Friday, February 28, 2014

Farm Friday

Time has gotten away from me today!  So I'll share a couple of photos of Squeaky and then do a quick recap of this past week.

Photo: Squeaky having his breakfast.

Last weekend I went solo to a conference in Asheville, North Carolina (the above-pictured bottle-fed goat is one reason for my solo journey).  It was a conference based on the business of farming, rather than on the mechanics.  I'm so impressed by the food movement in North Carolina and I feel we're fortunate to be in on the ground floor of the movement here in the Piedmont area.

On Monday we hosted our chemical-free farms group.  We get together regularly to share ideas.

Wednesday night we got the opportunity to see Carrie Newcomer, a Quaker folk-singer, at Duke Divinity School.  Not only was the event free, it was in a very intimate setting with no more than 50 in attendance.  Although I didn't know anything about her or her music before the concert, she has gained a new fan.  Her music was interesting as it could be funny at times and thought-provoking at others.  

Our hens have begun laying eggs more regularly and this week we resumed deliveries on a limited basis.  We even got three new customers this week, one in particular was extremely excited to know she now has a source for food that is raised using organic methods.  She's very excited about coming to the farm store on a regular basis.

We've decided to sell at a different farmers' market this year and we will be attending a vendor's meeting tomorrow to meet with the market manager and get more details about the rules, etc. of that particular market.

I've been busy making items for a craft show I'm doing in April.  Of course, aprons are my number one items but I plan to sell a few other items, including book markers, tote bags, therapy pillows, hand scrubs, and lotion bars.  Some of these items are new for me and should keep me occupied over the next month as I try to fine tune everything.

Have a great weekend!  

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Shine a Light on Global Slavery Today

Join with freedom fighters around the world to shine a light on modern-day slavery.  Draw a Red X on your hand and tell the world that slavery still exists.  It is estimated that there are 27 million slaves in the world.  You can find them in factories, in brothels, in mines, on street corners, and even in homes.

Watch this video and then go here to learn more:

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Wellness Wednesday

One of the world's leading medical journals, The Lancet Neurology, has just published a study linking autism, ADHD, and dyslexia with many of the chemicals found in our world.  (You can read about the study here.)  The guilty chemicals - lead, methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls, arsenic, toluene, manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos, dischlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, tetrachloroethylene, and polybrominated diphenly ethers - are often found in our food and water.  

Even though some of these chemicals are banned in the US, that doesn't mean we aren't exposed to them.  Some of the chemicals that were used in the past still persist in our soil. Also, we import our food from some countries that continue to use those dangerous chemicals. 

Here's an eye-opening infographic on the dangers of pesticides (which are just some of the chemicals we need to avoid):

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Buying Things Used

I stumbled upon an article that validates some of the reasons I've been doing the "buy nothing new" challenge.  So many items that get tossed have a lot of life left in them.  These items often end up in landfills that create a number of problems.  And the things that are purchased to replace them unnecessarily tap into our planets finite resources.  

According to One Green Planet, you should buy these items used:

  • Cars
  • Books
  • Clothing
  • Houses
  • Bicycles
  • Sporting Goods
  • Computers
  • Appliances
  • Furniture
  • Musical Instruments
Over the years, I've bought cars, books, clothes, houses, sporting goods, small appliances, and furniture used.  In fact, I actively seek out used books, small appliances, and used furniture when I find myself in need of those items.  I've tried to get better about haunting thrift and consignment shops when I find that I need an article of clothing.  With this season's challenge, I have discovered that most of my sweaters are getting rather threadbare so will need to replace them before next winter.  My plan will be to scour the stores for high-quality used replacements at bargain prices.  I've discovered that thrift stores are always stocked with small appliances and have purchased like-new bread machines and juicers for very little cost.

The two items I would be hesitate to buy used are large appliances (because I've had bad experience with new large appliances failing before their time) and computers (because I don't know enough about them to make wise choices).  I confess:  My last few vehicles have been new, but I'm trying to make up for that by actually keeping my current vehicle until it can no longer run (it's 11 years old with over 200,000 miles).  And, I do try to make my large appliances last as long as possible, although planned obsolescence works against me.

