We All Live Downstream: Act NOW!

I am not in the best situation for blogging this morning but must make you aware of this final Bush-era gift to Big Coal, one of his last insults to the people of Appalachia and Planet Earth. 

Read this short explanation below of the pending legislation, find out everything you need to know. Link

In one of the first of what will likely be many terrible Bush Administration last minute decisions as his term comes to an end, they are trying to force through the Stream Buffer Zone (SBZ) rule change. Last year, you may recall grassroots groups from across the US teamed up with national groups to send between 40,000 and 70,000 comments to the Office of Surface Mining, Reclaimation, and Enforcement (OSMRE) asking them to block the rule change — which would legalize and expand the worst abuses of mountaintop removal.

Please read and sign the petition to the EPA administrator; petition text  (subject to your additions or not) is included below.

I am writing to urge you not to approve the Office of Surface Mining’s final recommendation to repeal the Stream Buffer Zone rule. This rule is critical for the protection of aquatic life and safe drinking water for Appalachian communities.

It is the duty of the Environmental Protection Agency to protect the environment, not to allow coal companies to permanently destroy flowing streams.

The Office of Surface Mining’s recommendation would overturn an existing ban on mining within 100 feet of streams that has been in place since 1983. The Stream Buffer Zone rule is one of the only habitat protections for Appalachian ecosystems.

Rather than enforcing the rule to protect water quality, the Bush administration and the OSM are giving coal companies permission to permanently destroy streams. Over 1,200 miles of streams in Appalachia have already been devastated by mountaintop-removal coal mining.

As EPA administrator, it is your responsibility to protect the streams, habitats, and communities of Appalachia by not putting this rule change into effect.

NEW RETIREMENT PLAN: 401Keg

I’m outta pocket, you betcha, and using (shudder) MSIE on a PC in the dark while everybody else is still asleep. Sorry, this came in an email from somebody–maybe Joe Sixpack–and I thought you might want to invest. Bottoms up! 

If you had purchased $1,000.00 of Delta Air Lines stock one year ago, you  would have $49.00 left.

With Enron, you would have had $16.50 left of the original $1,000.00.

With WorldCom, you would have had less than $5.00 left.

But, if you had purchased $1,000.00 worth of beer one year ago, drank all of the beer, then turned in the cans for the aluminum recycling REFUND, you would  have $214.00 cash.

Based on the above, the best current investment advice is to drink heavily and  recycle. It’s called the 401-Keg.

A recent study found the average American walks about 900 miles a year.  Another study  found Americans drink, on the average, 22 gallons of alcohol a year. That means, on average, Americans get about 41 miles to the gallon.

Makes You Proud To Be An American!

Illusive Windfalls of Country Living

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Rake into piles. Mow and shred. Rake into piles.Mow and shred.

Wait a minute, I said after a half hour of a job going far slower than I’d hoped. If I want pulverized leaves for the compost pile and garden instead of leaves whole as they fall from the tree, look there!

In the eddy of the road, drifting leaves pile up, and especially near the edge of the yard where the mailman’s vehicle pulls up to drop off mail, leaves are ground to a fine powder. They’re even inoculated with dirt microbes to speed up decomposition.

An idea is born: rake leaves into the road and let the few passing cars do the pulverizing and pick them up ready for the compost pile or garden. Brilliant. I thought.

I seemed a genius of low-effort homesteading until two days after my plan was hatched. I’d pulled an hour’s worth of leaves down into the road, and the VDOT Volvo road plow came along and pushed all my leaf mulch somewhere else–into the creek around the bend of the road I guess.

And so much too for picking up the walnuts falling into the road below the house. We were letting the cars do the work of husking them, waiting for another week of nuts to go pick up the hard black kernals to dry in the shed and crack sometime this winter.

So I guess the moral of that story is that the state right-of-way is not a venue for making my life easier and what sounds like a good “windfall” idea that might make less work for me is just a bump in the road for the guy behind the wheel of the Volvo Monster Machine– which, come to think of it, we’ll be more than happy to see come the first wet snows of December.

VDOT giveth, and VDOT taketh away.

Second Oldest River

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It won’t be too long before I can tell the whole story and/or direct you to the bigger picture from which these images of the New River and surrounding farmlands in Grayson County have come.

The New begins in North Carolina near Boone and flows north, cutting through the Appalachian ridges to join the Kanawha in West Virginia, and hence to the Mississippi and the Gulf near Nawlins.

In the distance, Mt. Rogers, Whitetop and Pine Mt.–the three highest peaks in Virginia on a perfect October day. Life is good.

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Polyface Part II

polyfaceshed.jpgNone its “many faces” are very showy. As a matter of fact, from the ground or the air, nothing seems all that different about this plateaued 550 acres of Central Virginia valley farmland near the community of Middlebrook.

To the casual observer, it may seem just so much pasture and woods and soil and the occasional outbuilding. But Polyface Farm represents an innovative “foodshed” (think watershed) from which food products flow, grown from the ground up–which seems only reasonable for a farm, after all–from earthworms to pastured chickens and rabbits and cattle, as if the earth really mattered.

Every element of the process holds an elevated status there. Soil is more than just dirt there, and as Joel Salatin says, his farm honors the “pigness of the pig.”

Speaking of which, the Salatins have recently found a more efficient way to use their land to the benefits of his pigs. At 200# the pigs are moved into forest, once the usual venue of pig fattening–in times distant past, feeding on chestnuts. His pigs gain the last 100# on acorns.

Three acres of woodlands (otherwise of low and long-term-only value beyond firewood and a crop of timber every 40 years) takes the place of an acre of pasture for fattening purposes and requires no input of fossil fuels to fertilize, mow or spray for weeds.

As an added benefit of this innovation that allows more pork for fewer dollars and a lower overall carbon footprint, acorn-fed pork tastes noticably better and hence, is in demand.

Phil Petrelli of ChipotleHere Phil Petrilli, Northeast Regional Operations Director for Chipotle, an 800-restaurant chain, stands inside one temporary pig lot at Polyface and explains to SEJ vistors why this relationship for organically raised pork is working for his company.

Everybody wins. Chipotle takes the less desirable cuts–hams and shoulders–while the white tablecloth restaurants want the tenderloins and chops. All the offal is processed on site, and one sign of the business at Polyface having grown too large will be when it cannot compost its own waste.

Saladin spoke at length from the hay shed (top image), a location where he said Michael Pollan had his “epiphany” of the rightness of the Polyface way of doing things with a long-view of food production, rejecting the “faster, fatter, quicker, cheaper” approach that has been the US model.

One consequence of this approach has been the rise in e. coli contamination of the meat supply. As Joel describes it, this is because when beef are grain-fed (instead of pasture fed–and don’t get him started on feeding grain to animals when people are malnourished and dying of starvation) the pH of their rumen (stomach) changes so that acid-intolerant bacteria (like e.coli) survive and end up in fecal material that ends up in slaughter houses that ends up in the meat we eat.

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