Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wellness Wednesday

I've been reading one of Dr. Neal Barnard's latest books, 21-Day Weight Loss Kickstart.   I initially picked it up at the library because I knew it would have some good recipes in it.  I first became familiar with Dr. Barnard's work when I took a series of cooking classes through The Cancer Project, an organization he is very involved with that focuses on dietary changes as a way to prevent cancer and to increase survival rates for cancer patients.  I've ended up reading almost all of the book because he shares so many interesting health facts.  Dr. Barnard is an advocate of vegan diets because, as he points out, so many of the diseases we have in the west are tied to fat and cholesterol consumption.  Animal products have much more fat (and often the unhealthy type) than vegetables and grains and plant products have zero cholesterol.

Some of the facts that jumped out at me were the changes in the quantities of food we eat.  For instance, did you know that in the last 100  years, meat intake has risen from about 124 pounds per person per year to over 200 pounds.  Cheese consumption was less than 4 pounds a year; now it is 33 pounds!  He also points out that we've been sold a bill of goods on chicken. He says that "chicken's fat content isn't much different from beef's (about 29 percent for lean beef, 23 percent for skinless chicken breast)."  

Now that you know some of the ways our eating habits have changed, I encourage you, if you're a meat eater, to cut back on the amount of meat in your diet.  One of the nutrition courses I'm taking pointed out that if you get most of your protein from meat, you only need - at most - a palm-sized portion once a day.  You might also look at your plate size.  About 100 years ago, a typical dinner plate was 9 inches; now they're about 12.  By decreasing the size of your plate, you can trick your mind into feeling fuller since it gives the illusion of more food.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Taste of Tuesday

This week I'm sharing a long-time favorite at our house.  I made it earlier this week but forgot to take a photo.

Dried Plum and Sweet Potato Roast
(Serves 4)

4 small sweet potatoes
12 dried plums (prunes)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cut sweet potatoes into 1-in pieces.  Place sweet potatoes and dried plums in bowl, toss with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, stirring once during baking.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Quote for the Day

"Time is the wisest counsellor of all."

Friday, February 22, 2013

Farm Friday

Brownie and his brother
Another busy week on the farm.  On Friday afternoon, the founder of Danita's Children and its U.S. both visited our farm.  It was good to see them and their spouses.  I recently realized that my third anniversary of working for the organization had quietly passed.  I was only involved as a donor/child sponsor until the earthquake hit in 2010.  When that happened, I was fortunate to be in a position where I could assist by, among other things, responding to all of the generous people who wanted to help.  It doesn't seem possible that I have been shepherding people through their mission trip experience for that long!

Saturday we got some snow, but it had all melted by Sunday morning.  Saturday night was the monthly meeting of Chemical Free Farms of Southern Virginia.  We're busy planning several open houses at member farms to help introduce our community to a better way of farming - and eating.  On Sunday, Bill and I had what has now become our regular weekly "farm meeting" where we go over the business of farming - what we need to do over the coming weeks and months and who is going to do what.  It might seem silly to have a meeting when we're together almost 24-7 but often details get pushed off until "later" and then don't get done.  This way, we are able to construct a plan and then make it happen.  

On Monday, we started seeds indoors - a first for us.  We've put a mini greenhouse with grow lights in one of our bedrooms to get our seeds growing and get a head start on the season.  We used a couple of different types of soil and one seemed to work better than another.  The sprouts also started to get "leggy," so Bill lowered the lights so the plants don't have to reach so far to get what they need.  We're learning as we go.

Tuesday proved interesting when the horse got out of the pasture just before dinner - and just as it was getting dark.  He's a cranky horse and won't come to you.  I ended up with a broken pair of glasses and a skinned up nose trying to get him to where he belonged.  Fortunately, our neighbor who actually owns him was able to coax him back into the pasture.

We lost two goats this week.  One we suspect contracted a parasite that is passed on by whitetail deer, which we have in abundance, and another, our second and younger buck, to intestinal parasites.  Parasites are a huge problem for goats as they have evolved to eat "browse," that is bushes and small trees, but raising them in captivity means they graze on grass.  This puts them in close contact with a multitude of parasites.  Unfortunately, conventional treatment in the past (that is, what the agriculture and veterinary schools have taught) is to routinely and regularly treat herds with worm medication.  The problem with this course of treatment is it increases the numbers of parasites that are medication resistant.  At a conference we attended, one veterinarian (who had been educated to routinely worm goats) told us that the parasite problem has gotten so bad that, in the future, it may be impossible to raise goats.  One solution is to raise a closed herd (not bring any new goats onto the farm) and to only treat the extremely ill goats with an aggressive dose of medication with the hopes that you kill all the parasites and not leave any resistant.  Another is to not allow parasite prone goats to breed.  And the hardest solution is to allow nature to take its course and to not treat at all.  So we have to decide:  do we want to focus on the present and possibly be a part of the demise of domesticated goats in the U.S. or do we look to the future and sacrifice some goats now for the good of subsequent generations?  A tough place to be.

We decided to replace the young buck with one we already had on the farm.  We moved him and his mother Nellie, our alpha female, into the breeding pasture.  This gave us a few minutes of entertainment as we watched the typical epic goat battle that goes on when changes are made and the pecking order has to be re-established.  It is interesting to see who decides to challenge the new goat.  We decided to name the new buck Valentino.

And just so you know how happy our goats are, I'm leaving you with this photo of Ramona smiling for the camera:
Beautiful Ramona
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Living without Facebook


I have been officially off facebook since Feburary 4.  And guess what?  I'm not missing it.  At.  All.  In fact, I've found life to be more pleasant and productive.  Facebook is one of those things that you start in on to "just see what's going on" and then you get sucked in.  Because, depending on how many "friends" and "likes" you have, it is essentially a bottomless pit; there is no conclusion to it.  So before you know it, you have wasted hours of your precious time reading about...nonsense.  

Not being on facebook has freed enough time for me to take two online nutrition classes.  I've also found more time to organize my world - to get more done around the house and farm.  I have started walking again and resumed my home yoga practice.  One difference between facebook and real activities is that I can schedule the things I want to get accomplished.  I have a definite beginning time and ending time; I know how long a particular activity will take.  But with facebook, you set out to take a couple of minutes to catch up on things and before you know it, you've wasted a good chunk of time.

And my experience is that on facebook, people don't censor themselves.  You get to see a really dark side to people - you see ugly, prejudiced, and even sometimes ignorant, comments that end up making you angry - or sad.  It changes my opinion of people - and sometimes I lose respect for them.  Who needs that.  

Will I go back on facebook?  Maybe.  But if I do, I will carefully choose what I will allow on my feed - and I'll set a concrete time limit for it, as well.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wellness Wednesday

woman holding delicious grapefruit in her hand

Hang in there if you're still keeping (or trying to keep) your New Year's resolutions to get fit, eat healthy, and/or lose weight.  After a few years of going to the gym on a regular basis, I noticed that from January through February, I always saw lots of new faces in my weekly classes.  By March, however, we were back to the regulars and stayed that way until...January.  

Often I hear people comment that they're "on a diet."  The hidden message behind this simple comment is that 1) they're approaching it from a position of deprivation - even if they're eating the freshest, healthiest, tastiest food they've ever had - and 2) they see it as temporary.  That is, they believe that once they've lost the weight and they're done with the "diet" life can go back to the way it used to be.  The problem with this is that their past eating habits are what put the weight on in the first place.  As they say, stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again...and expecting different results.

In order to lose weight and keep it off, you need to develop new habits, new patterns of eating, and a new attitude.  Eating fresh foods that actually nourish your body shouldn't be seen as deprivation.  Actually, eating processed foods and artificial ingredients is deprivation.  Your body needs the micro-nutrients found in whole unprocessed grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables.  When you don't get them, your body really is being deprived and is probably sending you a variety of distress signals that you continue to ignore - or mask with prescription drugs.

Do yourself a favor - ditch those fad diets, get an attitude adjustment, and go for a kitchen makeover.  Feeding your body what it actually needs is not deprivation.  And don't take the stupidity route by returning to the habits that got you in trouble in the first place.  Educate yourself.  Get to your local library (or search good resources on the internet), read up on healthy eating, and find easy and delicious recipes made with fresh and natural ingredients.  Your body will thank you.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

25 Years

25 years ago today I said "I do" to this man:

The love of my life, my best friend, and my soul mate.  Little did I know what I was saying "I do" to!  In those 25 years we've raised two beautiful children, traveled around the world, lived an urban life in the heart of Tampa, and moved to rural Virginia where we raise organic vegetables and goats - and did lots of wonderful living in between it all.  I'm looking forward to seeing what the next 25 years will bring.

