What is Your Barbeque Footprint?

Labor Day for many marks (or used to mark) the end of summer and the return of the kids to school. By that time, Floyd County students will have been in sweltering classrooms for almost a month. But that is not the point. Labor Day may also be at or near the end of the outdoor grilling season. And that brings us to today’s burning questions:

► Where does my charcoal come from?

► What is my BarBeQue Footprint? and…

► What is this stuff anyway and now does it compare to Propane?

All this was triggered a few weeks back when I was at Lowes (a once or twice a year visit) and found on sale two huge bags of Kingsford Charcoal. Heck, this might be a lifetime supply at our age!

But given the fact that wood from just behind and above us most likely ended up as pellets for European Power Plants, I wondered about the history of these particular black briquets and how responsibly they are produced, and where.

Well first I found out that all sorts of organic matter can be burned while oxygen-starved to create the high-heat low-smoke product we call charcoal. It contains no COAL, by the way.

Olive pits, grape vines, and corn cobs make good charcoal. Hmmm…

► Idea: a corn-cob to charcoal industry from ag waste in Floyd and other rural counties?

Barbecuing sustainably: How not to burn rainforests in our grills | Environment| All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | https://www.dw.com/en/barbecuing-sustainably-how-not-to-burn-rainforests-in-our-grills/a-44543655

Comparing the BTUs of charcoal to propane, here’s the scoop: There are 91333 BTUs in a gallon of Propane and 4.7 gallons of propane in a 20 gallon tank. So that’s about 430,000 BTUs in a typical full tank.

There are 9700 BTUs in a pound of Kingsford briquets. This makes a tank of propane approximately equal to about 44 pounds of charcoal. You can price the two and do the math. Only consider that charcoal burns hotter, gives your grilled meats and veggies the smoky taste most folks want from cooking outside, and did not come from fracked gas through pipes in sone good person’s former back yard.

The Science of Charcoal: How Charcoal is Made and How Charcoal Works https://amazingribs.com/more-technique-and-science/grill-and-smoker-setup-and-firing/science-charcoal-how-charcoal-made-and

But where DOES Kingsford charcoal come from—and one should ask because SOME comes at the cost of burning tropical trees. I asked Kingsford and was told they product comes from domestic lumber mill waste only.

Kingsford (charcoal) – Wikiwand https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Kingsford_(charcoal)

And final trivia fact: this well-known company derived from Ford Charcoal–as in Henry and Ford Motor Co. Early on each car was trimmed with wood and there was a lot of waste. So the idea: let’s make charcoal. And early on, the only place you could get it was at your Ford Dealership!

So get grillin before the autumn’s chillin.

Everything You Need to Know About Charcoal | HuffPost https://www.huffingtonpost.com/craig-goldwyn/charcoal_b_858606.html

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Snows of Narnia

If every snowflake is different, then every snowfall must be too.

This one was unique. It was the last snow to fall before my personal odometer turns to a new zero.

And so I am trying to pay attention to the details. And the details of this snow were worth attending.

I confess I used PixelBender oil paint filter to attenuate the branching snow shapes just a little; it impressed me as a scene out of a fairy tale–maybe Chronicles of Narnia, and so I rendered the image to bring that out a bit. [click to enlarge image ]

The Fading Faint Colors of Fall

Click image for larger view

It has not been a spectacular year for fall colors in our part of the Southern Appalachians.

The prolonged late-summer drought seems likely to have contributed to the subdued palette, but the alchemy of autumn is a many-splendored mystery with regard to the exact combination of temperature and moisture and sun and wind and plant attitude.

So we did not expect and did not see spectacular maples, hickories or beech on the parkway in our short walk a few days back. But there is color in places not seen from a tourist’s vehicle. You can find it if you look for it. Even the understory B-string of fall has something to show in its way out.

Here, the summer greens of cinnamon ferns fade to reveal the other-than-chlorophyll pigments that contribute to the work of photosynthesis. And another year concludes–at least above ground–until the days lengthen again in another six long-night short-day months.

When The Bottom Falls Out of the Food Web

Single blister beetle hanging out, ready to make whoopie.

Most people might think it’s a good thing–that there are demonstrably and significantly fewer insects than there were three decades ago.

But consider that these morels are critical links between the primary producers (grasses and other greenery that turns sun into food) and the chain of upper-tier eaters that depend on insect biomass to keep their own bodies warm and populations from crashing.

Scientists have long suspected that insects are in dramatic decline, but new evidence confirms this.

Research at more than 60 protected areas in Germany suggests flying insects have declined by more than 75% over almost 30 years.
And the causes are unknown.

“This confirms what everybody’s been having as a gut feeling – the windscreen phenomenon where you squash fewer bugs as the decades go by,” said Caspar Hallmann of Radboud University in The Netherlands.

