Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Wellness Wednesday

Pills - Tablets 2
With each breaking news story about the side-effects of pharmaceuticals, I am increasingly convinced that natural and herbal remedies should be used to treat ailments that aren't life threatening. While I'm glad we have modern medicine, it seems we've gone off course so much that we instantly pop a pill when we feel the least bit of discomfort. While "old time" remedies are mocked and ignored. With synthetic drugs, we often learn about the long-term consequences after we've been taking them for a while.

An article in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal sites a link between dementia (including Altzheimer's diseas) and popular drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter. Read the article on Rodale Wellness for the names of the drugs identified as problematic.

It's time we revisited the remedies our grand- and great-grandparents used.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Taste of Tuesday

Sunflowers field
Sunflower buds are edible! (Photo source)
I'm all about getting as much out of food as possible and thus avoid waste. Here's a great list of edible flowers. Use them to add flavor, color, and texture to foods. One flowering plant that's not mentioned is broccoli. Just because a head of broccoli has started blooming doesn't mean you can't eat it. In fact, one fellow farmer insists that it tastes better when the little yellow blooms appear.

Bon appetit!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Devil
The Ugly (source)
This is something I'd like to make a regular weekly post - when winter kicks in and not much is going on around the farm. For now, it will be an occasional one. 

The Good

Los Angeles County is starting to get it. One of the Supervisors on the County Board has proposed a tax break for property owners who turn vacant lots into community gardens. Beautiful! Learn more here.

The Bad

A few months ago an acquaintance was talking about how she was changing her eating habits for the better. When she mentioned almond milk, I had to bite my tongue. The reason is almond milk is essentially over-priced flavored water - something you can make at home for a fraction of the cost and environmental impact. (While almonds are still not the best crop to be supporting since they come from drought-stricken California, we need to keep in mind that much of the produce in grocery stores also comes from that state.) If you want the nutrition provided by almonds, eat them; if you want flavored water, make it yourself (rice milk is easy to make, too). Mother Jones gives the low down on almond milk here

The Ugly

I was stunned when I read that Volkswagon had schemed to fool emissions control testing with sophisticated software that could tell when a car was being tested versus when it was actually being driven and thereby cheat on the test. By allowing some vehicles to produce 40 times the amount of allowed nitrogen oxide, the company could report much better performance figures. Find out more in this New York Times article.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Farm Friday

My space at the Sova Agicultural Experience

Seems like I've been on the move all week. Here's this week's update:

  • Worked at an event that promoted local agriculture and agritourism (Bill worked the farmers' market without me that day). I was approached by one of the local "Big Ag" guys who decided to harass me and essentially mocked what we do. Why? Because he knows we're on the winning side.
  • We had guests at the farm stay and gave them a tour of the farm on Sunday. Enjoyed spending time with them as they are opting out of the corporate life to homestead on a one acre lot.
  • Sold at the mid-week farmers' market - next week is the last one until the spring. As one of the market managers, I need to work on promotion ideas over the winter so that we can grow the market.
  • Submitted an application for the local holiday bazaar. Time to start sewing!
  • Our granddaughter spent a couple of days with us. We were excited to have her as we hadn't seen her all summer (she's a busy girl).
  • Heard Peter Kageyama, author of Love Where You Live: Creating Emotionally Engaging Places, speak.
  • Did a lot of thrifting:  2 dresses, 1 pair of shoes, 1 blouse, 1 clutch, 1 necklace. Got it all for about $55. This was because I have a wedding to attend and need something a little warmer since the weather has turned chilly. I let the ladies at one thrift store dress me from head to toe. 
  • Also picked up some household items at a thrift store:  4 Tupperwear containers that match the set I've had for years and a pitcher for the farm stay. All for about $8.
  • Delivered produce to the new farm-to-table restaurant that is having its grand opening tonight.
  • Ran my usual errands a couple of days early since I had to be in town anyway and could avoid driving an extra day.
  • Got the pork back from the processor and inventoried it.
  • Experimented with the "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" recipe. Forgot a step so it didn't come out quite right. I like the concept so will try again.
Now it's time to work on the weekly newsletter and get ready for market tomorrow!

Have a great week!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Just a Thought

Basket of vegetables
When are Americans going to wake up and realize that food security and health cannot be found in a box or bottle from the grocery store or pharmacy but from backyards and the commons?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Wellness Wednesday

Vegetable Still Life
All our lives we've been told to eat our fruits and vegetables. Rodale's Organic Life tells us what happens if we don't do that:

  • Increased hunger
  • Sallow skin
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Depression 
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Shorter life expectancy
  • And much more

Go to the article to learn more.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Taste of Tuesday

Although I haven't tried this yet (zucchinis won't be in season again until next year), I'm intrigued by it:

No food item goes to waste at our house. If it's not eaten by us, it goes to compost, the worm bin, or the farm animals. Yet it's always good to know how to make the most of everything that comes out of the garden.

Bon appetit!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Monday Morning Amazement

I love how ducks are such dedicated mothers - and the people who help them in time of need:

Friday, September 18, 2015

Farm Friday

Bill's book is out!
Never a dull moment when you're running a farm! This week has been no exception. Here are a few highlights:

  • Bill's book Organic Wesley:  A Christian Perspective on Food, Farming, and Faith went to press and is now available. Check out his blog here for more details and go here to watch an introductory video.
  • Worked the mid-week market on Tuesday. This market will wrap up at the end of the month and will start back in the spring.
  • I made a new food to sell - Butternut Squash Muffins - and they were a hit on Tuesday. I made more today to sell tomorrow.
  • Bill and I will have two events to attend so we have to go separate ways. He will be at the farmers' market while I'm going to an event called "Southern Virginia Agricultural Experience" where we can showcase our farm and farm stay.
  • Attended the first ever Health Summit in our region. We only had time to go to the session on healthy food systems. Lots of good things happening in this area!
  • We have guests at the farm stay this weekend. They're very interested in homesteading and plan to do it full time.
  • I bought more fabric for aprons and made a new one for me to wear at the market.
  • Unfortunately, the deer have gotten into the purple hull peas - again.
  • The Asian and other greens are looking great! Fall means no bugs and when you're growing chemical free that means the greens look prettier than in the spring.

Have a great week!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Food Begins with Seeds

The supply of seeds affects the supply of food. This 2013 chart from the Cornucopia Institute shows how large corporations are controlling our seed supply (go here for a high resolution pdf file):

I don't recognize most of the seed company names, maybe because a lot of them look like they sell grain seed for animal feed (and probably GMOs) and maybe because we buy from companies that are independent of big corporations.

Vandana Shiva, the Indian food activist, often stresses the importance of saving seed and having the seed supply in the hands of people, not corporations. I've been slowly learning to save seed over the last few years. It started with sunflowers. This year the purple hull peas (similar to black eyed peas) that we planted from purchased seed didn't come up. Fortunately, we had saved some from last year and that's what came in and produced for us. For some plants, we're not in a position to save seed as the different varieties will cross pollinate and you don't know what you'll end up with. One year we had a yellow-fleshed moon and stars watermelon show up as a volunteer. We were excited about the prospect of saving the seed until we cut into it and discovered it was red inside. Next year we'll probably only grow one variety of watermelon so we'll be able to save the seed.

I'm working on saving more herb and flower seeds, as well. Not only does saving seed put the food supply in your hands, the seeds from your garden are from plants that thrived there. Meaning they're more likely to thrive than purchased seed. Of course, this isn't something you start doing from the very beginning as a gardener or farmer. You need to build on baby steps, learning one skill at a time and we're now at the seed saving level.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Wellness Wednesday

Why sugar and high fructose corn syrup are bad for our bodies:

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Good News

Good news for bees and other living things! Those in power are finally waking up to the fact that better living is not necessarily found through chemicals. An appeals court revoked the EPAs approval of sulfoxaflor, an insecticide that is deadly for bees. Learn more here

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Quote for the Day

"America is an enormous frosted cupcake in the middle of millions of starving people."
~Gloria Steinem

Friday, September 11, 2015

Farm Friday

New fabric waiting to be made into aprons
Georgia got a new outfit for the season
Spotted "Mandy" hiding in the hummingbird vine
We're in a transition season now, with some summer crops (tomatoes) fading away and fall crops (Asian greens, arugula) starting to come in.

