Friday, November 30, 2012

Farm Friday

Better late than never!  I was busy setting up for the tomorrow's holiday craft fair and finishing up one last apron.  Farm life is a bit quieter now, although there is still lots growing in the gardens:  cauliflower, broccoli, Swiss chard, radicchio, cabbage, and spinach.  Bill told me that the bok choy is coming back.  He was worried that the hard freeze we got just before Thanksgiving would mean an end to the garden but we still have plenty out there.  I froze six quart-sized bags of cauiflower for us to eat in the coming months.

I've been missing my little goat Miracle.  It seems so unfair after all that she and we went through; she should have lived to a ripe old goat age.  Fortunately, the other goats that were sick seem to be doing just fine so I'm counting my blessings.

A couple of mornings ago, I woke to a view of the moon over the barn pasture.  I thought it was so beautiful that I rushed outside to get a few photos.  Unfortunately, my camera didn't capture it very well.  Still, I thought I'd share them here:

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Poem: The Journey

File:Middle Age-road.JPG
The Journey
by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wellness Wednesday

Aspartame, which is an artificial sweetener, has been linked to a variety of diseases, including        headaches, depression,and cancer.  Studies conducted by the industry always show this product's safety, whereas almost all independent studies have shown dangers.  Even if this chemical has not been linked to diseases, it seems common sense to avoid putting chemicals in your body.  

Although I try to avoid aspartame, sometimes I buy something that I think is healthy, only to discover that aspartame is one of the ingredients.  Here's a chart for 10 sources of aspartame:
Yogurt and chewing gum are the two sources that I sometimes forget about.  Cooking sauces and children's medicines are the two surprising ones for me.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The closer it gets to the holiday craft fair date, the busier I become.  This means little to no time for writing.  So instead, I'll share a Wendell Berry poem:
File:Blue heron.jpg

The Peace of the Wild Things
by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief.  I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light.  For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Quote for the Day

"Truth isn't always beauty, but the hunger for it is."
~Nadine Gordimer

Saturday, November 24, 2012


This is the time of year that Americans ready themselves to enter the heart of consumer society.  During this season, retailers reap the largest profits and shoppers suffer the most stress.  As a supporter of Buy Nothing Day and Advent Conspiracy, and as someone who knows the link between the things we buy and human trafficking and slavery in the world AND environmental destruction, this time of year makes me sad.  Well-intentioned people insist on engaging in the orgy of consumerism in the name of love. 

I live in a community that has a very small, underfunded homeless shelter (and a law that prohibits the establishment of another) and that lacks a domestic violence shelter.  I've come to believe that, despite the fact that this is an economically depressed area, it's not for lack of funds.  Our local Wal-Mart seems to be doing just fine.  As are the restaurants, especially the new ones.  (A Cook Out fast food outlet opened recently and the lines to get in wrapped around the building and held up traffic.)  While there are people who are suffering economically, I also see shopping carts filled with unnecessary, frivolous junk and restaurant parking lots packed day after day with people eating unhealthy food.  While there are many generous individuals here, much of good done for charity this time of year is nickel and dime stuff.  We can do so much more.

I'm imagining that this year adults could create a different kind of holiday season.  Most of us have everything we need.  What if, instead of insisting on and giving unnecessary and often unwanted gifts, we did something collectively.  What if a community came together for a long-term project?  What if we did this by partially opting out of the needless gift giving?  What if we told our loved ones to not buy us anything this year because we know we are loved?  What we dropped one "marginal" recipient from our list, someone we're not even sure should be on our list?  What if each parent dropped one small gift from the list for their children?   If each person told one person to not purchase a gift for them and if each person dropped one recipient from their list and if each parent chose to purchase just one less, then that money could go to something really good.  Imagine if that amounted to $50 extra per person in a community of 50,000.  If those 50,000 donated $50 each, then that would raise $2.5 million.  Imagine the possibilities if this was done year after year.  Imagine if every community imagined.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Farm Friday

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving gathering at our house yesterday - I counted 30 of us!  We cooked a 25-pound pasture-raised turkey bought from Our Father's Farm, a local farm:
Earlier in the week I woke at 4:30 a.m. in a panic, realizing I didn't have a pan or a platter large enough to cook or serve it!  Fortunately, my mother-in-law had one that just barely contained it and was able to purchase a platter for serving, one I can use year after year.  I was nervous about cooking such a large turkey.  Between being a vegetarian, the shear size of the bird, plus the different cooking method recommended for a pasture-raised turkey, I was afraid of botching it.  But it all turned out well.  

