Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Monday, July 29, 2013

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Quote for the Day

"Food is the web of life and they have turned it into the ultimate war zone."
~Vandana Shiva

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Social Justice Saturday: No Fracking Way

A new report came out recently, detailing the true cost of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), which is a very invasive way to squeeze out those last drops of petroleum and natural gas from underground.  As you might imagine, it's not a pretty picture, not for the environment, not for our health, and not for our wallets.
Just as we've seen in other industries, companies will lie and promise anything in order to make a buck before leaving citizens and the government with the task of cleaning up the mess as they flee the scene, often pulling legal tactics such as bankruptcy in order to avoid responsibility.  When will we learn that promises of jobs and economic prosperity result in temporary benefits and not at all worth the long-term consequences?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Farm Friday

Gratuitous photo of Ginny
The crazy weather conditions, combined with hungry critters, has prevented us from going to the farmers' market for almost two weeks now.  The wildlife is one thing, but the wide swings in weather conditions is really scary.  It was in the sixties a couple of days ago - in July? In Virginia?  Crazy.  It's as if the climate is "wobbling."  Climate change is really frightening as it can affect our ability to eat.  In the developed world, we're so accustomed to getting our food at the grocery store where it has been shipped all over the globe so many of us don't realize the connection between the weather and our ability to eat.

Although we haven't been able to count on many of our summer staples, we did have a surprise harvest of shiitake mushrooms, most of which we've already cooked up and enjoyed.  I have a few more that need to be eaten.

This week I worked on several homesteading projects - baked bread, used stale bread for croutons, and made herbal deodorant.  I've really enjoyed reading The Good Life Lab and highly recommend it for anyone trying to step outside the rat race.

Since my washing machine repair was a fail, I had to purchase a new one.  I found one that is a top-loading, Energy Star, agitator-free machine that was on sale at a very good price.  I talked to the salesman and he told me that these types of washers are water savers just like the front loaders, but the cost a lot less.  When it was delivered to our house, I ended up taking to the delivery team.  They confirmed what I have decided - all new appliances are designed to break after the warranty expires.  They even told me that everyone in the delivery department at this particular big box home improvement store buys the cheapest appliances.  They said that since they go into homes and talk to people, they know that it doesn't matter what you pay, that you will have to replace your appliances within a few years of purchase so you're  better off with the least expensive.  

I found confirmation of this with yet another appliance.  We had our air conditioning go out last week and I had it serviced.  The motor had burned out and we were told that this is typical.  We are just a disposable society - we would rather pay little for something that will need to be replaced than pay more and have something for a lifetime.  Of course, the marketing of all the new and improved items makes us want to be that way.  And we can live like that because we don't see the ultimate damage done by this way of thinking.  

On a positive note, we're getting our granddaughter this weekend as she is always excited about spending time on the farm - and of course time with Mimi and Grandpa.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

How Much Energy Do We Use?

This infograph breaks down how we in the US use energy and the resources for our electricity.  It also shows what energy hogs we are compared to the rest of the world:

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Wellness Wednesday

File:Lima bean cans.jpg
Rodale News has an article about the dangerous effects of BPA.  BPA comes from  plastic and cans lined with plastic.  This is one area where I really need improvement because I still buy food in cans but need to get away from it.  (I'm still not convinced that buying BPA-free plastic is the way to go because they're just substituting another similar plastic that probably is just as harmful).  I am slowly taking steps to get away from canned food that comes in plastic-lined cans.  I recently bought tomato paste in a jar - it was expensive but health care even more so.  Starting with tomato products is a great first step because tomatoes and tomato products are acidic and can erode the lining faster than other foods.  I still buy mushrooms and beans in cans but I can get around that because mushrooms are available in glass jars and I can cook and freeze my own beans from dried. 

Here's a summary of what BPA can do for you:

  1. erode teeth
  2. cause heart arrhythmia
  3. lower sex drive
  4. increase abdominal fat
  5. affect the health of your offspring and descendants

Monday, July 22, 2013

Working for a Living

While the following video is hilarious, it's also very, very sad.  It shows what I try get across to those who think being on welfare or food stamps is easy street (hello Rep. Fincher of Tennessee) - that the working poor cannot get by on what they make alone.  

I sometimes help out at our local food bank and have several friends who work there weekly.  Over and over again we see individuals come through the line wearing their job uniform - these are people who serve the rest of us in multiple ways every day.  One winter I waited on a woman wearing her Goodwill employee name tag - I helped make a selection from a rack of donated coats.  Apparently, she couldn't even afford Goodwill's prices.  

So now McDonald's, proves that their employees, even if they work a second job, cannot survive on their income.  The math doesn't work.  Breaks my heart.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Quote for the Day

Seen on facebook:

“It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion--its message becomes meaningless.” 

~Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Social Justice Saturday: Other People's Money

A real farmer
Although I don't understand all the intricacies of the farm bill (and I doubt most politicians do, either), I do know enough to realize that it really isn't about farming.  It's about corporate welfare.  Very little of the money goes to real farmers - it goes to corporations.  But the bill's name conjures up pastoral images of red barns, bib overalls, and hard-working families, so it's easy for politicians to get by with continuing the corporate handouts without any public outcry.  And the fact that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as the food stamp program, is part of a "farm" bill makes no sense whatsoever.  

Earlier this year, when the bill was being debated, one of the more shameful events was when Rep. Stephen Fincher of Tennessee said he was concerned about taking "other people's money" to fund SNAP.  He quoted a Bible verse, saying "The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat."  This from a man who received $3.48 million in farm subsidies between 1999 and 2012.  When he wasn't in Washington, did he spend his time out on a tractor, tilling fields and doing other farm-related work to earn that $3.48 million?  (As a farmer, I know my husband and I could never work hard enough on the farm to make that kind of money.)  Wasn't it "other people's money" that he received?  And of course, some of that tax money he received came from the working poor, people who, through no fault of their own, often need a hand up from programs such as SNAP when the economy takes a bad turn.

As a comparison to a $70,000 direct payment that Mr. Fincher received last year, the average SNAP recipient in received $133.41 a month, which is slightly over $1,600 for the year.   Quite a comparison.  Shame on you Mr. Fincher and all the other politicians who take "other people's money" for work you did not do yet punish the poor for being poor.  And for using Christianity to justify it.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Farm Friday

It's now summer - and hot, hot, hot.  Unfortunately, the unusual weather earlier in the season - lots of rain, little sun - has combined with tomato blight to make for a poor harvest.  We weren't able to to go the farmers' market Tuesday night - not much to sell - and we won't be there tomorrow, either.  The good news is that we do have enough for our CSA members and a little left over for us to make a few good dishes.  This situation shows how in past times, and in the developing world, a poor harvest could mean death because of lack of infrastructure to ship and preserve fresh produce.  When you have to depend on what you grow to survive (i.e., no supermarkets to fall back on), this kind of season is deadly.  So we had an extended spring season and very bad summer season.  We expect the fall season to be bountiful.

Our intern, Lydia,  started with us on Monday.  She has farm experience and jumped right in to the work:
Photo: Welcome Lydia, who started her internship today.
Her life-long dream is to be a farmer and we hope she achieves it.  Lydia will be with us for 3 weeks.  We had two other interns scheduled to work, as well, but one got a full-time job and the other couldn't come due to a family emergency.

Our goat Rhiannon kidded this week and had a cute boy - almost all white with brown freckled ears:
Photo: The latest addition to the farm.  Born last night.
Last night we went to the weekly dinner at Grace + Main, the ministry that partners with people who are homeless, near-homeless, and formerly homeless.  This dinner was at an apartment building that we've adopted and supported over the years.  It was a celebration of "tenant's rights."  This building is in deplorable condition - ceilings falling down, no running water in some of the bathtubs, walls so rotten that birds nest inside apartments, roaches everywhere - and many of the tenants are essentially prisoners there.  Many of them suffer from mental illness and the state made them wards of an organization that handles their finances.  Funny thing, the woman who runs that organization is married to the building owner.  As finances are out of the tenants hands, they are unable to make their own housing arrangements.  Of course, since many have been homeless, they are afraid to complain, fearing they will again find themselves on the street.  Last night one resident told us that he hadn't eaten in three days - and that his "guardian" gives him $25 a week for food, in the form of a check that he has to walk several blocks to cash at his bank.  He could cash it at a local convenience store, but we've heard horror stories about others doing that, plus they charge outrageous check cashing fees.  Up until now, it has been a case of the voiceless of society being abused by the people entrusted with their care.  However, now that the tenants have asserted themselves - and are supported by the ministry - we expect some positive changes will be made. 

