Saturday, March 31, 2012

Rooftop Solar here we come.

It was while I (Aaron) was working on Hybrid-Electric vehicles that I first discovered Smart Grids and distributed power systems.  The smart grid is a (at present, a pie in the sky notion) method whereby the grid could either take or store energy from distributed sources (i.e. Hybrid Electric vehicle batteries) as the demand fluctuates.  It dawned on me that rooftop solar panels would fit well into this system, and as it turns out, I'm not alone.  Obviously the Germans have it figured out.  If every roof had a PV solar array, we could do away with (most) all of the transmission systems, eliminate transmission losses, reduce or eliminate coal and natural gas as a source for electricity.  Sounds like a good idea.

Here in Ontario, the government introduced a program to begin the process of starting up a distributed power generation system.  Termed a micro feed-in tarriff program, the Ontario Power Authority promises to pay $0.802 per kWh generated on a rooftop installed solar array.  Were we live, we can generate about 13000 kWh per year (after losses), or about $10500 per annum.  Not too shabby for something that's on my roof.  What's the downside?  Cost.

When we first looked into things, the cost was about $8500 per kW installed.  Ouch!  For an 11 kW array, it would cost about $94k.  That's a huge amount of capital that we didn't have.  Enter Pure Energies.  They're business model is to lay out the capital to buy the equipment and install it on our roof.  The agree to pay us a fixed amount for 20 years ($100-ish/month), at the end of 20 years, the array and equipment are ours.  They bear all of the capital and maintenance costs.  Winner, winner, chicken dinner.

Pure Energies has enabled us to do our part in being the change, make the statement that solar is a good and rational step forward and we make a small amount of cash.

We're happy and looking forward to the day they install it.

Photo from Pure Energies

Friday, March 30, 2012

Get the best from your food.

Trying to eat a healthy balanced diet can be challenging;  On top of our desire to grow the majority of our food we have also been taking a few simple steps to get the best from the food we eat:

1.  Purchase Organic, or get to know the farmer and go "beyond organic," to eliminate your exposure to hormones, pesticides and GMO's. (some of my local sources)

2.  Eat more raw produce:  nutrient damage to food as a result of exposure to heat has been said to begin, and progressively accelerate, at the following temperatures:
  • Enzymes and co-enzymes begin losing effectiveness 118 F (47.7 C)
  • Various vitamins show losses of function 130 F (54.4 C)
  • Protein denaturing begins 161 F (71.6 C)*
* The temperature used to pasteurize milk
What cooking does to our food Info Source

3.  Juice your produce!  The Canadian Food Guide indicated that the average adult should consume between 7-10 servings of vegetables and fruits each day, juicing is a great way to be sure you get your recommended serving amount.  Some other health benefits of juicing are: (Source)
  • provides vital nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals for our bodies to repair themselves, strengthen the immune system and for cell regeneration and growth.
  • Normally we do not consume peelings, seeds and pits of fruits and vegetables. These parts are a rich source of vital nutrients we normally throw away. A good quality juicer extracts juice from the whole veggie or fruit, including peelings, pits and seeds to provide vitamin and minerals that would otherwise be lost.
  • minimizes heat in order to preserve the most live enzymes possible.
  • Unlocking nutrients of raw foods is one of the vital benefits of juicing. Fiber is quite literally locked into many vegetables and fruits and the potential benefit of the fiber is lost as the digestive system does not unlock it. Juicing releases the fiber’s nutrition so that benefit may be realized.
  • The antioxidant effects of juices will help detoxify your body and help you eliminate the toxins, fats, preservatives and chemicals that a diet of processed foods leave behind in your body.
  • Juicing makes foods easy to digest and thus, easier for the body to receive maximum benefit 
    from the source food.
4.  Make it yourself!  Homemade food is always the best option, in my opinion.  With 2 kids of preschool age this can sometimes be a challenge.  Things like bread and pasta, even soda can be made at home with higher quality ingredients.

5.  Soak grains, beans, legumes as well as raw nuts and seeds to release the anti-nutrients and enzyme inhibitors.

Almonds Soaking                                    Some nuts after soaking

**You can also sprout your grains such as wheat, quinoa, spelt, millet, rye and your beans such as Mung, Garbanzo, Moth, Adzuki, Lentil, etc. Benefirs to sprouting your grains, legumes and seeds are: neutralizing phytic acid very effectively, you also neutralize the enzyme inhibitors, aids digestibility and increases nutritional content.

**Warning:  Sprouted Beans and grains should be cooked as they may contain toxins and irritating substances, although these toxins and substances are neutralized when cooked. (The main advantage to sprouting that you do not receive from soaking is an increase in nutritional content)  Info and other links found here.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

What is really in processed foods?

Lately I have been reading and watching films about food, gardening and other fun things.  Food happens to be one of those topics that just has so much controversy surrounding it.  We are plagued with so many disease and health issues today.  If I think about the main things that have changed over the past 100 years or so that we may attribute to our immediate health you can't help but point to what we put in our bodies.  Food, air and water are what we put into our bodies so it is safe to assume (in my opinion) that our health is directly related and impacted by these three things.  Food is something that we, ourselves have total control over.  The deteriorating water quality and supply as well as air quality is something we, as a whole, need to be concerned with and address, but as an individual have little impact on.  But food... this we something we have direct and sole control over.  

If you walk through any supermarket today you will find all sorts of "foods" that are masked to appear healthy and delicious.  In reality, these foods are loaded with, lets face it...  crap.  The boxed, processed and overly refined products that clutter our grocery store shelves can hardly be classified as "food" at all.  So lets take a look at what is actually in many of these "foods".

First, we have Chemicals in our foods.  Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame (causing carbohydrate cravings), MSG (used to fatten rats for scientific studies and also linked to cancer and many other illnesses), and propylene glycol (used to winterize your RV) to name only a few.  

Then we have our sugars.  We look on labels and see "Fat Free" and assume healthy and thin.  Funny thing about this is once sugar enters your body it is turned into fat.  Sugars are not always labelled as such on the ingredient list.  Other names and forms of sugars in our foods are:  corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, corn sweetener, cane juice, cane syrup, dextrose, sucrose, fruit juice concentrates, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, and molasses.  Any ingredient ending in "ose" is likely a form of sugar.  

Then onto 'potentially' the most dangerous of all the "crap" - GMO's.  GMO's are Genetically Modified Organisms which have not been proven safe for human consumption.  Therefore, we can assume that we the people are the guinea pigs in this experiment.  Considering that the safety of these products has not been proven, one would logically assume that they would not be widely used in our food system.  WRONG, they are everywhere!  The major problem here in Canada (as well as the US) is that there is no mandatory labeling of GMO products. 

Some of the  big name companies that use GMO products are: 
Heinz (Catelli, Classico), 
Kraft (Nabisco, Primo), 
Nestle (Stouffer's, Lean Cuisine), 
Lowblaws (Presidents Choice, No Name),  
Unilever (Knorr, Lipton), 
Pepsi (Gatorade, Quaker Oats, Hostess, Frito-Lay), 
Proctor and Gamble (Crisco, Pringles), 
General Mills (Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Old El Paso, Green Giant), 
Kellogg's, Sefeway, McCormick's, Campbells, Schneider, Maple Leaf, Dare Foods, Coca Cola, Robin Hood, Hershey's and...
... not even our beer has escaped - Labatts, Sleeman and Molson.

The most disturbing places you find GMO's is in our baby products.  Often people have no idea what they are putting into their children's mouths.  Many people seem to just trust that infant formulas and baby foods would be free of such untested substances and ingredients... WRONG AGAIN!  Some of the baby products that contain GMO's are: Enfalac Formulas, Heinz Baby and Infant Foods,  Isomil Formulas, Nestle Formulas and Baby Foods, Similac Formulas as well as Loblaws (No Name, Presidents Choice) Baby Foods and Formulas.  GMO List Source

Even foods that are widely considered healthy are not always what they seem.  A few examples are:  Almonds from California have been pasteurized which causes them to loose much of their enzymes which are beneficial to your health.  Whole grains are filled with anti-nutrients such as Phytates, which bind to vitamins, minerals and enzymes to make them unavailable to the body.  Much of our fresh produce is riddled with pesticides and possibly a GMO product itself.  As well, much of our meat and dairy are products of animals that are filled with GMO's and pesticides (through their feed) as well as hormones (beef) and antibiotics. 

Now, I am not a medical professional (but they really don't know much about food anyhow) and certainly this is only my personal opinion based on my own research but it seems to me that there is a simple way to avoid all of this "crap".   We should simply be eating FOOD and only FOOD prepared at home.  What do I mean by food?  Real food such as high quality (beyond) organic fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meats and fish, dairy and some grains (and of course the incredible edible egg!).  It is not rocket science here; if you can grow or raise it, it is likely good for you.     We all have our guilty pleasures; for me it is Doritos, nachos with cheese, Taco Bell and gummy candies.  We are all entitled to a splurge once in a while... but that is the key "once in a while".

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

BTC Acre... 8 days away!!!

We have figured out a rough layout for the new yard.  Here it is:


Of course this is not to scale and is a rough idea we threw together.  Sadly, many large existing trees will be coming down since they provide too much shade as well as homes for predators such as raccoons.  The back yard is fenced off (if you look you can see the existing fence between the clothes line and the chicken coop) so the kids and dog will have room to play.  The ducks and chickens will be allowed free range of the yard (garden's will be fenced off) which is why we want to have berry bushes running along the front of the property.  The pond will be from runoff water that we will collect, the orchard will consist of fruit and nut trees and the garden beds will consist of some raised beds as well as some traditional beds.  As for the garage addition and pool area... this of course is a long term goal.  The pool and patio area will likely come first and then the garage addition.  There is a balcony off of the master bedroom above the garage which would provide access to the green roof if we chose to grow edibles or even install a greenhouse for winter produce.

Seed Update


I started seeds a few weeks ago which are 3 years old... maybe 4.   It seems to me like they are really struggling to germinate.  The seeds that sprouted are doing well but many have yet to come up.  We typically stored our seeds in our storage area which is dry, cool and dark.  This winter I took them out around December to take an inventory to offer some seeds to the farming cooperative.  After taking my inventory I then stuck the seeds on the shelf at the computer desk and there they sat for the duration of the winter.  Given the age of the seeds and the over winter storage I think many won't germinate.  This is not much of a surprise for me and we ordered more seeds yesterday.  Most things should be able to be sown directly.  Once we get into the new house we will get straight to work on getting the gardens started.

Here is the list of seeds we ordered from cottagegardner.com  

Order Summary

Item
Description
Qty
Price
Calendula officinalis (Calendula - single)
Pkt - 40 seeds
1
3.00
Chamomile, German (Matricaria recutita; Certified Organic)
Pkt - 300 seeds
1
3.00
Cilantro/Coriander (Coriandrum sativum; Certified Organic)
Pkt - 100 seeds
1
3.00
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis; Certified Organic)
Pkt - 100 seeds
1
3.00
Parsley, Italian Dark Green (Petroselinum crispum; Certified Organic)
Pkt - 100 seeds
1
3.00
Romanesco Broccoli (Sustainably Grown)
Pkt - 200 seeds
1
3.00
Long Island Improved Brussel Sprouts (Sustainably Grown )
Pkt - 200 seeds
1
3.00
Mesclun Mix (The Cottage Gardener's; Certified Organic)
Pkt - 500 seeds
1
3.00
Forellenschuss Lettuce (Romaine; Organic)
Pkt - 500 seeds
1
3.00
Golden Midget Watermelon (Sustainably Grown)
Pkt - 20 seeds
1
3.00
Chervena Chushka Sweet Pepper (Certified Organic)
Pkt - 30 seeds
1
3.00
Jimmy Nardello's Sweet Pepper (Sweet Italian Frying Pepper; Sustainably Grown)
Pkt - 50 seeds
1
3.00
Napoleon Sweet Pepper (Rare; Certified Organic)
Pkt - 50 seeds
1
3.00
Waltham Butternut Winter Squash (Certified Organic)
Pkt - 20 seeds
1
3.00
Five-Colour Silverbeet Swiss Chard (Certified Organic)
Pkt - 70 seeds
1
3.00
Vegetable Spaghetti Winter Squash (Certified Organic)
Pkt - 20 seeds
1
3.00
Coloured Carrot Mix (The Cottage Gardener's; Certified Organic)
Pkt - 350 seeds
1
3.00
Specialty Beet Mix (The Cottage Gardener's; Certified Organic)
Pkt - 100 seeds
1
3.00
Mustard Green Mix (The Cottage Gardener's Mustard Green Mix; Certified Organic)
Pkt - 500 seeds
1
3.00
National Pickling Cucumber (Certified Organic)
Pkt - 35 seeds
1
3.00
Rossa di Milano Onion (Rare; Certified Organic)
Pkt - 200 seeds
1
3.00
Cocozelle Zucchini (Certified Organic)
Pkt - 20 seeds
1
3.00
Watermelon Radish (Winter Radish)
Pkt - 300 seeds
1
3.00
Copenhagen Market Cabbage (Sustainably Grown)
Pkt - 200 seeds
1
3.00
Bouquet Radish Mix (The Cottage Gardener's; Certified Organic)
Pkt - 300 seeds
1
3.00
Basil Mix (The Cottage Gardener's; Certified Organic)
Pkt - 100 seeds
1
3.00
Heirloom Kale Mix (Certified Organic)
Pkt - 250 seeds
1
3.00
Aunt Molly's Ground Cherry (Orange; Certified Organic)
Pkt - 40 seeds
1
3.00
Yellow Bush Scallop Squash (Summer Squash; Rare; Certified Organic)
Pkt - 20 seeds
1
3.00

I am particularly excited about the Watermelon RadishLemon BalmCalendulaChamomile and the Chervena Chushka Sweet Pepper which is described as bright red with very sweet flesh, almost candy like and great for roasting as well as eating fresh.