Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pure Salatin

I love reading and listening to Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms. He is an original, and a pioneer in the realm of local food systems and community-based agriculture, and a staunchly politically-incorrect advocate for reclaiming freedom for traditional food growing and purchasing choices.

I am rereading my copy of his book Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal. I love this book, and I'll be posting now and then some quotes found within its pages. Here is today's:

Our whole culture suffers from an industrial food system which has made
every part disconnected from the rest. Smelly and dirty farms are supposed
to be in one place, away from people, who snuggle smugly in their cul-de-sacs
and have not a clue about the out-of-sight-out-of-mind atrocities being
committed to their dinner before it arrives in microwaveable four-color labeled
plastic packaging. Industrial abattoirs need to be located in a
not-in-my-backyard place to sequster noxious odors and sights. Finally,
the retail store must be ocated in a commercial district surrounded by lots of
pavement, handicapped access, public toilets and whatever else must be required
to get food to people.

The notion that animals can be raised, processed, packaged and sold in a
model that offends neither our eyes nor noses cannot even register on the
average bureaucrat's radar screen. Or, more importantly, on the radar of
the average consumer advocacy organization. Besides, all these single-use
megalithic structures are good for the gross domestic product. Anything
else is illegal.

Joel Salatin, Chapter 1, pp. 4, 5 Everything I Want to do is Illegal

Monday, July 28, 2008


These are the seed heads Jack trimmed off the stalks we have growing in some of the buckets. He transplanted them from under the bird feeder because they were thriving, and he wanted to see exactly what they were and what sort of plant they'd form. It appears we have milo, or grain sorghum.

Can anyone confirm this for us? I have no idea what the difference between grain sorghum and the sort you use for syrup is, if any.

These few trimmed stalks (shown in the picture, behind the potted fig) have gone nuts in the summer heat here, enduring under-watering, over-watering, and outright neglect. They keep putting out more seed heads, and they are hardy as can be. The insects haven't messed with them, and though some of the leaf stalks get brownish, the plant itself seems to be indestructible.

If this is milo, it appears we have happened onto something that would grow really well down here, and possibly provide some additional fodder for livestock, and even a grain for us to grind for breadmaking or porridge. If anyone is familiar with this and knows of its practical uses, we'd love to know!

If it is milo, here's a link we found that piqued our interest.

Easing Into Eating Beans

When I was growing up and we had a garden (some years, not all of them) we usually ate a lot of pink-eye purple hull peas, which we lumped generically under the term Black Eyed Peas, though they weren't actually. They are one of the few vegetables I actually enjoy the taste of better when home-canned, rather than cooked fresh. Either way, though, they made a fantastic supper with sliced fresh garden tomatoes, green onions, and any other vegetable...and cornbread cooked in a cast iron skillet.

That's really the closest we ever got to eating beans during my childhood, though I'm not sure why.

All these years, I've never really eaten beans except in the occasional pot of chili, or veggie soup. There may also be the reason that beans don't always agree with my digestive system... :)

That may be due to the fact I've not gotten used to eating them on a regular basis, though.

During the last few shopping trips to the grocery store, I've noticed how much prices seem to be soaring. I'm not sure if it's the prices, or if it's because I'm having to keep a closer eye on just how much I spend, since our gasoline bill now has edged out much of the discretionary spending cushion in our monthly budget. I'm enforcing a set spending limit now on every shopping trip, simply to keep track and make sure we don't come up short in other areas. I always had a limit, but it was more flexible...only now it is not.

That's fine with's pretty much the way I've lived most of my life. However, during that time, there are certain things we buy now that we choose differently, and have to pay for the difference. Milk is one such item. I like my family to have milk, and to have access to milk for drinking at least once daily. For the past few months, we had been driving to pick up real know, for our ***pets***... but that had to be curtailed because of the gasoline and the price of the milk. We turned to organic milk in the local supermarket, and sometimes they have a store brand organic, but most times it's sold out, and we have to buy from the other brands. We have a favorite brand, but it's just plain expensive, so I've cut back on our milk.

This is a sign of the times. In my childhood, we seldom had much money and I remember milk was a luxury item for us. We had it for cereal, but not just for drinking, and never more than a single helping per was bought, and rationed. When I became an adult, having milk for something other than cooking and cereal seemed like I was really living rich!

As I've tightened the belt with some items, I've been trying to substitute with others. I've been wanting for some time to experiment with beans.

I'm very unaware of all the different sorts of beans and their flavors and uses, but I've noticed fascinating lists of them, complete with pictures, in some of my favorite heirloom seed catalogs. Obviously, the rest of the world has been enjoying something I haven't yet discovered. It appears different beans have different uses in foods, and if I don't care for one, there are hundreds of others to choose from. As easy as they are to grow and store, and to cook, they will be a regular in our garden the next time we plant one.

They are just affordable as all get-out. It's time I began experimenting to see what some of our favorites will become.

I see a lot of bloggers using pinto beans, and yesterday I ran across an interesting recipe I thought I'd try. I just didn't want to spend all day cooking, but wanted some hot and hearty comfort food that would stick with us. Why I'm craving that in the middle of the blazing hot summer I can't tell you, but the urge was there, so I adapted this recipe and made a big pot along with some cornbread.

