Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Wellness Wednesday

According to Mother Jones, the FDA just gave another reason for those who eat commercially-raised meat to look to local farms - antibiotics. Non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in commercial meat operations is widespread. Big Ag discovered a side effect of antibiotics - it makes animals grow faster and larger - and therefore began pumping them into animals raised for food. While the FDA has pushed for the elimination of non-therapeutic doses of antibiotics in animals, they have allowed industrial operations to continue using them to "prevent" disease, which really has no definition and allows cattle, pig, and chicken operations to continue as they always have.

The article points out that most of the antibiotics used for animals are extremely important for the treatment of human infections. Since over 70% of the antibiotics used in the US go to animals, we're paving the way for more antibiotic-resistant pathogens. 

Here' a snapshot of how humans are affected:
Source

About 23,000 Americans die each year from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Yet the FDA makes the requirement to eliminate the indiscriminate use of antibiotics in animal agriculture "voluntary." Avoid some of the dangers by purchasing local meat from reputable farmers that use chemical-free practices and only use antibiotics as for their intended purpose - on sick animals. (And if a farmer starts having large numbers of sick animals, that farmer needs to re-think his or her agricultural practices.)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Monday Morning Amazement

Unfortunately today's post is "amazement" in a bad way. If only the geniuses out there would use their minds only for the good of the world.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Quote for the Day

Let the rain kiss you. Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby.
~Langston Hughes

Friday, April 24, 2015

Farm Friday

Wild plantain
A quick summary of this week on the farm:
  • Made our regular deliveries
  • Bill picked up our bees so now we have 2 hives again
  • Attended a farmers' market vendor training session
  • Designed and taught a vision board/SMART goal setting class and craft for the women at the city jail 
  • Moved the chicks that we were brooding from the brooder coop to the regular coop now that they're awkward "teenagers" and ready to join the full flock
  • Got the new farm banner that I ordered (the previous one had problems that I didn't notice before ordering - but I was able to use it on the farmhouse)
  • Cilantro was coming in good so sold several bunches; it doesn't last long this time of year as the warmer weather makes it bolt fast
  • Prepared for our 3rd annual open house (including cleaning the farmhouse, weeding and edging the flower and herb beds, making various signs and signup sheets)
  • Set up a compost bin at the farmhouse for guests
  • Ran an additional clothesline under the back deck on our house so I have more room to try clothes and linens
  • Cleaned up the herb beds; removed the sage that died over the winter
  • Planted herbs and flowers that I started over the winter (might have transplanted too soon)
  • Transplanted some white daffodil bulbs that were growing in one of our fields
  • Planted more gladiola bulbs at our house and the farmhouse
  • Collected some wild plantain to put on tonight's pizza (and to use later)

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Your Money or Your Life

How many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free?
Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn't see?

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind

~Bob Dylan

Airing my clean laundry
I recently skimmed the classic book Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. I was doing some research for a writing project and I knew this little book was a must for me. Reading part of the book really made me think about how much of our lives are needlessly traded for money in order to pay for the things we don't have time to enjoy or do ourselves.

This week I really got a chance to take advantage of my new outdoor clothesline. Between my two wash days, I only had to put two loads in the clothes dryer and these were towels that didn't have time (or room) to dry outside. As I was hanging out my sheets this morning, I could hear in my head the naysayers who would protest that they don't have time for such nonsense. Yes, there is a value to your time. The problem is most of us trade our time for money that we then need to pay for the things we don't have time to do ourselves.

Think about it as you sit behind your desk or behind the piece of machinery (car or otherwise) that you operate in order to receive money. What do you do with that money? You pay others for the things you don't have time do to. Why? Because you're at work.

As you go about your daily life, consider the following:  Are you so busy working to pay for the things you own and their upkeep that you don't have time to actually enjoy them? Do you, as do many middle- and upper-middle-class Americans, have a part-time housekeeper or cleaner? Or someone to mow your yard? Are so busy paying a large mortgage or rent that you're seldom home to enjoy your personal space? Are you working overtime to feather the nest that you're never in? If so, maybe you need to rethink the value of your time. And then find alternatives to the "swapping your time to earn money to pay for the things you acquire that you don't have time to enjoy" treadmill.

By hanging my clothes to dry, I don't have to work a job for money to pay for the electricity. Instead, I can spend that time at home, quickly hanging out my laundry for the wind and the sun to do their thing. Meanwhile, I relax in my home office, sip delicious hot tea (this time a black tea/rose petal combo), and write a post about the value of time (as well as a host of other things).

 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day

Source
In honor of Earth Day, I thought I'd share an update of the post I did here where I shared some of the ways I try to live lightly and sustainably on the earth.

Energy

  • heat with wood using dead wood from the farm and wood given to us from tree trimming
  • turn down the heat at night to save wood
  • use flannel sheets in the winter; smooth cotton in the summer
  • turn off lights when not in a room
  • turn on lights only when necessary
  • set thermostat to 81 degrees in summer
  • use ceiling fans in summer
  • transitioned to compact fluorescent lights for the lights we use regularly
  • unplug energy vampires
  • plan errands to save on gas
  • don't use unnecessary appliances (e.g. electric can opener)

Shopping

  • plan/group errands to save on gas
  • use own shopping bags
  • shop for groceries at Aldi when I can't buy in bulk because shoppers are expected to use their own bags (or pay for them if you don't) and because I like the corporate ethic
  • don't buy frivolous items or engage in recreational shopping
  • buy used items when possible
  • buy paper products made from recycled paper
Pets

  • our current cat doesn't use a litter box and goes outside to do his business
  • don't use flea preparations unless absolutely necessary
  • only get necessary vaccinations for pets
  • make dog food from venison and vegetables from farm, supplemented with brown rice and oatmeal
  • plan to make dog shampoo using soapnuts, essential oils, and neem oil to deter fleas


Laundry

  • have been using 7th Generation powdered detergent that comes in cardboard boxes (need to return to using soap nuts and essential oils)
  • use an environmentally-friendly stain remover
  • hang most of our laundry to dry by hanging clothes on new outdoor clothesline, hangers in laundry room, and laundry rack set up in bathtub
  • wash/dry full loads
  • wear jeans and sweaters more than once
  • compost dryer lint
  • recycle any containers
  • still plan to make own laundry soap for heavily soiled clothes
Bathroom
  • make my own cleaners
  • use rags for cleaning (made from worn out t-shirts, sheets, and towels)
  • use toilet paper made from recycled paper

Personal Care

  • use bar soap, shampoo, and conditioner (the soap and shampoo are packaged in paper; I need to find a source that packages conditioner bars in paper)
  • tried locally made bar soap on my hair with no negative results so I might eliminate the bar shampoo
  • might try the "no poo" shampoo method that uses baking soda and apple cider vinegar, although if plain soap becomes a good substitute for the bar shampoo, I might just try the vinegar rinse to replace the conditioner bar
  • use carrier oils to moisturize my face and body (I'm using the last of my almond oil and will find a more environmentally friendly oil to replace it)
  • make makeup remover
  • make deodorant
  • make toothpaste
  • plan to try olive oil based soap a recommended by Ariana Schwartz in Paris to Go
  • make own liquid hand soap
  • buy natural mascara
  • use other cosmetics sparingly and buy organic when possible
  • let hair air dry
  • use paper-based cotton swabs
  • have embraced my graying hair
  • still plan to switch to bar soap for hands in the master bathroom
  • Bill uses a safety razor, shaving soap, mug, and brush
  • bought a vintage Lady Gillette and use it with regular double-edged razor blades
  • shave with bar soap
Kitchen

  • grow much of our own food using chemical-free methods, of course
  • Bill hunts, fishes, and raises his own animals for meat
  • compost
  • cook from scratch
  • need to return to making rice milk once my replacement part for my blender arrives
  • bake bread and do it in bulk to conserve energy
  • make croutons from homemade bread
  • grow micro-greens and sprouts inside
  • make salad dressing
  • make vanilla extract
  • need to return to making vegetable stock
  • brew iced tea from organic, fair trade, loose tea leaves using green and black teas, plus rooibos
  • plan to make my own hot tea blends (I bought bulk herbs to do this and did a swap of excess with a friend)
  • need to return to buying milk in glass bottles from Virginia dairy
  • buy in bulk using own containers
  • buy online when it makes sense to save the gas and wear on vehicle, and instead to let the regular UPS truck deliver the goods
  • use cloth napkins
  • avoid use of paper/plastic cups, plates, utensils when we entertain a crowd
  • make my own cleaners
  • use rags
  • use paper towels made from recycled paper when necessary
  • store leftovers in reusable, lidded containers
  • wash and reuse ziplock bags when possible
  • wash and reuse aluminum foil
  • use dried beans most of the time, purchased in bulk when possible
  • use kitchen cloths rather than synthetic sponges
  • use copper scrubbers that can be recycled when worn out (this I learned from reading Bea Johnson's Zero Waste Home)
  • use produce netting (such as from onions) as scrubbers when the copper is too harsh
  • use dishwasher to wash full loads of dishes

