Sunday, November 30, 2014

Quote for the Day

A misty morning on the farm
"A culture is no better than its woods."
~W. H. Auden

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Farm Update

My sweet girl Dixie Belle

Tolerating a goat in her house

Trying to intimidate the dog out of her bed (she was always successful)
This week we had the very low point of saying goodbye to our sweet girl Dixie. Even though she was an old (16+ years) cat, I wasn't ready to say goodbye to her. She came into our family when she was about 4 months old and, as a house cat, was ever-present in our lives. Dixie and I immediately bonded - in fact she chose me - when I found her at a local Humane Society shelter. I went into the enclosure where they kept cats and, while the other cats cowered, she ran right up to me. Over the years she tolerated the games our children played with her, survived the move from Florida to Virginia, and even made several car trips between the two states. She was a real trooper and good company.

We had some good times this week, as well. We went to see a violin/piano duet called Duo Amiable on Saturday night, after we had sold at the Holiday Bazaar. Sunday afternoon saw us attending a children's theater production of Fiddler on the Roof. Unfortunately, from all the stress of losing our cat Mr. Fabulous and saying goodbye to Dixie, I came down with a virus that sidelined me for Thanksgiving. Due to a combination of herbal remedies, natural treatments, and lots of rest, I've had a pretty rapid recovery.

We also took off the week so didn't have deliveries to make, so we had some leisure time. Leisure time for us usually means catching up on neglected chores but it's always a good feeling to get those tasks out of the way.

Fabs wreaking havoc on the furniture

Fabs in one of his unique sleeping positions
But we ended this week on a very high note (and one reason why I didn't post Farm Friday): Mr. Fabulous was found! Bill's sister and her husband are staying in the farm house for the weekend. Around 4:30 yesterday afternoon, she called me and said Fabs had shown up there! We raced to the house and found him cowering under the back porch. He acted feral, as if he had never seen us before in his life. Once he came out, he started heading for the woods, with me carefully trailing behind and calling his name. When we got near the woods, I knew that if I continued pursuing him we could lose him. So I crouched down, called his name, and waited. He hesitated for a few moments then came to my waiting arms. I scooped him up and held him tight until we were able to get him to the safety of our house.

The poor boy must have wandered farther than normal and just couldn't find his way home. He was skinny and starving. Last night he cuddled with me on the couch - something he normally wouldn't do -  and climbed into bed with us in the wee hours of the morning. I'm not going to let him out for a while - if ever - and I think he now appreciates the good home he has. An unexpectedly good ending.

Have a great week!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Dixie Belle
September 1998 - November 25, 2014
 Beloved companion and family member

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I Am the Lorax

It's that time of year when we spend one day being thankful for what we have and the very next day we're up at the crack of dawn to fight with strangers over things that we and our loved ones neither need nor want, all in the "spirit" of the holiday. 

Some people call this coming Friday "Black Friday." I prefer to call it "Buy Nothing Day." Before you rush out to buy the latest greatest thneed, think it over. Is it necessary for you or your loved one to get that item? Is it worth the damage to the planet via the consumed finite resources and associated pollution? Is it worth making retail employees miss a long holiday weekend with family? Make Buy Nothing Day into an entire season. Give the gifts of love, service, or time. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Morning Amusement

This Chris Rock monologue is funny and sad at the same time. 

This post isn't exactly the way I wanted it. The part of the video that I wanted to feature begins at 4:30 and ends around 5:15, but I couldn't figure out how to embed just that portion of the video and the online tutorials didn't work for me. So below is the entire video and the portion I wanted to share is here:

Chris Rock's take on the American Christmas experience is spot on.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Quote for the Day

"Dream....Dream of other ways of living, dream new joys, dream a world where you have less but live more."
~Charles Bowden

Friday, November 21, 2014

Farm Friday

This week has been a week of highs and lows. 