This recipe for Hamburger Pineapple Bean Bake is from Crystal Miller's wonderful site Homemaking Homesteader. What I liked about it is that it's not dependent on a tomato base. I've been using tomato in so many of my recent recipes, I wanted to try something different. The pineapple as an ingredient adds an interesting twist.

I tried it out last night when my daughter brought her boyfriend over for dinner. He ate several helpings, so I think everyone enjoyed it as much as I did, though my daughter who is picky picked out the pineapples. Nevermind though...this is the kid who picks the soft center out of homemade dinner rolls and leaves the entire outer crust because she doesn't like the texture. She only gets away with this when I'm not watching! ;-)

We're enjoying some of the leftovers today, and I'll freeze the rest. It's even better the second day!

This dish can be made in a slow cooker/crockpot or on low in a heavy pot. I substituted canned beans instead of soaking my own, simply because I didn't have the time that day for all the soaking. It is delicious with tortilla chips, or with hot cornbread, which is what we had. And because I'm a die-hard Southern girl, that cornbread went IN that bowl of meat-'n-beans! :)

Here's the recipe: (notes in parentheses mine)

Crystal Miller's Hamburger Pineapple Bean Bake (crockpot meal)

2 cups dried pinto beans (I used 4 regular cans of canned pintos)
1 cup dried black beans (I used 2 regular cans canned black beans)
12 cups water
1 T salt
1 lb hamburger
1 onion, chopped
½ cup chopped peppers (green or red or yellow) (I used 1 whole green bell pepper, chopped)
2 T apple cider vinegar
2 T prepared mustard
2 T molasses
1 20oz can pineapple chunks
1 ½ cups bbq sauce
salt and pepper to taste

(I skipped this step and put the canned beans all in the crockpot) In a large pot combine the dried beans, water and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce and cover and cook until the beans are soft, about 3 hours. Drain beans saving some of the bean broth to add later.

In a frying pan cook the hamburger, onions and peppers until the hamburger is no longer pink and the veggies are soft.

Put the beans along with the meat and veggies into a 5 or 6qt crockpot. Add the remaining ingredients and cook on low for about 5 hours. (If using canned beans, heat till tastes are blended...I heated about 2 hours in crockpot) Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.


In addition to the entree recipe, Crystal has a recipe for cake...using pinto beans...on the same page. Check it out!

Not long ago, Jayedee at Life In the Lost World posted several delicious-looking dessert recipes using pinto beans, including one for pinto bean fudge. I've been promising myself to try it soon! Check out her recipes. Who knew beans could be the secret to rich, nutritious, affordable desserts?

Sunday, July 27, 2008


I was recently tagged by my blog friend Christina at CoffeeCoffeeCoffee to list 7 things about myself. Check out her site for news about Big Ag and GMO news, and for some really delicious organic coffees...thank you for the tag, Christina!

Here are 7 factoids, chosen at random...

1. I am Southern-accent-impaired. I've tried, but I can't fully get rid of my Mississippi/Tennessee linguistic roots. (But I no longer use the word "britches" and "cain't" in everyday language...heehee) The "y'all," though, is permanent, I fear. I can also spot a fake Southern accent a mile away, and chuckle at movies where the non-native actors try their hands at it ;-)

2. I'm horse-crazy, but have never owned a horse, and have only ridden one a few times in my life.

3. I'm a complete sucker for livestock, children, junk shops, decorating, used book stores, and gardening. And for my husband :)

4. When I cook, I mess up the whole kitchen. I don't enjoy cleaning it up, either. I've tried being tidy as I go, but it's like trying to make a cat have a dog's personality...just doesn't work for me :)

5. I don't like liver, aspic, tapioca, or most sweet potato dishes. I could eat Mexican, Indian, grilled food, or fresh veggies and cornbread nearly every day of my life.

6. I've eaten goat meat twice in my life. Based on how it tasted those two times, it's my favorite meat.

7. I hate wearing pantyhose and will do about anything to avoid it. I don't really like footwear in general and love being barefoot or in sandals. I've prefer wearing natural fabrics, even though they wrinkle and wear differently than synthetics. My body has determined these things for me...I seem to get more uncomfortable in synthetics the older I get.

Alright...I'm passing this along to all my readers. Yes, I broke the rules. Which makes me abnormal, a! (For other acts of abnormality, check out this site )

Here are the rules. So you know what to break...hehheh ;-)

1. List these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Wow, Thank You!

I'm very honored and grateful to Farm Mom at Children In The Corn for this award...thank you, Angie!

One of the most enjoyable things about there being a homesteading community of bloggers on the internet is seeing their lives and perspectives, and not feeling alone. I love the diversity, the talent, and the tenaciousness. I love the community :)

I'm passing this award along to these five wonderful blogs:

1. Two Frog Home
2. Plantain Patch
3. Pile O'Melays
4. On the Way to Critter Farm
5. Homesteading in a Condo

Why Be Normal?

I wanted to buy a Tshirt with just that slogan printed on the front when I was a kid. My mom took a long look at me and said "Well, that pretty much sums you up..." I took it as a compliment :)

My husband and I have a running joke. He'll look at me and say "You're weird...I mean, special! And then he laughs, and I laugh, too, say to him "You meant weird. You got it right the first time." And then he says he likes me this way and that must mean he loves Weird. Ha!

