Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013

Affordable Care?

I'm not a happy camper right now.  Why?  Because I finally took the plunge and decided to see how the Affordable Care Act would save me money.  It was a given, right?  This program was designed to save low-income families money.  Since we're a self-employed family, we've had to purchase our own health insurance for the past 2 years.  Of course, the premium is high, despite having only a catastrophic policy with a very high deductible.  Which was fine with us as we didn't want a lot of the "bells and whistles" that comes with health insurance.  But today I decided to look into the government's health insurance "marketplace."  I really, really expected to be happy with the results.  However, I. WAS. STUNNED.  

Below is information that I copied from the actual website.  I included the lowest and highest "bronze" levels and the lowest and highest "gold" levels available in our state.  The lowest of all is still much higher than what we currently have.  So I ask individuals who have employer-provided insurance, who do not have to purchase plans through the government "marketplace," and who believe the studies that say this program is good for everyone, especially low income individuals:  Do you think these premiums and deductibles are fair and affordable?  Please remember, despite all the studies you read that say this program is good, this is not an academic exercise.  People like us are actually going to have to pay these premiums - low income people like us.  And please don't assume that anyone who is upset about this program is an opponent of the president because that's not true.  

Lowest Bronze:

Monthly premium




Out–of–pocket maximum


Copayments / Coinsurance

Highest Bronze:

Monthly premium




Out–of–pocket maximum


Copayments / Coinsurance

Lowest Gold:

Monthly premium




Out–of–pocket maximum


Copayments / Coinsurance

Highest Gold:  

Monthly premium




Out–of–pocket maximum


Copayments / Coinsurance

I tried to use the live chat option but immediately got a message that they were busy.  And since they keep making up changing the rules as they go along, I don't really understand all the details (and I have a master's degree).  I found a web site that said we "might" be eligible for cost-sharing.  What that means is we might get some kind of tax credit that is sent directly to the insurance company.  How nice for the insurance company to instantly have access to taxpayer dollars - more than what I'm currently sending them.  What a nice bonus for them.  I've said it before and I'll say it again:  why on earth do we not have single-payer health insurance - like Vermont has chosen - instead of this nightmare?  Do I sound upset? You betcha.  

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Quote for the Day

"One's philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes."
~Eleanor Roosevelt

Friday, December 27, 2013

Farm Friday

This week we decided to take a break for the holidays and to give the gardens a chance to rest so we aren't making deliveries until the new year.  However, the goats did not take any time off and we've had a number of kids born.  Unfortunately, as in the past, kidding this time of year is always hard and we lost a number of babies.  We had a particularly difficult time with our goat Susie.  We were pretty sure she was in labor but were hesitant to intervene as that can sometimes cause problems.  After about 24 hours, we knew we had to help her.  While I was examining her, I realized her baby was breech.  There was no way I could turn the kid but I was able to get its legs in a good position and pulled it.  As we feared, it was stillborn.  Although we don't know if an earlier intervention would have made a difference, if we suspect a goat is in labor in the future, we won't let it go as long.  Fortunately, Susie seems to have recovered her trauma, with no ill effects.  Goat herding is a learning process.

On a positive note, we have nine new baby goats!  Sharona, who I called "mother of the year" after she successfully delivered and raised triples during this past harsh winter, has done it again.  Here's another goat, Barbie, with not only her own kid, but Sharona's three cuddled up with her:

On a side note, I've gotten back into making my own vegetable stock and was able to put up 12 cups this week.  I'm also trying some new recipes and, if they turn out well, I'll share one or two of them.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Reminder

Since we're still and the Christmas season (which goes from the first Sunday in Advent until Epiphany) and in light of the recent controversy, I thought I'd share this from Huffington Post:

What Jesus says about homosexuality is..
blank page
.. he doesn't mention it.

But he does have a lot to say about the poor.  Go to the story's slide show to learn more.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Wishing everyone a merry Christmas, a happy New Year, and Peace on earth.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Mary of Nazareth

Madonna of the Village - Marc Chagall
On the eve of our celebration of the birth of Jesus, I want to honor his mother by sharing her words upon learning of her pregnancy, commonly called The Magnificat (this translation found in the Book of Common Prayer):  
The Magnificat

My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him throughout all generations.
He hath shewed strength with his arm he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever. 

