Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Message from a Founding Father

"Educate and inform the whole mass of the people... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty."—Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Congressman Paul on the Recent Swine Flu Scare

Is It 1984?

Having just gotten off a news fast, I've been slowly reorienting myself to world events. What I'm seeing makes me want to read 1984. I confess I have never read the book, but I have heard enough about it to know the premise. And as I watch the spin that politicians, corporations, and the media put on national and world events, all I can think is "doublespeak" - black is white, up is get the idea. It's ironic that one of the most educated countries in the world can succumb to blatant brainwashing. Recently, I had a conversation with my hubby where I told him I discovered the key to modern life - literacy. I know so many people who are *literate* but don't read. Instead, they depend on others to provide them with their world view and beliefs - what the TV anchors tell them, what they read in the newspaper, what their pastors, priests, and rabbis tell them. Some even get their *facts* from advertisements! A friend of my daughter recently said that high fructose corn syrup is natural and healthy. Why? Because she saw ads promoting it. I had to point out to her to look to the source - who paid for the ad?

That's another truth in modern life - we need to follow the money. Whenever there is a big campaign or push for legislation, we need to look for the man behind the curtain. For example, there is proposed legislation out there called NAIS - National Animal Identification System. On the surface, it's supposed to be a program to maintain a safe food system. But, following the money, one sees who will benefit from this scheme - companies that manufacture the expensive electronic tagging system and large agri-businesses - not consumers. Under the proposed plan, each and every animal considered livestock will have to be identified and tagged. Any change in an animal's status will have to be reported - if you give a chicken to a neighbor; if you take your horse on a trail ride; if your child shows an animal in the county fair. One might ask, how is this beneficial to agribusiness that have thousands of animals? Easy - they are EXEMPT from these regulations. They won't have to tag and report each animal; they can do it in a batch system. So, those large companies can have 1,000 head of cattle and report them as a single unit. It's really the small farmers who will be burdened, maybe so much so that they'll go out of business. Oh goody say the corporations, less competition. So, it's not really about food safety - just follow the money.

In light of the recent Swine Flu outbreak, I can see politicians putting in a big push for NAIS. However, do you really think small farms are the source? No, it is the large CAFOs ("confined animal feeding operations") that cause the problems - the very ones that would receive an exemption from the proposed law. Is the answer more regulation? No; consumers need to protest and boycott companies that run CAFOs, that indiscriminately feed low-dose antibiotics to their animals, thus leading to antibiotic-resistant diseases. Do some research - don't count on the talking heads to give you the full story...and now a word from our sponsors....

Tapped Trailer

I can't wait to see this movie! I understand that it was shown at the Sundance Film Festival. It covers many of the issues that are near and dear to my heart: pollution; health concerns; energy consumption; social justice; consumerism. I doubt that it will be shown at a theatre near me so I'll wait to get it on Netflix.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Major Step

This week I took a major step in my life, one which I'd been agonizing over for months. Finally, on Tuesday, I decided to go for it - I applied to grad school. The thought of doing research and writing major papers was kind of scary to me. I was approaching the idea as if I should already have knowledge of the topics I was to write about. Then I reminded myself that the whole idea of school is to learn new things - duh! In addition to just the idea of grad school being a bit overwhelming, I'm going into a whole new field - Human Services. The program I've applied to has a health concentration so I'll be in courses with nurses. However, after talking with my husband's cousin who is a Nurse Practitioner, I feel better about leaving my comfort zone. So, assuming I am admitted to grad school, come this fall, I'll be up to my ears in writing and research - and hopefully loving it!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Save Some Animals

This afternoon I received an urgent email from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine asking that emails to be sent to the president of North Dakota State University (NDSU) in order to save pigs from unnecessary torture and death. On Monday, April 27, NDSU, in partnership with MeritCare Hospital, will be using live pigs in a trauma training course. According to PCRM, 90% of trauma courses in the U.S. are taught using human-based simulators thus eliminating the cruel practice of cutting open live animals and then euthanizing them. In order to respond to this request, please go to this link. We only have four days to get out this message - time is of the essence.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Happy Earth Day - Take Care of Creation

Although today is Earth Day and the end of the Earth Hour to Earth Day campaign, I hope everyone continues to seek ways to live more gently on the earth and not return to old habits.

