Saturday, April 19, 2008

Watch for "The Greenhorns"

There is a documentary in production at the moment called "The Greenhorns." It is about the increasing number of young people who are going back to the land to take up farming on (very) small, organic, sustainable farms. Not everyone is aware that the trend in recent decades has been for traditional family farms to disappear from the American landscape. They have been unable to compete with the giant commercial farms that now supply the vast majority of America's foodstuff. But a counter-trend is underway -- young people starting small farms -- specifically, organic, sustainable, "local" farms -- to feed local communities. And that's what the film is about. There is a large-format trailer on the site that gives a quick look at the spirit of this movement and the documentary, or you can watch this smaller-format version here. At this point, I don't know where the documentary will be seen -- theaters? TV? DVD? All the above? I'll try to post that info when it's available. (Disclosure: Video posted here without permission.)

Saturday Stuff

My original mission this morning was to swing by the Matthews Farmers Market on the way to give blood at the Red Cross blood drive at a local church. The best laid plans . . .

Here are a few pix of our thriving Matthews Community Farmers' Market located in the middle of historic, downtown Matthews. Probably 50+ vendors at the height of the summer. Everything sold at the market has to be grown/made by the vendor -- i.e., no trucking in wholesale produce from a distributor. Great policy. Local food, local faces.




Sammy Koenigsberg (l.) (New Town Farms) and Fred Mundie (r.) (Big Oak Natural Farm) are two of our best local organic growers. Sammy is an institution in the area. He was one of the first organic growers, was a founding member of the Matthews Market, and has a thriving CSA with a waiting list:


Sammy and his lovely wife, Melinda -- mom to their eight home-schooled children:


Not only is Sammy an organic farmer, he's an avid road and mountain biker. Yikes! -- he just got a new bike, so I had to go across the street to our LBS (local bike shop), Bicylces East, and talk to owner Scott Russ about bikes. Scott is a great guy who sold me my first bike a year ago, and who has forgotten more about bikes than I'll ever know:


On to give blood at a local Lutheran church. The Red Cross usually sets up at one of two Presbyterian churches in Matthews which are always packed with donors. There was nobody waiting today at the Lutheran church -- they need to pick it up a little. The Presbys are making them look bad. They did have a cool velvet-Elvis type painting on the wall of the fellowship hall portraying Isaiah 11:6-9:


This sign in the bathroom was not cool. All this time I thought our local drought was because of a lack of rain. It's really because the Lutherans are doing too much flushing:

Checked out Mr. Grier's garden on the way home. He's taken the wall-o'-water's down and staked the tomatoes with 7-8' rebar (they must be that long since they're six feet tall above ground). Here's another way to think about Mr. Grier's skills: On the same day that I took these pictures of Mr. Grier's two-foot-plus-tall, already-blooming tomatoes, I saw people buying tomato plants for planting in their home gardens at Renfrow's Hardware, the historic center-of-all-things-local in the middle of downtown Matthews. Those folks are two feet, and at least a month, behind Mr. Grier's tomatoes. I also saw Jim Stumpf, aka "The Tomator Man," selling his fresh spring tomatoes at the Matthew's market today. Tomatoes already in the middle of April? That's because he grows them in a greenhouse. He's the only person in our area that gets tomatoes sooner than Mr. Grier, but it takes a greenhouse to beat him. The average home gardener could be enjoying tomatoes a lot sooner by using Mr. Grier's frost-prevention strategies:




Home to juice with the LaLanne Power Juicer I described the other day.


The above amount of produce yields about 2.5 cups of juice -- really too much for one person at one time. Still trying to gauge the right amount to use in the LaLanne juicer to get the right amount of juice for one serving:


Then a couple handfulls of Sammy's "Space" and "Bordeaux" spinach in some warmed up eggplant/rice/corn/onion/tempeh/etc. soup.



Note the red stems of the Bordeaux and the green stems of the Space. Hard to describe the difference between this spinach and what I get at the local organic store that was picked a week ago in California. No comparison:


Then burying the juicing pulp along with veggie scraps from the last couple of days in the flower beds -- feeding time for the worms:



While I was outside my buddy (neighbor) Henry gave me a dogwood tree for the yard. A friend of his had let him dig up a bunch of dogwoods off her property so he was kind enough to give myself and another neighbor one for our yards:



Like I said -- the best laid plans . . .

Friday, April 18, 2008

Weekend Salsa Alert!

Sadly, my local Earthfare store has been out of juicing carrots most of this week so I dashed over to Costco to get gas and -- organic BunnyLove carrots. Yep, Costco is now selling 10# bags of organic California carrots -- these carrots are slightly smaller than the honkers in the 25# bags of BunnyLove juicing carrots, but organic.

While there I picked up a large 48 oz. container of mango salsa ($4.99). THIS IS THE BEST SALSA I HAVE EVER TASTED. I'm not a huge salsa person since you have to eat chips to enjoy it. But this stuff is amazing. Not organic, but filled with large chunks of mangos, peppers, etc. Literally, the best I have ever tasted. The temperature rating is "Medium," which is usually pushing it for me, but I found this to be a very comfortable medium.

So, for the salsa addicts out there like Daniel, if you know someone going to Costco give this stuff a try. It's in the cold food section -- another good sign: it's not filled with preservatives; has to be kept cold.

Browser for Bloggers

In the current issue of Macworld magazine, there is an article surveying the current crop (total = 10) of web browsers for the Mac. One I had never heard of but which got 4.5 out of 5.0 "mice" is called Flock. It's specialty is being a browser for social networkers (which I am not, meaning I don't do those web sites) and bloggers (which I am). It has a cool blog editor window that opens from the browser that allows you to post a blog entry to your blog on the fly. I'm composing this entry via that editor window. It allows all the same functions as composing within Blogspot does: preview, formatting, tweaking HTML, etc. Pretty cool.

Here's a screen shot of my blog appearing in Flock with the blog editor window in the foreground, where I was typing this blog entry:

P.S. I'm adding this note after uploading the post from Flock: the picture is too small and the spacing of the text above is different than what I'm used to -- but not bad for a quick post from within a web browser. Flock uploaded the image directly to Flickr (where I store my blog images) and then retrieved it from Flickr and posted it. Very smooth.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

I'm adding this enlarged version of the screen shot of the Flock browser with the blog editor window open in order to see the features more clearly:

Flock Blog Edit Window.jpg

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Rockin' the (Bike) Racing World

The upcoming Tour de Georgia bike race (the U.S. Georgia, not the European Georgia) just announced today that, guess who's coming to the Tour? None other than Rock Racing. One of the scheduled teams from Spain had to drop out due to lots of injuries, so the Tour organizers invited the bad boy of road bike racing to bring his new team to the Tour.

Rock Racing was started a couple years ago by fashion millionaire Michael Ball, CEO of Rock & Republic fashion house. All you have to do is watch the opening video on the Rock Racing web site to get a sense of the attitude they bring to races (pump up the volume) (Disclosure: Video uploaded without permission from Rock Racing -- hope they don't mind.)

Given that road bike racing is steeped in European tradition and fairly new to the U.S., some of Rock Racing's protocols are ruffling the feathers of the old guard. Like the team's black and neon-green bikes and kit; the six black Esplanades with tinted windows and the black and neon bus in which they arrive at races (think entourage), and hiring three riders connected to recent doping scandals on the pro tour.

But this isn't just for show -- Michael Ball is a biker and the team's riders are seasoned, winning professionals. Michael Ball was raised on welfare in California's San Fernando Valley and six years ago started a fashion company that today has $100 million in revenues. And he has entered the world of professional bike racing with serious intent. (The team performed well at the recent Tour of California race.) I can't wait to see what kind of splash Rock Racing makes at the Tour de Georgia -- and what might happen if they ever get invited to the Tour de France -- their goal for 2009.

Grow a Kitchen Garden

An organization founded in 2003, Kitchen Gardeners International, has slowly gained momentum and influence. An article in today's New York Times covers the trend in kitchen gardening (traditionally, gardens outside the kitchen door where cooks went to gather herbs and greens; known as a "potager" in France) and highlights a KGI movement to have the next resident of the White House establish a kitchen garden not only for actual use by kitchen staff but as a model for the rest of the nation. Good article.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Hold on for Just 20 More Years

Ray Kurzweil, inventor and futurist, has reportedly written, "A new generation of panels based on nanotechnology (which manipulates matter at the level of molecules) is starting to overcome these obstacles. The tipping point at which energy from solar panels will actually be less expensive than fossil fuels is only a few years away. The power we are generating from solar is doubling every two years; at that rate, it will be able to meet all our energy needs within 20 years."

I say "reportedly" because the publication in which I read this quote didn't cite the source (The S & A Digest dated today).

I cite Kurzweil's quote because his is not a mind to be ignored. The man is a card-carrying genius with a bag full of high-tech inventions to his credit and another bag of books on science and futurology. You can read the Wikipedia article about him for an overview or the article in the latest Wired to find out why he takes 200 vitamin and mineral supplements a day as he awaits "the singularity" (read the article).

