Friday, April 30, 2010

Green Barbarians

One wonderful advantage to libraries is that they enable you to stumble upon and flip through books that you might not have found otherwise. The Green Barbarians is a book that I found in just this way and it is brand new, published in 2010; the author has actually not even added it to her list of books she's written on her website yet. Now, while I am completely interested in current scientific and homegrown knowledge concerning the environment and conservation I typically have a hard time reading shiny new books dealing with these issues. First, many of them read like a novel which is an allegory of the worlds troubles and you don't discover any fun and interesting facts until three or four chapters into the book. I do not get enough sleep to read books of this variety. I usually end up reading one paragraph a night until I realize I could be reading junior fiction instead. Second, many environmentally minded books say the same things. And by this I mean they say the same thing as other such books, and they also say the same thing over and over in every chapter, just in case you slept through all of the pages previous to the one you are reading (which may be true, but I can flip back on my own).

The Green Barbarians by Ellen Sandbeck stood out to me in the library because it is divided into eight chapters focused on different portions of daily life (food, body care, etc.), and each chapter bumbles through interesting historical information in that category and then points out various areas where current typical practices are driven more by consumerism than actual science. The concept driving the book is that the western world has been conditioned to be afraid of dirt, bugs, bacteria and fungus, while it trusts most products and practices pushed by advertisers. However, dirt is nothing to fear, and regular exposure to normal bacteria is just what our immune systems need throughout our body, including our digestive systems, skin, and even our lungs.

Reading The Green Barbarians is more like looking through a magazine, every short section is interesting and individual so you may read all (as I did) or just the few which catch your attention.
As with any book, the viewpoint taken by the author might not be the perspective that I would have chosen for every topic (I don't agree with her take on genetically engineered crops for example); nonetheless the book is filled with research and personal stories which will certainly enrich anyone's knowledge of their home environment.

Here are a few fun facts from The Green Barbarians:

* The bacteria that make your feet smell are the same ones that produce the odor in many cheeses, such as Limburger and Muenster.

* The Food and Drug Administration has banned nine chemical ingredients from use in cosmetics and body care products sold in the United States, while the European Union has banned over a thousand ingredients.

* A person who eats moderate amounts of free range meat has a lower land use requirement (i.e. it takes less space to produce that person's food) than a vegetarian.
Yay goats and bison and game meats!

* Washing your hands with water only and then rubbing them on a towel or your pants gets rid of more bacteria than using antibacterial soap. (Though using plain soap gets rid of the most.)

* Swedish scientists have shown that the vibrations from humming, particularly low notes, can clear sinuses and reduce the symptoms of colds and allergies. I've always loved humming, but this is a great excuse for when I am around less-music-loving people.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Brighten your plate, begin with your windowsill.

I have frequently mentioned the produce that Nathanael and I have grown together in our garden, most notably the pumpkins, but I know that many of you do not foresee gardening in your path this summer. For most of you it is lack of land or frequent change in living arrangements that prevent you from producing some of your own food, even though the concept is enticing. For those of you with this problem I would like to recommend a website I recently stumbled upon within the bbc network of websites. Whether you have a little backyard patch, a balcony, or just a windowsill in your apartment or office, the slideshows and articles at DIG IN will explain the best vegetables to grow in small spaces, how to plant and care for them, and provide links for cooking them if you are interested. Pumpkins are not on the list, but I encourage you to try growing some beans or carrots, which have so much more flavor when they are from the garden and not the grocery store.
Another fun thing to remember is that you don't need to purchase conventional pots at the garden store if you'd rather not. Be creative and recycle plastic containers, chipped dishware, and other household objects as long as you are able to punch holes to provide the appropriate drainage for your chosen crops.
If you have a hard time deciding on your plants, I vote purple carrots.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Getting Vitamin A

 Nathanael and I are in the midst of planting our garden. Yesterday we spent the afternoon cleaning out our garden plot, and marking new rows in the sun and warm breezes. The space is pretty large, but I am still impressed by how many things we are planning to grow. The seeds that will go directly into the ground (which is most of them) have not been started yet, but 44 pots of more fragile seedlings are beginning to sprout on our windowsill. Some of the more unique things we will be growing this year include purple carrots and yellow carrots. Last year Nathanael grew three varieties of orange carrots and I have just finished the last batch of them from the freezer using this recipe.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...