Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cannery in Jacksonville

The old man told me about this facility over a year ago, and I'm finally getting around to sharing it.  The cannery is located in Jacksonville and it sounds like it could be a decent way to cooperatively can foods in a cost-efficient way.  So, say, you have a group of homesteaders who grow tomatoes and end up at harvest with a ton of tomatoes and then someone goes, "you know who has the best recipe for pasta sauce?  My mimi," and everyone goes "yum, homemade pasta sauce!"  So you get your bushels and bushels of tomatoes, load the kids and the moms in a couple of minivans (here, I'm assuming the only folks with enough stamina for this kind of activity would be moms and my apologies to non-moms) and drive up to Jacksonville and use the Duval Extension Canning Center.

The IFAS Solutions for Your Life page for this facility says that it costs 7.50US/hour to use their equipment and you bring your own jars if you are using glass (I guess they provide aluminum cans if you go that route?).  There is an additional 0.15US/pint jar and 0.30US/quart jar processing fee which I'm assuming is for sterilization and perhaps a lid (the author seems to be a little reticent about certain details like this, I guess assuming you'll agree that 15-cents or 30-cents is an awesome deal).  I don't mean to rag on SFYL; the site is awesome since it makes all their fact sheets and extension guides available to anyone with an internet connection, and there is a lot of information on topics like this.

As a final note, if you are not in Florida, or in the northern part of the state, Pick Your own .org site is a great resource for finding the canneries in your part of the country; there are also links for Canada and a placeholder for United Kingdom links, but the former is sparse and the latter non-existent (hint, hint, nudge, nudge to people in Canada or UK)

Got the WWII poster image from Eat Local Challenge blog (the image, for some reason, hotlinks to Life Begins at 30).

The Great Air Potato Round-up 2011

Yes!  Back at it after a 3-year hiatus.  DJ is in Cub Scouts and his troop went out Saturday morning to help in this year's air potato roundup.  Here is a link to the 2008 post about the round-up, and it was fun reading over it, especially because that was a really rainy, miserable-weather day and I tried to weasel out of it but DJ wasn't having none of it, and we still had a blast.  This year's round-up, however, was still kind of chilly, but the sun was out and it made for a very pleasant excursion into the woods.  I learned today (from the old man) that they choose this part of the season to pick air potatoes because the vines have frozen and/or died, making the air potatoes easier to spot on the vine.

There were a lot of people there, and I got to meet some of the parents from DJ's troop, and got to round up some air potatoes for about a half-hour; then, unfortunately, I had to leave to sign DJ up for spring baseball at another park across town.  I was really into rounding up air potatoes (honest!) but by the time I returned to the site everyone was already leaving.

DJ is starting to dislike my PDA!  It was too soon!
Ton of folks w/buckets and kitty litter containers
I mentioned in the 2008 post that there is an addictive quality to collecting air potatoes.  I was saying to the old man this morning, as we were tromping around in the woods behind a park, that it must be some primitive hunter-gatherer instinct that makes this activity so appealing, year after year, to so many people.  There is an acquisitive aspect to it, collecting air potatoes in a bucket that you add to the largesse of potatoes that are then, ostensibly, weighed and calculated to see how many pounds we collected.  There is also a contest for the "largest" and "weirdest" air potatoes, so that adds to the excitement of collecting; the old man was convinced he and Gus had found the largest AND weirdest (the weirdest was an air potato that looked the Mickey Mouse).  Unfortunately, neither of them won in either category so that was a bit of a let-down for DJ.  His next big disappointment was not winning the big pink cruiser that was the grand prize at the after-round-up celebration at Morningside Nature Center.  This is even AFTER winning one of the 20(?) gift packages that they make up from contributions by local businesses(!).  I just have to shake my head and realize that the horror you put your parents through really does come back to bite you in the butt when you have kids of your own.