What IS normal, anyway? What's abnormal? Maybe it's a way of thinking and living as an original...outside the box? If that's the case, vive l'abnormale !

I enjoy the momentum of people who value creating their own world and filling it with meaning -- their way -- beyond the hype of the escalating mono-culture of the mainstream. I think it's a more comfortable place to be. They will often ask questions, experiment, think, and appreciate others who do the same. They do not define life by the number of good or bad hair days.
I'm among those who march to their own beat, I guess, and it's where I'm most comfortable. It's not what I chose, it's where I found myself, so whatever it's called, I'm are most of the many unconventional folks I know. It's impossible to categorize us, because we don't define ourselves by comparing ourselves with others, and we tend to be deliberate problem-solvers, have strong independent streaks, and may have some things (relationships, politics, values, freedoms) we tenaciously hold dear.
Maybe the mainstream is an aberrance of our collective perception, because I've found that when you get someone one-on-one, nearly every individual I've ever met is a surprising mix of wonderfully varied and conflicting qualities. Maybe we've assumed there IS such a thing as normal...

Not so in the homesteading community! We embrace uniqueness and that questing forward motion...which many times is the art of surviving and thriving our way.

This online homesteading community is replete with originals, rather than clones, and it's so enjoyable to peruse the many blogs and see how so many diverse people live their lives and problem-solve. Despite our differences, there are usually many things that end up overlapping, and those of us who are off the beaten path, so to say, find a real kinship. What a find :)

There's a new blog on the horizon now, conceived and authored by Kathie at TwoFrogHome, who has pulled together some additional ladies to contribute their unique perspectives collaboratively in blog entitled "Women Not Dabbling in Normal." This group includes some recognizable and much-loved greats from homesteading blogland, such as Jessica from Practical Nourishment, Gina from Cauldron Ridge Farm, Kristine from Dancing in a Field of Tansy, and Phelan from A Homesteading Neophyte. I've been asked to contribute, too, and I'm so honored! Our writings will be varied and will celebrate being far beyond the bounds of "Normal." Each lady will post on a designated day of the week, and Fridays will be left open to answering reader questions.

The new blog kicks off tomorrow (Sunday) with Kathie's introductory post, and throughout the initial week each of the other contributors will introduce themselves.

Be sure and stop in to share in the fun, where we can all enjoy each others' company and just be ourselves!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Grateful Friday

It's that time again...the week happened so fully and so quickly I can't believe it's already Friday night. So much left to do, but now it's time to rest...

Time to pause in gratefulness and thank God for all the blessings He's brought this week. This week I am so grateful for the time we have here, which at times seems unpredictable or much too short. It seems many hardships are happening to those I love, and illness, financial reversal, and the unexpected are taking their toll. We are working hard through some circumstances as well.

I'm not sure life cuts us too much slack as we go along, and so we must hold our friends, neighbors, and family dear in this time we have. I am filled with both sorrow and gratefulness as another dear friend has just been diagnosed with final stage cancer...sorrow for the pain and difficulty of fighting, gratefulness for my friend's life and her uniqueness. My daughter's friend just lost their family home to foreclosure.

How do we continue on through these times, which realistically are getting tougher for many people, without losing hope?

We cherish.

We choose to stop and see the real things and real lives that populate our days -- these friends, family members...and the person at the checkout line. The teller at the bank, the co-worker we just don't see eye-to-eye with, the sibling we're the comlete opposite of, the cranky toddler whose mom has kept him out one shopping trip too many past his nap. We need to call our mother. Pray for the ones we can't visit often. Honor the elderly and be patient with the young. Make someone's favorite meal. Say thank you, I love you, I miss you.

I am filled with gratefulness, and I am not melancholy...I am reflective. Like an ever-changing and epic night sky, each day marks its time, and is filled with beauty and change. I am in awe at God's world, and in this fragile thing called humanity. I am so honored to be among it..

Thank you, God, for the things of real worth, and the chance to have one more day to inhabit them, witness them, and be in this madcap journey called Life. This moment is more than sufficient...dayeinu.

I wish you all a beautiful shabbat...and long pauses that renew, loved ones to cherish.

I leave with you a lovely musical grace note...I'm off to some much-needed sleep. Sweet dreams, and

Shabbat shalom :)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Recipe: Tasha Tudor's White Bread

Here is the promised recipe from the recent breadmaking post.

This is from the Tasha Tudor cookbook, and I'll be writing more about her soon...she's someone whose life I greatly admired. This is a basic white bread -- I'm wanting to try some of her other breads, too. I started with this one, which yielded a slightly sweet basic white bread loaf. The one extra rising made the difference in texture.

I wrestled with the dough while kneading it the first two times, but after the second rising, it was beautiful to handle. Hope you like it as much as we do :)

White Bread, from The Tasha Tudor Cookbook

2 cups milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick)butter
1/4 cup sugar, or 1 cup honey (sugar gives a crusty crust, honey gives a soft crust)
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups water
11 cups unbleached flour, approximately
2 packages active dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water, 110 degrees F
1 teaspoon sugar or honey

Grease or oil four 5" x 9" loaf pans.

In a saucepan, heat milk, butter, sugar or honey, and salt till all are liquid (don't boil), then remove from heat. Put the mixture in a very large bowl and add the water. Then add 1 cup of flour. When the mixture is lukewarm, dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup of water with just a pinch of sugar or honey. Let sit for 5 minutes to proof. When the yeast is foamy, add it to the milk mixture.

