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Archive for the ‘local food’ Category

This photo doesn’t begin to show how yummy these were. I used the biggest ones for the first meal. Most of them were about 1/2 – 2/3 this size. (Let’s pretend I didn’t take this picture.)

My folks were on vacation, and I was in charge of harvesting from their garden while they were gone. I came home with about a dozen zucchini, and no plans for it. I will eat sauteed or grilled zucchini, but I don’t like it too much.

If I could find a recipe that would let me hide the zucchini, use up some of the several dozen banty eggs from our hens, keep the meat out for “Meatless Mondays”, and will keep in the freezer for several more meals, it would be worth a try.

I discovered recipes for zucchini ravioli. My experience with ravioli is ala Chef Boyardee, which I loved as a kid. Homemade ravioli must be ten times better than anything from a can. So like a good cook, I first chose a 104 degree day to start this new cooking adventure! My plans were to flash freeze all of them because it was too hot to cook. But as I smelled the filling, I couldn’t help but fire up the oven and try them out the first night.

I started with this recipe as my guide, since I had never made pasta before. The how-to photos are very helpful:

http://www.savvyhousekeeping.com/zucchini-on-zucchini-raviolis/

While I’m sure this recipe is very good as written, I just can’t leave well enough alone. I always change recipes. Besides, the zucchini from this recipe was a little bit too visible for my picky self. I also had my heart set on marinara sauce.

So the variations to the recipe were as follows:

For the dough:

I use primarily whole wheat flour, although I did use a cup of white to help with the texture. We added rosemary and garlic directly to the dough. In our family you can’t have too much garlic. I also tripled the dough recipe. I don’t have a pasta maker and had to roll it out. I guess if I had a pasta maker, the dough would have gone farther.

Filling:

1 extra large onion

1 1/2 heads of garlic

thyme, oregano, savory, rosemary

1 c. of pesto that I had frozen from last year

4 medium zucchini, shredded with the water squeezed out as best as possible. A cheese cloth would work great for this, but I used a strainer and my fist.

1/2 parmesan cheese

2 c. ricotta

2 c. mozzerella

a little bit of salt

This made a ton of filling. I think I would scale back a little bit on the cheese, but it is cheese after all. I still had at least a cup of the mixture left at the end of the process, so I dumped it into the marinara sauce. Yum! More cheese.

My goal is to trick the kids into liking this ravioli with the cheesiness. As they grow to like it, I’ll add more zucchini and scale back on the cheese. I’m also thinking that spinach would be tasty in the mixture too, but I didn’t have any.

Two or three raviolis with sauce and a salad made a delicious meal. I made a meal for 3 the first night, and had enough left-over ravioli for 2 gallon size freezer bags. If you flash freeze them and then store them in the freezer bags, you can pull out just what you need for the evening meal.

The process was time consuming, it took about 3 hours start to finish. Some of the time was letting the dough rest. But I love it when I can make more than one home cooked meal at a time. The process was fun and would make a great project with a couple of friends cooking for an afternoon, and splitting the bounty at the end.

The ravioli were pretty inexpensive too. I buy flour in bulk, used eggs from my chickens, herbs from my garden, and zucchini from my folks. The only pricey thing was the cheese which probably cost about $4-7. I think in the end I made about 70 medium/large raviolis. All of us were satisfied with 3 for the meal so that works out to about 40 cents per serving. I cheated a little with the sauce. I used sauce from the grocery at $1.49. By the end of the summer, I’ll have homemade sauce for free and for more yumminess.

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“If people let the government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” ~Thomas Jefferson

Pastured Pig © Jenny Frech 2010

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that sustainable agriculture is an important issue to me.  I worry about the state of our food systems, not just in the U.S., but all over the world.

Last December, Congress passed Bill S. 510 the Food Safety and Modernization Act, and President Obama signed it into law in January as Public Law 111–353.  As a supporter of local agriculture and food choices, I tracked it down online.

It doesn’t sound too bad.

Basically S. 510 gives the USDA the right to inspect, require additional paperwork for traceback purposes, and regulate all farms and hold them to a set of standards.