My personal haul from the event - yes, I'm still feeling guilty
The after-round-up celebration was a lot of fun, and a lot more comfortable this year with the sun in full January display and the ground reasonably dry.  The celebration was held outside of the new, screened-in pavilion at Morningside, and they had a band playing when we got there.  There were tons of people and we immediately made our way to the t-shirt booth.  I feel kind of guilty about taking a t-shirt this year since I really didn't help that much but I rationalize that (and the free snacks) by saying that I volunteer for the Gainesville Parks and Recreation already (with my participation at the living history farm) and I'm doing a blog post about the event that will be seen, ostensibly, by 70 people who follow this blog (70 PEOPLE!  I cannot believe it, a big 'thank you' to everyone ☺).

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Accidentally Environmental Thing: Makeup brushes

Washed powder brush using one hair band and two Silly Bandz to dry
Went to Dullards (Dillards) for some new foundation makeup, and in talking to the stylist about application methods, she suggested a makeup brush instead of the foam wedges I'd been using.  Makeup brushes, as it turns out, are environmentally sustainable because they can be cleaned and reused.

Sometimes I post these things and think to myself, "do people reading this think I'm a complete dip for not already knowing this?"  In my own defense, I wear makeup maybe once or twice a year so I am not hip to application tools or tips.  This is why I go to department store makeup counters when I need to refresh my supply; it may cost more, but I have a live human being advising me in how to apply makeup so I don't end up looking like Betty Boop.

Anyway, I was intrigued by the fact that I could reuse makeup brushes - again, I know this sounds completely facile because I have lived on this earth for a long time and did not know this - so I went out and got a foundation brush and went home and washed my powder brush with a little castile soap.

So, consider this post the first chapter of a new feature, Accidentally Environmental Thing - and please email me at with any AETs of your own!

Free patterns and patterns for recycled clothing

My friend Pam told me her mom would take an old coat and repurpose it into a coat for Pam when she was a little girl.  This is a common way to repurpose old clothing and something that, if you have the time, is relatively easy to do.  Here is a really cool resource for free patterns; it features a new patterns section and the last time the site was updated was in early December so it is still tended.  The part I'd like to highlight is the "Recycle" section that has some great ideas and patterns for repurposing old clothes like jeans and t-shirts (like t-shirts into underwear!). 

The family has been getting very interested in researching Florida Pioneer history since we've been volunteering at Morningside Nature Center's 1870 Living History Farm (and commenter Amy, please email me about contacts for volunteering - they really need the help!), and I just happened to switch over from my research into colonial execution sermons to look at historical clothing patterns.  It's interesting to note that the Modesty Clothing Movement (I don't know if that's the name - it's a devout Christian ideal of women wearing modestly styled clothing that I've reported on in the past with regards to bathing suits, here and here) has some overlap with historical clothing hobbyists (or sewers, I'm not sure what the correct term here would be).  This is evidenced by the link to the Modest Clothing Directory, which has many listings for historical patterns.  I just think it's kind of neat to think about people in the 21st century making a conscious decision to dress in a historical style all the time because it's more in alignment with their personal and spiritual philosophy.

I guess I'm thinking about all this because I spent all day yesterday at the Living History Farm (I had not intended to but they really need the help right now) and thought about the construction of historical clothing and how that could be accomplished for our family (and for Morningside, as I've committed to helping them beef up their costume collection after graduation), in an inexpensive manner.  One thing I've noticed with many of the shirts they have is that they are thrift shop finds that have had the collars taken off.  I thought this was a great way to make cheap historical clothing.  I'd like to try my hand at historical clothing construction, and will hopefully get the chance after April.

Okay, back to Sunday research on execution sermons from the 1700's.

Friday, January 14, 2011

New Environmental Nightmare!!! Silica Sachets!

Artistic WikiCommons photo of silica beads
Did you hear?!  Silica packets -  those little pillows of silica that keep your shoes from getting moldy before you get them home from the store - are dangerous to the Florida Aquifer!!!!

