Friday, December 12, 2014

Freebie Friday 12.12.14

Thanks to the CT Master Gardeners’ email list, I have this freebie to share.

Without soil we can't live. In recognition of this fact, the United Nations has declared 2015 the International Year of the Soils. 

In honor of world soil day, December 5, 2014, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)  and partners made this beautiful film, Symphony of the Soil, available for free streaming for one week. Today is the last day for you to enjoy this gift. Check it out here.

The FAO site offers this summary of the film: This new documentary by Deborah Koons Garcia, director of The Future of Food, is an artistic exploration of the miraculous substance soil. Filmed on four continents, it gives voice to an amazing cast of soil users : from scientists to farmers, activists to policy makers, historians to entrepreneurs featuring esteemed scientists and working farmers and ranchers. It also highlights possibilities of healthy soil creating healthy plants creating healthy humans living on a healthy planet. 

Visit the Symphony of the Soil site to learn more.

FYI Why a piƱata? Just like a blog link, until you open it, you won’t know what’s inside.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Saturday Shorts: Ant Power


Something I read this week brought to mind the song “High Hopes,” the Academy Award-winning theme song of the 1959 film “A Hole in the Head.” The song’s lyrics celebrate the ability of one “little old ant” to “move a rubber tree plant.”

Armies of Ants Keep New York Squeaky Clean,” an article that appeared online in NewScientist Life on December 3, reported that ants and other arthropods remove a significant amount of food litter dropped in New York streets. Researchers from North Carolina State University placed potato chips, cookies, and hot dogs at dozens of sites in Manhattan and discovered that arthropods removed as much as 59 percent of the food within the space of a day! The authors of the study termed the contribution of ants to keeping Manhattan’s streets clean “modest, but notable.”  

Entomologist May Berenbaum, University of Illinois faculty member and recent recipient of the National Medal of Science, was quoted in the article as saying: "Recycling is among the least glamorous of ecosystem services provided by arthropods, and this was a great study highlighting both its magnitude and importance.”

A Google search for the number of ants in the world turned up this estimate: 100 trillion! Just think of the possibilities if we could somehow harness a fraction of that power!

Why Saturday Short Subjects? Some readers may recall  being dropped at the movie theater for the Saturday matinee — two action-packed feature films with a series of short subjects (cartoons or short movies, sometimes a serial cliffhanger) sandwiched in between. Often the short subjects were the most memorable, and enjoyable, part of the morning. That explains the name. The reason behind these particular posts is that we are all short on time. My Short Subject posts should not take me as long to write or you as long to read (or try).

Monday, December 1, 2014

Meatless Monday: Kitchen Tips for the Next Holiday


Thanksgiving 2014 has come and gone, but more holidays loom just ahead on the horizon.

Those of us who cook and bake have only just begun our work.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind as we prepare for the next celebration(s).

We should do our best to minimize waste. I have blogged about this before; if you want the statistics on how much food Americans waste each year, I invite you to click on this link

Just before Thanksgiving, Food Day and Interfaith Power and Light shared a guide to sustainable food choices and meal preparation; the tips apply to Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s celebrations as well.

Here are a few tips of my own.
  • The water in which you boil a rutabaga (or other root vegetables) makes a great soup base. If you aren’t ready to make soup right away, freeze it for future use.
  • Leftover roasted vegetables (should you be lucky enough to have some) freeze very well when sealed in ziplock freezer bags. I have had particularly good luck with brussels sprouts and mashed butternut squash.

Stock up on locally-grown seasonal ingredients. 
  • Now is the time to buy the last of the locally-grown winter squash. Try to buy squash with the stems attached, and store them in the coolest place in your house. If you don’t have such a spot, cook and store the squash in the freezer.
  • Buy fresh cranberries while you still can. If you are not ready to use them, put the bagged berries into the freezer right away. They will last for months in their original bag; just be sure to rinse them well before preparing them.

And, of course, plan ahead, and do your best to pool your shopping trips.

That’s it for today. Happy Meatless Monday. 

Good health to you, and to the planet.


On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”