Monday, February 28, 2011

BUCKET LIST: WINTERGREEN DOGSLEDDING

When you make travel a family event you need to find the perfect place. One that not only provides entertainment but SAFETY. I've always been amused by dogsledding, just didn't have the nerve to try it. All I could think about is how cold those mushers must be. I like winter, but not to the point that I want to sacrifice warmth for entertainment. Plus, my only reference for dogsledding are the movies I've seen and actors are ALWAYS racing their dogs and usually getting hurt. So, in my mind, sled dogs ran really really fast and the mushers were freezing their butts off. Well, Wintergreen taught us differently.

I chose Wintergreen for several reasons:

1. They allowed our 3 year old (now 4) to participate (rare in the world of extreme sports)

2. The owner was experienced, therefore, I felt we were all safe (he's Paul Schurke from that world famous trip to the North Pole)

3. They promised me we'd stay warm (our guide made sure of this upon arrival by checking all of our clothing and making adjustments where necessary)

Of course, Wintergreen offers much much more, like amazing lodges to stay in, gourmet food from a fantastic chef and top notch dogsledding guides...


To start off, the trip goes pretty much according to the itinerary posted on the Wintergreen website so I won't go into too much detail about that here but I do want to share a bit about the dogs and our guide.

Paul Schurke owns Canadian Inuit Eskimo dogs. Although I read a little about them online, seeing them in person is quite the experience. They are very vocal, very affectionate, and very strong. I'm use to my 3 chihuahuas. You couldn't pay them a heap of dog bisquits to go outside or to get off the couch. The Eskimo dogs live for the cold and live for the run. The part that surprised me the most is how loving they are. Not one sign of aggression towards people at any moment, not while eating or sleeping did they ever seem bothered by us hanging around them. I was also impressed at how well kept their kennel is. Paul takes immaculate care of his dogs. There is a lot of love between him and them. It was entertaining when Paul would pop into the kennel because the excitement from his dogs is indescribable.

Our guide Jason was fantastic! I have to commend him on his stamina. He guided us on cross country ski's across lakes and through the woods for several hours each day, covering a total of 20 miles. He cooked us breakfast every morning, educated us on the local environment, and made us look forward to each and every day. We couldn't have asked for a better guide.

Now, for a few pictures. If you are at all interested in Dogsledding, I highly recommend Wintergreen. When National Geographic said "you are mushing with the best at Wintergreen"... they meant it!

The Home of Wintergreen Doggers:



Jason, our guide, getting Aiyana set up in the sled (see her big smile... she was so excited):



Maya getting to know the team:

BTW/Maya and Middy managed to memorize the names of each and every dog in the kennel. I can barely remember my kids names much less a few dozen dogs so I'll just call most of them "dogs" for this post :)


Of course, who doesn't love doggies wet kisses:


Dad found his twin (they are sharing the same expression):


Stopped for a moment as we were crossing the lake:


Our team (whose names I actually remember) Clara is in the back on the left, to her right is bullet. In the front on right is Snarf and on the left is Patches:



Wolf Poop Discovery (our guide Jason explained how to identify wolf poop. This one contains hair and bone):


Having lunch outside by a camp fire. We settled in the center of the woods off the trail. Our guide Jason set this up for us. The kids had pizza and lots of other goodies. It was a beautiful day with lots of sunshine.


Dogs running on trail:


Middy removing the dogs harness. Middy is making the "awwwww" face because her dog is lifting it's paw to help her remove the harness.


The end of the evening, after the dogs were snug in their kennel and well fed, we headed back to the lodge:


Our goodbye photo. While we were at Wintergreen we watched a documentary of Paul Schurke and Wil Steger's trip to the North Pole. Although I told Middy that Paul had made the trek north the video turned him into a superstar :) Middy was itching to have her picture taken with him so she could take it to school and tell everyone about Paul and his dogs.

Left to right: Aiyana, Jason (our Guide), Maya, Paul (Wintergreen Owner) and Middy.




and... to close. No, the dogs weren't running at top speed trying to flip me off at every turn, instead they maintained a good medium pace and we loved every minute of it. No, we weren't cold. The only part of my body that felt a little chilly was my nose and that was only when we crossed the lake which had no tree protection. That chill was temporary thanks to my face mask :) No, my kids weren't in any danger. The dogs respond to command very well and the sled has a breaking system that always works. No bumps, no bruises, no OMG moments. It was just perfect!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

THE BEES ARE OUT AND ABOUT


I took a peek outside this afternoon to see how much snow melted in the backyard and to my surprise, my bees were out and about. It didn't last too long. Most of them went back inside after about 20 minutes but a few are coming and going now. I'm so happy :)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

SUCH A BAD BAD BEEKEEPER


It was suppose to be pollen patty to the rescue but it turned into Michelle being too wimpy to do what was needed. It was about 40 or so degrees today, somewhat of a heat wave for a MN winter, so I decided to open the hive. The U of M course said not to open til the first week of March but I couldn't stand not knowing exactly how many bees had survived so far. So, I put on my boots and headed out with hive tool and pollen patty in hand.