For Christians who don't believe that we should care for the planet, here are some Bible verses to get you thinking about creation care:

"God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good." (Genesis 1:31)

"The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." (Genesis 2:15)

"The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof..." (Psalm 24:1)

"In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind." (Job 12:10)

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. (John 3:16)

"...for the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof." (I Corinthians 10:26)

Tomorrow Is Earth Day

Over the last month, I've used this blog to point out some small ways in which we can all become more green in our lives. I haven't really done it justice but have decided why reinvent the wheel when there are already so many organizations that have lists of ideas to incorporate into daily life. A few of these organizations are: World Watch Institute; National Resources Defense Council (NRDC); Tree Hugger; Green Daily; etc. All you need do is do an internet search for green living tips. To me, it all boils down to common sense - look at the end result of any action(s) you take. Look around your house to see where you are using energy needlessly. Review your spending habits, cut out what you don't need, and look for low-impact options when you do shop. Be conscious of your waste stream - what are you putting in land fill and our waterways and what can you do to cut down or eliminate those items. Reduce, reduce, reduce; then reuse and recycle

I have to add a thank you to Deanna at Tea with Dee for teaching me how to embed links on my blog. :)

Monday, April 20, 2009

News Flash

A little birdie whispered in my ear today and said that a bill is going to be introduced into Congress that will require sales tax on internet purchases. For further information, go to CNET News. Also, if you're opposed to this additional tax, make sure to contact your representatives in Congress.

Say It Ain't So

Just got an email this morning telling me that the long-awaited (by me) Fleetwood Mac concert in Greensboro this weekend has been cancelled. Boo hoo! I've read that it's due to an illness so I'm sorry to hear that, but still....Hopefully, the band member will recover and they will reschedule a concert in this area. In the meantime, I'll just get out my iPod.

Green Tip 4 - Avoid Triclosan

Over the past few years, I've been concerned about the use of antibacterial soap. It's almost impossible to find liquid hand soap that is not antibacterial. When my children were in elementary school, one of the required supplies that parent's had to purchase was antibacterial soap. I wish people would realize that regular soap is just as effective at killing cold and flu germs and much better for humans and the environment. Some experts believe the use of antibacterial soap can lead to super bugs - just as the use of antibiotic medicine has caused resistant bacteria.

In addition to the potential danger to our health, the active ingredient in these soaps, triclosan, is harmful to the environment. This chemical does not just go away. It is washed down our drains and carried into our natural environment where it can kill algae and cause endocrine problems with fish. In addition, a study done at Virginia Tech showed that triclosan, when combined with chlorine (as in drinking water and swimming pools), can produce chloroform and highly chlorinated dioxins, leading to all kinds of problems. In fact, the U.S. EPA classifies it as a probable human carcinogen. In addition to being found in soap, triclosan can be in toothpaste, acne creams, deodorants, lotions, kitchen tiles, children's toys, cutting boards, toothbrush handles, hot tubs, and athletic clothing. This chemical can journey from our homes into the environment where it is reintroduced to us through the food chain, our drinking water, even breast milk.

Americans are so concerned about picking up germs that can easily be killed with regular soap, but don't give a thought to the health or environmental dangers caused by antibacterial soaps containing triclosan. We seem to be so worried about getting the plague but never give a thought to cancer caused by chemicals in the environment.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Roman Empire Quote

… Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.

Juvenal, Satire 10.77–81

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Being Green on a Budget Part 2

After I fininshed blogging about being green and saving money, I googled *green* and *frugal* and found several blogs and resources that look to have possibility:

Simple/Green/Frugal/Co-Op (

Simple-Green-Frugal (

Neat & Simple Living (

Suddenly Frugal (

Or just do your own internet search - it's amazing what is out there.

