Yesterday we got rid of some of our electronic waste. Interior Alaska Green Star has an annual recycling program so that all this stuff can get disposed of properly instead of winding up in the landfill, or on it's way to third world countries. Andrea volunteered at yesterday's event and dumped off two of our old computers, three CRT monitors, a printer, a VCR, cordless telephone, DVD player and a CD player. The total cost was $75.
Some of the people who showed up didn't know there was a charge, and at least one guy who wound up leaving said, "Why should I pay when it's free to go across the street and throw it in the dumpster?" I have no doubt that's where his electronic waste wound up; on it's way to the landfill, right next to the Tanana River. According to the Wikipedia article, e-waste represents only 2% of the garbage in our landfills, but is responsible for 70% of overall toxic waste. That's a pretty big externality, totally unrepresented in the low cost of these items.
I'm glad these recycling programs exist, but I also wish there was a way to encourage electronics manufacturers to make products that were designed for longevity rather than low cost. Some of the things we got rid of were simply obsolete (why keep a seperate CD player when our current combination VCR & DVD player can also play CDs?), but the majority were broken and because replacements are so cheap, it didn't make sense to repair them. All those low prices we're paying for our stuff today may turn into a pretty big cleanup bill in the future, whether we're paying it or not.
Someone on Metafilter wanted to know if anyone had a recipe for a good whole grain cereal to make with a grain grinder. I didn't want to fork over $5 to help them out, so I'll post this and hope they happen across it. As I've mentioned in the past, I have a Family Grain Mill. After a few months of using it I've decided it's an OK mill, but awfully slow because it takes two passes to make acceptable flour, and it seems a bit flimsy to me. I doubt it's going to outlive me like a Country Living mill will.
Anyway, I've been refining my cereal recipe for the past couple months, and the best recipe so far is 2 parts oat groats, 2 parts wheat, 2 parts yellow corn (maize), 2 parts rice (I'm using Jasmine, but a cheaper long grain rice would probably be just as good), 1 part rye, and one part amaranth (quinoa would also work). Everything except the amaranth is run through the grinder to produce a fairly fine meal. I set my mill on 2, but you will need to experiment with your mill and your preferences. After grinding, add the amaranth and mix. The amaranth (or quinoa) is added to complete the set of amino acids, especially lysine, which is in a low concentration in the other grains. The rye is probably not necessary, but the other ingredients add good flavors and textures that I think are important.
To make my morning breakfast I mix 1/3 cup of grains with 1 1/2 cups of water and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and let it sit overnight. In the morning I add a bit of butter and heat it back up again. On our new stove I have to be pretty careful to quickly lower the heat so I don't cook it to the bottom of the pot in the morning. Once it's hot, pour on a bit of milk and some bananas, sugar, maple syrup or honey and eat. I've also made it from start to finish in the morning, but it's a lot harder to cook it long enough without it burning onto the bottom of the pot. The overnight method is very easy, quick, and it always works.
When you make food yourself like this, it's hard to tell what nutrients will be in it because the nutrition data in the USDA database are for uncooked grains, and they don't provide guidelines for what might be lost by cooking the grains. For what it's worth, my daily breakfast (1/3 cup of grain, 1/2 cup of milk, 1 tsp of sugar and 1 tsp of butter) adds up to:
|Nutrient||Value||2,000 calorie diet|
|Total Carb||152 g||50%|
|Total Fat||35 g||49%|
There's also a surprising amount of the basic nutrients, but I don't have time to list them all. And without knowing how they're affected by cooking, I'm not sure how helpful it'd really be anyway.
Spring in Fairbanks is often a long, muddy season but this year we got less than a third of the snowfall we normally get and early spring was remarkably cold. So on April first, when the temperatures suddenly rose above freezing, it was like the springtime switch had been thrown, toggling us from winter to summer. Ten days later and the roads are dry and clear, the dog yard is more than half melted out, most of the snow on the roof has turned to water and run down the gutters, and even our driveway isn't too bad.
