Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Alaska local grains

I got a few 50 pound sacks of barley and wheat through the local food challenge. Since we are trying to get our place on the market most of it is at Mike's work at the moment. We just got a container for the barley and one for the wheat so I tried it out for the first time. It comes in berries that need to be ground if you want flour. I used the blend tech and it did a good job grinding it into a flour and didn't take much time.

I made a barley cornbread recipe from the cooperative extension and a pot pie with the whole wheat flour. The barley cornbread needs some tweaking. It was supposed to cook in 30 minutes and was no where near being done at 30 minutes. I used  ground up corn instead of corn meal and that might of been the reason although cornmeal is just ground up corn kernels. You can grow corn in Alaska if you have a greenhouse so I want to experiment with that. I found a recipe online for the whole wheat pot pie crust. It was more dough like this time but it cooked a little softer than I was hoping so I still need to experiment. I may just use some gluten if I can't find good recipes using all whole wheat. When we finish the rice I am going to use the barley in place of rice. The kids at least liked the food and I thought the pot pie was decent even though it wasn't perfect. Teddy at least liked the corn bread. Once we get the new place I have big plans for making bread, tortillas, pot pies, english muffins, pancakes, waffles, cookies, pasta, pizza and bagels with the grain. I am looking for recipes now and will experiment until I have something workable. I am not the best cook but luckily my friend google can provide some help.

In kid news Teddy has been extra fussy lately but he is doing great language wise and is adding some sounds he was having difficulty with. He is doing much better on outings and is doing great around other kids even ones younger than him. Cora is doing good but I wish listened to my worries and got her into therapy sooner. She is a little behind in her rolling and sitting skills and she has a curve in her spine that is common with torticollis. She is favoring sides with rolling too. I been so busy that I don't get to work with her as much as I like. I been trying a little bit of food with her and she is so funny about it. She dives after it with her mouth and starts chomping away but isn't using her hands to much with it yet. I don't think she eaten much yet but she enjoys sucking and chewing and gets mad when she loses what she was working on.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Alaska Oil Tax Bill, HB110

Since having kids I haven't been as up on political issues as I have in the past. Today I got an email from my representative asking for support for the Governor's Oil Tax Bill HB 110. This bill would give 2 billion per year back to oil companies. That is 2 billion dollars of tax revenue that Alaska needs going to oil companies who make record profits.

 I don't support tax breaks for oil companies. They already pay less taxes than other companies and get money for exploration and development. We also pay for roads but do not support public transportation. Alaska is one of 3 states that does not provide any money for public transportation. Oil is a non renewable resource. We need to reduce our use of it and we will not do that by giving tax breaks to oil companies that make record profits. If we focused the money that we spend on tax breaks to oil companies on building sustainable smart growth cities and public transportation we wouldn't be so dependent on oil. Instead we built sprawlzilla communities that are heavily dependent on automobile travel and we are not prepared for the future like many other industrialized nations are doing. We need to build communities not roads.

Here is the letter I am sending to the representatives, the senators and the Governor

I do not support the oil tax bill HB 110. We do no need to lose 2 billion in state revenue for a program that "might" pay off down the road with more oil production. Trickle-down economics is a failed theory that does not work. It is not supported by the majority of economists. 

The oil industry already receives tax incentives that other companies do not get. We pay less money for oil in this country than most other industrialized nations. Oil companies do not need more tax breaks. The oil depletion allowance lets certain companies deduct 15% of the gross income they derive from oil and gas wells from their taxable incomes, and continue to do that for as long as those wells are still producing. An examination of the American tax code indicates that oil production is among the most heavily subsidized businesses, with tax breaks available at virtually every stage of the exploration and extraction process. According to the most recent study by the congressional budget released in 2005, capital investments like oil field leases and drilling equipment are taxed at an effective rate of 9 percent, significantly lower than the overall rate of 25 percent for businesses in general and lower than virtually any other industry. An economist for the Treasury Department said in 2009 that a study had found that oil prices and potential profits were so high that eliminating the subsidies would decrease American output by less than half of one percent.

There is no need to give tax breaks to a highly profitable business that would do what they do anyway. We are one of 3 states that do not provide any money for public transportation. We need to focus on supporting public transportation for our future not on giving a company that already receives tax incentives money.

The link to send them emails are below

WWMAS@muni.org Assembly members

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Backyard pets in Anchorage

One of the things I am looking forward the most about getting a new place is raising backyard animals for a local food source. I know a lot of people have backyard pets such as chickens in Anchorage but right now there is no code making them legal at the moment even though we do not restrict dog kennels and dogs in backyards.