Since this is my first winter with bees and I have a really short memory on all I learned in my beek course, I had no idea what I should do first. Should I smoke them? For some reason that seemed cruel. In the summer at least they can move away from the smoke but now they are huddled for warmth. I chose not to light the smoker. With no smoker I worried they'd be uber angry. I slowly removed the outer cover, the insulated cardbord box, and lastly the hemosote that collects moisture. There they were, huddled in and around the inner cover opening. At that point I was just so excited to see so many alive I forgot what the heck I was doing. I tried to lay the pollen patty down and then shut the outer box but the patty was too thick to allow closure. I was going to retrieve the pollen but a few bees jumped on before I could grab it. In typical Michelle fashion I freaked. They must have sensed my uncertainty because they got miffed. I had a few girls darting at my head (yes, I had my suit on), but I tried to stay focussed. I realized at that point that the pollen patty needed to be laid on the frames inside the inner cover but when I went to open it up it was sealed tightly shut with propolis. Since we aren't through winter yet and could potentially see some single digits again, I decided not to break that seal. Instead, I did what all wimpy beekeepers would do in that situation... I quickly snatched the pollen patty back and I broke off some pieces of it off and left them on top of the inner cover and then packed the hive up.

Now I sit here wondering if that was a bad thing...
Was the cold exposure too much for them?
Will they still be alive in 2 weeks?
Did leaving pieces of pollen patty make things worse?

I should have listened to Marla Spivak when she said "when in doubt, just leave them alone, they'll figure it out."
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Sunday, February 13, 2011

MY BEES ARE ALIVE!!

WooHoo!!!

I'm soooooooooo happy to see my bees outside the hive cleansing. Although we aren't through winter yet, it is a promising sign to see that some are still alive. I'm excited for spring and very much looking forward to working with the bees again.

Friday, February 11, 2011

ORGANIC SOAPNUTS


I have decided to give organic soapnuts a try. If they are as great as the literature says, I may have to order in bulk next time. I am curious if others have tried these as a counter cleaner or for their dirty laundry and what you thought of the results.
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Thursday, February 10, 2011

ALL FOR THE MONEY: THE LIES OF THE AMERICAN COUNCIL ON SCIENCE AND HEALTH

"Oh the tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive."

I was hopping around twitter the other day checking out the links in people's tweets and I came across one that lead to an article on the American Council on Science and Health website. The title of the article is "The Top Ten Unfounded Health Scares of 2010."

I read it, paused a moment, read it again. Then I wondered, who exactly is the American Council on Science and Health. So, I did some digging.

Now before I begin blogging about what I found I want to recap a bit of the article on the ACHS site. The title is "The Top Ten UNFOUNDED Health Scares of 2010" and the list is:

1. BPA: Blisphenol-A
2. E-Cigarettes
3. Atrazine
4. Phthalates
5. NYC Health Dept's "Pouring on the Pounds" Campaign Against Soda.
6. Cosmetics
7. HFCS: High Fructose Corn Syrup
8. GM Salmon: Genetically Modified Salmon
9. Vaccines & Autism
10. Mercury in Fish

What the ACHS does in this article is tell the reader the source of the scare, the medias responsibility for the widespread fear, ACHS's perspective on it all and their bottom line (why all the fears are unfounded).

What the article fails to mention are two very important facts:

1. Who their founders are.
2. Who funds their efforts to spread this bias bullshit.

Before I address the founders and funding remember the ACHS calls the "Top 10 Unfounded Fears" a HOAX and a FRAUD. Now on with the founders of this great company. < sarcasm

#1 FOUNDERS: Elizabeth Whelan and Dr. Frederick Stare.

Dr. Frederick Stare: "Took money from the tobacco industry" wrote the book Food and Your Health "promoting his nutritional ideas and lambasting anyone who thought chemicals in food, or excessive sugars in the diet, could be a health problem."

In 1950, Dr. Stare assisted in establishing the Food Protection Committee (FPC) of the National Research Council and the National Academy of Sciences with grants from the food industry and the government. The committee's first report assured the country that DDT and other pesticides were safe.


In the 1960s, he had come out against butter, and suggested that all Americans should drink a cup of corn oil a day; he even appeared in television advertisements for the oil producers.


The essence of Stare's advice seemed to be "all things in moderation". He even endorsed Coca-Cola as "a healthy between-meals snack", and extolled the virtues of sugar in coffee and tea as "a quick energy food . . . put a teaspoon in [your] coffee or tea three or four times a day".


he campaigned for the fluoridation of public drinking water, maintaining that it not only helped protect teeth but was an essential nutrient.


Enough about Frederick Stare, now onto Dr. Elizabeth Whelan.

Dr. Elizabeth Whelan: Did freelance writing for the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, wrote the book "Panic in the Pantry", worked in public relations for the American Chemistry Council (top trade association representing North American chemical manufacturers), and was a political lobbyist.

Whelan and ACSH's reputation was made (and finances assured) mainly by her successful propaganda win over the activists in the Alar scare (a hormone sprayed on Apples). This campaign was funded $25,000 p.a. by Uniroyal (the manufacturer of Alar) and by most of the other SOCMA members, including Dow, DuPont, Monsanto and Union Carbide, who made large contributions. Then in 1990 the apple and chemical industries filed a libel lawsuit against the activists over publicising Alar's dangers, and lost the suit. The court concluded that the scientific case against Alar was justified. Uniroyal itself later admitted the chemical was dangerous and voluntarily took it off the US market (but continued to sell it elsewhere).


I'm done with Elizabeth, now onto the even more important facts; all that corporate funding.

Thanks to the Integrity in Science Group I was able to get access to the latest ACHS donor information.

For this blog post I am only going to pull names from the corporate donor list to make a point about the ACHS "Top 10" article but CLICK HERE to view a full listing of donors and how much they've contributed to the ACHS. You will see as of 1990's, when this information became public and the questions started, ACHS stop disclosing the names of their corporate donors (Gee, I wonder why?????) < insert sarcasm here!

#2 DONORS starting at $15,000 to more than $ 25,000:

Monsanto Fund (Genetically Modified Food)
Pfizer, Inc. (Pharmaceutical Company)
ISK Biotech Corp. (Agricultural and Specialty Chemical Products; herbecides and pesticides)
Kraft (The number one food products company in the US containing chemical preservatives, artificial colors/flavors, and trans-fats)
American Cyanamid Company (Chemical manufacturer).
Exxon Corporation (Oil/Gasoline)
PepsiCo Foundation Inc. (Soda Pop)
Union Carbide (Chemical and Polymer companies)
Malysian Palm Oil Promotion Council (Undertakes necessary promotional activities to remove obstacles and create opportunities to enhance the marketability and image of Malaysian palm oil in the world.)
National Starch and Chemical Foundation, Inc.(leading global supplier of specialty starches with a principal focus on supplying the food industry)
Johnson & Johnson (Body Products and Pharmaceuticals)
Procter & Gamble (Body and Household Products) donated $12,500 in 1997.

The important things to remember are:

ACHS doesn't reveal their corporate sponsors anymore because they don't want the public scrutiny over the conflicts of interest. It doesn't take a genius to figure that one out.

The founders of ACHS were in bed with the chemical and food industry long before they established the non-profit American Council on Science and Health.

Some of the names on the corporate donor list may not be familiar but dig deeper and you won't like what you find. Even if, on the surface, the company seems worthy of praise you will be frightened by their associations.

Most importantly, it doesn't pay for ACHS to tell the truth, so when you see this type of information out in the world, consider the source ;)

In the end, you might not care about this type of information but there are millions who do. If you are one that believes none of the information above says anything about the integrity of "non-profits" like ACHS then so be it. I'm not the chemical, cosmetic, or food police. I am however, going to share what I learn with those who care about what they expose themselves and more importantly, their children to =)

HAPPY READING!

CHEMICAL MANUFACTURERS AND FOOD INDUSTRY DEFEND BPA

Frederick Stare

Frederick Stare

Elizabeth Whelan

American Council on Health and Science

Elizabeth Whelan on YouTube

Friday, February 4, 2011

KNOW YOUR HONEY

I was reading on a website where someone stated that "most honey is not raw that in fact honey is heated and refined". Of course, he was implying that honey isn't a natural healthy product once it is heated and refined and so that statement lead to this blog post.

#1 Refined is a dirty word (refined sugar anyone?). To say something is refined is implying you've freed it from impurities and if impurities to you means bee parts then yes honey is sometimes refined but I prefer to use the word "filtered" because filtering is exactly what a beekeeper does. Honey is run through a sieve to get rid of bee parts (wings, stingers, legs, wax). It looks like this:



There is no refining in the sense that nothing is introduced to change the chemical composition of the honey. But when people use the word "refined" oftentimes it is believed that something unnatural happened and in the case of honey it means nothing but good (who wants to eat bee parts?).