When you find yourself in need of one of the items mentioned above, take your time browsing thrift and consignment stores.  Not only is it interesting, it's good for the planet and your pocketbook.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Monday Morning Amusement

Goats are always so entertaining:

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Quote for the Day

"Wilderness is not a luxury
but a necessity of the human spirit."
~Edward Abbey

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Social Justice Saturday: Energy Needs and Corporate Resposibility

Pardon me for the long post today, but it's an issue that is close to my heart - and close to where I live.  

Our area has recently experienced an environmentally destructive accident, brought to us by Duke Energy.  There was a coal ash spill into the Dan River, a river the supplies drinking water to nearby communities, recreation to residents, and habitat to wildlife.  This spill is not isolated. All across the country - and around the world - there are various accidents that cause environmental degradation and risk the health and lives of the people, flora, and fauna in the area.  I'm sharing an article by William Rivers Pitt (which can be found here):
It has been snowing all day here, the biggest storm of the season to date. There is at least a foot piled atop the stacked cordwood outside my office window, the trees are frosted and everything is white and silent save for the hiss of flakes coming to rest. I am not one of those people who detests winter; in fact, I adore it, because it is beautiful. What I see out my window in the fading light of this late afternoon reminds me, again, how truly gorgeous this country is.
And then I remember that it is being wrecked, poisoned, denuded and ruined for money and I want to go outside and sit in the snow and listen to it as it buries me until I am gone from this country that would do such harm to itself, brazenly and without restraint, for profit. 
On Tuesday afternoon, Duke Energy in North Carolina released a press statement announcing that somewhere between 50,000 and 82,000 tons of coal ash, which created some 27 million gallons of water polluted with heavy metals and other poisons, had been accidentally dumped into the Dan River, near the towns of Danville and Eden. Eden, because God, or Fate and definitely the coal industry have a vicious sense of humor. Duke Energy waited 24 hours to report the spill. They may not have said anything at all, but a security guard noticed an unusually low water level in what is called an “ash pond,” which is where this crud is stored. That low water level means most of the poison had escaped into the river by the time it was discovered. 
The Dan River is a source of drinking water for the region, as the Elk River was in West Virginia when the coal industry dumped poison there a few weeks ago. According to EcoWatch, “The spill is the equivalent of 413 to 677 rail cars of wet coal ash poured into a public drinking water source. If a freight train full of this toxic waste had derailed, there would have been immediate notification and quick news coverage in order to inform and protect the public.” It appears at this point to be the third largest coal ash spill in American history.
This is what coal ash looks like. By Tuesday afternoon, the Dan River had turned completely grey.
The worst drought in living memory is currently afflicting the State of California and other parts of the West, severe water restrictions have been put in place, and every available weather model predicts the situation will “persist or intensify” through April and beyond. California Republicans have chosen to use the parched landscape as a way to attack Democrats, claiming that policies including environmental protection are to blame for the drought… because humans can’t cause climate change, but Democrats can cause droughts, or something. 
As it turns out, however, there may be another explanation for why California and much of the West is drying up:
America’s oil and gas rush is depleting water supplies in the driest and most drought-prone areas of the country, from Texas to California, new research has found. Of the nearly 40,000 oil and gas wells drilled since 2011, three-quarters were located in areas where water is scarce, and 55% were in areas experiencing drought, the report by the Ceres investor network found. Fracking those wells used 97 billion gallons of water, raising new concerns about unforeseen costs of America’s energy rush. 
It can take millions of gallons of fresh water to frack a single well, and much of the drilling is tightly concentrated in areas where water is in chronically short supply, or where there have been multi-year droughts. In California, where a drought emergency was declared last month, 96% of new oil and gas wells were located in areas where there was already fierce competition for water. The pattern holds for other regions caught up in the oil and gas rush. Most of the wells in New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming were also located in areas of high water stress, the report said.
It’s not just the West that is being affected by the practice of fracking. A report by the Environment America Research & Policy Center titled “Shalefield Stories” has collected the personal testimonies of dozens of people from all across the country who are suffering from the aftereffects of natural gas extraction, processing and waste disposal.
“Across the country,” reads the report, “fracking is contaminating drinking water, making nearby families sick with air pollution, and turning forest acres into industrial zones. We believe it is vital for the public to hear directly from people living on the frontlines of fracking, and so Environment America Research & Policy Center is supporting the Shalefield Stories project-a booklet designed and published by local activists where people impacted by fracking tell their stories, in their own words.”
Read it. It is the diary of a dying country.
The Keystone XL Pipeline is under construction, but not yet complete, and is still awaiting approval from the Obama administration. A few days ago, the State Department released a report on Keystone XL claiming that there are no serious environmental concerns regarding the pipeline, despite the fact that it will be carrying tar sands oil — the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet — through America’s breadbasket and very close to the most important water aquifer in the nation. 
Beyond the very basic, thousand-times proven fact that the Keystone XL pipeline will leak, because all pipelines leak when they are not exploding in huge fireballs that lay waste to the countryside and light up the sky for miles, is the fact that the extraction process for tar sands oil — before it ever sees the inside of any pipeline — is actually more pollutive by two to three orders of magnitude than previously understood. 
The president of the United States did not deign to give a single damn about these or any other inconvenient facts about Keystone and tar sands oil when he stood up before the American people during his State of the Union address last week and talked about “energy independence” in terms so rosy that they would make an oil baron blush. 
He didn’t talk to you about any of this… but maybe you might want to talk to him. The 30-day period for public comment on the Keystone XL pipeline project has officially begun, and if you have a mind to, you can speak your mind on the matter here. Click the blue “Comment Now” button in the upper right corner and speak your piece. 
I would not in any way presume to tell you what to say or how to say it, and I offer no guarantees that commenting on that site will be anything other than a waste of time; the damned pipeline is half-built already, the State Department has blithely brushed off a mountain of extremely unsettling environmental concerns, so I am pretty much convinced that the president is going to approve this thing even if God appears before him in the Oval Office and denounces the project with brimstone and fire. The president doesn’t work for God, and he sure as hell doesn’t work for us. He works for the energy industry that is turning this indescribably beautiful country — this indescribably beautiful world — into a parched, poisoned wasteland. 
Speak your mind anyway, if you feel like it. Unlike the energy policies that are filling the rivers and the air with poison, drying up the water out West while making the tap water back East flammable, speaking your mind does no harm. Who knows? They may even listen. Stranger things have happened, and you still have time, because the seas have not risen to reclaim us.
In our desire to continue living the lives of comfort that we have come to consider a right, there are two truths to consider:  1) corporations are only concerned about profits (in fact, it is their legal responsibility) and 2) we can reduce our risks by reducing our energy consumption and by demanding the use of green energy (wind and solar power).

In light of the coal ash spill and the nearby uranium deposit that some in this area are pushing to be mined and locally milled, I now see how the so-called safeguards put into place by companies that work with dangerous elements are not that at all.  There is no guarantee that we cannot have a spill or a leak or any other type of contamination.  In fact, it's a given that as some point, the equipment and safeguards will fail.  No, the only guarantee we have is that, once fond out, the company or companies will issue a sincere apology - and then fight tooth and nail over who is responsible for the cleanup and any damage done.  

As a side note, I recently saw concrete proof that these energy companies will lie to you to get whatever it is they want.  A recent letter to the editor in a local paper, written by one of the board members and vice chair of an organization that is pushing for the extraction and milling of uranium in our community, pointed out that the mining and milling will be good for our local economy as there is a high demand for uranium in other countries. Yet, the very organization he belongs to, People for Economic Prosperity, emphasizes that "our nation needs the energy."  (And until it is proven to me otherwise, I believe that every single member of that organization has a financial stake in the uranium company.) 

Here's the letter to the editor, stressing the overseas demand for the fuel:

In case you missed it, here's where he said other countries need the uranium
Further, on the front window of the corporation that owns the uranium deposit they proudly boast:  "Jobs for Virginia.  Fuel for America."  And on the company website, in the banner at the top of the home page, it says "Fuel for America."  The page also says the company is working to "advance the energy independence of America."  This is what greets you in their local office:
Entry poster at VUI
It's interesting how they can't get their story right.  Maybe because that's what it is - a story they make up as they go because all they care about are the profits that are just out of reach because concerned citizens care about the dangerous situation they will create.  We've just seen the damage that can be done by a coal-powered company; I shudder to think what the uranium company would do.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Farm Friday

Gratuitous photo of my girl Ginny
Things appear quiet on the farm, but we've been busy behind the scenes.  Even when nothing is growing on the farm, we still have the animals to tend to.  Of course, we continue to feed Squeaky, the orphaned kid.  We've had to buy addition hay to feed the rest of the herd as what little vegetation we have was buried under 10 inches of snow.  All of the mama goats who had rough deliveries are surviving and thriving.  We converted the center aisle of the barn into a kind of sick bay for a few of our weak goats.  The bigger ones bully the smaller ones so they don't always get the nutrition they need this time of year.  This morning, we turned out the last of the girls who had been staying in the sick bay as they were doing much better and really needed to join the rest of the herd.

We placed our seed orders and have gotten some of the shipments already.  A new item we'll be growing is sugar snaps.  This particular variety needs to be trellised so we ordered some trellis netting.  Most of our soil samples for the gardens were sent off to Virginia Tech this week to check the quality of our soil.

We applied for grants to build a hoop house (a type of unheated greenhouse) and to install drip irrigation in the hoop house.  If we get them, we'll be doing the installation in the fall and will be able to farm through all four seasons, allowing us to be more competitive with conventional agriculture.  It's tough to try to make a living farming sustainably while Big Ag gets huge tax subsidies.  

I just read on Salon that we're going to be hit with yet another polar vortex within the next week or so.  I sure hope we don't have any more kids born in those frigid temps.  It's hard on the mothers and the babies - and on the farmers!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Quote for the Day

"To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize."

The Real Is Better than the Ideal

After a professional photo shoot and some photoshopping of the results, these women shared words of wisdom:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Wellness Wednesday

Although American's are taught from an early age that milk is necessary for good health, here's an infographic to make you rethink that belief:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Taste of Tuesday

I made this salad over the weekend.  I changed the original recipe to accommodate what I had on hand.

Pantry Waldorf Salad

2 Fuji apples, diced
1 large carrot, grated
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Stir well.  Chill.

Bon appetit!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Monday Morning Amusement

I continue with the cat theme. :)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Quote for the Day

"The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction."
~Rachel Carson

Friday, February 14, 2014

Farm Friday

View from our front porch
We got hit with the snow storm.  It started mid-day on Wednesday and continued into the afternoon yesterday.   Fortunately, we 1) planned for it so didn't have to worry about running out of some food or other item that we needed and 2) didn't lose power.  Whenever I know we are in for bad weather, I try to do a bit of prep work just in case things are worse than expected.  I make sure we have plenty to eat by stocking up at the grocery store, baking some extra bread, and cooking a few meals that we can heat up in the microwave should we lose power.  (We have a generator and one of the things it powers is the microwave.)  Our poor dog Ginny hasn't been able to go outside, except for brief stints to do her business.  The snow is deep (for Virginia) plus it has crusted over, making it difficult and dangerous for the girl to walk.  Due to the possibility of a broken leg, I've been walking her just outside our garage door where the snow isn't too deep.  Here's a few more pics of the aftermath of the storm:
Back deck is covered
Snow even drifted onto our front porch

Shot through our bedroom door - that's the doghouse under the snow
One important item I had to run out and get on Tuesday, the day before the snow was expected, was milk for my bottle fed kid.  (We lost the last of the triplets so I only have the one to bottle feed.)  I've named him Squeaky because his voice was so hoarse from calling for his mother and that is what alerted us to the fact that he had been abandoned.

