Where there is a will there is a way

Saturday, May 28, 2011

How to make yogourt at home (no need for plastic containers)

This is my parent's yogourt setup in Canada! (Calgary, Alberta.) They just sent me some photos at my request. Basically, it's a pan of warm water with a lightbulb and reflector to keep the water at the right temperature so the yogourt can grow.

Each glass container begins with powdered milk and water mixed more concentrated than you would for milk, with a little bit of yogourt added. The yogourt then grows in the milk until the mixture is thick, or the yogourt has "set up".

Here is the heater! Just a lightbulb that my father (Heber Jones) screwed into an empty, repurposed, tin oil can and a large window is cut out of the side. The heat is reflected up, but the can on it's side is also a suitable support for the pan. Use a 40W non-eco bulb to generate just the right amount of heat for the yogourt to grow.

I first became interested in making my own yogourt because I hated all the plastic containers that were generated as waste from buying yogourt. I recently started buying skim powdered milk from Binn Inn (a local wholesale food place), refilling a bucketful, so there also isn't packaging from buying the powdered milk. (And you can reuse some yogourt from the last batch for the next!) I do it to avoid the rubbish, but it's also pretty economical money-wise, works out to be about 45 cents a serving.

Here is the recipe for the yogourt - it makes about 8 small glass jars of yogourt:

260g of skim milk powder
1.15 L warm water
(1 litre plus 150 mL)
1 cup of yogourt

*The milk powder I use calls for 100g powder to 1L water to mix up regular milk. When you're making yogourt you are concentrating the milk by 2.25 times.
Mix together and pour the mixture into 8 glass jars. Place the jars in a warm water bath in a pot or pan, and place the pan onto your yogourt heater. Takes about 6 hours, or until the yogourt has set up thickly. Remove from the water bath and refrigerate.

Fresh yogourt! Once you try it, it's really easy. Go try it now!

PS - I asked my parents the other day about reusing yogourt from your last batch to start the next, what happens over time. They said that in time other "bugs" get into the yogourt, and you need to buy a fresh starter from the grocery store. I asked, what did they do in the old days? Apparently they would see what would grow spontaneously, if someone had a good strain they would share it around. Strange to have to depend on the grocery store...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Found on the Art Grange - Michelle Stitzlein's bottlecap mosaics

This was posted by ReUseConnection, it just blew my mind. I love it. This couple, Michelle and Nathaniel Stitzlein, have a studio in Baltimore Ohio called the Art Grange. They both make sculpture, and also computer graphics. Michelle reuses many objects in her beautiful sculptures, such as piano keys - they exhibit their art, and also hold workshops for children where they make mosaics out of bottlecaps. This is their website: http://www.artgrange.com/. I always wanted to make art out of bottlecaps, and other objects as well, in the past - these people are really, really doing it.

Michelle has published a book of their bottlecap mosaic projects with children - which would be awesome for schools (or home art projects).

I've started saving bottlecaps again.

Link to order her book here: www.lulu.com/content/2508533

Monday, May 23, 2011

Conservation Biologist in "Discovery Channel People" video clip ("Between Kingdoms" by Bryan Little, Fly in the Wall Productions)

This is the most beautiful message. Something I have also always felt. Right about from the 45 second mark on is a divine message.

"Most people probably don't consciously feel claustrophobic.
Not being able to see the horizon is something that most people think is normal.
When I was young, I used to collect tadpoles in the family bathtub.
But then I also chh? to be a monkey and marry my dog.
What is a city, if not an attempt to exclude nature?
How is it that a spider in a home is seen as a pest, rather than a killer of pests?
I see nature fighting to find a balance
in the cracks in the walls and holes in a now developed world.
That's the difference I guess. Nature fights for balance.
And humans fight for excess and consumption.
We most certainly have lost a part of our souls in this developed world.
I wake up, in my little house, surrounded by buildings, cars, people, and the sounds of sirens, I struggle to see the sky out of my bedroom window.
Humans convincingly control the planet, and I think it's time that we realize that with a power comes responsibility.
Nature will win in the end. In the meantime, I am a fan of the underdog. My name is Ian Tchagra Little, and I am a conservation biologist."

October 26, 2011: I was just sent this clip by Tangerine Lullaby, a version posted by the person who made it, Bryan Little, Fly on the Wall productions! He is in Cape Town, South Africa.

Here is the link on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IW3m5BnTmqQ&feature=player_embedded

Click here for an earlier post about this clip.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thinking about Google

I just watched a documentary about Google (BBC money program), about how it works and it's implications - the commercialization of the internet. The concept of "free" email or searching, how we are actually paying by our interests (search terms) being recorded, and people advertising to us based on that information.

The show covered the various ways that commercial interests are wresting power through the ads that appear everywhere, the concept of something being "free", and sneakier devices appearing such as recommendation functions. They were concerned that instead of the web being passively available, people are finding ways to offer you, only that which they think you want...so the freedom is being tailored.

I do think that the attempt of commercial interests to reharness control is scary, but there still is so much positive that can happen, where people can connect in new ways where they weren't able to before.

By the way, one of the way the Google-monster (search engine algorithm) works, is the more a website is linked (referenced) elsewhere, the higher it will appear on the results. SO...it's like a popularity engine, working almost socially, with some sites snowballing the hits.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

May 14 Climate Futures - intellectual fire on the radio late at night (NZ)

I feel like I am on fire. This happens once in awhile, I got the opportunity to listen to radio late at night while making something - wire fairy wings for girl children coming to a birthday party tomorrow - and Radio NZ had a climate change conference on in Wellington [later looked up the details: 'Climate Futures – Pathways for Society’, organized by the New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute at Victoria University]. It just feels like it has been ages since I have listened to that pure liquid of ideas that sometimes radio is. I had flashbacks of listening to the radio during my nightshifts when I had a job at a resthome. I was doing chores and night like ironing, but was on fire with ideas as I listened to the radio (sustainability as well, actually.)

