Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Frustrated Trying to Be Green

Today I went to the grocery store to do some routine shopping and actually remembered to bring my reusuable bags into the store. I have several types of canvas ones and a really cool insulated shoulder bag to keep my cold or frozen items in. As I was checking out, I started filling my insulated bag with frozen food until the bagger came over. Then I focused on other things, like using my *valued customer* card to get the *special* prices and actually paying for my purchases. I happened to glance over at the bagger and he was putting my food into a PLASTIC BAG! Nooooooo! I wanted to shout. I pointed out that I had a reusable bag and he said, "Oh, I thought that was your pocket book." So, as he started putting items into the insulated bag, I pointed out that I had other canvas bags for the rest of the groceries. I didn't pay any more attention until I started wheeling the cart to the parking lot. He had put the rest of the groceries in another plastic bag! And one of the items was a frozen item, best suited for the insulated bag. I almost screamed in frustration, especially when the plastic bag RIPPED as I was putting it in my truck. And this is a store that proudly displays reusable bags with their logo printed on the side.

My green tip for the day is, keep reusable bags in your vehicle, bring them into the store with you, and keep an eye on those sneaky baggers...I think they must have a quota or something.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Farm Animals and Houses

I know many friends and blog readers were surprised by some of my posts last month when I revealed that there was a goat living in my house. That's nothing compared to this: http://thepioneerwoman.com/2009/03/cow_in_house.html. I don't think you'll ever see anything like that on my blog...well, around here, I guess you never know....never say never.

New Internet Service

We've had satellite internet for two years now. While it was light years ahead of the dial up it replaced, it did have some drawbacks. It was affected by weather. We were allowed only so much bandwidth which meant were were always in violation of the company's "abuse policy" which meant they would cut back our usage, slowing down the internet to a crawl. It wasn't as fast as cable or DSL. We had no choice - out in the country our phone equipment is antiquated and we don't have the infrastructure for cable. But now we have 3G cell phone technology available. It's much faster than satellite without the drawbacks. Later this year, we will probably be eliminating our satellite TV as between the internet and Netflix, we will have all the entertainment we need. We can now stream movies - not a good option with the old satellite service. And I can get the news, when my news fast is over, via the internet. Another plus is that I don't have a million cords and pieces of equipment cluttering my small desk. Do I sound like a happy camper?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Quiet Time

Last night hubby and I participated in Earth Hour, joining millions of others around the globe to bring awareness to global climate change. Our hour was pretty uneventful: We took a walk on our farm, to put up our chickens and then to get our mail (our driveway is 1/3 mile long). It was sprinkling so we weren't able to star gaze, but at least it wasn't cold. The rest of the hour we spent in candle light. Unfortunately, all I had was a traditional candle - not soy or beeswax - but I've had it for years and didn't think it very green to go out and buy new candles just for the event. When the hour was over, hubby said he liked the quiet and it would have been fine with him if we continued to spend the evening in candle light. I happened to be near the end of a book and really wanted to finish it so I nixed the idea. I'm glad we were a part of the hour - I thought of it as a world-wide, rolling communion, with slivers of the earth going dark as time changed around the world. I'm sure we will be a part of it next year - and I'll try to get the word out to more people.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour to Earth Day

Tonight my family and I are going to participate in Earth Hour by turning off our lights from 8:30-9:30. Since it's been raining on and off all day, we might not get to take that star-gazing walk. Instead, we'll probably light some candles and enjoy some quiet discussion.

This morning I realized that April 22 is Earth Day, so for the next month I'm going to treat it as a second Lent, a spiritual season in which to focus my awareness on Creation. Followers of this blog know that I'm on a news fast for Lent. I've abstained from watching any local or world news on television and I avoid all websites that contain news items. We haven't gotten the newspaper in years so that is a nonissue. Occasionally, a headline will surprise me when I'm standing in line at the store or when I'm surfing the Internet, but I use my yoga training in those times: I just let it pass without judgment.