Okay, not really - at least,  I'm pretty sure this isn't the case.  This topic comes out of a conversation I had with a friend the other day and she told me that the silica packets you get in shoe boxes, electronic components, and even bottles of vitamins, can be reused to help keep other of your items dry.  I did some internet research and this is the case!  I must be coming in on the tail end of this super recycling idea because there were tons of articles about this exact subject - for instance, on the Mother Nature News Network, an Illinois blogger (Cy Tottleben) describes all the different uses for silica packets, such as, if you get your cell phone wet, placing it in a bag with silica packets overnite will help dry it out (Here is also a Green Yahoo article on this exact subject.   eHow has a nifty guide on "How to Recharge Silica Gel" so you can use it over and over.  The article states that silica can absorb up to 40% of its weight in moisture.

The other part of this conversation was a little different.  She also said that silica packets, thrown into the landfill could have a negative impact on the water table.  At first, I gasped and said, "omg, NO!" but when I got home and reflected on this for half a second I realized that might not be the case.  Duh, such an alarmist I am!  But, I also want to write about things that at least have some basis in reality, so I did another internet search about whether or not silica could indeed deplete our already threatened water supply if they are thrown willy-nilly into the landfill.  I mean, think about it, what if all the silica packets in the landfill all suddenly decided to absorb 40% of its weight in water?  First, it would suck up all the nastiness in the landfill, then it would start leeching water from the aquifer, right?!

My searches were not exactly fruitful in this regard.  But there are apparently a couple of things to keep in mind when disposing of silica packets. states that there are certain types of characteristics to look for and avoid when using silica.  Blue silica is most likely silica impregnated with carcinogenic Cobalt Chloride and should not only be avoided in reusing, but should also be disposed of as hazardous waste.  The Cobalt Chloride acts as a moisture indicator, turning pinkish when the silica has fully absorbed all the liquid it can hold.

Wikipedia's article on Silica Gel has this to say:

Silica gel is non-toxic, non-flammable, and non-reactive and stable with ordinary usage. It will react with hydrogen fluoride, fluorine, oxygen difluoride, chlorine trifluoride, strong acids, strong bases, and oxidizers[7]. Silica gel is irritating to the respiratory tract, may cause irritation of the digestive tract, and dust from the beads may cause irritation to the skin and eyes, so precautions should be taken [8]. Some of the beads may be doped with a moisture indicator, such as cobalt(II) chloride, which is toxic and may be carcinogenic. Cobalt (II) chloride is deep blue when dry (anhydrous) and pink when moist (hydrated).
Crystalline silica dust can cause silicosis but synthetic amorphous silica gel is non-friable, and so does not cause silicosis.
So, it reacts to a few different chemicals or states, talks about the toxicity of Cobalt Chloride, and notes the potential problem of inhaling Crystalline silica dust.  Use your best judgement, of course, in how you use this information.

I ended up not seeing anything about potential moisture vampirism of our water table when throwing these things away, but care should still be taken since there may be a chance they will meet up with a reactive chemical in the landfill.

I don't really know that, however, so before I started this post I emailed the customer service people at my utilities company and sent them the following:

Hi, I'm a Gainesville resident and I don't know if this is the place to find a contact for an environmental engineer or other waste management representative that I could ask a question regarding silica packets and our landfill.  My question is two-fold:

1.  What are the odds of a silica packet or packets coming into contact with the substances that can cause it to become toxic if they are disposed of in the landfill?

2.  This may seem like an odd question, but what is the likelihood that silica packets could have an impact on the Florida aquifer?

I am researching this topic for my environmental Blogspot blog, The Accidental Environmentalist.  Thank you for any help you can provide in directing these questions to the correct party.

Transaction #:3336003
We'll see if I get a reply - I should add that I said I had one question but then proceeded to ask two - so much for editing carefully before submitting!  My next step would be to call the waste management place directly and ask my somewhat silly questions.  It seems like they've got reasonable people working there, though, since I reported (almost exactly one year ago) on their efforts to expand the recycling availability for our area.   Anybody care to weigh in?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

1870's Living History Farm

 So, I think I've blogged about the summer camp my son goes to for a couple of weeks each year, right?  No?  Oh, well, maybe that's because I didn't want to give it away as the THE MOST AWESOME SUMMER CAMP FOR CHILDREN EVER, because then I would have to compete for a space for my son.  Anyway, this camp, in this nature park near where I live, is about the best experience you can hope for - the kids are outside all day (which, in Florida, in June and July, is saying a lot) and they learn so much about the flora and fauna of their home state.  It really is a very special place for kids. 

