January 2013


Every few days I make a big batch of oatmeal and then put most of it in the refrigerator to take out later and heat up.

I cook it with double the recommended water plus extra for what steams off. I also cook it for much longer, typically for about twenty minutes — until the “cream” starts coming out.  I used to cook it for an hour with even more water until the individual oats would lose their identity but lack the patience anymore that is when it is best but even getting to the cream stage gets  most of the flavor gain.

I add a lot of freshly grated ginger. I don’t use a regular grater because it gets caught in it and is hard to clean.  When I mentioned to my sister-in-law how much I like and use fresh ginger she gave me my mother’s (long passed away) ginger shredder. It is a solid piece of ceramic with rows of little teeth.  The shredded ginger is easily wiped from it and it cleans easily with a simple rinse.

Amazon sells a similar one. My mothers has a nice design on the off side so when it is hanging up it is pleasant to look at.

ginger grater

She used to use it for making the best ginger cookies ever.  I have bought every ginger cookie on the market since then and never found one that was as good.

I add the ginger with about 5 minutes remaining.  With a couple of minutes left I add cinnamon. I also make an exception to our no cooking with salt general rule.  We use Bragg’s Liquid Aminoes to get the salt taste usually but that doesn’t work with oatmeal and my sodium level is low enough I can splurge for oatmeal so I add a bit sea salt.

I put a couple tablespoons of active culture yogurt and a tablespoon of freshly ground flax seed along with a teaspoon or so of maple syrup or honey in a bowl and have it warm up on the stove so it keeps  the  oatmeal hotter longer. If you were using a gas or electric stove you could have it touch the cooking pot. We have a wood cook stove so I put it on a trivet.

I add cooking apples that soften in a couple of minutes, a banana, frozen strawberries from our garden or dried fruit to it as I reheat the individual batches later. I eat an orange or raw apple or  something when I do the main batch.

Today I tried something different– rolled barley which turned out to be excellent.  The thing was that it ended up taking longer to do, about 40 minutes. Normally I stir the oats then wander off and do something else but I have had a cold lately and been exhausted so after 20 minutes had passed not knowing how much longer it was going to take I just sat on a stool next to the stove.

I was about half nodding off so meditating on nothing but the sounds of the pot was easy. It was this bubbling sound hundreds of bubbles at once but not in a frenzy, more calm and methodical and for some reason I found it extremely soothing.

Not that I intellectualized about it at the moment, but what a basic human experience that crosses all demographics and historical eras — the sound of a pot simmering. I could have been anywhere anytime.

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Blue Ball Machine

I guess I could say it is an indictment of the over mechanization of industrial society and its dissipation of positive energies. But that would just be BSing to cover my interest in it.

From the Wall Street Journal

The dairy industry is trying to solve a vexing puzzle: how to revive milk sales. Per-capita U.S. milk consumption, which peaked around World War II, has fallen almost 30% since 1975, even as sales of yogurt, cheese and other dairy products have risen. Ian Berry has details on The News Hub. Photo: Bozell Public Relations/AP.

In an age of vitamin waters and energy drinks, the decades long decline in U.S. milk consumption has accelerated, worrying dairy farmers, milk processors and grocery chains.

The industry “is coming to recognize this as a crisis,” says Tom Gallagher, CEO of Dairy Management Inc., a farmer-funded trade group that promotes milk products. “We cannot simply assume that we will always have a market.”

Per-capita U.S. milk consumption, which peaked around World War II, has fallen almost 30% since 1975, even as sales of yogurt, cheese and other dairy products have risen, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics. The reasons include the rise in popularity of bottled waters and the concern of some consumers that milk is high in calories.

Another factor, according to the USDA, is that children, who tend to be heavy milk drinkers, account for a smaller share of the U.S. population than they once did.

To revive sales, milk companies and retailers are pushing smaller, more-convenient packages and health-oriented varieties, including protein-enhanced milk aimed at fitness buffs.

Selling Milk

Take a look at some of the images used to promote milk over the years.

Mary Evans/Onslow Auctions Limited/Everett CollectionA poster issued by the National Milk Publicity Council.

The dairy industry is also retooling its marketing to tout the authenticity of cow’s milk and to deride fast-growing alternatives like soy and almond milk as “imitation milk.”

