Monday, September 29, 2008

Green Victories

Well, we've come to the end of another month in 2008. I can't believe it. At the end of each month, I've been taking stock of what we've done to improve our imprint on the environment.
This month, we learned what can be recycled at our local landfill. While our volunteer F.D. is pretty picky about what they'll accept for recycling, the local dump station in town will take alumninum, plastic bottles and newspapers. My husband now combines his weekly trip to the bank and post office with a trip to the landfill where we can more easily recycle.
We are also on our way to breaking our dependence on paper towels and paper plates. In the past week, we've only used two paper plates. Paper towels are harder, that is such an ingrained habit.
What have you done in the past month to help the environment?

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Stuff in Our Environment

My husband's uncle died this week. He was only 61, a Vietnam War veteran. When he returned home from the war he continued serving his fellow citizens by putting his life on the line everyday as a fireman.
But it was his service in Vietnam that finally got him. Several years ago, he was diagnosed with a rare cancer linked to Agent Orange, the toxic chemical used to eliminate foliage in the jungles during the war.
A month ago, his cousin died of the same cancer. They served in Vietnam together.
In our remembrance of his uncle, my husband and I pondered the long-lasting effects of war (my brother was also a delayed casualty, dying nearly 30 years to the day of the anniversary of his enlistment), and we wondered how many more veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan would still be dying from the effects of their service 40 years from now. We also talked about the long-lasting effects of the things we do to our environment that effects the health of the earth, as well as our well-being.
Not only are Americans still dying from the effects of Agent Orange, there are also still sick and dying residents in Vietnam.
That's why I'm always very careful about what kind of toxins we introduce to our own environment. We have spiders in the basement, but I've argued with my husband on more than one occasion that a bug bomb is not the way to go. I don't think those are healthy even for us. I reluctantly put topical pesticide on two of the dogs to kill ticks and fleas, but weighing the effects of the spot pesticide vs. the tick diseases (of which we've already had to treat Emma), it was the lesser of two evils.
As for the mosquitoes, ticks and chiggers in the yard, we live in the woods. There's no way to treat the entire landscape, but when we do, we use natural remedies. They may not work as well as the commercial products, but they aren't killing unintended critters - and hopefully, 30 years from now, we won't be dying of a cancer caused by it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

HSUS Weighs in on Important Election

I'm proud to say that I was blogging about Alaska's terrible record on wild animals before blogging about it was cool. (Hey, maybe I should write a country song about that!)
I've believed all along that Alaska was Ground Zero on the all-out war on wild animals - even before their governor, Sarah Palin, became the Republican vice presidential nominee. I've received questions regarding my blogging about animals so much in connection with "going green." People ask, "What does that have to do with it? You're off point." No, I think I'm right on point. You see, I've not always just been an animal lover because they're cute and furry and interesting.
Ever since I learned in a college world history class that the Black Plague was likely caused by humans skewing the natural chain that keeps such things in check, I've realized that we're all connected. You see, one leading theory for the cause of the Black Plague is that people in those times thought cats to be the bearers of evil. As such, people methodically killed any cat they came in contact with by pitching them off of castle walls. The resulting declining population of cats, who were the link to keep rodents in check, caused the rat population - and the diseases they carried - to explode.
Humans eliminating cats = a missing link in the natural chain.
We've seen this too, in modern times. By eliminating the natural predators of deer from the environment, we've seen an explosion of the deer population, which has led to more disease that they carry (in deer ticks), and even more present, more crashes with cars that lead to our own injuries and death.
Each animal is here for a purpose, providing something that the environment ultimately needs to survive. That makes them all - even the tarantula I spent an hour photographing yesterday - beautiful in their own way.
This is something I feel that Gov. Palin, nor her state obviously understands, given their barbaric practice of aerial wolf hunting, and the fight to keep the polar bear from the endangered species list.
This week, The Humane Society of the United States, for the first time in it's history, endorsed a presidential candidate. I don't agree with every stance the HSUS takes, but I must say, they're standing up and being counted among those of us who recognizes that the link in the chain must not further be weakened.
Obama not only recognizes the importance of alternative energy, but the need to protect that chain.

From the president of the HSLF:
"I'm proud to announce today that the HSLF board of directors -- which is comprised of both Democrats and Republicans -- has voted unanimously to endorse Barack Obama for President. The Obama-Biden ticket is the better choice on animal protection, and we urge all voters who care about the humane treatment of animals, no matter what their party affiliation, to vote for them."

