19 November 2009

What the rest of the world already knows

Just discovered a new, to me, but 20 years grown, resource for sustainable livestock management, Livestock Research for Rural Development, "The international journal for research into sustainable developing world agriculture." 

It is truly an international journal, the latest issue November 2009, includes such varied articles as "Use of redworms (Perionyx excavatus) to manage agricultural wastes and supply valuable feed for poultry" contributed by the Hanoi University of Agriculture, to "Effect of minimal supplemental feeding with lucerne during late gestation on pre-weaning performance of goats" contributed by the Department of Agriculture, South Africa, to "Indigenous knowledge and its relevance for sustainable beekeeping development: a case study in the Highlands of Southeast Ethiopia", contributed by Mada Walabu University, Ethiopia. 

Nearly all of the articles and research in this journal originate in the Global South, and Developing Nations, which makes them all the more applicable to our own First World subsistence, urban and smallholder farming initiatives.  I have found a rather large gap in relevant research available to subsistence and small farms.  The "how to" books and websites for backyard livestock cover basic handling, housing and feeding, but all of the first-rate University research, from Industrial nations, has been directed at large scale commercial livestock operations.  Even the Organic livestock research has been biased toward commercial operations, which differ greatly from smallholder and subsistence livestock systems.  A subsistence livestock system will include a more varied, seasonal and bio-regional approach to feed, and an integrated approach to waste and nutrient management, for instance. 

As local food collectives take hold in North America, this research gap will close, especially with the innovation of the Open Science and Creative Commons platform for equal access and distribution of information.  In the meantime, I will glean relevant research from the LRRD journal, and marvel at what the "Developing World" is able to do.

10 November 2009

Wool hood and scarf for Winter Biking

I'm inevitably prone to catching the knitting fever this time of year.  It's the crisp temperatures and the adding of layers... what would winter be without wool?  We have wool long-johns, wool sweaters, double-layer wool mittens, and the usual plethora of wool socks, hats and scarves.

But never are these wool garments tested more than when winter biking.  The wool long-johns have proved their worth in stitches, wool sweaters always form one of the 3-4 layers in our full winter biking garb, and nothing could be more important than a pair of wool socks (or two) for fast-pedaling feet.  But there have been gaps in our woolen armor.  Even the double-thick wool mittens only make it to about 0-5 C; stationary hands get quite nippy, wind chill is always a factor on a bicycle, and the cold finds it's way through the stitches.  Ski gloves work best for winter biking.

The other cold spot is the face and neck area.  I have usually tried to cover all the bases with a hat that covers most of the ear, a face scarf that covers ear lobes, face and chin, and a scarf wrapped copiously around the neck.  But there's always a little gap that forms between the hat and the face scarf, exposing tender ears.  Our goal in winter biking is to comfortably transport ourselves, not lose various extremities to frost bite.

Hence the latest woolen duo: hood and face scarf.  The hood fits neatly under a helmet, and generously covers all those little gaps left by too much mis-matched head garb.  The face scarf provides a double covering for the ears and neck, with a single breathable layer over the mouth and nose.  A heavy scarf can sometimes prevent easy breathing, and once you are moving along on a bike, the face is warmed by a cloud of warm breath.  In the event that the face becomes too hot, the face scarf can be slid down to the chin, and easily moved back into place upon cooling off.

We are now looking forward to comfortable journeys on our two wheeled steeds this winter, covered in wool from head to toe.

These two pieces are quite simple to knit.  Find a gauge that works with your favorite worsted weight wool yarn, and calculate your stitches for 16 or 17 inches, depending on the size of your head and whether you want a close or a loose fit.

For the hood, work in the round for 4 inches, in 1x1 ribbing.  BO one inch at the beginning of the next row, then work back and forth in stockinette (or find a more decorative stitch such as cabling, herringbone, etc) for 11 to 12 inches.   Now pick up stitches along the side edge, including half of the bound off stitches in the chin.  Work one side, then the other, in 1x1 ribbing for 1 1/2 inches, BO in pattern.  Sew the seams, beginning with the top of the hood, then the seams on the edging.

Work the face scarf in the same 1x1 ribbing, but add one more inch of stitches per row than the neck of the hood.  Work in the round for 6 or 7 inches.