Friday, December 31, 2010

Then the lights went out.

Today it had been raining all morning and I could hear thunder in the distance. At about twelve-thirty, I had formed bread dough into round rolls to be used like hamburger buns. While the bread was rising I decided to clean the living room. I had pulled out and cleaned behind my husband's chair and was cleaning behind the table beside it when the electricity went off. For quite a while I expected that the lights would come on at any moment but the power outage continued.

I was planning to write this article when my husband left at three to go to work and I was going to talk about what I did during the past year but the electrical outage changed all that.

The weather cleared up shortly after the electricity went out and the sun came out. It was warm--over sixty degrees and climbing. It was the perfect afternoon to go outside and continue the work that I started the other day in the yard.

I raked leaves into a tarp twice and spread them on the main part of the garden. I then worked at picking up acorns to save to feed the pigs I'm planning to get this next year. At that point my husband asked me what I was doing. When I told him what I was doing he said that I must have been bored but the truth was, I was enjoying what I was doing.

Shortly thereafter however I decided to pick up black walnuts instead. I had promised a friend that I would send her some so that she could use it in her herbal concoctions and as of yet, I hadn't done that. I decided today was the perfect day to take care of that task.

At about the time my husband left for work, I realized that I had to do something about the rolls. I really didn't want to waste the rolls but I also knew that if I didn't stop them from rising above doubled, they dough wouldn't be any good so I squeezed the air out of the rolls and let them start doubling all over again. I did this another two times during the afternoon and evening.

After finishing my work outside, I started a fire in the wood stove (It's supposed to get down around freezing tonight) and my nine year old daughter asked me to play the game of life with her. She won.

After we finished the game we ate ice cream. I sat on one couch and was reading and my daughter was on the other couch reading. In order to see what I was reading I used a flashlight and my daughter used the book reading light that she got for Christmas.

The electricity finally came back on at seven-ten. It had been out for just over six hours but it reminded me of the fact that I have taken electricity for granted. I have done some things to get ready in case such an event happened but I also realized that I'm still not ready for an extended electrical outage. There are things that I can do to make such a prospect not so traumatic.

First thing I know that I need to do is to get a nonelectric can opener. We have lots of canned foods but it's difficult to do without a working can opener. That will be one of the first things to add to my emergency list.

The second thing will be to get my wood cook stove hooked up. If I'd have had the wood cook stove hooked up, I might have been able to bake the rolls in it but because it isn't, I wasn't able to do that.

The good news about the rolls was that I kept them punched down enough that when the electricity came back on, I was able to bake them in the range and they turned out just fine. Even though things done always go perfectly, sometimes everything turns out okay anyway.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Deliberately Simple Life

Yesterday I making bread dough. As I worked on it, I was thinking about everything that went into making the bread and how it really doesn't take much time, it just takes time over a long period of time. I was thinking about how good it was that I was able to work at home, take care of the house, the wood heating stove, hang the laundry out on the line and be there for my family while I wrote. In a few days I'll be able to go to school from home too.

I will let you know that I don't make a lot of money writing but what I can also tell you is that I enjoy the life that I live. I enjoy the simple pleasures of life. I have no real need for anything. I have a roof over my head, my home is warm enough in the winter and cool enough in the summer. I have food on my table and I have my health. I don't take any type of medication except for an occasional over-the-counter pain reliever(and that is happening less and less often). I don't have a car payment, I don't have a mortgage or pay rent.

I know that there are people who don't understand, sometimes I think my own husband doesn't understand that I like my simple life. I've got no complaints. Not that I don't want to grow in areas because I do but I want to grow in areas that I feel matter to me and promote the kind of lifestyle that I want to live.

I have purposely avoided a lot of the consumer propaganda that has so saturated the media lately. It's all a lie anyway. The house of cards will fall. There is no way that an economy based on rampant spending is going to do anything but put us further and further into debt. It is true of a home economy and it is true of a national economy as well. No one can spend their way into prosperity.

