Archive for May, 2007

More info on the failure of the bees

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

Salon has an interesting discussion with some “bee experts” on the colony collapse disorder. You may have to watch a commercial to see the article…
I think too little is made of the pesticide issue, but it is otherwise interesting.

We’re going to check out the hive in about an hour, I look forwarding to seeing all the new babies and hope we can catch one in the process of hatching out. It has been about 20 years since I first saw that, and the image and feeling of watching that soft fuzzy new creature chomp her way out of the cell has stayed with me ever since.

They seem very happy – low stress – and healthy but they are favoring one side of the hive so far for all their buiding. It is the same side that we had the feeder on, connected?

I’ll report back once I know more details on how they are fairing.

Cheese Making

Saturday, May 26th, 2007

I posted this at The Complete Patient, and thought I’d put it her as well:

Cheese making. It is an amazing adventure that certainly changed my perceptions about cheese.I appreciate it much much more than ever.I had made the simple fresh cheeses but was curious about the other aged cheeses.

I bought a copy of the book Home Cheese Making by Carroll. A great beginning book. I tried maybe 7 or 8 recipes over about a year – making cheese once or twice a month. So I probably made nearly 20 batches.

The results were mostly really amazing. I loved the cheddars especially, and learned what cheddaring is. It is an actual process used in making cheese.

A few other things I learned that might make it easier for others who want to venture into it:

Volume makes it worthwhile. Making hard (aged) cheese is labor intensive in that you do something, wait a while, do something else, wait a while, etc. for 8-12 hours. So I did it when my farmer had extra milk and could provide a whole pail (five gallons) of milk. There is just no point in doing it with less.
Be careful of the wax – reheating the wax and reusing the brush may introduce bacteria you don’t want. You probably need to use paraffin and not beeswax.
All my beeswax painted cheese failed.All my unwaxed cheese failed. One theory is that because I was also doing yogurt and sourdough bread there may have been too many wild things in my kitchen and the cheese was overwhelmed. I don’t know if that’s true, but it makes some sense.

Temperature for storing the aging cheese is important. Buy a good small frig just for cheese. So that makes it not such an easy hobby. I bought a cheap used dorm frig and when it died all my lovely cheese also was destroyed. Very sad to open a frig of horrible moldy smelly cheese that you carefully made and shaped by hand.

Cast iron pans make great weights for pressing cheese.You can stack them inside each other to get teh required weight.

Cheese is easier to make in the winter when it will dry. Making cheese in hot humid weather is less likely to work well.

I used old tomato cans for molds. I saved the lids to use as pushers, placed small jars on the lids, and weights on top of that. It made nice sized small cheese rounds that finished at about 1/2 pound each. I would usually do 8 cans at once. Next time I might use larger cans, and make 2-3 pound rounds.

I also had a whole batch of cheese fail because the rennet was bad. I bought it at a local store health food store – I’ll always do mail order form now on. They have greater turn over and probably fresher product.

I’d like to try mozzarella. But I’m on a long break from the other more intensive cheeses.

Good luck!


Saturday, May 26th, 2007

I enjoyed a lovely sunset last night, while sitting on my pontoon boat reading Tad Williams (fantasy sci fi) and sipping my wonderful well water. The geese came swooping in to spend the night on my new swim raft and certainly pooping all over it as well. Oh well.
The green landscape across the lake kept changing with the light – a sudden intense green followed by shadows, more briliance so that each leaf and each shade of green semed to pop out against the water. And then slowly fading as the sun set.

In the end the pink sky was more demanding of attention than the book and I just enjoyed the view, the fish jumping, the many different bird calls different from city birds, and that amazing bull frog adding his voice to the evening.

The mosquitoes were many but not too demanding. It was good to get away from the TV and the computer and the demands of my house which are many just now. Eventually Zomba was happier being inside but she spent some of the time with me. A lovely thing, to sit out with your dog and enjoy the night.

I’ll go out and do it again tomorrow, and hopefully many nights this summer.

The pontoon boat may never launch again, but it makes a lovely spot to sit and be, rocked by the wind, floating softly on the water, a little apart from the land and the earth.

chemicals and bees

Friday, May 25th, 2007

I think the majority of the population would prefer to think that the bees are dying because of cell phone towers or something similarly mysterious. It is easier that way.

As I read more about the issue, GM crops, pesticides, and other chemical contaminants make a whole lot more sense. But that is a stark and clear reality with clear implications. We’re poisoning our world, and the bees are the active canarys. Because they won’t just die out quietly – they will take many (most?) of our fruit trees, vegetable crops, and flowers with them.

Here is one of the latest chemical suspects A widely used pesticide.

What a mess. I’ve even read about conspiracies — GMO manufacturers want to destroy the bees so they don’t spread the patented crops to other fields. I’m as suspicious of Monsanto as anyone — but I have to doubt this.

It seems pretty clear to me that poisons and disrupters of CNS are teh culprit. And we are living with them as well.

the balance of teaching

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

Zomba came to class today. Next week is the end of classes, my class is a the end of the school day, things are wacky and I still want to focus the class on addictions, depression, dysfunction, denial and even suicide. Yeah, right. So why not bring in a performing dog?

