Monday, June 11, 2007

My Carbon-Based Lifeform Footprint

It takes energy to consume energy.
I watch the hummingbirds that visit my patio, beating their wings frenetically as they sniff some red decoy, like a plastic bottle cap. Poor things. All that flapping and nary a drop to drink. Still, they beat on, seeking nectar. They seem to spend all day scurrying for sustenance. Energy out, energy in.
I am similarly guilty. I buy food locally as much as possible, reducing the petro-miles of my diet, but I do turn on the oven or stove now and then to cook it.
I refrigerate food. That takes electricity. The refrigerator is never off.
I was all hippie-dippie proud of myself the other day for preserving some highly seasonal Bing cherries. I thought "How cool, I'll have cherries in the off-season. I'm such a provider."
But Sam asked what the carbon footprint on my little project might amount to. True, it took hours and hours to get the cherries dry enough to store in a jar. Hours and hours in my electric food dehydrator. I'm not going to guess how much power it uses, but... it hadn't occurred to me to consider it at all! I just thought I was being smart.
Smack my ass and call me silly.
Food dehydrating is possible without electricity. I know. I've done it. I have a jar of wonderful Thai peppers that I dried simply on a baking sheet in the sun. Didn't take long, and they genuinely dried, without cooking.
So Cranky and I have spent the past couple of days devising ways to use our perfect microclimate for drying. We have a lot of sun and quite a bit of breeze. We're not there yet, but it shouldn't be too difficult to find a method that will exclude vermin while allowing light and air in. I'm not sure what my first natural project will be.
But today I cranked up the electric dehydrator one more (last?) time to preserve some mushrooms. They dried really fast, honest.


Chef JP said...

Buying local is the only way to puts more money back into the local economy plus the ingredients you work with are fresher than anything a supermarket chain is going to put out on the shelves. chefjp

Pam said...

Brava for finding good ways to dry using only the sun and wind but, hey, Cookie, it's not an "all or nothing" equation. You _are_ using less fossil fuels by drying in a food dehydrator than you would be if you bought fresh cherries in the grocery store when they are out of season here and trucked (or even flown) in from some distant place. The idea is to cut down where possible; none of us is likely to give up power consumption completely. So give yourself a pat on the back next winter when you enjoy those dried cherries and turn up your nose at the Chilean ones in the store.

kayenne said...

a wide shallow pyrex dish, a clean mosquito net and a large enough rubber band to wrap around the sides of the pyrex.

Anita said...

I'm (still!) proud of you for drying local cherries. :D

As someone wise once said "It's not a cult".

Tea said...

When I first glanced at that photo it freaked me out. Still kinda does.

When I was a kid we had this weird stacking dehyrator made out of plastic. I think you just put it in the sun (it wouldn't have gone in the oven I don't think, being plastic and all). Don't know if they still make them.

What's the carbon footprint on plastic production?

Catherine said...

Great photo!

Anna Haight said...

I used to spend a few weeks each summer at my Aunt & Uncle's ranch, and helped make fruit leather. We pureed it and spread it on something that looked like a window screen and let it dry in the sun. I think we covered it with cheesecloth, but it's been many years. We did cherries too!

Moonbear said...

I have not dried fruit except by accident, but I have sun-roasted almonds on a cookie sheet under an old window. The frame just offsets the height of the rim of the cookie sheet, and keeps out squirrels.

El said...

You could buy some new window screens, and put them over your cookie sheets of drying produce. Or put them between two screens. I do plum tomatoes that way, out in the sunny garden. That breeze and sun will certainly help you.

And don't beat yourself up too much: remember, Kingsolver said don't ridicule the small gesture!

Rev. Biggles said...

Sigh, you clearly don't have enough to do during the day.

Take only pictures, leave only carbon footyprints.

Rev. Biggles

Sam said...

Oh shit. My flippant little remark - I didn't mean to - I din't mean it to come to this. I havent even read the book yet. And when it comes to carbon footprints I have a LONG LONG way to go - a lot further than you two I am sure.

Love you guys


sfmike said...

Dear cookiecrumb: I don't drive a car or have a driver's license, but I can't get all holier than thou about it, because I get rides in friends' cars all the time. So, if your dehydrator works, use it, sans guilt.

cookiecrumb said...

