water is the new black?

Water is an issue that at the top of my mind these days. Surprising perhaps, as I’m in a place which seems to have a lot of it. Last year I actually set up a drip irrigation system for my tomatoes thinking it would save them from some of the blight issues that come from watering. Alas, our summer had more than enough rain, and we hardly used it at all.

But seriously, I am thinking about water issues a LOT these days. First, naturally, we have a well, and well, we also live in Marcellus Shale land, where drillers are coming at us from all sides. The threat to possible water contamination is real, people. So that’s scary.

But then I’m also thinking about California, where my in-laws live. They live in the central coast, a cute little town, and they are under serious restrictions. They were always metering and using grey water for the garden, but this winter, they’ve been reduced to using grey water in the house–to flush the toilets. They have been shlepping buckets up and down through the house, saving shower water for the toilet, dish water for the toilets, etc. It’s pretty grim. 3 months of overusing and your water could be cut off.

It’s just interesting when you go from the individual level to the industrial or governmental level. So for the in-laws, schlepping and saving, they got this great story. The local water district spilled 168,000 gallons of water in February. They didn’t know there was a leak in the tanks. As one resident points out, each individual is allotted 49 gallons a day, and the amount the water district has lost over the past 6 months equals 24 YEARS of individual permits.

Then there’s the weird case of New Mexico. Today I was reading a story about regulations being lifted for the copper industry. In New Mexico, don’t you know, 90% of all water comes from groundwater sources. That’s kind of scary stuff. Especially when you hear that the copper industry is now pretty much exempt from dealing with the regulations surrounding pollution of ground water, an amendment passed in 2013. That just doesn’t sound like good sense for a drought-plagued state like New Mexico?!

Especially when you also know that the dairy industry is the largest industry in the state. Huh, you say. Yep, that’s right. They got a lot of cows making milk in the desert out there. Makes sense to me? They have the largest herds of any state (average herd size is 2088–big cafo productions). That’s 7 billion pounds of milk! Can you believe that?

Of course, all milk means that these dairies  use (and pollute) a lot of groundwater. 60% of dairies in the state have polluted their nearby groundwater, and like the mining example, they haven’t been required to clean it up.

It just seems like we’re really helping ourselves get to the breaking point even faster than climate change could. It no makey sense to me. All I think I can do, is to try and buy local milk products and avoid those bigger chain brands that are no doubt getting their supply from the desert.


utility update: big storm!
October 9, 2013, 12:04 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized, utilities | Tags: ,

Well almost a month ago, we got the big one. The storm we’ve been waiting for–you know, the one that officially blocks the road and takes out all our power lines? Yeah, that one!

For some crazy reason I was at the gym when it came. The storm didn’t look so bad from there, but on the drive home I noticed a LOT of debris on the roads. I had to drive over some trees too.  Then, I came to our street, turned in, and there it was.

Image 2

big tree across the road

Image 3

can you see the power lines in that mess?

I climbed on over it, and walked to the house. On the way I noticed that another pole was damaged, listing really! Cracked down to the bottom.


see that tilty pole back there? not good!

And then the kicker, the pole at the top of the line…smashed into many little pieces..

Image 4

pile of rubble=utility pole

I was not too happy, as we had had an outage in the summer that last for a couple of days and it was a much smaller set of damage (a transformer down the street I think). This one was the big one. And all the work we’d gone through to get the lines raised in the paddock, erased. I knew we’d have to start from scratch.

Yeesh. Amazingly they had the power back on after 24hours. Our phone line continued to work with the tree down on it! Poor me, I had to be out of town in NYC for the weekend, and when we came back, we had power, but alas, our phone was gone, and…the line was ominously just lying on the road!?!

It stayed there for about a week, slumped over our utility paddock fenceline, not connected to anything. I kept calling about it and finally someone came in and got the phone back online.

And then, the calls began. AKA the verizon circus. You can’t call and request a lineman, no they will always send a technician (guy who can’t fix anything) first. So…call, automated endless wait for a customer service agent. Explain the problem. Half of the time they drop the call while transferring you to the repair line. Explain the problem. Get a service appt. Wait. Guy comes out –oh it’s the technician. I can’t do anything, i’ll call it in for a line man. Nothing happens! Repeat.