Office

  • buy printer paper made from recycled paper
  • use printer only when necessary
  • recycle ink cartridges
  • print in greyscale/draft mode whenever possible
  • use scrap paper
  • print 2-sided when possible
  • turn off printer when not in use
  • turn off laptop at night
  • receive paperless statements for credit cards
  • pay bills online when possible
  • use refillable mechanical pencil
  • I've tried using electronic sources for my various lists and calendar but it doesn't work for me; I need to see it on paper

General

  • recycle whenever possible
  • reduce packaging (especially plastic) whenever possible
  • compost whenever possible
  • use various used plastic bags to line trashcans
  • drive only when necessary and plan trips to take care of several errands at one time
  • limit spending to necessities plus an occasional treat
  • buy energy efficient appliances and electronics when old ones need replacing
  • buy used electronics when possible (just replaced my e-reader with one I bought on Ebay)
  • keep vehicles as long as possible by doing routine maintenance
  • use library resources, including ebooks and online magazines
  • have some living plants in the house to clean the air

Any tips or suggestions?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Monday Morning Amusement

This commercial made me smile:


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Quote for the Day

"A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."
~Aldo Leopold

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Farm Update

Friday got away from me so I didn't do a "Farm Friday." I spent the morning and part of the afternoon making deliveries. When I got home, I had a late lunch and then, unfortunately, got ready to go to the funeral of an acquaintance. So here's a quick rundown of random event and thoughts from the past week:

It's morel mushroom season here and Bill and I have risked tick bites in our quest to find them. We searched one of our pastures a few times and went into the woods near our chicken house. No luck so far. We've never found morels and are determined to find some of those illusive mushrooms this year. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, this is what morels look like:
Morchella conica 1 beentree.jpg
Source
I finished reading Dirty Chick:  Adventures of an Unlikely Farmer by Antonia Murphy. Although she has somewhat of a potty mouth, which can be off putting at times, she had me at the first sentence in the book:  "As I watched my goat eat her placenta, I was mostly impressed." I knew she was someone who was really living the life.

We got our potatoes planted, although had to miss hearing Joshua DuBois, author of The President's Devotional: The Daily Readings That Inspired President Obama, speak in order to get everything in the ground before the rain came. The rain ended up washing away some of our work - but not all.

We finally got the place where we get our GMO-free animal feed to deliver to our farm. We combined orders with two other nearby farms in order to meet the minimum order. It sure beats driving 2 1/2 hours each way plus having to worry about slowing traffic, a truck breakdown, and weather issues.

We're encouraged by the number of small sustainable farms that are springing up in our community. Unfortunately, we are a threat to some of more powerful interests and they're doing all they can to expand industrial farming and quash the local ones (the vertical integrated poultry processing facility and associated poultry houses that they're pushing in our community is one example). I read with interest David Korten's analysis of the Trans-Pacific Partnership that could make it illegal for governments (national and local) to support local agriculture and other local businesses. Did we not learn from NAFTA that these agreements are bad? They move jobs to other countries where the workers there are essentially slaves, destroy local agriculture as the farmers cannot compete with the cheap imported food, and they turn our natural resources into commodities. I envision it as a giant monster truck, with no rear view mirrors, that has a Pacman-type apparatus on the front, barreling along eating everything in its path. Is this what we want for our world?

I've been working around the farm house, weeding the flower beds and planting some gladiola bulbs. I finally got two azalea bushes in the ground - they had been neglected in pots forever - and one is blooming! I'm going to plant some annuals around the flower beds, as well. My sage died so I bought a couple of new plants to get a jump on the season. I'm also growing some from seed, along with a few other herbs and flowers. We're going to install two more raised beds at the farm house that will be used as a demonstration at our open house next Saturday

The asparagus is coming up and our customers are so excited that we sold out the first week. Chilly, rainy weather slowed the growth but it has started picking up again today now that the weather is nice.

I've been experimenting with my iced tea, trying to make it healthier. In the past I combined a little green tea with the black tea. This week I combined 1/3 green tea, 1/3 black tea, and 1/3 rooibos (all fair trade, of course) for a delicious and more healthy beverage. Soon I'll be working on hot tea combinations since I now have a number of dried herbs to work with.

Have a great week!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Taste of Tuesday

I has been a while since I've done a "Taste of Tuesday" post, but one of my readers asked about my bread recipes so I thought I'd share them. I make two kinds of bread - a nice crusty one and a standard sandwich-type bread. But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

Once upon a time ago, I was afraid of bread - yeast bread, that is. Years ago I had attempted it and ended up with a brick, so I stuck with quick breads. But then I got brave and purchased a used bread machine at a thrift shop. I was excited when I turned out my first loaf. However, it still wasn't exactly what I wanted. Then I started reading about an easy-to-make crusty bread (I believe Mark Bittman started it). I read that anyone could make this kind of bread. I thought that I fell into the anyone category so I gave it a try. I was so excited when it turned out the way it was supposed to that I took a photo of it

Then I decided to try a different, more traditional kind of bread, the kind that works best in the summer for tomato sandwiches. I've been so happy with the results that I have only bought about 2 loaves of bread in the last year (or maybe longer). I'm far from an expert on bread, though. I'm not sure of the science behind it. I do know that different kinds of flour require different amounts of water. My bread never seems to come out the same each time; but no matter the result, I find it far superior in taste to anything you can get at the grocery store - and much cheaper. Below are my two favorite recipes right now.


My first loaf of rustic bread
Rustic Artisan Bread (No Knead)

3 cups flour (you can experiment with different types)
¼ teaspoon yeast
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ¾ - 2  cups water (enough to make dough shaggy)

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, cover, and set aside for about 15 hours. Knead it briefly, cover, and let sit another 1 to 2 hours. Heat a covered baking dish (either a Pyrex-style or enameled cast iron pan with a lid and large enough to hold the dough) in a 450° F oven for 30 minutes. Carefully remove hot pan from oven, remove lid, sprinkle some flour in the bottom, add dough, cover, and bake for about 45 minutes. Remove from oven, let sit for 5 minutes, then turn bread onto cooling rack.
My first loaf of sandwich-style bread
One Hour Homemade Bread

5 1/4 cups white bread flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 rounded tablespoons instant yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons oil
2 cups warm water (somewhere between 100 and 115° F)

Mix dry ingredients.  Add oil and water.  Mix for 1 minute and then check the consistency of the dough.  The dough should be very sticky.  If it is too dry, add more water. Mix for 5 minutes.  (Do not add any more flour after the dough has finished mixing.) Lightly oil kneading surface and turn dough out onto surface.  Briefly knead dough until it is smooth. Divide dough into two pieces and place in greased loaf pans.  Cover with a large dish towel, place in warm spot, and let rise for 25 minutes. Just before loaves finish rising, preheat oven to 350° F. Bake loaves for 25 minutes, or until they are golden brown.

Bon appetit!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Monday Morning Amusement

Fortunately, I missed a few of these fads:


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Quote for the Day

"The gross national product [now GDP] includes air pollution and for cigarettes and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors, and jails for the people who break them....It does not allow for the health of our families, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play."
~Robert Kennedy

Friday, April 10, 2015

Farm Friday

Walking with Ginny after a thunderstorm
Some highlights from the week:

  • Attended a farmers' market vendor training session; was encouraged by the number of farmers in the area who are interested in "organic" farming
  • Got to use my new clothesline - fewer loads in the dryer!
  • Heard Ellen Gustafson speak - very inspirational to me both as a farmer and as someone who was involved in the nonprofit sector; she believes local food can feed the world and that nonprofits need to solve the problem they're focused on and then have an exit strategy
  • Continued my work on a couple of writing projects
  • Started preparations for our open house
  • Took more steps to move us closer to opening our farm stay
  • Prepped for a craft show
  • Found a few shiitake mushrooms on our logs
  • Asparagus is starting to come in and I made an asparagus/wild onion pizza with mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses
  • Coordinated feed orders with two other farms so now we can get our GMO-free feed delivered directly to our farm every month. Saves time and money for all of us.
Have a great week!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Local v. Exported/Imported Food

This week seems to have been about politics, as well as food and farming. On Monday, we attended our County Board of Supervisors' meeting where the issue of industrial agriculture - more specifically an integrated poultry complex plus about 500 chicken houses containing about 20,000 birds each - was on the agenda. A few citizens commented on their opposition to this business proposition during the open comments period. One individual commented that there are 1300 farms in the county. Since the potential poultry company needs about 500 "houses," with 4 to 5 per farm for convenience and efficiency, then only 5 or 6 of these farms will benefit from the poultry complex and houses. Obviously, it's not really benefiting the farmers in general.
How would you like 500 of these in your county?
(source)
On the other hand, on Wednesday, we went to hear a speaker at Chatham Hall, a private girls' boarding school. Ellen Gustafson was spending the week with the freshmen students and the evening's talk was open to the public. Ms. Gustafson is a co-founder of FEED Projects (along with Lauren Bush), as well as other nonprofits. She is a food advocate who understands the issues of small-scale farming, local food, industrial food, obesity, hunger, and malnutrition. She believes local food will help us and the world. Her talk was very inspirational and the girls' questions were very thoughtful and impressive.

Meanwhile, just down the road, at the same time as Ms. Gustafson's talk, our Agricultural Board was supposed to be discussing the poultry complex. A number of concerned citizens showed up to hear what the board had to say. Unfortunately, the board decided that it was an issue to be discussed after the meeting, in a "closed" session, meaning the public (i.e., taxpayers) was shut out. Bill and I were torn between sitting in on the board's meeting and hearing the speaker. We decided to go with the positive choice and were glad we did.

When I finally sat down to read this week's county paper, I realized it featured two related but very different stories, both on the same page. One was on a series of training sessions for farmers' market vendors. The article mentioned how much money stayed in a community when residents bought their food at farmers' markets:

Meanwhile, some of the same county officials who are touting the benefits of local food, are also pushing for agricultural exports (such as the chickens processed at an integrated poultry complex), saying how beneficial they are to the state and to farmers:
So I just wonder which is it? Does local food benefit farmers or do exports? How does the money work out for the community when food is exported for sale elsewhere and the stores have to import food to sell, with little of the money spent on the imported food staying in the community? Farmers make more money when they are able to sell food at retail prices, but if they export they must sell at wholesale, so less money for the farmer, less money for the community. In addition, as the article about farmers' market food points out, local food is better for the heath and wellness of the community.

This double talk makes my head spin. Local and exported food cannot both be beneficial. Local food is beneficial to the farmer and the community because they keep more of the money, plus the food is fresh and healthier. Therefore, exported food  cannot benefit the farmers and the community because that means they have to import food, they make and keep less money, and the food is less healthy because it isn't fresh. If the object is to keep money in the community and to provide the community with healthy food, then a community should strive for 100% local food. It can't be beneficial (nor logical) both to export AND to keep the food local. Right?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Live Rich

Short spoken word film about consumerism.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Monday Morning Amazement

Take 55 seconds to watch this sweet clip:


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Quote for the Day

"The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope."
~Wendell Berry

Friday, April 3, 2015

Farm Friday

A few highlights from this week:

  • Did some more bulb transplanting this week of naturalized daffodils and blue hyacinth, plus I pulled more weeds in the flowerbeds at the farmhouse, trying to get ready for our open house later this month.
  • Distributed flyers for our open house.
  • Bought two raised bed kits that we'll use as a raised bed demo at the open house. They'll allow me to expand our herb and flower production.
  • Since we're in the middle of egg season, I took the time to freeze some extra eggs to make dog meals when the hens are taking a break.
  • Tried a new recipe:  caramelized onions baked with sliced potatoes and Swiss cheese. Yum!
  • Wrote a script and put together a PowerPoint presentation for a talk we're doing on Big Ag.
  • Finally switched our insurance over to a farm policy so that we can now offer our farmhouse as a farm stay B&B.
  • Designed new a new farm banner and magnets for my delivery vehicle.
  • Bought the fixings to turn my back deck into a clothesline. I've been drying most of my clothes by hanging them in the laundry room, putting them on a portable rack, or draping them over the furniture and railings on the back deck. This project will give me more space so I will rarely need my dryer when we have warm, dry weather.
  • I've been nurturing some herbs and flowers that I've started from seed, taking them outside during the day and inside at night.
  • Helped Bill put up a portable fence around the new greens garden.
  • Talked to the chef at a local school about selling them some of our pork sausage for an event they're having next week.
  • Saw some beautiful sunsets:


Have a great week!