By the way, if anyone knows how to embed links on a blog, I would love to learn how!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Being Green on a Budget

Over the years, I've heard people comment that they'd love to be more green, they just can't afford to. What?! I think the problem is that they're buying into the *greenwashing* movement, the concept of shopping our way to a better planet. Noooo...being green is about buying less and buying smarter. During our vacations overseas, especially in Europe, I've been struck by how much less they have and how they're better stewards of the earth. Part of this is because they have fewer resources and less space for landfills. We can learn much from them. For example, when visiting restaurants, paper napkins are at a premium - you might be given ONE. Here, we have napkin dispensers on tables and we help ourselves to handfuls, most of which go into the trash, unused. In some third world countries, you have to buy your own toilet paper in public restrooms, and then you're only given a few sheets. Hotels have motion-activated lights in the hallways and your room key is necessary to turn on the lights and the television. You remove the key to leave and all power goes off.

There are many ways to be green AND save money. Use cloth napkins instead of paper. The initial investment is higher than buying paper, but you can use the cloth ones for years. If you're handy with a sewing machine, you can even make your own. Then, once the napkins are stained and/or threadbare, turn them into rags to use instead of paper towels. Instead of buying disposable sponges, use washable dish cloths. You can be green with cleaning products, too. When I go to the grocery store, I'm amazed at the sheer number of cleaning product options. How many of these products are really necessary? I have found that white vinegar and baking soda will clean most anything. I buy the vinegar in the large jugs, thus saving money and packaging. Baking soda can be purchased in bulk at farm supply stores (this is not food grade so I still buy the small boxes at the grocery store for cooking needs). There are lots of recipes on the internet for cleaning products, such as window cleaner, that can be made at home and dispensed into reusable bottles.

Food is another area where you can be frugal and green (and maybe even a little healthier!). Beans and rice are cheap and have a long shelf life. Buy them in bulk to save even more money and cut down on packaging. Meat, if you eat it, should be treated as a luxury or condiment. It's expensive and very bad for the planet - I could write a whole blog entry on the U.S. meat industry. Rather than spending money on over-packaged, over-processed, over-priced convenience foods, buy fresh fruits and vegetables. As an alternative, frozen produce is good for you and a good buy. Just don't buy the *meal in a bag* type. Breakfast cereals are the worst - companies spend more on the packaging than they do on the food inside. Buy a large container of oatmeal or make your own granola. And start putting food in reusable containers - skip the plastic wrap and plastic bags whenever possible.

Save money and be green with your entertainment. Borrow books, CDs, and DVDs from the library. Instead of making all those quick trips through the fast food drive-thru, keep homemade snacks handy at home, in your car, at your office, and use the money you save to go to a nice restaurant. It will make the meal much more memorable and enjoyable. And fewer fast food wrappers will go to landfill.

As you can see, I can go on and on....I think I'll save the rest for later.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Some More Friends of Mine

I'm slowly trying to introduce my farm friends. These three are my *porch cats,* although only one lives on the porch, in a kitty condo. (Sorry you can't see their faces - they were kind of busy when I took the photo). The other two live in our barn. All of them were abandoned. The middle one, Reb, was seen wandering around the house we rented when we first moved to Virginia. He was skinny and beat up so I took pity on him and gave him something to eat; the rest is history. The cat to his right is his *wife,* Zelda. She also was a shadowy figure, slinking around our rental house, stealing cat and dog food off the porch. She was a bit wild but finally let me pet her. Our daughter discovered that she had 3 kittens. I took one look at them and immediately knew who the dad was - Reb. All of them had his raccoon-like tail. Both of them were taken to the vet and *fixed.* The cat on the left, Mia, was found by the dumpster on the edge of our farm. She had on a pretty pink collar and had 3 kittens with her. As we have few neighbors, it was easy to call and learn that she was indeed a dumped cat. We found homes for all the kittens but by the time I found a home for Mia, our daughter was too attached to her so she became ours.
It breaks my heart that people can be so cruel and dump animals. The SPCA or Humane Society will take in any unwanted pet. Granted, they might be euthanized; however, this is a better alternative to starving to death, being attacked by another animal, or getting hit by a car. Unfortunately, I've reached my limit on pets and cannot shelter any more. But I get joy out of each and every one of the animals who call our farm home and am glad they have come into my life.
Before I forget, the cats have their food bowls on our porch swing for 2 reasons: our bagel Jack likes to eat the cat food but can't get to it in the swing; our chicken Lucy also finds the cat food tasty. Unfortunately, she has no problem getting in the swing to eat. It's always something around here....

