Friday, November 21, 2014

Farm Friday

This week has been a week of highs and lows. 

Monday night around 7:00 we let our Maine coon cat Mr. Fabulous ("Fabs") outside for his usual nocturnal prowling. When he didn't show up for breakfast the next morning I was slightly concerned. Now that he has been gone all week, I'm extremely concerned. But I'm still hoping he shows up. We had one of our cats disappear for about 6 weeks. We don't know what he did during that time or what happened to him, but he never again left the area between our house and barn.

Wednesday night I learned that I will soon need to say goodbye to my sweet house cat Dixie. Dixie is 16 years old and has been with me since she was 4 months old. She recently developed an abscessed tooth and ended up having an extraction. The infection would not go away and she has been on 4 or 5 different antibiotics. The vet told me it's probably a tumor in her sinuses and, although there are other interventions, if it were her cat she wouldn't do any of them. But she didn't need to tell me that because I know that would be pure torture to the cat, with a very high risk and no guarantees. Dixie is pretty old for a cat and I don't want her to suffer, but it will still be hard to tell her goodbye. She and I bonded from the moment I met her and Bill has always called her my familiar.

We knew we would be getting frost on Monday night so harvested much of our cold-sensitive greens. The broccoli was still young so had small heads and very small harvest overall. We sold out of it so didn't even get to save any for ourselves.

Wednesday Bill and I borrowed our neighbor's trailer so that he could take one of the pigs to market. Getting the truck backed into a tight spot where the trailer was stored and then getting the trailer hitch to line up perfectly with the truck was a challenge but we managed to do it without too much trouble. We raised this particular pig for a nonprofit organization we work with and they will give away some of the meat to low income individuals in their community, as well as use it in their community dinners and fundraisers.

A couple of weeks ago we received an invitation to a reception/celebration at the Governor's mansion. We weren't sure what the event was about or why we were invited until the Governor's office announced the formation of the Council on Bridging the Nutritional Divide with Virginia's First Lady as Chair. The purpose of the council is to eliminate childhood hunger in the commonwealth. So last night we visited the mansion, along with a small crowd of people, mainly cabinet members, delegates, and staff members. We were honored to be included for the celebration. It was good to talk to Mrs. McAuliffe and hear more about her plans. As the mother of five, she's very passionate about ensuring that no child goes hungry in Virginia. We were also able to meet and chat with Gov. McAuliffe for a few minutes. Although it was a long trip - we weren't able to spend the night - we were glad to be able to be a part of the celebration.
VA First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe with Bill and me
I have a craft show tomorrow and will be selling my trademark women's aprons, as well as hot/cold therapy pillows and a few other items. After this show, I have one more in December, then I think I'll take a vacation.

Have a great week!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Positive Things

Our current Kiva loan recipients
Since I often complain about things that are wrong, I wanted to highlight something that is right. Kiva is an amazing organization that give micro loans to individuals around the world in order to start or expand small business enterprises. Years ago I made a small investment in this organization and over the years, that small investment has been reloaned nine times. Today I had to smile when I got notice that part of the current loan had been repaid - 44 cents. For Americans, 44 cents is a trivial amount. We probably can find more than that in the nooks and crannies of our cars and sofas. However, for the group that borrowed the money, a small food market in the Dominican Republic, that is a tremendous amount. And the fact that we've had no defaults on any loans is impressive. Although I get nothing in return, I consider it my best investment.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wellness Wednesday

Girl With Mobile Phone
A new study published in Pathophysiology has shown that long-term use of cell or cordless phones comes with a high risk of brain tumors. In fact, the study says the long-term use of wireless phones triples the risk. Young people are particularly vulnerable since their skulls are thinner and heads smaller, therefore increasing the brain's exposure to the radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. Tips to avoid exposureinclude using speaker phones and texting, both of which keep the phone away from the head. Here's a summary of the study.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sticker Shock, Affordability, and Who Really Counts

Where the States Stand

When we became self-employed, we searched for a health insurance policy that fit our lifestyle. We found one that had a very high deductible and only covered catastrophic illness and accidents. Although the monthly premiums were high, they were manageable. We are also told that as part of the Affordable Care Act ("ACA"), we would be able to keep the our insurance coverage. As many Americans have learned, that is not the case.  

Despite removing both of our grown children from our policy, our premiums have continued to rise and we expected a hike for 2015, especially with the details of the ACA kicking in. However, nothing prepared us for the shock when we opened the envelope from our heath insurance company, laying out the *new plan details* for our 2015 coverage. Not only had our deductible gone up 30 percent, our monthly premium will almost double.

So over the weekend I went on the government's health insurance *marketplace.* After filling out a new application, the site revealed - ta da! - which plans we were eligible for. A *bright* note was that there was a catastrophic plan that, although had the same deductible as our new 30 percent higher insurance plan, has a monthly premium that is *only* about 17 percent more than our current plan. 

As part of the application process, an *Eligibility Notice* was generated. This notice informed us that our 
household's yearly income is too low for a tax credit [meaning no government subsidy to help with the out-of-reach-for-our-income-level premiums]. Generally, individuals and families whose household income for the year is between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level for their family size may be eligible for the tax credit. [If you're below the federal poverty level, you don't qualify for assistance.]
Then we were told that, 
You are not required to pay a penalty for not having health insurance because of your income and because the state of VA declined to expand Medicaid to cover individuals in your situation. [Despite the fact that the purpose of the Affordable Care Act is to make sure everyone has heath insurance, you still can go without if you're too poor to afford it.]
So it boils down to this:

We know the premiums are too high for you to afford, you aren't required to have health insurance, and you don't count.

Now I'm not necessarily whining for us because we're on our second career. We chose to become farmers as we feel we are providing a very important service and setting an example and we were able to prepare a safety net before making the jump. My complaint is for the thousands of people who are self-employed or work for small businesses, especially young adults, who are in the same position and will not have health insurance because they cannot afford it. This segment of the population has no voice. There's nothing affordable about the Affordable Care Act for this group. Since most Americans either have employer-provided insurance or live in states where Medicaid was expanded, they don't understand that there are low income families and individuals who have been entirely excluded from the dance. When it comes to healthcare, everyone should count.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday Morning Amusement


Last night I opened my RSS reader to see how many blog posts from my subscriptions were unread:  2146. Since I don't have a premium account, I'm only allowed a maximum of 100 subscriptions. Life has been busy. I'm counting on winter to help me catch up on reading and commenting.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Quote for the Day

"We draw our strength from the very despair in which we have been forced to live. We shall endure."
~Cesar Chavez

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wellness Wednesday

Garden Watering
Not that we need another reason to farm and garden organically, but a new study published in the Journal of Organic Systems that links the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) to a wide variety of chronic diseases, including  autism, Alzheimer's and senile dementia, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes. The study examined the correlation between the dramatic rises in these and other diseases over the past 20 years and the introduction of glyphosate in 1974. A summary of the study can be found here and the entire text of the study here