Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

2015 Resolution – Reflect on Conservation

January 3, 2015

Progress on reducing my direct carbon footprint

Following on my conceptualization for the solution to reducing my direct carbon footprint (this analysis), here is the year in review:

Reduction. I think my theme for 2015 needs to be reflection on conservation, and its nuances.

In previous New Years posts I have tracked our car milage and was pleased to see our progress reducing miles driven. Alas, the reduction was lost in 2014. The lesson: bike/walking to reduce miles in town is easily overwhelmed by driving out of town, which should be obvious, it takes quite a few avoided short trips in town to equal the milage of one trip out of town.

2012 miles 2013 miles 2014 miles
Krista’s car (red) 7927 6313 7370
My car (white) 5241 2336 4472
My pickup (blue) 1059 2078 1576
Prius (silver) new 12/4/14
totals  14227  10727  13418

My friend Stephen has a longer dataset and can demonstrate real progress reducing his driving, so it is possible.

spaeth carbon wedge car

In our cars, reduced use requires constant vigilance. In contrast, the area of lawn I mow is being reduced steadily by orchards, gardens and landscaping at the Cookhouse. I haven’t used the 15-year old riding lawn mower/snowblower in 12 months. Since, I’ve proven its possible to manage what is left without the rider, it needs to go away this spring.

Another notable experiment in reduction was to put a timer on our hot water heater. Now we make hot water for morning showers and again for evening dishes. While the savings from not maintaining hot water is small, we have proven in the past 6 months that we don’t lack for hot water when we want it. This experiment needs more study. For example, can we time the water heater so we use up much of the hot water and only store tepid water (rather than having the water heater reheat the water we just used and then storing that hot water)?

Substitution. Another of the strategies to reduce my direct carbon footprint is to substitute technologies.

The Cookhouse was built with all LED lighting and I thought I was done converting the Barn, but the other day I found one more CFL — a small one in a reading lamp. The house is partly converted, the Kitchen, family room and bathrooms are done.

My efforts at substituting LED lighting for CFLs are producing limited results; my home electric bill is not going down much (if at all), because the refrigerator, freezer, dishwasher and electric dryer are such a large fraction of the use that they overwhelm the savings in the lighting.

The used Prius that Krista will drive in place of the “red” car appears to give her 40+mpg vs the previous 25+mpg in “red car,” so if we can hold the miles driven steady, it should be a decrease in fuel used.

Replacement. The oven in our gas stove died last spring and (sigh) there are no parts to repair a 10 year old stove. The process of deciding has been slow, but we are headed toward an induction stove, all electric. The decision process was explored in this column. Replacing this appliance will produce a permanent decrease in our direct use of carbon, but a small one compared to the gas water heater. I’m having the electrician get me ready to do the water heater, but can’t afford that change yet.

While the 15 year old gas lawn mower is still running, I’m considering replacing it with an electric one. Since I’m not sure how that will work in when the grass grows fast in the spring, I’ll keep the gas one around for another season.

Generation. I have some more data on the impact of the solar air heater in the Cookhouse. My previous report was from a short duration observation. Now I have a year’s worth of data which appears to show April, May & June readings with less consumption than heating degree days would predict. Since the structure is still unoccupied the only energy use is for heating. Goals for 2015 are getting hot water preheating going in the Cookhouse and in our house. This data are also encouraging me to develop solar air heating to supplement in the barn.

849 electric usage

Electric heating in the Cookhouse for 2014

Year Round Food

September 2, 2012

Shortly after we bought our place in Moscow I read an article about world agriculture that reported the average amount of arable land per person. It turned out that our 1.3 acres for 2 people was average.

Thinking about that fact made me begin to feel a responsibility to try to raise a portion of my food (since, on average, I had all the land needed). I’d gardened as far back as high school, raising a few veggies for summer eating. I decided I needed a goal to push my gardening — eat something from the garden in each of 12 months.

As I recall, Krista met that goal first with raspberry freezer jam. The people before us had quite a big row of raspberries started and freezer jam was a great way to preserve the harvest for 12 months. At that same time we also tried making several canned jellies, the best was red currant but we’ve never really gotten into canning.

Life has intervened, but I have inched my way toward the goal, learning to use the cold cellar to keep garlic and potatoes till March. We added a food dryer which allows us to manage more of our fruit and makes a favorite mid-winter Swedish Fruit Soup more affordable.

The “something from the garden each month” goal pushed a much more thoughtful approach to my gardening. But now we’re long past it.

Last fall/winter I experimented with winter gardening to have some greens and this weekend I will start a small fall  garden. This year we will have a big crop of pie pumpkin and butternut squash for the cellar. Those are the two squash the family will eat. Krista has been making/freezing apple sauce with fruit from the new orchard.

Last winter I started a recipe blog to track foods I’m cooking that could be made with local ingredients. It was an attempt to explore how rich and varied my diet could be — IF the ingredients were actually produced in our local food shed.

One thing the blog was intended to do was help identify missing local ingredients. One of them is cooking oil, so I was excited today at Farmer’s Market I saw a new booth selling oil. I couldn’t stop today but I will go back.

I’m musing about a new goal of one meal a month that could be local, or perhaps all three meals in one day per month. Or perhaps the meal needs one ingredient I grew, several that are local, and the rest that could be local. Of course, overlaid on picking this new goal is remembering what my family will actually eat so I need to tinker my way a goal where we can all succeed.