Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Good to Know

Girl Cook
Here's another food-related "Good to Know" post. Cooking Light has a list of the most common cooking mistakes (boy, do I make a lot of them!). Here's the link.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Quote for the Day

"Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.
This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself."
~Chief Seattle

Saturday, September 27, 2014

How Refreshing

Earlier this week I saw on Huffington Post that well-known actress Ali McGraw has rejected the Hollywood norm to dye her hair and has instead embraced her natural grey color. 
ali macgraw gray hair
I applaud her choice for a number of reasons. First, American women have so much pressure to conform to a certain look. We're expected to remain 21 for the rest of our lives, even though men clearly don't have that pressure. I also say bravo to her decision as all of those dyes and bleaches that women put on their hair (and some men, too) are bad for their health and for the environment. Do we really know what chemicals go into those boxes? And of course I'm glad to see her do this as I made the decision a couple of years ago to stop highlighting my hair and to let the grey come in. If every woman chose to do this, our definition of beauty would change. Over the last couple of years, I've noticed that when I'm at events where the conversation is deep and the women are well educated, lots of grey hair is evident. These are women who are confident in who they are and find no need to conform to some superficial standard. Let's start a movement!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Farm Friday

Here I am at Averett University pointing out the dishes made from our farm products
I've been a bit quite on my blog but that doesn't mean it's quiet on the farm. Since I left my part-time job in April and gone full-time on the farm, I'm busier than ever. One thing I've really gotten behind is homesteading. When we decided to farm full time, we realized that one way to make it successful was to become more self-reliant and to avoid purchases that were unnecessary or that we could make ourselves. So now most of our days revolve around running the farm as a business and homesteading.

This week was packed full of both! We worked the farmers market on Saturday, plus did our mid-week deliveries. In addition, voting took place for the Bon Appetit Farm to Fork Grant Program and we made an appearance at Averett University, our closest Bon Appetit cafe. We were very touched by the number of friends and supporters who went out of their way to eat a meal at the cafe and to vote for our farm. We also got a lot of local media coverage with the daily newspaper calling me on Monday for a story that ran Tuesday and then to join us at the cafe on Tuesday for a story that ran on the front page of the newspaper on Wednesday. One supporter even contacted a television station that sent a report out to cover the event. We were on the news both Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning. If you're interested, you can watch the segment here.

This week I baked some bread (four loaves), made chicken stock from a chicken carcass leftover from a crockpot meal (for husband, not for me), dehydrated some chanterelle mushrooms (looks like we're going to have a good crop soon and I wanted to make sure I could preserve some), and cooked lots of leftover vegetables to serve our dog Ginny. She loves the new low-fat, organic, whole food diet that I have her on and her health has significantly improved. 

We're pretty much between seasons right now - and our weather is showing it - so we're planning on taking off next week. When I say taking off, it doesn't mean we won't be working; we'll just sit out the farmers' market and not do any deliveries next week.

Have a good weekend!

Thursday, September 25, 2014


It seems modern society is all about numbers - at least numbers on paper. Quality of life cannot be quantified and therefore is rendered unimportant by moguls and politicians whose livelihoods depend upon that bottom line. But what about the rest of us? Clean air and water, natural beauty, healthy bodies, and self sufficiency don't figure in the computations and decisions of the powerful. 

In our community we're facing numerous challenges that will increase the numbers for corporations and governments but will negatively impact common citizens. By dangling thoughts of "economic development" and "jobs creation" before the community, we the people are distracted from looking at the negative future impact of these proposed ventures. 

An example of how numbers manipulate is when Virginia Governor McAuliffe said a proposed natural gas (from fracking, yet another issue) pipeline "would create thousands of jobs during construction, yield about $1.42 billion in economic activity and generate hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in state tax revenue." No mention of the potential environmental devastation nor the fact that most of that economic activity would remain in the hands of the large corporations. Further, construction is done by companies from other areas so no real jobs are created (except on paper). And we often need the tax revenue to monitor the very projects that create the funds and to clean up the messes they leave in their wake. 