So if Kurzweil thinks we'll be living with solar power in 20 years—and therefore weaned off our addiction to oil, foreign and domestic, and its negative climate impact—I wouldn't bet against him.

Thanks, Jürgen and Umberto!

I recall seeing a Peanuts cartoon once where Charlie Brown was paging through the Bible. When Lucy asked him what he was doing he said, "I'm looking for a Bible verse to support one of my preconceived opinions."

Flip-flopping Charlie's strategy, when I read works written from a Christian point of view, I always look for writings that support my biblically-conceived opinions. And today I found one. I received a used copy of Jürgen Moltmann's God in Creation (English translation ©1985 by SCM Press, Ltd) I had ordered. Moltmann is a German Protestant theologian of repute, the author of many theological works, some of which deal with God and creation. I flipped through this one looking to see if he comments on Genesis 1:29-30 -- the verses where God prescribed a vegan diet for both plants and animals in the beginning. He does briefly, following a lengthy section on man in the image of God in verses 26-27, and has this to say:
To 'subdue the earth' refers to the nourishment of human beings which, according to vv. 29-30, is evidently supposed to be exclusively vegetarian. The beasts are also to eat only vegetarian food. This means that the right to kill animals is excluded from the lordship of human beings over them. If human beings and animals alike eat vegetarian food, then the 'lordship' of human beings over animals can mean no more than that human beings have the function of a 'justice of the peace.' Human lordship on earth is the lordship exercised by a tenant on God's behalf. It means stewardship over the earth, for God. Only human beings know God's will, and only they can consciously praise and magnify him. Does the Creator need a representative and steward on earth? Apparently he does, for he transfers to human beings the preservation and continuation of the earthly side of creation, which assumed its first, initial form with the sabbath. Human beings become the authors of the further history of the earth. The prophetic visions of the messianic kingdom of peace (Isa. 11.6ff.) give sublime and ultimate form to this initial peaceful order between animals, human beings and the plants of the earth. But the beginning teaches that human lordship over the animals has to be distinguished from human subjection of the earth for the purposes of nourishment, and distinguished more clearly than is the case in the traditional theological doctrine of the dominium terrae; for this doctrine throws the two together and intermixes them, with disastrous consequences for the world. (p. 224)
The red type in the final line is obviously mine. I don't know how Moltmann suggests this original order be interpreted today, especially in light of Genesis 9:1 ff. Nor do I know what he means by "disastrous consequences." But he couldn't be more clear about God's original intent: that man and beast were created to be vegetarian; that man is a "tenant" on God's behalf; and that mixing man's lordship over animals with man's subjection of the earth for nourishment has "disastrous consequences" for the world.

I spent an afternoon in a seminary library once looking through Christian commentaries on Genesis and was amazed at how little attention is given to Genesis 1:29-30 -- almost none. Jewish commentators, on the other hand, comment freely, usually in the same vein as Moltmann.

Take, for example, the comments of Umberto Cassuto, late professor of Bible at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (Cassuto was a conservative, Jewish Old Testament scholar, whose works I was introduced to in seminary. Christian scholars hold Cassuto's writings in the highest regard.) In his volume, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis: Part 1, From Adam to Noah, Genesis I-VI.8 (©Magnes Press, 1998; first published in Hebrew in 1944), he writes on Genesis 1:29-30:
Behold, I have given you, etc.] You are permitted to make use of the living creatures and their service, you are allowed to exercise power over them so that they may promote your subsistence; but you may not treat the life-force within them contemptuously and slay them in order to eat their flesh; your proper diet shall be vegetable food. It is true that the eating of flesh is not specifically forbidden here, but the prohibition is clearly to be inferred. No contradiction in this regard is presented by iii 21 (garments of skin), iv 2 (Abel was a keeper of sheep), or by the sacrifices of Abel and Noah (iv 4; viii 20), as we shall show in our notes to these verses. Apparently, the Torah seeks to convey that in principle man should refrain from eating meat, and that when Noah and his sons were granted permission to eat flesh (ix 3) this was only a concession subject to the condition that the blood was not to be consumed. This prohibition implies respect for the principle of life (for the blood is the life), and it serves also, in a sense, to remind us that rightly all parts of the flesh should have been forbidden; it behoves us, therefore, to eschew eating at least one element thereof in order to remember the earlier prohibition.

