Saturday, March 31, 2012

Earth Hour 2012


Earth Hour begins at 8:30 (your local time) tonight.  This event began in 2007 in Syndey, Australia, as a way to bring awareness to the issue of global climate change and to show that individuals can make a difference.   Last year 5200 cities and towns in 135 countries participated in Earth Hour.  This year will mark my fourth year of participating in this event.  I hope that this year, more of my friends will take the time to spend one hour without power and to spend time reflecting on "How You Will Go Beyond the Hour" to reduce energy consumption.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday on the Farm

Random farm photo - our vineyard before the leaves came in
My plan is to feature something from the farm every Friday (that is, if my last grad school class doesn't interfere).  We've been having internet issues - which should be resolved today - so my plan to give a photographic farm tour has to be delayed a bit as photos take forever to load.

This year, with my husband newly retired from his first career, we've embarked upon a new venture:  a CSA (community supported agriculture) program.  This is the same type of program that some people call "farm shares" where individuals partner with the farmer by buying a share of produce during the growing season.  CSA members get a box or bag of farm products delivered to them once a week.  Our CSA is very small this year - so as to not set ourselves up for failure - but we've started earlier than most in our area.  The reason is that we have something most CSAs in our area don't have:  asparagus!  

Wednesday was a busy day on the farm.  Bill and I tended and expanded the much neglected flowerbeds around our house by removing weeds and putting down mulch.  One area, where I found the volunteer lettuce, we only put down a mixture of top soil and organic potting mix, then seeded with two types of lettuce.  We're hoping to use it as ground cover and edible landscaping this year.  I had planned on putting in flower bulbs and perennials in that space but I'll either find a new place or wait until next year.

Once again we have bees on our farm.  We lost our bees a couple of seasons ago due to various reasons and the replacement hives didn't work out.  So, if all goes as planned, we'll again be able to have our own honey - and sell some as well.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wellness Wednesday

hunter of dreams
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With today's busy and chaotic world, many people have resorted to prescription sleeping pills to counter the resulting insomnia.  Popular prescription sleep aids include the brand names Restoril, Ambien, and Lunestra.  However, a recent study has linked a variety of these drugs to a higher risk of dying and to a higher incidence of cancer.  Patients using these drugs appeared to be at a 4.6 times higher risk of death than non-users.  Cancer risk increased 35% with use of these drugs.  Read more about the study in this Huffington Post article.  

Rather than resort to these potentially dangerous drugs, the article gives suggestions for making sleep come easy.  As there is no one cause for insomnia, there is no one cure, so it may be necessary to try a number of the tips before finding the solution that is right for you.  In addition, there are a number of herbs that can help induce a more natural sleep.  Some of these herbs include chamomile, valerian, lemon balm, passion flower, and kava kava   Of course, I am not a medical doctor and you may want to consult with your physician before discontinuing your medication or trying any of these herbs.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

Farm Notes

Over the weekend we had a huge storm that gave us 3 inches of rain and a bit of hail.  Northwest of us, they had so much hail that it looked like it had snowed.  At one point, the clouds seemed to be working towards a circular pattern - very frightening.  Despite the potential danger, I thought the sky was so amazing that I took some photos.  Unfortunately, my camera (and skills) do it little justice:
It was interesting that the animals were not at all concerned about the approaching storm.  Only when it was pouring down rain and hail did they decide it was a good idea to get into the barn.  Just before the storm hit, my husband and I saw that two of the newborn goats were sleeping by themselves, far from the rest of the goats.  He was able to get rescue them and reunite them with the rest of the herd before the rain came.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Quote for the Day

Colored Pencils 2
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 “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
~ Pablo Picasso 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Volunteers

