Art of Proprietation

Monday, November 26, 2007

Of Fish

These are the fish I got from the pet store that the pet store was going to feed to other fish... They are feeder fish, a variety of goldfish called comets. I am not much of a fish guy, but I wanted something swimming in my little pond in the backyard to keep the mosquitoes in check. I probably got a dozen comets for about ten cents each. And I didn't even have to feed them. That was the point, they were supposed to eat their keep worth of mosquitoes. A very low cost amusement for the summer. I got a bunch last summer and they multiplied over the summer and grew. Unfortunately, they did not over winter, my little pond is too shallow to protect them from the cold. Or maybe there wasn't enough oxygen. Or something else. But the fish aren't really the point of this post.

This winter, I decided to overwinter the fish in an aquarium in the house. Our comets are now four times the size when we got them in the spring. Starting with these fish in the spring will make the pond that much more interesting. But, like I said, I am not a fish guy. I needed an aquarium and etcetras necessary to keep the fish over the winter, about four months. I figured a 10 to 20 gallon aquarium and a bubbler at the bare minimum. But going out and spending a $100 to keep a dollars worth of fish seems out of proportion. I mean, I could have left the fish in the pond an hoped for the best. And when the inevitable happened, spend a dollar next year and restocked the pond. Callus, yes, but also frugal.

Instead, I spied around and sure enough, freecycle brought me a used aquarium and a bunch of peripherals. A pump and filter, bubble rock, gravel and lots of other stuff. I did end up spending $12 on fish food though. I guess maintenance ratio of 10 : 1 is better than 100 : 1.

Freecycle is the point of the story. Freecycle is a concept that there are lots of things we all decide we don't need that really aren't ready for the landfill yet. Rather than landfill them, why not give them to someone who wants them. Freecycle is a little less complicated than EBay, you just send a message to Freecycle about what you have to give away and other participants can message you back that they want it and setup a way to make the exchange. The rules are that everything must be exchanged free of charge. This is a way to get rid of useful items cluttering up your garage, not line your pockets.

When I first signed up for Freecycle, I figured I would just get the daily digest (my local free cycle is hosted on Yahoogroups). But I quickly found that if you don't pounce on freecycle items, you are not likely to get much. Checking yesterdays posts is a good way to find some great item that has already been given away. To date, I have gotten food grade barrels, DVDs and aquarium setup. And I have given away that rabbit hutch that sat in my barn for almost ten years. It was a nice hutch, I was sure I find a use for it....

The beauty of Freecycle is it is pre-recycling items. In the recycling programs around the nation, material gets collected and sorted, cleaned, crushed, shredded and reconstituted and then is a suitable raw material to make new things. With Freecycle, items continue to be useful with no processing. No new energy. For some of you, read this as shallower carbon footprint. It's not just about saving money.

So, Google Freecycle and find out what someone has been keeping in their garage for you!

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Those lazy chickens

These are some of our eggs next to store bought eggs. For the first time in a long time, we have had to buy eggs in the market. With the change of the seasons, length of daylight and age of our birds, they lay less and less. We are down to 1 egg a day recently. Those lazy chickens.
But I wanted to show the difference between our eggs and store bought eggs. The yolks on the left are from our free range chickens. The ones on the right are the store bought. And those were from supposed free range eggs. They are pale and small yolks. The first time we cooked with them, we didn't have any of our own eggs to mix in. The resulting scrambled eggs were so pale they could have been confused with just egg whites. I am sure there are some people who like egg whites. I like mine just fine, but not store bought ones.
Before I had chickens I never gave eggs much thought. I got guineas in order to rid my yard of ticks and other insects. My brother traded me a few egg layers for some guineas just to spice up his flock. But when I started eating the eggs, I noticed a dramatic difference. The yolks are a ruddy orange color and thicker and tastier than SB eggs. And the whites actually taste good, not like the flaccid SB whites. Fresh egg whites actually have body to them and are creamy, unlike the flimsy ones from the store.
After I tasted the difference I did some reading on the difference. It turns out a big part of it is eggs in the store are probably 30 to 60 days old. Between all the processing commercial eggs go through, it is easily a month before they end up in the consumer's fridge. Around here, we generally eat our eggs before they are a few days old. There is also the difference of feed. I do give my birds a commercial feed to supplement, particularly in the winter. But from April through late November / December, they forage in the yard for seeds, grass, insects and worms. All that extra stuff is the source of the color and taste in our yolks.
There are few things better than our own eggs fried up. Well, bacon makes them better, but bacon making is something for another day.

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