Luckily, The Tester Amendment passed along with it, which leaves some provisions for small farms that sell directly to the customer.  My biggest concern with this law is some wide open wording which could allow the USDA to regulate seed savers as well if they choose to do this.

It’s very confusing, and I read a lot about this stuff!

There are mixed reviews.  Some say that this regulation will hurt small farmers, some say it will help.  Some say that this regulation will keep people safer, others think we will lose some of our rights to food freedom.

Sure, I want my food that I have to buy at the grocery to be regulated and watched.

I’d love to be able to know if the food I’m going to eat is free from pathogens.  But food is biotic (meaning it comes from a living thing).  Living things have bacteria and pathogens.   Sometimes we forget that not all bacteria is bad.  I’m not sterile on the inside, I’d prefer my food to not be sterilized by bleach or other sterilization techniques.

We stand a better chance of pathogen free food if our food passes through fewer hands, travels a shorter distance, and goes through fewer processing steps.  I’d like to maintain the choice of buying as much of my food locally (from smaller producers) as possible.

This law doesn’t add to my confidence level about the future of our food.

I worry that:

1. big agribusiness will have the upper hand after this law is signed.

It’s easier for corporate farms to swallow the costs associated with the new regulations.

2.biodiversity of our food system is at stake.

Reading between the lines, some food biodiversity advocates are afraid that the USDA will be able to restrict seed savers. In Iraq and some places in Africa, it is illegal for farmers to save the seed they’ve grown for decades because it doesn’t meet the standards set by the government, which forces farmers to buy Big Ag seed.

3. our food choices will be reduced.

I’m not trying to say that everyone needs to run down to the farmer’s market every weekend, but I sure like having the right to do so.  Farmer’s markets are even starting to help lower income individuals eat healthier nutrient dense foods in the form of WIC vouchers, community based garden plots, urban farms, and donations from farmers.

4. the USDA is contradictory.

They give farm subsidies to grow corn for high fructose corn syrup, but yet, we have a generation of obese children.  I’m not sure that I completely trust them in the area of making sure that the food we eat is not detrimental to our health.

5. GMOs are polluting our ecosystems.

Once GMO DNA is out in the environment, there is no cleaning it up.  This has been devestating for Mexico that depends on the wild Maize to cross pollinate its crops.

6. I might lose the right to save seeds from my garden, and buy seeds from my favorite small seed catalogs or from other small growers.

I feel like we are moving to a synthetic food system, one that encourages us to eat tasteless, nutrient-deficient food.  In just a few generations, we have forgotten that chicken really does have it’s own flavor; egg yolks should be bright orange, not yellow; tomatoes come in all shapes and colors, and should not bounce; and baked goods made from wheat should be brownish with texture, not white and fluffy.

Like Thomas Jefferson, I don’t want some stuffed shirt to tell me what I can and can’t grow, buy, or eat.  

I want fresh, unadulterated food, Darn it.

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My favorite hen, Goldie, is a Buff Orpington. The white hen is mentioned below. This is a view from inside our chicken ark. We move it daily so the chickens always have fresh grass. © Jenny Frech 2011

My friend, Kathy, gave us the three silky hens because she was downsizing her flock.  The hens were getting a bit long in the tooth, if chickens did indeed have teeth.

When we picked up the chickens, we put them in a crate in the back of the van.  On the trip home, the kids listened to Beyonce’s “All the Single Ladies”, while the hens clucked away.  They only clucked during this particular song.  I’m not sure if they were trying to sing along, or if they were screaming from fright.

Because of their musical tendencies, we named the hens: Flutter, Poochie, and The GoGo.  Flutter and Poochie were two small black silkies.  The GoGo is gray.  Silkies are funny looking  because they only have downy feathers, hence the name silky.  They also have puffs on the top of their heads, that make them look like they are wearing royal wedding hats.

Poochie didn’t make it to her first winter with us, and Flutter too looks like she’s on her last chickeny legs.  The GoGo is still going strong.  She is quite the character.

Since we got her, she has tried to peck our arms off nearly every day while we gather eggs.  We tried keeping her back with long sticks, by wearing padded sweatshirts, and by trying to grab the eggs really fast.  She was a broody hen and golly dern it, she was not going to move.