We were blessed to have our entire nuclear family, much of my husband's extended family, plus some good friends with us for the holiday.  Those who weren't able to make it were greatly missed.  So many pitched in to help with food - it was an amazing buffet.  Below are a couple of pictures of the food and family (desserts were in another room and I didn't get a picture of them):

It was a good time, with lots of conversation and laughter.  

In keeping with our values, we planned to reduce or eliminate waste.  We used paper plates and cups which will be composted, along with the paper napkins, and we asked everyone to scrape their food waste into another bag so that we could feed it to our animals.  The silver-finished plastic cutlery was also spared from landfill and was washed for reuse at our next event.  Except for the  plastic bags that the cutlery and some of the food came in, we generated almost zero waste.

I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday.  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving Day.
thanksgiving arrangement

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wellness Wednesday
Thanksgiving weekend, specifically the Sunday after Thanksgiving, is the most traveled time of the year in the United States.  Since many people will be traveling via automobile, I thought I'd share a few safe driving tips.

Make sure your vehicle is in good shape, gassed up, and prepared for the weather you will encounter  (Visit Consumer Reports for more details.)

Additionally, be a defensive driver.  This website has excellent tips.  Highlights include:  
  • Minimize distractions.  
  • Use "high eyes" driving, that be aware of the bid picture and focus beyond just the driver ahead of you.
  • Minimize lane changes.
  • Spot and avoid fast lane changers and "blind" lane changers.
  • Don't make eye contact with other drivers as this is often associated with road rage.
  • Look both ways at intersections, even when the light is green.
  • Know when and how to swerve.
  • Get away from bad drivers.
  • Don't follow too closely.
In addition, always wear your seat belt and please don't text and drive.

Have a safe holiday.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sad Update

Today's blog post was going to be on something altogether different.  However, today there is a Miracle-shaped hole in my heart.  Yesterday, we lost little Miracle.  For regular readers, you know she was the kid that we brought back from the brink when she suffered from hypothermia just after her birth.  After she was resuscitated, her mother didn't recognize her and so wouldn't feed her.  I spent the last month and a half bottle feeding her three to four times a day - first thing in the morning and last thing at night.  We even had to work our schedules around her feedings.  She was aggravating at times, for a long time not recognizing her bottle, choosing to nuzzle against my leg, the wall, a bale of hay, anything, rather than make the connection between the bottle I was holding and the food that it put in her tummy.  But I felt for her.  Does and kids have a strong bond and the kids snuggle with their mothers at nap time and night time.  Miracle didn't have that.  So whenever she performed her bizarre habit of pressing her head against my leg rather than drink her milk, I indulged her for a few moments saying she was getting some "mama" time in.  Last time I bottle fed her she seemed more interested in nuzzling rather than eating.  So I held her head between my palms and stroked the sides of her face.  She closed her eyes and soaked up the attention.

Yesterday afternoon Bill saw a white shape in a distant area of the pasture.  At first we thought it was the guard dog Joey, then we thought it might be a goat napping, or even one of the expectant does giving birth.  However, when I got to the barn to see who Bill had brought up, I immediately knew something was wrong, and when I saw the face, I knew is was my Miracle.  We don't know what happened to her.  She seemed perfectly healthy, with not a scratch on her.  

Here's a photo of her doing what she most enjoyed doing (I wish I had a better, newer photo of her):

R.I.P. little Miracle.

Monday, November 19, 2012

In My Dreams

File:Mafate Marla solar panel dsc00633.jpg
Last week I read on Common Dreams about Germany's green energy policy.  I already knew that Germany, a country much further north than the United States, was getting a significant amount of its energy through solar power.  However, it's even better than that.  In following Jimmy Carter's energy program, Germany gets 25 percent of its power through clean, green renewable sources:  solar, wind, and biomass.  They expect to generate 80 to 100 percent of energy through renewable sources by 2050.  So while Americans watched as Ronald Reagan ripped solar panels off the White House, Germany slowly pushed forward with the plan to be energy independent.  