Chef JP: I agree with you about buying local. You are talking to the Local Lady here. :D

Pam: I know. I'm just spoofing myself a little. I think Cranky and I do a seriously good job not harming the earth. He does most of our shopping on his bicycle, in fact. (I'll tell you what, though: I would never buy cherries out of season just because I wanted some. The waiting for seasonal food makes it all the more delicious when it comes in.)

Kayenne: That sounds so easy, even I could do it! Thanks.

Anita: I'm exhibiting culty signs, aren't I? Call for the men with the butterfly nets.

Tea: Zing! There's another smirch on my footprint. This electric dehydrator is made of thick plastic, and it's not airtight, so it's constantly leaking wattage when it's on.

Catherine: Thank you. But don't you sorta agree with Tea that it's a little creepy? :-)

Anna: The guidebook for my dehydrator has some fruit leather recipes. But (am I being a snob?) why eat fruit leather? Perhaps it's the only way to preserve some fruits, in which case I forgive it. I'd love to preserve some apriums, but I don't want to have to sulphur them and they'll turn brown and brittle... boo hoo.

Moonbear: "By accident." Ha ha.
I LOVE your method for roasting almonds. I've got a perfect, heavy pane of glass. Gonna try that. (It's so -- y'know -- Girl Scouty!)

El: We happen to have an unused roll of screen somewhere, which I will be looking for today. It's too early for tomatoes. Hm. What should I dry next? This is too much fun.

Rev. Biggles: I know. Don't you just wish I'd take up bead-stringing and shut up?

Sam: No! I love a good debate. You might have been being flippant, you saucy thing, but it kick-started some thinking, so thanks, actually.

SFMike: It sorta works. So does the sun, if you're lucky enough to be able to use it, and I am.
But no, I hope I'm not all holier-than-thou. I was kind of making fun of myself, but I can see it might come off sounding like I'm 1) feeling guilty (I'm not) or 2) bragging (eewww!).

Pam said...

Agreed! The scents of seasonal fruits are downright heady and well worth the wait!

Liz said...

Sounds like you need to sign up for the green electricity option. :)

Paying the extra few bucks a month and knowing my electricity is coming from small scale hydro goes a long way toward easing the old conscience...

judzu said...

Heh, I have to agree with Tea that the mushroom is a little scary. When I first saw it I thought it looked sort of....gynecologcial.

kudzu said...

PS As you can see, I still don't have the proper shade in my window and am doing a million typos -- off to the nearest source for what they now call "window treatments"!

cookiecrumb said...

Pam: Yeah. Although I am cheating a bit with hothouse tomatoes these days. I know the growers, though, and they do a really good job with genuine seasonal tomatoes later in the summer, so this time of year, I figure I'll give them a little business. (And then my own tomatoes should be ready for harvest!)

Liz: Sigh... I suppose I should look into it. I'm already leaning toward some solar panels for the rooftop. It's not too hard being green, eh? To quote Kermit.

Judzu: !!! Cute typo!
Also. Kudos to Kudzu for Comment of the Day. ;-)
I want to take this opportunity to tell the other readers about your suggestion to me, in an e-mail, to look into the Marin Extension Office, for their agricultural, master gardener, etc., tips and support. What a great resource. I'm sure we all have similar programs in other regions.

Rev. Biggles said...

Bead stringing or weaving dried weeds in to wall hangings is equally as nice.

Do me up one of your breakfasts. Something with a marsh tangy, protein eggy, smoked porky with a masa to the left.


peter barrett said...

I love your voice, and your self-doubt about the footprint of your feeble dehydrator vs. some clown's Escalade full of beer. Kudos from Woodstock, NY, the East coast bastion of sustainable, local, decadent eating:
I've added you to my links; please do the same if so moved.

dancingmorganmouse said...

Well, since your fridge is on anyway, I know at least that mushrooms, in a paper bag, left at the back of the fridge for a while, dry most beautifully :)

Susan said...

Kinda looks like a Rorschach test, doesn't it?

obachan said...

Can't wait to read about your first natural project. ;)

cookiecrumb said...

Rev. Biggles: Hmm. "Food" as a hobby... You might be onto something there!

Peter: How very kind of you. Thanks for the encouraging words, and I'm off to take a peek at your site now. Come on back, y'hear?

DMM: It *usually* works. There have been times when I've had to step in and save them from sliming to death.

Susan: Well... yeah. Did you read Kudzu's comment? Hee hee.

Obachan: Nice to see you here. I hope you are feeling lots better. No, I haven't decided on my next project, but with this perfect warm weather, I'm wasting time!