We don’t have a rooster, so her attempts to incubate the eggs were futile.

Finally, I landed fertilized eggs for her to sit on.

I bought a dozen and put all but three on the nest.  Within the hour, one of the hens had cracked them all open.  The GoGo had to be moved into isolation if she was going to bring a baby to term.

We put her in a big plastic tub with food, water, straw, and the remaining three eggs.  The GoGo sat, barely moving for food or water for three weeks.  She looked thinner, but happy.  She still tried to take our arms off, but there was something a bit more tender in the way she tore at our flesh.

Three weeks later, one of the eggs hatched.  The other two sloshed around when shaken.  Gross.

The chick is a Rhode Island Red which will eventually be about three times her size.  The kids named the chick, Peachy.  The GoGo stayed in isolation with Peachy for another week.

Last weekend, The GoGo and her chick went into our movable chicken ark with the other hens.  The white Aracauna hen tried to grab her (definitely not in a motherly way), but The GoGo chased her away.  Peachy follows her around all day, ducking underneath her mama when trouble approaches.

It’s bizarre to look outside and see The GoGo out on the green grass.  We are so used to seeing her inside the dark shed huddled in the nesting corner.

She’s a lot happier now, and one heck of a mama.

Way to Go, GoGo!

The GoGo and her chick, Peachy: after all that talk about being proud of The GoGo being outside in the green grass, even strawberries wouldn't coax her out to get herself photographed. © Jenny Frech 2011

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Peaches, the free range hen ©Jenny Frech 2008

Trying to match up our eating with our values can be difficult because the labeling is inadequate, confusing, misleading, and sometimes too spare.  That’s one of the reasons I love Goodguide.com.

But, there are some items that don’t show up there either.  So we are left to trusting the labels.

Labels can be wrought with greenwashing.  Companies attempt to make their products seem more environmentally friendly than they really are.  They do this in several ways.  Sometimes it’s with pictures on the label of quaint family farms, when the product was factory farmed.  Sometimes it’s greenwashed with terms like green, natural, eco-friendly, sugar-free etc.  And other times, while the product may have a feature like using recycled packaging, it can be trumped up, so you have to look carefully.

I really dislike going to the grocery, reading labels, and trying determine the best value vs. the best for the environment and best socially.  It’s easy to fall back on what’s cheapest, or what’s been our favorite.  I’ll try to help clear up some of the fuzziness of labeling, and maybe it will help you save a few minutes at the grocery too.

I am not a vegetarian.  When I was in college studying animal science we heard about vegetarians that gave up eating meat for ethical reasons.  I often thought that if I were to try out any type of vegetarianism, the first thing I would give up would be chicken.  I still eat chicken and eggs, but I’ve found ways to eat chicken and eggs that are in line with my core values.

Chicken and eggs have some of the most confusing labeling.  Let me explain the labeling, and then you can decide for yourself what fits your set of values as far as health, ethics, environment, and financially.  It is up to you to decide.  I’ve tried to find as many photos as possible to show you.  I’m intentionally trying to find average farm photos. It is not my intent to shock as some sites do.  There are many good farmers out there that do take good care of their animals, in what ever style they are raised.

Chicken

Almost all chickens will be fed GMO corn and soy products until you get to the organic or Label Rouge level.

Traditional Battery Cages

The 79 cent large eggs you buy at the grocery, are usually from chickens raised in battery cages.  Each cage has several birds in it.  The buildings are entirely enclosed most often without natural light.  The birds usually don’t have room to turn around.

Cage Free Eggs USDA photo

Cage Free

Cage free layers and broilers (meat chickens) are raised in barns that are also enclosed.  They can walk, perch, interact more naturally with other chickens.

Vegetarian or Grainfed

Chickens are omnivores, not herbivores.  It’s sort of like saying that a fox was grainfed.  They eat grains, bugs, plants, and even mice when given the chance.  They are healthiest when they are eating what comes naturally.

Pastured chicken in a moveable pen. They are a label rouge type breed. ©Jenny Frech 2007

Pastured/Grass fed

Generally refers to broilers, but can also relate to egg layers.  Often these birds are in cages that have open bottoms.  The cages protect the birds from predators, but give the animals access to fresh grass, insects, sunshine, and fresh air.  Know that chickens eat about 20% or so of their diet in grass, the rest is grains and insects.  The eggs and meat of these birds tend to be higher in Omega-3.

Free Range

This one can be really confusing if you don’t know the farmer.  Technically, free range can mean that they have access to the outdoors.  This might just be a crowded outdoor pen.  It could also mean that they have full unconfined access to the outdoors and can perch in trees, and scratch up Mrs. McDonald’s flowerbeds.

Free range chickens perched in a tree. ©Jenny Frech 2007

Organic Eggs and Meat

The birds must be fed organic (non-GMO feed), have access to the outdoors (albeit, may be limited), and cannot be given antibiotics unless sick.

Natural

Just means that the birds weren’t injected with flavorings.  Pretty much meaningless.

Label Rouge chicken

Label Rouge

Label Rouge is a method of growing out broilers in France.  This is a unique system because it uses slow growing breeds that have fewer health problems.  It is similar to some of the pasture raised/free range systems.  It does have large range requirements for its birds.

A note about broilers.

The typical breed used for broiler chickens is the Cornish Cross.  It is a fast growing bird that can finish out in 4-7 weeks.  The biggest issue with these birds (and the reason you will see a lot of animal activist sites of dead birds) is that they grow so fast that their legs cannot support their weight, which cripples them.  Even many of the farmers that raise grass-fed birds use this variety.  If you want to find chicken that is of a different breed, expect to pay a lot more because it takes 10-12 weeks or more to grow them out.  You’ll also have to do some serious research to find farmers that use a slower growing breed.

So there you have chicken in an eggshell.  I hope this helps you make informed decisions about where your meat for your table comes from and make thoughtful decisions based on YOUR value system, and not just out of habit.

If you want to get connected with local farmers, the best place to start is LocalHarvest.org.

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After reading Katy’s response to my blog post, I feel really bad.  I in no way intended to insult her.  I completely related to her story, and wanted to offer her support when I saw that people were slamming her.  I read and reread my post until I was sure that I was offering support in the form of my story, but I guess I wasn’t making myself very clear.

I was trying to relate my reality and journey from blind consumerism, and I didn’t do this very well.  My stance is that we should understand what our own values are so we can use those values to make informed and conscious decisions about our purchases.

I have struggled a lot the last few years with my values of frugality and doing what is best for the environment and socially.  I am about as cheap as they come and I can pinch pennies until they bleed. The intent of my post was to offer support as we learn how to best do this.

I’m not going to pretend that I am perfect.  No Way!  I still lust over Diet Coke, have too much junk on my counter, and buy veggies from the farmer’s market that don’t always get eaten.  I drink coffee every morning, and my hubby and I are chocovores.

Here are the points that I was trying to make, in a nutshell.  I’m going to break these down with facts, figures, research, and real experts over the next week or so.  If you’re interested, stay tuned…

1. We are all in this together, and should offer one another support and encouragement.

2. There are many food injustices. There is not a shortage of food on the planet, but a problem with the distribution of the food in the form of availability and access by price.  This includes people here in the United States, not just in developing nations.

3. Even choices that seem reasonable, may be greenwashed. Just because a label says cage free eggs, or a natural product doesn’t mean that it is what we assume it is.  And veggies that look good in the store may have traveled from Chile or some other far off place, all the while losing nutrients.

4. GMOs are in almost everything we eat that has Corn, Soy, or Canola in it. The only way to avoid it is to buy organic.  GMO’s have the DNA of other organisms in it which have a built in pesticide or resistance to a pesticide.  We eat this stuff.

5. CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) raise animals in a non-sustainable way. Animals like cows and sheep are fed grain to fatten them up.  They were not designed to eat like this, and it can cause health problems, in addition to the environmental problems CAFOs can create.

6. High Fructose Corn Syrup is made from GMO corn.

7. I don’t shop at designer food stores either, but there are other ways to get our hands on foods that are raised sustainably and ethically.

8.  This is the most important one.

Our food is too cheap.

It is subsidized so that we are not paying the actual cost of production.  The actual cost of production is more in line with the organic foods at the grocery.  We may save money by buying chicken raised in cramped barns, bread made from over-processed GMO grains, and veggies that were shipped in from somewhere else (losing most of the nutrients along the way).

But we ultimately pay for it with our tax dollars, livelihoods, health and biodiversity.

I wish I didn’t know all of the stuff that I know about agriculture and the injustice and greed of big agribusinesses.  It would make going to the grocery a lot easier.  These agribusinesses are trading our health and health of our planet for their financial gain.

Tonight I went to hear Wes Jackson of the Land Institute talk about the future of sustainable agriculture.  His plan focuses on perennial grains.  Grains make up 75% of U.S crops.  I will be discussing what I learned over the course of the next week also.

Again, I want Katy to know that I was in no way trying to make her feel bad.  I think she’s doing a lot of great things.  She’s also right, I’ve only been reading her blog for about 6 weeks now, and I do highly recommend it, she has lots of great things to say.

Below are a couple of my posts that may relate what I was trying to say about values, and my concern over food choices, better than how I said it yesterday.

values-are-worthless
big-ag-threatened-by-extremists-a-k-a-educated-eaters
lets-get-ready-to-rumble
how-to-shop-beyond-green

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This post is in response to Katy Wolk-Stanley’s blog post on The NonConsumer Advocate, “Why I Love New Seasons, but Why I’ll Keep Shopping at Safeway.”  Please stop reading my blog for a second and go read this post so the rest of this makes sense!

I love her blog, and read all of her posts.  Today, there was one post that really struck a chord with me.  It did so, because this post was totally me after my daughter was first born.  It makes me see how all of the teeny tiny changes along the way, have completely transformed the way I eat.  There was no way I would have believed that I could afford the good food that I have on my table now.

Katy,

Wow, it seems like this has sparked a lot of debate and strong feelings!  I am totally with you on wanting to save money, and I was right there with you using coupons and buying food from Save-a-lot and other groceries using my double coupons.

Ten years ago, my family was eating cheap food, and not necessarily what was healthiest for us.  I remember watching a Dr. Phil where he blasted a family for not buying fruits and veggies, that they were cheap.  He was wrong.  Veggies and fruit can be expensive, and not everyone has access to healthy foods.  There is a lot of inequality in our food system.

Here is what has changed for me over the last few years, and I hope this doesn’t make me sound like a food snob.

I started by raising my own chickens.  Most eggs from the grocery are from chickens that live in dark, smelly barns, in cramped cages.  Even most of the cage free chickens rarely if ever see the light of day.  When I sold my first flock of chickens, I bought my eggs from local farmers.  They were more expensive, but I ate less because I just couldn’t justify eating eggs from factory farms anymore.

I stopped using coupons to save money.  I know that sounds ridiculous, but I took the advice that a lot of weight loss experts give, just shop the outer perimeter of the store.  We buy cereal and the occassional frozen pizza.  Other than that, everything comes from the produce and dairy section.  In fact, I only do heavy duty grocery shopping about every six weeks.  Buy not using coupons, I wasn’t tempted to buy food I didn’t need, especially the prepackaged stuff that’s full of high fructose corn syrup, all kinds of preservatives, and GMOs.

I stopped buying meat at the grocery.  We buy lamb from a farmer, have it butchered and frozen.  For about $400 we have about 6-8 months of burger, roasts, and chops.

We raise a lot of our own food in raised beds out back.  I blanch the veggies and throw them in the freezer as they ripen.  We made a ton of salsa this summer that we canned.

Before we had raised beds, we bought just what we needed for the week from the farmer’s market.  By buying in season, we got organic produce at a reasonable price.  I buy seasoning, spices, flour, baking soda, etc. in bulk.  It costs WAY less this way.  I never buy those little taco and chili seasoning packets.  There is a lot of MSG, and other nasties in there.  Plus, by mixing my own as I go, it costs about 15 cents per meal vs. 75 cents to a dollar.  I have found a couple of family owned stores that sell in bulk.  I can even get organic whole wheat flour, and organic spelt flour for a very reasonable price, and avoid GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) junk-most of the corn and soy we eat is GMO unless it is organically grown.

My family of six averages about $350 for our food purchases for the month, including the meat. That is about what I spent when I had a family of three and was a coupon shopper.

I want to give you encouragement because I know how hard it is to balance finding good prices, feeding your family healthy foods, and doing what is ethical and a part of your value system.

For myself, I can no longer buy meat from CAFO’s.  I can’t buy eggs anymore that aren’t from chickens that don’t eat bugs and see the sun.  I avoid products made with GMO corn, canola, and soy.  I don’t buy products with High Fructose Corn Syrup if I remember to check the label.  All of the things that I avoid are for reasons relating to my value system as much as they are related to my family’s health.

The reason these stores are populated with “yoga moms” and “beautiful people” is two-fold.  One, they are educated consumers.  They understand parts of our food system that make them want to buy within their set of values.  These stores are usually more expensive though.  Here is the secret, those of us with average income and average to below average looks, find other sources for healthy foods like co-ops, dented can and overrun stores, farmer’s markets, CSA’s, home gardens, buying clubs, bartering, and buying direct from the farmer.

One last note.  Food in the United States is cheap for a reason.  But we all pay sooner or later.  The farmer pays by only getting pennies on our food dollar, the tax payers pay to subsidize corn, we pay with our health when we buy products that cause cancer and lead to obesity.  My journey started out with saving money, but it has become a journey of finding value and values in my food.

Somedays, I wish I was still in the dark about the realities of our food system.  But I’m not so this is how I’m living.  Katy (and the rest of y’all), please be encouraged, and if you need some advice on where to start, let me know.

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I was talking about Blog Action Day with my family at dinner the other night, and mentioned that I had oodles of ideas about this year’s topic, “Water”, but wasn’t sure how to narrow it down.  My eight-year-old daughter suggested that I write about kids that have to walk thousands of miles to go to the wells to get their water each day.  True enough, there are about 1 billion people in the world that don’t have ready access to clean and healthy drinking water.  They’re probably not walking thousands of miles, but it probably feels that way to them.

It’s hard to imagine life without running water.  I can imagine having to pump water from a backyard well, but the thought of having to haul water back and forth each day is a stretch.  Last summer our power went out three times.  The longest was three days.  It was easy living without lights, the computer, and the oven.  Life without refrigeration for those days was difficult, but even more difficult was life without water.  I felt grimey from no shower.  I had clothes that needed washing.  I wanted warm water to wash my face, and running water to rinse off my toothbrush.  And let’s not forget the water for flushing.

Today let’s focus on why we should care.  When most Americans can still get water from their water utility, even if the power is out, why should we care if we conserve water or not?  How does what we do affect the water supply for people elsewhere?  We’ll briefly look at a variety of issues, mostly just to get you thinking, although I’d be glad to write more on these issues later.

Three percent of the water on the planet is freshwater, but only about 1% of the water is useable to us.  Some is trapped in icecaps and glaciers, and some is in places underground that we can’t access.

I live in Indiana. Here are the top issues that immediately come to mind in my state:

Wetlands

Constructed Wetland at Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College, Photo by Goshen College

Indiana used to be covered with about 24% wetlands.  Now we are down to about 3.5% wetland cover.  Why?  The wetlands were drained, starting in the 1800’s for farming and development.  At the time, it was considered wasteland.  Now we know better.

Wetlands provide a natural means of flood control.  Wetlands are able to hold runoff (rain that cannot be absorbed into the ground during a storm).  The water sits in the wetland and slowly percolates through the soil, getting cleaned up along the way.

Wetlands are a natural filtration system.  Wetlands clean our water for free!  That’s called an ecosystem service (the job of nature that benefits us, and doesn’t cost us a penny).  The wetland filtration system works so well, that many people and businesses have started using constructed wetlands complete with wetland plants that will clean the waste water from a home or organization before it is either reused or returned to the water system.  It’s my understanding that these are becoming quite popular in LaGrange County, Indiana.

Wetlands provide an important ecosystem for our wildlife.  One third of Indiana’s endangered plants and animals are from a wetland ecosystem.

Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO)

Think about that term for a minute…What might we be combining?  Hmmmm? Some of you may have guessed it.  Human waste with our rivers.  How delightful!  When cities originally made their sewer plans a hundred or so years ago, the cities were much smaller, and there was far less runoff.  Runoff comes in greater quantities from hard, nonporous surfaces like paved roads, parking lots, and big roofs.  They did plan sewers for the extreme event that should there be a heavy rain, the sewers would not back up into people’s homes and the streets.  Generally street drains and homes will run the waste water through the sewage treatment plant.  In the event of a heavy rainfall, the sewage treatment plant cannot handle the inflow, so there is an extra pipe that drains directly into the riverways during a “heavy” rain.  And by heavy, I mean a quarter of an inch for some cities, like mine.  That means anytime it rains kind of hard that human feces is floating down the river.  That doesn’t sound too healthy to me.  Cities are supposed to take care of their CSO’s and make plans to fix them, but it costs millions of dollars to do so, and no one is getting penalized for not fixing them.

Ditches and Drains

We are an agricultural state.  We have lots of drainage ditches through the agricultural land.  The drains wouldn’t necessarily be so bad, except that they lead into the river.  Many of these drains have been straightened, which makes them flow faster.  A faster flow means more silt and sediment.  The number one pollutant in Indiana isn’t oil or heavy metals, it’s sediment.  Why is this a problem?  It makes the water murky which keeps plants from photosynthesizing, which messes with the whole rest of the food chain.

Privatization

This is an issue that I am still learning about.  But here are some thoughts to ponder:  Who owns our water?  If water falls on your land, does it belong it to you? (In some places, even in the U.S., it is illegal to collect your rainwater), Should the government take care of our water?  Can private organizations own our water and distribute it back to us?  Can they sell our local water to folks far, far away?  I HIGHLY recommend the movie, Blue Gold.  It explains very clearly some of the water privatization issues in the U.S. and around the globe.

Water Footprint

Where does the water you use each day come from?  Think beyond your shower.  Where did the juice you drink originate?  How much irrigation was needed for your cotton t-shirt?  How much water was needed to make the plastic bottle that you use?  How much water was needed to raise the beef for your hamburger.

The piece that I had never really thought much about is how water moves around the globe.  For example, most of the applejuice that you buy anymore comes from China.  The apples are grown in China, then the juice gets shipped back to the U.S.  In a country that has a water shortage issue, it seems strange to ship the water from one ecosystem to another.  Another piece that I have recently discovered is that water should stay where it is.  If we ship water to places that have a severe water shortage, that water will essentially be lost from the original ecosystem’s water cycle.

One of the very worst American trends is bottled water.  As long as our water is safe to drink, we should be drinking water from the tap.  It takes 3 liters of water to produce 1 liter that we can actually buy, not to mention the waste from the plastic bottle it came in.  If you do one thing to make a change today, go buy yourself a reusable metal bottle, and start filling up from your sink.  Most bottled water is municipal water anyway.

What the heck is big mouth Jenny going to do about her water consumption?

This is what I’m going to do.  I’m giving up Diet Coke (and all sodas).  I have an issue with drinking too much of it.

Based on a study by Coca-Cola in the Netherlands, the total water footprint for a .5 liter bottle of Diet Coke is 35.41 liters of water to produce.  Some of that, 0.41 L is used in the manufacturing process, most of which can be reused.  Twenty-eight liters is used in the production stage (growing sugar beets, carmel coloring, CO2), about 22.4 liters is green and blue water (water from the soil and surface water).  The part that concerns me most is the 11.41 liters that is used to clean the water pollution created during the process of making the Coca-Cola and the bottle that it came in.

Coca-Cola is making its way toward sustainable business practices, and working to reduce their footprint.  I’ll give them some kudos for that.  However, after seeing these numbers, and knowing the state of our world’s water supply, I think it’s time for me to ditch the Cola habit and try to increase my local water consumption.

What are you going to do?

Are you going to find out what watershed you live in?  Start carrying your reusable water bottle?  Cut your shower down by one or two minutes?  Stop dumping toxic chemicals into your lawn?

I want to hear your ideas.

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