The decline’s recent acceleration is due in part to increases in milk’s retail price, a result of the soaring costs for grains fed to dairy cows, according to industry officials. But the depth of this year’s slide has surprised some food-industry executives because retail milk prices have risen only slightly this year after surging 9.2% last year, according to federal data.

Americans drank an average of 20.2 gallons of milk last year, a decline of 3.3% from the previous year and the biggest year-over-year slide since at least 1975, according to the USDA.

So far this year, sales volume at U.S. food retailers for all types of liquid milk, including nondairy varieties, has fallen 2.9% from a year earlier, and total dollar sales have slipped 2.2%, according to Chicago-based market-research firm SymphonyIRI Group Inc. Sales volume for the biggest milk category—skim and low-fat milk—has dropped 4%.

Organic milk sales are growing but account for only about 4% of retail sales, according to Dairy Management.

The protracted slide is troubling for retailers, which have long sold milk at the back of the store to lure shoppers through the aisles, often as a loss leader. “Milk is an extremely important category for us,” says Alan Faust, director of dairy and frozen products at Kroger Co., KR +1.46% the second-biggest U.S. food retailer by sales after Wal-Mart Stores Inc. WMT +0.51%

Kroger CEO David Dillon said in a recent interview that consumers may no longer consider milk as healthful as they once did. So Kroger, which runs its own dairies, plans to start selling a milk brand called CARBMaster next month that contains 20% more protein and lower sugar content than conventional milk.

Shamrock Farms Co., an Arizona-based milk producer, recently began selling a “muscle builder” version of its high-protein milk, Rockin’ Refuel, in partnership with retailer General Nutrition Centers Inc. GNC -0.85% With the product, which combines chocolate milk and added protein, Shamrock is attempting to lure consumers who buy nondairy drinks such as CytoSport Inc.’s Muscle Milk, says Shamrock’s marketing director, Sandy Kelly.

The milk industry is also trying to target busy families with new packaging sizes and styles. Shamrock, for instance, came up with with 12-ounce easy-to-grip bottles of milk that are sold at Subway restaurants and seven-ounce bottles that are sold at Arby’s restaurants and targeted at children.

Meanwhile, Dean Foods Inc., DF -0.05% the largest U.S. dairy producer, last year introduced a low-sugar chocolate milk for kids called TruMoo, and it sells lactose-free milk in grocery stores.

But in a sign of how shifts in consumer preferences are shaking up the industry, Dean Foods earlier this year spun off its fast-growing WhiteWave division, which makes Horizon Organic milk and Silk soy products.

The move was designed to get investors to pay more for shares in a business unit with higher profit margins and faster growth prospects than conventional milk.

In its marketing, the dairy-milk industry is seeking to take some steam out of the plant-based alternatives by tweaking its two-decade-old “Got Milk?” campaign and other advertising efforts.

Visitors to the GotMilk.com website, run by the California Milk Processor Board, have been greeted since May with a series of interactive games that explore the “science of imitation milk,” a parody of soy, almond, rice and other nondairy milk products.

And early next year, the industry said it plans to expand use of the “Real” seal that some dairy producers affix to milk cartons and other dairy products.

The red, teardrop-shaped seal is aimed at distinguishing dairy milk from plant-based products, says Tom Balmer, executive vice president of the National Milk Producers Federation, which manages the program.

The dairy industry may have a difficult time winning back consumers like Dan Anderson, a college literature professor who consumes milk only with breakfast cereal. “The last time I was a heavy milk drinker, I was six years old,” Mr. Anderson, 47 years old, said as he shopped at a Jewel-Osco store in the Chicago suburbs. “What would you drink it with? Spaghetti?”

