Friday, August 31, 2012

Farm Friday

While doing some cleaning in our garage, I stumbled upon this beauty:
Who knew moths could be so beautiful?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Wellness Wednesday...On Thursday

> Diagnosis and Care 2
This week I've gotten my days mixed up and neglected to do my usual Wellness Wednesday on...Wednesday.  So I'm making it up today; better late than never.

I found this interesting article on the New York Times website.  While I worry about low income individuals and families who don't have access to basic healthcare, it seems many Americans are suffering from over treatment in the hands of physicians.  And, in addition to the physical and mental discomfort experienced when undergoing time consuming and sometimes invasive testing, these procedures are costing a whopping $210 billion a year.  

A couple of years ago, I found myself in this cycle.  I was going to a holistic medical doctor for pervasive fatigue and other minor issues.  After undergoing a thorough exam and some tests, I was given a variety of vitamins and supplements that helped me regain my health.  But then every six months, I was told I needed to come in for follow up testing - even though I was doing fine.  The doctor's office said it was to make sure my levels were normal and that the vitamins and supplements were working.  After a while, I realized I didn't need to go back that often.   

Several years before that, when I had just relocated to Virginia, I decided to have a complete physical exam done by my doctor in Florida.  At my appointment, I explained to the office that I had just moved but wanted a thorough exam, just in case.  Imagine my surprise when I got a call a few weeks later requesting that I come in for a follow-up appointment.  I explained that I no longer lived nearby and wasn't able to travel there unless there was a problem with any of the tests.  Turns out, everything was fine and it wasn't necessary for me to make a follow-up visit.  All I could surmise was that the extra visit was another way to generate revenue.  

A friend also confirmed that sometimes the medical profession over treats patients, just to be on the same side - and also because those patients happen to have health insurance.  This individual sought help for depression and ended up being treated as an in-patient at a hospital. There were no risk factors for this patient that would call for hospitalization and the experience of being at the hospital with patients that were potentially dangerous was traumatizing.  As a result, my friend wasn't able to sleep well at night and also experienced bad side effects from all the medications that were prescribed.  The experience was summed up this way:  "They were experimenting on me."

I'm glad that we have modern medical treatments available.  However, when there is no clear reason for the testing or a patient won't experience an improvement in health as a result, further treatment is unnecessary and a waste of resources.  Sometimes modern technology turns out to be too much of a good thing.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Poem: Otherwise

by Jane Kenyon

I got out of bed 
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise.  I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach.  It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate.  It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks.  It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
but one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What We Don't See that Goes Out to Sea

When we wake up in the morning, we brush our teeth using a plastic toothbrush and toothpaste from a plastic tube; we shower using body wash, shampoo, and conditioner from plastic bottles; we shave our faces and/or legs using a plastic razor; we moisturize our bodies using products from plastic bottles; we get the bread for our toast from a plastic bag and pour a glass of milk from a plastic carton; then we grab a soda or water in a plastic bottle to take with us as we go about our daily routine.  This is a scene that millions of Americans wake up to every day yet don't consider what it means.  Plastic, it's everywhere.  We don't even think about it - neither its effect on the environment nor on our health or that of our neighbors.  

The Zurich Museum of Design in Switzerland just opened an exhibit entitled "Out to Sea:  The Plastic Garbage Project" with the following as the central installation:
Source:  Clean Bin Project's facebook page
"What is it?" you ask.  It is the amount of plastic released into the sea every 15 seconds.  Something for us all to ponder.

Monday, August 27, 2012


I've been busy of late.  Our son Will was married on Saturday.  It was an occasion of great joy - and a joining of two families.  We now have a beautiful daughter-in-law named Sarah and an equally lovely new granddaughter named Rayne.  Here are a few candid shots from the joyful event:
Will and Sarah exchanging vows
Our granddaughter Rayne
The happy couple with their siblings

The groom's parents, sister (ignore the demon eyes), and paternal grandmothers

So now life returns to what passes for normal around our house.

