Saturday, February 28, 2015


This is what happened to my old computer screen
This past week I got my new computer. I needed a new one as my old one was dying fast. However, I liked my old computer. But changing technology - and expensive repairs - has made it impossible to keep. My son recommended a model based on my needs, I ordered it, and the UPS truck delivered it on Wednesday. 

Getting a new computer is like having a wrecking ball demolish your house and you have to reconstruct it from the ruins. I'm slowing transferring files, photos, and music from the old to the new, as well as installing software that I use on a regular basis. What is most frustrating to me is the junk that now comes loaded on computers. It's like buying a magazine and realizing that it is at least 50% advertising, except with the magazine you can just turn the page. On a computer, you have to determine what is essential and what isn't.

I have spent a good deal of time removing the seemingly "helpful" programs that tell me I need to remove spyware or corrupted files or to update my drivers. All of this on a brand new computer. And then the "helpful" program opens a page on your browser that tells you to purchase the program, at a discount of course. So in reality, there is nothing wrong with the computer; it's just software that is trying to sell you something.

While I am grateful for the technology that makes it possible for me to communicate with people around the world, to go to the library without driving, to search for and save useful information, and to perform thousands of other small tasks that make life easier, it can be really frustrating when I have to make changes. It's especially bad when I have to clean up things I didn't want in the first place. But I'm slowly getting there. And it will be nice to have a fully functioning computer again.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Farm Friday

The season and weather have made it a quiet week on the farm. I had planned to drive to Greensboro to do some "big city" shopping, mainly at the health food store. As I left our house, a few snowflakes were falling but I decided it wasn't anything to worry about. However, when I got on the main highway, the snow was coming down good and sticking, plus the surface of the road was icy white in spots. As soon as I was able to turn around, I did and I stopped at our post office on the way. Good thing I had turned around because the postmaster told me that the roads in Greensboro were a "mess." However, when I got to our house, there was no snow at all. Apparently, the snow storm was to the south of us.

I decided to reschedule my trip for Thursday. This is what happened in the wee hours of Thursday morning:

Bill has planned to take the last two pigs to the processor on Wednesday. One of the girls went into heat, so he couldn't take them. The other one is now in heat, too, so he's postponing it until next week.

Although I'm a warm weather person, I've learned to appreciate winter. It's season of rest and recovery. As long as you don't have to get to job or school, staying home after a snow storm can be nice. But I do miss my flip flops.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Rethinking Our Current System

Sg.Cargocontainer 1
Earlier this month I blogged about our society's dependence on centralized systems for food, energy, and other necessities, as well as for non-essentials. You can read about it here. Little did I know a good (if that's the right word) example was right around the corner.

The Eco-Grandma recently brought to my attention the issue at the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach (and other west coast ports) where the dock workers and shipping companies have a dispute that is causing huge delays in the distribution of goods, including food. (You can read her story here.) According to the first video, about $1 billion of goods go through that port every day. And now they're just sitting, which is especially bad when it's food that ends up rotting. The second video points out that 70% of our goods from Asia come through the west coast ports. If you look at labels of products in stores, you'll note that the majority come from Asia.

We should use this as a lesson on how dangerous our current system is. However, no one seems to be thinking in those terms. The focus is on money, money, money. Yet our lack of a domestic source for the things we need should be of great concern. We hear talk about security yet we do nothing to ensure that we can feed and clothe ourselves in case of some type of shutdown. 

Why the lack of discussion? I assume it's partly because small businesses are of no concern to the government. We don't have the deep pockets to support political campaigns and, individually, we don't contribute big numbers to government spread sheets and other means of keeping track of "success." 

But the bigger they are, the harder they fall, and it looks like there's a lot of crashing going on right now. Speaking from the food angle, if communities depended on local and regional sources for food (and supported community canneries where people could preserve the bounty from the growing season) instead of far off places, a shutdown at a port on the west coast would not affect people on the east coast or the mid-west or anywhere else. 

