Repurposed Grain Storage Bins Now a Bed and Breakfast

abbey_road_bbFarmers are known for making do with what they have. Turning a bit of inner tube into a tractor fan belt, for example. Or, say, converting idle grain silos into luxury suites for a bed-and-breakfast in Oregon wine country.

The Abbey Road Farm Bed & Breakfast near Carlton, Ore., gives new meaning to the phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle.” Case in point: a pair of grain silos standing on the property when John and Judy Stuart bought the place 10 years ago.

The Stuarts bought the 82-acre farm in the heart of wine country — an area world renowned for growing pinot noir, the fragile, finicky grape made mainstream by the movie “Sideways” — after 30 years in Las Vegas. And Vegas, John notes, is a place where castles and Roman palaces and pirate ships rise from the desert. It’s a place that expands the imagination.

John would often see silos in the farm country he visited during frequent hunting and fishing trips. “It lingered in the back of my mind for a long time — what would a guy do with one of those things?”

Then he found himself with two. So they added a third — symmetry and all that — to create five circular suites with a lobby and parlor, perfect for gathering with other guests.

The conversion was done with efficiency in mind. The concrete floors feature a radiant heating system — one gas-fired 50-gallon hot water tank warms the building. Expanding foam insulation was sprayed between the metal silo exterior and the interior walls, creating what Judi calls “the world’s largest Thermos.” The inn’s utility bills, John says, “are very, very, very much lower than they would have been with conventional construction.”

abbey_road_la_mancha_suiteEach suite features a different decorative touch and a different view, but similar amenities. Most rooms have king beds with a comfortable memory-foam top, luxurious linens and more pillows than two people could possible need. Each suite boasts a spacious bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub, separate shower and heated towel racks.

There are comfortable chairs for sitting and reading. A compact stereo fills the room with music. (Though you may want to pack a couple of CDs if your tastes go beyond mellow New Age music.)

The rooms in the silo to the right as you face the inn — the La Mancha (shown here) and the Alpine — offer the best views, with big windows looking over a wetlands habitat and pasture filled with sheep, goats, llamas and alpacas.

The Stuarts bought a working farm, in part, to live a farm-to-table lifestyle in which eggs and cheese, fruits and vegetables are shipped no more than 80 to 100 feet. And they are eager to share that experience with guests.

abbey_road_bb_chickensThe breakfast in the bed and breakfast is locally sourced as much as possible. The eggs are from the three dozen or so free-range chickens that cluck and scratch in a predator-proof enclosure not far from the dining room. The flock includes Polish, Sultans, Australorps, Araucanas and sex links that lay eggs ranging in color from pale green to blue to brown. Oh, and white.

The morning meal is sure to include goat cheese. The small herd is also fun to watch as the kids frolic about, some trying to climb trees. Zucchini from the garden is used to make zucchini bread. Pumpkins from the garden are used to make awesome pumpkin waffles. Blueberries, raspberries, cherries grown on the grounds…well, you get the idea.

The B&B also allows the Stuarts to share their passion for birds and wildlife. John, a longtime member of Ducks Unlimited, has developed a wetland that provides refuge for breeding waterfowl and other birds. A deck overlooking the area is a great place to watch ducks, red-winged blackbirds, geese and other birds — not to mention the roaming llamas and alpacas — as you enjoy a bottle of wine discovered during your rambling that day.

Glimpses Into a By-Gone Era

These documentary clips from the 1920s and ’30s are fascinating. To see these people who were born in the early part of the 19th century really compresses time into a framework that does prove how fast time flies. It also boggles one’s mind to ponder how much they lived and how many changes they witnessed.

Original Apple 1 Computer Sells for $668,000

One of Apple’s first computers – a functioning 1976 model – has been sold for a record $668,000 at a Berlin auction.

German auction house, Breker, said Saturday that an Asian client, who asked not to be named, bought the so-called Apple 1, which the tech company’s founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak built in a family garage.

Breker claims it is one of only six known remaining functioning models in the world. Breker already sold one last year for $635,000.

It says the computer they sold Saturday bears Wozniak’s signature. An old business transaction letter from the late Jobs also was included.

The Apple 1, which was sold for $666 in 1976, consisted of only the circuit board. A case, a keyboard and a screen had to be bought separately.

Not Much Has Changed

harry-truman“Republicans approve of the American farmer, but they are willing to help him go broke. They stand four-square for the American home–but not for housing. They are strong for labor–but they are stronger for restricting labor’s rights. They favor minimum wage–the smaller the minimum wage the better. They endorse educational opportunity for all–but they won’t spend money for teachers or for schools. They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine–for people who can afford them. They consider electrical power a great blessing–but only when the private power companies get their rake-off. They think the American standard of living is a fine thing–so long as it doesn’t spread to all the people. And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.”
~Harry S. Truman

Greek Yogurt: Good for You, Bad for the Planet

20090824-yogurt-groupGreek yogurt has seen meteoric growth in sales over the past five or so year, but it is assaulting the environment due to the exponential growth in its manufacture and marketing.

While it takes one cup of milk to produce one cup of traditional yogurt, it takes at least three cups of milk to produce a single cup of the thicker, healthier Greek variety.

Greek yogurt is what is known as a “strained” version of the dairy product, meaning it’s been stripped of whey, a watery byproduct of milk. All of that excess whey isn’t necessarily dangerous in itself, but it’s very difficult to dispose of because simply dumping it could lead to serious consequences.

Justin Elliot, writing in Modern Farmer, tells us a little about that problem: “Not only would that be illegal, but whey decomposition is toxic to the natural environment, robbing oxygen from streams and rivers. That could turn a waterway into what one expert calls a “dead sea,” destroying aquatic life over potentially large areas. Spills of cheese whey, a cousin of Greek yogurt whey, have killed tens of thousands of fish around the country in recent years.”

The booming Greek yogurt industry has exacerbated the problem, since it’s now churning out too much whey, much too fast.

Greek yogurt is considered to be healthier than the more traditional version, containing twice the protein, while being lower in lactose, or milk sugar, meaning it fills you up without packing on empty calories.

As a result, Greek yogurt has become a $2 billion industry that has rapidly begun to absorb the overall yogurt market. Last year, Greek yogurt accounted for 35 percent of all yogurt sales, up from just 1 percent in 2007, according to market research firm Packaged Facts.

Yet with those increased sales have come increased waste. Tons of it. New York, which produces more Greek yogurt than any other state in the nation, produced 66 million gallons of acid whey in 2011 alone.

Andrew Novakovic, a professor of agricultural economics at Cornell University, elaborated on that point in an interview with Businessweek. Using an analogy about dumping food scraps in a river, he explained that while acid whey isn’t problematic in small quantities, it can wreak havoc when dumped en masse.

“It’s not that apple peelings are going to kill you,” he said, “but natural systems like a river can only handle so much foreign biological material.”

According to a report from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, whey is a “strong pollutant” when dumped into streams in large quantities. By its estimate, a cheese factory that processes roughly 26,400 gallons of milk per day would produce the same amount of pollution as a city of 60,000 people.

“Given the large quantity of whey produced worldwide each year, the risks of pollution are therefore extremely high,” the report concludes.

Greg Brown – Canned Goods

This song is a solid one from Greg Brown, made even better by the live, on stage, recording. It allows Greg to do something he does very well. Telling a basic story in song and then flesh it out and make it more entertaining by weaving wonderful vignette of real life in spoken word. Much of this song and the story he tells along with it reminds me of my own childhood, growing up in the simpler time of the 1950s. Just sit back and listen to what he has to say in song and story telling and see if it takes you back to a time you find to be as comforting as home-canned food.

When Booker T. Washington Dined With Teddy Roosevelt

coverThe first black man invited to dine in the White House was Booker T. Washington. He was invited to dinner by newly sworn in President Theodore Roosevelt. The date was October 16, 1901, and besides Roosevelt and Washington, the President’s wife, daughter, and three sons were present at the historic meal. 

What today seems a trivial event, at the time inviting a black man to dinner at the White House was anything but.  News of the unique dinner traveled along the Associated Press wires throughout the night.  The morning newspapers were generally positive in the North, but many Southern papers saw things differently. They proceeded to attack both Roosevelt and Washington with fervor.

For instance, the next afternoon, the Memphis-Scimitar reported: “The most damnable outrage which has ever been perpetrated by a citizen of the United States was committed by the President, when he invited a n****r to dine with him at the White House.”

The newspaper went on to criticize Roosevelt’s claims that his mother was a Southern woman and to assert that Southern women could no longer accept invitations to the White House “with proper self-respect.” They went so far as to say that President Roosevelt would not be welcome in Southern homes after what they took to be an affront to Southern sensibilities.   

While Theodore Roosevelt’s father was a big supporter of Abraham Lincoln and the Union during the Civil War, his mother was, in fact, from the South and from a slave owning family.  Her brother, James Dunwoody Bulloch, was also a Confederate Navy commander.  Another brother of hers was a member of the Confederacy, serving as a midshipman on the CSS Alabama.  After the war, those two moved to England.

Letters poured into the White House full of anger and menace.  A U.S. Senator from South Carolina proposed a retaliatory measure: “The action of President Roosevelt in entertaining that n****r will necessitate our killing a thousand n****rs in the South before they will reach their place again.”

Men swore never to vote for Roosevelt in future elections.

Soon after the dinner, Roosevelt received an honorary doctorate from Yale University, along with famed novelist Mark Twain.  Booker T. Washington was also present at this event.  Roosevelt spoke to Twain and asked the novelist for his opinion on the controversial matter.  Twain replied “that a President was perhaps not as free as an ordinary citizen to entertain whoever he likes.”

A few days later, Roosevelt made a public statement about the “infamous” dinner.  True to his no-nonsense style, he simply said, “I shall have him to dine as often as I please.”

Soon after, a group of black admirers presented the President with a possum as a gift for his 43rd birthday on October 27th.  Roosevelt vowed to eat it, “well browned and with sweet potatoes on the side”.

Booker T. Washington was to visit the White House again, but only in the morning during regular business hours.  Future dinner invitations became impossible for both men.

For the remainder of his term as U.S. President (1901-1908), Theodore Roosevelt was never again to invite a black person to dinner at the White House.  However, Roosevelt later stated on the issue of race something that would later be echoed, albeit in his own words, by Martin Luther King Jr. in his “I Have a Dream” speech when he said: “…the only wise and honorable and Christian thing to do is to treat each black man and each white man strictly on his merits as a man, giving him no more and no less than he shows himself worthy to have.”