In the meantime, I'm dedicating this song to Bill:

Monday, February 18, 2013

Proud Mother

As a parent, you sometimes have to brag about your children - even when they're grown.  So I have to share a photo of my daughter doing what's near and dear to her heart - and mine (she's the blonde one):

I think this young woman (and her friends) might just change the world.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Quote for the Day

File:George Eliot at 30 by Fran├žois D'Albert Durade.jpg
"What do we live for if not to make the world less difficult for each other."
~George Eliot

Friday, February 15, 2013

Farm Friday

Last weekend we attended the Virginia Association of Biological Farmers' annual conference in Richmond.  We weren't able to stay for the entire conference (in fact we had to drive back and forth over the two days) due to our bottle-fed kids.  The highlight of the conference for me was hearing Kristin Kimball and her husband speak.  Kristin is the author of a book called The Dirty Life:  A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love.  She and her husband run a full year, full diet CSA in Upstate New York.  If you're interested in farming, I highly recommend this very entertaining book.  I also attended a couple of sessions on natural/organic pest control.  I believe I'm becoming an expert on garden pests.

We watched several good movies this week:  Craigslist Joe, Farmageddon, Safety Not Guaranteed, and Our Daily Bread.  Craigslist Joe is a documentary based on the title character's desire to see if there is still good in the world by living entirely off Craigslist for 31 days.  For this period of time, he depended upon the kindness of strangers for food, shelter, and entertainment, as he left home without any money, credit cards, or contact with family and friends

Farmageddon was a disturbing moving about agriculture, mainly the dairy industry.  It shows how small family farms are repeatedly harassed by government agencies.  Rules are written by and for corporate agriculture then those rules are used to close down smaller operations.  While all problems within our food system (i.e., recalls, food poisoning) occur as a result of mishandling or abuse of products by industrial farms, it is the small farmers that receive the brunt of government punishment, even when there have been no problems with their products.  On a related topic, Our Daily Bread focuses entirely on industrial agriculture.  This movie is unusual as it tells the tale without any dialog.  Not for the squeamish.

We really enjoyed Safety Not Guaranteed.   It was actually funny - without being raunchy.  It's so hard to find a decent comedy that isn't just plain vulgar.  I'm not a prude (this move IS rated "R") but I do get tired of movies appealing to the lowest common denominator.  

I took some photos this week but never got around to uploading them.  Maybe next week...

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Poem: The Underworld

I found the following poem on The Writer's Almanac.  It reminds me so much of my experience with my bird feeders.  When we first moved to Virginia, we rented an old farmhouse from Bill's great aunt and uncle.  I hung a bird feeder in the tree next to our back door and just outside the window of our family room.  I loved to watch the wide assortment of birds come to eat.  When we finally completed our house and were able to move to our own farm, I hung out a feeder and waited...and waited...and waited.  There were no birds.  Later we realized the lack of birds was due to the lack of insects and that was due to the way the earth had been abused, decade after decade, with the growing of tobacco using conventional methods.  Now, since we've carefully tended the land, the insects are back (both the good and the bad) and the birds are here, as well.  No more silent spring for us.

The Underworld
by Sharon Bryan

When I lived in the foothills
birds flocked to the feeder:

house finches, goldfinches,
skyblue lazuli buntings,

impeccably dressed chickadees,
sparrows in work clothes, even

hummingbirds fastforwarding
through the trees. Some of them

disappeared after a week, headed
north, I thought, with the sun.

But the first cool day
they were back, then gone,

then back, more reliable
than weathermen, and I realized

they hadn't gone north at all,
but up the mountain, as invisible

to me as if they had flown
a thousand miles, yet in reality

just out of sight, out of reach—
maybe at the end of our lives

the world lifts that slightly
away from us, and returns once

or twice to see if we've refilled
the feeder, if we still remember it,

or if we've taken leave
of our senses altogether.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wellness Wednesday

Exercise in the 1950's
Some people believe it's impossible to get fit due to financial, seasonal, or other limitations.  However, you don't need to join a gym, purchase DVDs, buy a Wii, or even go outside, to get physical.  For those who want to workout but lack resources, are limited by weather, or just need extra motivation, all that's needed is an internet connection and a screen.  