Green Idea for Cat Owners

Cat in grass
I stumbled upon this great idea on a blog.  Seems Jennifer of It's Not Easy to Be Green sometimes has the same "problem" as me when it comes to having plastic bags in which to scoop the kitty litter.  She devised a ingenuous, biodegradable bag for this use out of newspapers.  Learn more by going to this post.

(And shame on me for my laziness in not including a photo of my own cat in this post.)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Quote for the Day

"[w]e are just like Rome.  Our legislatures are corrupt; our politicians are unprincipled; our rich men are ambitious and unscrupulous.  Our newspapers have been purchased and gagged; our colleges have been bribed; our churches have been cowed.  Our masses are sinking into degradation and misery; our ruling classes are becoming wanton and cynical."
~Upton Sinclair

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I Am Woman

A reminder to all the politicians who have forgotten that half the voters are women:

Friday, August 24, 2012

Farm Friday

Our friend and intern Jude went back home on Wednesday to get ready for her next semester at school.  We will miss her cheerful attitude and the interesting conversations we had over meals and into the evening.

While she was here, Jude taught us much about Middle Eastern cooking and Saudi customs.  This is what happened to a corner of our kitchen while she was here:
Jude introduced us to all kinds of new spices and instructed us on the best tahini to buy.  She also gave us new ways to prepare some of the produce we grow here on the farm.  

I discovered a Middle Eastern market about an hour away and I took Jude there.  As we stepped in the door, I think she felt she had entered heaven as her face lit up and she promptly grabbed a basket and started shopping!  There we were able to find good quality spices, beans, and pita bread.  I think I'm going to get to know the store manager on a first name basis...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Better Late Than Never?

So life has had me swamped lately, so swamped I haven't been reading other's blogs.  I finally sat down to read one of my favorites, EcoGrrl.  There to my surprise, I discovered that she has nominated me for a blog award!

There are "rules" that go with the award, rules that you can take or leave.  Although I am extremely appreciative for the award from  the creative and talented EcoGrrl, other than linking to her blog and thanking her, I'm going to have to bow out of the rest of the rules, as fun as it could be.  However, I do think I'll check out her other nominees that are new to me.  I'm sure they're all great blogs.  Here's her post if you're interested in discovering more interesting blogs.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wellness Wednesday

For those readers who are concerned about my vegetarian, sometimes vegan, diet and my health  (and for those of you interested in becoming one but have been discouraged by well-meaning, but misguided family and friends), here's a handy chart from PETA showing how easy it is to fulfill daily nutrition requirements on a plant-based diet:

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Simplify, Simplify...and Save the World

Optical microscope 5
The following list came from an article entitled "15 Distractions You Should Ditch" on MindBodyGreen.  As you read through the list, maybe you'll have the same reaction I did:  How much good could be done if we all followed the suggestions.  The article says we should ditch:
  1. Preoccupation with others
  2. Fixation with athletes
  3. Fascination with actors
  4. Adoration of musicians
  5. Pontification of lifestyle
  6. Addition to political issues
  7. Obsession with social media
  8. Addiction to television
  9. Apprehension about the past
  10. Trepidation for the future
  11. Occupation with technology
  12. Infatuation with your body
  13. Consumption of information
  14. Anxiety about money
  15. Fear of loving or losing love
All of these items prevents us from living life to the fullest, both for ourselves and for others.  A friend commented to me about how she sometimes spends all day at home, taking care of mundane tasks, and then it occurs to her, "I could have used the time to help someone."  It's good to occasionally examine what we do with the time given us - and find a way to use it for a higher calling.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Lifestyle Choice

Writing 1
Some say it is a choice; others say it is an orientation.  Either way, I was born this way and I cannot change it.  When I was born, however, there were those who felt it was wrong.  When a child started showing tendencies, many parents corrected them.  Fortunately my parents were understanding and accepted me for what I was; they knew it was not a choice.  Forcing me to conform to society's norms would not have changed what I was.

There are unfavorable Bible verses on my orientation.  (This article says there are 25.)  Depending on how one interprets them, it would seem that my orientation is wrong, even evil.  History has also be unkind to people like me.  I even had a teacher in high school refer to me as sinister.   But it's part of who I am.  I'm not rebelling against society or making a statement.   I was born with this orientation.

