Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sacrificing Ones Values To Get By

My last post spoke a lot about making choices that have positive implications. I believe we all feel better about doing good. That is why recycling has caught on with so many people. It gives us a warm fuzzy feeling. However, we are also faced with decisions or choices where we are not forced, but left with few alternatives. One such example is work. The fool has a couple photos on one of his posts from a German Ad campaign about "Life's Too Short For The Wrong Job". Indeed. But how many of us have been in a crumby job because we need the money? Then to make it worse, what if the job goes against our morals?

Well, I have been fairly lucky to have jobs I have either enjoyed or felt like I was at least doing some good. I have worked for several libraries, done some community support work, and worked in the environmental health field. I have also worked in a plastic factory.....and it was only a year ago. I was out in Oregon and in really a tough bind. It was the rainy season so we could no longer camp. We had to pay the rent. The job market was very competitive and there were few jobs to be found. It was in a town where more than 50% of the population had a bachelors degree or better, so was just another jobless grad. I ended up at a temp service that set me up with a job packaging accessories for electric toothbrushes for $7.90 an hour. I had a really hard time accepting what I was doing. I was creating disposable, totally unnecessary objects for a multinational corporation. My only consolation was that I often biked to work and I spent a lot of my money at the co-op buying local food. I worked there for a couple months until they began laying people off-in which I volunteered for. Luckily, shortly afterwards I ended up working for the library and the co-op.

Still, how many people out there are doing jobs that either demoralizes them or goes against their morals. So in response, this post is dedicated to the independent-minded showgirls, the vegetarians working at grocery store deli counters, the pacifist soldiers, the anarchist factory workers- I feel your pain.

Please feel free to share your compromising jobs.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Why is Price more Important Than Quality or Safety When It Comes To Our Food?

This was yet another question presented in The Omnivore's Dilemma (I'm finally almost finished). We as a consuming nation presented with Wal*Mart's to offer Everyday Low Prices, have become so obsessed with price we have turned a blind eye to the nature of our food. As Pollan points out:

"Our food system depends on consumers' not knowing much about it beyond the price disclosed by the checkout scanner. Cheapness and ignorance are mutually reinforcing."

This ignorance is how people are able to accept buying meat that comes from large CAFO's where the animals are treated inhumanely and pumped full of corn and drugs. I'm working on a "Factory Fresh" label I would like to put on some random meat packages at the local grocery store. Or, "Our meat has more drugs than Major League Baseball". Or even "Caged For Your Convenience". They are still a work in progress(:

Although price is often what consumers claim keeps them from buying healthy and local food, as Pollan also mentions, its often that people choose not to buy better food because they choose to spend their money elsewhere. Pollan suggests we spend one fifth of our income on food, down from one tenth in the 1950's. Instead of choosing local or organic food, Americans today are spending their money on items such as expensive electronics and cell phones. All other nations spend more of their income on food. Does that mean we are lucky? Hardly. Our cheap food is a direct result of subsidies and unsustainable agricultural practices. We may pay less at the checkout, but we pay more through taxes, health costs, pollution, and ethics.

I'm amazed at how many people do more research buying a television via Consumer Reports and flyers than their own food. We really need to get our priorities straight.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I Can't Believe I'm 30

As Gina pointed out the other day, Sunday was my birthday. All I can say is "what happened?"


Monday, November 27, 2006

Thinking Ahead

Since the upcoming birth of my child is a first for me, I have been surprised at how many things I new little about. One being the placenta. I mean, I knew there was a placenta, but I was not aware that it is generally delivered so long after the birth. Nor was I aware that many cultures use the placenta for ceremonies, art, or even eat it. Well, we decided to pass on eating it, but we have chosen to give the nutrient rich placenta back to the earth. This weekend we chose a special spot in the sugarbush where we will place the placenta after the birth. I set a tarp over the hole so in case we get a snowstorm we will still be able to bury it. We also plan to plant a small sugar maple there this spring. The area is already a sacred place for us, this is a way we can honour both our child and the spirit of the forest.
The Chosen Spot Amongst The Sugar Maples

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Friday, November 24, 2006

I Should Be The CEO of ADM

Earlier this year ADM named Patricia A Woertz, a former senior executive at Chevron, as their new CEO, while Allen Andreas held on to his Chairman of the Board post. Allen never had the political clout or flamboyance that his uncle Dwayne Andreas had. An Andreas has run the company for the past for 35 years, so it only makes sense they should have went with me. After all, my last name is Andreas, I'm from Illinois, like former CEO Dwayne Andreas I have a mennonite family background, and I'm not very tall. There has to be a relation there somewhere. The name Andreas isn't very common.

On the other hand, isn't ADM one of the biggest recipients of corporate welfare? 43% of their profits are from heavily subsidized products, including ethanol. Not to mention they are responsible for high fructose corn syrup being in everything. They are actually responsible for keeping sugar prices high ensuring soda makers use HFCS instead of sugar. It is also into procesing cocoa, buying much of the product from low wage slave like labor suppliers.

Then there was that price fixing thing a couple years ago where 3 ADM, including an Andreas, went to jail for charges of price fixing lysine, a corn feed additive, which overcharged US purchasers between $155-166 million. The company was fined $100 million, the biggest anti-trust fine in US history.

So actually, ADM, you can keep your 9 figure assets. I'll go on being against everything you stand for. Even if we are distant relatives.

Dwayne Andreas and Myself as ADM CEO

Allen Andreas and Myself as ADM CEO

Here are a couple good links on ADM's corruption. One from the CATO Inst. and one from Mother Jones.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

......Turkey Shmurkey

I actually didn't even plan on making a Thanksgiving dinner, but after several cups of coffee, a toasty fire in the woodstove, and the setting sun approaching, I thought "what the heck". I decided on cranberries, roasted yams and kale glazed with olive oil and maple syrup, apple pie, spiced hot apple cider, and instead of turkey a Wisconsin favourite- beer cheddar soup. I used a good dark ale from our local microbrewery South Shore Brewery, Wisco cheddar, Wisco butter, and local dairy fresh milk. Hopefully my heart will still be beating by tomorrow. I hope everyone had a safe and tasty Thanksgiving.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Industrial Meat and My Fast Food Experience

Well I'm beyond the industrial farming section in the Omnivore's Dilemma, but I am still haunted by how bizarre our food system has become. I knew large amounts of antibiotics and estrogen were being used to treat factory livestock, but I was not aware that they were blended with liquefied fat (which includes beef tallow) and supplements to be dumped in the feeding trough continuously. Apparently, without the daily dose of antibiotics large feedlots would never be able to operate.

The CAFO Poky Feeders in Kansas where Pollan visits

Why do the cattle need so many antibiotics? One answer is corn. The digestive system of cattle is not designed for a strictly corn diet, they are grazing animals. The stomachs of cattle and other rumen are fairy neutral, opposed to our acidic stomachs. The corn makes their stomachs more acidic leading to bloating, diarrhea, ulcers, rumenitis, and liver disease. In fact, it is estimated 15-30% of all feedlot cows have abscessed livers. Basically these poor animals are barely kept alive long enough to be slaughtered. There is no way they would be able to sustain long-term conditions like a CAFO (confined animal feeding operation).

To conclude the industrial food section Pollan eats a meal from McDonald's in his car- the perfect end to following the planting of commercial field corn in Iowa. Pollan once again describes how fast food is entirely the result of food scientists and is all processed. Most of the food contains soy or corn, especially high fructose corn syrup. But this was McDonald's, I knew their food was fake. What about other restaurants. Well, I drove past a Culver's yesterday, a fast food restaurant that started in Wisconsin and now has spread throughout the Midwest. I had eaten at one a couple years ago and it seemed a cut above most fast food joints. So I went in. I had to.

I rarely eat processed foods anymore and I can't remember the last time I had eaten fast food. I gave it up more for health and ethical reasons than taste. So I wondered, did it still taste good? I ordered a cheeseburger, fries, and soda. Then I grabbed their allergen chart that was sitting by the napkins. They were out of nutrition guides so I asked the lady at the counter if they had anymore. She finally dug one up by the drive through window. Well for the curious here is what I found:

*According to the allergen sheet the only food listed that do not contain soy or corn are their classic lemon ice, strawberries (for sundaes), raspberry vinaigrette dressing, dill pickles, unsweetened and hot tea (which oddly contain gluten), a carton of milk, mild and spicy mustard, picante sauce, and green beans (which contain dairy). Even the nuts for toppings contained soy, perhaps because they were produced in the same factory that used soy.
*None of the sandwiches or burgers contained under 600 mg of sodium. Most contained over 1000mg.

