a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Archive for February, 2010

Vegan Alternatives VS Real Food

Friday, February 26th, 2010

I left behind my vegetarian/vegan lifestyle slowly but surely over the past several years. I did so by listening an learning to both new information and my instincts. And I did so only after I found and researched local sources for dairy and meat. If only factory-farmed animal products were available, i would not be adding it to my diet. But, happily, local farms are making a comeback in many areas and I was immediately willing to learn about the benefits for my health, for my community and for the planet. (Remember this post?)

In this ongoing process, I found out that my Pitta constitution thrives on raw dairy (cools my firey nature) and that occasional meat (often also raw) satiates me in a way that vegan food never did. I’m happy to support local farmers. But, most of all, I’m happy to leave behind the processed food that served as vegan alternatives. Although I still love to cook with fermented soy products like tempeh and miso – it became harder and harder to look at things like fake cheeses, lunchmeats, “burgers” or egg substitutes as real food. Because in many ways, they are not. I don’t miss the odd taste or the way they left me craving more. Read more here from Grist Food Editor, Tom Philpott.

If you carry through the logic, it becomes obvious that processed food is far from sustainable, including, and maybe especially, vegan processed food (consider the fact that many vegan alternative products contain GMOs). Processing means loads of energy and resource use. It may also mean miles of travel.

The farther you take this logic, the healthier you will be. Raw nuts rather than nut butter? Whole grain cereals like oatmeal or amaranth rather than dry cereal in a package…’s all worth it, your taste buds re-learn to crave what nature serves up best, your wallet will be happier, too.

Remember, when it comes to food choices (and many other things) it’s what you do MOST of the time that matters. Stay informed. Stay open. Stay healthy.

Intuitive Healing for Animals – it’s REAL

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

by Tao, Carrboro, NC

Speaking of our pets…

I’ve shared two of my experiences here before – I just have to remind everyone that Intuitive healing for aniimals is the real deal. And if you’re doubtful, it doesn’t matter, because this is about the healer and the animal and an exchange of energy. It also doesn’t matter where you live – this energy covers any number of miles. So, don’t hesitate. If your animal is suffering, you can save time, money, and worry with the help of a gifted healer, like the one I have used often, Bonnie Illies.

Now when my animals get into health trouble – whether it’s an obvious injury, or an unknown illness, I don’t despair. I know the first thing I’ll do is contact Bonnie.  She not only has the intuitive power, but she is able to share a lot of information about your pet’s condition in general – like food choices, supplements, and options for other treatments.

For more information, check out Bonnie’s website at

Thank you for always being there for us, Bonnie,

Tao, Ayla, River, Jazz, and Sufi

Dog Waste DYI Composter – super E-Z

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

I’ve written here before about the Doggie Dooley composting system, but now that I’ve moved, I’m back to poop-scooping (in gmo-corn-free biobags) and throwing poop out with the trash. Yes, that’s better than allowing it to wash into streams or storm-drains, but still not an optimal environmental choice. I’m thrilled that I came across the super easy dog waste compost system on  Dig a hole ! Yep, simple as that – here’s how to do it – or go to the site for more detailed instructions.

Sharon Slack’s Dog Waste Composter

About 15 years ago, I dug a hole in the back of my ornamental garden, away from my food crops. The hole is about 3 feet wide and 3 feet deep, and is covered with a plastic lid from an old compost bin. I empty my dog’s waste in the pit every day so that it will break down as compost.

Occasionally I add Septo-Bac, an enzyme-active biological compound formulated to increase the digestion rate of sewage.

I haven’t had to empty the hole for over 6 years. When I did empty it, I dug a hole under some nearby shrubs, put the nearly composted waste in and covered it with soil.

Next time I empty it, I will line the sides of the pit with 1/2 inch hardware cloth because my soil is very sandy and tends to cave in a bit.

I am also starting to add some chopped yard waste (green and brown) to hasten the process. The finished dog waste compost can be used on ornamentals, but not on food crops. Dog waste is not allowed in garbage bins, so this alternative has served me well.

Thanks for the tip, Sharon. I’ll be out in my yard with a shovel this weekend! Tao

Poem by Georgio

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010


these days
when there’s barking in my dreams
it usually means
that a dog is actually barking at me.

I hear it: during
a car crash
or just after
the steamiest moment
of the most unlikely
sexual encounter ever
and then
I wake up
right before the sunrise
and my neighbor’s
grey, senile dog
will be outside my window
yelling in some empty way.

I am
a confused bird of a man
emerging from the down filled nest
I’ve constructed inside
my unheated shack.
I dress, fly out the door
then squawk and flap my wings
to scare the old dog
back down the driveway.
I am five feet eleven
inches of goosebumps
beneath my longjohns
and other layers.

my eyes water from the cold
and, after I am done getting huffy,
I walk around to squint
at the hungry footprints outside
the chicken coop;
snowy remnants of night time
fence circling spent
trying to find a spot I’d missed.

(one time I did miss a spot
and I found feathers scattered
across the field, the work of
wind and strong jaws.
I am better at building fences now.)

a hen pokes her head
out through the second-hand
wool sweater
that I draped over the door
to keep the heat in.
she clucks the slow, tired cluck
of a chicken that greets each
early snowy morning
without a rooster to rouse her,
and I try to say soothing
empty things
while I break the ice
in her water bowl
and check her nest for eggs.

the hens are old
and I got them second hand,
so it is not every day
that I find an egg or two
hidden in the mulch hay
that lines the coop.
on the days that I do
I crack the shells over a
pan still greasy
with the past dozen meals,
warm my hands
above the sizzling,
and throw the leftovers
across the street
where I know that dog is waiting.