My securities aren't in stocks or bonds or even in the commodities market. My security first lies in the fact that I look to the eternal source to meet all my needs according to his riches in glory.

Second I am learning to get in tune with the natural processes around me. I am learning to accept the weather as it comes. Part of that lesson comes in the fact that I hang my laundry out on the line to dry. I hang out laundry when the sun is shining and I don't when it's raining.

Third I have learned that I can assist natures processes rather than manipulate them. I have learned that the earth wants to be healthy and by feeding her the right nutrients she will reward me with healthy foods. My compost pile is part of her life cycle. I save the nutrients in the form of kitchen and yard wastes, encourage the decomposition process then return the finished (sometimes just partially finished) compost to the garden for the microbes there to make available to the plants. My garden instead of sinking down over time builds up higher than the soil around it.

I have heard that during the coming year the price of food is going to go up. If that is true, perhaps it will encourage more people to build compost piles, to make their own bread, and to start growing more of their own food. If so, I will be here to help anyone who is interested to begin to develop their own deliberate simple life.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

One Warm day in December

Yesterday was a beautiful day to get outside. The sun was shining and it was warm enough to be outside without a coat. I decided to do some work on the garden area and more specifically the composting area.

My compost area isn't a box or specifically constructed in any way. It is simply a pile that gets added to on a regular basis and gets turned almost as regularly.

I started the pile at the edge of my garden this last spring with a pile of sod from my newly plowed garden area. Last year was the first year that we had a garden at the place we now live and our neighbor was nice enough to plow it for us. That's probably the last mechanized tool that will be used in my garden. I'm going to try to grow everything in it simply by using human power more about that in a later post.

After getting all the perennial grasses out of the garden I decided to mulch with aged sawdust and a friend of my brother's brought out a load for me. I had them unload it on top of that pile. I then removed what sawdust I needed to completely mulch the garden and then left the rest. Thus my compost pile was started.

Next I added household garbage to the compost pile. I added anything that that the dogs wouldn't eat. I placed the garbage on one side of the compost pile and then used a hoe to cover it with the aged sawdust from the other side of the pile. There is never an adverse smell that comes from my compost piles constructed this way.

Every couple of rains I turn the pile. It's been so dry this year that by watering the pile I could have promoted the composting process but I've decided to allow nature to do most of the work so I haven't been adding water to the pile. To turn the pile I simply use a garden fork or a shovel to turn the pile onto the grasses space beside the compost pile along the garden's edge. I completely move the pile to the spot beside where the original pile was.

Where the original pile was, there was a bare spot that during the summer I mulched so that grass wouldn't grow there. Because it is beside the garden, it then is an area that I can use to expand the garden in that direction. How much more perfect can the soil be than soil that was under a compost pile? I am running the compost pile down the south end of the garden and hope to complete this area by the time spring comes.

That brings us up to yesterday. Yesterday I decided to get a little more aggressive about getting that south end of the garden done so I raked leaves from around the yard and laid them down on the area of the south end of the garden that hasn't yet been 'run over' by the compost pile. I had previously raked leaves and put them on the rest of the garden but because of some severe winds, many of the leaves had been blown away so to prevent this from happening in this new area, I tossed compost from the compost pile onto the leaves to anchor them down against even the strongest wind. This morning Mother Nature was cooperative and it is raining a nice gentle rain that will soak into the compost and weigh down the leaves.

This spreading of leaves and sprinkling with compost is a process known as sheet composting. It is as the term indicates. The composting done in like a sheet. Mulching with any organic material is a form of sheet composting. By adding sheet compost in the fall or winter, I've insulated the soil from extremes in temperatures creating an environment that is less hostile to microbes that work the compost. The microbes then instead of hibernating are able to do their magic of breaking the sod into light fluffy soil ready for planting in the spring.

By taking this one day in December, I am able not only to save myself hours of garden work next spring but what I do now will also benefit my harvest later in the season.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Have a Happy Greener New Year!

