Friday, March 27, 2015

Farm Friday

This week in words and pictures:

Bianca had beautiful twin girls.
Bianca with one of her kids

Bianca's a good mother and doesn't like us to come too close

But I caught one of them
The first asparagus spear appeared.
The first one!
I worked on the herb beds and transplanted some naturalized daffodils into the farmhouse flowerbed for next year. The oregano, thyme, chives, and French tarragon are coming back and the cilantro has reseeded. It looks like the sage died so I will have to replace it.
 This year's compost pile is well under way.
Some of our chickens scratching around in the compost
We got seven new piglets.
Ready for the trip

Checking out their new home
  I baked my usual four loaves of bread this week.
Fresh from the oven
 Mr. Fabulous continues to be fabulous and confident.
Computer bag as bed
Have a great week!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Less Is More

For the first time since 1980, I now have no ties to Florida. We sold our condominium a couple of weeks ago. For those of you who don't know my story, this condo was purchased when my husband and I sold our house in Florida and I moved to Virginia. My husband continued commuting back and forth to his firm in Florida for seven years and this condo was his home base. Now that he's here full time, we no longer need the condo and, although I had no trouble leasing it, it was just one more thing that complicated my life. 

But having the condo showed me how simple life can be, too. On the occasions when I had to be in Florida after the move to Virginia, I had to streamline everything. Just prior to my move, I made sure the condo was furnished with the necessities of life but not much more. We had just enough plates, cups, and utensils for four people plus linens for the beds and bathroom. We didn't have cable television, a land line phone, or internet. I kept a few articles of clothing there. So when I visited, I packed very light, bringing a few toiletries, a couple of changes of clothes, and a book or two. 

Cleaning  was simple in the condo. After eating, I would quickly wash everything for use at the next meal. We had a small washer/dryer stack in the kitchen so I could easily wash clothes as needed. I could vacuum the entire place without unplugging the vacuum cleaner! As for entertainment, there was a small television and DVD. When I visited, we would sometimes rent a movie to watch - or we'd just spend the evening reading our most current books. Getting internet access was a matter of planning my errands to include a trip where there was free WiFi. That way, I had to be purposeful with my time - I couldn't spend hours in a coffee shop or bookstore - so I planned what I needed on the internet and did no more. I functioned just fine without all the excess that is normally part of my life.

Author Jennifer Scott talks about her similar experience with simplicity when she had work done on her apartment:

As Jennifer points out, it's surprising what little you need to get by. Having less often makes you appreciate it more. Plus, since having fewer things means less time spent maintaining them, you have more time to pursue what you truly enjoy and care about. 

And author Bea Johnson shares here minimalist wardrobe on her blog:
Bea is a chic and savvy woman yet requires few pieces of clothing to maintain her look. In addition, she thrifts most of her clothing which increases her coolness factor in my eyes.

Although I probably have far fewer clothes than your average American woman, I'm still not there yet. Reading Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up made me rethink some of what I own. I'm not yet ready to follow her program but I have purged several worn out and seldom worn items from my closet and plan to continue to do so. For the items I do wear, I'll continue wearing them until they're worn out or I stop wearing them, then I'll consider whether or not they need to be replaced. Maybe some day I'll be close to the minimalist wardrobe that Bea has. That will come in handy when I've achieved my dream of spending a year traveling and living in a small travel trailer - a condo on wheels!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wellness Wednesday

Now that spring is here - at least that's what the calendar says - good fresh fruits and vegetables are just around the corner for most of us in the northern hemisphere. After winter, your body wants the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients found in fresh produce. The Lean Green Bean recommends branching out and trying these vegetables (that is, if you haven't already):  artichoke, asparagus, radishes, and snap peas. (This year, we're growing all but the artichokes on the farm).

Speaking of asparagus, look what I discovered poking through the ground this evening:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How Much Is Enough?

Question Mark ?
Normally the title of this post would apply to material things. However, today I'm talking about corporations and the information they compile on us. This is information we usually provide willingly, although most of us don't know the extent of their knowledge nor the lengths corporations go to in order to get it.

I know that I benefit from some of the corporate spying monitoring that goes on. Just this week my credit card company alerted me that I was a victim of fraud. Someone in Fort Lauderdale thought it was a good idea to put over $400 on my credit card at the Hard Rock Cafe. Fortunately, the transaction didn't go through as the credit card company recognized this as outside of my shopping pattern and locale. When this power is being used for good, I welcome it. However, even in this instance it's not really for my benefit as I would not be held responsible for the charge on my card but the bank might be. The credit card company provides this protection for its own self interests.