I'll leave you with a photo of one of my volunteer sunflowers and the Dominique hens (and roosters) taking a break from the midday sun:

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wellness Wednesday

Saving money, reducing packaging, and eliminating toxin exposure - what's not to love about this chart from MindBodyGreen that lists 72 uses for household ingredients:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Making Things Better?

Electronic board 2
Last week I blogged about planned obsolescence and my experience with Sears Parts Direct (read about it here).  As a result of my post, a representative from the company contacted me via my blog, telling me they wanted to further assist me with my problem.  It sounded promising so I sent an email on Sunday.  Not long after, I received a call from one of their representatives.

End result:  someone higher up the ladder told me the exact same thing that I was told when I first tried to return the parts.  There wasn't even a hint that they might consider taking back the parts.  They just wanted to tell me they were sorry that I was unhappy with the situation.  This was supposed to make me feel better?  My suggestion to them:   If you're not going to do anything about a problem, leave it alone.  Contacting disgruntled customers but not giving results will not improve the situation.

Monday, July 15, 2013

On Being a Woman

This is a brief (3 minutes) but powerful portion of an interview with Dustin Hoffman where talks about making the movie Tootsie and how "being" a woman helped him understand how poorly women are treated in our society:

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Quote for the Day

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."
~Winston Churchill

Friday, July 12, 2013

Farm Friday

Summer has been busy and challenging.  Sorry I don't have photos this week.  One of the challenges we've been facing is the crazy weather.  Last night it rained 2 1/2 inches on our farm - it rained much more in other areas nearby - and at 2 o'clock today it was 69 degrees!  In July!  Very difficult to grow summer crops in this weather.  Fortunately, our spring produce has held out for the most part while we wait for summer items to come in (hopefully before the bugs kill them).

We sold at the farmers' market on Saturday and had our best day ever.  The market changed its opening time, opening half an hour earlier, which meant shoppers showed up even earlier than before.  Seems we were busy from the moment we arrived to set up until not long before closing time.  

The market now also opens on Tuesday night from 5 to 7 and we had quite a crowd for the first day.  We weren't expecting such a turn out so didn't bring as much produce as we could have.  Again, shoppers where there when we arrived at 4:30.  By 5:05 we were almost completely sold out.  However, we stayed around until almost 7 because we wanted to get the word out to interested buyers that we are the only farm there that grows using all organic methods.

Sometimes we get shoppers who turn their noses up at our prices (there're actually very good for chemical-free produce) and the natural reaction is to try to explain what organic means in order to justify our prices.  However, we've decided to not throw the proverbial pearls before swine.  Those are not the customers for us - and they should go elsewhere.  We can only grow a finite amount of food and we want it to go to people who appreciate what goes into it and how much better it is for their health and for the planet.

We have an intern arriving on Sunday; she'll be working with us for three weeks.  We had two other interns who were scheduled to work with her but they had unforeseen changes in their plans so won't be able to make it.  Bill met this intern at a farm conference we attended earlier this year.  She has interned elsewhere so it will be a good opportunity for an exchange of information.

Tomorrow night we're going to a screening of the documentary Hot Water.  It's about the effects of uranium mining and nuclear power and is very relevant to our current situation since certain residents and politicians want the state to allow uranium mining and milling in our county.  The "pro" people say it's ignorance talking when residents express their opposition to the so-called jobs and prosperity it will bring.  I say it's greed talking when they want to take chances with the health of the community.  I hope the film will open the eyes of some residents who have been undecided - or even some of the "pros."

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Planned Obsolescence

Washing Machine 1
Yes, planned obsolescence is alive and well in the USA.  You might remember this Farm Friday where I talked about my washing machine breaking and my plans to fix it.  Well, things didn't go so well for me.  

I tried the parts that I ordered but they didn't solve the problem (I did need a new control panel but it was worthless if the machine didn't work).  I emailed the site where I purchased my parts to make arrangements for returning them.  Prior to purchase, I checked their policy and it said most parts were returnable if unused and uninstalled.  So I felt confident that, should the parts not be the right ones or wouldn't solve the problem, I could return them.  However, Sears Parts Direct (no link here because I would never recommend them) would not accept the parts.  They asked if I had installed them and I said that I put them on, they didn't solve the problem, so I promptly removed them.  Sorry, I was told, those particular parts are not returnable.  We exchanged a few emails, one where they gave me an example of a part that was not returnable - it clearly said on the website that that particular part was not returnable.  However, I sent them back screen shots of the parts I did purchase and there was no note about them not being returnable.  I was told that since I installed the parts, I couldn't return them.  I asked if I could have returned them if I had lied and said I hadn't installed them - I didn't get a response on that one.  When I ordered the parts, I knew I was taking a risk and thought that it was possible that I couldn't return the electronic part - but not the front cover which has no electronics whatsoever.  How could that not be returnable?  

Well, after this fiasco I was still determined to keep my machine out of landfill so I called Wayne, my usual repairman.  Turns out, it is impossible for him to know which part is bad when it comes to electronics.  He can try things but there's no guarantee that it will work.  And Wayne's in the same boat - he says he has a garage full of parts that he cannot return to the place of purchase, which is very hard on his bottom line.  He also gave an example of a washing machine he worked on that was, fortunately for the owner, still under warranty.  After looking over the machine, he called the manufacturer and even they could not tell him what was wrong.  All  he could do was experiment.  He ended up replacing several electronic parts and two motors and finally got the machine to work.  Basically, he rebuilt most of the machine.  If the owners had to pay for the parts and labor, they would have spent more than the cost of a new appliance.  Wayne told me that, sadly, the new appliances, no matter who makes them, don't last and the manufacturers want them to break.  

So, later this week I'm off to find a new washing machine.  Have I mentioned that this is the second one we've had in 10 years?  I'm not at all happy about this turn of events.  Does anyone want to buy a couple of Whirlpool washing machine parts at a deep discount?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Taste of Tuesday

Here's another recipe using mizuna.  Mizuna is similar in taste to arugula when raw so if you don't have a source for mizuna, you might try arugula.  We were able to make this with our freshly-dug red thumb fingerling potatoes - delicious!

Mizuna with Steamed Red Potatoes and Goat Cheese*
  • 2 or 3 cups mizuna, washed
  • 2 red potatoes
  • olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • sea salt
  • 2 T. goat cheese
Wash, cube and steam the potatoes until just tender. Place in bowl. Crush garlic onto potatoes and drizzle with olive oil. Season well with sea salt. Toss the mixture well. Roughly chop the mizuna, stems and all, and add to potato mixture. Toss again. Crumble goat cheese on top and it’s ready to eat. The end result is sort of like a warm salad, with the greens warm, but not wilted. 
Bon appetit!

*Source:  http://nourishingwords.net/2010/05/23/mizuna-my-new-favorite-of-the-spring-greens/

Monday, July 8, 2013

Faaaaaarm Living...

So I'm tardy again with my weekly farm update.  This is already a really busy time of year for us plus we've expanded some of our activities.  Here's a quick recap of the week:

Saturday was our best ever day at the farmers' market.  Both the number of vendors and the number of visitors have dramatically increased, which is good for everyone.  Slowly but surely we're developing relationships with people who are interested in their health, where their food comes from, what goes into their food, and even how livestock is treated.  It's exciting to see how the word spreads.  Bill even got his photo in the paper.  Also, the market now has new hours (which means we have to get up even earlier on Saturday) and has added a weekday evening for people who can't make it on Saturday but can stop by after work.

We still struggle with problems with our goats.  We lost two young goats - Camille and one of my favorites, Grace.  We typically lose them to intestinal parasites, especially the notorious haemonchus contortus, also known as the barber pole worm.  This problem was caused by indiscriminate worming of goats over the years, even goats that did not have a heavy parasite burden (they all have some parasites), which caused the development of parasites that are resistant to the medications to the point that most are no longer effective.  

I'm working on an exciting project for the farm - we're going to have what is called a "farm stay," which is where individuals and families can come stay on the farm on the weekend.  We have had numerous friends stay in our farm house over the years and they always say how educational and restful it is.  So we're going to open up our farm on the weekends, beginning in September (if all goes according to plan).

Our farm interns will be arriving this coming Sunday and we're looking forward to getting to know them and to sharing our philosophy and way of life with them.  

