, I occasionally eat meat. We are, after all, omnivores and have the capacity and desire to eat meat. What I cannot, in good conscious, eat is factory farmed meat. It is the opposite of what nature intended and - consumed the way it is today - is undeniably bad for the planet and bad for human health. 
A few years ago, the United Food and Agriculture Organization published findings that current production levels of meat contribute between 14 and 22 percent of the 36 billion tons of "CO2-equivalent" greenhouse gases the world produces every year. On top of that, consider how much farmland is dedicated to growing that feed instead of bio-diverse crops. 

On the same token, I will not purchase an organic apple from New Zealand over a conventionally grown American apple just because one is organic and the other may not be. Pesticides and herbicides are under a lot more scrutiny and regulation than many of the items deemed 'natural' by a label and I like to believe, however idealistic and blindly optimistic, that buying American is almost always a good choice. 


So how about canned veggies? And a lot of the things that we pick up at the grocer because Dr. Oz tells us they are healthy choices? Does the saying 'good for you, good for the environment' really hold true? 
Brian Palmer, for Slate's Green Lantern, answers this question in this week's Q&A

"
Too often, environmentalists slip half-knowingly between human health and environmental health. Ask a stranger in the grocery store why he buys organic, and he’ll almost certainly conflate the two issues. We’re all one, after all… Unfortunately, there’s no natural law saying that planet health and human health are unitary. Consider the potato. According to a 20-year study involving more than 120,000 people, potatoes correlate more closely with obesity than any other food (including soda). And yet, potatoes aren’t exactly giving Mother Earth diabetes, so to speak."

Read Palmer's articulate response to the question: is eating healthy better for the environment too? 
HERE. He examines transportation, farming methods, storage methods and compares fresh vs frozen foods. It turns out that there are many circumstances in which limp, salty canned food - which may not be better for your taste-buds or fit the idea of 'fresh' - is better for the environment. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Turkey Shortage in Maryland

Rex Lisman, Flickr

Uh oh, loca-omnivores. The Washington Post is reporting a turkey shortage in Maryland. In a way, this is good news because it verifies residents interest in supporting local farmers. But on the other hand, for those of you who have not yet started gathering the goods for your feast, it could lead to a side dish of feedlot remorse.

Act fast and you may still be able to procure a Maryland turkey via Maryland's Best. And keep in mind, you could always off-set the footprint of your chosen meat by serving up produce from a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), most of which still have winter shares available.

For more suggestions on the meat of your feast, read last year's eco-Thanksgiving tips in Turkey, Tofu or Pheasant?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Green-wash - verb: the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.

Earlier this year, I submitted a second rule for Michael Pollan's new edition of Food Rules that went something like this: "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is." As in: fat-free donuts made with cage-free eggs and solar power for 89 cents. Sure. I wish. Just like I wish I could trust that everything with leafy green logos were eco-friendly. Unfortunately, the large-scale, packaged food industry is one of many capitalizing on our inclination to do right by the environment and by our bodies. Fortunately, my girl Jenica Rhee put together this handy infographic to help us identify greenwashing and navigate to the right decisions. Read more about the "Sins of Greenwashing" on TerraChoice Environmental Marketing's fantastic website.

Green Marketing Exposed

Sunday, November 6, 2011

This Should Be Illegal



Somehow, a hospital-themed restaurant advertising free meals for patrons who weigh more than 350 lbs, milkshakes with the "highest butter content in the world," and selling 8,000 calorie cheeseburgers with four patties (listed as a "Quadruple Bypass" on the menu) has opened up in Las Vegas, Nevada, despite the fact that the flagship Arizona location closed in May following the death of the grill's spokesperson, 29-year-old Blair River, pictured in the video above. The owner, Jon Basso, who is also featured in the video above - as "Dr. Jon" - spoke to the Las Vegas Sun last month:

“You’re intelligent if you don’t eat our food,” he said Thursday. “If people pondered what I’m doing, they’d realize I’m creating a mockery of this. When you hop on that scale and you’re 350 pounds and we give you a free burger and people cheer, what’s really going on? We’re singling you out as a freak. On the one hand, I could try to defend myself ethically and call myself a crusader that’s trying to wake up America and conduct an intervention on obesity. That’s half true. The other half is I’m an entrepreneur trying to make a buck, plain and simple.”

Basso stopped, thought for a minute, then added: “The only thing I can say in my defense is: If you compare me to Burger King and McDonald’s, I’m honest and they aren’t. It says right on my door: ‘Caution, bad for your health.’”

Read more
here and here. This can't possibly be what our country's founding fathers had in mind. Ugh. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Reverse Trick-or-Treating

A recent article in Grist alerted me to the disturbing fact that about half of the chocolate eaten in the United States from from the Ivory Coast, where underage and forced child labor persists despite pressure on these big chocolate companies.

While there is no immediate solution to huge global issues like these, Equal Exchange and the human rights organization Global Exchange have teamed up in order to promote something called Reverse Trick-or-Treating in order to plant the seeds of change in American households.

Because a boycott could very well do more harm that good, these organizations are suggesting a different approach: Trick-or-Treat as usual but harness the power of public awareness by having our young trick-or-treaters exchange fair trade chocolates and informational fliers about the 
treatment of their peers worldwide. Read more in Claire Thompson's article and/or download the fliers here

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Countdown to New 'Food Rules'


In addition to illustrations by Maira Kalman, Michael Pollan has added nineteen new rules to the illustrated edition of Food Rules. For the next week leading up to the November 1st release, he will be counting down his favorite new rules and posting them here. Fingers crossed that yours truly's new rule, "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is," made the cut!