Monday night around 7:00 we let our Maine coon cat Mr. Fabulous ("Fabs") outside for his usual nocturnal prowling. When he didn't show up for breakfast the next morning I was slightly concerned. Now that he has been gone all week, I'm extremely concerned. But I'm still hoping he shows up. We had one of our cats disappear for about 6 weeks. We don't know what he did during that time or what happened to him, but he never again left the area between our house and barn.

Wednesday night I learned that I will soon need to say goodbye to my sweet house cat Dixie. Dixie is 16 years old and has been with me since she was 4 months old. She recently developed an abscessed tooth and ended up having an extraction. The infection would not go away and she has been on 4 or 5 different antibiotics. The vet told me it's probably a tumor in her sinuses and, although there are other interventions, if it were her cat she wouldn't do any of them. But she didn't need to tell me that because I know that would be pure torture to the cat, with a very high risk and no guarantees. Dixie is pretty old for a cat and I don't want her to suffer, but it will still be hard to tell her goodbye. She and I bonded from the moment I met her and Bill has always called her my familiar.

We knew we would be getting frost on Monday night so harvested much of our cold-sensitive greens. The broccoli was still young so had small heads and very small harvest overall. We sold out of it so didn't even get to save any for ourselves.

Wednesday Bill and I borrowed our neighbor's trailer so that he could take one of the pigs to market. Getting the truck backed into a tight spot where the trailer was stored and then getting the trailer hitch to line up perfectly with the truck was a challenge but we managed to do it without too much trouble. We raised this particular pig for a nonprofit organization we work with and they will give away some of the meat to low income individuals in their community, as well as use it in their community dinners and fundraisers.

A couple of weeks ago we received an invitation to a reception/celebration at the Governor's mansion. We weren't sure what the event was about or why we were invited until the Governor's office announced the formation of the Council on Bridging the Nutritional Divide with Virginia's First Lady as Chair. The purpose of the council is to eliminate childhood hunger in the commonwealth. So last night we visited the mansion, along with a small crowd of people, mainly cabinet members, delegates, and staff members. We were honored to be included for the celebration. It was good to talk to Mrs. McAuliffe and hear more about her plans. As the mother of five, she's very passionate about ensuring that no child goes hungry in Virginia. We were also able to meet and chat with Gov. McAuliffe for a few minutes. Although it was a long trip - we weren't able to spend the night - we were glad to be able to be a part of the celebration.
VA First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe with Bill and me
I have a craft show tomorrow and will be selling my trademark women's aprons, as well as hot/cold therapy pillows and a few other items. After this show, I have one more in December, then I think I'll take a vacation.

Have a great week!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Positive Things

Our current Kiva loan recipients
Since I often complain about things that are wrong, I wanted to highlight something that is right. Kiva is an amazing organization that give micro loans to individuals around the world in order to start or expand small business enterprises. Years ago I made a small investment in this organization and over the years, that small investment has been reloaned nine times. Today I had to smile when I got notice that part of the current loan had been repaid - 44 cents. For Americans, 44 cents is a trivial amount. We probably can find more than that in the nooks and crannies of our cars and sofas. However, for the group that borrowed the money, a small food market in the Dominican Republic, that is a tremendous amount. And the fact that we've had no defaults on any loans is impressive. Although I get nothing in return, I consider it my best investment.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wellness Wednesday

Girl With Mobile Phone
A new study published in Pathophysiology has shown that long-term use of cell or cordless phones comes with a high risk of brain tumors. In fact, the study says the long-term use of wireless phones triples the risk. Young people are particularly vulnerable since their skulls are thinner and heads smaller, therefore increasing the brain's exposure to the radiofrequency electromagnetic fields. Tips to avoid exposureinclude using speaker phones and texting, both of which keep the phone away from the head. Here's a summary of the study.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sticker Shock, Affordability, and Who Really Counts

Where the States Stand

When we became self-employed, we searched for a health insurance policy that fit our lifestyle. We found one that had a very high deductible and only covered catastrophic illness and accidents. Although the monthly premiums were high, they were manageable. We are also told that as part of the Affordable Care Act ("ACA"), we would be able to keep the our insurance coverage. As many Americans have learned, that is not the case.  