As for the meal? It wasn't tasty at all. Everything tasted like salt. There was no way I could finish my soda. I made sure to try and savour the food to bring out any flavour, but there was little to be brought out. A perfect quote from Pollan regarding fast food is this, "The more you concentrate on how it tastes, the less like anything it tastes. So you eat more and eat more quickly, hoping somehow to catch up to the original idea of a cheeseburger or French Fry as it retreats over the horizon. And so it goes, bite after bite, until you feel not satisfied exactly, but simply, regrettably, full."

To make matters worse, about an hour later I had a mild case of indigestion. Pollan suggests that one and three children in the US eat fast food everyday. I guess they have built up an immunity to it better than my stomach. I feel better after a triple-americano than that food.

And of course another relevant Onion article.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

An Early Thought On Michael Pollan's Book The Omnivore's Dilemma:

A couple days ago I received a welcomed phone call from the library informing me that the book I had requested awhile ago, The Omnivore's Dilemma, had finally come in. I actually had forgotten I had even put it on hold. I have just started it, but it is already a fascinating read.

The author divides the book into four different food chains or meals that may reach our plate; the industrial fast-food meal, an "industrial-type" organic meal, a local organic meal, and a foraged/hunted meal. Currently I am still in the conventional industrial section.

What has really interested me thus far, (although I'm not overtaken with surprise) is the reliance of the industrial food system on corn, which is heavily reliant on chemical fertilizers and fossil fuels. According to the book, one-fourth of all items in a typical grocery store contain or was processed with corn. Many foods, like a chicken nugget, contains corn upon corn. The chicken was fed corn. There is cornstarch to hold it together, corn flour on the batter, and corn oil for frying it. It also contains leavinings, lecithin, glycerides, and citric acid-all derived from corn. Wow. Now I know why there was corn in every field where I grew up in Illinois.

One problem with corn is the amount of nitrogen that it needs to grow. Of coarse the industrial corn producers use chemical fertilizers, which end up in the wells. To this day the well at my Mother's house where I grew up has nitrate levels so high children and pregnant women aren't supposed to drink the water from it. Needless to say I bring my own artesian water.

Another huge problem is the amount of fossil fuels needed to produce industrial corn. Pollan brings up an eye-opening statistic. Because of the amount of fuel needed to create the fertilizers and pesticides, drive the tractors, and transport the corn, more than one calorie of fossil fuel energy is needed for every calorie of food produced. It doesn't take much to see that this process isn't very sustainable. Or as Pollan states it "too bad we can't simply drink the petroleum directly".

To keep this from becoming a book review, I would jsimply like to recommend this book to anyone who hasn't read it, or like myself, hasn't finished it. Perhaps I will do another post on the book in the future if it's a topic I feel like discussing.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Getting Ready For Baby

Well the time is getting near for when we welcome our little one into the outside world. The next couple of weeks will be spent making sure that everything is in place. We still have to figure out how to install the carseat, pick up the birthing tub we rented, make a baby wipe solution and find a good container to put the wipes in, and make a bunch of food in advance to freeze and can for quick and easy meals. There are probably a couple other things, but I don't have my list in front of me.

The majority of baby items we have bought used, have been given to us, or made (We did splurge on a new organic onesie from the Green Mercantile store in Duluth). We were even lucky enough to buy an Amby Baby used. My partner, Moh, has created a wonderful diaper covern pattern. She uses old wool sweaters and some wool fabric I found at a garage sale. She has also been making receiving blankets out of old flannel sheets and an infant stuffed animal, also from the sheet.

Our midwife says everything is going normal and we should be able to do the homebirth that we want. That's good news because we both feel fairly uneasy in a hospital. We also don't want to have to go through the hassle of explaining to the nurses and doctors about all of the routine tests and monitoring the hospital does that we don't want to be subjected to. Oh well, I'll keep updating our progress.


