Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Soul Food: Eggplant

If I had fresh garden tomatoes and anything else minutes away growing right in the backyard, it would be here, keeping these company. At any rate, despite the more enlightened creations that an eggplant can inspire, the basic Southern instinct to batter and fry might very well lead to this:

Wow, those were good, eaten hot and lightly salted!

This is only for an occasional guilty pleasure, when the odds of arterial devastation have been hedged against with foods like, oh, salad, for long periods of time.

If it happens that YOU are the only one in your household who LIKES eggplant, this will win converts. If you even want converts...and don't want the plateful all to yourself :)

The Local Difference


I heard a slapping sound against the windows today. Looks like we're getting a bit of whatever tropical storm is cooking nearby. Am I complaining? NO! I love the rain!!

Here are the palmettos dripping afterward. Always a fun excuse to play with Windows Paint... :)

Of Meat Labeling, Red WalMart, and the NAIS, or Why I Don't Understand Politics and its Various Permutations

The Country of Origin Labeling Issue:
Consumers are demanding to know the origin of their meats, rather than accepting imported product from countries not identified on the packaging. This isn't a bad thing. We should be able to read a label and be informed, without having to blindly "trust" the middleman, especially the larger ones, such as WalMart, who do NOT "buy American" to the degree promised in the eighties. The 2002 Farm bill proposed country of origin (COOL) labeling for the sake of consumer awareness. The 2007 Farm Bill was supposed to have decided the particulars, yet it lingers in legislative limbo now till sometime in 2008. There is currently a lot of debate about this issue and its implications, since it's directly related to marketing rather than simply being a food safety issue. A bit more on this later in the post...

Buy WalMart...Buy Chinese

WalMart cares. About how consumer perception affects their bottom line. Sometimes.

Maybe not, though, in the meat labeling debate. You have to ask yourself WHY would they want to stand in the way of something as elemental as knowing the origin of that package of meat?

Let's talk about their consistency of message ...if that phrase can be applied at all.

I'm continually disenchanted with the proliferation of the WalMart empire and its departure from its earlier promises of "Buying American." WalMart makes no apologies for being one of the biggest suppliers of products "Made in China." I defy anyone to visit any aisle of WalMart and tally foreign-made goods against domestic ones.

I question why a company that superficially purports to be free-trade and America-friendly is one of the biggest customers of communist Red China, hardly an American ally. Isn't this a type of sleeping with the enemy? Why would our government allow this, and what with the ongoing human rights violations such as child and slave labor in China, again, why are companies like WalMart allowed to help perpetuate such a system? These are DIRTY DOLLARS.

I'm not particularly liberal. I am a regular citizen sickened by the greed machine. Since when do we BENEFIT by buying as cheaply as possible from countries that are committed to our demise?? (Hello, when did China become our best friend? Hello, aren't we supposed to be protecting ourselves even more in this era of vulnerability?)

And can someone remind me why, WHY we cannot be manufacturing our OWN consumer goods right here, where JOBS ARE NEEDED? Why are we fostering a dependence on other nations at the expense of our own citizens? This makes no sense to me. Therefore, I do not understand the politics of it. I know the answer is related somehow to money. I just can't figure out why it can't be protected...to center around American jobs and manufacturing rather than outsourcing. Why can an American housewife not hire a housekeeper, nanny, or landscaper to work below a certain wage and yet we will feed the WalMart machine to the tune of pennies an hour for child labor? Like I said, I don't understand politics.

Is a cheap set of frying pans and a drawerful of gym socks TRULY worth CHEAPENING our own workplaces, forcing out specialized and local business, and supporting a communist-based regime that flaunts ALL the international human rights laws regularly? Where is the return for this enormous sell-out? All I see 17 years later is that it's a joke even to WalMart itself to pretend its objectives are even remotely similar to those of the 1980s.

Oops. Soapbox. Back to the labeling dialogue.

Here's a little excerpt from WalMartWatch.com about the COOL issue:

Country of Origin Labeling
Wal-Mart is no longer an All-American Store.

In the 1980’s, Wal-Mart prided itself on its “Buy American” campaign, but the
company abandoned this ideal in 1985. Reluctant to acknowledge the fact that
most of its products are now made in foreign countries, Wal-Mart’s opposition to
Country of Origin Labeling is only the company’s latest attempt to disguise its
true nature.

Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) was passed as part of the 2002 farm bill. It is law. However, when it came to be authorized and implemented, it has been consistently held up and delayed. It is expected to be passed in the 2007 farm bill again and implemented. But continuing opposition from companies like Wal-Mart could lead to further delays.

Click here to listen to "Too Big, Too Bad," a radio
announcement addressing Wal-Mart's stand on Country of Origin Labeling

To read their full article go here

So What Does This Have to do With the National Animal Identification Issue?

I'm not exactly well-versed these things, but in reading about the debated COOL amendments to the Farm Bill, the word "cost" seems to be what's under negotiation. In answer to the question, "Just how much could it possibly cost to slap an accurate Country of Origin label on a package of meat?" we have to look at how they want to determine its origins. Does any of this sound familiar?

Experts in the industry say the program comes down to a record-keeping verification program.

"The House reaffirms the labeling from the 2002 farm bill law that any domestic product to be labeled as U.S. has to be born, raised and processed in the U.S," said Derrell Peel, an Extension livestock marketing specialist at Oklahoma State University. "That implies that we still have to have information back to the cow-calf level."

The House version says record keeping is simplified, but Peel said he can't see where.
"Even though the House version talks to simplified records, I'm still referring to the proposed rules by AMS, which make it clear
each sector has to maintain records and tie those records to the previous sector and the subsequent record," Peel said.

For the complete article, go here

Like I said, I'm not savvy as an issues commentator. But doesn't this seem to be directly connected to the push by the government to register farms and identify all animals? Wouldn't this issue directly affect the push to make such a system mandatory? Wouldn't it potentially tie the hands of non-registered farms when it comes to marketing and selling their products, if the NAIS regulations are instituted and enforced in conjunction with the proposed Country of Origin Labeling changes?

I'm all for knowing the country of origin for the meat and fish we buy. I don't want WalMart multinational mystery meat, because I don't trust WalMart and their like. I also don't want to stump for a change that will be used as a convenient platform to cement NAIS regulations and seem to make it mainstream and "necessary", removing it from voluntary to mandatory status.

Just thoughts...

I wish I had a more politically savvy brain on these issues. Every issue seems to have its complexities with different groups trying to smuggle aboard their own pet special interests.

Not sure how to reconcile these simple thoughts:
Labeling packaged meat's country of origin...good.
Using mandatory labeling of packaged meats as a means to mandate national identification regulations...ugh.

Are these really related? Any thoughts?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Bit More About the Potential of Raw Milk

About the National Animal Identification Program and Individual Responsibility

Please read here about why this affects anyone who eats...not just the farmer or rancher.

In the interest of controlling outbreaks of widespread disease, legislation has too broadly been applied to the individual farms and farmers who are responsibly and sustainably counteracting mass industry. There seems to be little recognition on the part of the general public of just where that last cheeseburger really originated. A tour of a feedlot is a whole different proposal than a tour of a grass farm's cattle. An in-depth investigation into the origins and types of supermarket-driven produce easily reveals how diametrically opposite the chemically and genetically-altered food machine is in comparison to the small, pesticide-free local grower...and the mindset of sustainability.

I'm neither an anarchist nor someone who thinks legislation is our primary option in solving consumer health problems arising nationwide. I believe the first step is to begin reclaiming our own individual responsibility, and to educate ourselves, since many precedents of legislative change are set oftentimes without consumer awareness or understanding. It is upon these that a lot of interpretation, and even abuses, can occur if we remain ignorant of their reach and impact.

At the heart of many of today's consumer health issues is a fundamental issue...that of Who Gets to Decide. There is a movement, very widespread and encompassing nearly every aspect of our consumerism, to educate and preserve the responsibility of health back to the individual. This affects our individual responsibilities across the page...being involved means impacting our world with our voices and some elbow grease, rather than pointing fingers without being willing to get into the messier parts of the argument in action rather than theoretically.