Sometimes I'm puzzled by the way some Christians react to the idea of creation care, almost as if they equate it with pagan worship. Some even mock the scientists who warn us of the dangers of the abuse we have heaped on our fair planet. When my daughter took Health in our home school, we used an Abeka textbook that was given to us by a friend. I was angry when we ran across a chapter that actually made fun of environmentalists and even denied that chlorine was a threat to the earth! I thought it ironic that at the same time, the United Methodist Women had a campaign to get office supply stores to sell chlorine-free paper because of the dangers to the environment (not to mention our health).

So, between now and April 22, I plan to do some blogging about our duty to care for the earth and ways we can do so.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Reminder: Earth Hour on Saturday

Just a little reminder to turn off your lights between 8:30 and 9:30 on Saturday night. Go to http://www.earthhour.org/home/ for ideas to share your experience.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Aren't We Spoiled Brats

Found this You Tube video on Jenny Mae's blog (http://softletters.blogspot.com/) and thought I'd share it.

We All Get Along

One of the best things about living on our farm is seeing how various species interact. Besides having dogs and cats living together, my husband believes in multiple-species grazing. I've had well meaning neighbors warn me that the larger animals will harm the smaller ones but they don't. My mother, who spent her early years on a cotton farm, has told me that "the animals just know who belongs." When we got our chickens, our black lab Ginny spied them in the barn and immediately went after one of the chicks, as was her nature as a bird dog. However, it took just one scolding to let her know that the chickens were part of the family. Recently, a male turkey decided to check out our hen house. Ginny took one look at him, realized he didn't belong, and chased him off. Last weekend, my hubby, looking out over one of our pastures, commented that he had now seen everything: the horse was using the billy goat's horns to scratch himself! And the goat didn't seem to mind!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

They're Mocking Me

My flip flops, that is. The ones I wore back from Florida, when it was in the 30s here. They're sitting in my closet, teasing me. The calendar says it's spring, but the thermometer disagrees. All this week I've had to bundle up to go do my farm chores. I sure wish spring would get here. In the meantime, I'm sharing a cheerful picture of our bagel Jack. He was an abandoned hunting dog. It makes me angry to think about it but then I realize, their loss...our gain. He's a sweetie but he's not too bright. We love him anyway.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Food Choices

Since growing season is here, I though I'd share the Environmental Working Group's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Since not everyone is able to buy all organic food, this guide shows which produce is highest in pesticides and thus should be avoided. In addition, I recommend avoiding genetically modified foods (GMOs) whenever possible by buying organic. Some of the worst offenders are soy, corn, and canola.
Go to http://www.foodnews.org/EWG-shoppers-guide-download-final.pdf to get your own down-loadable copy of this produce guide to print and take with you when you shop.
Happy Spring!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Status Quo

First thing this morning, I settled in to read my two devotional books that I mentioned in an earlier post. As I sat there, sipping my iced tea, I was struck by two things: the individuals, both the authors and the subjects, fought against the status quo; and they probably were (or are) lonely. In All Saints, Nicolai Berdyaev was exiled from both his country and his church for his stance against both communism and capitalism. I also read two essays in The Impossible Will Take a Little While: "Come September" by Arundhati Roy and "The Clan of One-Breasted Women" by Terry Tempest Williams. Roy railed against political systems and the cycle of violence in this world. Williams shared the sorrow of breast cancer caused by nuclear testing in Utah - how her family and many others were struck by this devastating disease and how the government was protected by the ancient legal doctrine of sovereign immunity: "The King can do no wrong."