This year I am resolving to do two things that are greener. The first one is to write in here on this blog more often. I have let the site slide and I must apologize for that. I am sorry that I have let you down.

The second thing is that I plan to grow more of my food at home in my own backyard than I did last year.

I hope that my garden will not just provide nutrition for my family but also creates inspiration to you the reader. I hope that in some way I will motivate you to emulate what I am doing. The articles that I plan to write will be augmented by the plans that I use and implement in the process of living not just greener but also simpler. I look forward to sharing this journal and 2011 with you.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Is Pastruized Milk really safer than Raw milk?

As I grew up, I always drank fresh cows milk straight from the farm. The milk did not pass by bottling plant, did not get pasteurized or homogenized.Milk for me growing up always had a layer of cream at the top and sometimes we'd take that layer of cream off and making into ice cream or whip it into whipped cream. A few times we took the cream and made butter also but usually we mixed the cream back into the milk and drank it the way it was. Good and cold, fresh from the farm.I still have a thing for raw milk when I can get it. A lot of the reason I prefer raw milk to pasteurized milk is because of a story my father used to tell me.

My Aunt Pauline went to a three year nursing school in Jamestown, New York back in the 1940's. In one of her classes the plan was to show that pasteurized milk was safer to drink than raw milk. My grandfather ran a dairy farm so the class decided to get the raw milk from my grandfather's farm and they then bought the pasteurized milk from the grocery store. They then studied the two sources of milk under a microscope.

The results weren't what they expected. The raw milk had fewer harmful bacteria than the pasteurized milk had in it.

"How is that possible," I asked and my Dad explained to me that the raw milk that came directly from the farm was from healthy cows that had been milked the night before, then the milk had been immediately cooled and sent on ice to be tested. The pasteurized milk on the other hand had probably sat in the grocery store several days before the milk was tested hence the increased bacteria count.

What this experiment proved was that fresh milk from healthy cows was safe to drink and that milk bought from the grocery store needs to be as fresh as possible also in order to prevent diseases.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Decision for a Lifestyle change Part 2

In my last post I said told about how I became sick and started fasting to clear my body of toxins that were causing the illness. This post I will tell how after two weeks I discontinued the fast and was able to continue losing weight.

I have read that the best way to come off of a fast was to come off it slowly so that's what I did. When my appetite began to return I started eating fresh fruits and vegetables for several days. When I became hungry again I knew that I needed to add protein to my diet so I started eating chicken and fish in small quantities along with the fruits and vegetables. I started eating oatmeal for breakfast. Not just oatmeal but oatmeal with honey or molasses and almonds or walnuts. I avoided eating anything white--white sugar, white flour, white rice, milk and even potatoes. I also avoided eating anything that contained wheat for about a month.

About the time I started eating protein again I started yoga. I opted for yoga for several reasons. First of all, I've got some very stiff joints because I have osteoarthritis. The yoga helps me loosen up without damaging or jarring my joints. I ease my body every morning out of the pain in the joints and in the process and lengthening and strengthening my muscles.

I do the yoga aswana type of yoga which is the type that uses physical poses.

Yoga has helped me become more aware of my body's signals. My body tells me when I need to be especially sensitive around a joint. It tells me when the pain that I'm feeling should be worked through and when the pain needs to be heeded and I need to stop in order to avoid injury. I have learned through the yoga that I need to discipline myself and I need to be patient with myself and this has stretched into other areas of my life.

I have started a journal. I haven't started a food journal because I don't want that kind of relationship with food. The relationship I want with food is one of mutual respect. Food is meant to nourish me that is all. It was not designed to be comfort to me. The journal is helping me deal with my real issues that I have buried under these layers of fat. As the weight comes off, I go deeper and deeper into what is really going on and what I really have to get rid of along with the extra pounds. Again it is a process that I must be disciplined in and be patient with.