A search on YouTube revealed a plethora of exercise videos - everything from beginner to advanced level workouts.   Leslie Sanone and Jane Fonda walking videos can be accessed there.  Fitness Blender has a wide variety of videos, from beginner bootcamps to cardio yoga.  Cassie Ho of Blogilates has her own "POP Pilates" videos.  BeFit has numerous videos with top trainers.   And that's just the beginning.   If you need extra guidance, you can pop over to SparkPeople to see their exercise demos, workout videos, and fitness calculators.

Not all types of exercise - or even the trainers - will appeal to everyone (There are one or two celebrity trainers who grate on my nerves).  Check out a variety of videos to see what (or who) appeals to  you, then get started and stick with it!

Of course, before you begin an exercise program you need to check with your health care provider.  And be wary of any homemade exercise videos as you don't want to perform any exercise that may cause injury.

I'll leave you with a sample of what is out there.  This video shows that even people who live in close quarters can find a way to exercise.  Join Coach Nicole of SparkPeople and Cassie Ho of Blogilates in this seven minute quickie called "Quiet Cardio":

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Taste of Tuesday

File:Flickr stevendepolo 3427412201--Taco Bell tacos.jpg
Today I'm sharing my taco seasoning recipe.  It's very simple to make your own seasoning - and it eliminates those pesky bags that the premixed seasoning comes in.  Making your own helps ensure there's nothing like MSG or other undesirables lurking in your seasoning mix.   I might also add that those bags that can't even be recycled.

Taco Seasoning

1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion flakes or onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2-1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Add 2-3 tablespoons plus 1/2-3/4 cup water to 1 pound of cooked meat.  Simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently until very little liquid is left in the pan.

I've added this mix to soy crumbles for a vegetarian dish and even added it to some sauteed sliced onions for a vegan/vegetarian taco or burrito filling then added other fixings to it.  You can always double or triple this recipe so that you don't have to make it up very often.

Bon appetit!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Quote for the Day

the moon 1
"Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening sees it close;
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night's repose."
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Poem: Dreams

Bird against sunset
by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field 
Frozen with snow.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Farm Friday

We were more about the business of farming this week.   The t-shirts we ordered arrived and we were pleased with how they came out.  We also designed and printed some of our new farm brochures, which was just in time to pass out at a speaking engagement.  Bill spoke at a local garden club and the members were enthusiastic about our message and what we do.  Yesterday, I even got a call from one of the ladies who was looking to purchase eggs and produce.

We'll be going to a farm conference later in the week and hope to learn much from it and to network with other farmers.  I was especially delighted that they offered a vegan option for dinner one evening.

I'm happy that the days are longer.  I realized how the daylight hours are extending when I was making dinner one night and noticed it was still light at 6:00.  Some of my flower bulbs are starting to poke through the ground.  One crocus has even started to show a bloom.  Yay for the coming spring!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Wellness Wednesday

Continuing with my recurring theme of New Year's resolutions, one that many people make is to quit smoking.  Often, this resolution falls apart within the first couple of weeks and then people give up, feeling like failures.  If you made that resolution and didn't stick with it, it's not too late.  Every day is a new beginning.  If you can't do it alone, get help.  For starters, contact your local hospital to see if it has a program you can join.  For online help, has a list of links to online forums and in-person groups.

During my reading last night, I stumbled upon this startling information, "Smoking tobacco constitutes the most dangerous form of substance abuse in the world.  Damage from it dwarfs that of marijuana, cocaine, and heroin....It is estimated that by 2030, if present trends continue, tobacco will be the biggest cause of death in the world, with 10 million fatalities a year."*  If that's not sobering information, I don't know what is.

*Source:  It's All for Sale:  The Control of Global Resources by James Ridgeway

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Taste of Tuesday

Taste of Tuesday is going to be a temporary feature on my blog, a time to share recipes I've made and liked.  One of my favorite recipes I adapted from one I found on SparkPeople's recipe site and is great because it's quick, easy, healthy, inexpensive, and can be made from pantry items.  