You see, I was born left-handed.  Yes, my parents could have forced me to eat and write and do other things with my right hand, but deep down inside, I would still be left-handed.  There is a big difference between orientation and lifestyle.  I did not choose to be left-handed.  Although being left-handed does not define me, every fiber of my being makes me favor left over right.  Using my right hand to write or draw or do most anything seems very wrong.  I can do it, but it doesn't change the true me.

When my husband and I were discussing how people are treating homosexuality as a "lifestyle" choice, he jokingly called my holding a glass with my left hand as making a lifestyle choice.  This comment resonated very deeply within me as it is laughable to call my handedness a choice.  It would be much easier to be right handed - the modern world is designed for right-handed people and I have a daily struggle with technology - but I'm not wired that way so I can't conform.  (For a quick read on how lefties are discriminated against, read this list from Stanford University.) 

Choosing painting over bowling is a lifestyle choice; using my left hand to do either is my orientation.  I may be different, but it is who I am.  Telling me that I must become something I'm not or to refrain from being myself is wrong and cruel.  That applies to individuals with a different sexual orientation.  Lefthandedness is not a choice; neither is sexual orientation.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Quote for the Day

"It is crucially important for Christians today to adopt a genuinely Christian position and support it with everything they've got.  This means an unremitting fight for justice in every sphere - in labor, in race relations, in the Third World, and above all in international affairs.  Our social actions must conform to our deepest religious principles.  Beliefs and politics can no longer be kept isolated from one another."

~Thomas Merton

Friday, August 17, 2012

Farm Friday

Scenes from my morning:
Looking out over the pasture 

Joey our guard dog greeting me

Looking for the goats

Goats in barn pasture

Monty the bottle fed goat spots me

Monty coming for his breakfast

Monty enjoying his breakfast

Monty wanting more breakfast

Joey pretending to look noble and dignified

Back home with loyal Ginny

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Clothing and Social Justice

A few months ago, I had someone contact me about some clothes that had been put in a consignment shop but hadn't sold.  The shop's policy is to donate those clothes to some type of charity.  However, the woman responsible for divesting the shop of the clothes decided she wanted the clothes to go to "people who don't have any clothes."  She knew I was involved with several charitable organizations in the area and asked if I would find a place for the clothes.  What I thought would be a couple of bags of clothes ended up being an entire minivan packed to the gills!

Over and over again I hear people talk about having clothing that has been barely or gently worn and wanting it to go somewhere.  Often they ask about having it sent to Haiti and I have to explain the difficulty in getting it there - and the costs involved.  They shake their heads and comment on how sad that perfectly good clothing has to go to waste.  What never occurs to them is that perhaps we Americans should refrain from buying so much clothing, avoid the waste, and donate what we would have spent on clothing to an organization that provides clothing and other necessities to third world nations.  But it seems we don't want to do that - we want to have new clothing on a regular basis and then give our castoffs to the less fortunate rather than buying quality clothing that we can keep and wear for years.

This article in Grist explores the history of clothing in the US and reveals the environmental cost and social price we pay for this glut of clothing.  Prior to the 1970s, most clothing was moderately priced, with most items costing between $60 and $300 in today's dollars.  For many people today, buying articles of clothing in that price range would deter them from shopping binges.  However, nowadays we have either extremely cheap clothing or designer clothing.  That means most Americans buy on the cheap end.  Decades ago, if a dress cost $300, a woman might have a handful of dresses.  Now, when one can get a dress for $15, it's easy to stock up and end up with twenty or more dresses.  

Wonder why a dress or any other article of clothing is so cheap?  It's because most of the textile and garment workers are overseas, working for pennies an hour (and taking "our" jobs).  Even with the jobs that remain in the US, this article points out that over half of those jobs qualify as sweatshop jobs.  We are able to pack our dressers and closets beyond capacity on the backs of poor, young, mainly immigrant women who labor long difficult hours for wages that cannot sustain them.  According to Global Exchange, sweatshop workers often face verbal, physical, and even sexual abuse.  Workers are sometimes paid as little as 24 cents an hour to make clothing that costs over $100.  Do we really want to encourage what amounts to virtual slavery?  

Having so many clothes also comes with a high environmental cost.  The Grist article points out that we discard approximately 68 pounds of textiles a year.  And our fiber consumption exceeds what should be normal for our population.  We think that when we give away clothes to charity and other shops that they go to do good.  Not so.  Only about 20 percent of donated clothing is actually sold.  So most used clothing goes to landfill.  What is worse, 63 percent of textiles are synthetic, meaning there was an environmental cost to manufacturing it and it won't readily break down in landfill.  Again, do we want to dress more fashionably at the cost of the environment?

Global Exchange explains that the current textile/garment industry is a "race to the bottom":
A footloose industry scours the world for the cheapest wages; countries eager for any kind of investment auction off their workers to the lowest bidder; government regulators deliberately look the other way when abuses occur in order to keep foreign investors happy.  It's that combination of desperate profit-seeking and equality desperate investment pursuit which as created the race to the bottom that is at the root of the sweatshop resurgence.
For workers, the current system is a trap.  The apparel manufacturers fear that if they raise their workers' wages, and therefore their prices to the US retailers, the US retailers will simply go someplace with even cheaper workers.  The threat is real.  Because the garment industry is so mobile, and because the purchasing ability off the retailers is so flexible - they can shift sourcing from one country to another in a matter of fashion season - any country that raises its wages or enforces its workers' rights risks is, as mainstream economists say, "pricing itself out of the market."
It's difficult to really explore the problem in this limited space.  I would love to go into more detail but instead I'll leave you with a trailer for a movie that is highly recommended by a friend.  Made in LA follows three women working in a sweatshop in Los Angeles where they struggle to gain basic rights.  These women worked for trendy clothing manufacturer Forever 21 whose clothing they couldn't even afford - and they aren't even designer clothes: 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wellness Wednesday

A sugar bowl
Sugar sneaks into the most surprising places.  One of the biggest food scams is fat free food.  When a proceeded food product boasts that it is fat free, look closely and you will notice that the fat has been replaced with sugar.  People are also fooled into thinking what they are eating is healthy when, in fact, many so-called healthy foods are filled with sugar.  This article points out that the following healthy-sounding foods have unnecessary sugar:

1) almond milk/rice milk/coconut milk
2) peanut butter
3) tomato sauce
4) salad dressing
5) granola
6) yogurt

How to get around this?  Make your own!  Rice milk is extremely easy to make (and I've heard the same about almond milk).  Peanut butter should be nothing but ground peanuts and a bit of oil and salt.  Tomato sauce - cook up a batch using fresh, in season tomatoes from a farmers market.  Salad dressing recipes abound on the internet; the same goes for granola.  For yogurt, use plain yogurt with fruit and maybe a little bit of honey for a delicious dish.  Bon appetit!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Quote for the Day

"Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.  Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection."
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Energy/Water Collision Infographic

The current drought and continuing heat wave are more problematic than we realize.  More reason to push for sustainable energy solutions.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Farm Friday

Today's Farm Friday posting is a bit late.  I've been busy with a variety of things, both personal and volunteer work, so didn't get a chance to take a photo on the farm.  However, our intern Jude has been cooking amazing dishes for us with fresh vegetables off the farm.  Below are couple of photos of the Middle Eastern food she made for us tonight.  The presentation was beautiful but we all dug in before thinking about taking a photo.  By the way:  Best. Okra. Dish. Ever.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

More Corporate Ownership

Yet another look at product ownership.  This time we're looking at the corporations that own the major organic brands.  For a clearer photo, go here.  This article has links that explain how this consolidation has occurred.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wellness Wednesday

As someone who dislikes wearing shoes, I was excited to see an article on the benefits of going barefoot.  MindBodyGreen's article lists the following benefits:
A clear mind
Free foot yoga
Free reflexology
Decreased anxiety and depression
Better sleep
Grounding the natural charge in our body
Connecting with nature and a higher power
All these benefits without the cost and dangers of synthetic drugs.