Write to Ian Berry at ian.berry@dowjones.com and Kelsey Gee at kelsey.gee@dowjones.com

Bhokta ran a monthly online haiku contest I would enter as often as I could. Here are some of my 2012 entries.  One of the themes for December was “Departing” in his honor and the last one herein was written with that in mind.

reds in the viburnum
cardinals await their turn
sunflower feeder

a turtle crawls
across the sky

witch hazel
aconite snowdrops crocus
he plants spinach

hard to imagine
this calm dawn with wren warble
is a dream

drought shriveled tomatoes
promise sweet grapes

orange flickers
on the bottom of grey clouds
a gas well is flared

late season crickets
join the chorus so sweetly
tears well

river bottom mist
newly naked trees don
a coat of ice

as days shorten
the laundry basket
fills faster

tap at the window
a reminder to restock
sunflower feeder

as eyes adjust
to snow blindness
sundogs appear

in his death throes
escaping like a butterfly
from its chrysalis

I have been using the exercise bike at dialysis. Once they let me start using it, which wasn’t for the first couple of months until they saw how I would react to dialysis, I was adding 5 minutes a week.

When I got to 25 minutes, I started adding more resistance.  So it took a while to get here, but currently I estimate that in the 25 minutes I cover 4.5 miles.

I am using as a baseline that when I biked from Grand Forks ND to Daytona Beach FL,   covering 15 miles (24 K) in an hour was routine.  4.5 miles in 25 minutes = about 11 miles (17 K) an hour.  While I feel that it is possible to increase, at this point it is a struggle and 15 mph may not be  achievable.

So far I have covered 39.5 miles, about 64 K. From my house to Wheeling is 14 miles,  Wheeling to Weirton is 29 miles so 43 total.  When I finish today’s session I will have made it the equivalent of through Weirton, 44 miles.

It is 39 miles (63 K)  to Pittsburgh then 325 miles (523 K) to Washington DC from Pittsburgh along the Great Allegheny Passage, the DC to Pittsburgh bike trail.  That is 407 miles (655 K).

DC to Daytona Beach Florida is another 807 miles (1298 K) from there making a total trip of 1214 miles (1953 K).

Since Limestone WV where New Vrindaban is is only 913 miles from Daytona Beach where go North first out of the way?

When I went Grand forks to Daytona Beach I looked at the map and saw that if I took the hypotenuse it looked a lot shorter. While I had knowledge of what mountains were, I didn’t have realization, which was acquired as I went up and down every seemingly east /west running ridge and mountain chain as I was heading south.

I realized later that had I simply gone straight south to Texas then took a left while the mileage would have been greater the expended energy would have been less.

Our neighbors’ son Sid is an avid biker living in Pittsburgh. He biked The Great Allegheny Passage and said as it follows an old rail line and then a canal path, it has very little hill climbing in it.  Cuts and fill as well as lots of tunnels smooth out the mountains.

It also means a large part of the journey not risking my life in traffic hugging a white line while cars and trucks whiz by.  Academically speaking of course, since is t is all in my mind.

Once to DC it’s follow the coastline which is  more or less flat.

Will all this flatness make up 300 miles (482 K) added to the distance? That might be  marginal to obtain but climbing hills is hard work and even if slightly longer timewise more doable at my age and with my health status.  So it will be more enjoyable.

At 4.5 miles per session that is 27o sessions which at 3 sessions a week is 90 weeks which is over a year and 3/4.     Assuming I can keep the pace and not get any sicker than I already am.

So see you in Daytona Beach end of September 2014! If I can get up to 5 miles a session, maybe I can make it for Labor Day. :-)

I just ordered my tomato seed from Totally Tomatoes.

00085A Biltmore Hybrid Tomato 1 @ $3.75
00175A Celebrity Hybrid Tomato 1 @ $2.75
00592A Prudens Purple Tomato 1 @ $2.35
00625A Rutgers Ps Tomato 1 @ $2.45
00630A San Marzano Tomato 1 @ $2.35
00678A Stupice Tomato 1 @ $2.45
00696A Sungold Hybrid Tomato 1 @ $2.75
00868A Tamayo R Hybrid Tomatillo 1 @ $3.25

These are all indeterminates. Celebrity, Sungold and Biltmore are hybrids but with great flavor. Celebrity has the nice look and color that consumers like. Sungold is a yellow cherry tomato that is so sweet it is like eating candy.  I was watching a PBS show about Farmers Market and in some city Biltmore beat out all the heritage tomatoes in a blind taste test so I am going to try it this year.

Rutgers is a smaller heritage one with good flavor that is good for canning as well. If I could only grow one tomato it would be Rutgers.  Prudens Purple is just like Brandywine except a slightly smaller fruit that is more resistant to cracking and comes in earlier. Same top of the line taste. Stupice is the quick maturing  tomato I start early and put out under cloches.