The weather has affected the transition of inside to outside for Mr. Fabulous.  But it doesn't seem to be bothering him:
I'm in the home stretch of my buy-nothing-new challenge.  It has been a great experience as it has really  made me aware of how little we actually need.  Plus it encourages creativity.  I've found that I can think outside the box when I find myself in a situation where I think I "need" some new thing.  Instead of running out and buying that perfect item, I find new ways to use things I already own.  Honestly, this exercise has been pretty easy for me as I stepped off the consumer treadmill a number of years ago - but it has shown me that I still make brief (and usually unnecessary) forays into that world.  This exercise would be challenging for someone who regularly haunts the local mall or big box stores.  All the more reason to do it!

The Piedmont Sustainable Living meeting is scheduled for tomorrow night.  We'll have to play it by ear and see how quickly the snow melts and what the evening temperatures are supposed to be.  We don't want people risking dangerous road conditions.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Goose and the Gander Switch Roles

The role reversal in this short film really drives home what it's like to be female in a male-dominated world (warning violence, brief nudity, explicit language):

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wellness Wednesday

Last year I discovered a great alternative to lettuce and other raw greens that I had to purchase from the grocery store when the weather turned cold - sprouts!  I love growing sprouts and shoots in my kitchen.  I highly recommend these little greens as an inexpensive way to get healthy food.  This article lists the following 10 reasons spouts are great:

  • More enzymes than raw fruits and vegetables
  • High quality protein
  • High fiber content
  • Increased vitamin content
  • Increased atty acid content
  • Higher availability of minerals
  • Locally grown organic food with a low environmental impact
  • Energy of the seed/nut/grain/legume is released
  • Alkalizing to the body
  • Inexpensive source of food

Want to start sprouting but not sure how to begin?  Start small, with mung beans, and then branch out with other beans, grains, or seeds.  Check out some videos on YouTube to get some ideas..  

Monday, February 10, 2014

Monday Morning Amusement

Today I thought it was time share another Henri the Cat video:

Friday, February 7, 2014

Farm Friday

Winter is supposed to be a quiet time on the farm, but it hasn't been that way this week.  Here's a quick post with a few highs and lows from the week:

We attended the Virginia Association of Biological Farmers this past weekend.  We ran into our intern from last summer and got caught up on all that was going on in her life.  We also came back chock full of ideas.

We attended a Beginning Farmer and Rancher seminar yesterday.  While we got some good ideas about the business of farming, we also connected with like-minded people as far as farming is concerned.  Almost every single person in the room mentioned the connection between current health problems with what we have done to our food system and the need to get back to more chemical-free living.

Among the lows were some problems with the goats.  We've had a number of stillborn kids, plus I had to pull four goats yesterday due to difficulties with delivery:  a single and triplets.  The single is doing great but we lost two of the triplets and I'm having to bottle feed the surviving kid because the mother is too weak to provide milk.  She's doing better now but I'll have to continue with the bottle feeding.  We also had a "mystery" baby.  We're not sure who the mother is, although we did identify one female who looked like she could have possibly given birth.  Regardless of who the mother is, she abandoned the kid so we have a second bottle baby.  Although I'm sure most readers want to read happy stories about an idyllic life on the farm, I'm not going to sugarcoat it.  Sometimes it's rough, especially when the animals have to survive a harsh winter.  

On a happier note, we have our granddaughter with us again this weekend.  Our daughter will be home, as well, and she wanted to spend some auntie time with her so asked if I could arrange for a visit.  

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

House Love

While overall it's not necessarily my style, I love the idea of living in such a simple space:

The heat source that swivels is especially nice:

As is the laundry/closet combo:

And the green-roofed sheds:

All images are found in this article from the New York Times.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Wellness Wednesday

Reasons to dump your soda habit:
And please stay away from the diet sodas, as well:
Not only are diet sodas filled with extra nasty chemicals that are linked to serious health problems, studies have shown that they actually increase hunger and do not contribute to weight loss.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Quote for the Day

"The world is holy. We are holy. All life is holy. Daily prayers are delivered on the lips of breaking waves, the whispering of grasses, the shimmering of leaves."
~Terry Tempest Williams

Quote for the Day

"Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels...."

— Francisco de Goya