Another example of numbers blinding us to fact is the idea that CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) chicken houses will be great for our state. Now that China has lifted its ban on chicken imports from the US politicians and Big Ag have been chomping at the bit, working to change county zoning regulations so that individuals can contract with one of the big chicken corporations and start raising hundreds of thousands of chickens for those corporations to export to China and pump up the numbers for all involved. 

However, the numbers hid a very dark side of these chicken operations. First of all, the jobs created almost always go to undocumented workers who work under deplorable conditions unable to protest for fear of deportation. These are jobs that legal residents refuse to take so there is no economic improvement or "jobs creation" for the community. The business people who buy into this model go deeply into debt (hundreds of thousands of dollars) to build the chicken facilities only to become virtual indentured servants to the chicken companies who dictate their every move and also the fees that will be paid. Another problem is the waste created. The chicken litter is dangerous to the health of people and the environment in such volume.  and it has to go somewhere. Ask Parris Glendening, former governor of Maryland, how chicken houses worked out for that state. Or Drew Edmondson, former attorney general of Oklahoma, who filled a lawsuit on behalf of his state for environmental damage caused by the chicken industry. Worse yet, talk to families who lived near such operations and lost children to cancer then made the connection that neighbors also had children affected by cancer. (Some of this information comes from A River of Waste:  The Hazardous Truth About Factory Waste which can be viewed here.)

Avoiding enterprises that affect our health and well being don't add to the paper prosperity of a company or municipality but it certainly improves the quality of life. Growing your own food, practicing natural medicine, avoiding consumerism - these are all options contribute positively to our lives but negatively impact the numbers for those who count such things. Maybe we need to begin ignoring the numbers and pay attention to the quality of life. 
Because a tree standing in a forest or a stream running through the mountains has no "value," politicians and business people will fret over them until they find a way to extract dollars and create economic "prosperity." Should this be the basis of our happiness?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wellness Wednesday

Yet another study confirmed what we already know - artificial sweeteners are bad for your health. Earlier studies have shown that the artificial sweeteners in diet drinks actually sabotage your diet by making you hungrier.  The latest study has shown that artificial sweeteners may alter the microflora in your gut, creating conditions for glucose intolerance that will lead to type 2 diabetes. While the study did not make a clear connection between the artificial ingredient and human health issues, it does give us more reason to abstain from artificial ingredients. If it isn't food, should we ingest it? The best bet is to stick to natural, chemical-free foods and eat them in moderation.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Farm Friday

"Vote for Pedro." That's how I've felt this week, contacting people and institutions, talking about the Bon Appetit Farm to Fork Grant Program, explaining our project, and asking for votes. (For those of you who don't get the reference, it's from the Napoleon Dynamite movie.) We've been in touch with the local university, talking with the dining hall director. He purchased some of our produce and meat to feature on Tuesday, the day of voting. I've also contacted my alma mater (another voting location) and they're spreading the word via the alumni association, marketing, etc. So excited to be participating in this program and hoping we get good results!

The summer gardens are winding down, leaving us mainly with purple hull peas (a type of black-eyed pea) and green beans, although we still have some eggplant, sweet and hot peppers, and tomatoes. Our shiitake mushrooms should be taking off soon since the weather has cooled and we've had some rain.

Our dog Ginny is doing so much better. I'm now convinced she has an extreme case of GERD/acid reflux but the meds weren't working for her. I'm also convinced if I had continued to take her from one specialist to another, they would have eventually killed her as the next steps were to put her under and do an endoscopy and then exploratory surgery. Not good options for my 11 year old girl. What is working for me? Mainly DGL licorice tablets, supplemented with a homeopathic remedy (nux vomica), slippery elm powder, some probiotics, and a little aloe vera juice. And I've taken her off dog food and am feeding her venison and pureed butternut squash. I must love her a lot as I had to cook up a deer liver that we had frozen this past winter thinking it might be a possible source for dog food. Little did I know that it would end up being an essential part of her diet by the end of the year. After her stomach gets back to normal, I'll be looking into giving her a healthy, balanced, homemade diet.