Add enough flour to make a nice workable dough (you'll be using most of the flour), and knead for 10 minutes (on a floured surface).

Place into a very large, well-buttered bowl. Turn dough once to coat the top, cover with a warm towel, and allow to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, until double in bulk.

When the dough has risen the first time, punch it down and repeat the process.

At the end of the second rising, punch down the dough and divide it into 4 loaves, making sure to smooth out any air bubbles. Place the loaves in prepared pans, cover them with towels, and allow them to rise until nearly double, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

When the dough has almost doubled bake the loaves in the preheated oven for approximately 1 hour, until they are a crusty brown and sound hollow when tapped. Remove loaves from pans and cool them on racks.


The cookbook notes that if you wish to make whole wheat bread using this recipe, you can use half whole wheat flour and half unbleached white flour, allowing just one rising in the bowl instead of two.

I made mine into 3 loaves and a great batch of rolls. I hope this recipe works for did for me, and I'm NO breadmaking expert. Enjoy!

Simple Changes: Breadmaking -- Additional Comments

Uhoh...I think I expressed myself wrongly in my recent breadmaking post!

First, I meant no offense at the whole "I'm a woman now!" was just my shoot-from-the-hip way of verbalizing the relief I felt at the time at having FINALLY made a loaf of bread rather than a leaden lump of disaster...which has been more or less my TYPICAL result! No implications were meant by it...and I still have more disasters than I'd like! Please forgive me if the post came off as offensive in any way...

Secondly, I'm hardly an expert. In fact, I'm simply a very stubborn and lucky amateur, and I anticipate remaining in that category for pretty much the rest of my life. I am a little relieved to have SOME successes, and it's probably due to the fact that the recipes are quite forgiving...and I don't have an expert here examining the end result. I'm intimidated by people who seem to be good at a lot of things and just have a natural flow from task to task, never botching anything grandly. Well, that's NOT me!

And there we are...I'm not hot stuff, not actually an expert at anything except not giving up, and didn't mean to offend anyone. Hmmm, maybe I'll post soon about some of my disasters?? :)

Using Those Corn Tassels

If dealing with fresh corn, this will only work if you have pesticide-free corn to work with...

You know those brownish tassels, or corn silks, that adorn shucks of fresh corn? They make one terrific herbal tea.

I began using them years ago when I ordered some in bulk to custom-blend some herbs for my own herb teas. I haven't done that in years, but with all the fresh corn coming in in our area markets, I was able to save some silks myself.

The dried ones I bought in bulk appeared brown, and these, after air-drying them, retained their lighter color. Their effect is as a very mild, gentle diuretic...very effective but not taxing to the internal organs. Since there is hardly any taste, any other pesticide-free herbs or teas can be added for flavor, if desired.

There may be a more scientific way to do it, but I simply pour almost-boiling water over it and let it steep a minute, then sip. It works for me any time I feel I'm retaining fluid, and I never have had an adverse reaction. I don't pretend to offer medical advice to anyone, so please don't take this post as such. I'm simply sharing something very simple that works for me...and is as close as that ear of corn. I hate to throw away wonderful, nourishing herbals :)

(Later Note: Oops! I forgot to mention that I drink the liquid but not the tassels. It can be strained off, if desired )

Sorry For the Delays!

I'm overdue for a few things:

Responding to a tag from Christina

Acknowledging a wonderful award from Farm Mom at Children In The Corn blog

Updating the blogroll, which is longgggg overdue

Responding to the Comments section in a timely way

Beginning a weekly book review

Linking all the recipes on this site to a collection

Cleaning my house

Cleaning my house

Cleaning my house

Getting enough sleep

Since I have to do the latter 4 to function enough to find clothes, not contract typhoid, and not fall asleep on the job, the other things on the list will have to wait a teensy bit longer.

And the other thing....we've had big news pending now for a while. Till all the ducks are in a row, though, the fat lady will not be singing. Which might be a good thing, because my singing falls more in the category of "a joyful noise" ;-)

Ugh. Having to sleep when the birds are outside the window and going strong is just sooooooo wrong! :) The counting sheep thing doesn't work...I just get distracted thinking of all the sheep I want to be raising...heh heh...a different sort of dream, but one that energizes me rather than lulls me to sleep.

Ah, that reminds me of one of my dearest friends (who comes to mind daily and whom I dearly miss) and one of her favorite songs featuring good ol' Bing. This one's for you, Lisa B...

Simple Changes: Making Our Own Bread

This is my second entry under the category "Simple Changes," as I document some of the small changes we've already made toward a streamlined and simpler way of living. One of our goals is to become less dependent on outside sources for our foods, and to bypass processed and pre-packaged foods as well as ones with preservatives and ingredients of unknown origin. The result? More and more, we're making our own, eating at home more, and satisfying ourselves with the basics. Bread has entered the picture here as something easy to make and easy to appreciate. Breadmaking is one of my simple changes.