Monday, November 13, 2006

Winter Is Here, Soup Is On

We awoke to another dose of wet snow this morning. Thus far the season has been fairly dry, but cold. Hopefully we will see a snowy winter to make up for the drought the Northland is experiencing.

With winter, also comes the time to prepare hearty soups to warm the soul. The other day I prepared a simple, yet wonderful sausage kale soup. To balance the rich salty flavour of the sausage, I made a side of cranberries sweetened with maple syrup. I was still able to get local leeks, garlic, potatoes, wild rice, cranberries, maple syrup, and the kale was from Minnesota so this was a perfect meal from the Northland.

Sausage Kale Soup

2-3 Italian or similar sausages (casings removed and broken into pieces)
4 C Chicken Broth
1 Leek, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T herbs (oregano, sage, thyme, rosemary-any combination)
3 small potatoes, cubed
3 C kale, coarsely chopped
salt & pepper to taste

-in a soup pot heat the sausage on medium heat until fully cooked
-add leek, garlic. and herbs and saute until soft
-add chicken broth and heat until hot
-add potatoes and cook until almost tender
-add kale and heat until potatoes and kale is cooked to preference

*I also added some leftover wild rice-very tasty. White beans would also go well in this soup.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Will the Democrat Majority Restrict Free Trade?

Today my partner and I went on a shopping adventure for a new iron, because ours started smoking the other day. The closest sewing shop is about an hour away. I called them to see what kind of irons they carried. They only carried a special German iron that ran about $140. We didn't really want to spend that much or travel that far, so we decided to try to shop local. We checked two resale shops to no avail. We also tried a quilting/knitting shop, but they only carried small hobby irons. We finally had luck at the local hardware store-well sort of. They only had two irons, both made in China. The only choices left were Wal*Mart and Pamida, both of which would probably have the same products (plus I refuse to set foot in Wally World).

The thing is I probably could have drove to Duluth and had the same luck. Either one buys a specialty product from Europe or buys a cheap product from China. What happened to "durable" prducts that carry that "Made in America" logo. Oh yeah, the jobs aren't there anymore. We decided free trade was a wonderful idea.

Well, one of the most promising matters that the Democrat majority may tackle is the ambiguous Free Trade situation. Many of the newly-elected democrats, especially in the Midwest industrial areas, ran on an anti-globalisation platform. Areas such as Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Michigan have seen a great amount of their manufacturing jobs disappear overseas. While I disagree with many of the new "conservative" democrats social platforms, I agree with their populist beliefs. It is my hope, that unlike the 90's, the democrats will stand up against free trade and unchecked globalisation. They will strike down Bush's power of fast track authority and begin to bring jobs back to America. At the same time this will reduce our ridiculous trade imbalance with countries like China that have such poor labour standards.

While I am in no way promoting consumerism, I would like to see a return to more localised manufacturing when one is faced with the decision to buy something. It would be nice to buy an iron that is made in Minneapolis or Milwaukee. Perhaps I would run into a worker from the factory while he or she was vacationing up here. Instead our policies promote a businesses like this or this that thrives on shipping jobs overseas.

For more info on the prospects of free trade with the newly elected democrats check out this Washington Post article.

Or for a more humorous related article check out this Onion article.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

A Couple Of Things That I Like About The Ashland Area

A few weeks ago I did a post on things that bug me about where I live. Well, with the positive energy from some of the results of the recent elections, I am doing a more favourable tribute to the Ashland, Wisconsin area. The good things are:

* Lake Superior. Being the largest lake in the world (and the most pristine of the Great Lakes) there is no shortage of gorgeous beaches or rocky shorelines. Many of its beaches are remote enough to find a quiet evening for a bonfire and sleep on the beach.

*The best artesian water I have ever had. There are several wells in the area with cold, delicious water bubbling right out of the ground. It's always a great place to strike up a conversation with someone.

*The Chapple Street Triangle. The Chapple Street Triangle is a title known locally for the three businesses on the 200 block of Chapple Avenue (the Chequamegon Food Co-op, The Black Cat Coffee House, and The Daily Bread.) The Co-op does a great job of buying local seasonal food. They have a decent bulk section with reused jars available. My partner and I volunteer there 8 hours a month for a 20% discount on our purchases. The Black Cat is a vegetarian cafe (with the occasional local fish stew) that brews organic coffees and espressos. The perfect place to run into friends on a cold snowy day. The Daily Bread is a European style bakery which uses organic flours and many local ingredients. They also carry some pre-made sandwiches and salads. I have to be careful of the pastries though.