"While McCain's positions on animal protection have been lukewarm, his choice of running mate cemented our decision to oppose his ticket. Gov. Sarah Palin's (R-Alaska) retrograde policies on animal welfare and conservation have led to an all-out war on Alaska's wolves and other creatures. Her record is so extreme that she has perhaps done more harm to animals than any other current governor in the United States."


Monday, September 22, 2008

Help Improve Your Vehicle Fuel Efficiency and Save $$

I have friends who drive the Prius Hybrid and love them. However, a couple of them had to drive from Kansas City to Michigan to pick theirs up and another friend waited for months and then spent big bucks.
If you're like us, and can't afford to look into hybrid options right now, there are some basic things you can do to your current vehicle to increase your fuel efficiency - and save yourself some bucks at the pump:

1). Keep your engine properly tuned. Fixing a small problem such as a faulty oxygen sensor can increase mileage up to 40 percent.
2). Checking and replacing air filters regularly can increase fuel efficiency up to 10 percent.
3). Was it Obama who took flack for suggesting that properly inflating tires can help you improve your fuel efficiency? Well, it can, improving your efficiency over 3 percent.
4). Slow down on the highway. I know, we're all in a hurry to get someplace and when I'm on one of those drives to or from Kansas City, I want to get there and hang out with my friends as soon as possible - or get home to my hubby and 4-legged critters. At least drive the speed limit and if you have one, set the cruise. This helps your engine burn fuel more efficiently.

Tips provided from:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Gas Pains

I just paid our monthly gasoline bill this morning. We charge all of our gas to one credit card in order to save .03 a gallon on each fill, and then we pay it off each month. That makes our pain one big fart, rather than several small toots each month. It's a whopper, but it could be worse if we didn't do things to minimize the pain.
With gas prices on the rise again, I thought I might mention some of the ways we save on the cost of gasoline - which also helps the environment out too.
The first thing we do is make sure we're saving as many trips to town as possible. Living 12 miles from the nearest town, things could get very expensive if we didn't coordinate trips. I've only driven our second car to town once this summer on an extra trip. My husband has to drive in 5 days a week for his job, so he does all of the additional errands we need while he is there - picking up incidentals at the stores, going to the bank, post office and trash dump.
On either Friday night or Saturday, we make an additional trip together, combining the rest of the errands he can't do by himself - hair cuts, date night, doctor and dentist appointments, big grocery shopping and other things. We never, ever go into town just for one thing.
Next, we make sure our vehicles are in top running condition by servicing them and making sure they're as fuel efficient as possible.
I'll talk more about how you can do this on Friday...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hurricane Ike

When we lived in Kansas City, we sometimes felt the rainy effects of hurricanes that swung up from the gulf, but we never really felt the winds from a hurricane before Sunday.
I do believe they were still categorizing Ike as a hurricane when the winds and rain started to swirl up to our part of the Ozarks Saturday night. Before dawn on Sunday morning, the winds were over 50 mph and of course, we lost power for a time. As I laid in bed listening to the winds literally howl, I also listened for the train roar that are associated with tornadoes, as the sirens were blowing the night before when we were in town.
The wind was so fierce at times, I almost woke Dale for a trip to the new basement in the writer's studio. But, knowing the door isn't secure yet and windows are not in, I wasn't sure how much protection it could even provide.
When the sun finally came up, I ventured out to make sure the power outage originated someplace other than our lines. Sade, our pit bull, who is wary of anything or anyone new, hunched down and barked for a time at the large limb in our driveway. Thankfully, the limb missed our lines and power was restored throughout our area by noon.
Ike suddenly turned to the East, sparing us from most of the rain. Unlike the forecasts we had heard just hours before of 100 percent chance of rain on Sunday, we had a mixture of more sun than clouds and a much cooler air than the day before.
It makes me wonder, though, when and where the next storm will hit. Given the frequency and violence of today's weather, it makes me glad that we're just a few weeks away now from having some finished shelter from the storms.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

September is National Mushroom Month

We eat a lot of mushrooms in our diet, particularly now that we are trying to replace meat a few days a week. Larger mushrooms are great in lasagna and we use them in everything from omlettes to topping for our baked potatoes. I haven't tried tofu and my husband probably won't, but here are some recipes from the Soyfoods Council:

Tofu and Mushroom Piccata
1 large lemon, peeled and white pith removed
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 pound extra-firm tofu, cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
⅓ cup dry white wine
4 ounces white button mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons capers, drained
2 tablespoons minced, fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons soy margarine (optional)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut the lemon into very thin rounds, discarding the seeds, and set aside.