Last week I made the batch of bread shown in these pictures. I had wanted to try another recipe that had caught my eye, only this one required 2 risings before the final rise in the loaf pans. I committed to the extra time involved, and was glad I had a fine crumb and made robust loaves and rolls. One recipe made 3 hearty loaves and 8 or so large rolls. I froze one loaf, gave one to a friend, and we ate on the other loaf and rolls for a week. The rolls doubled wonderfully as hamburger buns, if they survived long enough. (Some were eaten hot with butter and honey, wherein they immediately set up cellulite colonies on my hips...ha!) The cost couldn't have been more than a couple dollars all told, and that's pretty darned economical in proportion to the finished product.

It was only last year that I successfully made bread by hand, for the first time ever. Not that I'd never tried before, but I'd never stuck with it long enough to have an edible product without the help of a bread machine. Oh, and by the way, I do consider bread made by bread machines real bread! Whatever it takes, if it turns out bread, it works! :)

I needed to learn the skill without a bread machine due to the likelihood of not having one in the future ...since I don't have one now, ha :) (I used to, and loved it) I can't describe it, but every time those raw ingredients morph from flour and liquid into a kneaded yeasty living dough, it just feels so downright womanly. My first few attempts never quite achieved that, though, and the resulting compacted wheaten doorstops dampened my enthusiasm for further tries...for a long time. But last year, something clicked, and lo and behold I made real bread!! It was a challah, and as my daughter ate it hot from the oven, I kept pointing to it and saying "look..REAL BREAD...I made that! I'm a WOMAN now!" (laughing!) Well, don't know exactly where that came from, but it felt primal...

We're not a family that needs bread as a daily staple, but I've noticed that we do buy it at the store regularly enough to warrant making it at fill in for occasional sandwiches, especially for toasting cheese on in the oven. Open-faced cheese toast hot from the oven rounds out a salad nicely, some raw veggies, or cup of soup. It's also nice when studded with a few garlicky green olives or any other addition that's a hint of savory or herb-ey...with a little chopped basil, green onion, or mixed herbs. So...the bread does come in handy, and I'm less and less able to justify buying breads with those long lists of ingredients, most of which I've never heard of. At least when I'm baking my own, I know what's in it -- and the nice thing about most breads is that wonderful results can be produced from the most basic pantry items.

I mentioned in a recent post that we'll slowly explore gluten-free breads for health reasons. I do feel that we'll utilize breads with wheat flour, however, enough for me to try to master some good basic recipes.

Some day I hope to have a grain mill so that we can grind our own flours/meals. But until then, it's just measure, pour, and get my hands right into things...and that part is as fun as mud pies used to be as a child.

It's affordable, filling, and the best house smell in the world...fresh baked bread!

I'm trying some different basic recipes, and will include some great ones suggested by readers here. This is the second bread I've tried in the last couple months. The bread pictured here is a basic white bread I found instructions for in a Tasha Tudor cookbook. I'll include the recipe on an upcoming post in her memory...she was a remarkable woman.

As we move further into simplifying things, breadmaking is one of the basics. Simplicity has never tasted better :)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Gluten-Free Bliss For My Sis

Hi, sis! (wavingggg)

My sister is exploring the world of gluten-free foods, and forwarded me a link to a great gluten-free website. Different folks choose to eat gluten-free for various reasons, many times because of allergies or intolerances to certain grains. Wheat is the first thing to be cut out, but there are other grains as well...which can mystify the cook when faced with trying to round things out on the dinner plate without the standard selections of pastas, breads, and usual recipes incorporating wheat flour.

Thankfully, there are many other choices to be had, although they might be a bit off the familiar path. But unfamiliarity can be a good thing, and can result in delicious discoveries, and a more deliberate way of eating. The best result, though, is improved health, and for gluten-intolerant bodies there are yet other delicious choices available.

Here is a list of great links to gluten-free sites. On them, I've noticed a lot of creative cooking as well as recreations of standard favorites adapted to substitute non-gluten flours, and such things as ground almonds, xanthum, and tapioca.

I'm dabbling with the idea of easing us into more gluten-free habits ourselves, as I'm convinced it may be a better support for our systems which are presently overloaded with diabetes and weight issues. I may test some of these to see if we can detect any noticeable changes by eliminating gluten from our eating, and if it is playing a role as an irritant in what we eat.

If these sites are any indication, it certainly does not mean going without variety and would seem the only limits are ones imagination and creative flexibility.

Here are the links, first the one forwarded by my sis, and then the others I saw when doing some Googling...I'm sure there are many, many more to be found!

Gluten-Free Blogs and Sites


Enjoy! :)

Monsanto's Genetic Conspiracy: European 3 Video Series

This is a thoughtful documentary that speaks to concerns about Monsanto's culpability in obscuring, falsifying, and manipulating data in regards to GM food safety research...worldwide.

Unlabled GM Sugar Now Here

This is sobering.

Sugar Company American Crystal Now Sourcing from GM Sugarbeets

Here is a clip from Organic Consumers Association website. This site is full of important information we all need in order to stay abreast of these developments.

"GE Sugar Beets to Hit Stores in 2008!

American Crystal, a large Wyoming-based sugar company and several other leading U.S. sugar providers have announced they will be sourcing their sugar from genetically engineered (GE) sugar beets beginning this year and arriving in stores in 2008. Like GE corn and GE soy, products containing GE sugar will not be labeled as such.