The Anchorage Center for the Environemnt has this on their site about it http://akcenter.org/legalize-backyard-chickens-in-anchorage

Two and a half years ago, the Anchorage Assembly unanimously agreed to a new backyard pet code which would make backyard pets, such as chickens, legal in Anchorage.  This code has not yet been passed into law under the city's revised zoning code, which is finally being updated after 42 years. 

If you are a chicken owner, or care about building local, healthy food systems that connect you to your neighbors, then consider contacting your representatives on the Anchorage Assembly in favor of making backyard pets legal inAnchorage.  If you're really excited and want to make your voice heard, be sure to attend the Anchorage Assembly Meeting to testify on behalf of backyard pets on March 29, 2011, during the 6:00 p.m. portion of the meeting.  The meeting is held at the Assembly Chambers, Z.J. Loussac Library, 3600 Denali, Room 108.

WWMAS@muni.org contact for all Anchorage assembly members

Please contact the assembly to speak on behalf of backyard pets in Anchorage

Here is my letter

Anchorage Assembly members,

Two years ago you  unanimously agreed to a new backyard pet code that made backyard pets legal. Please pass a backyard pets code in the cities revised zoning code. Backyard pets such as chickens create a healthy local food systems right here in Anchorage. Backyard chickens control pests in the yard, create a great compost and lay eggs without creating a disturbance. If people can keep a kennel of sled dogs in their yard we should allow other backyard pets within reason.

Not allowing backyard pets does a great disservice to the people of Anchorage and restricts our rights. Please allow the houses and stables for backyard pets to be in backyard without huge setbacks from lot lines that make them illegal for most residents in Anchorage. There are no setbacks required for dog houses and there should not be any for other backyard pets. In cities across the US they allow backyard pets. There is no need to restrict them in Anchorage. They can be a great community builder and a great local food source in a location that needs more local food for our security. 

Thanks for your attention


Monday, March 21, 2011

Car seat safety

I am admittedly a bit of a car seat freak. I think that a lot of deaths can be prevented if kids are buckled securely in their seats. The AAP is finally recommended that toddlers stay in rear facing car seats until 2. I think a lot of parents think that you need to turn your babies at age 1. I think most are unaware how much safer rear facing is especially for  a 1 year old who spine still has a lot of developing to do and who heads are very big in proportion to their bodies. I put together a bunch of information on car safety since most people are not aware of how tight the harness should be, use bulky coats in the car and get rid of the booster before their kids actually fit the adult seat belt. 

Motor Vehicle Crashes are the #1 cause of death for children and adults, age groups 1 to 34.  Selecting a safe vehicle and properly using child restraints and seat belts may be the most important things you can do to protect your family. More than 80% of car seats are installed or used incorrectly. Here are some things you can do to keep your precious cargo as safe as possible in the car.
Rear face your child until the limits of their convertible seat

Most convertible seats allow you to switch your child forward facing at 1 year and 20 pounds. It is 500% safer to leave your child rear facing at age 1. To put it bluntly, the longer your child is rear-facing (meaning, faces the back of the car), the better. The reasons for this are quite simple, yet also very profound, and are based on an understanding of basic physics as well as an understanding of how the skeletal structure of a child develops. 

When your child is rear facing, he or she receives the maximum amount of protection available. In a crash, rather than your child's spinal column taking the crash forces, the child's seat absorbs them. The younger a child is, the larger the skull is in proportion to the rest of the child's body. This means that in a crash, the very large head can cause the spinal column to separate. Children under age two are five times (that's 500%!) more likely to be killed in a side impact crash when forward facing. The vertebrae of a young child is still in three pieces until 3-6 years of age; it simply cannot withstand the extreme force exerted when forward facing, even at a low speed crash.

You may think your child’s legs looks uncomfortable when rear facing. Most kids will sit criss cross when they are on the floor. Children can bend their legs, put them on the seat or sit criss cross. In Sweden they make rear facing seats that can hold a child until 5-6. Not surprisingly they have a low death rate for children in cars. My 3.5 year old sits very comfortably rear facing. It is kind of like having an ottoman available when you are sitting on a couch. Most convertible car seats now allow you to rear face until at least 35 pounds. There are a handful of convertible car seats that allow rear facing until 40-45 pounds. You can rear face your child until they hit the weight limits of their seat or until their head is within 1 inch from the top of the hard shell of the seat.