Sometimes I feel like Cassandra, crying truths to all who will listen, knowing the words fall on deaf ears. I feel lonely in the fight against global devastation, social injustice, rampant consumerism....It certainly doesn't make me popular and sometimes I wonder if it's really worth the effort. But this morning, I was reminded of a very important truth: Jesus fought the status quo. The Pharisees and Sadducees were "the man," the ruling class, the status quo. And he let them know when they were wrong, knowing he would pay the ultimate sacrifice for it. He wasn't trying to win a popularity contest and he wasn't afraid of offending when it was necessary. I'll try to remember this as I go about my life, speaking out against things I believe are wrong. I'll also remind myself that is really is worth the effort.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Imagine the Angels of Bread

This is the year that squatters evict landlords,
gazing like admirals from the rail
of the roofdeck
or levitating hands in praise
of steam in the shower;
this is the year
that shawled refugees deport judges
who stare at the floor
and their swollen feet
as files are stamped
with their destination;
this is the year that police revolvers,
stove-hot, blister the fingers
of raging cops,
and nightsticks splinter
in their palms;
this is the year
that darkskinned men
lynched a century ago
return to sip coffee quietly
with the apologizing descendants
of their executioners.

This is the year that those
who swim the border's undertow
and shiver in boxcars
are greeted with trumpets and drums
at the first railroad crossing
on the other side;
this is the year that the hands
pulling tomatoes from the vine
uproot the deed to the earth that sprouts the vine,
the hands canning tomatoes
are named in the will
that owns the bedlam of the cannery;
this is the year that the eyes
stinging from the poison that purifies toilets
awaken at last to the sight
of a rooster-loud hillside,
pilgrimage of immigrant birth;
this is the year that cockroaches
become extinct, that no doctor
finds a roach embedded
in the ear of an infant;
this is the year that the food stamps
of adolescent mothers
are auctioned like gold doubloons,
and no coin is given to buy machetes
for the next bouquet of severed heads
in coffee plantation country.

If the abolition of slave-manacles
began as a vision of hands without manacles,
then this is the year;
if the shutdown of extermination camps
began as imagination of a land
without barbed wire or the crematorium,
then this is the year;
if every rebellion begins with the idea
that conquerors on horseback
are not many-legged gods, that they too drown
if plunged in the river,
then this is the year.

So may every humiliated mouth,
teeth like desecrated headstones,
fill with the angels of bread.

by Martin Espada, from
Imagine the Angels of Bread
(1997, W. W. Norton & Company)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Three R's

Reduce, reuse, recycle...I need to make this my mantra and focus on the reduce part. So many of us think that by recycling, we're doing the right thing. That's just a small part of caring for the earth; we need to focus on the first R. I'm a rabid recycler - I even save the paper tags from new clothing and deposit them in my recycle bin - but I get a funny feeling whenever I haul my bins to the recycling center because there is just so much of it. Recycling is good, yes, but we're still using up stuff and using precious energy to make the stuff, then to recycle the stuff. I need to come up with a personal challenge. We don't drink soft drinks or bottled water; we don't buy many frozen foods; we don't get the newspaper. Have I mentioned that we compost? I feel pretty good about our actual trash as I recycle everything I can in this community and don't buy many convenience foods. I've got to begin evaluating my waste stream to see where I can cut down and what I can eliminate. Beth, at Fake Plastic Fish has an awesome list of ways to cut down on plastic (www.fakeplasticfish.com/2007/10/list.html). Some of these I already do, some I want to start doing, and some I just can't see myself doing. Any other ideas?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Reading Thing 2009

While travelling through cyberworld, I came across this reading challenge on http://callapidderdays.com and decided to participate. My list is a bit short and limited to what I have on hand (public and personal libraries) and book club reading. Also, I'm sorry to admit that I haven't been reading much lately so I don't want to overwhelm myself with a long list. As I finish books and see how much time I have left, I will probably be adding to this list. In addition to the books for this challenge, I'll continue reading my morning devotionals that I blogged about earlier this month. Between now and June 20th, I plan to read the following:

  1. Blue Diary by Alice Hoffman (currently reading)
  2. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
  3. A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn
  4. The Piano Teacher by Janice Y. K. Lee
  5. Scarpetta by Patricia Cornwell
  6. Tell Me Where It Hurts: My Life as an Animal Surgeon by Nick Trout (book club selection)
  7. Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna
  8. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

It's Over

Life has been a bit hectic for me lately. Our son was home from college for spring break, I spent a few days in Florida, and then I took my daughter and two of her friends on a college road trip. Phew! I'm completely exhausted today.

Said daughter applied to four colleges and we revisited two of them this week. The results are in: she was accepted into all four so is able to attend her top choice, the school we visited yesterday. It's a bittersweet feeling knowing your youngest child will be leaving home soon. It's a great feeling that we were able to home school her all the way to the college of her choice but it will leave a hole in our lives. I hate to see her and her friends move on to new stages in their lives: some will go to community college, some will go away to school, and some will be entering the work force. Unlike when I was a young adult, they do have the technology to keep in touch - what with myspace, facebook, email, texting.... But still, it won't be the same.

As for me, I'm entering a new stage in my life and I need to decide what I want to be when I grow up. Of course, I'll still have the farm and all the animals to care for, but I feel a need to do more. I'm trying to decide if I should go back to school, expand my volunteering, or reenter the workforce. I've found an online masters program that looks interesting to me but I'm nervous about all the papers I'll have to write. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities in this area so that is definitely an option. As far as immediately entering the work force, I would probably have to commute to Greensboro, which is about an hour from our farm. A lot to think about.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Why I Don't Belong

Once upon a time, I belonged to the Sierra Club. John Muir has been a hero of mine since childhood and I believed the club shared my values. But that was before the *mailings* started. Even though the Club had my email address, they would mail packages for me to take action on various political topics. It would have been very easy to email the information. When membership renewal was, say, six months out, I would get a notice. That would be followed by another, and another.... Then I was asked to belong to the John Muir Society (for a small...actually large...donation). Said invitations (yes, there were multiple requests) arrived in large envelopes with colorful brochures and self-stamped envelopes. They made it appear as if I was joining some exclusive organization, like a members-only country club. It was as if the scales fell from my eyes and I thought, "How can a so-called environmental organization WASTE so much paper and money?!!!" A friend had warned me, commented about the values of the organization, but I just couldn't see how it was possible. I haven't been a member in over a year and yet I still get mailings. Don't get me started on the phone calls...

Amen, Sister

I ran across this quote in All Saints, the devotional I'm reading. It's by Fannie Lou Hamer who was a leader in the civil rights movement:

"Christianity is being concerned about your fellow man, not building a million-dollar church while people are starving right around the corner. Christ was a revolutionary person, out there where it was happening. That's what God is all about, and that's where I get my strength."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Earth Hour - March 28

Here is a simple way to help save some of our precious resources. On March 28, turn off your lights for one hour. Doing this is a vote for the earth; keeping your lights on is a vote for global warming/climate change. It's a great opportunity for star gazing, weather permitting, or for some family time. For details, go to http://www.voteearth2009.org/home/.

Eliminating Waste

Lately I've been concerned with the number of catalogs that I receive in the mail. It just seems like such a waste as they go directly to the recycle bin at my house. I keep planning to call the companies to request they remove my name from their mailing list, but the truth is I'm lazy. I was excited when I stumbled upon the site www.catalogchoice.org. This site is a one-stop place for opting out of catalog mailing lists. Not all catalog companies participate, however, I believe participation will rise as more individuals sign up for the service. Trying to save the planet, one step at a time.

The Fast Continues

Just wanted to do a quick post about my lenten news fast. I continue to avoid anything that remotely resembles "news" (i.e., current events). The most difficult for me to give up was CNN; I was a CNN junkie. As a SAHM, whenever I had some "down time," it was easy to reach for the remote control to see what was going on in the world. Now, though, I hardly miss it. I've filled the usual morning time with inspirational reading. Afternoon time I spent with "Wolf," is now spent studying French or catching up on blogs that I like. When this season is over, I'm thinking that I'll limit my news watching to 30 minutes; that's usually enough to keep up with current events.

Friday, March 13, 2009

What I Believe

I just finished reading a blog post on http://suburbanturmoil.blogspot.com (brought to my attention by http://teawithdee.blogspot.com) that really highlighted some of the things I've been struggling with since my move here. I'm a Christian but I don't feel I fit into any of the convenient templates that the church creates. I wish I was as eloquent as these bloggers but I just don't have the gift of language, so I'll explain as best I can and hope you forgive me for my rambling.

