Thursday, May 31, 2012

Chickens And Guineas And Eggs, Oh, My.

I  do have a life outside of fretting about Fukushima, really I do.  Older readers here will remember I started a series of posts way back there when I launched a guinea fowl keeping project in 2008, the Guinea Saga; with a Part 2, and a Part Trois a year later.  I think that was about the last update.  Sorry about that!

I've been intending to take up the topic again for months now; the primary reason I haven't being - it's turned into a big topic.  I've learned a lot.  And as always happens, much of what I've learned is how much there is to learn, and how much of it not only I don't know; but nobody knows.  Tackling all that has kind of intimidated me.

Today has provided the key bit to kick me over edge though; I mentioned my chickens over on the NYT, and thought you might enjoy seeing that.  It's in a Green Blogs post on water.  Do take a look; it'll bring you up to date on what we're doing here just a bit; besides being highly educational on the water thing.

The article states that "It takes 52 gallons of water to produce one egg" - and that stimulated my response. Sure, I'll easily believe industrial eggs use that much; but - any version of home/local/free range certainly won't be even close to that.  I'm guessing I pump and carry about a tablespoon of water per egg.  Putting those calculations on an honest comparison basis is beyond me, of course; but the basic facts have to be pretty obvious; industrial production is going to use way more.

To re-launch the topic, I think it will make sense for me to just list and outline where we are now.  We started with 30+ guinea keets, in 2008.  Six of those birds are still alive.  They're our wise old survivors.  All together, we now have about 55 birds; about 34 of them guineas.  Three roosters, and about 16 hens of 3 breeds.  I have a database.  Most of the birds have numbered aluminum leg bands; and about twice a year they get weighed, as a measure of basic health.  The uncertainty in the numbers comes because a few are "missing in action" at the moment; I suspect they are sitting on stolen eggs somewhere.

The majority of the birds are "out", divided between two chicken tractors which are about 1/4 mile apart.  Every morning, they are let out of the tractor, and are absolutely free to roam.  Boy, do they roam.  We see them 200 yards away, and more, daily.  Just before sunset; I go out and call them to me- using a half cup of white millet and about a quart of layer crumble per tractor as training bait, to get them back into the tractors for the night.  The main reason for that is - foxes etc. for the chickens, some of whom don't fly much; and owls for the guineas, which will roost high in the trees if you're 10 minutes too late.  A few birds remain in the big permanent chicken coop, built to winter the birds.  The idea of building a soddy coop definitely did not work out; but at least it's semi-earth sheltered; making it cooler in the warming summers, and warmer in the winter.

We do collect the eggs.  We have way more than we can eat, but not really enough to make sense to try to sell.  And of course, both chickens and guineas frequently hide their eggs, and I definitely don't find them all.  Working on that; I'd rather harvest that resource, and the hidden eggs are also an encouragement to predators to hang around.

The bottom line- it's worth while; we intend to continue, and even expand.  The details on why and how though, are complex.  I'll be writing more, very soon.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Second Whisper from Japan?

Once again, from the NHK news feed- the headline reads: "Review of Japan's nuclear policy suspended."  And my immediate expectation was that this major government review was being suspended because it was giving too much attention to anti-nuclear views; like those of ex-Prime Minister Kan.  The "nuclear village" still has plenty of clout; enough to pull that off, I'd bet my boots.

But- it turns out- the reasons (given to the public, anyway) - are exactly the opposite.  The head of the review is concerned that the nuclear industry has too much presence on the panel.  The story, in toto:

"Review of Japan's nuclear policy suspended

"The Japan Atomic Energy Commission has decided to suspend a review of the country's nuclear policy guidelines currently being conducted by an expert panel.

"In a meeting on Tuesday, some of the panelists expressed concerns over the selection of some of the panel, which includes members from power companies and research institutes that are promoting nuclear power.

"The experts also criticized a working group set up by the commission. The working group compiled a report on the country's nuclear recycling policy in mid-May following the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. It later came to light that the unreleased draft report was distributed in closed door sessions to people involved in the government and in the power companies who were promoting nuclear power.

"The expert panel said it is still not clear why the working group distributed the draft, and called for an investigation by a third-party. The panel strongly criticized the atomic energy commission.

"The panel plans to come up with a review of the guidelines by this summer. The commission decided to temporarily halt its review of the guidelines and exclude from the panel any persons from the nuclear industry and research institutes promoting nuclear power.

"The head of the commission, Shunsuke Kondo, said he plans to rethink the commission from scratch following the nuclear accident and try to recover public trust in the commission. The commission plans to draw up concrete proposals by the next meeting of the expert panel.
May 29, 2012 - Updated 12:01 UTC (21:01 JST)"

Wow.  Again.  In fact; that's what Kan recommended- that only a panel of entirely outside experts should be consulted; no representation from nuclear industry insiders whatsoever.

If they can pull that off- it will be a huge, huge, change in the process.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A whisper of hope from Japan.

More than a whisper, perhaps, though one needs to be careful, hoping, these days.

The former Prime Minster of Japan, the man who was in power when the Fukushima reactors melted through, and who lost power partly because of that- has come out publicly and clearly to say: Japan should end all use of nuclear power.  It's simply impossible to make it safe, in his opinion.  (Mine too, as you know.)

And, this is being repeated via the Japanese news feed; here's the NHK story today:

"Former PM calls for Japan to end nuclear power

"Former Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan says the nuclear accident at Fukushima convinced him that, for safety's sake, Japan must end its dependence on nuclear energy.

"Kan on Monday attended a hearing of a panel appointed by the Diet to investigate the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant that began on March 11th of last year.
He blamed the government for promoting nuclear power as a national policy. He apologized for failing to prevent the accident as the head of government at the time.

"Kan said a nuclear safety agency said nothing about what would happen in such an accident, nor did the government receive information from other sources. He added that he feared the situation could get out of control.  Kan acknowledged that the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, consulted the government about evacuating plant workers.

"He said that when the industry minister informed him of the workers' possible withdrawal, he thought it was out of the question.

"Kan said that he told Tokyo Electric President Masataka Shimizu that the government would not allow the workers to leave, and Shimizu complied.

"The former prime minister criticized what he calls an inner circle of nuclear policymakers, experts and businesses for trying to hold on to their power without doing any soul-searching after the accident.

"He said disbanding the circle is the first step in a comprehensive reform of nuclear policy.

"He also said the accident could have jeopardized state functions, and that he is convinced that the safest way forward for Japan is to end its nuclear power generation.

"The panel plans to compile a report on its investigation by next month at the earliest, and submit it to the heads of both chambers of the Diet.
May 28, 2012 - Updated 10:23 UTC (19:23 JST)"

You have to think- "wow!", reading that.  Absolutely extraordinary for the top politician to - change his mind, and speak straight out like that.  Hopeful, I would have to say.

It will be interesting to see how much that statement penetrates in Japan.  It's getting coverage internationally, at least; the NYT has picked it up.

The NYT article adds several points not covered by the NHK; perhaps as a matter of differing translations.  My favorites:

"the country should discard nuclear power as too dangerous, saying the Fukushima accident had pushed Japan to the brink of 'national collapse.' "

"In his testimony, Mr. Kan said that Japan’s plant safety was inadequate because energy policy had been hijacked by the “nuclear village” — a term for the power companies and pro-nuclear regulators and researchers that worked closely together to promote the industry."

“It is impossible to ensure safety sufficiently to prevent the risk of a national collapse,” Mr. Kan said. “Experiencing the accident convinced me that the best way to make nuclear plants safe is not to rely on them, but rather to get rid of them.”

The current Prime Minister is still intending to restart the now 100% off-line nuclear plants, and keeps pushing.  The people of Japan are resisting- but that "nuclear village" has huge power.  Perhaps Mr. Kan's speaking out so clearly can help.  There is international momentum now that the people of Japan can point to - Switzerland and Germany are now committed to total shutdown of their nuclear generators.  So the voices of sanity in Japan don't have to go it alone.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Boycott Pom Pomegranate Juice. Really.

Yesterday I was greeted by the top banner ad on the New York Times reading "CHEAT DEATH" - and advising us all to drink Pom.

It's a seriously sad statement, when a corporation responds to a highly adverse decision by a judge, by launching an immediate new ad campaign- that pushes the claims even farther.

I was already aware that the day before, a judge had ruled that Pom's advertising crossed quite a few lines in making health claims that were simply not true, nor justified by any credible research.  And he did tell them to knock it off.

So?  Pom thinks it's a joke.  That is- your health is a joke to them.  And so is our society's legal requirement that advertising should not be misleading.  Up yours, FTC.  And incidentally- up yours, American citizen.

You can read about it here: NYT; and in various other places.

So, yes; I'm seriously suggesting you BOYCOTT POM - and let them know you are.  Put this up on your Facebook page- etc.

Sorry, Pom.  Not funny.  Not at all.  And- knock it off.  Or no juice for you.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sigh. Why me?

Again- news from the Japanese Public TV feed- which is NOT being repeated elsewhere.

This one is a real corker.  Watch the video while you can; it could disappear.

So- how's the security at French nuclear power plants?  Here's the answer.  You can just walk in.

YouTube link here.  The version at NHK has a bit of an interview, too; in French-

Update 5/3; ok, we're getting a little mainstream media penetration; this article in Bloomberg Businessweek adds considerable detail, and was cited in the NYT Green Blogs section.

I love the public response of the French top nuke guy:

“Safety at the installation was never called into question,” Dominique Miniere, director of French nuclear production, told reporters today. “What is clear is that safety measures put in place at the end of 2011 allowed the detection and immediate arrest of the intruder. The whole thing was over in less than 10 minutes.”

Uh.  Right.  So if this guy had actually been a terrorist, carrying a nice shoulder launched missile, for example, they definitely would have seen him, and caught him... AFTER he'd delivered his ordnance.  No problem!

The first cygnets of summer-

If you're not already, better get used to headlines that read something like "Cherry trees blossom 2 weeks ahead of average."  The year is off to a hot start already; and lots of early events are in the pipeline by now.

This is the one that motivated me to post today: "The first cygnet of the year at Abbotsbury Swannery in Dorset is the earliest since records began in 1393."

That's a pretty substantial record.

Thing is; here on the other side of the globe, I have our own to report.  Last night at 11 PM, as I went outside to check the sky for lightning, since our neighbors to the west were having tornadoes again, I was greatly startled by some flashes of light- from the wrong direction.

They were fireflies; 10, at least.  On May 1st.  That is absolutely the earliest, by far, we've ever had fireflies here.  Ok, I've only got a 30 some year observation track, not quite up to the swans' records.  But the first firefly, like the first cygnet, has always been an event to watch for- yes, it's summer.

About 3 weeks earlier than the average, I think.

Supposed to hit 80°F today.

Another headline to get used to: "Long, hot, summer..."