Install your seat and your child tightly

There is no safety difference between installing with a seat belt or installing with latch. You must use one or the other not both. When installed a car seat cannot move more than 1 inch side to side at the belt path. When installed forward facing you should use a tether using top anchors behind the seat. You must lock the vehicle seat. Most newer cars have locking seat belts but you can use a locking clip if your car does not having belts that can be locked. You should not be able to pinch more your child’s straps at their shoulders. Your child cannot wear bulky winter coats in the car seat. If you must loosen the harness to fit the child their coat is too bulky. You can use thin fleece, use blankets or put their coat on backwards over the harness. The chest clip must be at armpit level and no lower. Having it lower puts your child internal organs at risk in a crash.

Car seat ponchos can be used in place of bulky coats

Do not put your child in a booster before they are ready

The absolute minimum for booster use is 4 years of age and 40 pounds, but many kids aren't truly ready to switch until they are five or six! Dangers to younger booster riders include being out of position at the time of a crash, head injuries, and submarining -- that is to say, sliding under the belt, allowing it to crush internal organs, perforate bowels, and potentially even sever the spinal cord. A child must be able to remain in position for the duration of the car ride and not lean out of position to play with siblings or pick up toys. They must also be able to stay in position when sleeping. Most kids do not have the maturity to ride in a booster until around 5. When you do opt for a booster start your child out in a high back booster that offers side impact protection and proper belt positioning for a younger child. The belt must ride low on your child’s hips and not on their belly and the shoulder belt should fit across their shoulders and not be by their neck.



Is your child ready to be out of the booster?
 Most states allow children to be out of a booster sometime before 8. Most kids are not big enough to fit in an adult belt at this time. To know if your child is ready for an adult seat belt they must pass the 5 step test which they will probably pass around 4’9” or around 10-12
Taking the 5-Step Test is quick and simple. Have the child buckle up in the vehicle and then answer these 5 questions:
1. Does the child sit all the way back on the vehicle seat?
2. Are knees bent comfortably at the edge of the vehicle seat?
3. Does seatbelt cross the shoulder properly? (it should be centered over the collar bone)
4. Is the lap portion of the seatbelt low – touching the thighs?
5. Can the child stay seated this way for the entire ride, every ride (awake and asleep)?
Bonus step – feet planted firmly on floor  so they don’t lean forward to try to do so.

Car seats have expiration dates and buying used seats
 Most car seats have expiration dates within 6-8 years of when they are manufactured. Check the manufacture date of your seat and how long they are good for. Plastic degrades over time and the harness might not perform the same after years of use. You should never buy a used seat from an unknown source. You don’t know if it has been in a accident even minor or if the straps where washed or submerged in water which is not allowed. If you do use a used seat you must be able to trust the source and know the seats history.

Put your child in the back seat when possible
 Most car accidents especially bad ones have impact or intrusion to the front passengers. Children’s bones are not as mature as adults so whenever there are back seats available have your children sit in the back seat.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Finding a new place

We will be putting our condo on the market soon. Getting a condo ready with no one to watch the kids is very stressful but we are making progress and packing things to put down in storage. We still need to do deep cleaning and some fixes around the condo. Living in a small place with out a yard isn't a big deal to me. I strive to live simply and to not need a lot.  With 3 kids and a cat and a dog it is time to move on. The part that is the hardest to live with is the small kitchen. We also need an extra bedroom since we have a boy and girls so eventually they can't share a room.

I am excited about getting a place with a yard and filling my yard with raised beds, greenhouses and raising a few chickens for eggs. I am excited about having a bigger kitchen to have more room for storage, making recipes, grinding grains and canning. I hoping to get a south facing home and make it really energy efficient.

When we moved here I was hoping my next place after this condo would be a straw bale house off the grid in an eco village that we would build ourselves. We are not in a place to do that right now. Even though we won't have an eco village with a straw bale I will make my home as efficient as possible and slowly turn it into a urban homestead growing as much as we can on our land.

The Dervaes family from Pasedena who grow all their food on their land trademarked the term urban homestead and went after bloggers and facebook pages that used the term. As much as I admire what they did  on their land that is the ultimate form of green washing. You can't market sustainability. Luckily there are thousand of people banding together to stop the trademark. I can't wait to have my own urban homestead. I still will love an eco village right in a city one day and haven't given up on that but you don't need to have a strawbale on tons of land to to be sustainable. If people can eat local in Alaska you can certainly do it in the lower 48.

I am a little worried about the little extra we will be paying and the market but hopefully things will work out with that.