I am not on a diet. I am changing my lifestyle to benefit me over the long term. So far the decision to change my lifestyle has resulted in my being 24 pounds lighter. Daily I continue to grow in discipline and patience.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Decision for a Lifestyle change

Around the Fifteenth of March I got some kind of virus. The virus had cold symptoms and soon developed into what I would guess is bronchitis. The illness dragged on for two weeks which is the sickest I have been in many years. In the beginning I tried several over the counter medications that didn't seem to work. I was afraid that I would have to go to the doctor and get antibiotics in order to get over this thing. I don't know where the idea came from or why I decided that this was the best thing for me but I realized that I wasn't hungry. I figured if I wasn't hungry then perhaps I should try fasting. After all, didn't the old adage say: "Starve a cold?" I didn't opt for an all water fast because I was afraid of electrolyte imbalances so instead I opted to include juice.

For those two weeks I didn't eat anything solid, nor did I want anything solid. I was miserable but I was content that this course of action was the right one to help remove toxins from my body so that it could fight off what was obviously more than just a virus.

During these two weeks not only did I not eat but I hardly had the energy to get off the couch so I did a lot of thinking. I was finally realizing that I needed to take better care of my body. All those promises that I made to myself about eating better foods and getting proper exercise I hadn't yet followed through on. I vowed to myself that this fast was the beginning of a lifestyle change.

In my next post I will explain how I did transition from the fast to what I plan is a lifetime long lifestyle change.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Why I do it isn't because I'm cheap!

Yesterday I worked all day hanging out laundry on the clothes line (my solar clothes dryer!) and worked at weeding the garden and filling in seeds where they hadn't germinate. A thought came to me: Am I doing this because I'm cheap or is there another reason?

Immediately I realized that it wasn't because I was cheap. If I were doing it because I was cheap, we would be eating macaroni and cheese and hot dogs. I can't tell you the last time we ate that in our home.

One reason could be because I like the fact that we are decreasing our carbon footprint. The fact that when we grow our food in the backyard, it doesn't have to be trucked half way cross the country to get to my table. Food trucked in trucks that are fueled by diesel which is fuel processes from oil. The oil derrick fiasco in the gulf of Mexico that is currently crippling the tourism and fishing in Southern Gulf States reminds me that having a backyard garden makes good common sense.

By not using the dryer I am decreasing the necessity of our electric company from having to burn more coal to keep every one in electrical power. This coal comes from deep shafted mines where miners daily risk their lives simply so I can run my dryer? I prefer to forgo the luxury.

Having a garden and a clothes line helps me spiritually as well. I am connected to nature, the Creator and the creation. Rather than ignoring the weather conditions by simply throwing my clothes in the dryer, I am compelled (because I like dry clothes)to know what the weather will be before I do laundry. If rain is likely, I save laundry for another day. If the day is sunny, I do all the laundry I can do that day because it might rain the next.

There's so much each day that the garden helps with me spiritually. Creating and using the compost pile reminds me that everything goes somewhere and that it is best to recognize that wastes in one area is a prized commodity in another. This philosophy can be carried into so many areas of our lives.

It's said that the best fertilizer for a garden is the foot prints of the gardener. Perhaps that is what this garden called earth misses most.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How many grams of fat, protein and carbohydrates I need each day

To decide how much you need in fats, proteins and carbohydrates each day, first you need to discover how many calories you need to consume each day. To figure that out try this equation.
If you are a woman, here's the formula to find out the exact calories you personally need (Basic Metabolic rate or BMR)to maintain your current weight while sleeping.

655+(4.3x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x Height in inches)-(4.7x age in years)=BMR
Now calculate your activity. If you're trying to lose weight, calculate using the sedentary rate: BMR x 0.20= Add this number you get to your BMR and you will have the calorie intake you need to maintain your current weight.

Second you will need to figure out what calorie intake should be taken in each of these categories. for fats multiply it by 0.4, for proteins multiply it by 0.3 for carbohydrates multiply it by 0.3. To check to see if you multiplied right, add all your calories together. You should come up with your total caloric intake.

Now that you know how many calories need to be eaten each day in fats, proteins, and carbohydrate you can figure out how many grams you will need by dividing the calories by 4 for proteins and carbohydrates and 9 for fats.

Monday, May 10, 2010

What should I be eating?

I'm beginning a slightly new direction with this post. I am going to change this blog from being about gardening to about how to live a healthy lifestyle. Everyone knows that in order to have a healthy lifestyle, then need to do things like quit smoking, minimal if any alcohol, proper rest (7-9 hours per night), plenty of exercise and proper food for good nutrition. It's in the implementation that we often fall short. How do we do what we know is good for us?

When I was in nursing school, we had to take one semester of nutrition and in it I learned that we needed to divide our calorie intake by the percentage of our daily caloric intake should be in carbohydrates, fats and proteins. The percentage at the time was suggested at 30% fats, 30% proteins and 40% carbohydrates. From a recent study that I saw, these percentages should be changed to 40% fats, 30% proteins and 30% carbohydrates if our intention is to lose weight.

The reason, according to the study is that it takes more energy to burn fats than it does carbohydrates. Because digesting fats take more energy, the process takes longer. Yes, fats have 9 calories per gram and carbohydrates only have 4 calories per gram and you would think that because carbohydrates have only 4 calories per gram, because you can eat more, you will feel satisfied longer but that is not the case. When you eat more of your calorie intake as fats, you will maintain an even blood sugar level longer because it's taking the fats longer to digest. If you take more calories as carbohydrates, your blood sugar rises faster, your insulin kicks in and cleans up the excess sugar storing the 'extra calories' as fat and suddenly you're hungry again. Not only that but that 'sugar stored as fat' will be harder for your body to use. It will want to go for lean muscles tissue before it goes after that fat. You will not only be hungry again but you will be decreasing your metabolism because you are feeding on lean muscle tissue. Worse yet, your pancreas will be working over time to produce insulin and can wear out. This is one of the chief causes of Diabetes type II.

By switching the percentages, you will slowly be feeding your body the fuel it needs and your body will maintain the energy it needs to maintain a good metabolism.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

As local as your own backyard

When you think about locally grown produce, what is the first place you think of? Most of us think of the farmer's market or perhaps we think of a near by CSA. Do you realize however that there is a place that is even more local? I'll give you a hint. Look out your back window what do you see-- the backyard?

That's right, the most local food could be growing right in your own backyard. If you're thinking that a garden or even a small orchard will take all of your free time, think again.

According to Mel Bartholemew's book called Postage Stamp Gardening you can produce all of your summer's salad vegetables in an area just 4 foo by four foot and it will only take you a few minutes each evening to do any gardening chores. It doesn't cost much either. For as little as a dollar a pack of seed, your garden can be jam packed with the freshest vegetables.

Imagine being able to go out into your backyard and picking musclun, radishes, tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers then taking them into the kitchen and immediately preparing the vegetables and then within an hour of picking, you serve them to your family.

Nowhere but your backyard can you get this kind of freshness. Even locally grown vegetables don't have this claim. As soon as vegetables are picked, the vitamin quality begins to deteriorate rapidly. Within 24 hours most vegetables lose up to 50% of their vitamins.

Nothing tastes like vegetables fresh from the garden. If you doubt this, try this experiment. Pick a cherry tomato from your garden and place it into your refrigerator. The next morning pick another cherry tomato and taste the difference in the two tomatoes. (It can be any kind of tomato but I personally tried this experiment with cherry tomatoes that is why I recommend using a cherry tomato.)To even take the experiment one step further, get a tomato from your local farmer's market and also one from the grocery store. Try to use the same type of tomato to make your comparisons.

There's something pastoral and peaceful about gardening. It's like there's a spiritual connection in gardening. The process of getting outdoors and digging in the soil does nothing less than reminding us that we haven't always sat in front of a computer typing. It reminds us that we are also a part of this planet and we need to take care of it while it takes care of us.