As we hear about the need to drill for oil in pristine and ecologically sensitive areas so that we can be more self-reliant in our energy needs, as we helplessly stand by when oil spills such as the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon damage the environment, and while we watch oil rigs explode in the Gulf of Mexico, killing and severely injuring workers, we need to pause and consider whether or not we are on the right path.  Energy independence and a clean environment can both be achieved.  Germany is showing that it is possible.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Quote for the Day

"Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization. We must make our choice; we cannot have both."
~Abraham Flexner

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Boycott the Companies that Opposed GMO Labeling

I'm still trying to understand how the voters in California chose to vote against mandatory labeling of foods that contain GMOs.  My understanding is that money talks.  Many corporations were opposed to the labeling, even companies that produce so-called "organic" and "natural" foods.  Look at this chart to see where the money went:
These companies used their profits to vote against their own customer base.  Without those customers, these companies won't survive.  Boycotting those that opposed the labeling and letting them know why you're boycotting would sent a strong message, one that maybe...perhaps...might lead to voluntary labeling of foods containing GMOs (I know, wishful thinking).  

These are the ten parent companies that funded the opposition to the labeling:

• PepsiCo (Donated $2.5M): Naked Juice, Tostito’s Organic, Tropicana Organic
• Kraft (Donated $2M): Boca Burgers and Back to Nature
• Safeway (Member of Grocery Manufacturers Association, which donated $2M):“O” Organics
• Coca-Cola (Donated $1.7M): Honest Tea, Odwalla
• General Mills (Donated $1.2M):  Muir Glen, Cascadian Farm, Larabar
• Con-Agra (Donated $1.2M): Orville Redenbacher’s Organic, Hunt’s Organic, Lightlife, Alexia
• Kellogg’s (Donated $791k): Kashi, Bear Naked, Morningstar Farms, Gardenburger
• Smucker’s (Donated $555k ): R.W. Knudsen, Santa Cruz Organic
• Unilever (Donated $467k): Ben & Jerry’s
• Dean Foods (Donated $254k): Horizon, Silk, White Wave

And go to this page for a link to send an email to those companies, letting them know about the boycott.  Tell them that their efforts are only temporary and that they have only hurt their bottom line, the very thing they were trying to save.

As you can see from the chart, this boycott does in no way eliminate all of your organic choices.  Many good companies spent money in support of mandatory GMO labeling.  You might even want to write those companies, thanking them for the support.

Even though the news was disappointing, there is still hope.  Activists are at work in several states, collecting signatures, talking to lawmakers, and forming coalitions.  It's only a matter of time before the labeling is required because smart people want to know what is in their food.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Farm Friday

Although the gardens are slowing down and our CSA year has ended, we're still busy.  Last weekend we went to Virginia Tech for FAMACHA training.  This training will help us identify goats that have severe parasitic infestation, are extremely anemic, and likely to die.  It involves looking at the color of the mucous membrane below the eye of a goat or sheep.  Here I am demonstrating my knowledge of the technique on a sheep:
As part of my decision to commit to making a living off the farm and not seeking employment elsewhere, I'm trying to be creative about how I can contribute to the farm.  I don't do much picking of the produce because it's too hard on my back, so I try to contribute by caring for the animals and working more behind the scenes more on the business end of things.  We're going to be  opening a farm store on our property that will be open one day a week where people who are not members of the CSA and/or don't want to go to the farmer's market on Saturday can stop by to pick up fresh produce.  I'm also going to offer some of my handcrafted items.  

Right now I'm working on getting ready for the Christmas bazaar at one of the community markets.  I'll be selling the aprons and other fabric items.  I sold these aprons for about three years and became known as "the apron lady."  I've taken break from this for the past couple of years but am excited about selling again.  So far, I have 11 aprons done.  This photo will give you an idea of the kinds of fabrics I use:
These aprons are my own design, reversible using two different fabrics,  and are very feminine and flattering.  

My little goat Miracle continues to get spoiled as I let her out of the pasture to drink her bottle.  After she eats I let her follow me around the barn for a few minutes before putting her back with the other goats.  She now knows to call for me whenever she sees me - and continues to call after I put her back in the pasture, spoiled little thing.  One of our other goats, Nellie, who is one of our alpha girls and one of our first goats, gave birth to triplet boys.  Unfortunately, we lost one of them, although we're not sure what happened.  Bill found him down in the pasture.  We thought we would be able to revive him but that wan't the case.  Eleanor, our last sick goat, seems to be pulling through thanks to an iron supplement I discovered.  She is a goat that, among other things, became anemic from parasites.  Our FAMACHA training should help us identify this problem in other goats before they get as sick as Eleanor did.

