Monday, November 30, 2015

Monday Morning Amusement

I cannot stop laughing out loud when I watch this:

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Quote for the Day

"One day you finally knew what you had to do, 
and began, though the voices around you 
kept shouting their bad advice."
~Mary Oliver

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Eco Watch and Carrageenan

I'm extremely disappointed with Eco Watch for publishing this article touting the benefits of carrageenan, a seaweed extract that causes inflammation and some studies say it is carcinogenic. The article is wrong on many levels. It argues that this ingredient is necessary to:

  • feed a hungry world
  • feed the world period
  • preserve food
  • support the global food system
  • keep food costs down

The authors are wrong on all accounts. 

First, there is plenty of food on this planet. Between 30-40% of food is wasted. Also, many of the crops grown do not feed people; they are used to make fuel and to feed animals. 

The idea that there isn't enough food in the world is silly when you consider you can travel to anywhere in the world and get food - IF you have money. That is where the shortage exists - money. 

The assumption that "we" need to feed the world is wrong. What we need to do is to help those who cannot feed themselves to learn to grow food - actually to relearn to grow food because at one time, they were able to do that. We need to help them grow healthy food that doesn't require expensive inputs like synthetic fertilizer, chemical herbicide and pesticides, and GMO seed. When people say that those inputs are necessary to grow on the scale necessary to feed the world's population, that isn't true. An estimated 70-80% of the world's food is grown sustainably and on small farms. 

The global food system is what has caused many nations to stop growing food for domestic consumption. One immediate effect of NAFTA was a dramatic increase in cheap corn imports into Mexico - the birthplace of corn. The corn, subsidized by American taxpayers, was so cheap that Mexican farmers could not compete. They either had to raise another type crop - for export - or leave the countryside for a precarious existence in the city, a place where they are at the mercy of employers and grocery stores. 

Once a country becomes dependent on cheap, imported food, a rise in transportation costs leads to a rise in prices - prices that many in the developing world can no longer afford. Unfortunately, with a large population having left the farms to move to urban areas - with the promise of modern prosperity - the possibility and knowledge for growing their own food has vanished. 

When food is local and grown sustainably, there is no need to "preserve" the food with additives. These additives are only necessary for highly processed foods that that are shipped around the world. Fruits, vegetables, and grain from local sources are the ingredients for delicious nutritious food. Should food need to be preserved, canning, dehydrating, and fermenting works well.

I am most disappointed with Eco Watch for encouraging a global system that wastes precious fuel and contributes to global pollution. The "about" section on the website reads in part:
EcoWatch is a leading news website reporting on environmental news, green living, sustainable business, science and politics. We also feature content from renowned environmental and business leaders via our Insights blog.
EcoWatch is at the forefront of uniting all shades of green to ensure the health and longevity of our planet. We are leading the charge in using online news to drive fundamental change. 
EcoWatch is a dedicated platform for environmental news that helps transform the ability of individuals to learn about environmental issues and take action. 
EcoWatch provides timely access to relevant information that educates and motivates individuals to become engaged in their community, adopt sustainable practices and support strong environmental policy. [Emphasis added]
I recently read that it takes 87 calories worth of fuel to move one calorie from California to New York. This is not sustainable.

We need a reset on our global food system, making the system local on a global scale.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Farm Friday

Last week's Farm Friday got skipped because I had to set up for a craft show that took place the next day. Then I had to go to what turned out to be a 3 1/2 hour mandatory training session because I do some work in the local jail. Getting home after 10 pm meant I wasn't going to do any blogging that day! Besides the craft show and the jail training, I kept busy with a few other things:

  • In addition to setting up for the craft show, I had to make a number of items to take with me so that occupied much of my time over the last two weeks.
  • Our homesteading group met at our house (the same day as the craft show!). Had a great discussion on winterizing your house and farm. We had delicious food, too.
  • We filled a large number of farm orders on Saturday. Bill had to organize them and bring them to the market. I usually head up this part of our farm operation but since I had to be at the market at 8 a.m., I wasn't able to do it.
  • I placed and received our monthly feed order (we only buy GMO-free feed for our farm animals). We get our feed from a Mennonite farm that is about 2 1/2 hours away so we're glad they can deliver to us.
  • I harvested some herbs (cilantro, dill, thyme, and oregano) before the really cold weather kills them off for the winter.
  • I dried the dill, thyme, and oregano in the dehydrator. I'm getting less dependent on store-bought herbs.
  • I made pesto from the cilantro and will have it in individual servings in the freezer.
  • This is the time of year that I start growing various types of sprouts so that we can still have a fresh salad with dinner. I started some mung bean sprouts, adzuki bean sprouts, and a delicious salad mix that includes dill, clover, and other seeds.
  • I have some potions steeping in the kitchen and will need to strain them next week (fire cider for the cold and flu season and some oil infusions that will be made into healing salves).
  • I thought my vacuum cleaner bit the dust but after doing some research (thank you, I tried a simple technique that saved me from having to buy a new one.

Don't forget what today is - it's Buy Nothing Day! Stay out of the stores (and don't do any internet shopping, either)! Weather permitting, get outside and enjoy nature.

I also want to take moment to remember my dear friend Dixie. We lost her a year ago this week. She was my faithful companion for almost 16 years. Bill referred to her as my familiar because she was never far from me. I still miss my girl. 
Dixie liked to perch on the back of sofas and chairs
She had to put up with things like goats in her house sometimes
She could create drama with Ginny
Dixie was a great friend to me and I'm glad she was in my life
Have a great week!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Table
Wishing all my readers and their families a blessed day!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Wellness Wednesday

Here in the US, tomorrow is a big feast day - Thanksgiving. It's also the beginning of a season when our eating choices lead to end of the year weight gain. Here are a few ideas to help you enjoy the holiday without over doing it:

  • Don't treat the meal like an all-you-can-eat buffet.
  • Don't go to the main meal super hungry; make sure you eat your other meals.
  • Watch your portions.
  • Don't go back for seconds.
  • Drink water; often we mistake dehydration for hunger.
  • Limit the high fat items.
  • Slow down and savor your food.
  • Get active. Participate in a "turkey trot" run or go for a walk or a hike.
  • On Black Friday, start a new tradition. Take another walk or go hiking in a state or national park instead of going shopping.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Taste of Tuesday

Butter 1
This morning I ran across a great cooking hack that I have to share. Whenever I need soft butter, I forget to take it out of the refrigerator in advance so end up trying to microwave it to the point that it's soft but not melted. This technique doesn't put the butter in the microwave. Instead, the microwave is used to heat a glass that is then inverted over a plate with the butter on it. 10-15 minutes later, the butter is soft but not melted. Watch the one minute video here.

Bon appetit!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Quote for the Day

"Silence alone is worthy to be heard."
~Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Talking about Things that Matter

“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” 
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Source:  Facebook
Except for business purposes, I've pretty much opted out of social media this past year or so. It seems to bring out the worst in people and I found myself angry all the time. So instead of spending my time scrolling down my timeline, feeling angry, I instead read a lot of suspense novels. 

This week I stuck my toe in to see what it was like and what I had been missing, if anything. Unfortunately, I was reminded why I quit in the first place. The killings in Paris have brought out the worst in many Americans. Instead of seeing it for the utter tragedy it is, to dig deeper for the seeds of the violence, and to care for victims, they find it an excuse for paranoid, racist, jingoistic rants. I had to unfriend a family member who, not happy with just spewing ugly sentiments, had to PUT THEM IN ALL CAPS, including the grammatical and spelling errors. It's one thing to be angry with the perpetrators, but to put the blame on groups of people - Muslims, refugees, Syrians, the homeless, etc.  - is ignorant, irresponsible, and dangerous. The more I scrolled through my feed, the more I wished I could "unsee" it all. But it was too late - my heart was broken and I couldn't remain silent.

These current events are most telling as Americans head into the biggest holiday season, when we observe one holiday, Thanksgiving, that resulted from a time of hospitality, welcoming the stranger, and cultural exchange. And another holiday, Christmas, where Christians celebrate the birth of the messiah who was born in a stable because his parents were refugees and who told his followers to minister to the least of these, including strangers. 

It's also interesting to compare the following maps: one listing the states that are and are not accepting refugees; the other showing the most and least religious states:

Is it me or is there a pattern there? 

