What will I not give up to go/become more green?

Well, I haven’t been tagged (I’m not cool enough) by the question going around on the farmy blogs but I did invite myself to the tagging, and I meant to post this but then I had the family emergency. So, here is my list of what I don’t think we could give up, though even here there are shades of gray. I will try my best though.
1. Electricity – I think we’d go solar but up here that wouldn’t work year round. So, I think we’d have to depend on outside electric for a good percentage of the time. What we’d need it most for? Refrigeration/Freezing. Fans in summer… And truthfully, Internet. We do love our internet access. In thinking about it we probably could be a lot more aggressive about curtailing our electric use than we are. Many things are in some form of “always on” but we might be able to make them more clever.
2. Some form of heat for winter. All heating methods pollute and are varying degrees of badness so ideally we wouldn’t heat but I get cold very easily, even with extra layers on in winter. We currently rely on oil and in the next few years we will probably go to wood or pellet for the main area of the house – well it may not be a choice but then again it’s a fairly expensive change too. We’ll see
3. the truck we don’t have yet? ok, this doesn’t really count, but we need a truck with the alps coming soon, and so we can plow the drive ourselves in future winters. it’s on the to-do list.
4. I would not give up being able to travel for two purposes.
a. family events. We have family in several parts of the country and it’s definitely not green to get there. I could miss the biggest events, but it’d bug me on a deep level [and probably my family too]. I already miss or have missed out on a lot as it is, including most birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, several baby ceremonies etc. I would consider changing how I travel (doing more extended combo personal/family vacations) to keep this feasible. But the fact is there’s no GOOD way to see be able to see our family at the farthest points.
b. going to a few races/rides a year. Without races or good bike rides to look forward to, I lose a lot of motivation to exercise, which translates into a lot of other potential health problems I don’t want to have. So, I would do whatever I can to keep this external motivator part of my life. Most of our events are within a few hours of us anyway.
We don’t have central AC so there isn’t much to give up there. I’d give up non-local meat and collaborate more with locals who raise poultry and beef (which we already have stared doing). We’re changing how we travel for work… Probably those are the major things.

A quick visit to the Netherlands…

I was away last week to the Netherlands visiting with my Dutch cousins after my aunt had passed away. While I’ve had many thoughts I likely won’t recapture, I wanted to share just a few. First, my sister is awesome for helping me out with frequent flier miles, without which I surely would have had challenges with obtaining a ticket on such short notice.
It had been many years since I was last there, but the essence of the country hadn’t changed. Still, I felt there were subtle differences. It felt more North American than the last time I recalled being there, perhaps maybe due to the Starbucks, Burger Kings, and other American chains I encountered, or perhaps due to more similar styles of clothing and dress (minus the US “street thug” look many teens here follow). Yet like a twist of reality, I could not mistake I was in the NL.
For starters, flying in to Schiphol there were dozens of grouped wind turbines in the North Sea, harnessing wind power for residents of Amsterdam. Although unnatural, they did not appear ugly – actually quite the opposite, I found them beautiful and mesmerizing looking down at the evenly spaced towers with their whirring blades. It really made me wonder about why Americans have been so reluctant on siting any form of offshore wind farm. People have been trying in Massachusetts now for several years, and every time, the issue of birds or potential ugliness rears its head. Birds, I grant, are legit concerns and I’m sure we can find ways around any migratory issues, however the aesthetics issue I find strange. I wonder if those who complain have ever seen a wind turbine, and better yet, if they find billowing smokestacks of coal or oil production somehow more pleasing. If they realize we really are running out of options and the time to do something is now. Ironically, I read two articles about wind power use in different publications while there. Hull, MA has gone ahead with its own turbines and residents are saving something like a third of the cost over other municipal providers. Cleveland OH is also siting a wind farm off the shore of Lake Erie, and is taking square aim at being a leader in both practice and opportunity in the “green economy.” Why CAN’T people in Massachusetts get behind this? What leadership are we as a state going to set for the next generations of tech workers? It is really just baffling. The worldwide wait for a turbine is now 2 yrs, so even if some agreement arises in the next year or so, it will be a few years before any energy is captured.
Sad to say though, the Dutch habits were not as far as I could tell significantly more green beyond this point. I think this is my expectation that the Dutch would teach me new tricks in this area, but not so much. It’s hard to say from a quick visit, but there was plenty of plastic litter, little visible recycling (maybe this is done at the trash collection point), and in general the same type and rate of consumption one would find here, minus two notables – house size (much smaller), and car use (trains and bikes preferred). However, there was no shortage of cars despite all the bike use. There also didn’t seem to be a tremendous amount of local or organic produce to buy, for example. Nonetheless, the NL and even Amsterdam remains very green (literally) since it rains frequently, and with the canals that cut corridors across all parts of the country, it is beautiful and calming to ride through the countryside.
I can say that bikes are still a major transportation method, and I mean transportation. Riders are of all ages and persuasions, from 7 yrs to 80, and it’s by no means embarrassing to be seen on the oldest, cheapest, questionable bike. They are not status symbols. A significant percentage of the bikes are single speeds (not fixies), have handlebar bells, and feature some rusting parts or balding tires. Some have a few gears. A few look like 10 speeds from the 1970s or so. Apparently bike theft of these steeds is still prevalent as I saw many motorcycle style locks to lock them (very thick chain in a web type cover). People would also double up on bikes, with the passenger sitting sidesaddle on the rack. Many bikes have panniers, and almost all have racks or baskets. People do not wear helmets at all, and yet the bikes mix with the cars and pedestrians on any form of pavement – bike paths, roadways, and sidewalks seemed to be used heavily with very few tense moments between motorists and pedestrians. My cousin said that road cycling is more popular in certain areas of the country, but I may have seen a total of 10 or so kitted up roadies across the thousands of other riders, almost as many as I might see on a single ride near my house, at least on certain roads/days.
Almost needless to say, I did not observe very many overweight people. I guess they aren’t supersizing themselves at the McDonald’s anyway…
Amsterdam is really a great city, and it does help (me) that so many people speak English very well. We had some long conversations about differences in the US and I won’t go into details, but they start learning English in grade school now. It’s a pretty reasonable flight, so long as you don’t plan a tough first day, since it’s hard to avoid being tired on the way there. I hope it does not take me 15 yrs to get back there again – I don’t plan it to, anyway.
It is quite a bit farther north than I remembered, so it was light out until 10:30, which I always love, and temps were about 10-15 degrees cooler than here for this time of year (especially with the darn heat we’ve been having). I went for a great run through a park near my cousin’s house (while he and my sister were off doing a 9 mile run).
Last of all, my sister and I noted how different our airport/customs and immigration process is. At Schiphol, I was asked where I was going and so on, but no forms, no visas, no waiting in lines, just a quick look & stamp from the officer. Leaving at Schiphol, no undressing and removal of every possible metal item or threat (after all, shoes are really such a threat!!) that we have to go through in the US. I filled out my form complete with passport numbers etc, saying I was not bringing lots of goods or gifts in to others, and we got treated to a long plane video for non-citizens on all the forms THEY had to fill out. There were two lines – one for US citizens, and one for everyone else. Still, I baffled two TSA agents who were perplexed by my “grapefruits” in the x-ray belt thing (two grapefruit sized wax covered cheeses). I don’t know, I realize I’m not writing this part well, but we certainly do not make it very welcoming for perfectly legal visitors to our country when their first experience off the plane is bewildering forms and lines they must wait in – especially after a long, tiring flight. And it’s nice to know the government wanted me to fill out a form with repetitive info they can get off my passport.
I can’t think of other observations at the moment, but I’ll add some photos once I’ve uploaded them.

some heat wave ramblings…

There’s been so much going on I don’t know where to start. First, we’ve been in a heat wave and had a near tank disaster. As it was we lost our goby and shrimp Monday, but the clowns hung in there and we think they’ll be ok. No idea about the corals. Hopefully the tank will be back on track soon. The 4 day heat wave of 93-97 temps and humidity (before it is even summer, mind you) is expected to break with t-storms later tonight.
The chicks are doing well. They get very excited to see us and especially are enjoying trying to fly up to the top of the brooder. The don’t appear to enjoy the dark, but, it is the natural way and there is 0 reason for me to have the heat lamp on… they all squawk when we go in there. To keep them cool we’ve been using a barn fan and frozen gatorade bottles in the brooder. We have taken them out a few times but they don’t seem to get the outdoors yet. Hopefully that will click in when they are older. They have most their feathers, minus some spots on the wings, the tail, their head… Maybe 65-70 percent feathered. The coop just needs some touch up paint, the floor done, and insulation (at some point, may not do that right away). We haven’t started the run.
Here’s one of our chicks (actually an older picture because I haven’t photo’d them recently – they are not this small now):

We have three new cria on the ground, three boys. All are healthy and well! I will be out to visit some of them later this month. I need to get ready for the fall already. We’ve found someone to do our fences and that work should be starting next week. So we are making progress on the pacas as well.
We have the garden fully planted for this year with: acorn squash, cucumbers, 3 varieties of tomatoes, pumpkin, green peppers, hot peppers, cilantro, sage, dill, rosemary, basil, oregano, tarragon, and spearmint (last two inherited). This is using 4 of the 6 beds, 2 will be fallow for this year… I think I’ll be busy enough keeping the rest weeded. And I have lots of bug bites, because every evening I get a few more…
But with all the business and even chaos at times, I get glimpses of the payoff – a few nights ago, in the warm sunset, I walked outside in my bare feet, across the patio, into the barn, to enjoy some quiet time with the chicks. Just that basic moment, with the quiet of the dusk and feeling at home, I felt that feeling of being home, taking care of our land, our animals, our future… and it was extremely fulfilling.