There are those working to preserve the freedoms to individually be a force and a voice, and yet there are many who remain uninformed as to the specifics and ramifications of current legislation and proposed "reforms" ..and I fall into that same category. I am trying to educate myself away from what I've assumed are issues for a particular group to hash out. Since I tire easily of political rhetoric, I've stayed away from arguments and issues altogether...until I am seeing how, if people like myself remain stubbornly aloof from them, I will be impacted whether I like it or not,and I will give away my right to making my own responsible choices.

There is a lot of misinformation about the origins of our food, about what healthy foods are, about the food cycle from field to table, about the economics of the above, and about the ethics relating to modern scientific ability to alter any of the above. Sometimes, mistakenly, these issues become shrouded in larger political agendas or parties, and the public opts out to their party's favorite traditional arguments and agendas....as in "All liberals are tree-huggers and are for government programs as the answer...all Conservatives are for big business and wealth."

I'm zeroing in on particulars right now in my family's life. Despite the political party of the moment, the government regulations that are or aren't in place, and the tide of public misinformation/misunderstanding/ignorance about any specific, I still have to try to do the right thing for my own family, and my future family.

This is my particular resolve...I have to take responsibility as a human, a citizen, a parent, a neighbor, and a forbear of the next generation. And I say utilize all available resources to protect the freedom for us to keep deciding, educating ourselves, and making changes to protect, recover, or maintain what we MUST preserve as a basic human right...the right to determine for ourselves choices as basic as what we eat, the ability to grow it/raise it without restrictions, freedom of movement and ownership within our own nation, freedom from regulation and harrassment or ostracization as we make those choices.

Please....BEWARE of sanitized language and rhetoric...language is a powerful door of entry for ideas. The word "PROTECT" should not be used in conjunction with handing over our individual RESPONSIBILITY and RIGHT to DECIDE. Mobilizing a Thinking People is a different matter than reassuring an uninformed and fearful audience.

We've got to:

1. Educate ourselves...set out to know ALL sides of any argument or proposed change, and to query its ramifications for the present AND the future...what precedents would this change, or LACK of change, introduce or allow an open door for for the future? How could it be abused? What do we need to do to allow for progress while preserving the integrity of certain standards or absolutes that should not be compromised?

2. Have some absolutes. Relativism can kill our creativity, security, individuality, and will to participate as a thinking and responsible individual. With relativism, we opt out of some fundamentals that SHOULD be absolutes...and in doing so, we give way to initiatives of others who very much have agendas that may be very contrary to what we hold dear. We cannot escape moral implications in our decision-making. Opting out of making decisions is still a form of decision-making. As a result, we have lost our ability to determine many of our own choices freely.

3. Learn how to effect change. I'm only just learning. Reading from a variety of sources is a great start, but what about the action part? Doing it ourselves...changing our own habits and way of doing something, is the best place to start. But sweeping reforms can still undermine our ability to continue those efforts...when the Powers That Be hear from constituents from an educated and fervent reference point, that is a beginning. It can result in dialogue, and help educate others. It can halt or change legislation. It can present a viable voice to an issue formerly assumed in the minority. But we have to know where to start.

Focusing a bit on the NAIS issue, we have to start by educating ourselves. Often legislation is a REACTION rather than a solution, and this is how I see NAIS regulations that are being implemented...or some could say forced. We don't need to responde with an additional REACTION, but with informed and persistent action to change what we believe is not in the best interests of the farmer, animal, and constitutional (even basic human) freedom.

There are so many other sites and books that detail the specifics of the NAIS issue. If you think your state is untouched by this issue, do a Google search with your state name and "Animal Identification System" and you'll find the official websites with your state's regulations. My state is Florida. What I found is that registration of farms is voluntary, but a few sentences further, I found this statement:

As of September 15, 2005, more than 1,025 Florida premises were registered into
the system. This methodical start set the foundation for further development of
the program with approximately 85% of cattle being on registered premises since
January 2005, the beginning of the project.

Florida is a big beef-producing state by nationwide standards. If 85% of the cattle were on registered premises as of two years ago, that is hardly an accident...there was surely a big campaign to convince farmers to adopt that. What needs to concern me further is the statement about the further development of the program. Seemingly, the 85% participation figure was at the OUTSET, before FURTHER regulations were instituted or enforced.

I MUST become familiar with what EXACTLY this means, rather than allowing it to sit like a convenient statistic in my mind.

I have to get out there and look for myself and ask questions.

Then we need to raise our concerns...audibly and consistently.

Here are two of Monica's posts about some of the serious ramifications of the registry system, the identification issue, and what can happen if it's enforced. It IS being enforced to differing degrees in different states.

I'm going to begin digging into this issue further, for myself. After all, we want a small farm and do not ever want to register our animals with any government registry. I don't mind cooperating with interstate traffic laws that already exist. But I don't want a Big Brother dictating my private farming decisions, when we get to that point, or keeping my PRIVATE business data in a data base...ANYWHERE.

This, folks, is just as crucial as the healthcare privacy reforms, and any other privacy issue. THE GOVERNMENT HAS NO RIGHT TO USE ANY FORCE TO VIOLATE OUR PRIVACY OR OUR INDIVIDUAL RIGHT TO MAKE RESPONSIBLE PERSONAL CHOICES.

And now, to find out more...(the search begins)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Shabbat Shalom

Blog closed for a beautiful, restful shabbat. We have each day so much for which to be thankful. Thank You to the Almighty for His continued mercies and love in providing us just what we need and giving us purpose while we're here. I am so grateful.

Here is a song we traditionally use to welcome in our weekly rest. (Borrowed this one from YouTube)

Peace, rest, and joy be to you and yours:)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Road Trip, Part Two (Or the stuff you don't tell the grandkids years later when you pull out the slide show)

Now For The Togetherness Report
(originally entitled "And Then She Took A Benadryl" )
We had a great time on the trip. Perhaps parts of it did not go as planned, however. (Cough, cough)

See prior post for the description of the property itself...it was so refreshing (once we GOT there, ha!) to be out, be together (husband and myself) and to have great weather to boot. All that is proof that rough starts CAN be overcome.

I'm going to give a pretty realistic, if not somewhat tongue-in-cheek account of the beginning of the whole endeavor. Keep in mind that my husband and I are generally mild mannered and very loving people, who value each other as friends and life loves (a gift to each other from God in the most real sense), and are usually on the same ball team in our efforts and attitudes.

There is, however, the occasional glitch. Glitches can be overcome, and mended. And learned from ;-)

In short this is the REAL scenario that played out this morning. Hopefully we have both learned from it. And are wiser and more schooled in working through our "moments"....we hope...yeah, yeah, read on...

It went something like this. We'll try not to recreate this circumstance again: (laughing!)

1. My husband drove.

2. My husband cannot safely drive and read a 10 year old Road Atlas at the same time.

(Know that before the end of the trip, we'd nearly been creamed or creamed another vehicle multiple times. It's not entirely his fault, as you'll soon see. I was in no condition to be my usual Navigator self, deciphering the more cryptic road map anomolies while making good travel time. Alas, I was a lump. Usually I'm an accomplished backseat driver..ha! We make a great team.)

3. My husband and I had previously stayed up the entire (ENTIRE) night before discussing properties, etc. Having worked the prior night before, he had slept all yesterday. Myself, NOT being on an all-night work schedule, had NOT slept all yesterday. And yet I stayed up with him to discuss the trip...all night last night. I am not 20 and can no longer do all nighters without dire consequences.

4. I had previously anticipated the glorious Togetherness said road trip would provide my husband and me, touring yet undiscovered paths of discovery, stopping to photograph the nature, architecture, local flavor, etc. I had brought The New Camera, hoping this trip would be its maiden voyage of extraordinary photo glutting. It is new, digital, and can handle my amateurish ways and still crank out some basically great pics. I packed The Camera. We would bond.
My husband, however, was anticipating covering the ground from Point A to Final Destination in as little time possible despite the many temptations along the way.

5. EARLY yesterday morning, we prepared to get on the road. I showered. J threw a few things in the truck. I began having sneezing fits that wouldnt stop.
So I took a Benadryl. (Herein is the first cruel plot twist.)

6. J wanted to fuel our day by grazing at Cracker Barrel. He ate. He was fueled. I ate. My world became drowsier, fuzzier, and carb-infused.