Tomorrow we're picking up our Thanksgiving turkey from a local farmer who raises his turkey's organically and humanely.  The only reason we're buying one is that we're expecting over 30 people at our house - and they'd be disappointed if there was no turkey.  As for me, my daughter, and our former intern Jude (who will be with us for the holiday), I've purchased a stuffed Tofurky.  One year I made a Tofurky (not a stuffed one) and it was a failure.  It did not look at all appetizing but my daughter has tested the stuffed Tofurky and said it was good.  I'll keep you posted

Have a great weekend! 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Update on No Shopping and Buy Nothing Day

Buy Nothing Day Classic
Last month I announced that I would be embarking on a three month no-shopping challenge, so I thought I'd share where I am at the half-way point.  Between not being a huge shopper to begin with plus being conditioned through previous no-shopping challenges, this challenge hasn't been difficult at all.  Early in October, when the weather started to get cold, I realized that almost all of my long-sleeve tops had holes or stains to I did purchase two new ones - a sweater and a t-shirt.  I have worn the new sweater several times since, but I have not worn the t-shirt at all.  So what I thought was a need really wasn't.  I'm sure I could go another month and a half without that second new top.  Other than food, toiletries, items for our upcoming family Thanksgiving gathering, and gasoline, I haven't purchased anything else.  

Speaking of Thanksgiving, the day after Thanksgiving has come to be known as "Black Friday," a day when Americans rush to the stores at crazy hours in order to fight to get deals on things they need.  Since I live in a community that calls itself a "city of churches" and loves to talk about how great it is that Chick-Fil-A is closed on Sunday to give employees time for worship and family, I find it very disturbing that our stores are mobbed on what should be a holiday weekend for families.  Often this weekend is a nightmare for retail workers since they don't really get a break.  Often they work in the wee hours of Friday morning to stock shelves and prep for opening.  Some stores open as early as 8:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving evening, meaning employees lose the entire holiday.  Earlier this week I received an email from about a petition by a Target employee  who will miss out on seeing her family on Thanksgiving because of the store's decision to open Thanksgiving night.  (Her petition can be found here.)

Do we really need things so badly that we ruin the holiday for retail workers?  While I hear individuals protest the commercialization of Christmas, I notice those same people eager to get to the stores.  Instead, I encourage people to participate in Buy Nothing Day, a day where we can unplug from consumer culture and instead focus on family and friends - and be grateful for what we already have, which is what Thanksgiving honors.  I'll leave you with this thought about our needs:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wellness Wednesday

Thanksgiving Table
This morning I had to run errands and this afternoon I worked at our local food bank, so I'm a bit late getting Wellness Wednesday posted.  Since the American Thanksgiving and other holidays are just around the corner, I though I'd share WebMD's tips on avoiding weight gain this time of year:  

  • Never arrive hungry at a party or event or you will be tempted to overeat.
  • Focus on something other than food, like good conversation or dancing.
  • Put your fork down between bites to slow consumption and prevent overeating.
  • Keep track of the number of hors d'oeuvres you eat.
  • At buffets, choose the simplest foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Limit the number of alcoholic beverages.
  • Be very selective about the dessert you eat - try a little of what you really love.
  • Bring a low calorie treat to a potluck meal so you won't be tempted by other desserts.
  • Be careful about sampling while you cook as each mouthful contains calories.
  • Make a habit to walk before or after meals; you can make it a family event.
You can avoid packing on pounds without feeling deprived if you follow these simple strategies.  It's all about moderation.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Quote for the Day

"What is absurd and monstrous about war is that men who have no personal quarrel should be trained to murder one another in cold blood."
~Aldous Huxley

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Summer Sunset
To Be of Use
by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge 
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Farm Friday

Farm life and trying to live sustainably can keep one busy!  Here's a sampling of what I've been up to:

Upon awakening yesterday, I had to go bottle feed Miracle (she has a three times a day habit).  After that, Bill and I had a goat with a medical issue that we had to treat.  And Eleanor, the goat we thought had turned the corner, seems to be having problems again.  Goats!  Our vet did tell me that Boer goats give him the most problems, mainly because they've been over bred in an attempt to get back to a "pure" Boer.  However, considering how many goats we have, we really haven't had that many problems.

