Monday, April 26, 2010

Dreaming of bakfiets... (i.e. hauling things by bike!)

Bakfiets?! Wait, it's a good thing. It is what Dutch cargo bikes (usually front-loading) are called. They're generically called "freight bicycles" or "cargo bicycles" and have capacious seating/transport rigs. A great list with photos can be found here. There are similar bikes made in Denmark by Christiania. (There are also others: Nihola, Sorte Jernhest [Black Iron Horse], Bellabike, Triobike, Esimex, Larry vs. Harry, Long John, Short John and Kangaroo Bike). Here's the Cargo Cycling website if you want to go deep.

Sadly, all these bikes/trikes are quite expensive (although if you consider the cost of cars and gasoline...) and very hard to get in the USA. Though there are importers (see this list).

There is at least one US manufacturer: Human Powered Machines (photo below).

And a Boston-based group that devoted  to exclusively human-powered (bicycle-driven) transport: Metro Pedal Power. And back in Copenhagen, IKEA has created a program for customers to use cargo bikes for free to bring home their purchases. Read here. I have big dreams for more human-powered non-polluting locomotion!

World Bike is one non-profit that designs and distributes low-cost bicycles for programs that increase economic opportunity, improve health outcomes and boost enrollment and gender equity in secondary school among the rural poor. The bikes are configured to be not only affordable, but also maintained and repaired locally.

Hauling things on bikes is actually quite normal in many countries and communities (and can be very safe). Here's a furniture seller in China and a school bus bicycle in India.

Or you can make our own...

Other links: 
Family Bicycles
Cargo bike restoration (in Dutch)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Man's Companions

Joanna Ruocco - dear friend, gifted writer, remarkable woman, hilarious adventurer - has just published her latest book, Man's Companions. Hooray!
Look inside:

(See what I mean about the birds...?)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Polaroid Film Reinvented

Dry your eyes and dig up your old Polaroid land cameras, a new film stock has been created: The Impossible Project

Sustainable House for the 21st century

BrightBuilt Barn is the product of a collaboration among a team of some of the Northeast’s top green professionals, who decided to create a prototype for the sustainable house of the 21st century. The result is an award-winning, practical, affordable, beautiful structure that is one of the only buildings in the world to be designed to be truly carbon neutral: by making more clean energy than it consumes, over its lifespan, BrightBuilt Barn will actually offset all the atmospheric greenhouse gases produced by its construction.

Monday, April 12, 2010

If you're buying/ordering seeds...

Please consider investing in organic, non-GMO and/or heirloom seeds. Actually, a majority of seed companies use GMO (genetically modified) seeds and supporting their businesses only adds to environmental pollution (GMO plants require pesticides, drain the soil, etc), disinvestment from small and local farms (farmers have to keep rebuying these seeds), and is generally a move towards unsafe and unsustainable practices. With this in mind, it is really easy to order great seeds from lots of local and national distributors.

The Safe Seed Pledge lists all the companies that have signed on.
The Organic Seed Alliance is another good resource.
Organic Cosumers Association lists seed suppliers by state.
So far, we've only tried Seeds of Change and Baker Creek. Yes, they're a little more expensive than the 99 cent packets at your local hardware store, but it is well worth the investment in terms of taste, beauty, and responsibility.

To learn more about the importance of heirloom seeds and non-GMO plants, please look at some of the resources below. This is not just an issue of personal taste or about the few plants in your particular patch, it is really a global issue that concerns the safety of our food, ecological biodiversity, the health of our environment, and the empowerment and well-being of millions of farmers. Spend the extra buck and buy good seeds!

Vandana Shiva is an eloquent, informed, and passionate activist and scholar who has fought for more sustainable, traditional, and local practices and paradigms of agriculture and food. She has assisted grassroots campaigns against genetic engineering all over the world. Here is one video to look at.

Seed Savers Exchange
SSE is a non-profit, member supported organization that saves and shares the heirloom seeds of our garden heritage, forming a living legacy that can be passed down through generations. Our loyal SSE members have distributed an estimated 1 million samples of rare garden seeds since our founding nearly 35 years ago. Those seeds now are widely used by seed companies, small farmers supplying local and regional markets, chefs and home gardeners and cooks, alike.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


A small sampling of the incredible world of tents:

Children in a home-made circus tent (1922)

Moroccon wedding tents

Yurt from Uzbekistan

Saturday, April 10, 2010


We are so excited... our friends Nelson and Lynn will have the world premiere of their film at the Full Frame Film Fest.

Summer Pasture
2010, 98 min. USA | China | Tibet
True Walker Productions

Summer Pasture is a feature-length documentary about a young nomadic couple living with their infant daughter in the high grasslands of eastern Tibet. Filmed during the summer of 2007 with rare access to an area seldom visited by outsiders, Summer Pasture offers an unprecedented window into a highly insular community and a sensitive portrait of a family at a time of great transition. Locho and his wife Yama live in Dzachukha, eastern Tibet - nicknamed "5-most" by the Chinese for being the highest, coldest, poorest, largest, and most remote area in Sichuan Province, China. They depend on their herd of yaks for survival, just as their ancestors have for generations. In recent years however, Dzachukha has undergone rapid development, which poses unprecedented challenges to nomadic life.

Summer Pasture evolves as an intimate exploration of Locho and Yama's personalities, relationship, and the complicated web of circumstances that surrounds them. Over its course we witness their travails with illness, infidelity, and the dissolution of their community. In the face of mounting obstacles, Locho and Yama gradually reveal the personal sacrifice they will make to ensure their daughter's future. Through its subtle observation of Locho and Yama's character, Summer Pasture provides a deeply personal account of what it means to be a nomad in a swiftly modernizing world, and a universal story of family survival.

Friday, April 09, 2010

DIY Pedialyte

Instead of getting crappy chemicals, make your own electrolyte tea for relief after diarrhea or vomiting (with stuff you probably already have in your cupboard):

Into 4 cups of warm water, stir in 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 2-3 tablespoons sugar or honey. (Honey shouldn't be used for little babies).

Another recipe for an electrolyte replacement fluid from
1 teaspoon baking soda
8 teaspoons sugar
8 ounces orange juice
Dilute to 1 liter with water

You can add a little flavor by mixing in a little ginger brew (water boiled with grated ginger root or store-bought tea) since ginger helps settle stomachs and helps with nauseau.
Also, you can add some peppermint tea or a tiny drop of peppermint oil as it also helps with stomach pain. But, be aware, nursing moms: peppermint is associated with diminishing breastmilk.
Chamomile is generally calming and soothing.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Wood Pallet Architecture

Great use of recycled wood pallets... make a shed, fence, chicken coop, or something else altogether:

And a whole book of projects: Build It With Pallets

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Sad but ingenious

Due to the high rate of drinks getting spiked, someone has finally come up with a quick and easy way to test whether your drink is safe or not: Drink Safe USA