Since half of the granulated sugar in the U.S. comes from sugar beets, a move towards biotech beets marks a dramatic alteration of the U.S. food supply. These sugars, along with GE corn and soy, are found in many conventional food products, so consumers will be exposed to genetically engineered ingredients in just about every non-organic multiple-ingredient product they purchase...."
read rest of article here

The dangers of unlabeled GM sugar in our food supply has prompted a boycott of Kelloggs and other companies that will not agree to acknowledge the public's concern and fears about GE sugar, which is a primary ingredient in many of their products. Read here for more information about taking action to reverse this rhetoric and to urge these companies that the public does NOT want GE sugar used.


The BioTech and Corporate Agribusiness Efforts to Pass "Pre-Emption" Laws to Remove Community Resistant to GMOs

Also on the same site is the mention of consumers who are effectively inacting city, county, and local ordinances banning GE crops. As you can imagine, the response from the big GM powers-that-be has been swift and ugly. According to the article,

"15 states have recently passed 'Monsanto laws' taking away the rights of cities and counties to ban GE crops. Now legislators in California, Missouri, Nebraska, and North Carolina are facing the lobbying power of the biotech industry and are threatening to pass controversial "preemption" laws that would take away local rights to regulate GMOs. " read rest of article here

Where does your state stand?

A look at the US map and your state's standing

Friday, July 18, 2008

Goodnight Moon, Friday Version

In the great green half-swept room
There was a telephone
And a red balloon flower in bloom
And a picture of
the cow jumping over the moon a bride and a groom
There were three little bears sitting on chairs soft pillows with some wear and tear
And two little kittens slippers
And a pair of mittens nail clippers
And a a little toy house cup of tea
And a young mouse missing key
And a comb and a brush and a bowl full of mush the song of a thrush
And a quiet napping lady whispering hush snoring much

Goodnight room
Goodnight moon
Goodnight chores to be finished soon
Goodnight picture from honeymoon
Goodnight pillows with wear and tear
Goodnight slippers
And toenail clippers
Goodnight tea
Goodnight key
Goodnight comb and goodnight brush
Goodnight to the song of the thrush
Goodnight napping lady snoring much

Goodnight stars friends
Goodnight air home

And to all, Shabbat Shalom.... :)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Debunking the Propaganda: Genetically-Modified Crops No Answer to World Food Crisis

To hear it as told by some folks, genetically-modified foods are the ultimate solution to the world food crisis.

As long as you turn your brains off.

Seriously. This is the best thing since sliced Frankenbread...right?? In fact, it might get so "improved" someday that all we'll have to do is pop open a tube of Engineered Foodpaste, and thought processes required whatsoever!

The hype is no takes marketing efforts of monumental proportions to pull off this sort of snow job. I'm sure it took some think tank a while to come up with "hey, I know! We can tout this as the solution to the world's hunger problem...that should help play down the whole GMOs-as-plague-and-pestilence angle, don'tcha think?"

Any worldwide "solution" should examine the power machines, special interests, and political fishhooks associated with anything with that big a marketing budget to back it up.

You just have to see this article at the Millions Against Monsanto site

Genetically modified foods have been a hotly-debated subject of much controversy for some years now. Below are some of the claims widely used to manipulate the world markets towards full acceptance of GM crops -- but research is showing that the claims are quite a different story than reality--

The Propaganda states these things:

1. GM crops are becoming the norm.
However, the evidence is to the contrary.

2. GM crops produce increased yields.
Again, the evidence is to the contrary. In fact, there is proof they are decreased.

3. GM crops require the use of less pesticide.
Wrong. "Although there may have been some initial reductions, recent U.S. data suggest that herbicide use in GE crops is now significantly higher than it was prior to their introduction. Weeds that have developed resistance to the herbicide used with GE crops now infest several million acres, forcing greater herbicide use. Insect-resistant GE crops have reduced overall insecticide use somewhat, but on balance GE crops have not reduced our dependence on pesticides. "

4. GM animal feed is more cost-effective/cheaper.
Nope. It's rocketing skyward.

5. It is futile to try to enforce a European "zero-tolerance" policy for non-approved GMOs.
Wrong. The GM conglomerates want that to be the assumption, but it is far from reality.

6. GM crops are more drought-resistant.
False. There is no alternative to good land management. Genetic modification has so far not produced a commercial drought tolerant variety in any type of crop.

The article cited (above) contains the links to the different points above.

Aside from the horrific and irresponsibly-dodged health issues at the heart of GM seeds and crops, has no one considered the absurdity of the argument for****complete reliance on a few GM mega-conglomerates as the controlling forces to world wide food supplies??****


Makes a person realize just what they have at stake here and why the claims that lack supporting evidence are simply bypassed by the propaganda machines. The GM companies represent big money worldwide. There has been much invested, so they stand to have much to lose...if anyone dares touch them. So far, they have painted themselves as the Providers of the People, the Innovators of the Global Solutions, blah blah blah. Their marketing alone is its own machine.

It is not difficult to remember a lesson from history...that propaganda is not quite the same thing as's far more exaggerated and unaccountable; propaganda utilizes (often politically) a selective manipulation (or manufacture) of information, rife with ommissions of full disclosure, typically casting a dictator in a benevolent light as being the author of a "solution for the masses." Look at history's dictators..the benevolent fathers of their people...Stalin, Lenin, Castro, H--ler, Chairman Mao.

Show me where these benevolent dictators have solved the problems they claimed to address historically (other than by wiping out the population so history could be rewritten by their own revisionists)...and maybe then I'll be more willing to trust "Good Father Monsanto"

Until then, I'll just continue thinking for myself and forgoing the communal Koolaid and the microchip implant.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Things About Me: Old Used Books

In my childhood, I grew to love reading books. At one point, my mother passed along some older books she had had since she was a girl. They were "young adult" books and most were written in the 1920s.

Those books had a different charm than their contemporary counterparts, though we loved many modern favorite children's writers. The Nancy Drew series... Marguerite Henry, Walter Farley & Andersen's horse series...and others were regulars in our books stacks. But older chidren's books had a different charm. They spoke of a world we could only guess at, and were one of my first introductions to lives beyond my memory. In them, there were stark delineations between rich and poor, city and country, "modernity" and "the old ways." In them, a "modern" kitchen was one that had a working wood cookstove rather than an open fire. Factories figured largely into the working-class city jobs, and farming was the country folks' lot. Only the rich had cars and everyone else road the trains for long distance travel.

I still have some of those books, and I've picked up others along the way. They might not be to the satisfaction of most folks, since the writing relies heavily on vernacular accents, in most stories a parent dies and the older children have to find a way to keep the family together, and the setting is so very turn-of-the-century. There's no sex, no dating, they are either "girls' books" or "boys' books," and there is a lot of story line. Usually they're about having to survive a crisis by working hard, ingenuity, and returning to the country and "forgotten" country skills. (the seeds of this bent were planted early in my mind?? :)) I absolutely love them!

I've actually learned a lot by reading period literature, even children's literature. I won't elaborate here, but there's nothing quite like reading about farm life around the turn of the century, written contemporary to that date.

One of my favorite pasttimes is to frequent used book stores, though I've curbed my buying considerably during at this time. It's hard to narrow down the sorts of books I like to find there...I love all sorts...but I always manage to peruse the children's section for some of these "young adult" antique books, and older fairy tale and legend seems the older ones are better, unless they're straight up Victorian...I don't care for them as much since they are fairly over-dramatic and seem to talk down to kids. One thing that is a sure hook to me, though maybe not to others, is any writing I find in the book. If I see it dedicated to someone, or find handwriting, it fascinates me. The bindings and covers also draw me in.

Here is an old book with some great "quirks," obviously a girls' book, called Breakneck Farm, by Evelyn Raymond. I bought probably for only that fact, I don't remember when or where I got it. It's literally yellowed and falling apart, some pages are missing (arghh!), it's about orphans who are given a chance to make it on a farm (and do), and at the beginning or end of each chapter, some either bored or diligent person practiced writing their ABCs..and numbers...with an ink pen you have to dip in an inkwell. It's from the 1920s and an ad for other similar books (listed in the back) prices each volume at 75 cents.

Here's the cover. You can see the book is worse for the wear...but it's treasured by us, as is.

Here's an example of their number practice:

And letter practice:

And another this the name of this girl's parents...or is it wishful thinking as she pairs her own name with that of a schoolmate crush?

I wonder what ever happened to Rose and Elmer Poole. Were they sweethearts, or was that adolescent wishful thinking? Did Rose go on to marry a Wilbur, and did Elmer marry a Euphemia? (Yes, that's an actual name in one of my old books...) In the scribbles that still inhabit these pages, there are hidden stories...far more fascinating to me than the actual book...and one I'll always have to fall back on my imagination to suppose their endings...

Do you have some favorite old books? Do you love seeing the evidence of lives that cross paths as handwriting on their pages?

As for me, it's one of my favorite things...:)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Simple Changes: Glass Bottles Instead of Plastic

Like many others, we are trying to change some of our basic habits, for varying reasons of frugality, practicality, sustainability, and simplicity.

I'm slow to change, but I want the good changes to be lasting.

Sometimes I think I'm way behind the curve in comparison with others who have either been living differently than we have for a longer time, or who are just more savvy overall. But I am inspired by seeing ways in which we can continue to improve, and I'm heartened to see that these changes often come in very small packages. Sometimes, it's the little things that add up in the bigger picture.

My Grandma and Grandpa lived simply and well. Many of the changes we've adopted in the past, or simply habits, have been a result of remembering how my grandparents lived. I've noticed that same sensibility in other folks' writings on the web...a longing for the way our forbears did things...simply. Sometimes "simple" means carving out time differently and slowing down to do something that initially takes longer, but produces a better product or saves money. Sometimes it's just a different way of looking at the same set of challenges and applying the widsom of our elders.

At any rate, I'm starting a series here of small changes we're making that we're trying to incorporate as habits. This is open to everyone, and if you have one you'd like to include, I'm happy to post it here as well :)

Small Changes: Glass Bottles Instead of Plastic

This is something my Grandma did. She saved glass jars of every sort.

Selecting store items packaged in glass not only cuts down on plastic in landfills, but is a better all-round reuseable storage solution for anything small. I like to use mine for storing dried pantry items such as pastas, rice, seeds, nuts, etc. They are also great for organizing nails or screws, buttons, office supplies, and sewing items.

I have to wash my jars a couple of times, and often I'll just leave the label on. If you need the label off, it'll take some soaking in hot water and possibly working the sticky glue off with a soft scrub pad. These are some jars after their first washing...

