Thursday, August 19, 2010

Can't say enough about cans

All hail the mighty can

U.S. Can Manufacturers Institute is celebrating the birthday of the can this year – really.

They get a little weird about it, but they seem sincere.

“The history of the can is literally a history of western civilization,” their Web site proclaims.

There is a lot of money involved, Americans use 130 billion cans a year creating an $8 billion industry, according to the institute.

But then they fly away again.

“Because we have come to rely so much on the convenience and easy familiarity of canned products, almost imperceptibly present in every part of life, we are the 'tin can civilization.' ”


The history is interesting. 1796 Napoleon’s troops were starving so he started a contest, according to the Web site. A Parisian tried for 15 years before preserving food by partially cooking it and sealing it in bottles with cork stoppers using much the same technique as today’s home preservers. He won the prize in 1810.

The same year, an Englishman won a patent for preserving food in a variety of containers, including iron coated with tin to avoid rust and corrosion, according to the Web site.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Is that a clone in your mouth?

Both sides of the debate over selling meat or milk from animals with clones in their bloodlines is are in a tizzy.

Seems the Food Standards Agency in Britain has confirmed meat from a bull that originated as an embryo of a cloned cow got into the food chain a year ago. That would be against the law because it should have been labeled a "novel food" to be sold legally, reports
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and European Food Safety Authority have no problem with cloned meat.

Also, the FSA has traced an offspring from the same family line to a dairy but hasn't confirmed its milk is going into the food supply. Let's see, if the dairy is feeding and caring for this cow, where do you think the milk is likely going?

Do you care if that happens around here? How would you know?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Just one more bite

Wasn't eating our way through Santa Fe enough?

My wife, Karen, and I recently took an all-too-short trip to that city recently, and, of course, the first stop was a restaurant. The Shed makes basic New Mexican, but so good. Of course, the raspberry soup wasn't traditional, but so what?

Anyway, several days and more than several restaurants later (Check out the fairly new Restaurant Martin opened by Martin Rios, formerly of Inn of the Anasazi), it was about time to leave.

But wait, there's more. Trader Joes, Whole Foods, the fabulous farmer's market and several hundred dollars later, it's time to hit the highway. We were stocked with everything from dried tart cherries to several containers of unique olives and pickled peppers from the olive bar.

Then comes the sad part. It only lasts so long. Last night was the end of the Mario Batali pasta sauce. Can't get it here, so I guess that's that.

Do you ever go grocery shopping while on vacation. Is that wrong?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It's so stimulating!

It's almost time to do your duty to pump up the economy while greening your home.

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs is quite excited about the approaching reservation period for the cash-for-clunkers home appliance program. Check it out, a special Web page that is ever-growing.

She's positively breathless about the opportunity, as evidenced by the countdown clock on the page.

Really, the motivation behind the drive is probably pure, but can't they find better writers to promote a $23 million program? How snappy is "Energy Efficient Appliance Rebate Program," the federal program or "Texas Trade Up Appliance Rebate Program," here in our part of the world?

The idea is to spend federal stimulus money on rebates to consumers who replace their aging, but functioning, dishwasher, water heater, central air, clothes washer, refrigerator, etc with new, energy efficient models that are ENERGY STAR® or CEE qualified?

The comptroller's office is still working out the details, but they'll start taking reservations April 5, at a time to be announced and the buying begins April 16 for a limited time. Don't jump the gun in your enthusiasm or you'll lose out on your rebate. There will be a recycling aspect that is less than clear, but I'm sure it will be more so soon. It will include a $75 bonus rebate for recycling your clunker.

The comptroller's office is so sure this will have buyers buzzing, it's establishing a waiting list for when the rebates are all reserved.

They're really stimulated.

Now spend - after April 16.

Monday, March 22, 2010

I need a lawyer

It is truly the season of whiplash - sweat, freeze, green, brown. It makes you wonder if you need one of those tv personal injury attorneys to "get you what you deserve."

I know it happens every year, but that doesn't make it easy to cope with. The beds are ready to dig then they're covered with a white blanket. I'm ready to spread mulch, but the snow drift on the drive needs shoveling first.

The piles are starting to grow in the house. Between seed packets coming in and the stuff I'm hauling in from winter storage, like flats to plant in, it took me about five minutes this morning to make a stack that wouldn't avalanche in the corner of the living room.

Thank goodness I told the shippers to wait until April 19 before sending any plants this way. Then I scrape a few dried leaves away from the base of what is supposed to be a perennial, and, wow, here comes the green stuff.

Despite how it sounds, I am trying to be good and not trim plants back too soon. And I started some seeds Sunday in frustration in a kind of fancy holder for making sprouts. Maybe that will help when in a few days, in theory, we'll have sunflower, fenugreek and broccoli sprouts to make it taste like spring.

But could someone speak to whoever is responsible for scheduling and let them know these weekend storms are getting on my nerves and trashing my schedule.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Random local greeness

The city's Environmental Advisory Committee met today, and as they kind of rambled through the meeting, several tidbits emerged that locals might be interested in.

First, the official business of the committee involved voting to discuss at their next meeting the names of people they want to recommend to city commissioners to fill some spots possibly soon going vacant because of lack of attendance at meetings. They also voted to begin writing a strategic plan to guide their work over the next year.

One topic that drew emotional comment was participation in community events as promoters.

"I don't think we're in any position to do events," said committee Chairwoman Kim Vincent. "There's this many of us (motioning to the few in attendance) the Web site was hard enough to pull together and we have no money."

Committee member Jacob Breeden chimed in, "I think we should avoid like the plague having any money."

Now to the tidbits: Earthfest will be April 17 at Wildcat Bluff (it attracts thousands for educational fun), hits to the committee's new Web site totalled 2,124 since Jan. 5, Travis Middle School has a "Green Team" of students and there will be a house made of bales of compressed trash at Mariposa ecoVillage.

Is that random enough?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring unsprung in the garden

Boy, the momentum was building, but as happens every year (when will I learn) that frosty Mother Nature just had to show off who's boss this weekend.

The chilly winter afternoons lolling through the seed catalogs are passed. One frenzied weekend of making the hard choices of who will get our money for what plants and seeds (no fancy starter kits this year, just flats and seed starter) left me feeling bad..."Sorry Johnny's, I know we've been faithful to each other, but that perky new Cook's Garden got your share of the cash this year. Well, her and that High Country Gardens in Santa Fe." And the afternoons sketching what holes remain in beds as I add more and more perennials are just memories on a legal pad.

Now the action is to begin. My wife pruned like a buzz saw. I planted potted chrysantemums outdoors. We both brushed away the brown refuse of winter from the expanding green crowns of plants. All that on Saturday. Then the winds turned chilly on Sunday. We were limping around a little when we went to Lowe's to stock up on supplies for mostly outdoor chores we're planning on. As long as the product wasn't on a low shelf where we'd have to bend too far over, things were passable.

Then Monday morning got here. It was dark outside, thanks to the stupid time change. A chilly rain/snow was falling and our backs were even stiffer.

Sorry Mother Nature. My bad. But your reminders that we're another year older and the average frost date (not to mention the Easter snow storms) are still to come are fully understood. We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness.

But the next sunny Saturday can't be too far off, giving hope for more adventures. Not to mention the first seed packs have arrived. Do you think it's too early to start cukecumbers?

By the way, there will be a three-day seminar on "Planting the Seeds of Sustainability" this month in Amarillo. It's sponsored by the High Plains Institute for Applied Ecology, High Plains Food Bank and Wildcat Bluff Nature Center. It runs March 19-21. Check out the above link for details.