Tuesday, March 31, 2015

No Words

This is what I'm up against where I live - the love of "guns and Jesus." I have no words - but you can probably hear me weeping.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Monday Morning Amusement

Since I tend to focus on health and wellness (and fresh food), I found this clip particularly amusing (and sad):

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Quote for the Day

Pink Florida Sunrise
“The world is holy. We are holy. All life is holy. Daily prayers are delivered on the lips of breaking waves, the whisperings of grasses, the shimmering of leaves.” 
~Terry Tempest Williams

Friday, March 27, 2015

Farm Friday

This week in words and pictures:

Bianca had beautiful twin girls.
Bianca with one of her kids

Bianca's a good mother and doesn't like us to come too close

But I caught one of them
The first asparagus spear appeared.
The first one!
I worked on the herb beds and transplanted some naturalized daffodils into the farmhouse flowerbed for next year. The oregano, thyme, chives, and French tarragon are coming back and the cilantro has reseeded. It looks like the sage died so I will have to replace it.
 This year's compost pile is well under way.
Some of our chickens scratching around in the compost
We got seven new piglets.
Ready for the trip

Checking out their new home
  I baked my usual four loaves of bread this week.
Fresh from the oven
 Mr. Fabulous continues to be fabulous and confident.
Computer bag as bed
Have a great week!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Less Is More

For the first time since 1980, I now have no ties to Florida. We sold our condominium a couple of weeks ago. For those of you who don't know my story, this condo was purchased when my husband and I sold our house in Florida and I moved to Virginia. My husband continued commuting back and forth to his firm in Florida for seven years and this condo was his home base. Now that he's here full time, we no longer need the condo and, although I had no trouble leasing it, it was just one more thing that complicated my life. 

But having the condo showed me how simple life can be, too. On the occasions when I had to be in Florida after the move to Virginia, I had to streamline everything. Just prior to my move, I made sure the condo was furnished with the necessities of life but not much more. We had just enough plates, cups, and utensils for four people plus linens for the beds and bathroom. We didn't have cable television, a land line phone, or internet. I kept a few articles of clothing there. So when I visited, I packed very light, bringing a few toiletries, a couple of changes of clothes, and a book or two. 

Cleaning  was simple in the condo. After eating, I would quickly wash everything for use at the next meal. We had a small washer/dryer stack in the kitchen so I could easily wash clothes as needed. I could vacuum the entire place without unplugging the vacuum cleaner! As for entertainment, there was a small television and DVD. When I visited, we would sometimes rent a movie to watch - or we'd just spend the evening reading our most current books. Getting internet access was a matter of planning my errands to include a trip where there was free WiFi. That way, I had to be purposeful with my time - I couldn't spend hours in a coffee shop or bookstore - so I planned what I needed on the internet and did no more. I functioned just fine without all the excess that is normally part of my life.

Author Jennifer Scott talks about her similar experience with simplicity when she had work done on her apartment:

As Jennifer points out, it's surprising what little you need to get by. Having less often makes you appreciate it more. Plus, since having fewer things means less time spent maintaining them, you have more time to pursue what you truly enjoy and care about. 

And author Bea Johnson shares here minimalist wardrobe on her blog:
Bea is a chic and savvy woman yet requires few pieces of clothing to maintain her look. In addition, she thrifts most of her clothing which increases her coolness factor in my eyes.

Although I probably have far fewer clothes than your average American woman, I'm still not there yet. Reading Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up made me rethink some of what I own. I'm not yet ready to follow her program but I have purged several worn out and seldom worn items from my closet and plan to continue to do so. For the items I do wear, I'll continue wearing them until they're worn out or I stop wearing them, then I'll consider whether or not they need to be replaced. Maybe some day I'll be close to the minimalist wardrobe that Bea has. That will come in handy when I've achieved my dream of spending a year traveling and living in a small travel trailer - a condo on wheels!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wellness Wednesday

Now that spring is here - at least that's what the calendar says - good fresh fruits and vegetables are just around the corner for most of us in the northern hemisphere. After winter, your body wants the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients found in fresh produce. The Lean Green Bean recommends branching out and trying these vegetables (that is, if you haven't already):  artichoke, asparagus, radishes, and snap peas. (This year, we're growing all but the artichokes on the farm).

Speaking of asparagus, look what I discovered poking through the ground this evening:

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

How Much Is Enough?

Question Mark ?
Normally the title of this post would apply to material things. However, today I'm talking about corporations and the information they compile on us. This is information we usually provide willingly, although most of us don't know the extent of their knowledge nor the lengths corporations go to in order to get it.

I know that I benefit from some of the corporate spying monitoring that goes on. Just this week my credit card company alerted me that I was a victim of fraud. Someone in Fort Lauderdale thought it was a good idea to put over $400 on my credit card at the Hard Rock Cafe. Fortunately, the transaction didn't go through as the credit card company recognized this as outside of my shopping pattern and locale. When this power is being used for good, I welcome it. However, even in this instance it's not really for my benefit as I would not be held responsible for the charge on my card but the bank might be. The credit card company provides this protection for its own self interests.

Do we really realize how much of our privacy we have given up? I remember years ago when there was talk about implanting microchips in people and all the "benefits" we would get out of it. People thought it was creepy, they didn't want to be watched or monitored. Yet today we willingly carry a device that pass on all sorts of information about us, including our exact location at any given moment. That device? Our smartphone. And if that's not enough, we make sure to spread the word, giving away not only our location at times, but the minutiae of our daily lives, through social media.

Recently, though, I started thinking about the ways we depend upon corporations, well beyond the goods and services we expected from them in past decades. Now we send everything up to "the cloud" - our documents, agendas, photographs, music, etc. We would balk at providing so much information to the government, claiming an infringement on privacy. Yet we never pause to think about the companies we trust with our personal data. In this article, Steven Rosenfeld talks about how Americans tend to fear government far more than corporations and how corporations use this to their advantage. 

Another issue is our legacy. In the case of important photos and documents, what would happen should the company where we archive our materials close its doors? This is not as far fetched as one might think. When you look back over the top companies of a few decades ago and you will notice that many of them no longer exist. It's not a matter of if a company should go belly up, but when. With so much competition and such narrow profit margins, it's just common sense that the hot companies of today will be in the corporate graveyard of tomorrow.

Reading Dave Egger's book The Circle really made me stop and examine my willingness to share personal information with impersonal corporations, especially via social media. In this book, the fictional corporation "The Circle" was a creepy place to work - and it had plans to reach far beyond its employees. Then I read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. In this book, I learned how corporations compile information about us and use it to cleverly manipulate us for their gain. The section on Target's ability to determine that a teen-aged girl was pregnant before she even told her family made me wonder about how much information I inadvertently give to retailers over the course of time. These two books made me take a step back and pause my use of social media. However, I pay a price by doing that. It takes me out of mainstream and I miss out on information that family and friends share. I often appear ill informed and out of touch. Social media is also a convenient place to get news updates that are tailored to my specific interests. But by it's very nature, my picking and choosing what type of news I want to receive relays very personal information back to the company, information it can use and sell for its own benefit.

All that said, the problem is that it is difficult to function in this society without giving up a little of yourself. You want an easy way to keep in touch with friends and family? You need to be on social media - but the companies that own the media also own the information you put out there. You want an easy way to do research? You need to use a search engine - but it will track your searches. You want an easy way to protect your files and photos? You need to use a service that provides cloud storage so you don't lose your data should your computer crash - but you must trust that your data is kept both private and available to you in the future. 

This very platform that I'm using - Blogger - is owned by one of those corporations. Yet I continue to use it because I'm willing to trade a bit of privacy in order to blog.  Like Blogger, many of the services I've mentioned are free and handy and that's why we use them. However, do we really know what we're trading for this convenience? How much information is enough to give up in exchange for the services? And how much is too much? Most important, how do we know when our privacy is being violated?

Monday Morning Amusement

This made me smile:

More Reasons Why Local and Regional Food Is Important

As California enters into another season of drought, the US food supply is at risk. Americans get almost half of all produce from California (and almost all the nuts), an already arid state that is suffering from the worst drought since the middle ages. Here's a chart of the crops that we depend on California to provide:
We cannot keep this up. California is a naturally dry area and depending on it for food production is not logical. While California may, over time, have the water resources to provide food to its own region, it cannot continue producing the quantities of food necessary to feed the nation. 

After learning that California is the source of almonds and walnuts (and now pistachios), I've stopped buying those nuts (and I'm definitely not buying almond milk). When I do buy nuts, I try to find nuts that are grown in my region - pecans and peanuts - although often some of those are imported from overseas. 