7. We got in the car to head out.

8. I immediately became comatose.

9. I awoke twice. Only long enough to reposition my head from a right angle to vertical again, and with the remotest cognizance of a prolonged guttural roaring noise at close range. I'm not sure how many counties I snored through.

10. Some time later, I realized the truck had stopped. My otherwise amiable spouse was muttering and making jerky motions with the map book. He tried to rouse me, as he got out to pump some gas at a gas station. "Come on," he urged..."If you need a rest stop, you need to go here."

11. I'm two hours into my Benadryl-and-Sleep-Deprivation-Induced Slow Motion Reality. I struggle toward the light. I get the door open and sit there staring at my feet, willing myself to be fully awake before walking into the busy gas station, full of morning commuters. I do not want to appear as I feel...utterly drunk and quite bed-headed.

12. I make it out of the vehicle. My time frame was not my husband's. Always the master of the situation, I see him standing well across the place near the front door to the store, motioning widely with his hands and saying for all to hear, "The bathroom is THERE, honey....THERE" (pointing vigorously)

13. Even in my altered state this produced an awareness in me of great annoyance. Rhett Butler would not have announced to Scarlett that THE BATHROOM IS THERE in front of all Atlanta. I scowled, embarrassed, and attempted to walk. By now, husband is pumping gasoline on the other side of the vehicle.

14. I meet him as he's finishing up. "Can you PLEASE not ANNOUNCE it like I'm 2 years old?" I say, frowning.

15. His brow is furrowed. People are watching. He is doing everything with annoyed jerky motions, in a hurry. He hears a splashing sound. The gasoline is overflowing and spilling on the ground and near his shoes. My world still a slow motion blur, as I'm registering the gas overflowing, he is taking the spout out of the tank. And that is when it pours right across my bare feet and sandals.

16. You may be enjoying this now. The other customers certainly were. I'm glad I can't recall the EXACT words I used. I went into the bathroom to clean up.

17. There was only one bathroom...a unisex one. As in a single Unisex Public Gas Station Bathroom... That grossed me out, and I tried to not touch anything. I refused to glance at the floor.

There was only a toilet and a sink, and paper towels and soap. And a line waiting outside. I gingerly balanced the toe of my sandal on the tip of the toilet seat (I would shuffle through the grass HARD outside to remove further creepiness from the bottoms of my sandals later), wetted some paper towels with soap and water, and washed the gasoline off my ankles and feet as best I could. It took a lot of rinsing. OK, I was done. I had to get OUT of the grossness of the unisex bathroom.

18. As I was about to exit, I saw that my foot-rinsing had left small puddles of water all around the base of the toilet. OH NO. The people waiting to get IN would think I was grossly incontinent. I will skip some of the details.
But yes.
I DID clean the floor around the base of the public unisex toilet.
That did not help my state of mind. Enough said.

(Except to add that a partial recreation of that teeth's edge sensation might be experienced by brushing your teeth with toothpaste and then drinking some unsweetened cranberry juice.

19. Long story shorter, J was now in a Take Charge mode, which often kicks in when things aren't going exactly as planned, and he told me we might be lost. Wherever we stopped, I tried to take out my camera and get a good shot of this or that out the window. This drove him crazy. He became adamant that I not advertise that I was a tourist by doing that ANY MORE RIGHT NOW. Overcome by Benadryl and gas fumes, I was not taking that "request" very graciously. Words were exchanged. Loving Designated Driver Husband reverted into Map Adversary Rambo Driver Person....destination Get There.

I declare that till I could form complete sentences again and help decipher the rural routes and state road whatevers, we were our own worst life forms.

20. It did get better.

It got so much better that we ended up happy again, very much enjoying having FINALLY arrived (survived?) and then laughing about a lot of it. (See prior post for land pics and that part of the story)

I won't further belabor this account beyond a brief mention of the later occurence of needing a CLEAN bathroom on the return trip (when you've been out in the middle of nowhere and have just drunk a Big Gulp sized iced tea) and my husband's insistence that YES it IS ok to walk into THAT (nearest) tiny (devoid-of-customers) small town coffee shop boutique-store place right off the street just before closing time JUST to use their FACILITIES WITHOUT stopping to buy a drink thus putting me in the unenviable position of being met with a contemptuous, disgusted, and offended glare from the proprietor both before and after, while simutaneously in the retelling having advanced my writing skills to the wholly redeeming position of having just penned the most atrocious of run-on sentences in the blogosphere, hooray!

(Better stop while I'm ahead? ha!)

(whew! and now to get some sleep:))

Exploring Again: Property Hunt Road Trip Part I

The Hills Are Alive...with possibility!

We had another day together to drive and look at property. This one was a sight for sore eyes... I'm in love with this parcel, or what we know of it so far.

Whether the price'll be right will be the final determining factor....as it has been with the other ones that haven't panned out. I hold my breath, and sort of brace for disappointment, just in case...just my conditioning, though...I'm an optimist, but like to survive possible letdown -- (Me, I gots issues! lol) No complaints, though! When we finally ARE able to have and hold our own square of dirt, we'll appreciate it all the more.

This particular parcel happens to be a few lovely land-locked acres, Land-Locked meaning that the access road (I use that term loosely) cuts across several other properties. Here's a pic of the two tire tracks that are the "road"....some people's nightmare, but for me a dream come true! The best we could do today was to travel to the area and see what the surrounding topography looked like up close and personal, even though we didn't trespass and tromp unannounced through neighboring acreage. Oh for a pair of boots, a ponytail holder, and good long hike around the place!

The area is several hours farther north than where we now live, and farther north than the areas we've looked prior to now. The further northward we traveled, the more we were(or I should say I was) delighted to find a different mix of tree types and land features, namely hills and lakes...beautiful! J commented how much he loved it, too...it was just so different than the terrain where we live, which has its own different sort of beauty. Today we saw hardwoods mixed in with the familiar palmettos, but also field grasses and plants that don't grow further south. I must say I CRAVE seeing hills, water, and hardwoods! Pair all that with the nicely cooler temps we got thanks to the rains, and it was NEARLY as nice as Tennessee (grinning!)

Here are some views from the surrounding acreage...from the arial photos, the available parcel is much the same. Look at all that lush pasture! The trees are a mixture of evergreen and hardwoods.

Let's see what happens...there are a lot of other properties out there, too, or in surrounding counties. If this one works out, I'm READY for us to "stake our claim." If it doesn't, this one might merit a more lengthy pout, but I'll know there's another somewhere that's just right :)

That's the LAND part of the day.

The Togetherness part of the day had its moments, as some road trips will do. Next post has the gritty details...heh heh

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Just saw this on Green, Blue, Brown and had to include it! (Thanks, E4!)

May the Farm be with you...hee hee

Passing Along the Awards

This is long overdue, and I am very grateful to both Phelan and to Willa for their past inclusion of my blog for the following awards: Willa for the Thinking Blogger Award, and Phelan for the Bloggers for Positive Global Change one.

Thank you! What an honor :)

And how very belated I am for only now acknowledging it and passing them right along! (Apologies)

Frankly, many times I'd sit here and not know how to even begin to narrow down all the many fine blogs to a lower number...there are just too many wonderful ones, each one making a difference with its blog owner's own unique voice and perspective. I simply CAN'T narrow them down. It's impossible!

Therefore, instead of further procrastinating and therefore giving NO ONE any mention, I'll just do a shot in the dark, choosing GREAT from among GREAT. If I do not include yours, just don't hate me.

First, the Blogger for Global Change Award. Thank you, Phelan, for your mention. What a shot in the arm :)

I'm handing off the award to these 7 (not 5...5 was impossible!) who each change their worlds for the better with their careful efforts, their sincerity, and their individuality:

1. Path to Freedom Journal

2. Small Meadow Farm

3. Dirt Under My Nails

4. Permaculture in Brittany

5. Plan Be

6. The Good Life

7. Apifera Farm

Secondly, the Thinking Blogger Award. Thank you again, Willa, for your mention so many months ago. Now passing it along to:

1. Green, Blue, Brown

2. Stop the Ride!

3. slowly she turned

4. A Homesteading Neophyte

5. Fast Grow the Weeds

6. House-poor, Homesteading, Happy

7. The Unusually Unusual Farmchick

I'm new to this, so here are the instructions for passing along of these awards:

At minimum, you can proudly display the BPGC badge on your blog and bask in
the glow of our collective good will. If you are sharing the kudos, however,
please make sure you pass this list of rules to the blogs you are tagging. The
participation rules are simple:

1. When you get tagged, write a post with links to up to 5 blogs that you
think are trying to change the world in a positive way.