Pollan is also giving a lecture in nearby Bethesda, MD at 8:00pm tonight at the Strathmore Hall Foundation. Tickets and details here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Food Facts for Food Day

With National Food Day coming up on Monday October 24th and World Food Day having just occurred, this seems like the right time to take a good hard look at the global food crisis and figure out what steps we can take towards a sustainable food system both individually and collectively. The misalignment of dates on the United States Food Day and the United Nations Food Day is a painful reminder of the disconnect that too many Americans still have regarding the impact of our everyday dining choices.

My suggestion: Spend some time with this educational infographic. Pat yourself on the back for the steps you have taken already. Consider stepping it up a notch where you can. Small-scale farms are popping up on rooftops and old parking lots near you - support them, learn from them, purchase produce from them and perhaps THAT model can be the one the rest of the world follows rather than those spread by corporate giants. Think globally, act locally.


The Food Crisis
Created by: Public Health Degree

Friday, October 14, 2011

University of Maryland, College Park


The community gardens on the University of Maryland, College Park campus are hosting an event on Food Day, Monday October 24th, that includes tours of the edible gardens popping up on rooftops and hillsides throughout the campus and great discussions about future initiatives for sustainable agricultural systems in our region. Stay tuned to the Public Health Garden Blog for more details. Hope you can make it!

Monday, October 10, 2011

'The Lexicon of Sustainability'



The Lexicon of Sustainability is the most beautiful website I have ever viewed and no words of mine will do it justice. Just go there. Explore it. Learn. Breathe easy knowing that when a movement has a language so evolved, inspired and rich with research and purpose, the momentum of our conversations will carry us forwards and backwards towards a sustainable food system just fine.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Flower-Based Ice Cream

Derived from lupine seeds, Lupinesse is a cholesterol-free, non-dairy, flower-based ice cream that is good for you and good for our soil. 

The ice cream, created and released by the Fraunhofer Labs in Germany, contains no dairy, gluten, or animal fats. The high-protein seed from which it is derived not only helps to create a creamy consistency, but also has cholesterol-regulating effects. And just in case that isn't enough to get you to put in a request at your local grocer, the plant itself - known in Europe as the "soybean of the north" - has nitrogen-binding roots so growing it can improve soil quality! 
I encourage all our vegan, lactose Intolerant and/or ice cream-loving readers to read more here.

Monday, September 19, 2011

2,700 calories/day : 1,996 lbs/year


According to an infographic posted on The Atlantic and compiled by Sarah Kliff (with data from the FDA, USDA, CDC, etc), the average American consumes 1,996.3 lbs of food (and food-like substances) a year. A small note on the graphic (full size here) points out that the numbers crunched include "food bought/served but not eaten (leftovers)," which briefly alleviates the shame felt learning that the average American consumes 29 lbs of french fries and 23 lbs of pizza per year... until you remember that you've never let those last few fries go to waste. Ugh. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cutie-Pants Critter on Campus


Met this adorable little guy last week and bumped into him again today (while armed with a camera). Not sure if he was born without a tail or lost it in a Fantastic Mr Fox-style shootout with Boggis, Bunce and Bean. Either way, I admire his spirit and intend to woo him with a variety of nuts throughout the semester.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back to the Start



Simple. Sweet. Back to the start.

Invasivore > Vegetarian

It's no secret that becoming a vegetarian is one of the best things you can do for the environment. Take it a step further and aim to eat local, in-season produce and you may just get a personal thank you note from Mother Earth. Take it several steps further and you may find yourself stepping outside the vegetarian menu and into a growing culinary trend: eating invasive species.

Thanks to some courageous Baltimore chefs, the option to eat invasive may be coming to a restaurant near you.

Last week, I sat down with 49 other adventurous and environmentally conscious eaters who entered their names into a raffle in hopes to win a seat at Alewife Baltimore's Snakehead Fish dinner. The dinner consisted of four courses centered around the invasive snakehead fish. Chef Joe Edwardsen of Joe Squared, Chef Dave Newman of Brewer's Art, Alewife Executive Chef Chad Wells, and Alewife's Grace Gonzalez each contributed a dish. As you look at their delicious, inspired twists on the fish, consider the fact that consuming these critters helps protect native aquatic life.

Chef Joe Edwardsen's Smoked Snakehead Risotto with Arugula

Chef Dave Newman's Tempura Snakehead and Green Papaya Salad
with Peanuts, Spicy Ginger Aioli and Yuzu Scallion Vinaigrette

Chef Chad Wells' Grilled Snakehead, Chimichurri, Blistered Tomato
Chipotle Mecco Salsa with Black Bean Croquette, Micro Salad,
Orange Cumin Vinaigrette

Grace Gonzalez' Coconut Mousse with Caramel Ginger Sauce,
Tropical Fruit Salsa and Candied Snakehead Skin

As always, the saying goes: Everything in moderation - including moderation. Few human beings can completely restrict their diets to local produce and invasive species alone. Life gets busy, the joy of cooking relegated to holidays and Sundays, we have children with nutritional needs paramount to our ideals, and the organic market closes before you can say, "Is it September already?!" So think of it like this: When given the opportunity to do the best possible thing for the environment, seize the snakehead!

