Sunday, January 25, 2015

Quote for the Day

Love, love, love this quote from an early Quaker:

"Look upon our treasure, 
the furniture of our houses, and our garments, 
and try whether the seeds of war have 
nourishment in these our possessions."
~John Woolman

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Social Justice Saturday: Addiction

Labyrinths Of Love 1
This Huffington Post article about the roots of addiction really caught my attention. It confirms what I've been thinking lately - that many of the ills that plague our uber wealthy society are caused by the emptiness behind the consumer illusion of happiness.

When it comes to drug addiction, we have been told it is purely chemical and studies with lab rats seemed to confirm this belief. However, according to the article, a study done in the 1970s by Professor Bruce Alexander pointed out a flaw in the earlier study. In the first study, the rats had no alternative but to either drink plain water or to drink drug-laced water. Professor Alexander set up a different experiement. Instead of putting the rats in a stark cage with two choices, he
built Rat Park. It is a lush cage where the rats would have colored balls and the best rat-food and tunnels to scamper down and plenty of friends: everything a rat about town could want.....In Rat Park, all the rats obviously tried both water bottles, because they didn't know what was in them. But what happened next was startling.The rats with good lives didn't like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did.
The article continues to explain other situations even social experiments to determine the causes and effective treatments for substance addiction. It seems that, while there are chemical roots in drug addiction, the environment is more important. And the author sums it up nicely:  
The rise of addiction is a symptom of a deeper sickness in the way we live -- constantly directing our gaze towards the next shiny object we should buy, rather than the human beings all around us.
Continuing the so-called War on Drugs is not the answer. It might fatten the pocketbooks of those in the law enforcement business and the contractors they use, but it destroys the lives of those who become addicted as a way out of the shallow lives we are encouraged to create. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Farm Friday

This has been one of those weeks. To date, we have 15 new kids running about the farm. Unfortunately, we lost another one of our good goats. Sadie, whose face graced a news article about our farm a couple of years back, had complications with kidding. On Monday, she delivered a stillborn but the next day still wasn't behaving right. On Wednesday, Bill realized there was a serious problem and asked me to confirm his suspicions. One look and I could tell she was suffering from the same issue as Bonnie. I felt "better" in that now I knew I wasn't responsible for Bonnie's death as we had not intervened at all in Sadie's kidding yet met the same fate. However, it's hard to lose yet another girl. Nellie, our matriarch and one of our best mothers, had two kids that seemed perfectly healthy and followed her around the pasture. One of the kids died and we have no idea why. Sometimes it's that way with goats.

I've tried to take photos of the bottle babies but they're just too fast for me and the camera on my phone. The photos always come out blurry and/or grainy. It would be nice to have a better camera to take decent photos but I suppose I'll make do for now. I'll keep working at it and maybe get good photos of Neo and Pearl to share.

On to other news on the farm:

Although a small fire, it was heading towards the trees and outbuildings where  it could have become dangerous

Bill manning a hose before the fire department arrives (our neighbor who discovered the fire is handling another hose)
Fire department arrives

Fire is out

Our farmhouse was not affected
Early Wednesday evening we had a fire! Earlier in the day, Bill had tried to burn the dead fronds in the asparagus patch. It was too wet to catch (or so it appeared), so he took the hose and doused the area really well and thought that was the end of it. However, our neighbor who actually owns the horse on our property happened to stop by around 5 to give him a treat. She saw a large area that had burned and was still burning on the edges so caught Bill at the barn and asked him if the fire was deliberate. Long story short, the fire was put out without serious damage. We won't know until spring if the fire damaged the grape vines and fruit trees that were in the burned area. Lesson to all - closely monitor all fires or attempted fires. Even a fire that seems to be out can smolder and return to life. Of course, it also created some entertainment for the community and far more people showed up than necessary to put out the fire. In fact, most of it had been extinguished before the fire department showed up - with two trucks and several private vehicles. However, a great shout out to volunteer firefighters around the country for all their hard work. 

I've started things in motion for us to offer our farmhouse as a farm stay! A number of things need to occur before I can offer it for weekend (or even mid-week stays) but that is at the top of my projects list for the year. I've wanted to do this for a couple of years now and this year it will happen. I'm excited that people who have never experienced life on a farm will be able to see what it's all about. Not only to see the gardens and animals, but to see how beautiful and star-filled the night sky is away from light pollution. We're also spared the noise pollution of cities as the farmhouse is on a very quiet road and that should be a treat to any city dweller. Any suggestions for making guests feel comfortable are welcome!
Photo of my girl Ginny just before our Mutual Admiration Society club meeting
Today I took the first yoga class in ages and it felt good. It was at the Y's new facilities that are right on the Dan River. The property is beautiful and I hope it leads to bigger and better things in the community. I love to see more interest in fitness and healthy living in this area as it is one of the worst places in the country for poor health. 