Not only is our system unsustainable (and crazy), it's dangerous. I can't imagine what future generations are going to think about us. Perhaps we won't have to worry about this being our legacy. Maybe a few people reading a few posts like this will have the connections to start making some changes.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Quote for the Day

"Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all."
~George Washington

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Farm Update

RIP Pearl
Last night, after I posted Farm Friday, I'm sorry to say we lost little Pearl. She was fine when I gave her lunch around 1:00 and then later, when Bill was doing chores, she was her usual spunky self. However, when we went to the barn for the night feeding, the bottle babies heard me approaching and called out as usual, but something wasn't right. Neo was waiting at one of the stall doors, eager to be let out for his bottle. I kept hearing Pearl (I called her my St. Pearly Girl after the beer brand) but I didn't see her which was unusual as she was always waiting with Neo. We finally realized she was laying down in a corner of one of the stalls but wasn't getting up nor did she want her bottle. We ended up bringing her in the house to make her comfortable and to see what might be wrong. About 90 minutes later, she was gone. 

In some ways, losing Pearl wasn't a surprise. We have never raised a rejected baby to maturity. Never. And their deaths are always sudden. However, mother goats know best; they know when there is something wrong with a kid and will not waste energy on a baby that will not survive. Sad, but the reality of nature. It still hurts. We'll miss our little girl.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Farm Friday

This week in review:

We've had a few inches of snow and have been experiencing well-below normal temperatures here. Some fellow farmers have lost some of their animals, as a result. We've been fortunate that ours are doing well. Yesterday, before we were expecting below 0 temps overnight, we made sure our animals would be as warm as possible. The goats have their stalls, the pigs have a run-in shelter, the chickens have coops; so everyone had a place to get out of the weather. I put cardboard over some openings on our portable chicken coop, just in case. Our bottle babies, Neo and Pearl, have no problem escaping the pasture to run through our iced over, snow covered back yard. They still love their bottles!

Georgia, our scarecrow, didn't get new clothes in time for Mardi Gras. Good thing as they might have been ruined in all this weather, plus she really wasn't able to get out to celebrate, She'll have her new clothes in time for our open house at the end of April.

We had a plumbing issue at our farmhouse. Bill heard the smoke detector sounding its alarm when we were walking near it. I went home to get the key. When I returned and unlocked the door, I was greeted by a couple of inches of water covering the kitchen. The pipe between the hot water faucet and the cut off valve in the powder room had separated and was the source of the flood. I was able to get the water turned off and everything cleaned up. Hopefully, we caught it in time and won't have any damage. When it warms a bit, I'll check everything to make sure. So far this year we've experienced fire, flood, and snow. May this be the end of it.

I'm finally replacing my computer. This morning after multiple times trying to get it up and running, without success, I ordered a new one. Of course, after I ordered the new one I was able to get my old one going. However, that is a wake up call for me to get it done before I truly don't have a computer. I had a long list of things I wanted to do today and almost all of them required my computer. 

We attended a presentation to our county's board of supervisors by a consulting firm that was supposed to do a feasibility study on a poultry processing complex locating in our county. The findings were "positive" and there were "really no negatives." In reading through the report, I noticed how they slanted much of the language and how they selectively reported information from surveys collected at two meetings I attended. What was amazing is that, based on 25 surveys from "the public," they determined the project had 75% support by the community. Really? Hopefully, our county officials will see there are huge negatives that were not addressed or minimalized and that such a facility, along with the required 500 chicken houses (containing 20,000 birds each), would be a bad thing for our community. Research shows how this industry has negatively impacted communities in the past.
The Don Cesar
On a personal note, Bill and I celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary! It's hard to believe it has been that long. It seems like yesterday that we had our quick ceremony in a lovely little chapel and then headed to the beach to spend the night at the beautiful Don Cesar Hotel, aka "The Pink Palace." (With the weather we've been having here, it's hard to even remember enjoying the beach in February!)
Still having fun after 27 years!
I've also started brushing up on my French again. When I'll use it, I have no idea. But I've always liked studying French, probably because it's such a challenge, so I decided to do it for no reason at all. I've found a great language app for my smart phone called Duolingo that I really like. It sends me reminders to do my lesson for the day, plus I can set the level of engagement I want - from "casual" to "insane." I've chosen the first option.