2. In your post, make sure you link back so that people can
easily find the exact origin of the meme.

3. Leave a comment or message for the bloggers you're tagging, so they know
they're now part of the meme.

4. Optional: Proudly display the BPGC award badge with a link to the post
that you wrote up

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

This Could Be Your Cup of Milk

...if you live in North Carolina or Georgia.

It's a raw deal.

Meaning it's meant to target raw milk consumers in these states, and others to come. It's not just a health debate, but a fundamental and ideological one.

That's right folks -- lest the front page (or nearly any page, for that matter) of your local news doesn't give you enough get steamed up about, you're about to see a good many squirt-squirts of black dye in your raw milk in days to come.
Supposedly it's a "protective measure" for the consumer...(which reads to me rather like the propaganda doublespeak of world dictators when referring to bullying their neighbors, as having "liberating" them) I believe it is moreso about the infringement of our right to decide for ourselves what we will eat, our involvement in where it came from, and how the farms we farm or buy from are restricted from having basic freedoms to raise their animals organically and sustainably, using traditional farming methods rather than mass-produced industrial ones.

For a more thorough read, here is a sampling of some great posts you can use as a springboard for your own research, decision-making, and hopefully action.

1. Laurie at slowly she turned

2. Pattie at Food Shed Planet

There are varying opinions about the benefits of raw milk, and it's the subject of hot debate. But despite your conclusion or personal preference, it's our constitutional right to decide what goes on our own plates without any government agency or ruling being the heavy. Some would say it's our HUMAN right, despite any geographic locale at all.

Shall cut this post short, before Opinionated Robbyn begins a soapbox...
heh heh ;-)

Question Revisited: Are Organic Pesticides Safe? Mike's Answer to Robbyn

Earlier in the season, my experiment with growing heirloom tomatoes (and other things) in different sorts of containers was fully underway, with varying success. I've written about some of my conclusions garnered afterward, and also raised the question of how to deal with pests, or in our case, a plague of stinkbugs that decimated the later tomatoes.

Was it the stress of the plants that made them susceptible? Was it the under-fertilizing? Was it massing them together so closely? The weather? Many other questions remain. I received valuable feedback about that very question after doing a web search on Organic Pesticides. I enjoyed hearing the varying perspectives from so many of you who have successfully found answers for your own situations.

In all the busy-ness that simultaneously ensued with my outside-of-the-home work training commencing at JUST that very time, my time here at the computer was cut much shorter. In that time period, I missed out on one very valuable and detailed response to my blog post...and amazingly, I discovered it just now, unexpectedly.

Mike from Plan Be of Braamekraal Farm wrote one great response, and I'd love to include the entire thing here. But being that it's now 1:32 A. M. my time and I'm too distractable to wait, I'm not waiting to write for permission to include his reply here in full. And his reply is TOO GOOD to simply quote in part.

So, for one of the very best feedbacks on the question of "Are Organic Pesticides Safe?" please run, jump, and leap to read Mike's Response to Robbyn...it's really that good.

Thank you, Mike, very belatedly!

And thank you to everyone else who responded in the comments section before.

I know it seems that I'm an opinion collector rather than practically DOING many of these things I ask about in the posts. That day will come...it's all part of the journey. First, we have to get our land, etc. But I really am benefitting from not just seeing how everyone's doing THEIR "homesteading" but also beginning to understand many of the underlying reasons for specific choices. I'm finding so many of those reasons to be sound.

Which will give me a sound rooting, I hope, in endeavors yet to be realized.

Because, as they say (they who? the Infamous They!), "as the twig is bent, so grows the tree."

Thank you, Mike, for your thoughtful and thorough response. I'm sorry I only discovered it NOW :)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Blog Rolllllllll

The length of this blogroll is proportionate to the weeks and months I've procrastinated updating this blog. My many apologies! Each of these blogs is a reflection of its unique owner and his/her lifestyle, opinions, undertakings, and valuable perspective. I've enjoyed countless hours relaxing, discovering, and being encouraged reading their posts. I've traveled far and near through their writings, and haved gained useful knowledge, and have found wings for some of my dreams.

I add these blogs to my existing list of wonderful links, all of which link to wonderful people, many of whom have become friends through regular writing familiarity. It's interesting...their laughter prompts mine, their difficulties become my concerns, their triumphs have my cheers...and it's so nice finding so many great folks walking similar paths or sharing similar pursuits...just when I thought maybe I was the "odd man (er, woman) out."

Here is the list, and though I've tried to include them all, I'm sure I've left someone out. If you would like to be listed, please comment and I'll include yours, as well. My only exclusions, by personal preference, are any blogs that drop the F-bomb or are high profanity, blogs primarily stumping for product sales, those with overt and rigid political or religious agendas, nudity, hate groups, and the occult.

Here is a list of some I love, to be added to those I already have been loving, noted on the sidebar. You are likely enjoying many of these blogs already. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

(In no particular order...)

The Blog Roll!

1. Irish Dexter Cattle, Cheap Sheep & More Creatures (hi, Tina!) What amazing things you do with one acre! Check out all the animals that call this farmette home. What a talented gal!

2. Crunchy Chicken Mother of 2 reducing her impact on the environment and introducing the blog world to challenges such as the most recent Freeze Your Buns one. And the personal challenge of helping her soulmate through a difficult health crisis.

3. Apifera Farms Katherine Dunn's farm of lavender, donkeys, sheep, cats, horse, and her original art creations that should not be missed.

4. April Showers ...you with laughter. She's genuine, fun, cracked, and you'll wish she was your next door neighbor. Only that'll be difficult, since she just relocated! A seriously great blog :)

5. The Country Doctor's Wife is Rechelle, April's (above) sister...and you'll wish she were yours, too. Beautiful heart, outrageous laughter. Her house is where every boy wishes you'd send him for the weekend!

6. Children in the Corn Angie and hubby and two lovely children farming their 2 acres in Michigan (brrr!) You don't want to miss her forays to the local markets, the knitting, gardening, and homeschooling fun :)

7. The Soay Sheep Chronicles You may just fall in love with this breed of sheep. Priscilla writes from Saltmarsh ranch in southern Oregon and details her adventures raising her flock of 100 of this rare breed.

8. Simple Katie hails from Montana. This is the friend you'd love to spend hours with in the kitchen, canning, pickling, and visiting. An inspiration for all organic gardeners.

9. Rurality Another woman you'll want for your neighbor. Check our her lazy game cam, her eye for nature's details (great photographer) and her family's adventures in Alabama.

10. Tiny Farm There is so much valuable information at this blog, you'll be back and back for more. Think 2 acres is small? See what can be grown organically on a "tiny farm"...you'll be fascinated and encouraged!

11. Irish Sally Garden See this couple progress in their adventures in rural Ireland. Scroll back in the archives to see their polytunnel adventure and their successes with livestock and fresh produce. They host workshops for fellow-learners, and you'll love to follow their ongoing projects.

12. Losing Our Shirts, Keeping the Farm Nancy from Ingleside Farm in Virginia and her lovely Icelandic sheep and beautiful horses. Did I mention the lovely Icelandic sheep and beautiful horses? (happy sigh)

13. Cricket Bread A locavore finds ways to prepare almost anything, gleaning and harvesting what most others pass by. Fascinating reading.

14. Spered Breizh Ouessants I can't pronounce it, but I love this blog and these sheep. Another rare breed, this Ouessants (also known in the U.S. as the "Ushant" sheep) blog hails from Brittany, France. Check it out and fall in love with yet ANOTHER wonderful primitive sheep breed :)

15. Little Blog in the Big Woods Meet Greenpa, 58 year old Pennsylvania resident who's been living off grid and "green" for at least 30 years. An original No Impact Man, with a track record, and decidedly fascinating perspective and opinions.

16. Free Range Living is Cheryl in Canada...homeschooling and homecooking mom whose family is in the process of building on acreage just outside the city. Another woman you'd wish were your sister or neighbor. Packed so full of every sort of endeavor, you just won't want to miss this blog.

17. Edge Effect I first discovered this website from another site's mention of a posting there about some eerie antique portraits found in a junk shop. I read, and could not stop laughing! Then I noticed the author, Meresy, also had posts about chickens, and that was "all she wrote." I'm still hooked :)

18. Confessions of a Pioneer Woman This blog is like nicotine to a smoker. Do not, DO NOT read it, or you may be hooked. Her husband is even named The Marlboro Man. You've been warned.

19. Permaculture in Brittany is the blog and vacation destination you may never want to leave. Stuart and Gabrielle are working hard on their 3 acre holding in Brittany, France, which they are developing using sustainable permaculture principles. Visit them, on the internet or for a cottage holiday!

20. Scarecrow's Garden The Aussies with the Can-Do attitude, read this blog for inspiration using what you have to grow, grow, grow. This site has so much to learn from!

21. The Beginning Farmer and The Beginning Farmer's Wife are just what the title says...beginning farmers. What I find so fascinating is the two different and complementary perspectives on these concurrent blogs, male and female, husband and wife.

22. Bellebouche is another fine French site, a true and ongoing tale about renovating an 1850's French farmhouse. Bees, gardening, and so much more, you just won't want to stop reading, and dreaming :)

23. Farmlet in NZ is Kevin and Rebecca's self-sufficient, low impact 5 acre farm in northern New Zealand. They dreamed, and then they did. Read what they are doing.

I've probably left some beloved blogs off this blogroll inadvertently. Please alert me if so!

I hope you enjoy these blogs every bit as much as I do, and their writers even moreso!

(And with THAT, I have now crossed one of my post-crastinations OFF the list and can live feeling a lot less guilty...lol!)

New Look

Fickle woman I am...there is an inherent compulsion in me to rearrange sofas, furniture, and apparently the blog, from time to time. I'm dabbling in the unknown -- web tinkering -- though I hardly have any spare time. I tried for a new look. Not sure yet if I like it or if it will be subjected to yet another rearrangement compulsion in days to come. I tried for colors that would harmonize a bit with the header graphic, and most of my tries came out looking like an electric pumpkin montage. Ah, well, like some haircuts, ya just don't know how much you REALLY like it till the next morning.

And so, this blog shall endure scrutiny on The Morning After, and we'll see if the edits survive. If it all is in black and white tomorrow, you'll know it was a bit too Something, and got axed.

I'm stalling. I have "blog homework" to do. I'm so deliquent on thanks and acknowledgements, and on blogrolls and continuing research. I've been stubbornly relaxing...MINDLESSLY...since the ending of the 911 job. I've not had a haircut, deep-cleaned my house, baked bread, or tidied up the exterior landscaping (read "weedeat the tree-sized weeds") at all since I started that job in June. It ate my life...the only time I had here at home was to sleep, and to cram. I hope I can use those skills (for which I continually crammed) someday in some other capacity. I just completed another course for another license. Yes, I just can't stop! (laughing) Today I went and applied for the license and have a temporary one, and am now employable in yet another field. I joked with my husband that I should just keep on getting miscellaneous licenses for things I never intended to do so that I'm the most qualified person out there....for SOMETHING.

Maybe I'm old or maybe the lobe of my brain responsible for creativity and reflection is beginning to atrophy, but I just want to GET ON WITH moving to some land...NOW. Until then, everything is in a holding pattern.

Whine, whine :)

Or I can just be one of those women who decide (surely they DECIDE...) to wear strangely-coordinated mismatched clothing, open-toed sandals, long hair with beads and ribbons plaited here and there, and ankle bells...and making the most fabulous pottery, paintings, sculptures, and weavings ever. I WAS an art major, way back in the day, after all. The paintbrushes are likely rusted now. Or I'll go away to a writer's workshop and drink herb teas or exotic coffees and meet fascinating people and then hole up and write, write, write. Or I'll go to a poetry slam. Or I'll go to a horse farm and offer to shovel out stalls for free just to be near those creatures I love.

I MUST have a chicken SOON. Can anyone relate to this waiting sort of funk? I'll get over it...maybe :) In the meantime, the blog gets dustier, as does the house, and I'm tearing through as many books as possible. Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was the latest smorgasbord of reading pleasure, as was Logan Ward's See You in a Hundred Years. Have I done a single book review here? Nope. It's that sort of funk.

I know what this is all about, or at least partially. I'm job hunting again this week, and am gearing up to do another job to help Get Us There. Were this a teaching, writing, gardening, or animal husbandry type of position, I'd be jazzed. As it is, I'm embracing my last few minutes of Homebodiness tenaciously.

And the post-crastination here continues. Hmmmm...

Hopefullly this will blow over. There are many serious planning considerations rolling onwards in conversation with my husband whenever we have time together these days. We've narrowed things down and are still hot on the trail of Some Land To Be Had. This week we have a day set aside for taking a day trip to do some more hunting. FUN :) :) That'll fuel me for a while :)

Hope to return here in a bit, after satisfying my nesting urge, and possibly even scrubbing the kitchen.

(We'll see about that last bit, ha!)

I'd better get a haircut tomorrow. That has a way of either giving me a shot in the arm, or hurling me to the brink of despair (depending on the skill of the hairdresser and the level of drasticity--is that a word??--of the cut). If the hair still qualifies as "long" when I return and total strangers don't whisper and point as I walk by, I'll consider it a success.

Then I'll be more in the mood to be worth my salt in blogland, and possibly as procrastinating weed whacker and floor mopper, woo hooo!

I shall be back...blogroll is SO delinquent, and there are so many new ones I've been enjoying...I owe 'em bigtime!

Off to nest...and the other stuff, perhaps :)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Just one more...

...really :)

Strange and beautiful looking...love the wings...whew, the eyes -- I wonder how I look to him?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bee Bliss

Still practicing with the new camera. I feel like a Peeping Tom...

Close ...


Bee in pollen paradise...


(Reminder to love your pollinators...please don't spray your plants. Your plants love the bees as much the bees love them. If you're not sure, just watch for a couple of seconds. The flower literally dances on the breeze, giving nectar and pollen, as the bee nestles into its glory of color, scent, and food...assuring the prosperity and continuation of each. Harmony. We humans should do so well :))

OK, I'll get back to some content rather than superficial posting...just having fun seeing the world through a whole new lens!

Later note: After looking for some pictures to identify the type of bee this might bee, er be, I'm thinking it might be a digger bee. The stand of wildflowers was covered with these bees, and they did not seem aggressive, and were too small to be a bumblebee. They seemed fuzzier than what I think of as a honeybee. Does anyone know from looking at the pictures? The identification information I found was on this page. Sadly, some links took me to exterminator sites, which termed the Digger Bee as "pest" even though admittedly they burrow into the ground, are harmless, and don't sting. And they are especially GREAT pollinators, loving flowers. It's frustrating that they're targeted as pests, simply because they happen to be bees. Why do we have to destroy these creatures that go about minding their own business and HELPING us by pollinating our plants, just because we're conditioned to say "ewwww" to flying things? Not me...I "dig" the Digger!

A Kiss of Nectar

I've been having such fun with the new camera! I'm really thankful for all the blessings our Father has sent our way, and am delighted I have a new medium through which to capture the beauty of what is right in our path.

This is a close-up of a Mexican petunia, Ruellia brittoniana, which grows here in Zone 9 uncontrollably unless corralled. I took the picture this morning with The New Little Camera That Can! I can hardly believe the beauty when zooming into a bee's-eye view...it looks like billowing silk, and the colors are magnificent. Can you imagine a job where you zero in on nectar and pollen nestled in backlit glowing jewel-toned flutes of soft yet strong membranes, floating about atop stems like so many hot-air balloons?

The bees today were really loving these flowers, and a hummingbird was glutting on nectar in the depths of its blue trumpet petals. It gives me more reason to pause, listen, watch, and appreciate the worlds that exists in a single square foot of an overrun weedy patch. How many, many more of such worlds there are to find and learn from in days to come, if only I'll stop to really look.

What a gift! I am grateful...

I hope everyone has a restoring day of rest this weekend.

Shabbat shalom!