Today was a first, we actually had two service people come out–first one, you know this…a technician (can’t do anything). But then a second one showed up (guess the first one did call it in, thanks dude!), second one was a “troubleshooting technician”. He had a little bucket truck, but not the big ones that can stretch the lines. He said he thought it was weird all the comments about needing a bucket truck (odd that my story gets written down somehow, and they still can’t fix it), but added to the story–he thought he was looking at the line from the barn to the pole (WHAT? we don’t have a phone line going to the barn??) so he couldn’t fix anything either. Verizon really looks like a bunch of dopes. Wasting everyone’s time–are they gov’t employees or something??! Just a big circus. And I’m too tired to tell you about how their attempts to get us on FIOS fit into all this. Another time? luckily for you, dear reader, probably not!

So far, it’s been 2.5 weeks since I called about raising the line. It’s actually gotten lower now at 6.5 feet (I can touch it with my hands, and i’m not that tall, than it was when we initially called about it several years back. We’ll have to see what happens, but until then the paddock is not usable. It’s a safety issue, and it really needs to be addressed. Hard to believe we got over 13 feet clearance back in the day. I hope they’ll fix it all back up.

chickens in the factory, climate change edition

Have you hugged your power plant today?

I just can’t stop thinking about a story I heard a few weeks back. 50,000 chickens/4300 turkeys die in separate cases of power outages (one in NC and one in Kansas). Get this, 50,000 chickens died after the power was out for 45 minutes. Less than an hour. 45 minutes between life and death. How horrifying. And it took the folks 26 hours to bury all those turkeys.

Apparently our food system is just this fragile. The birds are jammed in there, it’s hot and needs ventilation even if it’s not 100 degrees outside. A quick google search shows that this is not an isolated incident.

July 2011: Minnesota, reporting nearly 50,000 turkeys died in the heat.
September 2010: 60,000 chickens die in North Carolina. A generator powering fans in the chicken houses quit working.

And Meat & Poultry report that nearly 100,000 broilers have been reported lost to the heat wave in July. In the northern areas, barns don’t have great ventilation systems. Some grow sheds have 20,000 birds in them!

So while some of the farms have back up generators to power the fans, any interruption of the power supply can lead to major losses. Hard to believe that less than an hour is all is takes to do it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about climate change, and while plans suggest that cows will produce less milk in climate change models, I didn’t connect the dots to see that for factory farms, there will be a much increased reliance on a stable power supply. Spooky side effects of factory farming people! Spooky. And really, just a big waste for a pile of unnoticed, unmemorable, tasteless drug-laden,  protein nuggets.

cocks comb

Sometimes you have a day of strangeness at the acres.

Yesterday was that day. Spent the morning with the plumber. He’s a nice guy, and he loves chickens. He has 25 of his own. Correction: He started with 25. Now he has 10. On a one acre lot. He talked about losing them in traffic, losing them to hawks, losing 5 to the 2 jack russell terriers next door, losing them to rooster attacks. Ugh not pretty. Then he was talking about how he wound up with 5 roosters. Warning–if a lady at a farm show is selling straight run and you want pullets–do not buy!! Especially when she says, hey i’m really good at sexing chicks. She used a a key and a thread, he said. I’m thinking huh? about all the ways you might use those things to sex a chick, and then he says, yeah the males will run over to the shiny object. OMG!! Yep he bought it, and wound up with 5 roosters, who later terrorized his kids, jumped on the back of his neighbor, attacked each other, ugh, terrible.

So he has to kill them. No one wants them. He tries. But no one wants them. They’re 2 year old roosters. And they’re mean. So he dispatches them with a hatchet, and then has his wife cook them up. He said it was so traumatic (and this from a guy who gets most of his protein from deer that he bow hunts and dresses himself??!) that he will never forget it.

Ugh. That’s for real man.

So…on to dinner. Or, the unreal! We have a work dinner with an out of town guest and we go to a fancy new place called Salt. Except that it’s NA/CL, you know. And that really sets us up. This is one of these places with lots of the latest ingredients and techniques going on. Foams, home preserved weird things, no substitutions on the menu. No tea on the menu, because they can’t get local tea, no decaf coffee on the “coffee programme” but the coffee (tasmanian peaberry in a french press) is locally roasted so that’s ok. Anyhow, lots of stories about lots of ingredients. Peach shrub? Apparently a shrub is not a bush but an old method of preserving fruit and vinegar to make into a soda syrup (this one was unripe georgia peaches). On and on it goes. These waiters earn their keep for sure. And then the mains menu features cockscomb. Guy next to me says, what’s cockscomb? I say well you know there’s a flower called cockscomb, but that’s not what they’re serving. It’s you know, the floppy thing on a chicken’s head!!! Ohhhhh. The waitress informs us, yes that’s what it is, we cook it for three days!! Oh, you’d have to, says me. Sheesh. I think someone ordered it. It came on a rectangular plate as a row of jewel like pink slabs. I believe all the offending pointy bits had been cut off.