Tomatilloes are of course tomatilloes and you can’t have authentic salsa without them.

I also get Bellstar tomato, a determinate paste tomato, from Johnny’s as Totally Tomatoes doesn’t have it. It is a hybrid but excellent flavor and it comes in before my other paste tomato — San Marzano. Both of which are superior to Roma.

So my 2013 garden is under way. Next I have to order from Johnny’s and Berlin Seeds. Berlin doesn’t have a website because they are Amish but cheap and best.

Then for New Vrindaban I am working up an order from Adams County Nursery and Daisy Farms.  Also I will be getting some currants from Nourse as the other two don’t have them and one of the beds they prepared for this springs planting gets some afternoon shade which is a plus for currants but not for other berries. From Forest Keeler I will be ordering 50 Carpathian Walnuts.

The 2012 garden is still hanging in there. The same day I made my tomato seed order I was eating  frozen tomatoes from last year. We are also eating frozen green beans, edamame and strawberries.

From the root cellar we still have carrots, beets, parsnips and potatoes.  Plus jams.

From the unheated part of our house where it stays 50  degrees (10 C) we have sweet potatoes and Butternut squash. 50 degrees and dry is perfect for storing them.

I also was picking turnip greens out of the garden in the middle of January. They had been under floating row cover. December was mild and then we got a blanket of snow when the weather turned bitter cold in January.The snow insulated the turnips.

When the snow melted in this current warm spell I was able to pick the greens. The older outer leaves were bad but in the center the more juvenile ones were still good.

turnip greens

So 2012 and 2013 gardens are overlapping.

Salt Lake City, UT — Having the stated objective of achieving 25 percent reliance on renewable energy by the year 2025, the Department of Defense is already off and running in pursuit of that goal. Thanks to the combined efforts of SolarCity and Balfour Beatty Communities, plans are currently in motion to install rooftop solar panels on 4,700 military homes at Fort Bliss, Texas and neighboring White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in New Mexico. The solar equipment that is set to generate up to 13.2 megawatts of capacity when completed will be leased to the Department of Defense by SolarCity, which will perform installation as well as maintenance.

Operating under the moniker SolarStrong, the project is the largest phase to date of SolarCity’s five-year plan to build more than $1 billion of solar projects for approximately 120,000 residential homes on military bases throughout the country. Launched in 2011, the SolarStrong project has announced similar projects in Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickman in Hawaii, Los Angeles Air Force Base in California, and Schriever and Peterson Air Force Bases in Colorado. The SolarStrong project was made possible through financing received primarily from Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

As the largest single energy consumer in the United States, the Department of Defense is taking proactive steps at energy reduction. It has designated Fort Bliss as a “net zero installation” and has indicated that eventually, the Army base will produce energy in direct proportion to the amount it uses. The end result will see the maximization of water reuse and the complete elimination of waste sent to landfills.

“We are moving closer to achieving our goal of reducing our carbon footprint and becoming completely self-sufficient in energy,” said Major General Dana Pittard, Commanding General of the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss. Pittard also indicated that the U.S. Army has established 2018 as the desired deadline for that goal.

Balfour Beatty Communities, which manages all privatized military family housing at Fort Bliss and WSMR, contacted SolarCity in an effort to help the Department of Defense meet its net zero energy goals. With military housing representing approximately 20 percent of the energy used at most military installations, the move to install solar panels on the majority of base housing was an obvious tactical step that will not only benefit the homes themselves, but the entire installation.

According to Maureen Omrod, Corporate Communications Director at Balfour Beatty Capital Group, the energy collected by the installed solar panels will be pooled and used to offset electricity usage throughout the installation. “The technology isn’t just funneling back into the homes,” Omrod said. “Instead, it will be used as an alternative source for the total energy needs of the entire installation.”

Expected construction will begin in January of 2013. SolarCity is currently hiring for 100 positions for installation, electrical and maintenance, all to be tied directly to the project. On completion, the Fort Bliss/White Sands project will generate over 21 million kilowatt hours per year of renewable energy from more than 50,000 solar panels, and will be responsible for offsetting more than 25 percent of the electricity usage of the impacted military housing communities.

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