(Blog closed for next 24 hrs)

Time for a Shootout

Last night, J and I were out running errands and happened into an office supply store. Earlier that day, I'd shown him my "wish camera" since he told me to be researching which sort we could best use right now. The last time I purchased a camera for myself was in 1986, just before going to Europe for 13 weeks. I was on such a shoestring budget that I knew I'd gain a lot more from photographs than souvenirs, though that didn't stop me from picking up about $20 worth of handmade items in Romania and enough Czech hand decorated eggs to drive customs crazy upon return...heh heh...

Anyway, back to the office supplies. Last night, we were stuck in a line of ONE (us) waiting on the employee who seemed to be taking his break while standing feet away, humming contentedly amongst his flock of copy machines in la la la fashion. To pass the time, J suggested I take a quick look at the camera section. I didn't realize they even HAD a camera section, and sure enough, when I did, I spied THE camera...the one I'd just shown him earlier online...the Wish Camera. Only THIS Wish Camera had a sign that read "Clearance" and had been marked $50 less than the original price, totaling a couple hundred less than when it first came out on the market...whew! I asked the salesman if they had plenty, and he checked, and there was one left in stock.

And that is how the Canon Powershot S3 IS made its transition from the stockroom to hanging permanently via neckstrap from my person. I am ecstatic!!! We cracked it out of its box and earnestly tried to decipher the manual, since I'm not a technology whiz and have never operated a digital before. In fact, it seems odd to me not having to insert film. By the time I figured out how to point and click, it was well after dark, so the photo ops had to wait till this morning. I've only taken a few, trying to get the hang of the different settings. So far I'm rather fumble-fingered, and I held my breath as one of my pictures of wildflowers in the vacant lot next door NEARLY captured a hummingbird I almost mistook for a hornet. Whatever sort of hummingbird it was, it had a brown lower half, and was quite intently gathering breakfast from a blue trumpet flower (not sure the name). By the time I figure out how to focus in, the oppportunity, or rather the bird, had passed.

Anyway, here is one of the first tries. This camera has a 12x zoom built in and also a built in macro mode.

Above is a wildflower (not sure what sort yet), one of my first attempts at both picture-taking and downloading to 'puter...I can't believe I can even see the pollen on the flower petals! The actual flower was less than 3 inches in diameter, and it was not until I enlarged the macro shot a couple times that I could see the pollen standing right there like bread crumbs. This is going to really help me notice things that have been right under my nose, and see many things differently for the first time. Amazing!! I love my camera!!

For now I'm off to find more things to shoot!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Gourd Ahead and Try It, or What to do With a Blue Hubbard Squash

I can't say that October is ushering in a drop temperatures, the crisp tang of autumn scents and the frenzied color wheel of turning leaves way down here in Florida. Predictably, it's rather business as usual outdoors, with more subtle clues as to season.

It's usually about this time of year that the squashes burst on the scene at the local market produce section. Each year, I circle them hesitantly, admiring their audacious shapes, sizes, textures, and hues. Maybe it's just my imagination, but it seems the last couple of years have brought a greater variety of these late season beauties to the mainstream vendors. Like gourds, which themselves are a study in riotous diversity, I've never been quite sure what I'd actually DO with a winter squash if I actually bought one. But I do know they can be eaten. And that gourds CAN'T (or shouldn't). And that one of my personal goals in any food preparation featuring a curcubit (Geshundheit...) is to avoid any verbal proclamations, upon tasting, along the lines of "Ewwww, Squash!"
My family's tastes are progressing. Some vegetables are easier to acclimate to than others. Blue Hubbard squash is the most recent experiment I foisted, er, tested on my willing subjects (read "family"). They gathered, they sampled, they adored. (Well, they asked for seconds at least.)

Last year I experimented on a small scale and discovered some of what I've been missing. My jaded palate had never experienced much beyond the basic yellow crooknecks of summer, and of course the indomitable zucchini. The winter squashes are purportedly great "keepers," and the ones I've seen all have fairly hard shells, similar to pumpkins, which I'm sure are in the same category, or close. I started selecting a few different winter squashes from the display in order to sample them over time and satisfy my curiosity.

I think I started with a Butternut and a Delicata, and halved, scooped out, and baked each in a baking dish covered with foil. I found out it's hard to mess one up...they bake beautifully and can be eaten As Is, or with the addition of a simple sprinkle of spice, pat of butter, or brush of sweetener such as honey, brown sugar, or maple syrup. My taste buds needed to catch up with my adult mindset, which has been slow to adapt to change from the familiar. As so many types of vegetables are yet unfamiliar to me, I now taste with a more open mind.

One of the nicest introductions to the infinite varieties awaiting tasting, and growing, was the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Catalogue. Their catalogue blows my mind. I shudder to think of how big our first garden will be when we finally get some acreage...I've tried narrowing down my wish list of the selections they offer, and the eventual list is so long it could feed a small developing nation. Their winter squash selections alone number 80....EIGHTY! I have to do breathing exercises and dash cold water in my face to snap me out of the Seed Catalogue Trance my husband has become all too familiar with, and quietly repeat my mantra "but I don't NEED two pages of winter squashes" a few times to return to my present reality. (Until the next time I open and turn the pages..."melons, wow look at all the melon varieties...!")

Blue Hubbard squash has been on my To Try list for a while, and I just baked some yesterday for the first time. They are likely the variety pictured above, at least that's what the one I bought looked like...(clicking on the picture will direct you to the equally-addicting Seeds of Change site.) I halved one, scooped and cleaned it out, placed it rind-down in a baking pan along with some raw chunked potatoes, carrots, onions, and handful of raw garlic cloves. I splashed a couple tablespoons of white wine and a half cup of water into the bottom of the pan, and topped it all off with a few grinds of salt and pepper. I tucked some of the onion chunks and cloves of garlic into the indentations of the squash, covered the whole thing tightly with a couple layers of aluminum foil, and baked at 350 till done. I usually double the amounts of things I bake, and this was no exception, so two baking dishes of the above were baked at the same time.

We sampled them when cooked fork-tender...it's easy to leave them in the oven and do other things while they cook. I ran errands and arrived back in time for my husband's getting ready to go to work. We stopped and ate together, and the baked vegetables were the perfect meal.

We've both been feeling a bit under the weather, though, and some sort of virus seems to be making the rounds. To ward off the common cold, I decided to take the baked root vegetables in the other baking dish and to incorporate them into some sort of soup. I'm not always so great at improvisation and making my own creations, but this one in a sense made itself. Whenever anyone in my household begins to feel like they might be getting sick, it's my instinct to make some version of homemade chicken soup. That's where tonight's soup began. The only reason I'm posting it here is so I'll remember it for next time...it's one of the best soups I've had in a while. Oh happy coincidence! :)

Here's how I made it...it's so easy and the texture is really nice.

Harvest Chicken Soup (or call it what you like)

1 small blue hubbard squash, (no bigger than a baby's head) halved, seeds and strings removed

1 lg onion, chunked

8-10 cloves of garlic

2 lg carrots, peeled

4 med potatoes, chunked

2 T white wine

a bit of water, just a few tablespoons

Arranged all the above in a baking dish with the squash rind-side down. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Tuck some of the onion and garlic into the scooped out hollows of the squash. Bake covered tightly with foil till fork tender, 1 1/2-2 hrs. Set aside to cool, saving any remaining liquid in the bottom of pan.

In a separate soup pot, place 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts and just enough water to cover. Add some of the cooked onion and garlic you already baked (above). Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a slow simmer. Simmer, covered, till meat is cooked tender, checking water and adding a little if it gets too low.

Once the meat is tender, remove from souppot to cool. Into the liquid left in the souppot, add the liquid from the cooled baked vegetables (above).

Then add 6 additional cups chicken broth (1 lg can) to the souppot.

With a teaspoon, scoop the Hubbard squash pulp into the souppot, and discard rind. With a pulsing action, process together, right in the pot, the squash and liquid with a stick blender (the handheld sort used to make smoothies) till very smooth. One at a time add the rest of the other baked vegetables, blending till smooth. (You can remove the potato skins before blending if you prefer.) At this point, the soup will resemble a golden smooth slightly thick liquid, but not too thick.

Take the cooked chicken breasts and cut into chunks, sized to your preference (I like mine cut small), then add to the soup. Stir this soup over low heat till thoroughly hot, but don't let it boil down...keep the lid on and just on a low simmer.