Sniff sniff, all those cute little points that help you identify who’s who. To tell the difference between spanky and knuckles our two barred rocks. Sniff sniff. At least five little chicken heads served to one guest at an overwrought pretentious restaurant in the burgh. Sigh.

We’re so precious, I know. And living in a precious time. Here’s a funny video that captures some of this. It’s pretty funny!! And yes we actually have TWO of those shopping bags featured at the end. Picked up during our visit to San Fran in the spring! No prius here, but we have that weekly parking lot experience for sure!! (Also the 80.00 for six items thing too. sheesh)

Finally of course this whole evening reminded me terribly of Portlandia. What a great show. I just heard that they’re being picked up for another season. Last night’s dinner indicates that there is still a lot of crazy material from our precious yuppy world.

gas wells coming soon to a park near you!

uh oh. the news we’ve been wondering about…where could drilling happen near us?

The local free paper reports that there are two municipal locations near us that are zoned for drilling. One of them in our local park!!! This is sad news. Hopefully it will never to this, but not good to know that it could. Sigh. One thing the article did say was that the current zoning requires a 20 acre site for drilling. This would limit options near us I think. But the doode points out that zoning regulations can change at any time. And we don’t know if this applies for any site. And of course, people could gather multiple plots together to create a large enough site. I’m not sure what our actual township regulations are, I hope they’re as good as these.

In other Marcellus news around here. Another well fire! And the local paper made a web portal for marcellus news. The portal is pretty nice. Lots of articles, and interactive stuff. But, I wonder where their bias lies. One interesting article posted on it was locally written about how “green” the drillers are. They’re into recycling their water!!! Unfortunately, the same day, the New York Times came out with its article about how there’s radioactivity in them thar waters, and that the water “recycling” process is really not working. (They’re putting a lot of the water through sewer treatment–and these systems are not equipped to handle the toxins, and in particular the radioactive toxins.) So now we can look forward to diminishing public water quality and three eyed fish in the rivers. Not good!

One final recent note about marcellus. We see that Range Resources posted lower earnings this quarter. They continue to up their advertising in the area. And it’s getting a bit much!! The latest ad involved a woman talking about the power of horses for disadvantaged children. By allowing drilling on her farm she has more money to run her programs for disadvantaged children!!! Are you serious??!!! Unfortunately yes. Stinky!!! That’s pretty stinky, range resources.

big rain poor drainage
February 28, 2011, 9:13 am
Filed under: farm, preparedness, the yard, utilities | Tags: , , , ,

Whew, this is some crazy weather. A snow day last monday and a record dump. And today, it’s rain. Sheesh. It was a scary night. Around Turdacres, the one thing we fear the most is the rain. You can’t really live in house that has three sump pumps in the basement, and NOT fear the rain, right?
So, this morning we awoke to a) leaky roof (argh same place we fixed last year) and b) water alarm! One of the sumps–the new one, of course,–overloaded the GFI and kicked itself off. We got it fired up again, but we’re on alert. I went outside to document the flooding. Amazing!

Our little creek–which was kind of dried up a lot of the summer last year–became some kind of white water thing! It even washed over the road. Sheesh.

We had a good flood on the typical places we see water–

the driveway near the rhodies

the middle of the field

not usually so much here

But the huge flood created some new areas of concern..

the driveway creek?

And this one is really unknown. Kind of frightening to see all this water so close to the house.

the pool next to the pool

It says we may get more rain today and we have a tornado watch until 1 pm! This is strange weather. Back to cold temps tonight. 20 days til spring people!!!

air quality and disease clusters in pittsburgh
December 13, 2010, 6:19 pm
Filed under: pittsburgh, utilities | Tags: , , , ,

Interesting series in the post-gazette about neighborhood disease clusters–areas of the region where diseases like lung cancer, heart disease and respiratory disease seem to be higher than expected.

mapping mortality post gazette

They created a cool map that shows where the big polluters are located. The city itself seems to have higher than expected numbers for all the categories, and the river valleys are particularly bad (due to location of power plants, but also wind current things involved too I think). I remember how dirty the sills would get in Lawrenceville, and the amount of gunky coal dust that came out when I was replastering a bedroom. You really do have to clean things ALL the time. And the layer of sooty stuff just comes right back. Gross. You can’t really imagine what it was like when the city was steel town.

Based on this map, it’s a good thing we didn’t stay in the city. Our particular neighborhood shows up BELOW national averages on everything. Is that because our area has more higher income folks living in it? Or what?