Saturday, August 31, 2013

Social Justice Saturday: Stuff

Neon Sign - Appliance
"Stuff" might not seem like a topic associated with social justice, but bear with me.  A blogger friend recently mentioned that she was reading The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard (also associated with the short film by the same name), so I thought I'd take a peak at it, too.  At first glance, I thought it was an academic tome that would put me to sleep at night; but it's not.  Leonard first became interested in the story of trash and ended up learning how everything is connected - the environment, the economy, our health, and social justice.  And it's the social justice aspect I want to talk about.

Last month I shared my failed attempt to keep my washing machine (my second one in 10 years) out of landfill.  Both machines were front-loading machines that I had purchased because they were supposed to use less water and so be better for the environment.  With the first washer, I our repairman told me that it wasn't worth fixing, that the parts and labor would be close to the cost of buying a new machine.  Naive as I was, I went out and purchased a similar machine, different brand, of course.  With the breakdown of the second washer, after trying to fix it myself, I called our repairman and got the same bad news - he didn't recommend fixing it.  So, in addition to sending two washers to landfill, I have spent a small fortune trying to prevent that very problem.

This past week we had yet another appliance go out.  This time it was our 8-year-old Rinnai tankless hot water heater (again, purchased for environmental reasons).  Our energy provider came out three times before it was determined they couldn't fix it.  I called the manufacturer and learned the part was still under warranty.  Yay!  The authorized dealer came out, ordered the part from Rinnai, and took the box with them so it could be repaired when the part came in.  Yesterday, they brought it back, installed it, and presented us with the bill.  Only the part was under "warranty" and the cost for labor was astronomical!  We would have been well on our way to purchasing a new unit - this time a regular hot water heater on a timer - with the money we spent.  Obviously, I'm not pleased with Rinnai's service - that kind of so-called warranty is worthless.  

Getting back to the social justice aspect, all of this stuff that is designed to be replaced comes with not just an environmental cost.  Going though the journey of our things from The Story of Stuff - extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal - there is a human cost to all of these things we use up.  At each point along the way, poor people around the world are negatively impacted by our desire for stuff:   their communities are polluted, they work in unsafe conditions, their health is damaged, etc.  All so we can have our baubles and conveniences.

But sometimes even those of us who try to do the right thing don't have much of a choice.  Often we're forced to pay an outrageous amount of money to repair our things - when it is even possible - or to constantly send things to landfill.  It's a very frustrating situation to be in - spending almost as much to repair something as it is to replace it doesn't make sense, especially when you know you will have similar repairs later on as your equipment ages.  When I think about what my "needs" do to the people involved with the journey from raw materials to broken products, I feel ill.  Sometimes I have to choose between my pocketbook and social justice and I don't want to.  I've already told my husband I'm ready to buy and renovate a vintage travel trailer and move into it.  Less stuff to maintain and replace - better for both my pocketbook and the world.  

On a positive note, my new washing machine is a top-loading one that I believe is actually better for the environment.  This Energy Star rated machine doesn't have an agitator and is supposed to use less water than a standard one.  Since the tub holds more clothes and the cycles are much shorter than my old machines, I'm washing much less which means I'm using less energy.  Let's just hope this one is a keeper because I don't want a new one.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Farm Friday

I wasn't able to put up a "Farm Friday" last week because we had the pleasant surprise of having our granddaughter for the weekend, which was her last weekend before school started.

One cool farm event is that this crazy weather gave us an early crop of shiitake mushrooms, enough that we could give some to every member of our CSA and still have plenty left for us.

On another note, one of our hens recently hatched four baby chicks.  We have another one sitting on eggs which should hatch in about a week.  We also bought a batch of 25 chicks.  Some of our hens are getting older and not laying like they once did, so it will be good to have more eggs once the girls mature. 