In November, I will once again take part in a holiday craft bazaar so I've started making more aprons.  Here's a sneak peak of some of the fabrics I've chosen:
We have some sunflowers coming in!  Although Bill has planted some in one of our gardens, a number of them are "volunteers" from seed that has fallen from our bird feeder or that birds have dropped:

Even Sunday was a busy day for us - despite the fact that I slept in a bit.  While Bill tended to the gardens, I spent time making several loaves of bread, croutons from leftover bread, weeded our front flowerbed (this weather was turning it into a lawn, with crabgrass growing everywhere), sewing aprons, cleaning, doing some research on farm stays, and planning the week ahead.

I got some fun news for last week.  I won a book, The Good Life Lab:  Radical Experiments in Hands-On Living, through a giveaway on EcoGrrl's blog.  (I almost missed this one because I had gotten so far behind in my blog reading!)  Aimee, the woman behind the blog is a self-described urban homesteader with a eye towards environmentalism and sustainability.  I suggest you head over to her blog and check it out.  I have to say, reading her blog often makes me envious because she lives in Portland, Oregon, such an amazing progressive place.  I have to remind myself that it's also exciting to be an agent of change in our own region, despite how lonely and frustrating it can sometimes be.

Our busy-ness has kept me from learning about the camera function on my new phone, so I'm using the same old camera as always.  I hope to change this soon.

Have a great week!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Quote for the Day

"Historically, the most terrible things - war, genocide, and slavery - have resulted not from disobedience but from obedience."
~Howard Zinn

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Sustainable Saturday: The World Doesn't Need Our Clothes

No source available*
We all have that pile - the "Goodwill" or "Salvation Army" or similar pile of clothes in our closet, attic, or basement.  That pile of discarded clothing - some items we've never worn, some we bought on impulse and wore once, or some that are torn and/or stained.  The pile makes us feel good.  We tell ourselves that we're environmentally friendly as our things will not end up in landfill.  We tell ourselves we're doing good because we're giving much needed clothing to "poor people."  We're kidding ourselves.  

First, we need to think about stopping ourselves before that initial purchase.  Who made the garments?  What conditions do they work under?  Where did the materials come from?  Are there any toxic materials involved?  How far were they shipped?  Do we really need another _______________ (fill in the blank)?  These questions should stop us in our tracks - that is, if we really look for the answers.  Then later, once clothes have made it to our pile, we need to ask some other questions.  Who will want to wear those items?  Are they still functional?  Would we give them to our best friend?  Would anyone want to wear the poorly constructed, uncomfortable, torn and/or stained items in the pile?  Do we notice naked people in this country?  Is it better to ship said sad items overseas for people who truly don't have the resources to buy clothes or is it better to donate the money we would have spent on clothes to a good cause so people can choose their own new, clean, and functional clothing?  See where I'm going with this.

A friend of mine recently returned from a trip to Burundi where she had visited her daughter who works for a nonprofit there.  She was showing pictures of some of the children she met, all of them beautiful yet sad at the same time because they were all wearing what were obviously discards from people in the US.  It really hit me hard when I saw a little boy wearing what I realized was a pajama top identical to one my daughter bought from Target years ago.  Although I'm pretty sure it wasn't hers since she wore her's to death, there's a very, very slim possibility that it was - I may have donated it, even though it was really completely worn out.  Why do we think it's okay for children overseas to wear our old clothes?

Bottom Line:  Putting your discarded clothing in a pile to go to charity is not necessarily a good thing.  There are better ways to help.

Here's the article that got me thinking about this topic:

The Afterlife of Cheap Clothes

Where do your Target bargains go when you get tired of them? The Salvation Army. Rag bins. And Africa.

It was early morning at the Quincy Street Salvation Army, an easy-to-miss location tucked away on a Brooklyn side street. The only donations that had come in so far were books, an entire truck full from one single apartment. Charitable clothing donations usually roll in with fits and starts, with the changing of the seasons and at the end of the year, when people are looking for tax write-offs. It was on a weekday morning in the middle of the fall, the off-hours for clothing donations. But I didn’t have to witness someone pulling up their car and shoveling bags full of clothes from the trunk. I’d been that person innumerable times, lugging overloaded trash bags, pierced by the heels of cheap pumps, sleeves and pant legs hanging out, to a local charity. I had never known what happens after I drive away and leave my old clothing orphaned on the Salvation Army’s doorstep.
Michael Noneza, otherwise known as “Maui,” one of the donation center’s assistant supervisors, bounced into the warehouse. “You ready?” the cheery Pacific Islander asked, and ushered me over to a massive freight elevator and pressed the button for the third floor. The elevator jolted upward and the doors opened on a scene that looked a bit like a threadbare Santa’s workshop. Dozens of Hispanic women were standing behind a row of wooden slides, pulling clothes out of elephantine gray bins and separating them into broad categories like jackets, pants, and childrenswear. “We keep only the best,” Maui told me. “Then it’s ticketed and priced.” The pricers, perched on what looked like adult high chairs, quickly and methodically moved through racks of 80 garments each, making snap judgments based on condition and brand.
The Quincy Street Salvation Army may be on a quiet out-of-the-way street, but it is the main distribution center serving eight Salva­tion Army locations in Brooklyn and Queens. It processes an average of five tons of outcast clothing every single day of the year, and much more during the holiday season when donations spike. From that astonishing mass, the sorters choose exactly 11,200 garments a day to be divided up equally between the eight thrift stores they serve. I asked Maui if they’ve ever hit a dry spell, where the donations dipped too low to fully restock each stores with their share of the 11,200 items. He laughed, “We never run out of clothes. There are always enough clothes.”
What American doesn’t have something hanging in his or her closet worn only once or twice, a pair of pants waiting for a diet, or even a brand-new dress or jacket with the tags still on? Common sense and everyday experience tell us that we have so many clothes that a major­ity go underused and neglected. According to a 2010 national survey in ShopSmart magazine, one in four American women own seven pairs of jeans, but we only wear four of them regularly. Not surprisingly, charities regularly see brand-new clothes come in with tags still affixed. “We see people throwing away new stuff every day,” Maui says.
There is an enormous disconnect between increasing clothing con­sumption and the resultant waste, partially because unworn clothes aren’t immediately thrown out like other disposable products. In­stead, they accumulate in our closets or wherever we can find space for them. Master closets now average about 6 feet by 8 feet, a size more typical of an extra bedroom 40 years ago.
Maui and I took the elevator back downstairs and walked into a dimly lit warehouse hidden away on the far side of the donation drop-off area. Garments that make it into the Salvation Army thrift stores have exactly one month to sell. Then, they’re pulled from their hangers, tossed in bins, and end up back in a room such as this one.
In the rag-cut room, two men were silently pushing T-shirts, dresses, and every other manner of apparel into a compressor that works like the back of a garbage truck, squeezing out neat cubes of rejected clothing that weigh a half ton each. The cubes were then lifted and moved via forklift to the middle of the room, where a wall of wrapped and bound half-ton bales towered. I saw tags for Old Navy, Sean Jean, and Diesel peeking out of the bales, as well as slivers of denim, knits in bright maroons and bold stripes, and the smooth sur­faces of Windbreakers. Smashed together like this, stripped of its sym­bolic meaning, stacked up like bulk dog food, I was reminded that clothing is ultimately fiber that comes from resources and results in horrifying volumes of waste. Clothing stores completely separate us from this reality, and a “rag-cut” room brings it home in an instant. The Quincy Street Salvation Army builds a completed wall made of 18 tons, or 36 bales, of unwanted clothing every three days. And this is just a small portion of the cast-offs of one single Salvation Army location in one city in the United States.
Most Americans are thoroughly convinced there is another person in their direct vicinity who truly needs and wants our unwanted clothes. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Charities long ago passed the point of being able to sell all of our wearable unwanted clothes. According to John Paben, co-owner of used-clothing processer Mid- West Textile, “They never could.”
There are thousands of secondhand textile processors in the United States today, mostly small family businesses, many of them several generations old. I visited Trans- Americas Trading Co., a third- generation textile recycler in Clifton, N.J., which employs 85 people and processes close to 17 million pounds of used clothing a year. Inside Trans-Americas, there is a wall of cubed-up clothing five bales tall and more than 20 bales long. “This is liter­ally several hundred thousand pounds of textile waste, and we bring in two trailer loads of this much every day,” Trans-Americas president Eric Stubin told me. The volume they process has gone up over the years alongside our consumption of clothing.
Without textile recyclers, charities would be totally beleaguered and forced to throw away everything that couldn’t be sold. Charities might even have to turn us away. The only benefit to this doomsday scenario is that our clothes would pile up in our house or in landfills, finally forcing us to face down just how much clothing waste we cre­ate.
A majority of the clothing processed at Trans-Americas comes from overburdened charities within a thousand-mile radius of New York City. Used clothes come into the warehouse in mixed bales like those I saw at the Quincy Street Salvation Army. “I like to call it the good, the bad, and the ugly,” Stubin said, as we sailed past women separating pants from shirts and sending them down long slides. “We get everything from torn sweaters to spoiled and stained towels to good useable clothing.” Stubin’s sorters separate the wearable stuff into two hundred broad categories like cotton blouses, baby clothes, jackets, sweaters, khaki pants, and denim. “From there, sorters begin to look for quality and start sorting the worn from the torn and mak­ing various grades,” Stubin explains. The higher-skilled employees “develop an eye,” he says, for coveted brands, cashmere, and the gold mine vintage finds. But a lot, at least half of what Trans-America pro­cesses, is “the bad and the ugly.” This is the situation in general in the textile recycling industry today.
* * *
Most of our donated clothing does not end up in vintage shops, as car-seat stuffing, or as an industrial wiping rag. It is sold over­seas. After the prized vintage is plucked out and the outcasts are sent to the fiber and wiping rag companies, the remaining clothing is sorted, shrink-wrapped, tied up, baled, and sold to used-clothing ven­dors around the world. The secondhand clothing industry has been export-oriented almost since the introduction of mass-produced gar­ments. And by one estimate, used clothing is now the United States’ number one export by volume, with the overwhelming majority sent to ports in sub-Saharan Africa. Tanzanians and Kenyans call used clothing mitumba, which means “bales,” as it comes off the cargo ships in the shrink-wrapped cubes like the ones I saw at Trans-Americas and Salvation Army. The bales are cut open in front of an eager clientele and buyers, who pick through it for higher-value finds.
Once again, while many Americans might like to imagine that there is some poor, underdressed African who wants our worn and tattered duds, the African used clothing market is very particular and is demanding higher quality and more fashion-forward styles. Paben told me that access to the Internet and cellphones has made the con­tinent fiercely fashion-forward in recent years. “There’s been a change in what you can sell there,” he says, and the bales have to be much more carefully sorted based on style, brand, and condition. As incomes rise in Africa, tastes become more savvy, cheap Chinese imports of new clothes flood those countries, and our own high-quality clothing supply is depleted, it’s foreseeable that the African solution to our overconsumption may come to an end. What then?
On a recent Saturday morning, I was back at the Quincy Street Salvation Army shopping for a vintage coat, hoping to find quality and craftsmanship I could actually afford. This particular Salvation Army is roughly the size of an airplane hanger, and deathly quiet in the mornings. I hoped to make a score while the rest of Brooklyn slept off their Friday night. As I flipped through the women’s tops, I noticed a Salvation Army employee in a smock, methodically walking past me. At first I thought she was straightening the racks and hanging clothes back up that had been pulled to the floor, but then I realized she was carrying clothes away. She looked at the color of the price tags stapled onto each garment. Then, she plucked out the ones that had sat there too long unsold, like eggs gone bad, and chucked them into those huge gray dumpsters I saw in the sorting room up­stairs. Soon enough, I thought, they would be shredded or on their way overseas.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

4th of July

Fireworks 28
"The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them."
~Patrick Henry

Today, on the anniversary of the beginning of our nation, let us remember that it is those who make difficult decisions, usually unpopular ones, often at risk to their own life and liberty, who are true patriots.  Here's a link to a list of 12 contemporary patriots.  There are many other unsung heroes out there who work tirelessly and behind the scenes to ensure that our government is accountable to the people, thus ensuring our freedom.  Remember our founding fathers were considered traitors in their time.

Have a safe holiday!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Wellness Wednesday

This week's Wellness Wednesday isn't a tip on personal health.  Instead, I want to bring attention to a public health issue - fracking.  If you don't know what it is, I suggest you do some research because it is a threat to our drinking water supply.  The Natural Resoources Defense Council (NRDC) explains that 
Nearly all natural gas extraction today involves a technique called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in which dangerous chemicals [emphasis added] are mixed with large quantities of water and sand and injected into wells at extremely high pressure. Fracking is a suspect in polluted drinking water in Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming, where residents have reported changes in water quality or quantity following fracturing operations.(1)
The oil and gas industries are getting away with this dangerous process because it is largely unregulated.  The NRDC tells us that
Current regulation is pathetic due to exemptions secured by the gas drilling industry from many major federal environmental laws, including the Safe Drinking Water Act, Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. As a result, gas drilling companies can disregard requirements that other industries have to follow. Among other things, in most places they do not have to identify the toxic chemicals they use in their operations, despite the risks those chemicals pose to drinking water [emphasis added].(2)
 Mark Ruffalo sums up the technique and the potential consequences:

Here, David Letterman shows us that this is no laughing matter:

If you're like me, you probably feel as if the corporations are hitting us from all directions, focusing only on the buck in hand rather than the health of the future.  This is a pretty big deal as we cannot survive without clean drinking water.  Find out if there are groups in our area working to regulate this dangerous issue and get involved.  

Monday, July 1, 2013

Amen, Mr. Carter

Yesterday, a friend shared on facebook a Huffington Post article about Jimmy Carter's and how he saw a connection between organized religion and the suffering of women in the world.  This article reminded me of one of the reasons why I'm a Quaker.  Formally known as the Religious Society of Friends, Quakerism has treated women as equal to men since its founding in the mid 1600s!  Even the more progressive Christian denominations were centuries behind the Quakers.  

I've often railed against the leaders of religious organizations and how it is so obvious these groups keep women down, not because of what is written in their holy scriptures, but because treating women equally would threaten their strangle hold on power.  As I've said before, it amazes me how it is still legal to blatantly discriminate against women - and that the easiest way to do so is to claim religious reasons.  Seems no one can argue against something said to be endorsed by God.  And yet, as Mr. Carter pointed out, many problems in the world could be corrected by giving women their rightful place.

It's such a good article that I'm sharing it in its entirety:

Jimmy Carter: Women's Plight Perpetuated By World Religions

by Bill Barrow

ATLANTA — Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter says religious leaders, including those in Christianity and Islam, share the blame for mistreatment of women across the world.
The human rights activist said Friday religious authorities perpetuate misguided doctrines of male superiority, from the Catholic Church forbidding women from becoming priests to some African cultures mutilating the genitals of young girls.
Carter said the doctrines, which he described as theologically indefensible, contribute to a political, social and economic structure where political leaders passively accept violence against women, a worldwide sex slave trade and inequality in the workplace and classroom.
"There is a great aversion among men leaders and some women leaders to admit that this is something that exists, that it's serious and that it's it troubling and should be addressed courageously," Carter said at an international conference on women and religion.
The 39th president is hosting representatives from 15 countries at The Carter Center, the human rights organization he launched in 1982 after leaving the White House.
The Mobilizing Faith for Women event emphasizes to world leaders that religious institutions can be forces for equality, he said.
Nations represented at the Carter conference include Afghanistan, Botswana, Egypt, Iraq, Malaysia, Nigeria, Senegal and the Sudan. Carter mentioned widespread oppression in many of nations where iterations of Islam dominate, but also had criticism for the developed Western world where Christianity is the strongest cultural influence.
A common thread, he said, are "gross abuses of religious texts in the Koran and in the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament. Singular verses can be extracted and extorted to assert the singular dominance of men."
Referring to the Christian apostle Paul, credited with writing much of the New Testament outside the gospels, he said, "Paul said there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, slaves or masters, man or woman."
The former president noted that the early Christian Church included leaders of both sexes. It wasn't until a few centuries after Jesus Christ's time on earth, he said, that leaders of what would become the Roman Catholic Church established the exclusively male priesthood. Catholic doctrine justifies the practice by noting that Jesus, according to gospel texts, named only men among his apostles.
Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, were once members of the Southern Baptist Church. The couple recently disassociated from Southern Baptists, citing its prohibition on ordaining women or allowing them to serve as deacons or other leadership posts in local congregations.
Their independent Baptist church has a woman pastor and a man pastor and divides six deaconships equally between men and women, Carter said. "My wife is probably the most famous Baptist deacon in the world."
He noted that women in Saudi Arabia can't drive or vote. Girls in some cultures are forced to marry before they are 10 years old and women in the United States, he said, are paid about 70 percent of what men earn for the same work. Across the world, he said, prosecutions for rape are either rare or too often become a referendum on the victim.
"The point is that the voices demanding these circumstances change are few and far between," Carter said.
Well said, Mr. Carter.