All day today I felt my heart breaking. That a country, where many citizens take pride in being a beacon of freedom and wear their religion on their sleeves, refuses to help those in need - especially those fleeing the very people we say we are protecting the world from - is unconscionable. I know my comments and observations will fall mainly on deaf ears but I don't want history to reveal me as one of the good people who remained silent.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wellness Wednesday

We're about to enter the "holiday season." For many people that means more stress which in turn leads to a weakened immune system making them more susceptible to colds and the flu. One answer is to use a homemade remedy called "Fire Cider" that is made from all natural, healthful ingredients such as garlic, horseradish root, ginger root, onion, and honey. These are ingredients that have antibiotic, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties. The recipe can be found here on the Mountain Rose Herbs blog.

I have a batch of it steeping on my kitchen counter. It will be ready at the end of the month when I'll strain it and mix it with honey to make it palatable (and to provide more health-protecting elements) and have it handy when I feel the slightest bit under the weather.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Monday Morning Amusement

My girl Dixie had some interesting ways to wake me in the morning. Didn't know other cats pulled similar stunts:

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Quote for the Day

“The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.” 
~Mahatma Gandhi

Friday, November 13, 2015

Farm Friday

The days are getting shorter and shorter, so we've been wrapping up our days earlier than during the summer. Even so, this week has been a full week for us. Here's a recap:

  • Attended Carolina Farm Stewardship Association's Sustainable Agriculture Conference.
  • The farm was awarded Virginia Century Farm recognition..

  • It's kidding season here on the farm. Nellie had her babies - triplets! And only the second brown one born on the farm. Penney also had a cute little brown boy. Obviously, our new buck introduced some new genes into the herd. So far we have 10 baby goats - more to come.

Nellie and her new kids

  • Attended a vendors' training session at one of our farmers' markets.
  • Found a 6 pound chicken-of-the-woods mushroom. We're having it on pizza tonight.
  • Baked a loaf of crusty artisan bread this morning.
  • Continued to try new recipes and created a new dish.
  • Sewed 7 aprons and cut out 4 more in preparation for next week's craft show.

Have a great week!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Monday Morning Amazement

The Atlantic Ocean road in Norway, otherwise known as the most extreme road on earth.
The Archive has some amazing and beautiful things on this page (such as the photo above). Check it out.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Farm Friday

View just outside my home office window
This year I'm really noticing the subtleties of fall. Yesterday I realized that the leaves were starting to fall from the trees, covering parts of our driveway and leaving some of the trees bare. When I was out running errands I spotted lots of cars with leaves stuck to their hoods and roofs. Despite the changing landscape, the weather has been warm these past two days, reaching highs in the 70s. I suppose it's the last gasp before permanent cold weather settles in.

Here's a brief recap of the past week:

  • We had our last farmers' market of the year. It will reopen in January.
  • Added another day for deliveries to replace the farmers' market.
  • Thrifted a couple more lightweight sweaters to round out my cool season wardrobe.
  • Peeled and dried garlic and made garlic powder.
  • Voted in a local election.
  • Broccoli is coming in so I made a batch of broccoli soup.
  • Made a delicious stirfry with tatsoi, onions, carrots, and broccoli. Made a miso-based sauce to pour over it and served with egg noodles.
  • Had farm stay guests last weekend and last night.
  • Cleared my blog reader of over 1600 unread posts. I hated to do it but realized I would never get caught up. I'm hoping that this winter will give me more time to reconnect with other bloggers.
  • Spied a chicken of the woods mushroom growing in the usual spot. Yes!
    Keeping an eye on this chicken of the woods
  • Heard Daniel Pink speak about motivation. (I could spend my life going to lectures and conferences - I love filling my brain with good stuff.) Here's his TED Talk on the subject:


  • Continue to be amused by our cat, Fabs (now officially shortened from Mr. Fabulous).
Fabs napping in my office recycling bin

Have a great week!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

How Can We Feed the World?

That's a question I hear often. And the typical answer is that which has been promoted by Big Ag:  We need big farms using lots of chemicals to feed the world; small scale and organic is a luxury only for some. Yet the facts belie this answer. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says that 80 percent of the world's food is produced by family farms. In fact, much of what Big Ag produces isn't feeding the US, much less the world. Large-scale farming typically grows food for animals or ethanol, not food for human beings. Plus, as this video points out, we already produce enough food to feed everyone. The problem is that we waste at least 30 percent of the food we produce. In the US, that figure is even higher - 40 percent.

So next time someone tells you that chemical-free, small scale farming isn't important, let them know the real facts.

Shopping and Ethics

Shopping cart 1

This year I've made a conscious effort to move away from buying new things to thrifting what I need - everything from electronics to clothing. Sample purchases are:  dresses from Goodwill; a new-to-me e-reader after my old one was rendered obsolete; parts for my food processor. My decision to do this is partly based on the fact that I live in an area where "ethically-sourced or -produced goods" are hard to come by. Wal-Mart dominates the scene here and I don't shop there. 

But...I am still guilty of buying cheap, mass-produced items. Usually it's when I can't find something used or don't have the time to do the leg-work required to find it used or it's something that just cannot be purchased used. Recently, I decided to retire my favorite house shoe of choice - my knee-high Uggs. I've been wearing them for years. I have a very low tolerance to cold weather, so in the winter these boots are on my feet whenever I'm home. Unfortunately, I've completely worn them out. When you start feeling the cold seeping in through the toes of your shoes you know it's time to replace them. But at this stage in my life I can't justify the price tag for new ones (and used aren't an option). So I went to a local big box store and purchased some inexpensive slippers. Oh and while I was there, I picked up a set of pajamas to replace an old worn-out set. Guilt bore down on my shoulders as I exited the store. Yet I felt I didn't have much choice as those are two items where used isn't really an option and I don't think it's necessary to buy these items at a more expensive store, especially after reading an article about both high-end and budget garments being produced in the same factories.

This article article that Ariana Schwarz mentioned in her lovely blog Paris to Go,  made my head spin. Turns out it is nearly impossible to determine whether or not goods that you purchase come from factories where workers are treated humanely and paid a living wage. Fashion brands outsource all of the work on their clothing lines to megasuppliers. These megasuppliers are then responsible for doing all the work to make sure that garments are made and shipped within tight deadlines. None of these megasuppliers owns any of the factories and they are under no obligation to continue using the same factories. Factories that do try to change policies and upgrade facilities for ethics and safety take the risk of losing contracts when their prices rise due to the changes. In addition, as the developing countries rise out of poverty and raise the standard of living, they too want more stuff - and they're not yet ready to start demanding the ethical and environmental standards that we in the global north seek. 

Despite the complexities of our globalized world, the bottom line is we just buy too much stuff. We can't change the world through our shopping habits but we should still consider our individual impact on the world. Rather than seeking out fair trade, organic, ethically-sourced thing-a-ma-bobs, we need to first rethink what we actually need. Once we identify our needs, we can then try to make purchasing decisions that align with our ethics. Paris to Go has a great guide to "zero waste buying" here.

By the way, I highly recommend the Paris to Go blog. Ariana proves that being environmentally and ethically conscious need not be boring, drab, or angry. I haven't been able to read it much lately but I'm looking forward to catching up over the winter.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Wellness Wednesday

Years ago my holistic physician said that she had revisited her idea of what kind of exercise was the most important. Where previously she had stressed cardio, she now felt that flexibility training was the key to aging well. Here's a 5 minute yoga practice for flexibility:


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Taste of Tuesday

Peeled garlic cloves ready for the dehydrator
We grow a lot of garlic on the farm - and we use a lot. While I like to use fresh garlic in dishes, sometimes I'm pressed for time and reach for the powdered variety. Since we do have a lot on hand, it makes sense for me to make my own powered garlic rather than buy it. But it really is a pain to peel all those cloves because, as you can imagine, it takes a lot of dehydrated cloves to make a jar of powder.

Imagine my excitement when Bill shared Garden to Wok's technique to make cloves easier to peel. Of course, I was a bit skeptical because sometimes these kinds of tips turn out to be not true. But I went ahead and tried Norma's technique - and it worked wonderfully! Basically, you soak a batch of individual cloves in water for about five minutes. The paper skins slide off much more easily than they would without the soaking.  And so much less time involved!

Bon appetit!

Monday, November 2, 2015


I'm a sucker for stories about wild animals connecting with humans:

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Quote for the Day

"Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself."