A BETTER BURGER

April 23, 2012

What is fairly common knowledge is that beef cows, because we raise them by the gazillions, and raise mega amounts of grain and hay that need chemicals to grow  to feed them, and pump them full of steroids and antibiotics that affect the chain of healthful medicines, and increase cancer in humans, while they release methane gas enough to become a planetary problem, and everyone closes their eyes to how they are treated and killed, and a new law pushed through the quiet of the night makes it against the law to secretly video tape farm and other animal cruelty and expose them, and kids think meat  comes from a plastic tray,  and if the farmer grazes them near bluffs or rivers, they erode banks and…shoot.  It isn’t  the cow’s fault they are such a problem and everyone loves hamburgers.

But, an encouraging  piece in the Natural Resources Defense Council Magazine, Onearth has a blueprint for an agricultural revolution and a better burger.

Instead of stuffing cattle in feedlots, stuffing them full of expensive corn, grabbing calves away from their  mothers, hot-iron branding them, vaccinating, castrating, and dehorning them before shipping them off to  slaughter house, why not raise them on grass?

Back in 2003, a few contrarian farmers were doing just that and claiming they had better tasting beef. Will Winter and Todd Churchill decided to find out if it was true. They sampled grass-fed beef, some of it was inedible, and some of it was excellent.

Winter and Churchill have worked with companies that raise grass-fed beef, a sustainable farming practice,  that is profitable and growing. What they learned is that cattle are like teens at a buffet table. They only want to eat what tastes good. They wander all over the pasture and eat selectively. Shifting to grass-fed farming  is successful and tastier by rotational grazing.  A new kind of polywire  movable  fencing, allows farmers to force the cattle to graze  two-thirds of available forage, where they get a higher sugar content in the mix of grass species. Then, they up and move them to another fenced acreage.

Churchill now runs the Thousand Hills Cattle Co. in Minnesota. Theo Weening  who carries grass fed beef in all of his Whole Food Stores says the demand for it is growing.

You raise more beef, on less land, without chemicals. It turns  corn ravaged land into better habitat, promotes human health, humanizes farming, and produces a guilt-free steak.

Jim and I like a once-a-year hamburger. I occasionally cave in to a pot roast and some summer tri-tip.  Now we can do it without the guilt.

Tata Motors of India, has come up with some startling innovative automobiles. This one will make you green with envy as petrol pushes toward $5 a gallon. In India, you can buy this car for around $8,000 dollars. It  runs on compressed air. That’s right. Compressed air, zero emissions.
It costs about $2 for a fill-up which will run about 10 hours, or approximately 200 miles. It has a glued,  fiberglass body instead of a welded, metal body, which is one of the reasons it won’t get exported to the U S.  The 2nd biggest hurdle would be the powerful oil lobby we have here.

Its a great city car. If you don’t live close enough to a station that can fill you up in 3 minutes, the six seater carries a compressor that can fill you up at home in 3 to 4 hours. Now, that’s an auto to make the world a better place. In India, the Tata will be available in August of this year.

Life on the road can be a dirty one, and taking time to correct that feels good. The Bronco, not driven since Clinton, Indiana, having plowed through the rain, then dust behind the motor home, was gritty to the touch. Windows were brown streaked and begging for a wash. Ahhh, that felt good.

We checked out the Frank Lloyd Wright house on Norris Street.

And, the Green Dream house, which has an interesting story. Judy Mahoney, from McCook won this house from a drawing during the 2001 America Recycles Day celebration. Her pledge to recycle was drawn at random from more than 6.2 million pledge cards. The prize — a 1,600-square-foot, three-bedroom house called a national model by the National Recycling Coalition — was constructed using recycled-content building materials and energy-efficient equipment.
It was built with corporate donations. http://www.enn.com/top_stories/article/9870 This website gave minimal information about the Dream House, but included several good articles about the U.S. Certification of Green Builders as Nebraska architects and builders go green.
http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/docs/2003/111-16/forum.html This website gives more detailed information about the recycled materials in the house and how anyone can find those kinds of materials.
Recycled products used in the house include carpet made of 25-100% recycled polyethylene (plastic bottles) and a roof made of recycled steel. Natural linoleum, which is made of linseed oil, resins, and wood flour. It’s biodegradable and, unlike vinyl, is not associated with releases of potential toxicants in its manufacture and disposal. Paint and adhesives with no volatile organic compounds. The house was framed using insulating concrete forms, or ICFs, made of expanded polystyrene (which doesn’t deplete the ozone layer) and filled with concrete and reinforcing bars (which are generally 99% recycled steel). Using ICFs requires little to no use of wood on the exterior of a building. Coupled with a well-insulated roof and foundation, ICF walls can save as much as 50% on heating and cooling bills.

The curator of the High Plains Museum gave us the information to start us on our way, looking about town at the various places of interest.

This sculpture sits in the yard of long time legislator, George W. Norris. He served 5 terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and 4 in the Congress for the State of Nebraska. His house is open to the public and is designated a State Landmark. One of his stellar achievements was to make Nebraska’s representation be non-partisan. He retired from public service in 1943.

This sculpture stands in the yard of Ben Nelson’s boyhood home. He was a popular Governor of Nebraska and is known for pushing for and establishing the ethanol industry in Nebraska.  People like their politicians here and treat them with respect.
We had a relaxing day, reading and resting before we tackle the Rockies through Colorado.

Woods Hole Historical Society Museum is a homey little place. Old time pictures of downtown buildings can be viewed here, first. From the museum, borrow an MP3 player to carry with you for a self guided tour around the village to see what those building look like today. Neat.

The building in the background is still occupied as a business. These horses drank from a community fountain still standing today.
The first library, named the “Social Library” was put together by a group of women volunteers with  memberships and donations. Local women were very active in the suffragette movement, as well. High volunteerism, a wholesome sign of the strength and goodness of a community, is still going strong.Three guys and a gal are building copies of old time boats for the museum. All wooden, skillfully handcrafted. A dying art kept alive for the love of the task.

One building houses some dandy old boats. Made of red cedar, heavy and durable, the boat below will probably last forever. Others, typical of the area, hang from the walls. Well done boat models can be seen as well.

Another building held artifacts of a well known New York Pediatrician who was an avid hobbyist. He lived in the Village and donated his stuff to the historical society.  He designed and made some of his own tools. He dabbled in photography, wood crafts, writing, painting, plant biology and more.

The two tools above? Function unknown.

A sink stand.

His typewriter has two sets of keys. One set for capitals, and one for small letters. Isn’t that a hoot?

A short walk away is the Woods Hole Oceanographic Museum and Aquarium. Two different buildings. Both free and educational. A great place to inspire kids.
Scientists and Engineers formed the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in 1930 to study climate and ocean, coastal ocean environs, the fish and plants, and, more recently,deep ocean. First funded by Rockefeller, the institute remains a private, non-profit group that is the mainstay in ocean research today.

In 1865, S. Baird noted  the decline in hunted species of fish. Realize that 8 out of 10 New Englanders fished for a living. The voracious appetites of human nature decreed  the world would provide a never ending supply of bounty from the earth and oceans. In 1871 Spencer Baird  was appointed the first commissioner of the first U.S. Agency concerned with natural resources. His assignment? To determine if fish populations were diminishing, and if so, why?
The evidence was established, but it wasn’t until Soviet fishing trawlers began plying U.S. waters that congress got really serious about fishing water legislation. And it took until 2006 for amendments to the Ferguson Act to “…focus more effort on overfishing quickly…”

The museum focuses on their deep ocean vehicle, ALVIN, sent to explore the ocean floor. Descending with an operator and two scientists, it takes ALVIN 6 to 10 hours per trip. Two hours to descend, and two hours back up. No bathroom, no heater. The ALVIN Crew photographed and mapped the Titanic in 1985. A second trip in 1986 was made with JASON, an exterior camera. An excellent film shows the whole trip.

This picture shows ALVIN with JASON in tow.

A solid six inch steel mock up of the capsule convinces you it is safe to descend 45,000 feet. It was 2.8 miles to the Titanic. Kids can play with controls of the capsule. Its a marvelous exhibit.

This core of earth shows sediments that resemble the rings on a tree, which is how you count how many years passed. This core was originally 100 feet deep and showed 6,000 years BC.

You enter the aquarium next to a huge seal pool. Inside many different aquariums feature large fish specimens. In the tide pool above, kids (and parents) can examine live creatures up close.

We meandered the Shore Road back to Bourne and drove out Wings Neck Rd. to see the lighthouse. The lighthouse is now a private residence. The cove is shallow and choppy. We watched the sailboats run the waters.
For an interesting time line on natural resources depletion and intervention go to this link:
http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/history/timeline/1870.html

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