And here is Jennifer Knapp's beautiful song about Mary:

Monday, December 23, 2013

Monday Morning Amusement

Dogs and bath time - see how some react:

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Quote for the Day

"To be beautiful means to be yourself.  You don't need to be accepted by others.  You need to accept yourself."
~Thich Nhat Hanh

Friday, December 20, 2013

Farm Friday

A few highlights from the week:

  • We held a very productive Chemical-Free Farms of Southern Virginia meeting at our house on Tuesday night.
  • We've been busy filling produce and meat orders.  We now deliver two days a week, to three different locations.
  • I sold two aprons, one to a friend who is one of my best customers.
  • Word is spreading about my granola and I think I will have more sales.
  • I tried to make potato chips in my dehydrator and it was a big fail.  Not sure if I'll attempt it again.
  • I bought this book (used, of course) and am looking forward to curling up with it and gleaning some good homesteading information:

  • I was surprised to find at our local Goodwill the very issue of Mary Jane's Farm that I had been looking for:

  • The most exciting news is that we had two baby goats born this afternoon.  Here's the proud mama Bonnie with her babies, a boy and a girl:

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

One Word - Plastics

This is why I'm working so hard to eliminate plastics in my life:
(Go here for a better view.)

We've gotten so accustomed to having plastic in our lives that those of us who refuse things like plastic bags at the store are viewed as odd.  What is odd, though, is how we don't question where plastic comes from or where it is going.  It's almost as if people think there is a little plastics fairy who creates and destroys it.  The sad truth is that we use precious fuels in manufacturing plastic, polluting our environment in the process, and then trashing our land and water with the discards.  As I've said before, recycling does not legitimately address the problem.  Refusal (to use it) and reduction do.  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Wellness Wednesday

We're now well into the season of over indulgence and will soon be embarking on the short-lived season of "New Year's Resolutions," with "lose weight" often being the number one resolution.  Below are some tips to help ensure your success:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Taste of Tuesday

I made an easy classic soup on Saturday:  Egg Drop Soup.  I used farm-fresh eggs and green onions that I grow in my windowsill by putting bulbs from store-bought green onions in a container of water.  I get about three cuttings from a bunch.  My only regret was that I didn't have homemade vegetable stock but instead had to use Better than Bouillon.  Next time I make it, everything will be from the farm except for the seasoning and oil.

Egg Drop Soup

4 cups vegetable broth
2 eggs, lightly beaten
sliced green onions (about 2)
salt and pepper to taste
dash of toasted sesame oil (optional)

Bring the vegetable broth to a boil, then add the salt, pepper and oil.  While the broth is still boiling, slowly add the eggs in a steady stream, stirring in a clockwise motion for about a minute as the eggs cook.

Bon appetit!.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Monday Morning Amusement

Love the goat pictures by Alexander Gorlizki and featured in this essay.  Here's a sampling:

Although the goats are cute as can be, the sweaters (and other textiles) serve a purpose.  The goats lived in India during the winter and, due to low body fat, needed the sweaters to keep them warm.  Go to the article to see more.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Quote for the Day

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality.  To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."
~Buckminster Fuller

Friday, December 13, 2013

Farm Friday

Last week I neglected to post a "Farm Friday" and almost didn't today.  With winter just around the corner, life on the farm is going at a slower pace and so there's less to write about.  Her are a few highlights:

Bill has gone hunting a couple of times and got two deer.  He's having them made into summer sausage and the next one he will have made into a combination of ground meat, stew meat, and cube steak.  Although I don't eat meat, Bill does, but he refuses to eat industrial meat (i.e., meat from tortured animals) so this is one of his few sources for meat. While eating meat or not is a personal choice, I believe that if you do eat meat, you need to accept the cruelty behind the grocery store meat.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, go to this article in Rolling Stone.  And please don't say you don't want to know and that you "need" meat.  First of all, your not knowing doesn't help the animals who are tortured; they still feel the pain.  Secondly, you don't need as much protein as you think you do and many people (me!) lead perfectly healthy lives without eating meat.  Plus there are meat options available to you that don't involve industrial agriculture.

Last week Bill and I took a road trip to Richmond, the capitol.  He went as he was invited to represent small agriculture on a committee that is part of the governor-elect's transition team.  I had to do some grants research at one of the Foundation Center's cooperating libraries (these libraries have access to its online database) and I learned that the Richmond library, which is about eight blocks from the capitol, was one of those libraries.  I also needed to go to a health food store and knew I could find one in Richmond.  We ended up going to a small independent one called Good Foods Grocery that had a fantastic bulk foods section.  It was a win-win day as we got to spend the day together plus it saved me an additional trip to Greensboro.  Good for us, good for the environment.

Our CSA has ended but we're having more preorders than ever before.  We're now down to deliveries two days a week.  Bill and I finally set down and worked out a system for dividing the labor involved with filling orders.  This is the first week with this new system and it seems to be working rather well.