“This is the first study that looked into the total biomass of flying insects and it confirms our worries.”

I always monitor the goldenrod of September as a kind of biological clock telling me where we are on the celestial rotatation towards autumn. In particular, there is a tan blister beetle that uses this plant as a “hooking up” spot, to meet, greet, eat and procreate.

There are usually numerous pairs on every plant around the edge of the garden. This year, there were four pairs–total. I could go on with similar stories about other insects gone missing.

Turns out our canary in the cage might be an insect after all. 

Off Grid on Goose Creek

This “slice of life” from 2013 also published on Jan 28 to Medium.com where you can see better views of the images. You might consider “following” my Medium.com articles and essays, and “recommend” a few if you find merit.

Off the Grid on Goose Creek at Medium.com

Rhythms change when the lights go out…

Even into the third month of round-the-clock wood fires in the stove, it gets no easier to hoist yourself out of bed in the mornings to feed it. Some are harder than others. I vote for yesterday as this year’s prize winner. So far.

The prolonged very-cold does not suit the energy personality of this 140-year-old house. She treats us well into the twenties, the teens if there’s no wind. Below that, there’s no love.

Here, after weeks of below-freezing days and below-zero nights, this old house (circa 1870) begins to suffer hypothermia, the normal heat retention and circulation pattern dis-eased by tiny cracks and chinks. The stove’s continuous gasping for replacement air pulls arctic cold in faster than the throbbing heart can radiate body heat into her living spaces where we sit huddled and blue.

At four a.m. I reluctantly heaved off of me every blanket and quilt and comforter we own. I would have stayed in bed, not to sleep but to avoid morning shock. The cast-iron tyrant was unforgiving of my hibernation hopes; she demanded a feeding. Meals come close together lest pipes freeze or wives whine when it is this cold for this long.

The percolator made encouraging groans. I squinted at the indoor-outdoor thermometer next to the kitchen sink (water trickling constantly for a week): minus 6 outside, 57 inside it read. For the next twenty minutes, my hands mindlessly did what they do to gather kindling, stovewood, matches, and a pine cone or two and start fires in both stoves. I can do it in my sleep. In fact, I think I did just that yesterday.

At last, chores done, I assumed the morning position, monitor, keyboard, mouse and microphone just so, and began brainstorming on some upcoming projects. I was really making progress when the lights went out.

…to stand listening to the silence of a snow

I poured another cup before the percolator went cold, and aimed my flashlight towards the frosted window: -8 now the thermometer said, the coldest so far this winter.

And long story short, it was 12 hours before the power came back on in time that we didn’t have to eat supper by candlelight. But we could have. And, as often is the case with such “emergencies”, we were reminded of how dependent we are on the life force of electricity and also, how in our particular situation, we can still go on without it. For a while.

Yes, we have a generator, and it’s true it has never been called to service in this kind of situation. Partly, that is because our outages ha been brief enough not to threaten the freezer contents (or cold enough outside that we have a substitute freezer), but mostly because neglected small engines do not like me and I fear rejection.

When, after the matriarch finally emerged after a few hours of having the quilts all to herself, I held a match to the top of the cylindrical wick of the shaded kerosene lamp I had fetched from the back room. It cheered up the room considerably.

We re-heated what I had not drunk of the coffee in a pot on the gas stove, and casting shadows against the cabinets, she seared the meat for the 32-bean soup that would soon simmer on the wood stove all day.

No two snowflakes — and no two frozen creeks — are ever the same. We see an infinite variety of things water can do in winter.

After sun-up I hauled wood, the pile I showed you a while back now, covered in goose feathers-–three inches of the driest snow I think I’ve ever known. She ministered to chickens, and Gandy had a playmate come over in the afternoon, his master also without power and bored.

Water water everywhere, but not a bucketful for flushing

Water saved in milk jugs we used as labeled—for drinking or flushing-–and good thing we had them stored in the basement since the creek’s water is inaccessible under a good six inches of solid ice. We’ve used a sledge hammer before to break through to flowing water, but I think I remember we were younger then.

On the loveseat, the warmest place in the house, stove in front and the afternoon sun off my shoulder, I spent a couple of hours reading with the dog curled up against me. She and I took turns solo-dozing, and then did a duet for a half hour.

And on the night the lights at last came on, I did some serious angst-ing over being behind in my projects, from having “lost” the day.

But some things, too, were found. Good books, warm granny quilts, hot chocolate and tea, the absent hum of the engines of home economics, and time slowed down to a crawl by an Earth now slowly tilting back towards bud and bloom, green and growing.

To everything there is a season. I, personally, would welcome the one that is now distantly waiting in the wings.