Have a great week!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Monday Amazement

A little late for a "Monday Morning" post. I lost track of time and didn't realize it was Monday until the day was almost over! I think my week of reading deprivation has thrown me off my schedule.

An empty feeling
Sam Fuller, 83, posing in the hotel lobby he lovingly restored, is being evicted from his home of almost 40 years 
Today I'm sharing this is a story about focusing on what matters most to you, about how to create a beautiful life on a limited budget, about the importance of community,  and about how "improving" a neighborhood can actually kill it. A beautiful story but with a sad ending.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Quote for the Day

"Two roads diverged in a wood and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."

~Robert Frost

Friday, February 13, 2015

Farm Friday

This week of reading deprivation has been productive for me. Let me give you an idea of just a few of the things I accomplished:

  • Learned to make pita bread
  • Dried and then powdered some of our extra garlic
  • Modified one of my apron patterns. I made one and have three more in the works.
  • Worked on two personal writing projects
  • Learned to caramelize onions in a slow cooker
  • Tried several new recipes, including marinara sauce using frozen tomatoes
  • Worked on a new grant writing project for our local food bank
  • Found out it doesn't hurt to see if a broken appliance is covered by the warranty
I'm glad I made the commitment to deprive myself of my favorite pastime, although I'll be glad to get back into the books. I realized that having a stretch of time that I usually fill with reading really forces me to step outside of my routine and try some new things.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Wellness Wednesday

When I watched the movie Food Inc., I was disturbed by a scene where a low-income family was comparing the price of the foods on a dollar menu at a fast food restaurant to the cost of an organic apple. The family used that comparison to prove that they could not afford to eat healthy. And that has been bothering me for years because 1) it was almost an apples to oranges comparison (in this case apples to fries); 2) the apple was probably out of season and it definitely wasn't local; and 3) they didn't show there was a middle ground - conventional whole foods are still better than fast food.

I recently started thinking about how some processed foods compared, pound-for-pound, with conventional produce. Today, while at our local grocery store (part of a nation-wide chain), I checked on the price of Doritos. Even on "sale," the price worked out to $3.99 a pound! I compared that to apples which were $0.79 a pound. Certainly makes the chips look over priced. And of course, you get health benefits from the apple; you get...fat from the chips. I also checked out the price of conventional brown rice. It was $0.77 for a one pound bag that makes 11 servings. That's 7 cents a serving.
Potato Texture
So my health tip today is to compare prices by looking at the size and weight. (The Doritos at $3.99 a pound was a real eyeopener.) While not everyone can afford to purchase all their groceries at a place like Whole Foods, don't overlook the great deals on frozen fruits and vegetables, whole grains such as brown rice, dried beans, and even fresh produce that is in season. Not only is it healthier, but real food will fill you up. Think about how many chips you need to eat before feeling full and then consider how many potatoes it would take to fill your stomach. Not only will, pound-for-pound, the potatoes be cheaper, you will eat less which will make your money stretch even further.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Monday Amusement

Some of you may remember that I'm rereading The Artist's Way as part of my morning reading. It's a 12 week program to help claim or reclaim your artistic self. I'm taking my time reading through it; not necessarily doing it in 12 weeks. However, I'm at the point where my assignment is to have one week of reading deprivation. Yes, you read that right - reading deprivation. As someone who started on her reading journey at the age of 3 - I can't even remember NOT knowing  how to read - that's a tough one for me. But, as the author Julia Cameron points out, words can act as tranquilizers to people. We're so busy reading, learning, researching, discovering, that we have a hard time doing. It's like the Pinterest trap. We all pin things to our boards on Pinterest but we rarely take the time to try to create the meals, do the craft project, or try the home remedy.