New Food Rules

Michael Pollan, in association with Penguin Press, will be publishing the expanded edition of Food Rules with illustrations by Maira Kalman on November 1, 2011. According to Slow Food USA, the three rules selected to add to this edition are as follows:

Place a bouquet on the table and everything will taste twice as good. – Gisbert P. Auwaerter, Cutchogue, NY

Love your spices. They add richness and depth to food without salt. – Claire Cheney, Jamaica Plain, MA

When you eat real food, you don’t need rules. – Mandy Gerth

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Yum!


I know everyone is dying to see pics of the snakehead dinner but I haven't had a chance to scan in the menu and write the full post so... in the meantime, please enjoy this picture of our delicious University of Maryland Public Health Garden grown watermelon.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Eating Invasives

Earlier this year, I was invited to dine on a Canada goose and Maryland deer (pictured right) hunted, prepared and cooked by my hosts and long-time friends: Heather and Michael Havlik. Although the menu wasn't suited for a traditional vegetarian (which I am often mistaken for), it was ideal for an exercise in local, sustainable eating. Not to mention, the meat was so tender and full of flavor I nearly forgot I was eating animals.

Throughout our often holiday-therefore-dinner-party-centered relationship, the subject of what we eat, don't eat and why has often been debated. Michael Havlik, like most hunters, fishermen and outdoors men, is a conservationist at heart. His wife Heather will stalk over-populated deer and shuck local oysters with the best of 'em. Years ago, they opened my eyes to the dangers of non-native birds and helped shape my current respect and admiration for hunters - particularly those who set their sites on species that threaten the local eco-system. This year, they ignited my curiosity and taste for another level of eco-eating: dining on invasive species.

While the adorable waddle of Canada geese and smile-inducing relationships between mother and fawn prevent me from going forest-to-table alongside the Havliks, the newest "invasivore" movement in town, aimed at eradicating the snakehead fish, is one almost all of us can endorse without remorse.


Alewife Executive Chef and sustainable seafood steward, Chad Wells (pictured), has made it his mission to get these creatures out of the waterways and into the kitchens of environmentally conscious restaurants locally and nationwide. He recently told The Baltimore Sun, "We've proved time and again, the best way to destroy something is get humans involved."

The aggressive and predatory snakehead fish, well-known for their canine-like teeth, are thought to have entered U.S. waterways via aquarium owners and the live fish food market. The fish reproduce rapidly and, during all of their life stages, compete with native species for food. If left to their own devices, the snakeheads could drastically effect biodiversity and forever disrupt the ecological balance of native aquatic systems.

This Tuesday, August 23, 2011, Chef Chad Wells is teaming up with fellow chefs and conservationists Dave Newman of Brewer's Art, Joe Edwardsen of Joe Squared, and Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisinal Ales for an official snakehead dinner kicked off by a talk from Steve Vilnit of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources fisheries service.

I have the honor of an invitation to the dinner and am as excited about Steve Vilnit's talk as I am about being a part of  snakehead eradication. There has been some debate in the scientific community as to how and why we, as human beings, get to designate plant and animal species as invasive. In an article published in the Boston Globe in July, The Invasive Species War, Leon Neyfakh highlighted various movements and opinions both popular and scientific. After reading the article, Brian Knox, President of Sustainable Resource Management, Inc and co-snakehead-diner this coming Tuesday, pointed out the importance of distinguishing between non-native species and invasives.

"We have loads of non-native plants everywhere," Knox explained. "Any plant can become a problem if it spreads aggressively and pushes out diverse native vegetation replacing it with a monoculture desert. It is important to remember that ecosystems are dynamic and will change naturally over time (succession) but many invasives (mile-a-minute, kudzu, autumn olive, bittersweet, etc) spread at a speed only matched by developers on bulldozers."

Luckily, there isn't much debate about the environmental dangers of snakeheads however Chef Chad Wells doesn't intend to stop his crusade at the river bank. He is currently experimenting with invasive plants like Kudzu for an upcoming event with Baltimore's Food = Art.

Proof of a growing interest in invasive eating graces the pages of the September-October issue of Mental Floss magazine in The Joy of Cooking Invasive Speicies: Recipes for American Cannonball Jellyfish, Nutria, Kudzu, Lionfish and Canada Geese. Snakehead fish, and an accompanying recipe for it, is noticeably absent from the Mental Floss feature but Wells' new recipe is due to publish in an upcoming issue of Maryland Natural Resource Magazine and will most certainly be raved about on this blog after Tuesday's tasting.

For more information about invasive species in Maryland, check out the DNR's Invasive Speices Resource Center. For further reading on our relationships with and interest (or lack-thereof) in eating animals, I recommend Hal Herzog's Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat and Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Public Health Garden at University of Maryland, College Park


If you haven't stopped by the garden site or blogspot of the new University of Maryland Community and Teaching Garden lately, we've got lots of new fruits, vegetables, flowers, friends and projects in bloom for you to check out and enjoy. In a few short months we have produced an average of ten pounds of produce weekly, overseen the installation of permeable pavers, hosted hundreds of eager TerpQuest campers, learned quite a bit about pest management, gratefully welcomed tons of donations and most recently begun the construction of beautiful raised beds.

In fact, we've had so much fun and success with the growing hillside farm that several news publications have picked up on the enthusiasm. The PHGarden recently appeared in CollegeParkPatch and has been a mainstay on the University Homepage.

For regular up-to-date details, please visit the Public Health Garden website. Feel free to 'like' the Public Health Garden on Facebook and browse our Flickr pictures as well. Stay tuned for details about new volunteer days/hours and crops come September.