A brief glimpse of some of what I accomplished this week:

  • Baked butternut squash bread
  • Gave Georgia some new clothes (she was looking rough)
  • Made 4 loaves of spelt bread
  • Tried some new recipes - loved the eggplant taco recipe
  • Got new fabric to make aprons for the holiday craft shows
  • Created a new Powerpoint presentation for an upcoming event that will showcase local agriculture
  • Received our new marketing materials (not happy with the way the logo turned out on the banner but it's my own fault)
  • Tried dehydrating okra as I read it's a good snack food - I need to try again as it didn't turn out well
  • Canned some pasta sauce using tomatoes leftover from our Tuesday market

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Wellness Wednesday

It has been a while since I've done a "Wellness Wednesday" post. Today I'm focusing on water. 

When I was growing up and away from home - say, at school for instance - if I got thirsty I stopped by the school cafeteria to buy a bottle of water. NOT. We used drinking fountains. 

Now that we're deep in the culture of bottled water, drinking fountains have become almost invisible. They're still around but are not used like they once were. In fact, I was at a fundraising event at a church and I noticed a fountain in the church's recreational wing. It was taped off because it was broken and they were serving bottles of water. I wondered to myself if the cost of the bottled water they purchased would pay for the repair. Simple solution but now it seems that there's the ick factor - the idea that they're germy - when it comes to water fountains so they've fallen into disuse. When they break, orobably aren't repaired.

Good news! According to this New York Times article, you're not likely to pick up any disease by drinking from a water fountain. The parts that are the biggest threat are the parts that you touch with your hands, much like doorknobs, stairway rails, etc. So, go ahead and drink that water and keep plastic out of landfill (not to mention the water that is pumped and shipped around the world, often from places facing severe drought).

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The War on Real Farms

Big Ag pigs raised in buildings 
Our pigs raised on pasture
Although the following letter to the editor appeared in the Des Moines Register and is about Iowa, it applies to all rural areas where families are trying to make a living as farmers. 

"I really appreciated Richard Doak's column on the fallacy of rural vs. urban thinking ["Country first, cities second: Is it hurting Iowa?" Aug. 30].  My answer to his question "why do rural interests retain so much power?" is this: There is nothing rural about Monsanto, ADM, Farm Bureau and massive animal confinement facilities. They are simply get-rich-quick schemes, with no responsibility to Iowa whatsoever, urban or rural. If any war is declared on rural Iowa, it is by these entities, camouflaged as "Iowa farmers" and "feeding the world."  It is these entities, not Iowa farmers, that are shaping federal farm policies that have not worked for Iowa or anywhere. Add to that elected officials whose economic development slogan is "come and cash-in on our low self-esteem," and we get what we get.
We in Iowa live with the strong evidence of this war: your daily average fishkill, pesticide drift into your kitchen, respiratory illnesses among rural residents living near large confinement facilities, salmonella poisonings from contaminated chicken operations, severe soil erosion, contaminated drinking water and the obvious decline of rural communities. If a foreign force had done this to us, we would send in the Marines.
A much better Iowa is totally possible if we begin to see our state as a very special place, and begin electing public officials who believe in protecting Iowa's soil, water and biodiversity, which are the basis of the human culture and economy. Iowa would prosper, urban and rural."
— Kamyar Enshayan, Cedar Falls
It truly is a war out there, with Big Ag soaking up all the corporate welfare the government offers and setting policies that hurt small farmers and businesses. As the author points out, they sprinkle in references to "farmers" and "feeding the world" but these are lies. The Big Ag "farmers" rarely (if ever) get their hands dirty and much of their time is spent trying to find ways to make more money. These ways are usually destructive to health and planet, something real farmers should care about. When bodies are sick they cannot work. When the soil is destroyed, so is the farm. Sick and unemployed people do no equate to vibrant economies. In rural areas where Big Ag rules, all that is left are wealthy landowners (because that's what they are, not farmers), abused migrant workers, and unemployed individuals who cannot move away. It creates a dust bowl of communities.

And feeding the "world"? Most of the big farms grow plants that feed animals and create fuel. That's not feeding the world. If they do grow food that is distributed to other countries it's because that's yet another corporate welfare scheme - the government guarantees that any surplus will be purchased with taxpayer money and shipped overseas, ensuring that farms in those countries will fail because they cannot compete with free food. Thus creating a cycle of dependency for poor nations and making Big Ag richer. The answer to feeding the world is to create policies and circumstances for poor nations to grow their own food - not become permanent wards of the US government and Big Ag.

Now, not content with dominating our food supply and food policy, Big Ag is trying to hone in on what they see as a new source of profits - sustainable, local food. A friend pointed out that our local Wal-Mart has a sign by the front door that makes it appear as if they are carrying local produce. But when she searched the produce section, all she could find were a few "local" herb plants that had seen better days. Brilliant marketing - but a lie.