There were speakers from England, Canada, and New Zealand that I heard, from the different range of intellectual disciplines - first a scholar [Sir Lloyd Geering] who had been projecting ahead different futures. He said that in the 19th century the human population had QUADRUPLED, and that in the past, our actions hadn't impacted on nature no matter what we did, she was still far more powerful. Now, we are able to effect the productivity of the world, as we cut down the world's forests to feed ourselves. It was lovely to hear spoken thoughts I have so often had and am usually alone in- to see that they were shared.

I had that sharing of ideas with Good magazine when it first came out, but it has since had to become more profitable, and now speaks less.

The next speaker from British Columbia, Canada, [Robert Gifford] was interested in the psychology of why people make choices, as he felt that many people knew and realized that there was a problem - he wanted to know why people weren't making bigger changes then. He said a few reasons, one I had heard before - that our ancient brains are geared for a different world, from when we roamed Africa in tribal groups and were concerned with the here and now, and not even with the next group unless they were threatening our resources. I do believe that is true. He mentioned all the aspects of being in a group that I agree are hugely influential, others are not changing and that is our reality - we have investments in the system and to change is to step outside our own prosperity in the immediate future. Also he mentioned media, such as Fox News, which fought against intellectualism. His main point was that we all need to do more to change, such as biking to work instead of driving to work.

A lady who had experience helping children to cope with tragedy, I believe, was interesting [Canterbury University political scientist and resilience expert Bronwyn Hayward]. She took a little while to assemble her point, but they all had different valuable contributions, that we were going through the various stages of coping with a disaster, comparing it to an event like an earthquake, denial, then blame, then resurgence of old power...she hoped for true change and said it would come with the new generation of young people who were fighting their terrible odds.

The last speaker was one of our own New Zealanders [Gareth Renowden]. I wasn't sure how he would be, but I was very proud of him. I had had the reminder of Canadian intellectualism with the British Columbian environmental psychology speaker, and in contrast this man cut right to the point and was very true in what he said, and practical. He had a successful blog called Hot Topic, which had come out of a book he had started to write. He said simply, that what we needed was " a consensus of action" of what to do about climate change. I just loved that. We do need to decide upon a course of action, so we can act, all of us humans together. He also had an interesting point from being on the ground, and hearing comments from the public - there are a few people who hound his blog, always trying to assert their view (contrary to climate change) which is independent of the facts. He said that he thought these individuals were actually acting like they were part of a "religion", contrary to their view that people who were concerned about climate change were. They held fast to their view despite the facts.

I definitely need to listen to the radio more, and pass around articles less...

Monday, May 9, 2011

Snail or no snail

Slugs! Snails!

With gardening and becoming closer to the land, there are more physically intense experiences, some good, some not so pleasant.
Pleasant: smelling fragrant basil waft when I am in the garden at night.
Not pleasant: getting rid of slimy slugs and snails!

I had been noticing that all my lovely perfect seedlings have been getting riddled with holes. I couldn't see any insects eating them. Totally new to gardening in NZ - I am reading Xanthe White's organic vegetable gardening book. She had said to go on night raids, and that in general with a garden and pests, "observation was key". I had planted the seedlings, but then just ignored them. Tonight after it was quiet and everyone was in bed, I grabbed a flashlight and and a bucket and went to have a look.

THEY WERE EATING MY GARDEN! There were many, many snails of all sizes locomoting around and clinging to leaves, and small slimy slugs. I grabbed them with my bare hand and put them in my bucket, observing where they were making short work of all my seedlings, in particular the lettuces. I think I've made a giant leap here, and that perhaps if I take measures I may actually have vegetables. In the past when I have experimented with growing, in pots, the pests totalled whatever I was growing. In NZ, it is bountiful, but bountiful in pests as well! Xanthe White had made brick beds, and had gravel in between her raised gardens to discourage locomoting of slimers. I am definitely going to put gravel in between my garden beds, in the areas that I can. I can even add some salt.

But then a dramatic event occurred.

It was an ethical dilemma. Xanthe had said although it was a queazy matter, those "suckers could do with some population control once in a while!" Being city suburb born, and we didn't have snails persay, I was concerned about killing something that I've seen illustrated in children's books as woodland creatures along with fairies and toadstools. I pictured painting the mural I plan to paint in my children's bedroom, and how unable I would be to paint a snail's magic if I killed them. I had seen them this night, stretching slowly and magically up - their delicate antennas stretching delicately out. I heated up boiling water, deciding to be a farmer. Then I changed my mind easily, and decided to throw them into the inedible part of our garden (yard), into the bushes. I threw them all into the bushes, stopping to wonder why I felt less caring towards the slimy slugs that had no shells. I knew that the shell was just one more adaptation to protect it...they were basically cuter. I returned to the garden to see if more slugs or snails were reeling up after I had left. I found a small black slug creating holes in a lettuce leaf. My caring turned to repulsion as my inner self regarded it as an unwanted, negative creature. And then I realized what the difference would have been, for earlier people, that resolved the ethical dilemma. They would have been eating your only food. It's killed or be killed, babies.

I plucked the black offensive creature off the leaf, dropped it into the bucket, and put the kettle back on to boil...