With the coming of spring (plus an extremely mild winter), I've turned my attention to our much-neglected flowerbeds around our house.  My plan is to grow some flowers and herbs in some bare areas, in addition to sprucing up the already established areas.  About a week ago I noticed a couple of extremely healthy weeds in a beautiful shade of green that were growing in a corner and made a mental note to pull them up at some point.  However, this morning when I was discussing our plans with my husband, I got a good look at the weeds.  This is what I found:


here
Two beautiful heads of lettuce!  Last spring I planted some lettuce in containers on my back deck.  It was a dismal failure.  Now I'm thinking of scattering more lettuce seed along the back side of this flowerbed and see what happens.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wellness Wednesday

heart
Source
Huffington Post has a list of 7 heart-healthy behaviors that can increase longevity.  Currently, heart disease is the number one killer in the U.S.  Although most are common sense habits, they are worth repeating since the article reports that only one percent of the American population follows all of these guidelines.
  1. Don't smoke
  2. Keep physically active
  3. Keep your blood pressure within a normal range
  4. Maintain normal blood glucose levels
  5. Keep your cholesterol levels within the normal range
  6. Keep your weight down
  7. Eat a healthy diet
Following all of these behaviors can lower your risk of dying from heart-related illness by 76 percent.  And can lower your risk of dying from anything by 51 percent.  Go here to read the article. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sustainable Living 21

Cap collection waiting to be recycled
One way I try to live sustainably is to recycle as much as possible.  Our local recycling system leaves much to be desired.  We don't have curbside pickup and must take our recycling to one of a handful of sites in our community.  There they have large containers for glass, aluminum and steel cans, paper and cardboard, and #1 and #2 plastic bottles.  It is often discouraging to drop off items at the site because clearly people have their hearts in the right place, but they do not read the instructions and put a variety of unrecyclable materials into the bins.  I've seen plastic bags (not at all recyclable anyway) put in with both the glass and the paper; dirty styrofoam plates with the paper; etc.  It makes me crazy sometimes.  I often worry that these items contaminate whole batches.  However, I'm hopeful that the unusable items are sorted out and the rest is recycled.

Items that hate to send to landfill and was curious about recycling are the various lids that come on food and personal care items:  soda bottle caps, yogurt lids, shampoo bottle lids, etc.  I discovered that Aveda has a bottle cap recycling program but the nearest one to me is about 45 minutes away and not on my usual route when I run errands.  So that was out of the question and I started researching.  I found two sites that will accept caps, lids, and some other #5 plastics.  They are Caps-N-Cups in Indiana and Weisenbach Recycled Products in Ohio through their Caps Can Do program.  

It might seem silly to mail a box of caps for recycling, but when you consider the gas I would use (and do use) to drive to my local recycling centers, it really makes more sense to mail them.  If you're interested in sending items to one of these organizations, check out the web sites as there are some items that they do not take.  Sending the wrong items can taint an entire batch and render your efforts a waste of time.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Quote for the Day

winter passage
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"Our life is frittered away by detail... simplify, simplify."
~Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Refocusing

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This morning I began the process of refocusing my life.  More specifically, I'm working on changing how I use the internet.  One reason I'm doing this is that I've been finding myself spending hours and hours wading through things that are meaningless to me.  That is, I end up reading blog posts and facebook posts that don't enrich my life.  I don't expect any hurt feelings over this as I'm sure there are those out there who feel the same about mine.  Another reason is that I have some life decisions to make that will probably greatly curtail my leisure time.  On Monday I'm beginning my last graduate school class.  At the end of the eight week class, my plans are to be employed in the nonprofit field.  I'm excited about some of the possibilities that are already in the works but I know there will be some major adjustments to make.  Thus, I need to make sure that the leisure time that remains is maximized.

My first task is to reduce the number of blogs I read to fewer than 50.  I tried to get it down to 25 but there are just so many good ones out there.  And by good, I mean ones that enrich my life where I'm at right now on a regular basis.  The rest of the blogs will go into a category titled something like "Blogs to read when I have spare time."  And I can revisit them from time-to-time and consider whether or not they need to be let back into my life.  By the same token, the ones that I will read regularly will need to be evaluated occasionally to ensure they still fit into my life.

Next I'm going to tackle facebook.  I have lots of friends and acquaintances on facebook but really only a few with whom I converse with on a regular basis or whose comments and observations I enjoy and/or learn from.  With most others, I find their posts to just overwhelm me and sometimes even keep me from seeing the posts that I really want to see.  Another problem I have is that, with people who have views that are radically different than mine, I find myself getting angry or negative - something I want to eliminate in my life.  I have a family member who is active in one political party and finally had to hide active members of the other party because of this very problem.  And I see her point.  It's not that other views are bad or even wrong, it's just that when they are obnoxious or what I believe to be closed minded that I have a problem.

Life is too short to too have your leisure time make you crazy!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Are We Really Experiencing Life?

Louis CK talks about Twitter, I-phones, and how we experience life events.  Don't worry, the audio is in English.  (Warning - strong language ahead.)

Watching this resonated with me as I recently posted about being overwhelmed with all that is available to us via the internet.  As Louis CK said, "You shouldn't just do everything that is available to do."

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wellness Wednesday

Just when you think you've heard the end of "pink slime," there's more.  Now it turns out that pink slime is found in 70 percent of ground beef!  Although McDonalds and a few other fast food chains have announced their decision to discontinue the use of this product in their food, American shoppers who believe they are purchasing and eating ground beef are consuming pink slime, as well.  Perhaps it would be best to forgo eating ground beef altogether until there is a guarantee that you are getting the real deal.  I first learned about this issue here.  


This article also points out that a former undersecretary of agriculture, Joann Smith, approved the use of this product in ground beef.  Ms. Smith later went on to serve on the board of directors of BPI, a principle supplier of "pink slime," and "made at least $1.2 million over 17 years" while serving in that capacity.  Makes you wonder what other products have been approved as "food" for human consumption by individuals who have gone on to work for the organizations they helped enrich financially.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sustainable Living 20

I purchased this contraption several years ago (don't ask me what it's called).  I used it to help reuse plastic ziplock bags when my children were in grade school and taking their lunches to school.  However, over the years, I used fewer and fewer plastic ziplock bags so it went into the back of a cabinet and was forgotten.  

When we started farming, my use of ziplock bags increased.  Every growing season, I try to preserve enough vegetables from our garden to last us through the winter and early spring.  I carefully wash, blanch, and freeze a wide variety of produce.  Everything is carefully put into labeled and dated ziplock bags and added to the freezer in our basement.  

Last week I remembered this contraption when I was defrosting some green beans that came from our garden.  I had to go to a potluck so thawed out several bags of beans.  Then it struck me - we freeze the same types of foods over and over again every year.  Rather than using new plastic ziplock bags each year, all I need to do is wash the old bags and then change the date when it's harvest/preserving time.  

So now I have one more way to cut down on what we send to landfill.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Shampoo and Other Products

Hair care 3
Source
A recent article in Mother Jones has reinforced my commitment to reducing and/or eliminating the toxins I am exposed to through personal care products.  Just look at the ingredients label on any personal care product and you will see a multitude of impossible-to-pronounce ingredients - chemicals that are often known carcinogens.  Who wants carcinogens on their bodies?  What is even scarier, though, is the fact that a new study has revealed that many of the chemicals contained in these products aren't even listed on the labels!  This revelation has reinforced my commitment to either make my own products using safer ingredients or purchase from smaller companies and Etsy vendors who are committed to health and wellness.    Go here to read the Mother Jones article.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Quote for the Day

"A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men."
~Gloria Steinem

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Overwhelmed

Computer Music Video
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I love the internet and how it puts so much information at my fingertips.  As a child, my dream life would have been to live in the library - and now the library actually is in my home!  However, as of late, I've felt overwhelmed by all the information.  There is so much I try to keep up with - email, facebook, blogs, google reader, pinterest, news sites, forums, etc. - and I find myself falling behind.  But I feel that if I do not keep up with the "latest," I end up an ill informed person.

Today I finally got around to looking at my google reader for the first time in about a week and I had over 600 unread blog posts!  Our internet provider is not helping as sometimes we loose our connection multiple times in an hour, so even when I do sit down to comb through information, it takes far longer than it should!   How on earth can I ever catch up?  I've got to make some serious decisions about keeping up with what is important to me and discarding the superfluous.  Not easy in this information age.  

Friday, March 9, 2012

Women's History Month

File:Betty Friedan 1960.jpg
Betty Friedan, Mother of the Feminist Movement
March is  Women’s History Month in the United States.   In the Bible Belt where I live, and probably in many other areas of the United States, “feminist” is considered a dirty word.   I want to remind those who demonize the women’s rights movement of all the benefits the women in their lives enjoy as a result of the hard work undertaken by the feminists:

If a woman in your life (e.g., wife, daughter) played sports in school and had family members cheer her on, you can thank the feminists.

If a woman in your life wears pants to school, work, or church, you can thank the feminists.

If a woman in your life has been a victim of domestic violence and found help at a shelter and/or was able to divorce the abuser, you can thank the feminists.

If a woman in your life was raped by her intimate partner and sought legal redress for this crime, you can thank the feminists.

If a woman in your life attended graduate school, medical school, or law school, you can thank the feminists.

If a woman in your life was able to not only keep her job during a pregnancy, but was able to have maternity leave and even be allowed to continue breast feeding after she returned to work, you can thank the feminists.

If woman in your life has run for public office, or if you voted for a woman running for political office, you can thank the feminists.

If a woman in your life was able to continue her education plans after marriage, you can thank the feminists.

If a woman in your life was able to postpone having children until she finished her education or established herself in her career, you can thank the feminists.

If a woman in your life was able to space out her pregnancies so that her health did not suffer, you can thank the feminists.

If a woman in your life is able to have credit cards in her name, regardless of her marital status, you can thank the feminists.

If a woman in your life was able to enter into a “traditionally male” field such as law enforcement, firefighting, or even the ministry, you can thank the feminists.

If a woman in your life receives the same salary as men in her position, you can thank the feminists.

If a woman in your life applied for a job that was listed under “help wanted” and not “female jobs,” you can thank the feminists.

If a woman in your life can expect to be free of sexual harassment at her workplace, or if she experiences it, has legal recourse, you can thank the feminists.

Feminists were responsible for, among other things, the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the 1967 Executive Order extending full affirmative action rights to women, Title IX in 1972, the Women’s Educational Equity Act in 1974, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act in 1974, and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978.

Many individuals who deny the positive achievements of the feminists are reaping the benefits of their hard labor.  It is wrong for individuals to enjoy those benefits without recognizing those who made it possible.  We must honor these women by giving credit where credit is due.  And if see yourself or woman in your life in the above statements, you must admit that you, too, are a feminist.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sustainable Living 19

I know this doesn't look like much.  In fact, you may ask "What is it and what does it have to do with sustainable living?"  Over the course of the last couple of years, I have been taking reusable bags to grocery and other stores.  Therefore, my supply of plastic shopping bags has pretty much dried up.  While that is a good thing, the problem for me is that sometimes I need plastic bags for things, mainly to line my small trashcans and to dispose of things like scooped kitty litter.  What you're looking at is a variety of plastic bags that come from a number of sources.  I save frozen food bags, pet food bags, paper towel wrappers - really any type of bag that can be used just one more time.  Although the plastic ultimately goes to the landfill, I do feel better that I get one last use out of the bags before they go.  That is somewhat better than sending these empty bags to landfill and then going out and buying more bags for kitty litter disposal or for any messy waste that cannot be composted.   


I do strive to buy more and more from bulk bins, but find it almost impossible to eliminate these types of bags altogether.  It is a small task but, as the cliche goes, every little bit helps. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wellness Wednesday

Source
Pink slime.  Sounds delicious, right.  I first learned about this "food" product when I saw an article informing the public that McDonalds would no longer be using it to make their burgers.  What is pink slime?  According to an article on Common Dreams, it is a beef product:
Made by grinding together connective tissue and beef scraps normally destined for dog food and rendering, BPI’s Lean Beef Trimmings are then treated with ammonia hydroxide, a process that kills pathogens such as salmonella and E. coli. The resulting pinkish substance is later blended into traditional ground beef and hamburger patties. 
It was great news to hear that McDonalds, Burger King, and Taco Bell are no longer using this ammonia-infused food in their products.  However, the sad news is that the USDA is planning to purchase it for school lunches.  How bad must it be for McDonalds to reject this product, yet the government believes it's okay for our children?!  You can read the article and see a video by Jamie Oliver (Food Revolution) here.

For my readers who have school-aged children, I recommend you have them buy the vegetarian option. if one is available.  Or, better yet, write the USDA, your local school district, and anyone else you can think of, and protest what is being done to the children of this nation.  And for those of you who have children in private schools, don't assume your school is purchasing a better quality beef.  I seriously doubt it and recommend you investigate.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Farm News

I had a busy afternoon today.  Two new goat babies were born.  One I found in the back pasture.  I happened to notice one of the goats had separated from the others and our guard dog Joey seemed very interested in her.  The kid was already clean and standing when I got to her but it was a task walking her and her mother to the barn.  Here's a photo of the as-yet-unnamed cutie:
After I got mother and baby settled in a stall with food, water, and hay, I went back to make sure I didn't overlook a second baby, which I hadn't.  However, as I was walking back a goat in the barn pasture was crying as if she had lost a baby.  Sure enough, I heard a response.  Again, I had an adventure getting the mother and baby to the barn.  Here are the other troublemakers:
This one was not entirely clean and was still wobbly on her feet.  One more pregnant goat to go.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Quote for the Day

Cloudflowers
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"I ask for daily bread, but not for wealth, lest I forget the poor.
I ask for strength, but not for power, lest I despise the meek.
I ask for wisdom, but not for learning, lest I scorn the simple.
I ask for a clean name, but not for fame, lest I condemn the lowly.
I ask for peace of mind, but not for idle hours,
lest I fail to hearken to the call of duty."

~Inazo Nitobe

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Catch Up

Blogging has become a bit more difficult for me this past week since I'm finishing up my next-to-the-last class for my master's degree.  Writing a research paper takes away time I could otherwise spend blogging.  If all goes as planned, I'll be finished in May.  Then I need to make some decisions as to what direction my career is going to take, whether it be working in a paid position, finding the right volunteer job to match my skills and interests, a combination of both, or something altogether different. 


Bill (the farmer) and Joey (the guard dog)

I've been meaning to do an update or two on the goings on at the farm, including some photos, but I haven't made that happen yet.  We're up to over 50 goats - and more babies on the way.  This year, with my husband in retirement from his first career, we're doing a very small CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where individuals buy shares of food from our farm and we deliver it to them on a weekly basis during the growing season.  My contribution will be to grow some herbs to supplement the vegetables and eggs that will be in the food bags.  My husband is also working on getting our website up and running again.  We do have a facebook page (White Flint Farm), so you can go "like" it whenever you have the chance. 


I've gotten very involved with a local ministry that works with people who are homeless, as well as people who have been homeless or are at risk of being homeless.  I'm starting to make some of the lunches that are distributed to friends in need in the downtown area.  Some of our members go out about three times a week, distributing the lunches and just spending time with people who need some TLC.  One thing our group does is a potluck dinner on Thursday nights at the home of a local pastor (who will soon be leaving his church go work full time on the ministry), plus we have a book or Bible study immediately following dinner.  Right now we're reading The Secret Message of Jesus by Brian McLaren.  It's refreshing to be able to have the kinds of conversations we have without being told I am rebelling against God, condemning myself to hell, or that I'm not the *right kind* of Christian.  I don't have to bite my tongue all the time.  Very refreshing.  The only other place I feel this way is in my women's interfaith group.  There we can also have frank conversations.  No one is trying to convert another; we're just trying to understand one another.  There are no *right* answers, only conversation.  As one member described us, we're a community.  Very refreshing.


That's all the catch up time I have.  Hope your weekend is wonderful!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Sustainable Living 18

Are you like me and love spreadable butter but hate the plastic tubs it comes in?  Then this recipe is for you:
Soft Butter Spread

2 sticks butter (or Earth Balance vegan butter substitute) at room temperature
1/2 cup safflower oil (or you can experiment with other oils)

Blend butter with oil until fluffy, then slowly add oil.  Chill.  

It's that easy.  The original recipe called for 1/2 cup water, as well, but I didn't like the consistency of the final product.