Anyway, at the nature park is also a Living History Farm that demonstrates a Florida homestead from the 1870's and its daily operations.  I decided last year* that I would start volunteering at least once a month while I was still in school, and devote more time after I graduated in the spring.  My son (DJ, for "Dude Junior") decided he wanted to volunteer, too, because he would get to dress up like a little pioneer boy and have complete run of the place.  He came out with me last weekend and, as it turned out, he was very helpful and involved in what was going on.  One of the re-enactors showed him how to build a bird house so he could eventually show other kids how to make one, and he picked oranges and swept the steps leading into the farmhouse kitchen, and even helped other kids beat rugs.

The woman I was helping out on Saturday, Charlotte, made two very astute observations (among many):

1.  Everything tastes better when it is baked in a wood stove, and

2.  Children will do all kinds of chores at the Living History Farm that they could never be cajoled to do at home 

Both completely true!

So, apparently, this is going to be a thing with our family - I might not be able to come out every weekend, but the Old Man and DJ are filling out volunteer forms to participate and it's really exciting.  This place needs all the help it can get with budget cuts and it is really doing a good turn for the community, connecting folks with Florida's pioneer days. 

The photos for this piece come from Joe Klubertanz, who was nice enough to share his largesse of great scenes from the farm for this blog post!

*Let me qualify that by saying that I was "considering" volunteering once a month and was waylaid by one of the park operations people who very ably quick-talked me into committing to volunteer once a month (and I am certainly glad she did)

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Praise Him

Update: Found another part of the net trail to the origin of this image.  Finally, here is Austin Cline's website

Happy New Year! My Blog Resolutions

Happy New Year's, everyone.  It's 3am.  I know I should be asleep, but I am having so much fun right now.  I'm by myself, my husband went to sleep over an hour ago, but I'm really enjoying feeling the buzz of about 3 rum and cokes and eating some brie and crackers while browsing the web.

Anyway, I was supposed to do endless posts about new years resolutions and ended up doing only one that was very vague.  More succinctly, I want to keep writing this blog.  That's my first resolution for 2011 and beyond.  I enjoy writing my silly posts and chatting with people about these issues in the comments or in other venues.  Talking about environmentalism in its many forms is balm for my soul and I realized the other day that I will keep doing it since it's so dang enjoyable and satisfying.  I may be momentarily way-laid by family and/or school and work, but I have always come back to writing this thing and have never once thought about hanging it up.  So, first resolution - keep writing The Accidental Environmentalist.

In addition to just continuing to write this blog, I also want to finally migrate The AE over to my web real estate.  This requires finally setting up the MacMini server to host it.  I got one of those For Dummies books about it, so will have to start working on it in bits and pieces.  Things will chill out considerably after I graduate.  Graduate school has been so rewarding but also so taxing; I decided the other day while talking to a colleague that I wanted to keep my hand in academic research but not as a professor.  That was a very constructive decision, in my opinion.

Next resolution is to get some kind of digital recorder and start podcasting for goodness sake.  I thought the iTouch I got a couple of years ago would be the ticket, but it's been a pain to figure out how to make it record without making me sound like I'm drowning in grape jelly.  So, digital recorder that can download to Garage Band so I can begin mixing short podcasts with video extras.

Eh.  Tired now and am really ready for sleep.  I don't have to have all my resolutions before New Years, as evidenced by my lack of said resolutions before midnight, so I'll continue to come up with more over the following weekend.  Then, off to my final semester of grad school.

Thanks to all who read the AE and comment and allow me to be part of your blogrolls. That is very meaningful and resonant and I feel extremely grateful to have this opportunity. 

Got the picture of Guy Lombardo from The Pecan Park Eagle blog.