(Note about author: Georgio is a graduate working on his thesis, living entirely off-grid in Vermont, w/o plumbing or heat. He shares his homestead with a few chickens, )

Need Some Traction? — Meet-ups Ignite Change

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

I’m enthralled by the way people are coming together. It gives me hope for the future and reminds me to share the love and share what’s new with the people around you.

Here’s a group that formed a couple years ago in my area: = “a social network of left-leaning 20- and 30-somethings who are spicing up progressive activism by throwing fun, issue-based events that inform, inspire and connect us with other savvy Gen X & Yers.” They call themselves “Tractivists” and that’s just the start of the fun.

They host really fun socially-minded, events big and small – and they’re getting more creative about it all the time. Here’s an example – a potluck-“turned freezer stock-up party”:

It works like this: You bring a big dish to share (like a soup or casserole), the recipe, and empty tupperware containers. You taste lots of other dishes made by fellow Tractivists and take home the ones you want, along with the recipes. (We’ll have PB&J to supplement the tasting so you don’t go home hungry.) The next time you’re too busy or tired to cook, voila! you have healthy, homemade options right in your freezer.

Homemade means healthier regardless, but everyone is encouraged to use sustainably-grown ingredients when possible. Add your own twist – a kombucha brew-how and share? – and the possibilities are endless.

In another part of the country, a friend told me about a group he meets with called, “Socrates Cafe”. They get together to discuss a variety of topics, such as the pros and cons of technology over the last 50 years, and other bigger, broader topics – something like,  “What is LOVE?”

Sure, we can sit on the WWW for hours soaking up information, but bringing faces, voices and ideas together is where the real inspiration lives.

Not a Creature was stirring…..NEW GREEN PEST CONTROL!

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

A friend of mine has mice in her house – a lot of them. Her landlord’s only suggestion was traps, which she declined. Besides being cruel, poison and traps don’t control an ongoing issue. But mice in your house, those scurrying noises at night, finding bites taken out of the fruit on your counter can all be very disconcerting. So, I was really feeling for her, yet had absolutely no ideas for solving the problem.

As it often happens, the next day, my latest edition of Living Green online magazine newsletter arrived in my mailbox with a new, effective and humane technology for keeping pests and rodents away from your living space.

It turns out that, “Sound and ultrasound devices can drive off small rodents like mice, squirrels and raccoons, and common nuisance birds such as gulls, crows and pigeons. A variety of electronic repellers are available, both sonic and ultrasonic, that target specific pests.” How cool! There’s also the Bugchaser and bird control for balconies/roofs. Some sounds are silent to humans while others are natural sounds that blend into the environment.

For gardens, they also pictured a 3D image of a stalking coyote, but I’m afraid that’s a little too spooky for me – and most likely my pets – I’ll stick with a scarecrow!

Freeze Yer Buns with friends

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

I woke up this morning – still cold. I really wanted to get things toasty for 6am yoga practice, but everything about yesterday’s post reminded me to get over it and get with it. I closed the doors to practice space, turned on the space heater and got to work. If YOU need more inspiration/motivation to turn it down or off, visit and pledge to “Freeze Yer Buns” in 2010.

I loved this site – Deanna Duke, aka Crunchy Chicken,  is a girl in a Seattle – a lovely Leo – who is “putting the mental in environmental”.  The site is sincere but not so serious – plenty of wiggle room for wimps like me. She’s moving and shaking lots of enviro, health, and social issues on other blogs as well. I loved hearing from her readers, too. Grab some warmth any way you can. You sent some to me, Deanna – thanks!

Cold, Creative, and Happy

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

With the exception of the location of Winter Olympics, many of us have been in a long, cold Winter. I like to think I’m a tough native Minnesotan. I know how to dress for the cold – inside and out – I keep my thermostat between 55 – 65 degrees most of the time. We also have a wood-burning stove and do our best to huddle around that when possible. But I’m beginning to see the light on this whole heat-cold/comfort thing through some really creative, enduring people of all ages and avocations.

I recently met someone in Vermont who is currently living in a tiny cabin w/o any heat and he shared this story of other cold lovers up North. “Chilled By Choice” profiles people embracing the cold both indoors and out, for reasons ranging from frugality, to environmentalism, to creative inclinations. We’re talking about full-on Winter here, and I admit I’m somewhat astounded and admiring, but also strangely, a little envious – I’m not sure I have what it takes to be in their shoes – or thermals.

I’m mostly drawn in by their matter-of-fact enthusiasm over the whole thing. No heroic claims in the bunch. There’s the 56yo sculptor in NY, who says he could insulate his roof for more warmth, but it would hinder the acoustics of the place and he listens to a lot of music. There’s the 21yo artist and his five roommates who love their unheated warehouse where they live and perform on their own stage. Then there’s the author in Pittsburgh who opened the Cyberpunk Apocalypse Writer’s Co-op and retreat – heat not included. His house has a furnace, but it mostly stays off. Another 53yo woman lives in a stone house at 7,000ft, and embraces the seasonal temps by opening the windows year-round – and dressing right.

Cold House Journal follows the story – and the temps – day and night up in Maine, where a couple humans and a few cats live furnace-free and light the wood stove when necessary. Their thought-provoking and informational blog sheds light on the whole experience, while including a hard look at the cultural and political influences when it comes to heat. This curiously cold guy makes a case for adaptability, acknowledging our “heat addiction” and in general, looking for a way to “dismantle the Home Heating Industrial Complex”.

There seems to be an common thread here – I hear a creative and committed voice in these people – and a kind of detached contentment. Like when one of the roommates in the Baltimore warehouse admits that they sometimes miss a warm Winter house but, “Then we remember how wonderful it is to be living with five other best friends and making art and how it will get warm eventually.”

Can’t argue with that.

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