The point of it all was to talk about gambling. How do people get roped in, why do they stay, how does the addiction take hold. Dog training uses operant conditioning. It is the same thing – there are ways to reinforce behavior that works with dogs, with people, with dolphins, and certainly with seducing gamblers.

Zomba was a star. She performed, she showed how to learn a new trick (add pieces bit by bit, reinforce, and then she does the whole thing). Just like when a gambler walks in to a casino, gets the reinforcement of lights and lovely partly dressed women, free booze, attention and the potential of a jackpot. Bit by bit, roped into the serious games.

We had fun, it was light and easy to learn, and the kids liked Zomba.

She also attended my class tonigiht on headaches and migraines. She was hot and tired so she mostly slept behaved well.

I’m a bit jazzed up form a long day of teaching and sessions – it is hot and humid but all is well.

The class tonight went well because they were deeply interested in the material. It was very personal for every one – themselves or for friends and family.

The balance of teaching – it isn’t just the material, it is the presentation. Zomba is a great partner, she was entertainment for the content. Tonight, it was passion. Lots of new information that people wanted to know. That makes teaching easy. But what I think makes me a good teacher is I will share everthing I know. No teasing, no withholding, no sales pitch mixed in posing as content, just lots and lots of information. I like teachers who are generous. That is what I strive to be.

I’ll tell a joke, go with the flow, deal with tangents, and make it as personal as possible. I also practice saying I don’t know.

But the final balancing component of teaching is I really love it. Just love it. It is a wonderful way to interact with people and I just love how people learn. I love being part of those “ah ha!”moments. I love being around people who are learning, I love being one of them myself.

I am just so happy that I get to be a teacher.

free bus rides tomorrow

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

to end the celebration of curb your car month, all AATA buses are free tomorrow!

Net Metering

Thursday, May 24th, 2007

A term I didn’t know just last week. And it is the brilliant answer to one fo teh most costly issues in setting up solar power – how to deal with under/over generation.

With Net Metering (which Michigan law supports) whenever you generate excess power your meter runs backwards – you are in effect selling power back to your power company.

I’ve been wed to the idea of being “off the grid” and independent. But the expense os high and it is hard still to come up with the right batteries and storage fo the energy. When I was first exposed to a working solar system in 1981, my housemate had a solar panel hooked up to batteries, and he would manually disconect the panels if there was danger or overcharging them. Awkward, slightly dangerous, and much too much attention needed. He also was running everything 12 volt DC, also a problem at that time.

Now – a simple array hooked up to a DC to AC converter, run it into your existing electrical circuit breaker panel, and you are good to go. Cheaper, easier, and using the infrastructure of the power company to do your “storage” for you.

My money is best spent right now in insulating my attic, but further down the line I look forward to becoming a small power generator and using net metering for good.

unauthorized networking illegal in MI

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

Michigan has a law on the books making it illegal to access a computer network without permission. The 1979 law was just used to prosecute a man in Sparta MI for using the WIFI network of a cafe without going into the cafe.

Bizarre in so many ways. There are a few unsecured networks in my neighborhood – as there are all over the place. Hpw do you even figure out who to ask? A well intentioned bill to prevent hacking that hasn’t kept up with technology or practical use.


Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

I was swimming with Joanne and kids today. Very lovely.
Just aware of gratitude for being mostly sane, happy, able to have a great time together, and feeling for friends who are having a hard time emotionally and whose lives are just not working.

There is a lot of pain and suffering in the world. A lot of waste and stupidity. A lot of bad leadership.

This was a good day. But most days are when I go to hospice with Zomba. Puts things in perspective.

Tomorrow is another good day – I teach one of the final classes on addiction – food issues, recovery options and AA. Then on Thursday I’ll bring in Zomba and talk about gambling – operant conditioning, jackpotting, how gambling is like dog training. Hope it works!

The bees will start hatching out on Thursday and Friday. We saw masses of capped brood yesterday so we know we’re about to explode in population. I’m happy for that.

And when I made butter this morning it was yellow and vibrant.

building community – on line gaming

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007

If you check out this article in the Detroit Free Press on my nephew, Graham, you can see that building community takes many unique forms in our family.
He has created an island within an on line game to hang out with friends.

“Knowing your guildies in real life was amazing,” Feldt said. “Everyone could relate and talk about events, both personal and public, and everyone would put forth ideas to go to the bar, have a party at a house, and all that. Knowing them in real life also means you don’t get anyone … well, unhumorous or mean.”

Graham and my additional nephew Ian created the

Cult of Azathoth, a guild on the Darkspear server in “World of Warcraft.” A guild is a collection of players who group up for quests and dungeons.

It is yet another way to build community. I think my 9th grade students would especially appreciate it.
So while I’m out here hanging out with cows and farmers and eating organic food with people, they are hanging out in their attic on the computer playing night and day also communing and learning to appreciate other people and viewpoints. Who is to say?