Here are a few random shots I took with my cell phone while doing our farm chores one evening:

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wellness Wednesday

What is health?  It is more than just a lack of physical disease or limitations.  According to this article, the most famous modern definition of health comes from the Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization:

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

Lifestyle choices can affect your social and mental health, not just your physical well-being.  This short film highlights the health consequences of the overuse of technology:


Do you know why the Amish reject most technology.  It's not because they feel there is something wrong or evil about it - they do use some technology.  But what they do is limit technology because it interferes with and damages community.  For example, when Amish people have a phone, they install it in a common area and use it for emergencies or to relay important information.  Their use of technology benefits the community instead of isolating individuals.

In contrast, mainstream America continues to retreat from community.  We take solo trips in our cars, watch television in separate rooms, and retreat to our corners with personal computers or tablets. With smart phones, we can engage in just about any type of entertainment, no matter where we are or who we're with.  We can be plugged in 24/7 - while we eat, bathe, commute, vacation, and work - reading books and magazines, listening to music or audio books, communicating long-distance via email, texts, and social media.  And we can live out our lives, rarely communicating with another human being.

With increased use of smartphones and other devices, we retreat into our own worlds, damaging our mental health and our social well-being.  Notice how the woman without the phone desperately wants to engage in something tangible, to actually share the moment in a real way?  She reminds me of the sober person in a room full of drunks.  

As a society, we need to unplug a little bit.  It's the healthy thing to do.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Tulip Stairs 3
It has been a long time since I gave myself any challenges.  For those of you haven't been a regular follower of this blog, rather than set New Year's resolutions that are quickly abandoned and forgotten, I tend to give myself challenges through monthly and/or quarterly goals.  For instance, one year I gave myself no shopping challenge in which I didn't buy anything beyond necessities such as food and toiletries for six months.  I succeeded and, even though I wasn't a huge shopper, this challenge made me view shopping, marketing, and the material world in a whole new way.

I really miss my challenges since they really help me grow as a person and often help make me a better steward of our resources.  And by approaching life's journey as a series of steps, I actually see results, often long-term.  There are so many challenges I'd like to take on but, like resolutions, I know if I bite off more than I can chew I'll end up frustrated and disappointed in myself.  So I'm whittling down a list of things I want to accomplish and I'll report back with new goals for September.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Quote for the Day

"It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong."

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Social Justice Saturday: Animals Count

Last Sunday morning I finally had a chance to watch a video that my friend over at Ecogrrl posted last week:

Even though I knew would be disturbing, this 40-minute documentary had an unusually powerful effect on me.  It made me cry, not just for these beautiful, sensitive, loving, intelligent animals, but for the humans that allow this sort of thing to happen - and especially those who participate in the brutality.  I thought about all the people that I know who pretend this sort of thing doesn't happen or will tell you flat out that they don't want to know because it robs them of their "joy."  Maybe they shouldn't feel joyful when we are complicit in pain that is inflicted on others.  

Animals have feelings just like humans and the cruelty we inflict upon them, especially when it is purely  for entertainment, is criminal to me.  We need to consider how our actions affect the lives of other species and take steps to make amends.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Poem: Every War

Seen in the Winter 2008 issue of Fellowship, published by the Fellowship of Reconciliation:

Tree On Beach - HDR
Every War
by Mary Embree

Up on the hillside trees weep
Their branches are teardrops swaying
In the last warm breath of summer
A flicker of a candle; the young are gone
Brave flames snuffed out too soon
Yesterday they marched on burning feet
Fighting for the sins of others
Today like petals drying in the sun
They slumber in the silence of forever
Once their eyes were wide with wonder
At the promise of the morning
But now eased into the bosom of the earth
They stare unseeing
At the blood-red sunset of their dreams
It is said they died to save the peace
But every war is only kindling
For an ever larger conflagration.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wellness Wednesday and a Question for Readers

On Wednesdays, I usually post some type of health-related information that I hope will help some reader improve his or her health.  However, this morning, as I opened my email inbox, I was greeted by an email from a family member.  Thinking it might be an update on some family-related issue, I opened it, only to be greeted by the most hate-filled Islamophobic message I've ever seen.   To make matters worse, I realized it was actually a response forwarded by a close member of my family.  My entire body reacted to this message - I felt stressed, ill, tense - all kinds of things that are bad for my health.  I wanted to retaliate, to show both of my relatives how wrong they were, to site facts and figures.  But in the end, I realized that they don't want to know.  Haters just want to hate.

So my question is how should one respond to such hate-filled messages?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Taste of Tuesday

Although the blight has gotten all of the tomatoes we planted, we've been blessed by a surprise crop of cherry tomatoes that reseeded all around the farm.  These are called Matt's Wild Cherry are seem to be resistant to the blight.  I made the following dish with them (I cannot find the original source.  Please let me know if you do so I can give proper credit):

White Beans with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
5 cloves garlic, sliced
5 sprigs thyme (I just used dried thyme)
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 15 oz. can no-salt-added cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
¼ tsp. kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
• Preheat the oven to 425° F.
• In a 9″ x 13″ baking dish, toss the tomatoes, garlic, and thyme with the oil. Roast until the tomatoes start to brown and the garlic is tender, about 30 minutes.
• Remove and discard the thyme sprigs.
• Toss the beans with the tomatoes and garlic. Season with the salt and pepper.

Serves 4.
 Bon appetit!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Quote for the Day

"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way.  I can hear her breathing."
~Arundhati Roy

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Social Justice Saturday: A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Seen at a booth at Wild Goose:
The fact that most churches where I live would think this is some kind of "liberal-hippie-godless-unpatriotic-propaganda" is one of the reasons I no longer go to a traditional church.  Churches that support the idea of "just war" (and consider any war the US is involved in to be a just war) are not just.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Farm Friday

Well, I'm still recovering, trying to get that last bit of ground in mud off my feet.  We attended our third annual Wild Goose Festival (4 days of music, justice, spirituality, and art) last weekend, this time as presenters!  

I really needed this festival, especially after an encounter I had the previous week.  I had run into someone from a church we once attended.  It was a very pleasant conversation, at first, as he filled me in on a number of things that had happened since we left.  However, I realized it had taken a very bad turn when, while talking about a mission trip that had been cancelled, he said, "I really don't think it's a good idea for the youth to go to Jamaica, what with all the Muslims there."  I tried to keep the shock off my face, but then he continued on with several comments about how he felt that colonialism was a good thing.  (These are the kinds of conversations that makes a good girl like me want to cuss like a sailor.)  Well, I couldn't take it any more so I kindly (without any ugly language) said "that's a very complex subject."  At that, he couldn't get away from me fast enough with a "well, good seeing you, gotta run," etc. as he quickly fled the scene.  Guess he likes his prejudices just as they are and doesn't want any facts spoiling them.  Uggh.

The festival was held in Hot Springs, North Carolina, just outside of Asheville.  It was 3 1/2 days packed with speakers and music, all geared towards people of faith who feel marginalized by the conservative mainstream church.  We camped with some friends from home, although we didn't see them as much as we would have liked because they were volunteers at the event.  We were also camped next to a lovely woman and her teen-aged daughter.  This woman had a sad tale to tell.  She had spoken up in support of marriage equality and, as a result, her church had stripped her of all leadership roles - this was a woman very committed to her church - and the pastor had even harassed her with emails trying to get her to change her mind.  Her husband, who had no part in the discussion, was also asked to leave his position as church elder, probably because he didn't have his wife under "control."  She was so glad to be at the festival for her second year where she could fellowship with like-minded people and "be in a safe place for dangerous conversations."  We also connected with several people we knew from past festivals - it's like a family reunion where you only see certain relatives that one time each year but you're still glad to see them.

Bill and I spoke at a session on food and faith.  Our segment was about the difference between industrial agriculture and family-owned farms.  We had a good turnout for the event and there were three others who also gave food-related presentations.  There was a Q&A session afterwards and a good bulk of the questions were directed at us.  So glad to be able to spread the word about good, healthy food.

One of the highlights of the event was seeing the Indigo Girls on Saturday night.  While I was only familiar with two of the songs, I really enjoyed the concert, especially from our almost-front row seats.  And it seems no Wild Goose event is complete without seeing John Dear (the Jesuit priest, peace activist, and one of my heroes), so we sat in on his talk about lessons learned from Gandhi.  The whole event was so inspirational and nourishing - it's hard to list it all in this post.  Bottom line - it made it easier for us to return to our little corner of the Bible belt.

One unexpected benefit from the event was that Bill connected with one of the bands - David Wimbish and the Collection .  It turns out they needed a retreat where they could rehearse songs for their latest CD.  They posted on facebook that their original plans fell through.  Since we're just over an hour away, Bill offered our farm house.  They were thrilled to take us up on it and they've been here since Monday night.  Two of the band members are a couple who sat in on our talk at the festival and had asked us some farming questions.  They told us that they later discussed the possibility of visiting our farm - never imagining they would be here a few days later!  She works on a farm and we plan to visit her, too.  Last night the band invited us to sit in as they performed several of the songs they've been working on this week.  As a result of this connection, a concert at the farm is in the works - stay tuned!

I've rambled on far too long and haven't scratched the surface of this past weekend.  I'm sure I'll be posting more later. 

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Wellness Wednesday

Learn what's inside your bug spray, why it's bad for you, and what alternatives to look for:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Poem: Wild Geese

My regular readers may have noticed that I didn't post my usual Farm Friday last week (and I goofed by posting two Social Justice Saturday entries).  The reason was we were at our third annual Wild Goose festival so I didn't have time to write on Friday and I tried to schedule one post on Saturday but somehow scheduled two.  I'm still processing the weekend and plan to write about it on Friday (it is farm connected this year).  In the meantime, I'm sharing Mary Oliver's poem Wild Geese which greeted us when we entered the gates for the festival:

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body 

love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Social Justice: Water

Today I want to focus on a positive way to bring justice to people by providing them with the resources they need and deserve.  I love this innovative way to get water to people who lack clean drinking water - by using a billboard:

Social Justice Saturday: Cat Fights and Feminism

Feminism is important for many, many reasons and this blog only touches on one of them.  I recently about someone I know being fired from her job.  While I don't take joy in someone else's misfortune, in this instance it was very personal to me.  

Two years ago I had the misfortune to get involved in a toxic situation with a start-up nonprofit.  The person leading the group had some serious shortcomings - immaturity, despite her 40+ years; lack of fiscal responsibility; inability to effectively organize and produce quality work; insufficient understanding of corporate organization; inexperience in a management role; and a disastrous personal life.  Several women who were involved in this organization as volunteers were also friends of mine.  We all concluded that having this person in a leadership role was dangerous.  We spoke up at meetings.  We met with her supervisor.  As a result, we were treated as pariahs.  The reason?  We were women.  The unspoken consensus was that it was a "cat fight."  I felt like I was in a no-win situation.  I knew that if I continued to work with the group my health would suffer, I wouldn't accomplish what needed to be accomplished, and my reputation would be damaged.  On the other hand, if I resigned it would be perceived as my throwing a tantrum because I didn't get my way.  I didn't see a clear way out of it.  

One of the few men actively involved with the group was on a committee with two of us.  He was a professional and he also recognized the problems.   Out of frustration, he emailed his resignation to our committee and to the leaders involved in this fiasco.  The only male leader emailed back saying he understood, etc., etc.  He wrote that "the work you have extraordinary."  And I saw my way out.  I, too, emailed my resignation.  I think I was gracious in it, explaining how I was asked to be on the committee because of my professional background and that, now that we had completed the project, they no longer needed my services.  But the response I received was vastly different.  I was told that "Organization and systems building does not happen without bumps, disagreements, and tough work. And it never happens through resignation."  He chastised me like a child.  No thanks for the many hours of work I put in.  A large chunk of the "extraordinary" work done by my co-worker was essentially done by me because I was the only one on the committee who fully understood the issue.  But I was not thanked.  The very same work my associate was thanked for was what I had been demonized over. 