Standard American Diet


Grains provided nearly a quarter of daily calories to the average American in 2009 - which is more than any other food group (fruits, veggies, meats, eggs, nuts, etc). Such a percentage sounds okay at first but upon closer inspection you will see that the next largest pieces of the pie are added fats, oils, dairy fats and caloric sweeteners rather than the real foods. Ugh.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My Parents' Garden


This beautiful 1.13 pound tomato is one of many exciting thing to come out of my parents' garden this summer. They've produced, enjoyed and gifted bunches of herbs, zinnias and leafy greens, and even have a surprise pumpkin that popped up from the remains of Halloween 2010 decor. Stay tuned for more pics.

Eco-Goats in the Wall Street Journal



What's better than waking up at the crack of dawn in a camper, reaching the herd's food buckets while they are still yawning, and seeing the little sleepy heads stumble down a wooded hillside to get breakfast and snuggles?

Not much.

But waking up post-dawn, in a warm bed in an air conditioned house, and seeing/hearing them hop on and off the trailer and eat weeds (like it is going out of style) -  via the Wall Street Journal - is pretty awesome. Great to see the Isaac Walton League Ladies on film as well. They have been incredibly kind and welcoming to the herd and yours truly. Hope you enjoy the video as much as I enjoy this herd of hard-working goats.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Urban Tree Benefits

  • Trees provide climate control year round. In the spring and summer, they cool the air through transpiration, and shade sidewalks and streets.
  • Year round, trees help prevent soil erosion, provide wildlife habitats, and reduce noise, glare and particulates in the air.
  • A single acre of trees absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and produces four tons of oxygen (which is enough for 18 people).
  • Trees make property more valuable!
  • There are psychological and social benefits of being around trees in terms of health and welfare, stress reduction, reduced crime, and even higher test scores.

In light of recent controversy regarding the removal of trees in and around Baltimore City for the upcoming Grand Prix, this seemed like a good time to put highlight urban tree benefits, direct readers to my favorite Tree Benefit Calculator, and suggest that all you tree-huggers stop into change.org and sign the petition to halt any further tree removal. As I promised on Facebook last night, I will continue to post benefits until this matter is resolved.

(Special thanks to Ken Ingram, who calculated the benefit of the pictured Willow Oak and has given me a greater, more educated understanding of them.)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Adventures in Local Eating

This week, thoughtful Marylanders participating in the Buy Local Challenge have been flocking to farmers markets and produce stands. While we here at Just Saying have purchased plenty of local produce since the challenge began on July 23rd, we've also had the pleasure of enjoying our very own locally grown produce harvested from the University of Maryland's Public Health Garden.

Thanks to Mother Nature and the hard work of our partners at the garden and dozens of volunteers throughout the growing season, the Public Health Gardeners harvested several pounds of tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, beans, and peppers just before dinner time last night. As always, we sent lots of produce home with volunteers, but this time we held on to several pounds of tomatoes and beans and headed to Baltimore City for an extraordinary adventure in local eating and cooking at a restaurant near and dear to our hearts: Alewife.

Alewife has been in the news recently thanks to a brilliant environmentally-sound endeavor by Chef Chad Wells: serving invasive snakehead fish. If you haven't read about it yet, do so here and here. While we hoped to sample some snakehead ceviche, Wells explained that the fish are currently nesting and spawning in shallow, marshy waters which are out of reach of commercial fisherman.

Previously, the snakehead bycatch had been killed and discarded. Thanks to Steve Vilnit, a fisheries official with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and John Rorapaugh of ProFish, Wells is hopeful that snakeheads will be popping up on local menus and the radar of environmentally-conscious eaters within a few months.

Humbled yet excited by all the press, Wells credits Vilnit for the idea of putting invasive species, specifically the Blue Catfish he recommended to us in place of the snakehead, on the Alewife menu. After engaging our inquiries about sustainable seafood, food safety, local markets and food policy, Wells agreed to create a few one-of-a-kind appetizers (just for us) with the produce from the Public Health Garden and we put in our order for the Blue Catfish Tacos (pictured).

What came out of the kitchen from that point forward was pure, delicious joy. For full details of our unique meal, stay tuned to our sister blog: Adventures in Container Gardening and Local Eating.

Goats: Now on Golf Courses Too!


Pasatiempo Golf Club in Santa Cruz, CA has employed a team of 150 grazing goats to clear 80 years’ worth of non-native plant growth (such as pampas grass and acacia trees) from the canyons and barrancas surrounding the course. Read all about it here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Best and Worst Protein Sources

Last month, the USDA debuted their revised food pyramid in a new form: a food plate. Aside from the shape, one of the most notable differences was that a portion called "protein" replaced the meat portion.

Anyone who avoids (factory farmed) meat has likely spent a fair amount of time researching alternative protein sources and their environmental impact respectively. Lucky for us, the Environmental Working Group has put together a list (and handy pocket guide) of the best and worst protein sources. Here they are:

Five Worst Protein Choices for the Environment:
1.) Lamb
2.) Beef
3.) Cheese

4.) Pork
5.) Farmed Salmon

The carbon footprint from lamb and beef cattle comes mostly from the methane produced through digestion, manure, the crops grown to feed them and the shipping during different stages of production. With pigs, the biggest environmental impact is in their poop and processing. The electricity, feed supplement and air shipping for farmed salmon landed it on the list. Cheese landed on the list due to 'bang for your buck.' Too much environmental impact for too little of a serving for the protein benefit.