Put the flour into a shallow bowl. Season the tofu with salt and pepper and dredge in the flour, tapping off any excess. Transfer the tofu slices to a platter and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tofu, in batches, and cook, turning ounce until gold brown on both sides—about 2 minutes total.

Place the tofu slices on a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven.

Deglaze the skillet with the wine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom.

Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring a few times, until slightly softened, or for about 2 minutes. Stir in the lemon slices, capers and parsley and simmer until hot.

Stir in the soy margarine to enrich the sauce.

Arrange the tofu on a serving platter or individual plates and pour the sauce over the tofu. Serve at once.

Recipe courtesy of

Mushroom, Edamame and Salmon Penne
4 cups uncooked Barilla Plus penne
2.5 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 large onion, diced
1 16-ounce bag frozen, shelled edamame
4 sundried tomatoes
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ cup white wine
1 ¼ cups vegetable broth
1 pound skinless salmon fillets, pan-seared and cut into 6 strips

Bring a large saucepan of water to boil and prepare pasta according to package directions

Heat one and ½ tablespoons olive oil in large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add a single layer of mushrooms and onions and cook, without stirring for about five minutes or until mushrooms become red-brown on one side. Turn ingredients and cook about five minutes more until the other side is the same color. Add edamame and stir. Add tomato and sprinkle with flour and salt, and stir for three to four minutes to slightly cook the four.

Pour in wine and broth, and then stir to integrate flour into the liquid. Cook until sauce thickens.
In a separate skillet, cook salmon in remaining olive oil for about 3 minutes on each side. Add cooked pasta to other ingredients and stir to combine. Cook until thoroughly warm and top with salmon strips to server.

Recipe courtesy of

Spicy Tofu and Mushroom Spaghetti Sauce
¼ cup olive oil, divided
1 (14 ounce) package water-packed firm tofu, cut into ½-inch cubes
4 ounces assorted mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup minced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chile flakes
16 ounces tomato sauce
3 tablespoons chopped Italian black olives
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
6 cups hot cooked Soy7 Spaghetti
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add tofu, sauté until lightly browned. Remove from pan and reserve.

Add remaining oil, mushrooms, onion and garlic to skillet and sauté for 5 minutes.

Add chile flakes and cook 1 more minute.

Add reserved tofu and tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20-30 minutes. Just before serving, add the olives and basil Serve over spaghetti and garnish with grated Parmesan cheese.

Recipe courtesy of The Soyfoods Council.

Monday, September 08, 2008


I just returned from a weeklong journey to Kansas City where I attended a travel conference that allows writers to connect with PR reps and city/regional convention and vistor's bureau folks.
Kansas City did a wonderful job of hosting and I came away with a lot of story ideas. The thing that I was a little disappointed in, though, was their lack of knowledge about eco-toursim opportunities, as well as green initiatives in their cities and things their hotels are doing to be more environmentally conscious. If they had an answer for me at all, it was usually to the tune of "We have a survey out to see exactly where we're at in the green movement."
As I've mentioned before, my family's green initiative began 20 years ago during the last "green movement," which quickly faded as the latest pop culture fad.
The fact that CVB's are not up on green initiatives in their cities is disappointing. The environment has become too much of a critical issue at this point to allow it to fade into a fad, but I'm worried that's why these cities are not moving quickly to tout their clients green-ness.

Monday, September 01, 2008

And the Great State of Alaska Brings You...

Ironic, since I had just written about the perils of being a wild animal in Alaska last week.
Here's my top five list of what Alaska is known for:
1. Idiotic sanctioning of allowing humans to ride at night in parks where there are bears. The bike rides are at the risk of riders and bears alike - since a mother bear (that didn't match the DNA of one that did attack a rider) was hunted down and killed last month, leaving her 2 cubs orphaned.
2. Aerial wolf hunts, in which wild Alaskan wolves are ran to the point of exhaustion by helicopters and then shot to death. If this isn't bad enough, the government this year sanctioned a den hunt. Denning is when hunters are allowed to go into wolf dens and kill the mother and her young, something, by their own fish and game laws is illegal.
3. A lawsuit initiated by the governor to see that polar bears NOT be placed on the Endangered Species List. This action comes as the sea ice melts and polar bears are drowning each day trying to swim hundreds of miles toward the Artic.
4. Support by the governor of drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, an effort that would bring some temporary jobs to people - the jobs dependant on just how much oil might be there - and would take us at least 10 yers to find.
5. Now said Alaska Governor Palin is on the GOP ticket as the vice presidential nominee.

Do we really need to say anything further about where this administration would be on the subject of the environment and wildlife?