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Missing in Action

I've been absent from my blog due to so much going on at once. What with an out-of-town guest and Easter weekend, I've barely sat down at the computer. I have to say that our church had the most inspiring Easter service that I have ever attended. At the end of the sermon, the pastor talked about "cardboard testimonies." What he meant was those individuals you see in big cities, especially in Florida, who are down on their luck and hold up pieces of cardboard saying things like "homeless vet" or "will work for food." He talked about what, as Christians, our signs might say. Then, one by one a number of people came out onto the stage, holding cardboard signs. One side was about their lives before becoming Christians; the other side was about where they are now. Some of the testimonies had me in tears because of where they had come from, where they are now. Just the shear bravery of exposing their pain to the world and then to see the bright smiles on their faces as they showed the flip side to their "cardboard testimonies." It was extremely moving and inspirational; a service I will not soon forget.

Now that Lent is over, I'm *allowed* to watch the news again. Funny thing is, I'm not really interested. I do want to keep abreast of the major stories but I've realized what a huge black hole of time it was. I would turn on Wolf Blitzer to catch up on the top stories and would find myself sucked in, listening to the same stories told over and over again. No more. I would much rather spend my time reading inspirational material and trying to find ways to make a difference - to be active rather than passive in the world - even in very small ways.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The French Lessons Continue

This week seems to be zipping by. Yesterday I had my French lesson. I'm really enjoying the lessons and getting more out of them than I did from taking 3 years in school. I learned perfect written grammar in school but my comprehension of the spoken language was almost nonexistent. One unique thing my teacher is doing is using music to help my understanding. She has started me on the classics - Edith Piaf and Jacques Brel - and has me watch them on YouTube while reading the lyrics and focusing on certain words. Unfortunately, during our lesson, she has me sing along with her - I am definitely NOT a singer. I've branched out on my own and am now listening to Celine Dion's French-language music. It's much better than listening to language CDs where you are taught an infinite number of ways to greet people. One set of French CDs that my family and I used before our last trip to France was the funniest - most of the conversations seemed to revolve around a woman asking a man how many Euros he had and to please give all of them to her. Kind of limits the conversations you can have with the natives


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Green Divas

As I've said in earlier posts, it's better to reduce our footprint on this earth, but we do live in the modern era and make a multitude of consumption decisions on a daily basis. When it comes to our *stuff*, once it's produced, it is still better to recycle than to send items to landfill. For all you green divas out there, I've discovered a couple of programs offered by eco-conscious cosmetics companies.

Aveda has started a program to recycle rigid bottle caps - the kind that come on water bottles, soft drink bottles, shampoo bottles, etc. You can bring the caps into their stores and they will ensure that the caps are recycled into new packaging. Go to for details.

Another company, Origins, is doing it's part to keep cosmetics packaging out of landfill. Bring any clean, empty cosmetic tubes, bottles and jars into an Origins store and they will be sent to be recycled or used for energy recovery. Find out more at

Monday, April 6, 2009

Never a Dull Moment

Last night I went to put the chickens to bed, as is my usual routine. I always turn on the light and make sure no unwanted visitors are in the hen house before I shut the door for the night. Well, as I was checking the nesting boxes, looking for any last minute eggs, I noticed one of the friendly, fluffy black chickens (I can never remember the breed name) was molting pretty badly. I moved in for a closer look and realized she was injured. Not to go into gory detail, the injury looked pretty serious and it affected both sides of her body. Back at the house, I got one of my *doctoring* books out and decided on the best course of action. After tending to the chicken, whom I will refer to as Clara since she made me feel like that famous nurse, I logged on to one of my favorite farm discussion boards to see if I could learn the typical outcome of an injury as serious as this one. I felt better when I discovered most chickens recover from similar wounds. (I'm not sure how she was injured but it's most likely a predator attack).