Fast forward two years.  The rumor mill tells me that the woman in charge has been fired because she used extremely poor judgment related to her job and put it on facebook!  This was typical behavior for her.  We had tried to warn everyone, but because we were women, they discounted it.  Now the good work that we were supposed to do has failed.  Our community will not receive a vital service because it has been thrice burned (another story).   I don't see the issue getting any support in the near - or even distant - future.  This story could have turned out better.  But we were women and, because we disagreed, we were marginalized.  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wellness Wednesday

As one who farms organically and encourages people to eat food that is closest to its natural state and free of chemicals and other additives, I'm encouraged by the growing number of people who are doing just that.  However, it seems many people don't make a connection between their health (and the health of the planet) and the chemicals found in personal care products. 

Conventional personal care products contain a toxic cocktail of chemicals.  When I was younger, I was told that your skin prevented chemicals from being absorbed into your body and bloodstream.  Today we know differently, as demonstrated by the various pharmaceutical patches that people use.  In addition the product of some of the latest technology - nanoparticles can actually penetrate the blood/brain barrier.  In addition, I remember years ago when a friend asked (and answered) and important question:  Why does your lipstick disappear after you apply it?  You're eating it!

This is a hard less for me, too.  While, up until recently, I had eliminated almost all conventional, chemical-laden products from my life, I still clung to two things:  pedicures and hair highlights.  In the past few months I've taken a bold move - I stopped using chemicals on my hair and have been growing out my natural color.  It's bold in this culture because the highlights covered up the fact that some of my hair is now grey.  But I'm embracing this natural process of aging and my new hair color because I'd rather be grey than sick.  I recently stopped using fingernail polish on my toes, as well.  I was a hardcore user - even had painted toes when I was in labor with both of my children!  

I encourage my readers to research their personal care products.  Find out what's in them and what they do to our bodies and to the earth.  (Don't forget that chemicals that go into the soil and water end up in our food - it doesn't just "go away.")   I suggest you begin with the Environmental Working Group's website, especially their Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Monday Morning Humor

Since we own a flock of Boer goats, this brief animation really appealed to me!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Quote for the Day

"When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?"
~Eleanor Roosevelt

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Social Justice Saturday: Food Deserts and Public Space

Yesterday I read about a battle going on in Los Angeles (my hometown).  One individual, Abbie Zands, planted a vegetable garden to feed hungry people, bring the community together, and educate his children.  He was told to cease and desist.  Then two years ago Ron Finley planted a community garden on a strip of dirt owned by the city.  This garden is located in an area that is a food dessert which means the residents don't have access to good, healthy food - typically the main source of food is mini-marts that carry junk food.  However, the city has decided the garden is illegal and has ordered that the garden be destroyed.  Finley points out that Los Angeles should be a beacon of innovation.  He also laments the waste of resources used to maintain green strips of lawn when people are hungry and that public resources should be used to benefit the public.  Zands has refused to remove his garden and is scheduled to appear in court next week.

I learned of this issue on the blog Root Simple and the authors asked that readers spread the word because "my hometown government needs some international ridicule."  I agree.  

You can read a Los Angeles Times article about this issue here or listen to a radio program here.  This is the offending garden that the city feels might be "dangerous" because people could trip over a plant:
Meanwhile, according to the Los Angeles Times reporter Steve Lopez, there are sidewalks in the city that are in such terrible disrepair that they truly are dangerous, and have been for decades.  Yet the city leaders have chosen to focus on poor individuals trying to improve their community.  

Friday, August 2, 2013

Farm Friday

It's hard to believe it's August already!  We've had a lot going on this week, including having our granddaughter for a few days (which explains why I didn't do a Wellness Wednesday).  So I'm sharing a few scenes from around the farm:

Have a great weekend!