As part of my winter slow down and also as part of my information overload/burnout, I've embarked on a reading marathon, reading nothing but thrillers and suspense novels. Sometimes one needs to take a break from trying to save the world.;)

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wellness Wednesday

Water, water, everywhere water, and yet not a drop to drink.  Or at least most of us don't drink nearly enough.  Here's a reminder of why we need water and how good it is for us:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Pale Blue Dot

Carl Sagan's narrative demonstrates the "folly of our human conceits" and the fleeting nature of the results in our quest for power and control.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Quote for the Day

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
~Nelson Mandela

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Social Justice Saturday: Street Harassment

I love this artwork and social commentary by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh.  And I think any woman who has been hassled on the street - and that would be most women - can appreciate her sentiment.  Here's a sampling of her work:
Why is this social justice?  Because women are often subjected to unwelcome attention and harassment by men merely for walking down the street.  And when we react negatively to this unwelcome attention, it is turned into our problem.  Simply for minding our own business females have to endure sexist comments that often start with whistles and cat calls and, when the harasser is ignored, the comments become aggressive and derogatory.  

More of her work can be found here at Mother Jones. 

*This morning I ran across a YouTube on this very topic so I'm sharing it (warning:  strong language ahead):

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Wellness Wednesday

For years, I was addicted to diet soft drinks - yes, me.  When I finally decided to kick the habit, I truly realized that is was a real addiction.  The same week that I decided to quit for good, my husband's great aunt fell, broke her hip, and had surgery.  When we were in the hospital during her procedure, all I could think about was the soft drink machine down the hall.  I kept thinking that I'll just have one more and then I'll quit.  When someone was going to the cafeteria to pick up a snack, I was tempted to ask them to pick up a diet soda for me.  This was all I could think about while an 80+ year old woman was in surgery.  How wrong is that?  It was then that I truly realized how bad those sodas were and how seriously addicted I was.  I didn't stop at the soft drink machine that day nor did I ask anyone to bring me a soda.  I broke free of my addiction and hopefully my health will not suffer from the years I consumed mass quantities of the stuff.

The reason I decided to quit in the first place was the artificial sweetener aspartame (known as Equal and NutraSweet), an excitotoxin linked to numerous serious diseases.  Aspartame is so widely used now that you have to be very careful and read labels of things like flavored yogurt because they often contain this artificial sweetener.

Sucralose, trade name Splenda, is another artificial sweetener that is marketed as a healthy alternative to sugar.   Studies have shown it can cause cancer in mice and was recently downgraded by the FDA from "safe" to "caution."  (You know that, considering all the pressure put on them by large corporations, when the FDA negatively changes a safety rating it has to be bad.) 

In addition to the impact on personal health (go to the hyperlinks I've included for aspartame and Splenda to learn about the side affects), sucralose has an environmental impact. Since the human body isn't able to break down the components of this chemical, 90% of it is excreted and ultimately ends up in our drinking water and the environment.  And it doesn't seem to break down once it's there, either.  Who knows what problems it will cause in the long run.

For the sake of your health and the environment (so everyone else's health), step away from the pretty colored packets of chemicals.  When you want to sweeten your food, natural is always better.

(Story source:  http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/11/19/my-artificial-sweetener-addiction-is-hurting-the-planet)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Taste of Tuesday

One of my latest "experiments" is growing pea sprouts/shoots.  I chewed one to see how it tasted and it seemed a bit tough.  So I did a little research and learned I could just harvest the tops and that will encourage new growth.  Here's my growing tray after I took a little off the top:
While doing my research I found a comment in a discussion board from someone who shared a family recipe (source).  I gave it a try and it was fantastic!  Here's the recipe for you to enjoy:

Korean Pea Shoot Salad
Pea shoots
1 T garlic, chopped
2 T soy sauce
1 T sugar
1 t sesame oil (I used toasted sesame oil)
1/2 t red pepper flakes (I used less)
1 T sesame seeds

Blanch the pea shoots for 1 minute, then rinse in cold water and squeeze out the excess water. Mix the rest of the ingredients and pour over the pea shoots.  Refrigerate and serve cold.

Bon appetit!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday Morning Amusement

Since the topic of this post turned out to be very controversial, I've decided to remove it.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Quote for the Day

"A tree is an incomprehensible mystery."
~Jim Woodring

Friday, November 29, 2013

Farm Friday

The holidays are upon us.  It seems as if this year has zipped by at the speed of light.  Hanukkah started Wednesday night and Thanksgiving was yesterday.  It was an historic occurrence.  Hanukkah won't precede Thanksgiving again for 78,000 years!  Of course Christmas less than a month away and then there's the new year - 2014!