So this week, as part of my reading deprivation, I can't go surfing the internet, looking for interesting things for my readers. If I haven't already discovered it, it won't be on my blog this week.

For today's amusement, I decided to show some goat pictures. These may or may not be amusing to other people, but I find my goats to be an endless source of amusement. Now that we have 20 kids on the farm, it's non-stop entertainment. Here are some of the goats from our front pasture:

Bianca, with her sister Jade, checking to see if I have a treat

Madonna with her latest kid

Kids hanging out with one of the moms

Despite the demonic look in her eyes, Donna is a good mother.
Her kid was too weak to nurse so we had to help her out,

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Quote for the Day

"Unfortunately, the extensive moralizing within the ecological movement has given the public the false impression that they are being asked to make a sacrifice - to show more responsibility, more concern, a nicer moral standard. But all of that would flow naturally and easily if the self were widened and deepened so that the protection of nature was felt and perceived as protection of our very selves. . . the obvious choice, then, is to extend our notions of self-interest. For example, it would not occur to me to plead with you, 'Don't saw off your leg. That would be an act of violence.' I wouldn't occur to me (or to you), because your leg is part of your body. Well, so are the trees in the Amazon rain basin. They are our external lungs. We are beginning to realize that the world is our body." 
~Joanna Macy

Friday, February 6, 2015

Farm Friday

In keeping with my desire to live a simpler, more clutter-free life, on Sunday I suggested we go through some of the books in our basement and pick out some, one shelf at a time, to edit from our collection. While my mind is already there, Bill's is not; he didn't see a single book that we should eliminate. Instead, he asked me about some plastic bags I had stored on some other shelves. I reminded him those held books, magazines, and other papers I had saved from the farmhouse before we renovated it. I had put them in sealed plastic bags because, having spent decades in a vacant dilapidated house, they were filled with silverfish and other creepy crawlies that I wanted to kill. Since they had been bagged up for years it was a safe bet that everything in them was dead and we could now open them. We only opened a couple of the bags and here are some items of interest:

This is a political magazine for women dated July 7, 1928. What was especially interesting was finding this straw poll ballot and seeing who was running for president that year, and most interesting, the political parties listed:
Another find were these cutouts from magazines.

I assume the cutouts were intended to be used as paper dolls (anyone remember those?). Someone spent a lot of time and skill carefully cutting out these figures. In our culture, we wouldn't dream of turning magazines into toys; however, in those days, most people didn't have a lot of money and so were very creative.

On an afternoon walk with my faithful Ginny, I realized Georgia was looking a bit shabby:

It's time to get her some new clothes! She missed Gasparilla, but just might make Mardi Gras this year.

Last week we added four new girls to our chicken flock, purchased from a woman who clearly cared for them as they are friendly as can be. Unfortunately, when she got the hens, two of them were debeaked (she said she didn't know why) and they will always be at the bottom of the pecking order.

The goat babies continue to come. We now have 20 and think that should be about it for this season. Neo and Pearl continue to be spoiled bottle babies, escaping the pasture around their mid-day feeding, running in search of "mama" and "daddy." 

Have a great week!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Strengths and Weaknesses

One morning, Bill and I were having one of our typical serious conversations. We got on the topic of the Food Freedom Act which failed in committee in VA. This bill would have allowed individuals to sell a wide variety of food items directly to consumers (i.e., their neighbors) without the expense of getting your kitchen inspected, paying huge fees for the inspections and equipment, and so forth. Then I mentioned Obama's proposed "new agency to make Americans' food safer." This led us to talk about our dependence on California for most of our food and some of the crazy supply lines we have for a variety of other commodities. At that point, a visual came to me (I'm a very visual person) that I had to sketch out. I told Bill that one side of the sketch represented our current system for food (and all sorts of other things) and the other side showed how our system(s) should be. I said that while I don't know a lot about engineering or architecture I was pretty sure a physical structure built along the lines of the first would be a disaster - a huge one - waiting to happen, while the second diagram would be a strong, resilient structure (or system).

