Friday, November 29, 2013

Farm Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

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

Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving Day!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Amusing but Serious

Instead of buying a turkey that was raised on an industrial farm (and tortured while it was alive), go meatless this Thanksgiving and consider adopting one of these adorable characters:

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Quote for the Day

"We are not human beings having a spiritual journey.  We are spiritual beings having a human journey."
~Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Friday, November 22, 2013

Farm Friday

Our CSA is wrapping up.  We only have a handful of deliveries left and mainly because we took a couple of weeks off when we were out of town which extended our season slightly.  Bill and I have to go our separate ways tomorrow.  He's going to deliver our CSA shares and the special orders, both at our usual drop point and and the health food store owner who has graciously allowed us to sell our produce, pork, and eggs on the sidewalk in front of her store.  I, on the other hand, will be at a craft show, selling my aprons and "therapy pillows," those rice-filled bags that can be used either hot or cold.  It's a handmade only event (unlike other's I've participated in), so I'm hoping there will be lots of shoppers looking to support local crafters (and avoiding next week's Black Friday at the big box stores).

Tomorrow night we're having our second gathering of Piedmont Sustainable Living.  We expect some more new faces.  It's so interesting how the idea of such a gathering has struck a cord for so many people in our area, many of whom were probably feeling as isolated as we were.

On a side note, I was excited to finally accomplish one of my goals - a plastic free shower!  We have zero plastic bottles in the shower now.  The only personal care products are soap, a shampoo bar, and a conditioner bar.  What took me so long to accomplish this goal was that, in a moment of weakness, I purchased a tube of organic facial scrub.  It seemed to take me forever to get through it.  I was thrilled when I was able to toss the tube.  

We continue to have lots of yummy greens, especially the superfood kale.  We're growing four kinds:  Vates, red Russian, Siberian, and dinosaur.  I purchased some dulce at the above-mentioned health food store, cut it into tiny pieces and added it to sauteed kale.  Yum - very flavorful!  This morning I made farm-fresh scrambled eggs with chopped and sauteed Siberian kale, garlic powder, and turmeric.  That was delicious, as well.  My next use of kale will be in some green smoothies.  I'll keep you posted on how they turn out.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Wellness Wednesday

In just one week, the holiday season will be upon us.  With Hanukkah beginning next Wednesday, followed by Thanksgiving, then Christmas less than a month away, and New Year's Eve just after that, many people begin feeling stressed out right around now.  So here are eight tips to nip stress in the bud and actually enjoy the season:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Taste of Tuesday

Earlier this year a customer shared a soup recipe with us.  I just got around to making it, substituting yukina savor for the recommended greens, and it was wonderful!  Here's my adaptation of the recipe: 

Chickpea Soup with Tomatoes and Greens

3 t. olive oil
1 onion, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 t. dried oregano
pinch of dried thyme
1 T. tomato paste
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups vegetable stock
several cups torn greens (yukina savoy, beet greens, chard, amaranth, or spinach)

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, garlic, oregano, and thyme, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.  Mash in tomato paste and cook for a few minutes.  Add tomatoes and chickpeas.  Add stock.  Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until the flavors meld and soften, 30 minutes to 1 hour.  Stir in the greens, cooking them until softened and tender.  Season to taste.  

The recipe suggests toasting crusty bread, rubbing with garlic, brushing with olive oil, then tearing into pieces and adding to the soup.

Bon appetit!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday Morning Amusement

Bizarre...and who comes up with these things?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Quote for the Day

"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.  One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them better."
~F. Scott Fitzgerald

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A New Challenge

One reason legal slavery no longer exists in the US is that people had to see it.  Every day, prior to the civil war and especially in the southern states, citizens had to witness the horrors of slavery.  It was woven into the fabric of society.   Eventually, many people (and the Quakers were among the first) listened to their consciences and fought for its abolition.  And so slavery came to an end.  Or did it?

Guess what?  Slavery still exists - and we support it.  However, now we no longer have to witness slavery because it occurs in far-off places.  I often hear people complain about this country or that one and how they steal our jobs.  Unfortunately, most of those "job thieves" are slaves.  They really don't want to be working where they work, making crap for people in the developed world.  But they don't have a choice.  (Don't believe me?  Here's an example of a prisoner in China who was forced into slavery.  Or do an internet search; there's plenty to discover.)  Many times their traditional ways of making a living have been destroyed by international policy so they're forced to work under conditions no American would tolerate.  We have laws against such treatment whereas they do not.  And hungry people will do whatever it takes to feed themselves and their families.  They don't complain because if they do, the multinational corporations that they work for will pack up and move elsewhere.  As long as we continue our shopping habits, demanding an ever-increasing number of new things at low, low prices, slavery will continue.  It's up to us to stop it.

So here's my challenge:  to buy nothing new until March 20, the spring equinox.  I'll make a few exceptions:  food, toiletries, underwear, footwear (it's hard for me to find shoes in my size and my favorite pair of winter boots need replacing), or anything that I absolutely must have.  Not want.  Need.  And I won't go shopping just to shop, even if the items I'll purchase are used.  
I'm also doing this for the animals, for our environment, and for our health.  Manufacturing uses toxic chemicals; creates waste that goes into landfill, lakes, rivers, and streams; and contributes to a wide variety of debilitating diseases.  We don't need more stuff - we've got plenty.  And the vast amounts of things that go to landfill and thrift stores and storage facilities - every. single. day. - is proof enough.

My friend Shona is joining me in this challenge.  You may remember she was my partner in crime a couple of years ago when we did a three-month no shopping challenge.  Any other takers?  We're kicking it off on Buy Nothing Day (aka Black Friday).  Join us!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Farm Friday

We've had a few cold days here in Virginia - freezing, actually - which put some of our crops at risk.  However, the greens love the cold weather so we should still continue getting them through the winter.  The lettuces, not so much.

On Wednesday we attended the Virginia State University Small Farm Family Conference, held in Lynchburg this year.  We really get a lot out of this conference.  We have two land grant universities in Virginia, Virginia Tech and Virginia State.  While Tech focuses on Big Ag and chemical farming, VSU (the historically African American university) is all about sustainability and organic farming methods.  We're fortunate to have them as a resource as this is our third year attending the conference, plus we've attended their "goat day."

Now that cold, dark days are ahead, I'm really getting into growing sprouts and shoots.  I've been growing them for a while but I'm trying to improve on and expand what I grow.  I ordered peas to grow pea shoots.  I also dusted off my copy of Ann Wigmore's The Sprouting Book as it has lots of tips and recipes so I have more options than just adding to salads, soups, sandwiches, and the occasional stir-fry.  I've also been watching YouTube videos to learn different techniques for growing sprouts, shoots, and microgreens..  They're packed with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients which are much needed during the winter months.

Earlier in the week I made some minestrone using a variety of vegetables, as recommended in a recipe in Everyday Happy Herbivore by Lindsay S. Nixon, and I threw in some of the shiitake mushrooms that I had dried in the dehydrator.  Delicious and a great way to continue enjoying the bounty!
Yukina Savoy
I also made another delicious soup from a recipe shared by one of our customers.  It called for beet greens, chard, or spinach, but I threw in some yukina savoy.  Yum!  I'll try to remember to share it - the recipe, not the soup- on the blog.  

Our CSA is winding down and we'll be reviewing what worked, what didn't, and how we can improve it for our customers next year.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Wellness Wednesday

 I found 5 reasons to live like the Greeks on MindBodyGreen.  In order to live a healthful life we should mimic the ancient Greeks and:

1. Eat a Mediterranean diet.
2. Cook with wholesome ingredients
3. Adopt healthy and happy thoughts
4. Exercise in moderation
5. Eat with peace and calm

Time reports that not only does adopting a Mediterranean diet provide immediate benefits, the advantages follow us into our senior years, resulting in a longer, healthier life.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Seems we've been eating apples all wrong, which wastes up to 30% of the fruit.  Here's the right way:

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Quote for the Day

"The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion."
~Albert Camus

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Week in Review

I wasn't able to put up "Farm Friday" yesterday so I'm doing a quick week in review, instead.

Last Saturday was our first week to sell at a new location, a health food store about 45 minutes away.  We already have a drop off point about halfway there so it's no problem driving a bit more.  It was quite a challenge for the first delivery as we had to deliver our regular CSA shares, as well as preorders for the two locations plus have some items to sell once we got set up.  Today was our second Saturday doing this and we now seem to have a system set up.  Timing the picking, sorting the orders, and packing everything into my SUV in the early morning takes some brain work!  We've also learned that getting preorders is the key to making it work the drive, at least for now, because there's not a lot of pedestrian traffic at the location.  Once the word spreads, we expect to have more walk up customers.  However, having those preorders really helps us know what to bring.

Last week I got my new food processor slicing blade to make sweet potato, Yukon potato, and other chips in my dehydrator.  The food processor manufacturer no longer makes a thin enough blade for my model and I was fortunate to find one and then secure the winning bid on Ebay.  I made a batch that turned out pretty good but I'm still going to experiment a bit.
Sweet potato chips going into the dehydrator

We attended a local production of Macbeth.  They used the original script but changed the setting to a 1920s New York City speakeasy.  They used black and white clothes and set, and grey scale makeup to give it the feel of an old black and white movie.  

The fall colors have been spectacular.  Early one morning I was working in my office and looked out the window to see the world covered in a golden glow.  I tried to take photos but my camera didn't do it justice.  

On Tuesday we joined one of Land and Table's monthly potlucks.  The group is self-described as "a grassroots, community development initiative....We are cultivating a network of farmers, food producers, food artisans, eaters, gardeners, homesteaders and neighbors who want to change the way our region eats, for the better."  They're a great group, started by friends of ours.  Unfortunately, they meet about 1 1/2 hours away so we can't visit very often.  We try to attend every now and then because we not only get to see old friends, we get to meet and connect with like-minded people in our region.

We continue to get interest in our own group which I named "Piedmont Sustainable Living" until someone comes up with a better name.  We started a facebook page to continue making connections and to share information.

Tomorrow is our first weekend day "off" in quite a while.  Nothing scheduled at all.  I'm looking forward to it.

Have a great rest of the weekend!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

An Example of Pinkwashing

Percha 5
Late last month - and other times in the past - I've blogged about how much I detest "pinkwashing" and the whole "awareness" scam that we're subjected to, especially in October.  Driving into town last week, I saw a concrete example of how absurd the whole thing is.  On the marquee of a local dry cleaners was a pretty pink ribbon and this statement:  "Help Clean Up Cancer."  Really?  A business that uses cancer-causing chemicals - chemicals that are released into our soil, water, and air and go into the clothes that we wear against our skin - announcing that it's on our side in the so-called war against cancer?  I cry foul - and this proves my point of the lack of substance behind the campaigns.

Chemicals used in the dry cleaning process typically include perchloroethylene, also called "perc," which both the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Academy of Sciences consider a "likely carcinogen."  Other organizations, including the CDC, also have determined it to be likely to cause cancer.  This chemical is the most widely used chemical for dry cleaning, used by 85-90% of dry cleaning operations.  

Let me repeat - dry cleaning chemicals are linked to cancer.  So, how on earth is a dry cleaner helping to "clean up cancer"?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Wellness Wednesday

...or why each generation gets heavier and heavier, and less and less healthy.  And why our health care costs continue to skyrocket.
One solution?  Turn off the TV and take the family for a walk.  Better yet, cancel your cable or other TV subscription and limit viewing to pre-screened DVDs or programs streamed online.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How I See It

Simple flow chart:

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Quote for the Day

There's a national recall on locally-grown produce
said no one ever.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Warping Time and Losing Our LIves

A few days ago, I watched a brief (12 minutes) YouTube video that helped explain why I feel "scattered" and unsatisfied most of the time, despite the amazing tools I have literally at my fingertips - computer, smart phone, ebook reader, ipod, internet.  While I can do incredible things with these tools, often I sense that I'm lacking and missing something, while at the same time feeling an overwhelming weight of the intangible digital information they provide.  

The speaker, Abha Dawesar, talks about how technology has altered time and our experiences and how "the self as we once knew it no longer exists abstract digital universe has become part of our identity."  She points out that "so many of us today have the sensation that time's arrow is pointing everywhere and no where at once.  This is because time doesn't flow in the digital world in the same way that it does in the natural one."

I'll share a couple of excerpts from her presentation that struck me as particularly powerful and then you can watch it for yourself:
[The "digital now"] bears very little physical or psychological reference to our own state.  Its to distract us at every turn on the road.  Every digital landmark is an invitation to leave what you are doing now to go somewhere else and do something else....Not just is the digital now far from the present, but it is in direct competition with it.  And this is not just because am I absent from it but so are you. Not just are we absent from it, but so is everyone else, and therein lies its greatest convenience and horror....The challenge is to live in two streams of time that are parallel and almost simultaneous.  How does one live inside distraction?
Time warping technology challenges our deepest core because we are able to archive the past and some of it becomes hard to forget even as the current moment is increasingly unmemorable.  We want to clutch and we are left instead clutching at a series of static moments that like soap bubbles disappear when we touch them. By archiving everything we think that we can store it.  But time is not data; it cannot be stored.
Let me know if it resonates with you, as well.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Farm Friday

Once again, I failed to take photos of activities around the farm.  So, I'll share a quick list of some happenings:

  • Our granddaughter came for a visit.
  • We finished out the season at the farmers' market; it reopens next May.
  • I had two successful projects with my dehydrator:  dried shiitakes to use in soups this winter and flax/chia/sunflower crackers.
  • I had two failed projects with my dehydrator:  raw butternut squash cookies (too thin) and sweet potato chips (too thick - I bought a 1mm food processor disk on ebay to attempt again since we have so many sweet potatoes; maybe I can make regular potato chips, as well).
  • As part of my effort to be more sustainable, I purchased eight plates at Goodwill to help replace paper plates (which we did compost) at our various meetings.  I'm also going to look into using scrap fabrics to make cloth napkins.  I like any events we host to be as low impact as possible.
  • Bill harvested the black beans after letting them dry on the plants and I sorted and stored them.  We love using black beans in a variety of dishes, especially the traditional Cuban black beans and yellow rice.
  • We were finally able to visit our friends who run Four Corners Farm in Rocky Mount on their annual customer appreciation day.
  • Tonight we're going to a local production of Macbeth with a twist - it's set in a 1920s New York speakeasy.
  • Tomorrow, after our CSA and other deliveries, we're heading to a local health food store.  The owner invited us to sell in front of her store and we've already gotten a couple of pre-orders. 
Have a great weekend!