Winter seems to be really upon us as, when I left the yoga class, I noticed that the raindrops were "bouncing" off my fleece jacket. Not rain - sleet! Although we often think of December as the beginning of bad weather, it really isn't until late January - and sometimes as late as March - when the really nasty weather greets us.

Since all summer we talked of how we were looking forward to winter so we could "catch up" on things, that's what we've been doing. I've been puttering around, organizing things in the house and in our work area, working on projects that have been neglected or postponed, and considering ways to simplify and streamline our life for when things get busy again. 

Have a great week!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Ruining Food for People

A newly planted pistachio orchard near Ducor in California's Central Valley.
Photo credit: Matt Black
A nut farm in California
Last week I ran into a woman I've known for years. After we exchanged pleasantries, she started asking about food. She wants to start eating healthier and asked my opinion and recommendations. She then proceeded to mention celebrity food "experts"and the types of foods and supplements they recommend. As she talked of specifics, this thought ran through my head:  Should I ruin those foods for her? This thought came to me for a variety of reasons, including health and ecological issues. In the end, I did tell her I could ruin a lot of foods for her but suggested she do some research by reading Food Rules by Michael Pollan and Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser and maybe watch the documentaries Food, Inc. and Fresh. I explained there were lots of good resources out there but these were the ones I could think of off the top of my head.

While local and seasonal foods can satisfy all the the nutritional requirements for most of the population, media has taught us to go to the store and buy the products that has been touted as the latest "miracle" or "super" food.  It's as if we all need the same food du jour in order to stay healthy. These foods, we're told, should be consumed on a daily or weekly basis, despite the fact that they are sometimes not in season, have a hefty transportation cost as they don't grow in the region (or even in the country), and are often devastating to the environment.

Take almond milk, for example. It seems to be fast replacing cow's milk for breakfast. What many people don't know is that almonds, grown almost exclusively in California, take a tremendous amount of water to produce. Water that is in scarce supply in the West. In fact, the water situation in California is so bad that the state is experiencing the worst drought in centuries. Strike one for almond milk.

In addition to the water issue, these large groves of almond trees require that beehives be trucked in from other parts of the country for pollination. Since they're monocultures, the growers can't have permanent hives. Once the trees loose their blooms, the bees no longer have a source of food and would die. Strike two.

And then there's the issue of processing the almonds into "milk" and then transporting it nationwide. Strike three.

I'm not saying almond milk is bad per se. And I also understand there are individuals who want cereal or other grains for breakfast but cannot have dairy products. What I am saying is we need to stop blindly following what celebrity doctors, nutritionists, and chefs tell us to eat and to understand the consequences of our choices. When buying food, we should always keep in mind:
Season - Location - Environment

And we must ask the question:  How can we feed ourselves in a healthful way that is also good for the world? 

For more details on almond (and other nut) production in California, here's an article from Grist

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wellness Wednesday

I love Yes Magazine's article about improving health without a gym. Go here to get the tips. And here's more about laughter as the best medicine:

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Step Away from the Plastic

Plastic. It's so ubiquitous in our culture that it's hard to believe it has really only been available to consumers since around 1960. The below infographic shows us some of the awful truth about how much plastic waste we generate but it also provides tips for reducing it in our lives.

One habit that is now common among Americans who believe they are being "green" is taking t-shirt style bags (called carrier bags in the UK) back to the stores for recycling. One day it struck me as absurd when I observed shoppers carrying their plastic bags into the store, depositing them in the recycling bin, then leaving the store with brand new bags identical to the ones they had just dropped off. Once I took my plastic bags into the grocery store for re-use. I put them on the conveyor belt, just ahead of my purchases. The cashier took the bags and began to place them in the trash can. I'm not sure what went through her head at that moment. Did she think I was too lazy to discard or recycle my own bags? When I stopped her and tried to explain that I wanted her to put my purchases in the bags, she still didn't get it. Sigh. 

Two strategies (among many) I've implemented to reduce plastic (and other disposable) waste is to buy the necessary plates and drinking glasses at thrift stores so I have enough place settings for when we entertain. Another way we cut down on the use of plastic bags in our business is to go to a certain big box store (one that I never shop at), go directly to the large box where they accept plastic bags for recycling, and take some home with me. Often, the bin is filled with unused bags that are tossed by cashiers when they can't get them open fast enough when ringing up customers. (Heaven forbid they take an extra second or two to get the bag open.) I usually ask the person at the customer service desk if it's okay for me to take some bags. I've gotten some strange looks for that, but I want to make sure they know I'm not shoplifting. Of course, for my own shopping, I carry reusable totes with me. And we have a number of customers who bring their own bags because, like us, they hate plastic.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Monday Morning Amusement

I had to share this meme I found on The Eco Cat Lady Speaks blog:

During the depression, my great-grandfather was a bootlegger. My uncle told me that he asked Grandpa Browning why on earth he had done such a thing. Grandpa replied that when you have a number of mouths to feed (he and my great-grandmother had a large family), you do what you've got to do. This meme made me think of him - as well as truly laugh out loud (despite the glaring grammatical error - I can't help myself).