As you can see from my profile, I call myself a "Zen Quaker Red Letter Christian." Zen because I look for balance, peace, and harmony in my life; Quaker because I see the sacred in every day and everything - I don't find our Christian rituals necessary, although they can be comforting; Red Letter because many bibles highlight the words of Christ in red letters - I think Jesus summed it all up in his words, especially to love God and love one another.

I have a hard time with Christians who try to force their beliefs, interpretations, and rituals on others. Something I learned as a history major and am learning as I follow my husband's studies in seminary - it's all subjective. We view the bible through the lens of our experiences and prejudices. We have a neighbor who is a "called" pastor; he has no education beyond high school. There is no way he can tell me that he takes the bible literally since it was written in languages that he cannot read. English translations are only approximations of the more complex Greek and Hebrew. Plus, one must know the context of the writing in order to fully understand it. When even highly educated scholars differ on certain matters, I realize that no one can tell me their interpretation is right and mine is wrong. Which expert are we to believe?

I've come to see the varieties of Christianity as different parts of the body of Christ. We're not all hands or noses or knees. We are all different with different backgrounds - so we find the denomination that best suits our personality and needs. As long as we keep in mind that we're here to do God's work, that's all that matters. When we get into all the legalistic mumbo jumbo, we're missing the point.

Our pastor recently did a sermon on drinking alcohol. He was raised in a church that believed it was a sin. In the sermon, he pointed out that there is no where in the bible where it is prohibited. As a Catholic friend of mine pointed out, Christ's first miracle was turning water into wine - not grape juice; not nonalcoholic wine; real wine. The problem with alcohol is not its consumption but its abuse. But the same can be said about food, shopping...everything in moderation. We should also keep in mind the feelings of those around us - if someone is offended by drinking or is a recovering alcoholic, then it would make sense to refrain from drinking around them. That's just manners. And love.

I don't try to convert people to my beliefs. I think I should try to "walk the walk" and set an example. Drawing a line in the sand and saying "This is the only way to believe" is silly. I like to point people to Galileo's experience. The Church was adamant about it's beliefs and made Galileo recant what we now know is true. How did that advance God's work? I also believe that God is a loving God. Seeing people pigeon-holed into "saved" and "damned" just doesn't sit well with me. I think God is so far beyond our comprehension that he has a plan to save every soul; we just don't have the ability to understand it. Could you imagine us trying to explain economics to an ant? Then picture God trying to explain his plan to we humans. There is an excellent DVD called "Everything Is Spiritual" put out by Rob Bell and NOOMA that features beings in a three-dimensional world trying to communicate with those in a two-dimensional world. This DVD will change the way you see.

I could go on and on....In fact, I guess I already have. So, rather than telling people they must support certain positions in order to be Christian, I think we ought to focus on loving one another, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, visiting those in jail....In other words, just do it.

Back from a Quick Trip Home

For those of you who noticed my absence, it's because I took a quick trip to Tampa. As you can see, I got a break from the cold weather and let the little piggies run free. I loved getting back home, visiting old haunts, catching up with friends, etc. I was so quick to return to the Sunshine State mentality that I dressed in capris and flip flops for my trip home. Boy was I surprised when the pilot announced the temperature was in the high 30s when we landed! What was I thinking! Luckily we didn't have to wait for the shuttle to our car as it was already at the stop when we got there; once in the car, we blasted the heater and I was warm for the trip home. Lesson learned.