Black Bean Soup

2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup salsa
2 teaspoons taco seasoning (optional)
cilantro (optional)

Heat the ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat.  Transfer to a blender or use an immersion blender to puree to desired consistency.  Garnish with cilantro.

You can use other seasonings, such as cumin, or add onion or garlic or even a dollop of low-fat Greek yogurt.  Different flavors of salsa would also be fun to experiment with.

Bon appetit!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Practical Yet Frivolous

Nomad Women's Puddles Rain Boot
A few weeks ago I thought the rain would never stop.  It rained for four straight days and on the fifth day the rain turned to snow.  It was on the second day of rain that I realized my trusty orchid pink gardening clogs were not suited to that kind of weather - that is, after I stepped in a cold puddle of water that soaked my socks.  Since at the time it was just rain, my snow boots would have been a bit of overkill.  So after much research, I decided on this pair of leopard print "wellies."  There were so many to choose from - from solid colors to conservative plaids to psychedelic peace signs.  But these babies were on sale in my size and, as part of my move to start channeling Lisa Douglas, I decided to go for the glam.  I think I'm the only organic farmer in Virginia who wears leopard print rain boots while bottle feeding goats.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Positively Fabulous February

be positive
For the month of February, I'm going to make a few changes.  I've grown weary of the lack of concern by so many for the environment and for our bodies.  For the time being, the uranium issue is off the table in our community.  The powers that be who would have received financial gain from lifting the uranium mining and milling moratorium have temporarily heard the voice of the people.  They've slithered back into their cave to regroup and re-emerge at another time.  The bills put before Virginia's General Assembly have been withdrawn, although they're trying to go through the backdoor somehow and get the governor involved.  However, it seems like for the time being there's no sense of urgency over the matter.  

So, during the month of love,  I'm taking a break from "activism."  I'm going to focus only on positive things.  I've narrowed my blog reading for February down to about 10 blogs, some of which do touch on sustainability and environmental issues, but for the most part have only good thoughts on them.  I'm going to temporarily stick my head in the sand and focus on channeling one of my role models, Lisa Douglas:
Lisa Douglas

Friday, February 1, 2013

Farm Friday

Random thoughts from around the farm:

We've had crazy weather - snow, rain, and sunny 70 degree days.  And we continue to care for the bottle-fed babies, Grace and her brother whom I've dubbed "Main" after our local homeless ministry.

Earlier this month Bill and I had our farm "leadership retreat."  That is, the two of us spent an entire day working on all things farm and finance.  We talked about the upcoming growing season and divided the chores, with me being more of the brains and him being more of the brawn.  I don't do much of the actual planting or harvesting because it's too hard on my back.  And Bill dislikes the paperwork and other inside work necessary to keep a business going.  So it's a good partnership.  I got our seed order in and the seeds arrived last week.  We're trying some new - and even exotic - items this year to see how they go over with our CSA members and farmers' market customers.

I've been baking more bread.  We don't eat sandwiches, so the homemade bread is perfect.  Once I feel more adept at it, I want to tackle adding more substantial grains.  We had some homemade bread that was going stale and I used that to make homemade croutons.  Once I use up the assorted dressings we have (except for Annie's/Trader Joe's Goddess dressing - yum!), I'm going to get back to making my own.  We've fallen in love with a new creation that I call "winter salad" - shredded carrots, assorted homegrown bean sprouts, homegrown sunflower greens and dressing (usually that yummy Goddess dressing).  Here's a photo of my make-shift sunflower greens garden:
And the actual salad:

A couple of weeks ago I got tired of the mess in my pantry.  I had lots of small appliances I rarely used, plus there didn't seem to be much order to my food.  I took this photo after I had relocated some of the small appliances to a high shelf in my laundry room:
Here's what I ended up with:
Much better than before.  I only have three appliances that I use regularly (mixer, blender, and crockpot).  Not perfect, but much more user friendly. 

On a personal note, I've pretty much given up facebook.  I found it to be a giant time waster - with little to no benefit.  I was also surprised to see how often I saw the ugly faces of ignorance and prejudice pop up among my "friends," something that tends to rob one's day of joy.  I find I'm a much happier person without that form of social media.

Have a great weekend!