Sometimes beekeepers will label their honey RAW if they have not filtered it and if that is your thing, go with it. I personally don't like eating bee glop, especially since I found a stinger in some honey that was given to me before it was filtered... imagine that setting up camp in my tongue :(

#2 Heated honey. It wasn't until my beekeeping course did I understand why some honey crystalizes and some honey stays yellow/clear liquid. The difference is heating. Some beekeepers like to heat their honey, as I was told on the beesource forum this has to do with with ease of filtering and pouring honey into bottles. In my beekeeping course we were advised not to heat our honey and not to buy heated honey. As a member on the beesource said, heating affects flavor. According to my instructors at the University, heating also affects nutritional value and the antibacterial properties of honey and most beekeepers don't do it. Heating apparently limits crystalizing but heating isn't necessary for a clear/yellow smooth honey. The honey that was filtered for me this summer was not heated, sits on my shelf, and is still crystal free =) But if you find you have a crystalized honey, don't worry about it, the honey is good. Here is a good explanation on honey, heat and crystalizing:
CLICK HERE

#3 Raw honey. We also discussed this in our course on beekeeping. It was pretty much a laughable topic since honey IS raw. The term raw on a bottle of honey is used to convey that it was not heated or filtered but it is really misleading to some people. What does raw honey mean to you? Guess what... beekeepers don't even agree on what RAW means. Most will say raw means unfiltered and unheated,focussing on the unfiltered part, but some, including myself, believe it means unheated yet filtered or not filtered. Some people in my course felt that "raw" meant nothing had been done to it but filtering wasn't what they were referring to. One person said that she had asked a beekeeper for raw honey assuming she would be getting honey without any additives and was shocked when she got honey full of bee parts. Some beekeepers will even argue about straining vs. filtering playing a role in whether honey should be labelled "raw." All I can give is my opinion and since raw is defined as: not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture. Uncooked. I say raw means just pure honey that has not been heated. Removing bee legs, wings, stingers, wax cappings, etc... doesn't alter the actual "honey." If we called bee legs, wings and wax "honey" than I'd say it needs to remain if we are to call it "raw honey" but honey is honey and those extra parts don't make it more or less so.

Getting back to the comment on another site that started this all. I think saying that "most honey is not raw that in fact honey is heated and refined" on a site that is talking about the possible dangers of eating agave due to its high fructose content is doing a disservice to beekeepers. This person was trying to lump honey into a group of unhealthy sweeteners with no scientific basis for it.

Most honey is NOT "heated" and "refined". Refined is a dirty word for many customers today, people are trying to avoid refined and if they avoid what they believe is refined honey then they are making a big mistake. Honey can be heated and often is "filtered." Some strain their honey and nothing more, others strain and then filter and some will filter more than once. In my limited experience talking to beekeepers online, in person, having learned from the most well known and respected beekeeper in Minnesota and an entomologist that is known worldwide, I don't believe MOST beekeepers heat their honey and if they do heat their honey a good beekeeper will make sure they keep temperatures below a certain point as to not affect the nutritional or antibacterial value of their honey.

So... the very best you can do when you seek out honey is find a beekeeper you can trust. Ask for filtered honey if you want to avoid bee parts and unfiltered honey if you want bee parts. If you ask for "raw" honey you may or may not get parts. Feel free to inquire about the honey being heated but I'm sure you will find the same as I have found, MOST do not heat.

WORKING MOM GOES GREEN HELPS YOU UNDERSTAND HOW TO NAVIGATE THE COSMETIC SAFETY DATABASE

An excellent blog post by Shannon over at WORKING MOM GOES GREEN! Shannon, in conjunction with Stephanie Greenwood at BUBBLE & BEE ORGANICS put together a blog post on how to understand the rating system on the COSMETIC SAFETY DATABASE. Shannon originally had some trouble deciphering all of the information presented on the database and Stephanie Greenwood put together a nice summary for Shannon's blog on how to process the information .

If you use the cosmetic safety database at all you will find Stephanie's explanation on how the system works to be very helpful!

CLICK HERE FOR SHANNON'S BLOG POST

WHEN NATURAL FOODS AREN'T NATURAL: AGAVE

I've had people ask me if I knew anything about the sweetener agave and all I could do is reference a couple articles I read in the environmental magazine "E" a while back. The articles quoted professionals such as nutritionists, scientists, doctors saying why agave is not the healthiest sweetener but the article on NourishedKitchen.com gives the most detailed unbiased information on agave I have read to date. The comment section also answers some interesting questions as well. If you use agave or are considering its use, please read this link.

Once the process of turning aguamiel into agave nectar is complete, the end result contains as much as 90% fructose. Keep in mind that high fructose corn syrup with all its documented ill effects attributable to its fructose content is only 55% fructose.


NOURISHED KITCHEN ARTICLE HERE



Here is an article I read in E Magazine:

CLICK HERE

I'm on the hunt in the archives for the others I read.