*Natural Areas for Recreation. For being in the Midwest the area seems pretty natural. It was heavily logged in the past (and parts still are), but there are some great inland lakes, hiking and cross-country ski trails, waterfalls, terrific rivers for canoeing, national and state forests, and even a couple primitive wilderness areas. Wildlife is abundant-too many deer, wolves, bears, a small elk herd, and even the occasional moose.

These are just a couple of the things I like about the area. My question is: What do you love about where you live?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Happy Election Day

Well I did the deed this morning (I only missed voting one year since I turned 18). Every year the political signs seem to multiply like rabbits. There is one business in Ashland that takes it to the extreme. One would think that it would not be good for business to plaster so many GOP signs in a strong Democrat majority like up here, but what do I know. There's a good chance every one of the candidates on his signs will lose. His anti-civil union/gay marriage is the one that bugs me. Oh well, I guess the votes will be in soon enough.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Plastic Kills!

Earlier this evening I was reading a great post on Emme's Blog about disposable items. A little later I came across this article that made me mortified to be part of modern humanity. We are literally trashing the planet in the name of convenience. I have been taking great steps to reduce the amount of plastic in my life. I no longer buy disposable items like plastic wrap or ziploc bags. We are planning to use cloth diapers and covers for our child as well as glass baby bottles. We also plan on no plastic toys (which means educating the parents and inlaws). But still the word needs to be spread. Too many consumers buy extensive amounts of plastic items out of convenience or the lack of knowledge that there are alternatives. Please do your best and help spread the word that we can do better.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

McDonald's Capturing the Hearts, Minds, and Adoration of Our Youth

I spotted this ironic scene about a year ago on Interstate 90 near the Washington-Idaho border. As I quickly took the exit ramp to get a closer look, I noticed in reality the McDonalds was next door and it wasn't a McDonalds chapel. Hey, one never knows. It was Idaho. Still the bit of irony is McDonalds has created an almost religious following. I wonder how many kids are bribed with happy meals if they attend church with their parents. I'm sure most people have seen "Supersize Me" by now, but one of the many frightening scenes was when the children couldn't identify Jesus, but recognized Ronald McDonald immediately. Why not? Children are subjected to hours of television advertisements weekly. Ronald McDonald is a fun, goofy clown peddling fast food and plastic toys from China. What's not to adore?

However, McDonald's has tried to make Ronald a bit more credible. They have created a fitness program with Ronald McDonald. After all of those sodas, I guess Ronald couldn't help but get moving. My favourite selection is: "Fruit and vegetables look good on my plate — and on me!"

I believe it's the advertising and marketing by corporations that are hurting our children more than the food. It's through the advertisements and marketing that creates an almost addictive nature to the products. The catchy jingle, the iconic figure, the playroom, the cheap toys-these are what keep kids coming back. Limiting children's exposure to media and advertising will almost entirely eliminate their desire to go to McDonald's. I mean really, the food sucks.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Birdfeeder Revisited

The Goldfinches are very dull-coloured this time of year

I have been putting extra emphasis on keping my birdfeeders filled this season. With all of the trees free of their leaves and the tall grasses and flowers dry and brown, it's refreshing to see life in the barren outdoors. Having the benefit of large south-facing passive solar windows, the birds almost seem as though they are part of the family. The newest arrivals to the feeder have been the goldfinches and housefinches (joining the purple finches). We have also have welcomed the entertaining, acrobatic nuthatches. The White-breasted and smaller red-breasted nuthatch are a delight to watch because they move down trees backwards. Sometimes they even hang upside down on the birdfeeder before the hop down to snatch a seed. The White-breasted Nuthatch Upside-down
The Red-breasted Nuthatch Grabbing Some Sunflower Seeds

The hairy woodpecker has still been a regular visitor, to the delight of my border collie who enjoys watching him from inside. I have been stuffing suet in the holes of the birch log that I use as a pole for my feeder.
The Hairy Woodpecker on the Birch Pole

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