I don't know what exactly about this soup hit the spot, but it's absolutely delicious and packed with nutrition. The texture is appealing, moreso to me than if the vegetables had not been pureed. The golden hue is a true saffron color, and there are no artificial or processed ingredients in the whole thing. It doesn't taste overtly "squashy" or exotic, yet there is something very "hearth-and-home" feeling about it, and it would be perfect paired with either homebaked bread fresh out of the oven, or hot buttered southern cornbread (not sweet cornbread made with sugar...ick!) It's mild but so flavorful that I didn't add any additional salt or spices, and my whole family loved it.

So Blue Hubbard squash is definately a keeper, if for no other reason than to recreate this soup another time :)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Shabbat Shalom

Blog is closed for shabbat...we're getting a lot done just now beforehand, and Sunday promises to be busy, too. My daughter's requested homemade matzoh ball soup and I still have my shopping to do...eek! I need to get this ball rolling faster :)

The blog will have to breathe till Monday. Hope everyone has a rejuvenating day of rest this weekend!

More to come...

:) Shabbat Shalom

Image link: http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://artmuz.com/Candles_Holder/Shabbat_Candles_12.jpg&imgrefurl=http://artmuz.com/Shabbat_Candles_1.htm&h=405&w=432&sz=169&hl=en&start=49&tbnid=UzK2UkpWOwKVNM:&tbnh=118&tbnw=126&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dlighting%2Bshabbat%2Bcandles%26start%3D40%26gbv%3D2%26ndsp%3D20%26svnum%3D10%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Man and Woman Thing

A bit of a departure, but I had to post this...

I just got an email from a lifelong friend. She said she laughed so hard when she saw this picture, and she emailed it to her husband.

When he opened it and saw it, his reply was "I don't get it."

I opened it, and I'm STILL laughing...!!! Here's the pic...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Till the Cows Come Home

Sometimes I feel that's how long it's taking to get our piece of land! But plug away we shall. In the meantime, it feels GOOD to be able to have nearly unlimited resources available via the internet and through books to see how others have chosen to attempt similar things. One of the aspects I most enjoy when reading other blogs or articles is seeing how different choices are working out for other homestead-mentality folks. I'm learning so much...not only about skills, but about time management, the particular financial challenges, the element of the Unexpected, animal husbandry ups and down, health impacts, which methods (gardening, cooking, preserving, animal care, land management, nutrition, etc) are working best and which are not in different situations.

Appreciation for the Individuality Inherent in this Lifestyle
I love seeing how different families are raising their children, dealing with important political issues, having fun, dealing with hard times, working through relationship challenges, renovating their homes, fixing things, creating things, and choosing to do things they've always wanted to try at least once. I love people who think outside the box and make choices based more upon what works for their own situation and happiness than what society seems to accept as the status quo career track. I love seeing people happy preserving heritage ways of doing things, and even at times choosing to do things the "old" way rather than simply being driven by timeframes and convenience. I love seeing an attitude of respect for others, for animal care, for food origins, and for stewardship of this earth and its resources. I love seeing how others do things, solve problems, and oftentimes express faith.

From these things, I am inspired and encouraged, and feel renewal.

Up to this point, this preparation season, namely getting our household "in order" in many ways, particularly financially, has not been an idealist's paradise...it's been work. That's very much how I believe it will continue to be, even when we're finally able to get that land and raise those animals, plants, and trees. The part I'm looking forward to is that it is work that we CHOOSE...in fact I believe we'll be working harder in many areas then than we are right now. Much like what occurs when raising children, I anticipate there being tradeoffs, namely of "freedoms" of schedule and added responsibility, and the unanticipated emergencies that arise. But, like raising children, I also anticipate enjoying the journey and the growth, and hanging tough with the setbacks.

Hmmm...not sure how I got off on that thought trail... :) This WAS all leading somewhere.

Narrowing our Focus
At this point, not having had the hands-on opportunity to work with a variety of livestock yet, we've been trying to narrow our focus at least somewhat to what we THINK we want and would work best for us, since that is a factor in choosing a property. If we want rotation pasture-grazing grass-based livestock, best to have pasture and grass! :) Some ideas we have are fuzzy, and some are more specific. It's interesting comparing this year's "plan" to that of a year ago, and seeing what has changed and what hasn't. Sometimes, seeing through the eyes of bloggers already trying and dealing with particulars we thought we'd want to try affected how we see that subject now.

I started out wanting to take on many different sorts of animals, most of which I've never had in the past, ever. I didn't have much idea of which could be kept together, the behaviors and requirements of certain breeds, the advantages and disadvantages of how far we're willing to adapt our lifestyle to a particular type of animal's needs. After having observed for a while, here are a few things that have changed:

1. I've rethought the subject of keeping goats. I love certain goats' personalities, and I can see there are very devoted goat-lovers out there who have this animal at the top of the list rather than at the bottom. Goats seem to have a reputation for being active and curious...and escape artists. Do we love them enough to deal with them? (That's an honest question) There is one thing I'm not willing to deal with...male goats. I just don't want to take them on.
What is our objective in raising goats, if we do include them in our future plans? The two thoughts that most appeal, other than the fact I love their personalities, is for milking and for cabrito. Therefore, we've not ruled goats out completely, but we HAVE ruled out raising them on a larger scale. Another factor is matching my personal preference in breeds of goat to my location. Florida's weather can vary from sub-tropical humidity, heat, and wetness to years of complete drought and water shortages. During the wet cycles, parasites here are legion, and the heat is always a factor. Though I might be mistaken, it seems that in researching goat breeds that the dairy breeds are suited primarily for colder climates, or at least the breeds I seem more attracted to, such as the Swiss dairy breeds.

How much do I TRULY want to milk every day, if at all? That continues to be a consideration. I'm likely one of the few folks out there who prefer cow's milk to goat milk for drinking...the only goat milk I've had so far did have a different and unfamiliar taste, or at least my palate thought so. But I'd love to make yogurt from it, and cheeses and soaps...on a small scale, not on a large scale. So there are our goat concerns.

2. Some of the deciding factors, while this may seem shallow, are simply that we're attracted to some and not to others. Why are we attracted to certain breeds and not others? Because of the fact that our mini-farm will be a personal "smallholding" rather than a large scale income-producer, some of the choices are not going to be determined solely by the bottom line, but rather in matching the choices to our personal preferences rather than modern dictates such as fastest growers, best market weight, most demand, etc. Yes, we want to do things practically. But yes, we also will make certain decisions based upon...what we LIKE. And it may not make sense to anyone else. I know it may sound crazy, but if I don't like the looks of a particular breed of animal, we likely won't be very excited about raising them and investing our resources into them. Maybe that's why some people like large dogs and other folks like toy poodles...who can explain our preferences? the other factors are primary, but much as it may sound fickle, if I am not attracted to the physical attributes of a type of animal, I'm not very excited about making it a member of our future small-scale and highly-personal farmyard.

I wonder if this is normal? For instance, I prefer a certain type of ear on a goat. If we knew we needed to raise a few goats for meat, we'd go with a breed such as Boer, most likely. And Nubians seem to do better in our climate than the temperate climate dairy breeds. I'm just not excited about either of these breeds overall, though they're exceptional animals, for the simple and very fickle reason that I don't like the look of lop-eared goats. And since I can raise other types of animals for meat just now, I'm more drawn to other types.

It's the same with cattle. With so many choices, when we narrow down the breed to one with the characteristics we NEED, there are still so many breeds from which to choose that it's easy to gravitate to ones we like the other, less important, characteristics of. So when we've satisfied the necessary considerations such as Use (dairy, meat, or dual?), Size, Polled or Horned, Best Suited to Climate, Parasite Resistant, Heritage, Ease of birth, Good Mothering Skills, Availability of Feed, Temperament, etc...then it comes right down to the question of which one appeals most to us personally. And of course, is that sort actually available? In the end, I might have narrowed it down to a Zebu, Brahma, or Dexter. All three are suited to this climate and other needs in certain respects. We'd choose Dexter, though, not only for temperament, but simply because I prefer their overall look and size better...or something...who can explain preferences except to say we LIKE them a lot? That might seem shallow reasoning, but I guess it factors in.