The Torah presents here a kind of idealized picture of the primeval world situation. Not only man but even the animals were expected to show reverence for the principle of life (see v. 30, which, too, is governed by the verb I have given of v. 29). In full accord with this standpoint is the prophetic view that the prohibition was never annulled, and that in the Messianic era it would be operative again and even the carnivorous beasts would then feed only on vegetation (Isa. xi 7; lxv 25: the lion shall eat straw like the ox). (pp. 58-59; red type added by me)
What have Christian commentators and theologians missed? I'm working on finding out.

Why Buy and Eat Organic Food?

Here are ten good reasons to buy and eat organic food.

As Michael Pollan has pointed out in his latest book and in other places, the question we need to be asking is not, "Why do I have to spend so much to get organic food?" but, "Why do Americans spend so little on food in general?" As a percentage of average incomes, Americans spend far less on food than most other cultures in the world -- and our health would seem to support that fact. There are many good reasons, in addition to good health, to spend whatever it takes to get the best food possible.

Adelle Davis made it popular, and it's still true: "You are what you eat."

Jack LaLanne's Power Juicer

This is the juicer to which I made reference yesterday: the Jack LaLanne Power Juicer "Deluxe." (This is the mid-level model which I found at Costco for $94 -- the best price I've seen.)

First, the soapbox: I continue to believe (with many) that juicing fresh fruits and veggies is the single most powerful thing we can do for nutritional health. The nutrients in food are in the juice, not the fiber. Our mouth is a natural juicer, separating juice from fiber as we chew. Mechanical juicers do an even more efficient job of that separating process, allowing the body to receive the nutrients more quickly since the process of further digesting fiber in the stomach is eliminated. Do we need fiber? Absolutely -- but primarily for colon cleansing, not for nutrition. And if we're eating lots of additional grains, seeds, fruits, and veggies (meat has NO fiber!), we'll get plenty. Juicing is the most direct way to expose food nutrients to digestive enzymes which makes those nutrients available to the body.

Now -- the juicer:

Some juicing purists will disagree, but when it comes to the three variables involved in juicing over which we have control -- price, time, and quality/quantity of juice -- I like this LaLanne juicer for the average money-bound, time-strapped person looking to impact his or her health daily.

The gold standard for home juicing (in most folks' opinion) is still the twin-gear Green Star series, a Korean-made juicer distributed in the US by Tribest. (Okay, the gold standard is the Norwalk, named after, and based on the early designs of, juicing legend Norman Walker. The Norwalk is the recommended juicer for the Gerson cancer therapy programs, but at $2,200 it's a bit beyond the reach of the average consumer.) I have had my Green Power (it was first Green Power, then Green Life, and now is Green Star) for about seven years and the motor runs as smoothly today as when I bought it. The Green Star juicers will juice everything, including wheat grass -- the killer for most juicers. (For good prices and comparisons on the Gold Star series, and other juicers, is an excellent resource.)

Back to the three variables: The LaLanne Power Juicer is fast, easy to clean, and extracts lots of juice (though not as much as the Green Star). The disadvantage is that it juices using a cutting disc that spins at thousands of RPMs (called a centrifugal juicer) versus the twin-gear (masticating) juicers that gently crush and squeeze juice out of the fiber. Centrifugal juicers introduce much more oxygen into the juice which immediately begins the oxidizing process that destroys food enzymes. This is compensated for by juicing small amounts of juice and consuming it quickly instead of storing it in the refrigerator and consuming it later.

And for right-now juicing -- drinking the juice on the spot -- the LaLanne juicer excels. It makes short work of anything you can fit in the large feeder tube (again, NOT wheatgrass, barley grass, etc.) and cleans up quickly. I bought a plastic model a couple years ago and liked it, but stuck with my Green Power, juicing a couple days of juice at a time. I've switched back to the LaLanne (this newer, stainless steel model) in order to juice a small amount (8-10 oz.) at a time and consume it, not store it. And the slightly wetter pulp (due to less efficient juice extraction) is greatly appreciated by the worms and microbes in my flower garden where I bury it.

For $99, it's hard to beat this juicer for the average person/family. (
Disclosure: I borrowed the juicer image from the Power Juicer web site without permission. I have no affiliation with any of the products or companies mentioned.)

If you have thoughts on juicing/juicers or the information above, I'd love to hear from you either by email or the Comments link below.

[Note: There is obviously much more to say about juicing and juicers than the above notes. For an in-depth research report on the most popular juicers in terms of nutritional enzymes, see "Comparison of Juice Extractors: Enzymes" by Dr. Michael Donaldson, research scientist at the Hallelujah Acres Foundation. The report is a .pdf file available here -- scroll to the bottom of the page where you'll see the article in a "Quick Facts" or "Full Version."]