In today's global economy, it is often difficult to do the right thing when it comes to food. However, you can make steps in the right direction by shopping at local farmers' markets, checking the place of origin on food you get from the grocery store, refraining from purchasing foods that you know come from environmentally sensitive areas, and even growing your own food. 

Learn more about the water shortage in California here

Monday, March 23, 2015

Monday Morning Amusement

I couldn't resist this one; I really did laugh out loud when I saw it. The first questions most people ask upon learning I'm a vegetarian (and occasional vegan) is "how do you get protein." I think this answers it quite well:

Now to get a bit serious:  Americans do not suffer from protein deficiency. When you see children in places like Haiti with red-tinted hair and distended bellies? THAT is a protein deficiency. Americans? We have an animal protein excess which leads to chronic conditions such as cardio-vascular disease. We've turned meat into the centerpiece of our meals; instead, produce and whole grains should be. So, don't forget: plants have protein.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Happy Spring!

The crocuses know it's spring!
Spring is finally here! (Although yesterday's weather didn't reflect it.) Things are starting to bloom and bud around here. I have herbs and flowers poking through the soil. The tulips I planted last fall are coming in and I can't wait to see the blossoms!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Farm Friday

This week in bullets:

  • We viewed the movie "Fresh" at Liberty University and heard our friend Jason Fowler speak afterwards. The program was hosted by the Liberty University Garden. They're doing a great job educating the students and community about sustainable gardening/farming.
  • Attended a class on high tunnel crop production (high tunnels are unheated greenhouses).
  • Spoke at a homeschool group meeting on the why's and how's of small space gardening.
  • Started up our deliveries (pork and eggs).
  • Continued working with Grace & Main as part of the planning team for the urban farm.
We had a very sad day this week when we said goodbye to our billy goat Johnny. Johnny fathered almost 300 kids here on the farm. Although people think billy goats are mean, Johnny was one of our sweetest, gentlest goats. He was very old for a billy goat but it was still sad to see him go and he will be greatly missed.

 Here's Johnny in his younger years - we called this expression the "I smell girl" look:

And here's Johnny dressed up for Christmas (see what a good sport he was):
Have a great week!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Wellness Wednesday

This video of highlights from a TedX talk in Manhattan touches on both the importance of local, chemical-free food and the way we've been duped into believing what we find on grocery story shelves something that is good for us and for our society. 

For years I've been saying in order to think we have to feed our brains - with food, good food. Our brains are physical, biological organs that need healthful food in order to function properly. Children in poverty, men and women behind bars, even middle-class families, can all benefit from a chemical-free, whole foods diet. Without good food, we our brains will not function property and, therefore, cannot make wise decisions. Why do we assume otherwise?

One of my favorite quotes from this talk was from Joel Berg:  
To be schooled you must be fueled. To be well read, you must be well fed. In fact, every major national goal - cutting obesity, restoring the middle class, cutting crime and incarceration, reducing healthcare spending, protecting our country from our enemies, and slashing poverty - to accomplish any of those things, we must first end hunger.
And I need to add that we must end hunger with real food, not processed food. Why we think our society can continue to grow and advance (in a good way) without farmers and without good, pure food is beyond me.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Monday Morning Amusement

Not sure if this should fall under the "amusement" or "amazement" category. Squirrels are smarter than we think:

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Quote for the Day

“A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” 
~Gloria Steinem

Friday, March 13, 2015

Farm Friday

With the time and season changing, we decided to take a walk down to the pond after dinner one night

We had family visiting this week so I wasn't able to post to the blog. Here are a few comments and updates about the farm:

We had ordered chicks but the incubator at the farm we were buying them from failed so we're waiting for the next batch to hatch.

We will be getting piglets at the end of the month so bought some of the GMO-free feed that we use to get ready for their arrival. It was bought early because we have to order it from a farm that is about 3 hours away and they only deliver to this area every two weeks. We're now talking to them about using our farm (or another nearby farm) as a drop point because we still have to drive about 35 minutes to the closest delivery point right now.

Our billy goat Johnny is hanging in there. He's 9 or 10 years old, which is old for a male, but he's hanging in there. He has fathered over 200 kids so he's had a busy life. He fell down in the pasture earlier this week and Bill had to go help him up. I gave him some sweet feed and an iron supplement so he has a little more energy. I'm glad he's able to live out his old age on the farm. Despite what you might hear about billy goats being mean and dangerous, this one is a sweetie and is gentle as can be. It's probably due to the fact that he was born on the farm and was handled by people all his life.

Neo is still bottle fed but we'll be tapering off his bottles in a couple of weeks. He's now eating solid food (grass, leaves, etc.), so he can be weaned. We did switch him from regular cow's milk from the grocery store to kid formula. We had had a bad experience with the formula when we first started raising goats. We now realize that was due to complications not associated with the formula. Neo is thriving on it and actually never seemed to notice that we were gradually introducing it to his diet while reducing the amount of cow's milk in his bottles. He's now 100% formula fed and doing well on it.

Spring is in the air, although it's not quite here yet. We've had some relatively warm days and the grass is starting to grow, but we've also had some cold. This morning we even had a little bit of sleet. Unfortunately, we've had rain this week (and last) and that will interfere with our planting schedule. As much as we need rain, sometimes there's a little too much. The plants under the grow lights are doing very well this year and I also managed to get a few herbs started this week. 
Gratuitous photo of Mr. Fabulous enjoying life

Have a great week!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Monday Morning Amusement

So true, especially if you're an introvert.

Seen on Pinterest

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Quote for the Day

"Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder."
~E.B. White

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Farm Update

Once again, the week got away from me. One reason is that I spent most of the week trying to get my new computer up and running. I ended up having to take it to my son who is in the industry and works an hour and a half away from our house. (I did take advantage of the trip by having lunch with him, a special treat, and then going to the natural food store.) 

Turns out a file that was installed as part of my printer installation was preventing Office from functioning. I spent hours downloading it, only to have it crash once I was finished. I would have never found the problem without my son's help. Turns out the file is compatible with the old Windows operating system but not the latest version. Plus I had lots of adware that kept popping up, making viewing certain sites a nightmare. Needless to say, I didn't get a lot of office or internet work done before I had the computer cleaned up.

I still ended up having to call Dell for assistance because, even after having the computer cleaned of known adware, turns out files had sent out tentacles that wrapped around existing, legitimate files. The Dell tech was able to clean it all up and she even went the extra mile and added Adobe Acrobat for me after I asked about opening pdf files. Although after my phone call, all I could think was how Dell (and other computer companies) pay to put those programs on their computers, then they pay technicians to help you clean them off. Once I had a fully functioning computer again, I had about a week's worth of work to catch up on.

We took our last two pigs to the processor on Wednesday. It ended up being quite a challenge. Due to all the rain and snow, the pasture was extremely muddy. We were able to get the truck and trailer into the pasture just fine. But with the added weight we almost didn't get out.
Our neighbor is kind enough to let us borrow his trailer

Our truck did not like the mud, even in 4-wheel drive

See how bad the mud was
We got more rain and ice on Thursday so it was good that we didn't wait. However, we were fortunate that we didn't get the snow that was predicted. Heavy snow affected states both west and north of us, but we only got some rain and ice. The roads were clear the next day which was good because we had an appointment that would have been difficult to reschedule.

We're getting some new chicks this week. Our flock has gotten older and smaller. We've lost some girls to age and a number of them are laying fewer eggs as they get older so it was time to freshen the flock. Many farms only keep their hens for a couple of years and then send the to the stew pot. Although it's probably not a good financial decision, we feel that our girls work hard for us so they should be given the luxury of live out their natural lives even after they stop producing eggs. We're going to use one of our portable chicken houses as a brooder where we'll set up a heat lamp to keep them warm until they develop their feathers.

Later in the month we'll be picking up 7 piglets! We raised 5 this past year, 4 for us and 1 for the ministry that works with impoverished people in the inner city. 

Our calender for the next couple of months is rapidly filling. We have family members visiting next week, a couple of speaking engagements, some training sessions, and an open house, along with the usual projects we're working on. 

The farmers' market opens in May so we'll be busy with that before we know it. I attended a vendors' meeting today and it sounds like the market will be pretty much as it has in the past. The market manager has applied for a grant to get matching funds for SNAP money spent at the market. He's also working with social services and our local transit company to spread the word that the market accepts SNAP money via EBT cards. We're happy to to see them reaching out to help the people who need nutritious food the most. We accept SNAP money, as well as the WIC and Senior coupons that our state provides to low income individuals.

Have a great week!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Monday Morning Amusement

It has felt this way around here lately - with more snow predicted for Thursday:

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Quote for the Day

"If there is to be any peace it will come through being, not having."
~Henry Miller