Do we really realize how much of our privacy we have given up? I remember years ago when there was talk about implanting microchips in people and all the "benefits" we would get out of it. People thought it was creepy, they didn't want to be watched or monitored. Yet today we willingly carry a device that pass on all sorts of information about us, including our exact location at any given moment. That device? Our smartphone. And if that's not enough, we make sure to spread the word, giving away not only our location at times, but the minutiae of our daily lives, through social media.

Recently, though, I started thinking about the ways we depend upon corporations, well beyond the goods and services we expected from them in past decades. Now we send everything up to "the cloud" - our documents, agendas, photographs, music, etc. We would balk at providing so much information to the government, claiming an infringement on privacy. Yet we never pause to think about the companies we trust with our personal data. In this article, Steven Rosenfeld talks about how Americans tend to fear government far more than corporations and how corporations use this to their advantage. 

Another issue is our legacy. In the case of important photos and documents, what would happen should the company where we archive our materials close its doors? This is not as far fetched as one might think. When you look back over the top companies of a few decades ago and you will notice that many of them no longer exist. It's not a matter of if a company should go belly up, but when. With so much competition and such narrow profit margins, it's just common sense that the hot companies of today will be in the corporate graveyard of tomorrow.

Reading Dave Egger's book The Circle really made me stop and examine my willingness to share personal information with impersonal corporations, especially via social media. In this book, the fictional corporation "The Circle" was a creepy place to work - and it had plans to reach far beyond its employees. Then I read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. In this book, I learned how corporations compile information about us and use it to cleverly manipulate us for their gain. The section on Target's ability to determine that a teen-aged girl was pregnant before she even told her family made me wonder about how much information I inadvertently give to retailers over the course of time. These two books made me take a step back and pause my use of social media. However, I pay a price by doing that. It takes me out of mainstream and I miss out on information that family and friends share. I often appear ill informed and out of touch. Social media is also a convenient place to get news updates that are tailored to my specific interests. But by it's very nature, my picking and choosing what type of news I want to receive relays very personal information back to the company, information it can use and sell for its own benefit.

All that said, the problem is that it is difficult to function in this society without giving up a little of yourself. You want an easy way to keep in touch with friends and family? You need to be on social media - but the companies that own the media also own the information you put out there. You want an easy way to do research? You need to use a search engine - but it will track your searches. You want an easy way to protect your files and photos? You need to use a service that provides cloud storage so you don't lose your data should your computer crash - but you must trust that your data is kept both private and available to you in the future. 

This very platform that I'm using - Blogger - is owned by one of those corporations. Yet I continue to use it because I'm willing to trade a bit of privacy in order to blog.  Like Blogger, many of the services I've mentioned are free and handy and that's why we use them. However, do we really know what we're trading for this convenience? How much information is enough to give up in exchange for the services? And how much is too much? Most important, how do we know when our privacy is being violated?

Monday Morning Amusement

This made me smile:

More Reasons Why Local and Regional Food Is Important

As California enters into another season of drought, the US food supply is at risk. Americans get almost half of all produce from California (and almost all the nuts), an already arid state that is suffering from the worst drought since the middle ages. Here's a chart of the crops that we depend on California to provide:
We cannot keep this up. California is a naturally dry area and depending on it for food production is not logical. While California may, over time, have the water resources to provide food to its own region, it cannot continue producing the quantities of food necessary to feed the nation. 

After learning that California is the source of almonds and walnuts (and now pistachios), I've stopped buying those nuts (and I'm definitely not buying almond milk). When I do buy nuts, I try to find nuts that are grown in my region - pecans and peanuts - although often some of those are imported from overseas. 

In today's global economy, it is often difficult to do the right thing when it comes to food. However, you can make steps in the right direction by shopping at local farmers' markets, checking the place of origin on food you get from the grocery store, refraining from purchasing foods that you know come from environmentally sensitive areas, and even growing your own food. 

Learn more about the water shortage in California here

Monday, March 23, 2015

Monday Morning Amusement

I couldn't resist this one; I really did laugh out loud when I saw it. The first questions most people ask upon learning I'm a vegetarian (and occasional vegan) is "how do you get protein." I think this answers it quite well:

Now to get a bit serious:  Americans do not suffer from protein deficiency. When you see children in places like Haiti with red-tinted hair and distended bellies? THAT is a protein deficiency. Americans? We have an animal protein excess which leads to chronic conditions such as cardio-vascular disease. We've turned meat into the centerpiece of our meals; instead, produce and whole grains should be. So, don't forget: plants have protein.