Despite removing both of our grown children from our policy, our premiums have continued to rise and we expected a hike for 2015, especially with the details of the ACA kicking in. However, nothing prepared us for the shock when we opened the envelope from our heath insurance company, laying out the *new plan details* for our 2015 coverage. Not only had our deductible gone up 30 percent, our monthly premium will almost double.

So over the weekend I went on the government's health insurance *marketplace.* After filling out a new application, the site revealed - ta da! - which plans we were eligible for. A *bright* note was that there was a catastrophic plan that, although had the same deductible as our new 30 percent higher insurance plan, has a monthly premium that is *only* about 17 percent more than our current plan. 

As part of the application process, an *Eligibility Notice* was generated. This notice informed us that our 
household's yearly income is too low for a tax credit [meaning no government subsidy to help with the out-of-reach-for-our-income-level premiums]. Generally, individuals and families whose household income for the year is between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level for their family size may be eligible for the tax credit. [If you're below the federal poverty level, you don't qualify for assistance.]
Then we were told that, 
You are not required to pay a penalty for not having health insurance because of your income and because the state of VA declined to expand Medicaid to cover individuals in your situation. [Despite the fact that the purpose of the Affordable Care Act is to make sure everyone has heath insurance, you still can go without if you're too poor to afford it.]
So it boils down to this:

We know the premiums are too high for you to afford, you aren't required to have health insurance, and you don't count.

Now I'm not necessarily whining for us because we're on our second career. We chose to become farmers as we feel we are providing a very important service and setting an example and we were able to prepare a safety net before making the jump. My complaint is for the thousands of people who are self-employed or work for small businesses, especially young adults, who are in the same position and will not have health insurance because they cannot afford it. This segment of the population has no voice. There's nothing affordable about the Affordable Care Act for this group. Since most Americans either have employer-provided insurance or live in states where Medicaid was expanded, they don't understand that there are low income families and individuals who have been entirely excluded from the dance. When it comes to healthcare, everyone should count.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday Morning Amusement


Last night I opened my RSS reader to see how many blog posts from my subscriptions were unread:  2146. Since I don't have a premium account, I'm only allowed a maximum of 100 subscriptions. Life has been busy. I'm counting on winter to help me catch up on reading and commenting.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Quote for the Day

"We draw our strength from the very despair in which we have been forced to live. We shall endure."
~Cesar Chavez

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wellness Wednesday

Garden Watering
Not that we need another reason to farm and garden organically, but a new study published in the Journal of Organic Systems that links the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) to a wide variety of chronic diseases, including  autism, Alzheimer's and senile dementia, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, and diabetes. The study examined the correlation between the dramatic rises in these and other diseases over the past 20 years and the introduction of glyphosate in 1974. A summary of the study can be found here and the entire text of the study here

Monday, November 10, 2014

Monday Morning Amazement

Every city seems to have some sort of ugly, abandoned "big box" store, left after a large retailer decided it needed bigger, better space:
One town in Texas decided to make something ugly into something beautiful and converted an abandoned WalMart into America's largest one-story library:
See more photos and read about the transformation here

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Quote for the Day

"There's only one rule that I know've got to be kind."
~Kurt Vonnegut

Friday, November 7, 2014

Farm Friday

It is definitely fall now. The leaves have turned red, gold, and orange, and many trees have lost their leaves. We fired up our wood heater on the first of the month and are glad to have it going, especially in the evenings and early morning.

Last week I forgot to mention a big farm task that we took care of. We harvested some fall hay from one of our fields. Bill had estimated that we would get 50 square bales from it; however, we ended up with almost three times that amount! We didn't have our neighbor's trailer so had to collect the bales using our pickup truck. It was the same day that we needed to attend the community meeting about Big Ag coming to the community to raise chickens so we rushed to get the hay in. Bill and I worked until about half an hour before we had to leave. A friend stayed with us so that he could attend the meeting and was able to help bring in the rest of the hay after the meeting. I fixed and served dinner when they took a break. They ended up working until almost 10 that night. 
I'm driving the truck towards some bales that need to be collected

Bill doing the heavy lifting

Bales waiting to be stored
We harvested the last of the herbs, eggplant, pepper, and cherry tomatoes before the cold killed them. We had two full-sized green tomatoes from a volunteer plant and I used them to make green tomato bread.