After a breakfast of grits and farm-fresh scrambled eggs with sauteed spinach, I set to work concocting a variety of things.  First, I had to make some food for our bees.  Due to the hot, dry conditions this summer, the bees didn't have enough flowers to make adequate honey to get them through the winter months, so we're having to supplement them.  Then I made a big pot of rice, some to freeze and some to use to make rice milk.  I'm pulling some asparagus out of the freezer and will use the rice milk to make vegan "cream" of asparagus soup.  While I was making the rice, I also brewed up a pot of tea made from fair trade tea leaves.  We drink a lot of iced tea so I do this most every day.

My latest kitchen project is to make my own vanilla extract.  I made a road trip yesterday to our closest health food super market and bought some vanilla beans:
 I cut up the bean (both lengthwise and crosswise)  and added the pieces to some vodka:
Don't judge the brand.  I don't drink it but had it on had for some other similar projects.  I read that you should use top quality vodka (or rum) but I used what I had on hand.

It's best to put in a dark-colored jar or bottle.  I didn't have one so, rather than buying a new jar, I used an old mason jar and will keep it in a dark cabinet for a few months as the vodka becomes infused with the flavor of the bean:
I've also been busy trying new recipes in an attempt to use up a lot of our farm produce.  Here's a quiche I made that has a new twist - a shredded potato crust:

 And I'm back in the apron business.  I have a holiday craft show next month and am busy sewing up my famous aprons.  Here's a sneak peak at the fabrics in a couple of them:
Later this week we're off to a training session that will teach us more about goat health.  

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Un Peu d'Amusement 2

To help lighten up after the political extravaganza, here's more Henri:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wellness Wednesday

I'm always harping about how people are conned into thinking it's too expensive to eat healthy.  Below is an infographic highlighting some facts about eating out versus eating at home.  Often, it is much cheaper to cook at home and it's healthier, as well.  On the surface, some meals away from home (mainly fast food) can be cheaper on the front end but this usually is not the case.  And regardless of the initial cost, we must consider the future cost of the damage done by eating unhealthy processed, high fat, and high calorie foods.  

And the idea that eating out is quicker than cooking at home is false.  When my children were young - and had short attention spans - I found that I much preferred to stay home and cook a meal myself because of the time and stress involved in going out.  By the time we got everyone together, drove to a restaurant, waited in line if it was a weekend, waited for the waiter to come to our table, waited for him/her to return to take our order, waited for the food to be cooked and served, ate the meal, and then waited for our check, I could have cooked a much cheaper and healthier meal and even cleaned up afterwards.  And I would have avoided the stress of tired, bored, and cranky children acting up in public.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

On Voting

"The 'democracy gap' in our politics and elections spells a deep sense of powerlessness by people who drop out, do not vote, or listlessly vote for the 'least worst' every four years and then wonder why after every cycle the 'least worst' gets worse."
~Ralph Nader

"In the United States, the political system is a very marginal affair. There are two parties, so-called, but they're really factions of the same party, the Business Party. Both represent some range of business interests. In fact, they can change their positions 180 degrees, and nobody even notices....Both parties are essentially the same party. The only question is how coalitions of investors have shifted around on tactical issues now and then. As they do, the parties shift to opposite positions, within a narrow spectrum."
~Noam Chomsky

Monday, November 5, 2012

Last Presidential Debate

"I hope you'll take the cast a vote for resurgent democracy. A democracy that thrives outside of the Democratic and Republican Parties that are sponsored by and subservient to corporate America. ... As you know, popular anger at the political and economic institutions, and the subordination of the former to the latter, has reached historic heights. And for sound reasons. There could hardly be a better time to open up political debate to the just anger and frustrations of citizens who are watching the country move towards what might be irreversible decline while a tiny sector of concentrated wealth and power implements policies of benefit to them and opposed by the general population, whom they are casting adrift." ~Noam Chomsky, March 2012

Go to to find out how to hear the debate between the Libertarian and Green party presidential candidates.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Quote for the Day

"Wars and elections are both too big and too small to matter in the long run.  The daily work - that goes on, it adds up."
~Barbara Kingsolver

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Package-Free Shopping

Unpackaged logo

I stumbled upon a website for an amazing store in London.  It's called Unpackaged and the name says it all.  At this store, almost everything is sold without packaging!  (I did spy some jars and bottles on shelves in the photos on the website.)  Customers bring their own clean containers (any kind will do) to fill with the various products carried by the store.  Products include everything from wines and juices from a barrel to environmentally-friendly cleaning products.  (If a customer forgets to bring containers, a variety of reusable ones are available for purchase.)  How amazing it would be to have stores like that in the U.S.!