3. Manageability. We want animals we can keep for the long run so that we can, over time, adapt and fine-tune until it's manageable. We'll always be up for improvements and trying new things, but we want to focus enough to actually succeed in being good at the overall. We'll start small, and grow it from there to whatever is manageable for us. I'd love to have a dozen types of chickens, all heritage or dual purpose. We'll start with two or three types, see which are a good fit and which aren't, and then figure that in before adding other types. Although I don't anticipate this happening, we don't want to start with 50 chickens only to decide by the end of that year "I HATE keeping chickens!" and never trying it again. We can only guess right now if we'll really use all those eggs we want from the hens, or whether processing chickens ourselves for meat is something we want to do on a large or smaller scale...or at all. It's hard when it's ALL theoretical. We do, however, like to eat, and this is a primary consideration in all our decisions...we want to replace our dependence on the grocery store with home-raised foods.

4. Though the point in raising animals is (how to say this delicately?) primarily to eat them, there will be those we won't eat. I've already told my husband this. I really want a family cow to milk. After her giving us some calves and milk long-term, we will NOT be eating her. The same with particular (not ALL) hens who've layed their little hearts out and are past their prime, or are especially good mothers. It's not ALL about the bottom line and chicken and dumplings. The animals that are slaughtered for food will be raised compassionately and are due a large measure of respect. And out of the same sort of respect, there WILL be individuals I know we'll spare from slaughter simply because of how much they've already given us.

On the next post, I'll mention what we think we've narrowed the list down to at this point :) To be continued...

Photo link: Winner Nancy J. Reynolds http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.etext.org/Zines/Intl_Teletimes/Teletimes_HTML/cows_come_home.jpeg&imgrefurl=http://www.etext.org/Zines/Intl_Teletimes/Teletimes_HTML/winners_gallery_94.html&h=450&w=742&sz=150&hl=en&start=8&tbnid=s35rWxBSG2nSHM:&tbnh=86&tbnw=141&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dcows%2Bcome%2Bhome%26gbv%3D2%26svnum%3D10%26hl%3Den Goat picture: http://www.neatorama.com/images/2007-01/tree-goat-3.jpg Dexter calf photo link from FingerLakes Dexters site: http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.nehbc.org/img_directory/mem_fingerlakes/fingerlakes3.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.nehbc.org/img_directory/fingerlakes_dexters.html&h=319&w=426&sz=30&hl=en&start=11&tbnid=ud0F2a4oV7REmM:&tbnh=94&tbnw=126&prev=/images%3Fq%3Ddexter%2Bcattle%26gbv%3D2%26svnum%3D10%26hl%3Den

Monday, October 8, 2007

Peasant Foods Revisited: Colcannon

I have Scots-Irish somewhere way back in the nether regions of my family tree. And it must be said I do love a good potato.

Which love, it must further be said, requires restraint if one does not want to eventually RESEMBLE a good potato...heehee! (Er, ok, well let's not go there just now...) ;-)

I even want to have a small white or buff donkey someday, named Tater. (But we won't eat HIM...)

It seems that through the years, despite the pickiest of palates, the potato has been a frequent family table favorite, in nearly any form. I was not raised eating potatoes, since my mother was always on some version of a Weight Watchers or other diet, and therefore our starches were nearly nonexistent. This, likely, raised the potato to an even higher state of desirability in my sister's and my eyes...the only time potatoes turned up were at holidays or special occasions, most usually in the form of escalloped "Scalloped" potatoes...a "company" dish.

Fast forward to the present. I've now had many years of practice cooking the lovely potato in its other forms. And despite all pretences of fancy-ing it up, the favorites are usually the simplest...some type of variation on the theme of The Otherwise Hard To Goof Up Cooked Potato. Little new potatoes boiled and sprinkled with parsley, chives, green onions, you name your favorite, and a couple grinds of salt. Easy, and delicious served next to any green veggie. Boiled potatoes, sliced and served with nothing but salt and pepper. Delicious! Potatoes creamed or made into a soup or soup base. Pan fried potato strips, seasoned and crusty. Potato wedges baked with herbs. The topping for a shepherds pie. An accompaniment for savory meats, gravies, sauces. The star of an all-vegetable meal, nestled with fresh green beans, fresh sliced tomatoes, green onions, etc. The possibilities are endless, and besides being good eating, the potato is.....er.....CHEAP.

I make a mean mashed potato. I usually use the cheapest potatoes, which in this area seem to be white Idaho potatoes (yes, I know, not local...I'll get there someday...when raising my OWN :)). Or if we're getting really fancy, I'll spring for the lucious Yukon Golds...yum! I have it down pat my own quickie system for mashed potatoes....peel, rinse, slice once down the middle horizontally then back again vertically along the length of the potatoe into 1 or 2 inch cubes...boil in a relatively small amount of salted water till soft but not mushy, drain, and mash with a masher. Then add whichever combination of these suits the moment and the meal...whole milk or cream, butter, cream cheese, sour cream, yogurt, fresh grated cheese, pan roasted garlic, chives or other herbs, fresh pepper. Usually we do the milk/cream cheese/butter/S&P sort, or the milk/butter/garlic/sour cream/grated cheese one.

Or we bake a potato and eat it sans fat with a grind of salt and pepper.

Or oven roasted, with a dash of olive oil, liberal amounts of garlic and onion, and some chunked root vegetables...yum!

In my searching for variations on the potato theme and our Peasant Foods endeavor, I ran across a recipe I've always wanted to try, from Across The Pond...Colcannon. There were a few variations on it, but essentially it is a simple and hearty dish of potatoes mashed with either cooked curly kale or cabbage... the addition of leeks, scallions, chives, parsley varying with the particular recipe. Essentially this is a dish of mashed potatoes and the cook's choice of kale or cabbage, despite the variations, so I made a basic recipe of my own mashed potatoes and added boiled and lightly pureed kale.

Most recipes call for stripping the kale leaves from their stems, but my kale was storebought in the organic section already chopped with the stems still on. I had no leeks or scallions, and substituted dried parsley and chives.

Roughly, the recipe is something like this:

Colcannon (adapted from a variety of recipes found doing Google searches)

1. Make a pot of boiled potato chunks, cooked, drained of cooking liquid, and mashed till a thick dense mash, not runny. Season well with salt and pepper.

2. Heat a bit of milk or cream (just a bit, not a large quantity) and add your choice of scallions, chives, parsley, leeks...heat till they are tender. Then stir this into the potatoes.

3. While boiling the potatoes (above), in a separate large pot put 2 or 3 inches of water and either de-stalked and shredded curly kale or shredded/thinly-sliced cabbage (minus the core). Lightly salt this in the pot so it will cook down quickly. Cover with a lid, and heat to boiling, and then immediately reduce the heat till it is still simmering briskly. It doesnt take that long to cook down...it's done when the vegetable is tender but not lifeless. Drain off liquid. And explain to passersby that you don't have intestinal distress...it's just the smell of greens cooking ;-)

4. It's your choice whether or not to process the kale/cabbage into a puree or not, or whether to leave as is before mashing it into the mashed potatoes. I tried pulsing the drained kale with a stick blender, which didnt work that well without liquid but still got it a lot smaller. You could use a blender or food processor to the consistency you desire.

5. Add the kale/cabbage to the mashed potatoes, and season with additional salt and pepper to taste. If too chunky, add a bit of additional cream/milk, but NOT till runny. You want a thick, dense mash.

6. Serve steaming hot, alone or as a side dish, each serving scooped onto plate or bowl. Make a well in the center of each serving, with a spoon, and plop a chunk of butter there to melt. This was traditionally eaten by dipping bites of the potato mixture into the melted butter with each bite.

I tried this tonight, and mine was too runny due to my exuberance with too much milk. Even so, my husband really loved it, and I served it with portions of breaded cod oven cooked till crisp on the outside and flaky on the inside. The greens add vital nutrients and flavor, and green up the potato mash to a vibrant color that's a nice change from white. It would also be delicious served with grilled kosher sausage.

A close kin to Colcannon is another heritage tradition called Stamppot. A Google search will render countless fun links to great recipes of these and similar dishes.

Bon Appetit!

Photo link http://glospolski.eu/photos/photo_1632_1.jpg