Two of the pigs were taken to the processor this week so we will have pork available soon. As a vegetarian, I'm conflicted about raising meat animals. I believe each person has to make the decision as to whether or not to consume animal products without pressure from others. However, I also think meat eaters need to know how the animals are raised and shouldn't turn a blind eye to the horrific conditions most live in. I feel we do our part to make sure those who want to eat meat can know that not only do we feed our pigs GMO-free and soy-free feed, we raise them on pasture, in a very humane way. If you eat meat, know where it comes from and agree to the circumstances - or don't eat it at all.

We didn't do deliveries this week as we're between the "baby" plants and the full-sized ones. Hopefully, we can resume deliveries next week. 

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

An Alternative

Revised Seal copy

Except in Vermont where it is being challenged, there are no states that require GMO labeling. However, there's a great voluntary program that lets you know that food products are free of GMOs. It's the non-profit Non-GMO Project. With this program, food manufacturers who want customers to know that their products are GMO-free can sign up, go through the verification process, and if they're clean, can use the label on their products. I know I have started looking for the label with the few processed food items that I buy. And maybe it's better that we don't depend upon government intervention when it comes to organics, mainly since Big Ag seems to have taken over the "certified" label. With certified organic, it's extremely difficult and too expensive for a small farm to participate, not to mention the fact that large agri-business corporations continue to demand changes that dilute the spirit of the program.

One question I need to research: Are any of the companies currently using this program ones that fought GMO labeling? 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wellness Wednesday

Today's post is not my usual health and wellness tip, but it does relate to health and wellness.  Last night we were fortunate to hear Vandana Shiva speak at Wake Forest University. She was the keynote speaker in a series on the "Challenges and Realities of Feeding the World." She's such an inspirational speaker and leader, working tirelessly to drive home the importance of sustainable agriculture for feeding the world and for maintaining our health. She pointed out that all of the firsts in health problems begin in the US, then as our food culture has spread around the world, so have our health epidemics.

This morning I was saddened to learn that the GMO-labeling initiatives failed in both Oregon and Colorado. In Colorado, supporters raised just under $1 million dollars to spread the word while opponents spent $16 million to fight it. In Oregon, supporters were able to raise $20 but the opponents raised $20 million. For someone living in a processed food desert, I find myself saddened to know that the powers we are up against are so strong that even California, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado cannot win. While it is the ancient story of David and Goliath, the problem is that right now Goliath is winning.

Vandana Shiva has such a good point when it comes to GMOs. On the one hand, those who are opposed to labeling say that there is no difference between conventional crops and GMO crops and, therefore, labeling is unnecessary. On the other hand, industrial agriculture insists that their GMO crops are different enough that they should have patents on them and own the right to control the seed. So which is it? Are they the same or different? 

While I'm trying not to feel disheartened, I am reminding myself of why Dr. Shiva said she still has hope. First, she pointed out that the younger generation is rejecting the rhetoric of Big Ag; they see through the smoke and mirrors. Secondly, she sees that we keep trying, that those who care about the health of the planet - the whole planet, including people, animals, and the soil - continue to fight the fight. Last, she said that the evidence is so clear and, in the long run, it cannot be ignored and will prevail.  So we must continue to fight the good fight, to speak out about the dangers - both to our physical health and to the environment - of industrial agriculture and that the alternative - small sustainable farms - is the solution. 

If you have a few minutes, I recommend watching her speak about agriculture and sustainability:

Monday, November 3, 2014

Monday Morning Amusement

A blast from the past (sorry the quality is poor):

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Quote for the Day

"There must be more to life than having everything."
~Maurice Sendak