Friday, November 26, 2010

When Pigs Fly, Disaster Happens: Urban Sprawl Theory

Urban Sprawl
The consequences of urban sprawl are so far and wide reaching that one would have a hard time finding a place to start educating on the subject. Petroleum is a good place to start, for it has the hardest impact, longest reach, and has caused immeasurable damage to the world.
As long as man has been on the face of the earth, he has found a distinct advantage in massing together for the common good. Not only did massing help provide security at first, but eventually other benefits followed such as community hunting, agriculture, and later, the ability to combine labor in the quest to manufacture goods and provide services. Large businesses have long favored cities for their dense work forces and people have long favored moving next to those businesses in hopes of finding work.
The word next in the previous sentence takes on a completely new meaning with the introduction of petroleum and the automobile. A new scale is created in the wake and next no longer means two miles but tenfold that amount. Man’s new legs can carried him faster and farther than any other person thus far in history. This new freedom spurred yet another evolution in the human experience at the cost of a blink of the eye in the timeline of our race. Comparatively speaking, it would be like the next generation of pigs growing wings to fly. The consequences of the ham evolution are best felt by the pig who, being the first of his kind to have this new adaptation and with no one to teach him to use the wings responsibly, would most certainly harm himself sooner rather than later as he fell out of the oak tree looking for acorns. (It's what the pig didn't know that killed him.)  Poor pig.
We too fell into the same boat as that damned pig. We invented for ourselves wings to fly and carried ourselves in the wrong direction. Unlike the pig, however, our consequences effect every species in the world. So be it. We screwed up. It’s done.
What now?
Now we must stop and examine the damage we have caused and learn how not to inflict that damage again. We must take inventory of the damage. 
A critical mass must be achieved before public transportation can take root. Until then, and even after then, most every house will depend on their private automobile to carry them to and fro their every whim. This problem is multiplied when the family needs multiple cars to carry them in multiple directions. Less public transportation means more cars on the road which means more pollution and energy consumption.
Speaking of roads, they comprise a lion’s share of the infrastructure required to build farther out. These and other utilities come at a cost to the customers, or residents, who build so far out. These resources when developed in high density can be constructed at a fraction of the cost. Urban sprawl consumes valuable resources in inefficient ways.
Ask any experienced businessman where he would locate his business, and the answer will usually be the same… Where the people are. Likewise urban sprawl presents challenges to regional planners who wish to provide medical, fire, and police services to the public. These services become more efficient at larger economies of scale, hence it would be hard to justify a high tech trauma center in every one horse town in America. Services to the public are harder to provide when sprawl prevents density from achieving critical masses.
Man and Nature
However, the real question is not weather man should densify the city or move to the suburbs. The real question is, ‘Can man live in the city under such densities and what effect does that have on his psyche? Can he adapt to the stresses of living without the rivers and trees, birds and wildlife, and the songs of nature, and does he even realize he’s missing something which he never had? If he is to manage these stresses and bend himself to the queer circumstances of his synthetic environment, if we are to get more out of the land, if we are to find and convert lost space, then Landscape Architects will most certainly have an increasingly important role in the sustainability of the human race and urban densification.  Packing everyone into the cities is not the sustainable effort, it is the lesser of two evils. -Jason

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Quantifying Green Building

Hello everyone,

I have yet another confession for my loving audience. I have fallen in love with the website. I will often play these talks while going about homework or design. Some are funny, some are eye opening, all enrich you a little more than before you listened. (Every man knows something I do not, therefore, every man is my teacher. - Lincoln)

We often hear a lot of talk, claims, about what is greener than whatever else is on the market. I'm learning at this point in my life that old adage - If you can't measure it, you can't manage it. Very true. HERE is a TED talk by Catherine Mohr on building green and quantifying your decisions. It's short, about 6 minutes, but she's funny and so it feels like three. -Jason

Monday, November 22, 2010

I've Been at it Again....

I just got home from taking a load of things over to the Salvation Army. I rewarded myself for paring down some items by taking a swing through our old neighborhood and scouring the parkways because, you guessed it - it's bulk trash pickup week! And wouldn't you know it, I feel like I hit the lottery! After only one street I came across these -

No, not the plastic! What is under the plastic! Are you ready for the big reveal???

Discarded Halloween decorations! Three wonderful, huge bales of hay/straw (I naively have no idea of the difference). I couldn't be happier! Great for the garden beds and the coop, these puppies cost between $10-$15 per bale at the local Feed Store. Needless to say I am quite pleased with the find. These will easily last us through the winter. -Carrie

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Getting Around Atlanta on a Bicycle

HERE is an article I read today on a man who gave up his bicycle in Atlanta, GA. It's a fast read and offers a little perspective. Enjoy! - Jason

Site Updates!