Big Ag in our state says we're not playing nice and, as I mentioned in a previous post, they accuse us of aligning against them, poor things. Yet they're the ones with the power, the money, the voice. While we're just trying to make an honest living and make the world a better place at the same time, they're rubbing their hands together in anticipation of yet another market share - and seeking ways to crush us. If they win, everyone loses.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Monday Morning Amusement

Seen on Humanity's Team Facebook page

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Quote for the Day

"We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now."
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Farm Friday

Two of the four bags that were packed full of unused shopping bags
Happy September! Can you believe it? Fall is just around the corner! The days are definitely shorter now with the sun setting earlier and earlier. And I can already see the leaves changing color on some trees. This week has been another full homesteading and farming week.  A few highlights:

  • Began the week by picking up some fall plant starts at a wholesale nursery. In January, I'm going to review our expenses and see if we're better off investing in a small greenhouse so we can start all of our own plants.
  • Spent another afternoon at our mid-week market. Visitors were down considerably. As one of the market managers, I'm trying to come up with some strategies to grow the market so that we not only have more customers but also so we can open the market to more vendors. We try to limit the number of vendors selling the same type of items right now so that it is worth everyone's time and energy to come to the market. While a little competition is good for the vendors and good for the customers, too much means not enough revenue for individual vendors which will result in their leaving the market. Quite a delicate balance.
  • Got my latest Azure Standard order. Was disappointed that my organic cane sugar was not with the order. I'll have to order again next month - and hopefully it will be in stock. I use the sugar in my granola as I do my best to avoid GMOs (unlike cane sugar, sugar made from beets is genetically modified).
  • Designed and ordered new marketing materials in preparation for a couple of events I will be attending.
  • Ordered some gorgeous fabrics for aprons. The holiday shows aren't that far out so I need to get working on that aspect of our homestead. I already have an order for 2 aprons and another potential order for teacher aprons and "mommy & me" aprons. I still need to find coordinating fabrics for some of my choices.
  • Picked up four shopping bags full of unused bags at Wal-Mart. They have a large cardboard box next to the customer service area where customers can put their used shopping bags for recycling. What I've discovered is that most of the bags are brand new bags that the cashiers toss because they can't get them open fast enough for the store's (or customer's) standards. So glad to take them off their hands so we don't 1) have to purchase any more bags and 2) we don't contribute to the plastic problem. We're refusing, reusing, recycling, and repurposing all at once. These will keep us stocked for some time.
  • Put up more food! I blanched and froze a few bags of okra. I froze some whole for roasting and for making okra patties. I also flash froze some sliced okra for gumbos and stews. This weekend I plan to freeze some sliced okra that is prepped with cornmeal for frying. I also froze some cantaloupe chunks so I can make cantaloupe bread later in the year.
  • I made a few new dishes to use up excess tomatoes, eggplant, okra, and potatoes: gumbo, hash browns, and eggplant with pasta just to name a few.
  • I canned some cantaloupe jam. Since I'm not sure of its acidity (and because I'm not yet trained in pressure canning), I water bath canned the jars and then put them in the refrigerator to keep them safe from developing any nasty contaminants. The canning will give them longevity, the refrigeration will prevent botulism spores from growing (they like it to be between 70 and 110 degrees in an anaerobic, moist environment).
  • Finally planted the rest of the canna lilies that were given to me earlier this summer. I had saved them in a big container that I kept filled with water. They seemed to like it (even bloomed in that environment). The fact that they developed a sort of carpet of roots (tubers) made it easy to plant in a new spot. I just spread a little top soil over an impression in the ground, sat the clump on top, then filled in and around with more top soil. 
  • Cleaned up the herb beds by removing the old dill plants and cutting back most of the other herbs to stimulate more growth over the fall. 
  • Harvested some basil that is now drying in the dehydrator.
  • Learned to cut watermelon so that it is easy to remove the seeds.
  • Discovered the Bioneers podcasts and have been devouring them on my ipod as I go about my daily chores. Last week I discovered TED Talk Radio podcasts and have really enjoyed them, too.
  • I'll be donating blood later today after I run my usual errands.
  • This afternoon I'll be prepping for tomorrow's farmers' market.

Have a great weekend!