On the farm, we're wrapping up our CSA.  We made our last Monday deliveries and tomorrow will be our final Saturday ones.  We would be done with Thursday deliveries but for the holiday.  As long as the gardens hold out, we will still be making deliveries of special orders a couple of days a week.  Monday night, after our deliveries, we purchased 22 more chickens.  It seems that a predator (probably a hawk) has been slowing picking off our younger chickens so we needed to replace them to keep up with the demand for our eggs.  They're too young to lay eggs but, come springtime they'll start producing.
Photo: We have 22 new pullets (young hens) on the farm now, including this one.  Her friends are too camera shy to allow us good pictures yet.
Photo courtesy of awesome husband
Saturday was a hectic day for me.  First I  had a craft show to work, from 8-2.  After several years of poor sales, I was very pleased with the turnout and the sales.  This year I only sold aprons and my "therapy pillows" that you can use hot or cold.  Here's a blurry photo of my booth (wish I had taken more than one photo but I was in a hurry and had to deal with crowds coming between the camera and the booth):
It was a fun show and I got to catch up on the lives of family, friends, and acquaintances who stopped by to see me.  I also made some new friends - woman at the booth next to mine and the couple and their friend who were across from me.

After the show, I raced home to get ready for our second meeting of Piedmont Sustainable Living, which started at 5 (no nap for me!).  We had a smaller turnout due to scheduling conflicts for a lot of people but we also had some new attendees.  Several of us ended up talking until about 9 that night.  

I also decided to take a week off.  I believe this is the first time in four years of working for Danita's Children (either as a volunteer or as a staff member) that I have officially take time off.  I've been enjoying just relaxing and not thinking about the details of running the missions program.  I'm thinking I'll do the same thing Christmas week.

On Wednesday I went up to our farmhouse to get the juicer that I thrifted a number of years ago but never got around to using.  While it's not the proper type for juicing greens (it's a centrifugal juicer rather than a masticating one, the latter being much more expensive and harder to thrift), I managed to make it work for me and made my first green juice:

Given all the nutritious and chemical-free greens that we have on  the farm, I'm going to be doing more of this over the coming weeks.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving, despite the fact that this is the first Thanksgiving that our children were not home.  Overall, it was a smaller crowd than usual since some family members have moved away and others had to work today.  But it was a delicious feast and we were grateful to be together.  This year we held Thanksgiving and Bill's grandfather's house (he's deceased but a family member now owns the home) which, until his grandmother passed away, was the traditional location for Thanksgiving for one branch of the family.  Here's a sampling of the homemade food:

Sadly, today is "Black Friday,"  the day when Americans, having spent a pleasant day being grateful for what we have, go on a shopping rampage.  I wonder what people from other countries and cultures must think of us.  Especially when there are advertisements like this:

And ugly scenes like this:
Seriously, this is what we do to honor the birth of Christ?  Guns and mob scenes?!  Here in the Bible buckle I constantly hear about how we're a Christian nation and how our faith and our observance of religious holidays are being "threatened."  However, given that the Pew Forum found that almost 80% of Americans identified as Christian, it seems that the threat comes from within.  What would happen if we all said "no," all 80% of us, and just stayed home today? And tomorrow?  And next week?  What if we opted out of the entire commercialization of the holiday and, instead, extended the gratitude that we expressed yesterday?  It would be revolutionary - and would not prevent us from observing the holiday. Somehow we - the Christians, not those other  people who "threaten our way of life" - have lost sight of what the season means.  Our words and our actions don't match.  If even half of the people who profess to be Christians stayed home, that would mean other families could also stay home with their loved ones.  And avoid a lot of the stress (and associated health problems) that commercialization has created.  If not us, then who?  Instead of fighting over "Happy Holidays" versus "Merry Christmas," maybe we should adopt the phrase, "Just Say No."

Today begins my new challenge.  For 120 days - until the Spring Equinox - I will not be buying anything new.  Although I've made a few exceptions (toiletries, underwear, shoes, etc.), I have decided to look to thrift and consignment shops when I need something.  By shopping this way, I avoid supporting systems that go against my beliefs. I won't support slave labor, contribute to environmental degradation, or participate in the runaway capitalism and materialism that has become our culture.  Besides, why should I jump into the madness when much of what people are buying (and fighting for) in the next few weeks will be found deeply discounted at the thrift shops immediately after Christmas?  That's how I got my juicer, and my bread machine, and...and...and...

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving apples corns pumkins basket candles
"Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving."
~W. T. Purkiser

Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving Day!