Well, it only took 5 months, but we finally have an "About Us" page set up towards the top left of the blog - and an email address to boot!  Check it out! 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lovin' Up on Bulk Trash Pickup Day!

It seems like there is always a neighborhood around here preparing for bulk trash pick up day. For those of you unfamiliar with this (as I was when I first moved here), Dallas has neighborhood bulk trash pickup once a month. Homeowners can leave brush, downed limbs, entire trees, furniture, appliances, etc., on the parkway. The city collects it and takes it to the dump.

People put out the darndest things! I seriously would encourage anyone who lives in a city that does this to take advantage of this free way to find some awesome, completely usable, and sometimes amazing, items. It may feel a little bit odd at first - stopping on the side of the road and going through someone's castoffs - but in time those feelings fade. They are replaced by feelings of resourcefulness (can this be used in a different way instead of putting it in a landfill?) and the thrill of the find. I have never driven around systematically hitting neighborhoods looking for items, but if I come across something while on my daily travels that may look promising, I often stop. The following is a pictorial of some of the better things we've found.

Jason literally spent 10 minutes tinkering with this Dyson Vacuum before he got it to work. This was a great find! We've used it for two years now.

Other than a few minor scratches, this chair is in good condition. I had to fix the bottom of the seat cushion - I ended up just using safety pins to save time! The chair is also missing feet. However, I think unless it was specifically pointed out no one would notice. I originally bought rounded fence post toppers for $4 each from Home Depot to use as feet, but the proportions were a bit off so I returned them. Now I'm just keeping an eye out for chairs or couches set out for bulk trash whose feet I could use on this.

I came across this awesome piece of art about two weeks ago. I couldn't believe my luck! From a distance I first thought it was part of the interior spring system of a mattress, but upon further inspection I realized it was an honest to goodness piece of artsy metalwork!
Set to go to the dump no less! It's about 4' x 18" and really cool.
I plan on putting it on the wall in the next few days.

Metal garden trellis - pretty much self-explanatory

10+ Tomato Cages & Numerous Bamboo Stakes

Some other items we've picked up that are not pictured here include:
  • 7 foot tall Wisteria Vines, used to decorate the corner of a room
  • Indoor pet gate
  • Small Dog Carrier (to be used for the chickens if we ever need to transport them!)
  • North Face bookbag
  • The beginning materials for what I hope will be our next chicken housing project - a chicken tractor! More on that in a later post...
And let's not forget some items we've already written about in this blog, including:
So here's the lesson for the day - someone else's trash can truly be your treasure. Don't disregard it out of hand. I think the vast majority of people would prefer someone be able to re-use their cast offs than just having them go to the dump. So go give it a try! Let us know what diamonds in the rough you discover! -Carrie

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Halloween Non-Gluttony

I know this post is a bit late, but I wanted to get it out in cyberspace nonetheless. My brothers and I grew up in the woods on a dirt road with only a few neighbors. Rereading that it sounds like we were raised by wolves! No - we lived in a nice house with real, wonderful parents. But because of the scarcity of homes on our street we didn't really do the trick-or-treating thing there.

However, we lived less than two miles from our 5 closest cousins who lived in a much larger, more traditional neighborhood. This became our haunting grounds every October 31st. The moms would stay behind and hand out candy, while the dads walked (often more like ran) the eight of us around. We each got a glow stick to wear around our necks (seriously one of the highlights of the night - we only got a glow stick once a year). The houses weren't too close together or too far apart (most of the lots were approximately 1/2-1 acre). We hit as many houses as our little legs could carry us. There was always so much anticipation for the candy that would soon fill our bags. What kinds would we score? How many of each? Etc., etc. Then there was the organizing and trading when we got back to "base camp" (my uncle's house).

I don't know if I've gotten too old or cynical or jaded or what, but Halloween seems to have lost some of it's mystique. The picture above was taken two weeks ago. Crowded doesn't even begin to describe it. Because we now live on a busy, fairly major thoroughfare where no one trick-or-treats, we walked the mile to our old neighborhood to partake of the festivities. We literally know most of the people who live there, so we were also looking forward to catching up with a few of them. However, it quickly became apparent we wouldn't be staying very long. With every house we attempted to get our son up to the porch, I literally started feeling sick to my stomach. I just couldn't shake the thoughts of "What are we becoming as a society?"