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Indulge Me


Parental humiliation through the childrearing years earns us the right to puff up occasionally once our children are clothed and in their right minds. To wit -- my son Daniel (second from left), working on his Ph.D in philosophy at the University of South Carolina, was recently given a teaching award (money as well as a certificate for his future office wall) for his efforts in shaping the minds of the philosophy-challenged Gamecock undergrads he teaches.

Quiz: Guess which of the four individuals is the president of the University, and which three are members of the Philosophy Department. If you guessed the prez is the gentleman on the far left, you are correct! You have to have facial hair to be a South Carolina philosopher. (It's on the grad school application.)

Congratulations, Daniel. Well deserved -- keep up the good work! (And nice jacket!)

(My four other children are accomplishing "rewardable" work as well -- grad school, retail management, office management, and web-store-tech guy. Pictures when they send them. Yes, that's a hint, guys.)

New Juicer

Later today I'm going to talk about a new juicer I've been using and why it's become my go-to machine (actually go-back-to machine since I first used an earlier model a couple years ago) -- and where I found it for under a hundred bucks. (Clue) Juicing, like many things, is a science of compromise, and I'll explain the gives and takes associated with this machine.

Hillary, Heal Thyself

In 1994, new president Bill Clinton assigned the task of revising America's healthcare system to first-spouse Hillary. Her efforts were a huge failure and it was all much ado about nothing. (Given her first failed attempt at fixing America's disease-care system, I'm not sure I'd be willing to entrust her with the task again as president -- but I digress.)

When Hillary began her efforts in 1994, Hallelujah Acres founder and president George Malkmus wrote Hillary a long letter with some observations on our nation's health situation and some recommended solutions. Sadly, the letter is as relevant today as it was nearly 15 years ago -- i.e., little has changed. Malkmus republished the letter in today's Hallelujah Acres Health Tip #543 (scroll down to point #4) with a few editorial updates indicated in the letter. It is a timely and instructive read. (You can subscribe to the weekly Health Tip email newsletter on their home page, upper right corner, and Hallelujah Acres' free Diet and Lifestyle Magazine here.)

(Full disclosure: Hallelujah Acres promotes a vegan (plant based), mostly-raw diet and lifestyle from a biblical perspective. But they are encouraging and realistic about what it takes to transition to a healthier lifestyle, and therefore have a graceful, generous attitude toward all who are seeking better health. Even if you're not a vegan and don't want to be, you will learn much from the e-newsletter and magazine.)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Pick Your Poison Level

This info has been out for a while, but it bears repeating: The Environmental Working Group's list of the pesticide contamination level of 45 popular commercially-grown fruits and veggies. If you go to this link you can see the list and also download a wallet-sized .pdf version to print out to take with you on shopping trips.

This list has practical financial implications: When the budget is tight and organic produce won't fit, you can buy the "least bad" commercial produce by picking varieties from the bottom of this list. Also, if you find a great sale price on some of the "least bad" commercial produce, it's a good time to buy in bulk. We don't live in a perfect world—even organic produce is sometimes found to be contaminated with pesticides residues. So knowing which produce is "least bad" has its advantages.

This list indirectly raises the "organic vs. local" question: Which is better nutritionally and economically (in terms of supporting local economies)—buying organic produce shipped in from thousands of miles away or non-organic from a local farm? There are good reasons to do both, and the EWG food list will help you support local growers who may not grow organic but whose produce has not been heavily contaminated.


Watch for the movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed opening in theaters April 18. Starring Ben Stein ("Anyone? Anyone?"), this documentary exposes the bias in the academic community against scientists and professors who don't toe the Darwinistic, evolutionary line. Whether professors and scientists are religious or not, if they give any credence to the idea of Intelligent Design they often pay a heavy price. For some reason, the best site for trailers on the web, the Apple Quicktime site, doesn't have the Expelled trailer (hmmmm), but you can see a trailer at the Expelled web site. Also, Chuck Colson has corrected some myths about the movie that are circulating -- see his four brief points at the Breakpoint web site.

I can't resist posting the "Anyone? Anyone?" clip from Ferris Bueller's Day Off—a younger Ben Stein:

Feeling Bill's Pain

No one following the presidential campaigns can have missed the red flags associated with Bill Clinton's temperamental behavior. Dr. John McDougall says the former prez's erratic outbursts are symptoms of the well-documented aftereffects of heart bypass surgery (which Clinton had in 2004). Let the patient beware.