Five Best  Protein Sources for the Environment:
1.) Milk
2.) Beans
3.) Tofu
4.) Eggs
5.) Chicken

The good protein choices are a bit more complicated. Tofu still has a big footprint because of the carbon footprint from growing soy beans and processing it into tofu, but it is one-third that of beef. Eggs are still carrying the environmental impact of poultry farms but they offer a lot of protein per serving. Milk, if it is local, is great and beans (and lentils too) are a pretty guilt-free protein source. As far as chicken is concerned, let's just say it is better than beef.  

Find more detailed lists and explanations here and here. And as always, the Environmental Working Group website is an incredible resource for this kind of stuff.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The "How Healthy is Your Ice Cream?" Test

Each year, Americans consume an average of 48 pints of ice cream per person. Unfortunately, not all ice cream recipes are created equal.

To find out where your favorite ranks on the health scale, pull it out of the freezer, take a look at the ingredient list, and check it out via this great infographic from BeFoodSmart.

If there is one big takeaway here, it is the knowledge of an ingredient that should raise more eyebrows than high fructose corn syrup. It is called CASTOREUM and is found in some vanilla and raspberry flavoring. There is no easy way to say this: It is derived from beaver anal glands.

Yikes.

For more frightening 'ingredients' in popular 'foods,' check out WebEcoists 10 Weird and Gross Ingredients in Processed Food.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fly Population in Suburban Neighborhood Under Orange Alert


A few years ago, a colleague of mine from The Baltimore Sun Advertising Department suggested I use more interesting headlines to attract blog readers. He said, "I am not going to look closer at blog post titled 'Frog Friend.'" So this one's for you, Denys Petrov.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Letter From the Blog Editor

This week has been an exceptionally difficult one for our family - both human and animal. The reality of the fragility of life and the far-too-fast passage of time hit home when we said goodbye to CJ, the spotted wonder who brought unconditional love and every other amazing dog power, to our family for more than a decade.

In the late 90s, my sister and I were working at a small restaurant in suburban Maryland called CJ's Pub. One evening, a local farmer stopped into the pub on his way to an animal shelter where he planned to hand over several dalmatian puppies he couldn't sell. In true thoughtful teenage fashion, my sister and I said we would take one of the puppies home and ask permission later. While others cooed over the energetic pups pining for their attention, we saw a shy, mangy little one hiding in the corner, scooped her into our arms, and put her in the backseat of my sister's Honda Civic.

Having never cared for a dog, apart from the occasional back-door visits from our neighbors' golden retriever, we stopped into a store on our ride home and talked about names while we picked out a collar, leash and some food.

I was so blinded by love for this little puppy that I don't remember too much about our mother's reaction except that she never once doubted our decision and immediately called in the dog expert closest to her heart, who is now her husband, and he came up to talk to us about medical care and training.

Over the next years, CJ got to know the cats and cozied up to my mom the most. My sister and I went off to college and my mom and her furry little ones moved down to Virginia. CJ stayed at my mother's side and under her wings while everyone moved out, moved in, got married, got jobs, and got started in their next leg of life. CJ said hello and goodbye to brother animals and adored her dad, a contributor to this blog, DW.

I share this with you today because the loss of our beloved dalmatian - and the realization that an era in our family history has passed as well - is too hard to discuss vocally but too great to internalize. Tears once caught by the fur on CJ's sweet furry face and her kisses, will be shed for her and caught by the shoulders of others who loved and were loved by her.

As time passes and our pain (hopefully) dulls, your patience and support through these emotions will not go unnoticed. While we may not be up to the task of regular posts, submissions for guest posts are welcome and appreciated as are any comforting words or advice.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Is it July already?


Hi there, loyal readers. Apologies for the lack of posts lately. It is a busy time of year for grazing goats and growing gardens. We will be back in the swing of daily posts soon. Thank you for your patience.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Turd Burger



Finally! An answer to the question that plagues vegetarians: "Where do you get your protein?"

Poop. Recycled poop. Read all about it here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

State Fair Fare


Ahhh... the unmistakable smells of summer: honeysuckle, a backyard barbecue, freshly cut grass and fried Kool-Aid? Yep. It exists. 

It's hard to imagine that anyone could surpass the creativity displayed in previous years of deep frying "items," but sure as he fried a Mars bar, Charlie Boghosian of Chicken Charlie's is at it again. Deep-Fried Kool-Aid. Add it to more than 100 "original deep-fried items" coined by Charlie, who has become quite famous frying liquids - like Coca-Cola.

At opening weekend of the San Diego County Fair, Charlie sold 1,800 five-piece orders, requiring 150 pounds of Kool-Aid. The recipe is simple: flour, water, and cherry Kool-Aid mix. The batter is scooped and dropped into extremely hot oil then fried until they are lightly browned with a crisp outer layer.

Learn more about Chicken Charlie's and other fried "items" sweeping the nation here and here.

(Thnx, B)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Summer Fun with Eco-Goats


As many of you are already aware (via dozens of Facebook posts, Flickr uploads and tweets), I think that grazing goats for invasive weed control is the greatest idea since solar power and have the continued pleasure of working with the great folks and herd at Eco-Goats throughout the summer. Yesterday, I got to welcome the newest member of the herd, pictured above in her first hour of life, on site in Historic St. Mary's City. As tempting as it is to post dozens of pictures of the little cutie, I like to make sure posts on Just Saying are not only entertaining, but also serve to educate our readers. So please enjoy the following information courtesy of the Eco-Goats website:

It is easy to see that our roadsides, open fields, woodlands and backyards are becoming overrun with invasive species and other unwanted vegetation. Machines often can't get to problem areas, humans hands are very labor intensive, and herbicides are dangerous to our waterways, soil, and desired vegetation, not to mention animals and humans.