Somehow, in recent years, our old historic neighborhood has become something of a "destination" - a holy grail, if you will - for candy seekers. I haven't been able to come up with a solid reason as to why. We've heard horror stories (no pun intended!) of people going through 2,000 pieces of candy, or a couple of hundred dollars worth of candy - in only 30 minutes. I would guess about 95% of the trick-or-treaters do not live (or have never lived) in the neighborhood - and it's a large one with 700 houses. I can appreciate perhaps wanting to take your kids to a safe neighborhood. I really can. But what kills me are the kids (and adults!) who aren't even dressed up at all, walking up to the homeowner and just sticking out their bag. What happened to common courtesy? Another frequent sight are the parents who drive their kids from house to house because they are literally too lazy to park the car and walk. Folks, these houses are not far apart - the lots are each 1/6 of an acre. Yes, the argument could be made that perhaps they have a disability or something. This could be true - but it's probably 1% of those driving. After one street, we walked home.

Like the juxtaposition of the candy with the healthy stuff?

Over the next 24 hours I saw posts on Facebook of people saying their kids collected 7, 8, and 9 pounds of candy. So I weighed our son's. After only eating about 4 or 5 pieces, his total collection came to just over one pound. And I couldn't be happier with that one pound. He got to engage in a fun, time-honored tradition dressed as a muscle man, he practiced his manners - always saying thank you for everything he was given, we had a nice family walk on a gorgeous night, we saw some old friends, and he got a bit of candy to boot. I guess I just wish more people would relish the whole act of Halloween instead of making it a race to see who can collect the most candy in the shortest amount of time - while throwing manners and common sense to the wind. Did anyone else experience something like this during Halloween, or am I just getting too old (and cynical) for my own good? -Carrie

Friday, November 12, 2010

Like Athena from Zeus' Mind

I was writing a persuasive paper for class and the last paragraph sprang from my mind like Athena from Zeus'. I just wanted to share it with you. -Jason

A Landscape Architect is given the privilege of marrying man to the landscape. Like all marriages, the ability to harm is just as real as the ability to nourish. This marriage must be a good bond capable of restoring the soul and must be equally beneficial to all parties, both man and nature. We have moved out of the house of nature and sure as a father who moves out of a broken home, problems will fester in his absence. We must be equally good to each other for our existence is weaved so very tightly together.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Worms in Eggs?

The chicken questions keep on coming! A classmate of Jason is also a newbie chicken-keeper. One of her hens started laying just recently. However, the fourth or fifth egg produced ended up having a worm in it! Yuck! I've heard of worms in poop, but I haven't read about worms in eggs. Any ideas what she needs to do to treat the hen? Also, if a bird is on meds, is there a time frame that you shouldn't be eating their eggs? Thanks again for your wisdom!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Homemade...Squash, Chickpea & Lentil Stew

Please excuse the blurry picture. We seriously need a new camera!

I recently needed to prepare a meal with some organic butternut squash we were graciously given by a friend (thanks, Sarrah!). Wanting to find a new recipe, I took to the internet. Just reading the first recipe that showed up on google made my mouth water. I decided to give it a try. And let me tell you it did not disappoint. Instead of reprinting it in this post, I'm providing the link here. Made in a slow cooker, the flavors just meld together perfectly. This was actually only the second time in my life I have used a slow cooker. I've always shied away from slow cookers for some reason, but I don't know what I've been thinking! It doesn't get much easier. And the smell wafting through the house - I can't put it into words - but if I was forced to come up with something...perfection!

A few things I did differently from the original recipe:
  • Instead of 2.5 pounds of butternut squash, I used 1.25 pounds and 1.25 pounds of sweet potatoes
  • I didn't have tomato paste so I used tomato sauce instead
  • I didn't have fresh ginger, so I just sprinkled on a bit of powdered ginger (1/4 tsp?)
  • I didn't have saffron so just completely omitted it
  • I ended up not adding any lime juice, though I think it would taste great to add a small squeeze to each serving
Jason hates butternut squash. Let me rephrase that - up until this recipe Jason hated butternut squash. He pretty much refused to eat it. After making this stew he not only had seconds (and thirds?) but took some to school the next day. I think it will freeze well, too. Another way to mix it up would be to use some pumpkin in place of or in addtion to the butternut squash and/or sweet potato. Lord knows we now have the pumpkin to do this! -Carrie

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pumpkin Recycling

The Idea
A few weeks ago I was perusing a new-to-me blog, MamaStories, and I had an "Ah-Ha!" moment when I came across this post. One of those so-simple-yet-so-awesome ideas. Are you waiting with bated breath? It's the idea of adding neighborhood pumpkins to your compost pile! Why haven't I ever thought of that? Katrien and her daughter, through a cute little art project, get the word out to their neighbors that they will take any and all pumpkins after Halloween. They then use these as a supplement to their compost piles. Ingenious! Keeps them out of the landfill while building up the soil. I can't think of anything better.

The Email
So I took this idea and ran with it. Instead of making flyers I sent out an email to my local mom's group. It read exactly like this:

"After Halloween, instead of throwing your pumpkins in the trash, consider giving them to me! I will take any & all pumpkins, gourds, etc (both cut into and not) off your hands. Most will be composted. If I have a few that are uncut & still "viable" I will probably bake with them. I will be more than happy to pick them up from anywhere in the north oak cliff area. I just figured it's a way to 1)not put something in the landfill, 2)add to our growing compost, & 3)maybe even get a pie out of the deal!"

The Results

Let's just say I couldn't be happier. Over the last few days, during my usual errands (so I haven't had to drive out of the way), I've picked up numerous spent jack o' lanterns from about 5 families. They've filled the bags in the picture below (and don't worry, almost all of the bags I will be able to re-use). I already placed about half of them in our compost when I turned it on Saturday.

But just yesterday I hit the jackpot! From one house I received enough unblemished pumpkins to fill the entire back of my minivan! I was astonished!

I offered to make the homeowner a pumpkin pie, but all she asked in return was for 2 cups of pumpkin puree. Now I have enough edible pumpkin to last me through the spring - if not the summer. All of these pumpkins would have just gone in the trash. Now they will help to feed our tummies and grow summer veggies. Thanks again for the idea, Katrien! And thanks to all those who donated your pumpkins. We'll definitely be doing this again next year. -Carrie

Saturday, November 6, 2010

WARNING: If You Don't Like Chicken Poop...Don't Scroll Down!

OK, so is there anyone out there who really likes chicken poop? I doubt it, but I need some advice from those of you with more experience on the chicken poop front. For the past few weeks our Barred Rock (and newest layer) has been having some runny poops. Her once poofy back side now has runny droppings on it at all times. Not horrendous, but enough to notice. This morning I came out to clean off their "poop board" as we affectionately call it, and came upon this unpleasant sight:

Three piles of poop (as usual), with the most southerly being the most disturbing. There is a mess of stuff going on there that I can't even begin to work through. You can even click on the picture for a larger view if you are so inclined! Any thoughts? Does she have some bug? Does she need medicine? I don't see any worms or anything in there. She didn't eat anything out of the ordinary yesterday (that I know of), but this is the first time since we purchased them 6 months ago that I've come across something this messy and variable. On a possibly related note, her egg production has declined sharply in the last few weeks, where as our Black Sex Link is still going strong. Your expertise is greatly appreciated, thanks in advance! -Carrie

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Homemade...Golden Carrot Muffins

My three year old is a picky eater. And I mean P-I-C-K-Y. I have fallen into the horrendous habit of quickly putting something together for him that differs from what the rest of the family is having. I am completely aware that this makes me a horrible mother. But some nights I just can't stand the whining, so I give in before it has even started. That's why I was so happy to find a healthy muffin recipe a few weeks ago. The whole family loves these (including food-hater-boy!). They taste great with a slight amount of cream cheese, too!

I got this recipe from Annette over at CoMo Homestead. You can view the original recipe here. And my slightly tweaked version, below:

Golden Carrot Muffins

Makes 12 muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups packed finely shredded carrots
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup golden and 1/4 cup regular raisins
  • 2 T canola oil
  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 1 T butternut squash puree
  • 1 T no-sugar-added applesauce
  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 2 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t salt
  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Lightly spray a muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Wash carrots and shred in food processor or with grater.
  3. In large bowl, mix all the wet ingredients (first 9).
  4. Add the dry ingredients (last 5). Mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened.
  5. Spoon muffin batter into muffin tin and bake for around 17-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean when inserted into center of muffin.
  6. Allow muffins to cool before serving.
I reduced the sugar (syrup) component, and reduced the canola oil from 5T to only 2T - but didn't lose any of the awesome moistness since I added in the coconut oil, squash, and applesauce. As I write this post I realize I probably could have reduced the eggs from 2 to 1 & 1 egg white. Additionally, pecans would give a great nutty flavor. Give these muffins a try. They are sure to be a crowd pleaser, and your little veggie-scoffers won't be the wiser! -Carrie