I hate that Clara might be suffering - although you wouldn't know it from spending time with her - but there's not much that can be done for a chicken. I'm going to keep an eye on her to make sure the other chickens don't pick on her; otherwise, we'll just have to wait and see while I douse her with antibacterial medicine on a daily basis.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Quote for the Day

"Do not depend on the hope of may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself....You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people....In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything."

Thomas Merton, Christian mystic

Saturday, April 4, 2009

It's So Obvious

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by it all - all the choices and decisions that affect us and the world in which we live. The other day, I stumbled upon a simple fact that left me feeling embarrassed. Here I am, someone who tries hard to do the right thing when it comes to the environment, trying to balance living in the modern world while trying to preserve it for future generations. Well, imagine my annoyance with myself when I read about how much energy an exercise treadmill burns! Now it seems pretty obvious - but it never, ever occurred to me. My gym membership is up for renewal next month and I need to to give serious thought to renewing it. Between the lights and the machines and the heating/air conditioning, a gym really does use a lot of power. Really a lot to think about.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Green Tip 3

In addition to reducing our footprint on the earth, we can help clean up some of the damage done by others. Keep America Beautiful has volunteer opportunities throughout the nation in the Great American Cleanup. According to the website:

"Keep America Beautiful's Great American Cleanup, the nation's largest community improvement program, takes place annually from March 1 through May 31, involving an estimated 3 million volunteers and attendees. The hardworking volunteers donated more than 6.7 million hours in 2008 to clean, beautify and improve more than 17,000 communities during more than 30,000 events in all 50 states and beyond. Activities included beautifying parks and recreation areas, cleaning seashores and waterways, handling recycling collections, picking up litter, planting trees and flowers, and conducting educational programs and litter-free events.

"In 2008, Great American Cleanup volunteers collected 86 million pounds of litter and debris; planted 107,000 trees and 48,000 gardens, xeriscapes and green spaces; cleaned 144,000 miles or roads, streets and highways; and diverted more than 189 million plastic (PET) bottles and more than 1.4 million scrap tires from the waste stream."

Check the website ( to find opportunities in your community.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Green Tip 2

I'd like to share this quote from William Morris, designer in the 19th century Arts and Crafts Movement, "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." This sentiment is even more important today. We're bombarded with advertisements trying to entice us into buying useless, ugly *stuff* that we don't need, that breaks not long after we acquire it, or never worked in the first place. Then we toss it out and it goes to the landfill; and the cycle begins again. To put it in modern terms, stop buying crap.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Why Are We In This Handbasket?

Has anyone heard of the United States Institute of Peace? Didn't think so...yet you're paying for it. While doing some research on the internet, I stumbled upon the name of this organization and became curious. I emailed hubby at work, asking if he had heard of it. Nope. A little research (mine and his) revealed that this organization is funded by Congress, has a huge annual budget (I think it's over $11 million), has 70 full-time employees, and is building a $100 million headquarters on the Washington Mall. Headquarters? For 70 employees? Now, I'm not one to use bad language, but WTF?! And get this, according to the website, "67 percent of USIP’s budget is for in-house operations." What does that mean?

What's really annoying is the fact that this institute is not successful! It's been around since 1984. How many wars have we had in that time period? Please don't get me wrong. This Quaker hippy girl is about as peace loving as you can get. But I'm seeing this as a terrific waste of taxpayer money. I'm hoping hubby will do a blog entry on this one as he is much more astute about all things political - which is why I was surprised he hadn't heard of this. I'm curious what others think about this organization - and if they have even heard of it.

Green Tip for Today

Years ago I learned to save the packing peanuts and bubble wrap from packages and take them to a local "shipping/mailbox" store. You know, the places where you can have a package shipped through FedEx, UPS, etc., and they'll even wrap and pack items for you. Well, when I had to return a package recently, I got talking to the rep behind the counter. He told me that not only do they welcome packing peanuts and bubble wrap, they'll take used boxes as well. I was thrilled to hear this because, as you know, reusing is much better than recycling. So, instead of taking my corrugated cardboard boxes to the recycling bin, I'll take them in for reuse. Plus, they don't have to charge customers for boxes when they get used boxes. A win-win situation.