The following photos give you an idea what my sketch showed. Our current system for food, government, energy, etc. is similar to this wagon wheel:

Wheathered Old Cartwheel
The hub (or center) is where everything happens and everything radiates out from there. The spokes all depend upon the hub. Should one spoke go out, the system still works, but is very weak. However, if the hub is damaged the entire system fails. The centralized model is extremely flawed.

On the other hand, a system based on something like this honeycomb
Honey Comb
or this grid
Unstructured grid.svg
would be resilient. Take out any one section - or even several - and the system would stand strong. It is both interdependent and independent, which is the key to its strength. A great example of a grid is the internet, where we have thousands and thousands of servers making it work. Should one server fail, the entire system is not taken down.

This is what we need to move towards, for food security, energy security, economic security. Not the hub-style system where there is only dependence upon centralized control or supply. Since we know problems can and do occur, it's just a matter of waiting for it to happen. History has shown this time and time again. 

When I worked for a large corporation and made travel plans for the executives, we had a policy of never allowing more than three directors on the same flight. While it was sometimes annoying and inconvenient, we learned how important it was after Air Florida flight 90. The company I worked for had customers on that flight. As a matter of fact, their entire team was on that flight. Not one survived, so not only was it a tragedy for their loved ones, it was also a disaster for the company. Lessons learned - maybe.

In Virginia, this was our second go around with a proposed bill for expanded local food sales, which would be good for small farms, small businesses, people who want to work from home (such as single parents who can then avoid child care and other expenses), etc. and good for a resilient local economy. It was killed in committee this week. We now understand more clearly how our local politicians, who complain about big government regulation, are more swayed by the Big Ag money that keep them in office. (It's easy to check out who fills their coffers during campaigns.) Now we know it's all about money and power - not about individual freedom and rights. I know it shouldn't come as a surprise to me, but I'm still disappointed in our elected officials.

Although the politicians say it would be dangerous for neighbors to buy food from one another, they would never think to regulate church pot luck meals or any other communal meal. And they never point out that the real dangers in food always come from the large companies that end up having to recall food across the nation after people suffer from sickness and sometimes even death from the tainted food that is supposed to be safe, inspected, and regulated. Small businesses are not dangerous to people - they're dangerous to large corporations.

Goodnight Democracy from on Vimeo.

The machinations of government have increasingly become transparent. You cannot continue to parade the need for safety while supporting systems that are extremely fragile and (as with the case of food recalls, grid meltdowns, etc.) dangerous without someone taking notice.

See on Facebook

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Wellness Wednesday

A quick post today but something to think about - medical doctors prescribing food to patients for what ails them. Not only that, but getting it in the same manner that many American's get their pharmaceuticals - conveniently located near or at the medical facilities - and, similar to having an insurance co-pay/reimbursement plan, you don't pay full price.
Dr. Garth Davis and Renee Garrett explain what comes in a Farmacy box before presenting Luci Lopez with her prescription order. Photo: Tom Behrens
This "farmacy" in Houston is just such a program. After noticing that many of his patients' health problems were linked to lifestyle - specifically diet, Dr. Garth Davis partnered with an organic food co-op to start prescribing fresh fruits and vegetables. 

Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, along with whole grains and other whole foods, is a great way to protect and improve your heath. Plus those foods taste so much better than processed foods. A win-win!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Monday Morning Amusement

Good for some belly laughs:

27 Hilarious Test Answers That Aren’t Technically Wrong


To be fair he did find X.







This is actually correct.



This kid is onto something.








Because, MATH.









Probably. VERY




Smart kid.



Straight up risky.