That also means that it's summertime for the dogs, so they've got to find other ways to occupy themselves since they're not training or racing three or four times a week. As you can see on the right, Kiva and Buddy* have already started their grueling schedule of non-stop sleeping, broken by occasional bursts of activity around dinnertime, and periodically racing around the dog yard after Piper when she plays keep-away with a stick.
As for us, it's time to start replenishing the firewood supply with five or six trips to the woodcutting area, making repairs to the exterior of our house, and getting our garden going. This year's garden will hopefully contain lots of cabbage, beets, potatoes, and maybe some leaf lettuce and broccoli.
*The orange spot on Buddy is a bit of paint from one of the races.
Last weekend we decided to upgrade the coil elements on the stove that came with our house (the ugly yellow thing in the photo). We went to the Borg, looked at the replacement options and decided we'd better make sure we knew what sort of elements we had before buying anything. We tried to look up our stove at GE's website, but our model number didn't show up. I took apart one of the burners to see what the element looked like (pre-1992, hinged) and we went back, this time to Lowe's (they're across the street from one another, if you can believe it). Nothing matched. So we drove across the street to Home Depot. Nothing matched. Tired of trying to figure it out, and in keeping with the 21st century culture of consumerism, we gave up and decided to buy a new range.
It's one of those fancy electrics with the ceramic-glass top and large elements that can be set to more than one size to fit the cookware you're using. The one we chose has two single-size 7 inch burners in the back, one large 12 / 9 inch burner in the front, and next to it, a 10 / 6 inch burner. Lots of variety, and more importantly, two large burners up front. With our previous stove, it was impossible to cook an omelette and bacon at the same time, and even on the largest burner on the old stove (8 inch), I had to move the bacon around continually to keep it in the hot zone at the middle of my twelve inch cast iron pan.
This weekend was my first attempt at cooking bacon and eggs at the same time. I cooked bacon on the large burner in my large pan, and the burner heated the entire surface of the pan to the same temperature. No more hot spot in the middle, and the improved output and coverage resulted in perfect bacon. Without all the movement and cold spots, it cooked in half the time as on our old stove. The lower image on the right shows the bacon cooking evenly, and an IR temperature reading from the edge of the pan. Best of all, I cooked an omelette on the other front burner in my smaller ten inch cast iron pan.
I haven't baked bread in it yet, so I don't know how the oven will compare to our old one, but I can't imagine it could be worse. The smaller elements that sit inside the larger coils on the two front burners are a little weaker than I'd like, and as a result, it takes longer to boil water in our kettle than on the old stove. And the elements aren't variable; they're either on or off, so they're always clicking on and off at lower temperature settings, which is a little strange. But all in all, I'm really liking it. Someday we'll get a dual fuel, gas cooktop and electric oven, but for now, I'm happy with what we've got.
In Alaska, winter seems to turn to spring very quickly. That's especially true this year because we've had more than six weeks of well below normal temperatures. Suddenly this weekend, it's above freezing, the snow on the roof is starting to melt into the gutters, and the deck is dry for the first time since the baseball season ended last October.
Right on the heels of the warm spell is the start of the baseball season. We've been so busy this winter with dog mushing that I haven't actually missed baseball that much, but listening to tonight's game between the Mets and Cardinals at New Busch Stadium brought the game, it's intricacies, and the excitement back. The game wasn't a nail biter, with the Mets scoring two unanswered runs in both the third and fourth innings, but there was plenty of defensive excitement to go around. Some spectacular double plays, a perfect strike from center field to nail David Eckstein at home plate, and a great pitching performance from Tom Glavine was a great way to start off the 2007 season.
Tomorrow the A's start their season in Seattle without Barry Zito, but hopefully with an improved offense and some better luck keeping players healthy. A full season of Rich Harden and former Alaska Goldpanner Bobby Crosby should go a long way to another AL West title.