Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Living in a Small Community

Because our daughter won in her age division in the Miss Myrtle Yester-daze's contest, we attended the Myrtle, Missouri Yester-daze parade and festivities on Saturday. The tiny town (population 429 ) annually hosts the Myrtle Yester-daze's to build camaraderie among the town's residents as well as financially support the Local Volunteer Fire Department through a pancake breakfast, a barbecue lunch and the sale of homemade ice cream. The festivities begins with a flag raising ceremony followed by the moderately priced pancake breakfast at the community center. (The food quality, quantity, and cost better than compete with McDonald's.) After that is the parade lead by the VFW Color Guard and followed by the reigning Miss Myrtle's of all the divisions riding on hay-bales in the back of a shiny red pickup. The rest of the parade is about what you'd expect in a small midwest town. There was a marching band, floats, horses, antique cars, muscle cars, horses and lots of four wheelers. A firetruck with it's lights flashing completed the parade. Afterwards the other festivities began. There were events for all. There were contests and there were local vendors selling their wares. there was even a community yard sale. One of the things I liked about the celebration was that there was none of the commercialization you see in a lot of the larger fairs. There wasn't a single carny ride or commercial vendor. The favorite event of the day finished the day. It was the chicken and pig scramble. If you don't know what that is, that's where contestants chase the animals around a pen until one of them catches it. Reminds me of a Little House on the Prairie episode where they were chasing a young pig in mud. This event occurred sans the mud but was just as entertaining. For all you animals out there, they were extremely careful that none of the animals were harmed during this event.

Living in a rural community like this gives you a unique perspective that writers in the city don't have. You learn that there isn't a rural stereotype. There is as much diversity of characters in a rural setting as there is in the city the diversity is just a different kind of diversity. A city dweller might think that a farm is a farm but when you live here, you see that isn't so. Here we have a pastured pig farmer, hay farmers, straw and fescue seed growers, sheep farmers, horse ranchers, mother and calf operations, dairy farmers, pastured chicken farmers, fruit growers, farmer's market growers and the guy who just gardens and raises food for his family who's real job is working at a store, factory, or sawmill or in the logging woods.

Most people who live in this rural community are not farmers. Most people live in the small towns and work in nearby larger communities. Some use the computer for their livelihood. The largest employer in Myrtle is the local Couch School. Just about every family who has lived in the area for any length of time has a family member who works at the school and that includes mine. My husband is one of the school bus drivers.

Though I sometimes get an urge to go to a big city to visit. I don't think I'd ever like to live in one for any length of time. I enjoy the simpler, what I would call more genuine lifestyle that we live here. Many people would be bored living but not me because here, life is what you make it and that's true for anywhere you are.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Check out my new Book Store!

I've just opened a new bookstore. Follow the links to my new bookstore and tell me what you think. Click on Cygnet's Bookstore and follow the links.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Gardening as a Political Statement

When you think of a garden, what do you think of? I think of a place with fruits and vegetables and flowers. I think of a peaceful place where I can sit and relax and reflect. I think of a place where I can nurture and grow.

A garden does all these things but I’ve been realizing more and more lately that a garden is also a Political statement. Think about this for a minute. When a person has even a small salad and herb and flower garden, what is he or she saying?

First of all, this person is saying that he cares about what his family eats on a day to day basis. He is saying that he is taking control of what the family puts into its mouths. He is saying that he not expecting the government to hold his hand. He is taking responsibility for his own.

If he is growing organically, he is saying that he cares about not only what goes into his family’s mouth but also the environment as well. He knows he can’t do everything but he knows he can do something to help the environment.

He knows that his yard wastes are being recycled right there on his property. He knows that fossil fuel energy won’t have to be spent taking his yard wastes to the city landfill because he manages it locally and it does no harm to the environment but rather it improves it. He knows that by not having his yard wastes hauled to the landfill, he is saving the local taxpayers money and helps the local government, in a small way, balance their budget.

He also knows that by growing his own food, he can spend the money he saves locally, keeping his money local to serve those in his community.

By decreasing the use of fossil fuels, the United States uses less foreign oil and the prices drop. With prices dropped, the finances used to finance terrorism isn’t there so terrorists don’t have the money to buy guns and ammunition.

He know that what he is doing appears to be a small thing but he knows that if he can teach others to do the same thing, there can be significant changes made not only in his community today but can influence future generations as well.

So next time you’re sitting by your garden and enjoying that peaceful feeling, remember, gardening is a political statement that you not only enjoying peace for yourself but also sharing it with the rest of the world.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Victory Garden Revival and You

The recent renewed interest in growing and eating nutritional, organic food has led to a modern-day resurgence in Victory Gardens. New Victory Gardens are appearing in public spaces across the country once again, but for new and different reasons than in the past.