If left alone, invasive plants take over our woodlands, strangling valuable trees and threatening important diversity. Open grasslands and neighborhood backyards become overrun, creating a loss in farming productivity, habitat for birds and other wildlife, and enjoyment of outdoor space. Enter Eco-Goats!

When it comes to clearing unwanted vegetation, goats can provide an ideal alternative to machines and herbicides. They graze in places that mowers can't reach and humans don't want to go (yes, they love Poison Ivy). In fact, goats eat a wide range of unwanted vegetation, which on the East Cost include Kudzu, Oriental Bittersweet, Ailanthus, Multiflora Rose, Japanese Honeysuckle, Mile-A-Minute and more.

Goat Grazing Facts:

- Goats were one of the first animals to be domesticated by humans about 9,000 years ago. Today, there are some 200 different breeds.

- Goats have been used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service. State, county and city contractors (such as the city of Seattle) have also used goats for weed and invasive species control.

- Goats love broad leafed material, which means brush and invading field vegetation are consumed. But they don't prefer grass, so it is left to flourish.

- Corporations such as Google are using goats for vegetation management. Google wanted a clean air alternative to noisy gas powered lawn mowers and didn't want toxic chemicals for their weed control. Since the cost of using goats was about the same as mowing, using goats allows Google to show their commitment to low-carbon, non-toxic alternatives.

- Goats are agile and light on their feet, so they can be gentler than machinery when working on historical sites and other areas that need special consideration.

- Herbicides seep into water and soil, affecting other vegetation, animals and humans. They also can encourage mutations among vegetation, creating greater and greater problems instead of solving them.

- Goats will graze all day, going through very dense material at about a quarter acre per day per 30 goats (this can vary widely, depend on many factors including density, location and vegetation species).

- Goats respect electric fences, making this an easy and effective source of mobile containment.

- Grazing goats are very effective at eating the kinds of excessive weeds and brush that pose a risk of unwanted fires.

- Goats can be stubborn, but they are docile. When effectively led and fenced, they go only where you want them to go.

- Goats have a narrow, triangular mouth that allows them to crush what they eat, so seeds that might otherwise get passed through to fertilization are not viable. This is a true advantage, since machine cutting only encourages further growth in the next growth cycle.

- Goats fertilize as they graze, then trample the fertilizer, so that the wanted grasses and other vegetation left behind are given a natural boost!

- Goats have special enzymes in their guts that allow them to eat plants that are poisonous to other animals.

- Goats have been used to graze as small a plot as 12 x 60 foot backyards and as large as 20,000 acres.

- Goats don't like water, so it is a natural fence.

- Goats can climb, allowing them to reach invasive vegetation that grow in hard to reach places. And, since they eat vines and stems, they can graze at a lower level of a tree covered in invasives and as a result, either kill the vines systems that reach higher into the trees or reveal them so that they can be cut.

- Goats eat year round, but the best time to use goats depend on the vegetation to be removed.

- Goats will eat Christmas trees after the season has been celebrated.

For more information, check out the website and click here to see a few 'before and after' videos of the Eco-Goats in action.

Lecture Series: The Benefits of Eating Green


I will speaking at this lecture series on behalf of Allison Lilly and The University of Maryland Public Health Garden. Representatives from Grow Annapolis, Local Food Beat and attendees will discuss how the local food and sustainable agriculture movement is impacting out health, community, economy and ecosystems. My lecture will highlight the University of Maryland's participation in the movement.

The Benefits of Eating Green
The 7th Installment of Quiet Waters Park Environmental Lecture Series
Thursday, June 16th, 2011 @6:30pm
Blue Heron Center, Quiet Waters Park, Annapolis, MD


Speakers include: Joel Bunker of Grow Annapolis, Sharon New of Local Food Beat and Allison Lilly/Deborah Dramby from the University of Maryland Public Health Garden. Admission is free thanks to event sponsors: Friends of Quiet Waters Park. For more information, visit the event website or contact Natalie Nucifora at rpnuci22@aacounty.org

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Fawn



This adorableness was just captured by Dylan Singleton. Fear not: Mother Deer was close by. Find several more images here.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"Plenty More Fish in the Sea?"


Just came across this disturbing infographic (on grist.org but from Information is Beautiful) revealing the declining biomass of popularly eaten fish. Popularly eaten fish measured include: bluefin tuna, cod, haddock, hake, halibut, herring, mackerel, pollock, salmon, sea trout, striped bass, sturgeon, turbot. Many of which are now vulnerable or endangered. Note that the graphic only measures to the year 2000 so... yikes.

Click on the image to enlarge and here to learn more about the data collection and study.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Firefly Season


Just had my first firefly encounter this season and was instantly reminded of that great NY Times article published a few years ago: Blink Twice If You Like Me.  In it, Carl Zimmer highlights research on flash patterns and mating rituals done by Dr. Sara Lewis, an evolutionary ecologist at Tufts University. I highly recommend reading or re-reading it.