A couple of weeks ago we got to hear Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, talk about his latest book. Command and Control is about the nuclear weapons industry and how antiquated the military system is. Kind of scary. Fast Food Nation was very influential in my life as I read it right after having a severe case of food poisoning. I went in search for answers - wondering what type of food poisoning I had and how I got it - and discovered Schlosser's book. I'm looking forward to reading this new book. He also has a documentary coming out this year - Food Change.

I'm enjoying the end-of-summer wild flowers. Aren't they pretty?

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

One Week to Go

Photos of the finalists in the southeastern region (that's us in the bottom right corner)
We're almost there! Just one week away from voting at Bon Appetit Management Company cafes. What's at stake? A $5,000 grant that would allow us to build a greenhouse. With a greenhouse, we can extend our growing season plus grow all of our own plant starts. You can go here to read about our application.

Voting is regional and by guests at cafes (most on college campuses) managed by Bon Appetit. We've asked our friends in the Southeast who are near a cafe to please pay a visit to vote for us and/or tell their family and friends to do the same. Keeping our fingers crossed!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Quote for the Day

“Silence is a source of great strength.”
~Lao Tzu

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Taste of Tuesday/Good to Know

Tuesdays are when I semi-regularly post "Taste of Tuesday" and often share a recipe.  However, I'm thinking about alternating it with "Good to Know" where I can share various tidbits I pick up in my real and virtual travels.  This week's post works for both topics.

BuzzFeed has a great article about onions - which types work best in what dishes.  Here's a handy chart they've put together:
I tend to violate these uses regularly because, as a homesteader, I usually just use what we've grown and have on hand.  However, I'll keep these guidelines in mind in the future.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Farm Happenings

I missed doing "Farm Friday" for the last two weeks. I really hate it when I'm not able to put a farm update on the blog but that's how it goes sometimes, especially this time of year.

Part of the reason for the missing post is my girl Ginny has been really sick, so sick she had to be in the animal hospital for three nights. I wasn't happy about that as it's hard on the girl - she's never away from home and I'm rarely away from her. She started having mild stomach issues a few months ago and I chalked it up to her eating nasty things she finds around the farm. However, when she got to where she couldn't keep any food down, I had to call in the vet. I've been practicing my voodoo medicine (aka alternative medicine) as trying some other things. I had her fast for a day and a half in order to allow her digestive system to heal a bit. She's doing better but has gotten skinny and isn't out of the woods yet. Here's photo of her when she was just a puppy - and you can see how she captured our daughter's heart:

Eleven years ago
It was love at first sight for our daughter

We also had our granddaughter over Labor Day weekend.  We picked her up on Saturday, after the farmers' market and after I went to get Ginny at the vet. We had a good time with her - she loves visiting Grandpa and Mimi.

Due to the Labor Day weekend and community events, the last two farmers' market Saturdays have been a bit slow. However, last week was our best week ever thanks to loyal delivery customers who understand the importance of eating naturally grown food - for the taste, for health benefits, and to support the community.

Bill and I concocted some hot sauce using cayenne peppers and a jalapeno pepper grown on the farm, mixed with some organic white vinegar. It's yet another item we can produce on the farm and no longer need buy, helping us continue down the sustainable living path.

Our little homesteading/chemical-free farming community is growing.  In October we will celebrate the one year anniversary of Piedmont Sustainable Living.  Early in 2013, this group was just a dream that Bill and I tossed about, trying to decide how to create such a community.  Now we have regular members who not only attend the meetings, but also host in their homes and on their farms.  We also have a business-related group - Chemical-Free Farms of Southern Virginia - that is also growing and evolving. As I said at the past Chem-Free meeting, it's so nice to know we're not the only freaks in the community.

Balance - that's the key for me right now.  I sometime find myself racing from homemaking to homesteading to farm work. I need to find time do do some things well and learn to let go of others.

We had the opportunity to speak at a local LIon's International chapter. We didn't do our usual Powerpoint presentation as we didn't have a projector nor was it the right group for our usual spiel.  Bill did most of the talking (I always point out the obvious - he was the lawyer, I was the law librarian) as I don't do extemporaneous talks; I need a script. We've been asked to talk to a school group and look forward to the opportunity to help shape young minds.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Quote for the Day

“Bring diversity back to agriculture. That’s what made it work in the first place.”
~David Brower

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Changing Habits for the Good of All

A few weeks ago a fellow vendor at the farmers' market told me something that I found disturbing. He said that it takes 1.1 gallons of water to produce one almond. What?! This fact has been at the back of my mind ever since. Although I don't eat a lot of almonds, I do like nuts as a protein source and buy a mixed variety that contains almonds. 

This morning I found this article in my internet feed that reminded me of that fact. Not only does producing almonds take a lot of water, this article points out that California dominates the almond business, producing 82 percent of the world's almonds, a state that is in one of the worst droughts ever - I've even read that it's the worst in over 500 years. In addition, large numbers of honeybees are trucked into the state to pollinate the almonds. (This is because bees cannot live in a monoculture. Once the blossoms are gone, the bees no longer have anything to eat and must be moved elsewhere or die.) Being put on trucks and transported thousands of miles cannot be good for the bees, which are rapidly moving towards the endangered species list.  

So my question is, although almonds are very nutritious, it is ethical for us to continue eating almonds? My answer is no. Despite the health claims surrounding almonds, they are not essential to live and well being. We can get wonderful health benefits from eating food that does not tax the environment so severely and that is found closer to home. Finding an alternative is good for all (except the almond industry, of course).

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Scratching My Head

Last week I spotted a product advertised on a fast food restaurant marquee that really had me scratching my head. Hardee's (aka Carl's Jr. in the West) was advertising their fried bologna and Velveeta biscuit. Maybe because it's "made from scratch." However, neither bologna or Velveeta are food - they're food-like products so health conscious people should avoid them like the plague. But I suppose it's supposed to help that it's on a "made from scratch" biscuit. (That's marketing for you - just make sure you use the right words and bingo, it sounds like it's good for you.)

Before you try, make sure you know what you're getting (data from here and here because I can't get it to pull up on their website):

Calories - 540 (from Fat - 300)
Fat - 33g (Saturated Fat - 11g)
Sodium - 1440 mg
Cholesterol - 245 mg
Carbs - 41g
Sugar - 4g
Protein - 19g

And we wonder why we have a health crisis in the US.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wellness Wednesday

As we approach fall, I notice that people have tired of those tomatoes that they clamored for earlier in the year. Instead, they're looking for greens and other fall foods. Corporations like to capitalize on this and start bringing out things like pumpkin products. However, once again, maybe it's not a good idea to trust those corporations to give us simple, wholesome products. Food Babe has researched the pumpkin lattes sold by Starbucks and it's quite an eye opener.  Here's the graphic showing exactly what you're drinking:
The most dangerous part of this drink is the caramel color which, according to scientific studies, isn't safe at any level.  What don't we understand about carcinogen? And Food Babe goes on to list the ingredients, noting that there is no pumpkin in the drink. Although I'm not a coffee drinker, I think that if I did drink it I would be concerned about this product.

As always, get to know your food and what you put in your body. Read labels and find out what those non-food ingredients really are.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Good to Know

Some of the chanterelles we found on the farm 

Since I've been in the mushroom mood lately, I was curious as to what portobello mushrooms really are. After some internet research, I learned that portobello, crimini, baby bella, and white button mushrooms are all the same variety:  agaricus bisporus. Here's a quick summary of the minute differences from The Kitchn:
• The difference between these popular varieties of mushrooms is just age. The white button mushrooms, those very familiar kitchen staples, are simply the youngest variety. They have been cultivated, too, for that white color and soft texture. In the wild these mushrooms are usually browner.
• The portobello is the most mature mushroom here; it's really just an overgrown white mushroom! They are left to grow for longer, until they have spread out into that delicious meaty cap.
• The cremini mushroom, then, is just in between these two varieties. It's a moderately mature version of the white button mushroom, which is why it has a similar flavor. It's younger than the portobello, but still related, which is why these are sometimes sold as "baby bella" or "baby portobello" mushrooms.
However, not matter what they're called or what they look like, they're all delicious!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Monday Amusement

I took violin lessons when I was a child so this video really made me smile: