Chocolate Cake and Homework

by sageandhoney

First of all, here is the wonderful birthday cake I made for my roommate on Monday night. I followed Alice Water’s chocolate cake recipe, and a basic frosting recipe from Betty Crocker, to which I added around a tablespoon and half of organic espresso, mmmm mocha frosting and chocolate cake!

Fresh out of the oven cooling
Untouched, not for long

All gone by the end of the night

Yummy with OJ

Here is a less lengthy reading project for class. We are in the final, final stages of writing our prospectus for our compost project at the University and will be presenting letters asking for donations, and the prospectus asking for grants for the vermi composting!

Amy Harris

UNAE 310

April 3, 2009

Reading Questions:

Questions for Natural Capitalism:


  1. Soil is “the ultimate natural capital… [and is] key to turning agriculture from part of the climate problem into part of the solution” (203). Eisenberg’s metaphor implies the complete circular and working system of soil. Every part of the soil is “mined for its last ounce in value” (203) leaving nothing to waste. Soil mimics a factory, which produces new life instead of waste, as there are different steps interacting together to create different components. A factory may have many different stations, creating different types of parts and products, but essentially all of the parts join into one complex whole. Similarly, soil is teeming with complexity, each essential to its whole.
  2. “One of the stupidest technologies of all time” is the water closet. The technology is deemed stupid as it “mixes pathogen-bearing feces with relatively clean urine. Then it dilutes that slurry with about 100 times its volume in pure dinking water, and further mixes he mess with industrial toxins in the sewer system, thus turning ‘an excellent fertilizer and soil conditioner’ into a serious, far-reaching, and dispersed disposal problem” (221). I was not aware of the working system, or rather not working system, of our toilets. Sanitation issues and water shortages go hand in hand in many places and this system mindlessly wastes water, and does not utilize the feces.
  3. Addressing climate change has been framed by economists who believe “climate protections is costly because the best-publicized (though not most broadly accepted) economic computer models say it is” (242). Robert J. Samuelson talks about “burdensome” taxes and “political suicide” when he discusses addressing climate change. Samuelson also states that congress “won’t impose pain on voters for no obvious gain to solve a hypothetical problem” (242). To John Browne, climate change is not a proven fact, but a “possibility [that] can’t be ignored” (241). Likewise Hawkens and Lovins see the obvious gain resulting from addressing climate change, they state: “America could shed $300 billion a year from its energy bills using existing technologies that deliver the same or better services and are rewarding at today’s prices. The earth’s climate can thus be protected not at a cost but at a profit” (242). Changing the attitudes of the economists and politicians is essential to lessening the effects of climate change on a broad and well publicized scale.

Questions for Dirt: the Ecstatic Skin of the Earth


1.      Saint Phocas the Gardener “composted” himself. This story connects to the larger theme involving death throughout the story. The intention of the story is to show how when Phocas died, he did not go to waste. Logan states: The strongest and most lasting thing about Phocas was his soul. The kindness that he did has kept him alive for almost two thousand years now, while the carbon and nitrogen that once held his body together have been recycled billions of times”(19). The hospitality of the soil and its ability to neutralize poisons and heal “teaches: if you want to be remembered, give yourself away” (19). Phocas represents the ideal gardener who takes care of his soil, and in a literal way gives back to, and becomes part of his soil. The dexterity of soil and its lasting benefits are also exemplified in the story

2.      Volcanic eruptions, namely the four eruptions of Krakatoa Island “blew the island to pieces….the ash thrown into the stratosphere circled the Earth for years, bringing fresh minerals to solids around the globe” (34). Early soils were formed by weathering and recent soils by glaciers that left “glacier ground dust in the outwash plains” (35). These dusts were “no more than a stirring in the ashes of the earth” (64) and from it growth and life emerged.

3.      At one point Logan cites a study where compost is the least fertile of several soils Out of the thirty-seven different soil samples; nothing ever grew out of the compost sample. Logan attributes this surprise to the fact that “soil is a web of relationships that stood in a certain state at a certain time…depending on the combinations of climate, mineral matters, organic matter, and slope” (63). The soils which performed best therefore had the characteristics of fertile soil which lies “in the dynamics of that combination” (64). The compost has not stood the test of time like the other samples, and its dynamic combinations have not been refined over thousands of years. Logan states that “neither is organic matter alone a criterion for success…soils high in organic matter, like bog soils, are notoriously hostile to seeds” (64). Compost, being high in organic matter, is lacking some of the essential components, such as high microbial life, which inhibits its fertility.

Questions for Peer Review Articles


  1. The source refers to the organic materials and where they come from. The materials are sorted into three categories: “Compost (paper products, food waste), recyclable (plastics, tin, and aluminums) and trash.” After collecting data from these three categories the sources waste stream can be assessed. Sinks refer to “where these [organic materials] currently end up.” This requires an in depth knowledge and understanding of the waste stream, without assuming everything ends up in a landfill. Knowing the sink allows the possibility to divert “these wastes… [and] free money up for a composting operation.” Economics is the “defining factor in funding a project” and requires investigating the price of disposal, tipping fees, and dumpster collections. Providing concrete proof of the economic viability of composting is essential to funding and success.
  2. Be prepared, set an agenda, negotiate, disagree (know when to compromise and when not to), and be strict about deadlines.
  3. In New York, food accounts for around 16% of the city’s waste stream, and 13% of the nations. Each year Nevada produces 7,233 short tons of solid waste. Each week 8,000 pounds of preconsumer waste….
  4. Three key steps in preparing a grant: accessing needs, making a project worksheet (project overview, need for project, research sources, amount needed, special school/community circumstance, and evaluative methods), and searching for options. Our prospectus has covered accessing needs and project worksheet in preparing our grant, but we need to research more options.

Works Cited


Hawken, Paul, Amory Lovins, L.Hunter Lovins. Natural Capitalism.  New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1999.

Logan, William Bryant. Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin on the Earth. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2007.


Project Compost. “College Guide to Campus Wide Composting: For Educational and Functional College Composting Programs.” <


Colorado State University. “Using Group Time Profitably.” <


Navarro, Mireya. “Urban Composting: A New Can of Worms.” New York Times, February 18, 2009, Home & Garden section, New York edition. <http://www.nytimes.


Kelly, Mellissa. “Grant Writing: Sources and Tips.” <http://712educators.about.