The original Victory Garden campaigns during World War I urged civilians to grow their own food to free up resources for the war effort. The mission was to see a million new backyard and vacant lot gardens planted. The justification for these original Victory Gardens was to save on fuel and to free transportation and middleman jobs.

During World War II the U.S. War Department renewed the original Victory Garden campaigns to help lower the price of vegetables needed to feed the troops. The effort was very successful and expanded to 20 million gardens producing 40% of all vegetable produced in America at its peak in 1943.Even after World War II, food shortages around the world continued and Victory Gardens still flourished.

Two World War II era Victory Gardens still survive today and have been cultivated continuously for over sixty years. Fenway (Back Bay Fens) in Boston, Massachusetts now grows flowers instead of vegetables. The other is the Dowling Community Garden in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This garden was started there by Ros and Elof Pearson in 1943. Today the garden grows vegetables in 175 plots and there is a waiting list of gardeners.

In recent years, the interest in organically grown and locally produced food, sustainable agriculture and food safety has spurred the New Victory Garden movement. Whether they are called victory or freedom gardens, edible landscapes, liberty or peace gardens--all represent eating locally grown, healthy and nutritious food in a bio diverse and sustainably grown situation. Establish a neighborhood-gathering place to build a greater sense of community.

Today our food travels on an average 1500 miles from farm to table. The process of planting, fertilizing, processing, packaging and transporting our food uses a great deal of energy. This is often referred to in the measurement of food miles. Estimates vary but transport may account for 20% or more of the total energy use associated with provision of a given food item.

This much is known 17% of the nation's petroleum consumption is dedicated to 0n-the-farm food production. Add in processing, packaging, refrigeration and transport of edibles and food takes a bug bit out of affordable oil supplies and contributes significantly to pollution. We could grow lettuce in our front yards most of the year, in greenhouses in the winter and save the 3,000 miles from field to table and breathe cleaner air as a result..

Another reason we need to consider growing our own vegetables is that California where over one fourth of the country's produce is grown is in the worst drought in over 20 years. consumers will have to pay more for their lettuce and other produce. To make matters worse, Federal officials recently announced that the water supply they pump through the nation's largest farm state would drop even further. This year officials in Fresco county predict farmers will only grown roughly half the area devoted to growing greens compared to what they used in in 2005.

Still another reason to grow your own Victory Garden is food safety. You are better able to protect your family from the dangerous forms of salmonella and e-coli. Food that comes fresh from the garden, washed and eaten within a short time of harvesting rather than days after harvest are less likely to have serious issues with these and other diseases.

An additional advantage to planting a Victory Garden is that extra produce can be donated to feed the hungry. One of the longest running national campaigns to supply food for those in need is the Plant a Row for the Hungry program run by the Garden Writers Association Foundation. The program uses a people-helping people approach and simply asks gardeners to plant at least one row of extra vegetables and to donate the excess to a local food bank or soup kitchen. Collectively the Plant a Row program had 600-volunteer committees across the country last year and 27,00 volunteers coordinating collection activities and promoting the program. In total, 1.4 million pounds were collected in 2008.

Friday, March 13, 2009

My Garden Helper

This is my Garden Helper--Red. Red believes in being proactive. Every morning he gets up early and takes it upon himself to wake up the sun. After he wakes the sun he comes to the door and crows until I bring out food for him and his girls. He doesn't seem to trust me much and I don't understand why because I haven't missed a morning feeding yet. After he and his girls have a hearty breakfast, they attend to their other farm chores which include insecticide, fertilizing and procreating.

Red and the girls even help me dispose of household garbage although they do get carried away at times. For the most part, I'm quite proud of Red. Red and his girls have an announcement to make. They are going to be proud parents in about 19 days.

Red is a Rhode Island Red, not to be confused with a Production red which is a cross between a Rhode Island Red and a New Hampshire Red. Rhode Island Reds are raised for meat and eggs and are quite handsome as you can see.

The breed was developed in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, early flocks had both single and rose combed individuals because one of the foundational Sires was a black breasted red Malay which was imported from England. The town of origin was Adamsville, Rhode Island. In 1925 the Rhode Island Club of America honored the Rhode Island Red with a monument. asecond monument, this time by the state was erected in 1954 a mile outside of Adamsville honoring the commercial farmers who raised Rhode Island Reds.
Rhode Island Reds are resistant to illness, good at foraging and free ranging and are typically docile, quiet and friendly although some individual birds can be aggressive toward small children and some adults, especially strangers. Although they are widely known as good layers of brown eggs and lay as many as 250-300 eggs annually, if the coop temperature drops below freezing their output drops considerably and the tips of their combs are highly susceptible to frostbite. Rhode Island Reds are also bred for meat. Roosters weigh up to 8 1/2 pounds, hens up to 6 1/2 pounds, cockerels 7 1/2 pounds and pullets 5 1/2 pounds.