I have a friend who uses Mason jars for hearty drinking glasses. She rinses a few clean jars with water, and while still damp, puts them on an empty shelf in her freezer. Her husband works really enjoys any beverage in those icy cold frozen Mason jars when he comes in from his long, hot, days as a painter. They are really refreshing!

They are also fun for projects with children, whether as temporary housing for interesting insects, storage for found rocks (I loved collecting those with my Grandpa!), or for making sand art by layering different colors of sand or soil and then making designs by running a broomstraw down the sides for different effects.

What do you use your glass jars for?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Ricotta, My Whey

I'm from Memphis...sorry, I couldn't resist! ;-)

Caspian Sea Yogurt, and What to do with the Whey

We're back to making Caspian Sea Yogurt. What's interesting is that our original live CSY culture was purchased (via internet)during the cooler spring months. It didn't get as hot during shipment as the culture we recently purchases did.

The yogurt produced from the milder-weather shipment was itself very mild, and had a unique honey-like consistency when poured. It endured a range of temps and fermentation times, and to make it was as easy as adding one part culture to 5 parts milk, any sort. We poured it into clean mason jars, covered each with a coffee filter and jar ring, and set them on top of the fridge to ferment anywhere from 8 to 12 hours. The consistency of the resulting yogurts ranged from a thin cream-type consistency to thicker, denser yet "slick" honey-type pourable yogurt. If we over-fermented some of it, it began separating into strata of solids and whey, and all we had to do was insert a knife or such down the side of the jar and pour off (and collect) the clearish whey liquid while the thicker solids remained in the jar. We stirred up the solids (which were not in fact solid, but just very thick yogurt) and store all in the fridge.

It was the perfect self-perpetuation yogurt, though it did not have the taste or consistency of what we'd come to think of as yogurt from the supermarket. This was more or less like cream, with a different viscosity, and Caspian Sea Yogurt is so mild, it's adaptable to eating straight or in almost anything else...smoothies, over granola or cooked oatmeal, you name it.

I grew to enjoy it, and Jack absolutely loved fact, craved it.

Then I killed off my culture :(

I left the jars on top of the fridge too long, too many repeated times, and also began mainly culturing the new batches with the whey...which is ok but I won't ever do exclusively any more. The end result is that there was no middle ground final product...all the CSY became solid and whey, half one and half the other, and was very very tart...a sure sign it was over-fermented. After a while, every batch was just too sour to enjoy eating, though not dangerous to consume. More and more batches went out to be poured at the base of our potted fig tree. Eventually, I faced the music and discontinued making the CSY till we could get a fresh starter culture.

I started making the CSY again a week or two ago, and the starter culture was shipped during excessively hot weather. I suspect that would explain the different consistency of my former CSY and the ones I'm making now. But thankfully, till we can order another in the cooler months of winter, this CSY still has much to love about cooking, no fuss, delicious...just with a bit of a different consistency than the first batch..not as "honey-like" to pour and quicker to form solids and whey. That's my first clue it could easily over-ferment, so I'm keeping diligent watch on the hours I leave them atop the fridge, before removing them to the fridge to halt the fermentation.

There is still some whey produced, and I pour it off after it's been chilled (easier then)and save it. Some of the solids make their way there, too, in with the poured-off watery whey. Whey is very tart and if you pour it off the CSY, the CSY is very mild and goes with more things.

So....what to do with the whey? If it is kept as is, it's still alive with probiotics...good bacteria that pump up the body's defense systems and increase immunity and digestion. However, I wanted to explore more uses.

It's said to be a good hair and body rinse, but I haven't tried that yet.

I saw mention that whey from cheesemaking can be used to make ricotta, and I wondered if the CSY whey would work as well, even though CSY is not a cooked hard cheese. The instructions were easy, so today I tried it out, just to see what would happen.

Making Ricotta from Caspian Sea Yogurt Whey

The instructions said to heat whey to 200 F degrees, stirring occasionally, then to line a colander with a clean pillowcase (or very tightly woven cheesecloth, not regular cheesecloth) and drain it through itand allow it to drain. Sounds easy!

I had heated 3 quarts of whey (shown in picture above), which had some CSY solids in it. At the end of the heating period (a few minutes)it foamed up and had to be stirred down. I settled a pillowcase-lined colander over a separate stockpot and poured the heated whey through it. Most of the liquid went straight through, and at first I thought there wouldn't be anything to show for the experiment. But with a rubber spatula, I gently scraped the fabric and there was a little something there...some ricotta. Yayy! Could it be that easy?

I let it drain a couple of minutes and scraped it together into a small pile. It probably made 3/4 - 1 cup, and was nicely moist. If I'd wanted it dry, I'd simply drain it longer. I lightly salted it, as the instructions suggested, and the flavor was delightfully mild and delicious! Refrigerated, it can be used over salads, to stuff pastas, to add to cheesecakes and sweet creamcheese desserts, or with chopped herbs for a spread for crackers or crusty dark homemade bread. I tasted it on whole grain crackers and nothing else, and it was great!

So ricotta can be as easy as Heat, Strain, and eat...who knew???

Are there any of you out there making Caspian Sea Yogurt? I wonder if kefir whey would also work...anyone tried it? One of the nicest things about fermented milk products is the ability to experiment and come up with really useful, easy, and delicious foods!