Fun fact to remember: Fireflies flashing in the air are all males. The females sit down in the grass observing, looking for flash patterns of males of their own species. They will sometimes respond with a single flash of their own, always at a precise interval after the male’s.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The New Food Plate


The USDA's answer to the "complicated" Food Pyramid: a simple plate, place mat, drink and fork. Here's what people are saying:

"This is a quick, simple reminder for all of us to be more mindful of the foods that we’re eating. We’re all bombarded with so many dietary messages that it’s hard to find time to sort through all this information, but we do have time to take a look at our kids’ plates. If the filled plate looks like the symbol, with lots of fruits and vegetables, it’s as simple as that." - Michelle Obama

"It’s better than the pyramid, but that’s not saying a lot." - Marion Nestle

"It's such a recognizable image. Everybody has seen a plate, used a plate. It's much easier to visualize when it's something we use on a daily basis. It's about choosing the right things, not so much about avoiding." - Toby Smithson, R.D., a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association

"The new 'food icon' was designed to help slim Americans’ expanding girths: Two-thirds of American adults and one-third of children are overweight or obese. The costs associated with obesity are enormous.” - Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary

“It’s brilliant in its simplicity. It’s something the average American can look at and get a visual feel for how they can fill up a plate at a meal.” - Robb MacKie, Head of the American Bakers Association

"The plate image does not suggest portion sizes, only the ratios in which foods should be eaten." - Various Nutritionists

We here at Just Saying are curious to see how the meat industry will react to being relegated to the purple protein portion of the plate - that does not appear to require a knife or spoon. As always, reader thoughts and comments are welcome.

***UPDATE***

Stephen Colbert weighs in: "A plate? For Food? What's the connection? Americans don't use plates anymore. Our food comes from cases, bags, cans, tubes, and envelopes made of themselves." Watch the entire Colbert clip here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

USPS 'Go Green' Stamps

Did you know the United States Postal Service is the only mailing and shipping company in the world whose packaging, stamped cards, and stamped envelopes meet the (Cradle to Cradle Certification) standards for human health, environmental health, and recyclability? According to USPS Chief Sustainability Officer, Emil Dzuray, that's just the beginning of their commitment to conservation. In 2010, the USPS recycled more than 222,000 tons of material. Thousands of facilities are working together to meet their goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020. And most recently, the USPS decided to spread the good green word with their new Go Green stamps.

William Gicker, creative director of Stamp Development, and the folks in the Art Department could have illustrated big concepts, like solar or wind power, but wanted to send the message that the opportunity to live greener belongs to each of us. They were also well aware of the thin line between motivating and guilt tripping, so they teamed up with someone capable of communicating light, environmentally friendly messages without a finger-shaking scold: filmmaker, animator and founder of Climate Cartoons, Derry Noyes. Derry and her older brother Eli.

The Go Green stamps feature "playful but purposeful" illustrative tips that everyone can do. Many of the suggestions, like "use efficient light bulbs" and "recycle more" are things we already do. Others, like "compost" and "maintain tire pressure" inspire a little extra effort. The stamps were released in April and are available for purchase online and at your local post office.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Pyramid to Plate

For decades, U.S. school teachers have explained proper nutrition by way of the handy dandy food pyramid we all know and most of us have come to ignore. A diet built on grains is fit for a farmer, but for an unfortunate majority of Americans the definition of grains has been obfuscated by french fries and pizza and adding cheese to anything suffices as a dairy serving. Many popular diet programs seemed to be turning the pyramid upside-down and sideways and altering the agreed-upon definition of a healthy diet to suit their marketing so in 2005, the U.S.D.A released a new and improved pyramid emphasizing exercise as an important component - but it was widely regarded as confusing.

Last summer, the brainstorm for a new logo began. In January the government released new dietary guidelines and now, about $2 million bucks later, they are gearing up to release the new and improved pyramid, now in circular form and branded as the Food Plate.

From what I understand, the pie chart plate image will be released sometime next week. My guess is that it will be nothing short of obvious but perhaps the redesign will stick in our minds when we look down at our dinner plates.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Top Ten New Species


The International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University released their Top Ten New Species in 2010 this week and they are an interesting crop! Check them out here. They range from very cool Bioluminescent Mushroom and Underwater Mushroom to the not-so-cool Jumping Cockroach and T-Rex Leech. Thankfully, the creepier crawlers are not anywhere near the state of Maryland.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

File Under: Re-Purposed


Sure, it needs more soil and may very well raise a few eyebrows among HOA officers, but I'm pretty excited about this recycled/re-purposed container garden. The former cooler has a built-in drain, can be moved in and out of shade depending on what's planted, easily rolls to and from a water source, and is currently home to some tomato and pepper plants.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Prison Food vs School Lunch

This image was created in collaboration between GOOD and Column Five Media.
Click on the image above (or here) to see the larger, more detailed infographic showing the striking similarities between meals served in prisons and meals served in schools. The difference: The federal budget for school food programs averages about $11 billion per year whereas the prison food is budgeted at $205 million per year. Yikes.

Free Hugs


(FOR HIPPIES) (but probably pretty actually pretty liberal with the hugs)

What We Leave Behind

All this apocalyptic talk of late has been an unfortunate reminder that no matter how hard we try to prevent the passage of time and how right and healthy we live, each and every one of us will eventually meet an end on this earth. Many believe that we move on to a place where we are reunited with the loved ones who have gone before us. Others see themselves in a continuous cycle of growth and reincarnation. And some of us, myself included, believe in something greater but can't quite define or articulate it just yet.

One aspect that we can all agree on is that goodbyes never get easier, nor do the difficult conversations and even more difficult decisions regarding how to honor the physical remains of the deceased in the hazy days after their passing. For the most part, the longer we live the more time we have to think about our legacy, what to leave behind with whom, and where we would like to be put to rest. Our decisions in this matter are likely a direct reflection of the culture to which we were born and our experiences with loss throughout life - and I am no exception to this rule.

I recently read that one in eight people who have ever been alive are alive today. The statistic sprung from a debate about unsustainable population growth, but my mind travelled to cemetery space and land development. I thought of conversations I've overheard between parents and grandparents about purchasing family plots and tried but failed to remember how many rows I'd counted and plots I'd circumvented as a child following my father to those spaces in the earth. I realized that I could, however, pinpoint the exact spaces beneath the trees of backyards-past where we put our pets to rest in cardboard boxes and with a short prayer. I thought of the fate of the small cemetery near my home that occupies "prime real estate" in the land being bulldozed into a shopping center and that perhaps we are foolish to think that what we consider sacred today will remain so forever, or even for a lifetime.

I believe that my generation and those following will face some new challenges regarding not only end-of-life care, but also after-life care. Maybe I am a little premature with this, but in the face of booming population numbers and growing fears about chemicals leaching into nature, something about embalming human bodies and the vast geometric span of the traditional cemetery doesn't seem sustainable, or at least not personal and warm enough for my taste. So I did a little research on alternative, sustainable and/or ecologically friendly ways to honor the deceased. Here is what I found:

Keep it Simple: Reducing your post-mortem footprint can be as simple as requesting that donations be made to an environmental organization of your choosing instead of flowers sent, or requesting that any flowers sent remain potted in soil and be re-planted. This small act makes a difference without disrupting traditions too much.

Let Nature Take its Course: Decomposition is going to happen regardless of the material of a casket and/or additional concrete sealing. The energy and expense that goes into the production and transportation of an elaborate body container may be the most unsustainable part of the process. Shifting tradition back to a plain wooden box or casket made from rice straw greatly decreases environmental and monetary costs.

Think Twice About Embalming: There are, of course, circumstances in which this kind of preservation may be unavoidable but for the most part, refrigeration can accomplish these purposes. Embalming fluids and contamination from blood-borne pathogens are extremely toxic to morticians and have been known to find their way into sewage systems.

Green Cemetery:  A burial ground that prohibits embalming, metal coffins, and vaults, and aims to maintain a natural landscape. There aren't too many of these in the United States but you can find them and learn more here.

Cremation:
The quickest way to reduce a body to its elements. Modern cremation units operate with air-scrubbing capabilities to keep air pollution to a minimum and use far less energy than what would be needed for grave excavation or construction of an above-ground mausoleum. One of the beautiful sides to this is the freedom of transportation and resting place(s) of remains.

The Giving Tree:
Planting a tree in memoriam is not a new idea but actually growing one in/with the ashes of the deceased may be. Spanish designer, Martin Azua, has created what he calls a: Bios Urn. It is a biodegradable urn made from coconut shell, compacted peat and cellulose and contains the seed of a tree (of your choosing). Once your remains have been placed into the urn, it can be planted and then the seed germinates and new life is born.

Research/Re-Use Route: It is not uncommon to donate organs. A fully functioning organ can breathe new life into an otherwise grim one and may very well be the greatest, most selfless gift one can give. Donating your entire cadaver to science is another selfless, resourceful option, but is potentially hard on the hearts of your relatives so if it is something you are considering, talk to your family about it. And consider reading Mary Roach's Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers to get a feel for the realities your loved ones will have to live with.

As always, I don't mean to impose any views on anyone but merely to share ideas as I come across them. The alternative methods listed above are meant to be just that: a list of alternatives.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Big Day for Big Mac Fans



In case you have been wondering about the health and well-being of Wisconsin's own Don Gorske, the featured Big Mac fan in the famed documentary Supersize Me, he is alive and (surprisingly) well and reportedly just sunk his teeth into his 25,000th burger. He accomplished this extraordinary feat over the past 39 years, consumed 12,250,000 Big Mac calories in the process, refers to himself as "healthy as a horse," and has cut back from nine per day to a mere one or two.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Reminder to Recycle


A Love Story… In Milk on Vimeo.

Friends of the Earth commissioned Catsnake to create a short video promoting the environmental organization’s anti-rubbish stance. The London-based film production company came back with a love story. If this doesn't motivate you to recycle, I'm not sure what will.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Reminder: Part II of Accokeek's Food Justice Series is Tonight

@Busboys and Poets 14th and V Location. Part two of the series of open-to-all events will feature Denzell Mitchel of Five Seeds Farm, Michele Levy of Crossroads Farmers Market, and Don Bustos from Santa Cruz Farm! Come out and support the Accokeek Foundation, the National Immigrant Farming Initiative, and the Rural Coalition. Speakers and guests will spotlight the issues that affect food justice on a local and global scale. Here's a little more about the series from Community Outreach and Education Coordinator at Accokeek, Molly Meehan:

"In recognizing the intersection between sustainable agriculture and a fair and just food system, we have invited farmers, policymakers, community leaders, and advocates to address such topics as agricultural policy, food sovereignty, building local and just food systems, achieving food access, and the connection between the environment, our health, and our food. With this series, we hope to cultivate insight and conversation among diverse members of the community, demonstrate opportunities for action with locally based initiatives, strengthen our solidarity, and develop an awareness of the pressing need to restore justice to our food and our land."