Monday, March 9, 2009

What Was He Thinking

I saw the following bumper stickers in the back window of a truck in our community:

1) Confederate Flag
2) 9/11 United We Stand


Sunday, March 8, 2009


My husband asked me to make sure my readers understood that he doesn't wear the items mentioned in the previous post - he rescues them for me to take to Goodwill. So, don't come around here expecting to see him wearing ill-fitting clothes.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Another Rant

Sometimes I come home and find unusual things sitting on a bench in our garage - jackets that don't belong to anyone in the family; a pair of child-sized hiking boots; men's slacks that are too large for my son or my husband. I know immediately who put them there and where they came from - my husband found them in our local rural dumpster. All of these items are perfectly fine, just someone outgrew them or got tired of wearing them. My gripe is that they are so casually thrown out during a time when places like Goodwill are begging for donations. I have a friend who knows someone who throws away all of her clothes, every year, and buys new ones; same with her child's toys. This isn't a woman who has a six-figure income (not that it would be ok in that case either). She is a single mother who works in a factory. What has happened to our society? It seems we've gone beyond the concept of planned obsolescence. It's bad enough that we have to dispose of our electronics because they no longer work with current technology or because it's cheaper to buy than to fix. Now we just get tired of something and into the trash it goes. What makes me sadder is that rescuing perfectly good items from the dumpster is actually illegal! Let's put on our thinking caps and come up with some solution to this crazy problem.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Slow Day

I don't have anything to blog about, so I thought I'd share this clip with my readers.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Day ?

Ok, I've already lost track of the days of Lent, but I haven't succumbed to the call of the remote. Over the weekend I did something that seemed kind of un-Lent-like (not sure what word to use here) but it actually ended up reinforcing my decision to give up the news. Prior to my decision, I had scheduled a facial. Now, it's not something I do all that often (although I should). In fact, the salon owner tried to remember the last time she had seen me and I had to confess it had been YEARS! I didn't really need a facial but they feel sooooo good. This one lasted about an hour and a half, during which time she massaged my face, my scalp, my shoulders, my arms, and my hands. When I left, I was so mellow and relaxed. Then it hit me - watching or listening to the news would spoil the effect immediately. No way did I want to do that. Most mornings I wake up feeling relaxed from a good night's sleep and then I spoil it by turning on the TV or pulling up a news site on the computer. The mellow feeling that I had paid to get, I could get for free just by avoiding the news. When Lent is over, I plan to watch the news again - I can't just stick my head in the sand and pretend all is well. But maybe I'll be a bit more selective about what I allow into my life.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Another Awesome Blog

I've been meaning to put in a plug for my hubby's blog. Not only is he a full-time lawyer/part-time farmer/part-time seminary student - I don't know how you do it, dear - he's also an excellent blogger. You can find a link for it here www.whiteflintfarm.com, along with some info on our farm and philosophy. Enjoy.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Life's Little Turns

Yesterday, as I was perusing Facebook, I saw that a friend posted a link to a blog I had discovered a while back but never got around to finishing the archives. Since it was a snow day - daughter was off sledding with friends and hubby was holed up in his home office - I decided it was the perfect time to catch up. As the day wore on, I found myself glued to my computer - I told hubby it was Wanda's fault. The blog, www.thepioneerwoman.com, reminded me of so many unexpected turns my life has taken. Recently, one of our goats gave birth in the wee hours of the morning. Around 2 a.m. my son and I finished up with the various tasks associated with goat birth. As we sat down on the straw covered floor of the barn stall, I looked at my 19 year old son and thought about where I was when I was his age. As a native Southern California girl, I never in my life would have envisioned myself in that situation. At 19, I was busy working in an office and pursuing a degree in business. Rural life was nowhere in the picture. But there I was, sitting in a freezing cold barn in Southside Virginia, covered with all manner of *organic* material, filling my role as farmer/farmer's wife. As the old joke goes, "Do you know how to make God laugh? Make plans."

Snow Day

Had to share some photos from last night's winter storm.

Days 5 and 6

As I continue my news fast, I find that my remote finger has become less *itchy.* This morning I got up and read a little bit of inspirational material first thing. One book, All Saints, is a Catholic devotional that profiles an individual or individuals who are might serve as role models - not just Catholics but people of all faiths. The other book, The Impossible Will Take a While, is a collection of essays, a secular book but also very inspirational. Both books make one see hope when conditions seem insurmountable. Rather than being dragged down by the daily grind of the media, I'm drawing strength from the stories contained in these books.