Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Review: One Second After by William R. Forstchen

A few weeks ago a friend of mine recommended this book, and then a couple weeks ago I found this book on my friend's coffee table while I was babysitting her children. I started reading it, I was unable to continue reading the book because it belonged to my friend's husband and he wasn't finished with it yet. The book so intrigued me that I bought my own copy and started reading it.

This is a novel about a former military man who finds himself in charge of a small city in Western North Carolina after a nuclear bomb detonates over the United States. This nuclear bomb doesn't cause any physical damage or fallout but instead, creates a EMP (Electro-magnetic pulse)that shorts out all electronic equipment rendering the grid, most automobiles, and anything else electronic worthless.

The book follows this character and his town from a few days prior to the EMP to a year beyond the event. It demonstrates how unprepared we as a society for this type of event. It shows the disintegration of the society as it goes from affluence to mere survival.

Months before this publication, this book was cited on the floor of the United States' Congress as a must read book for every American. I contend that it is not only a must read book, but we need to go further than that. We need to realize the the possibility of a EMP and then create steps to follow if an EMP does occur. As demonstrated in the book, preparedness needs to be made by every family unit and every local community if we are to survive this type of event. It always helps to be prepared for the worst. Begin by reading this novel: One Second After.

Friday, June 17, 2011

King Corn

Night before last we watched the documentary--King Corn. If you haven't watched it, I highly recommend it. The young men who created this 2007 documentary discovered that their hair was primarily made of corn products. They, then, moved to Iowa to see how an acre of corn grew, and they wanted to find out where that corn would go after it was produced. The experience was definitely an eye-opener both for the creators of this fascinating documentary and to anyone who views it.

One of the most startling discoveries they made was that the corn grown throughout Iowa was primarily used for feedstock to cattle grown in unhealthy conditions known as CAFOs and for the production of the sweetener high fructose corn syrup. The corn grown had very little nutritional value except to create calories to make the consumer fat.

Another startling discovery was that farmers lose money every year producing this corn. The reason the farmers don't go broke is because the government subsidizes the corn crop. Our government is paying the farmers to produce trillions of bushels of low quality corn to make us fat. One of the commentators on the documentary said it best when he stated: "The government will subsidize a happy meal but it won't subsidize a healthy meal."

If you want to make more informed decisions about your food choices, watch King Corn, available on NetFlix or view it here . If you don't care, keep eating those corn fed beef Big Macs, fried (in corn oil) French fries, and drinking those high fructose corn syrup laden sodas. Oh, yeah, and remember to take your cholesterol and diabetes medications. You'll need it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

Yesterday my daughter and I had fun doing old timey projects using unpasteurized, not homogenized whole milk. The first thing we had to do was to separate the yellow cream at the top of the milk from the lighter, paler yellow milk beneath. We then put the cream into a quart jar along with a clean marble and my daughter began to shake it while I put the milk on the stove to scald it so that I could put it into jars along with some commercially made yogurt. I then put the jars into a cooler filled with water and left them to culture through the rest of the day. After more time than my daughter really wanted to work on it, the butter finally separated from the buttermilk and I took the butter and washed it. The buttermilk I set aside to sour so that I could make pancakes in the morning.

This morning after doing my daily chores of hoeing the garden, applying mulch and compost, I started making the pancakes. As I mixed up the batter, I realized that much of what went into the pancakes were locally grown. The eggs were from locally grown chickens that were free ranged. The milk came from cows that had been raised outdoors and lived, as Joel Salatan puts it "the life of a cow".We made both the buttermilk in the pancakes and the butter on the pancakes. Here is the recipe for the pancakes I made:

The other thing I noticed about the pancakes was the color. Because the eggs were a bright yellow (high in beta-carotene) and the milk and cream were also a bright yellow (also high in beta-carotene), the pancakes were the brightest golden color that I've ever seen.

The bright yellow of the pancakes and the bright yellow of the butter used on the pancakes got me to thinking about the fact that many of us in this country don't get enough vitamin D in our diet. Could it be that a big part of the reason is that the animals from which we get our meat, milk, and eggs are kept inside out of the sunlight and unable to synthesize their own vitamin D and therefore are not able to pass it on to us?

I like the fact that my ten year old daughter and I are exploring local foods and learning to cook from scratch using these locally acquired foods. I like the fact that I am growing healthier, working with nature instead of against nature and doing it all without it breaking my budget.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Garden is in!

This spring has been busy and wet. We've had so much rain but I still have managed to put in a pretty good garden. I have all the vegetables planted and much of what I have planted is up. Because of all the wet weather, I planted the garden in raised beds. I made the beds simply by mounding rows of dirt with ditches between them. Now that it appears that it is finally warming up and drying out, I'm applying aged sawdust mulch along the sides of the rows to help keep the moisture in.

I have one twelve foot fence in the garden. It works double duty. On one side I've planted Oregon Spring peas (which are now starting to produce their edible pods).On the other side of the fence I've planted tomatoes. The plan is that when the peas are spent, the tomatoes will take over the fence. The nitrogen set by the roots of the peas (which are a legume)will help add just a small amount of nitrogen to help the tomatoes grow.

In several beds I planted Blue Lake bush beans. I planted about a half a pound of beans two rows to a bed, and between the bean rows I planted root crops--beets and carrots. I hope that the beans will shade the root crops. the small amount of nitrogen fixed by the roots of the beans should help keep the root crops growing as well.

With the warmer weather, I will continue to mulch the garden and I will have to be thinning the carrots and beets as well. Within this week I should be picking the eatable pod peas.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Broke Garden Ground

I have been working on removing sod to a new patch of the garden all winter but yesterday I started breaking the ground on the part of the garden I had last year. What a difference a year makes. Turning the soil on the new ground I am breaking is backbreaking work but the area of of garden that I worked last year is amazing! The soil in the old garden is weed and rock free because I spent a lot of time last year taking care of it. The mulch I used last year really paid off, not just because it kept the weeds at bay but also because it added much needed organic material.

Last year I had my garden plowed by a neighbor but this year I'm doing the entire thing by hand. There are several reasons why gardening without mechanization is good not just for the garden but for the gardener as well.

1. It is good for the garden because it prevents compaction which is good for the microbes in the soil. It increases air in the soil which not only means more oxygen but also more nitrogen because air has a higher percentage of nitrogen than it does oxygen.

2. It is good for the plants because it gives the plants room to grow so their roots can search for needed nutrients.

3. Without the hard-pan, the soil is well drained preventing wet feed for the plants.

4. The gardener is benefited by the exercise that working in the garden gives him or her.

5. Healthier plants that are grown on this type of soil. Because the plants are healthier, the gardener who eats it is healthier.

Started The arden today

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ready To Do Some Spring Cleaning!

Last week the temperatures hovering around zero and there was snow on the ground. This week so far we've had days in the upper sixties during the day. The skies are clear. The March winds seem to be upon us a couple of weeks ahead of schedule. This change in the weather is giving me a desire to begin my spring cleaning.

So far this week I have been trying to get caught up with the housework that I didn't get done last week when it was so cold. After today I'll be able to begin and I think I'll begin by washing curtains and the windows. I've been sitting here at the window looking out at the nearby field and have noticed just how dirty the windows have gotten. The ash from the wood stove is all over everything in the house so I can't get too carried away with the cleaning just yet but windows and curtains I think would be a good place to begin and brighten up the house after this long winter.

To wash my clothes I've been using homemade laundry detergent which is a lot less expensive and seems to wash my clothes better than the detergent I used to buy at the store. It's easy to make. If you'd like to try, check out my article about it. Click here

Washing windows can be done using natural ingredients too! A simple spray on cleaner can be made by making a solution of 1 part white vinegar to 10-5 parts water. Put the vinegar water solution into a recycled spray bottle and you've got a green window cleaner. Old timers used newspapers to dry the windows instead of paper towels. I've tried it and if you don't mind a little newsprint on your hands, this is another green tip you can use. To find out about more uses for vinegar for cleaning check out my article: Green Your Clean with Vinegar!

Monday, February 7, 2011

When Simply Living Isn't So Easy

Snow has been covering most of the Northern Hemisphere and we too have our share of snow right now. It was pretty the first couple of days but now I'm ready for spring. Puncsetany Phil didn't see his shadow but winter hasn't seemed to listen and taken an even firmer grip.

Hanging out laundry on the clothes line has been more of a challenge. Any time that there's even a hint of sunshine, I do a load of laundry and hang it out on the line. I just do one load at a time though. The weather can change so quickly. Take yesterday for example. The sky was clear when I hung the load out but before it could get dry, it started to drizzle. I brought the clothes in and hung them on the clothes bars in front of the wood stove. During the evening I removed the dry clothes and folded and put them away. This morning I folded the last of the load and put them and the clothes bars away. Any further laundry will need to wait because it is snowing this morning.

Fortunately for me, I live in this part of Missouri. We don't get the snow that they get up north. My laundry isn't that far behind. One good day and I can get it caught up again. Hang out clothes while the sun shines is definitely a practice I have learned to keep.

This winter I have been enjoying the fruits of my labors from last summer. We've used up all of our canned green beans. Yesterday I enjoyed drinking a can of the tomato juice that I canned. It was so much better than the stuff I've bought in the grocery store. It doesn't have all the salt in it so I can taste the sweet tomato flavor. It's sad in a way that the lines of filled jars is disappearing but disappear they should. Next summer the process of canning fruits and vegetables start over again. It is all part of the cycle of the seasons.

There are some things that I have on the shelves that are not getting eaten however. The pickles that I canned don't seem to taste very good. It's not so much the flavor as the texture of the pickles don't seem to be right. The only home canned pickles that I have really liked were some crock pickles that a friend and I made some years back. Perhaps I'll try those.

The sweet potatoes that I planted to create slips to plant in the garden is growing well. I counted five slips so far. One of the vines is already quite long. During the day I put the pot, in which the sweet potatoes are growing, into the south facing window so it can get some sun. At night I move it away from the window to keep it from getting too cold. I look forward to when I can get more started for my garden.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Getting ready for a probable ice storm

During the past couple of days I've been getting ready for a probable ice storm. we live 15 miles from the nearest town and during our last sizable ice storm we were without power in our remote location for about ten days.

As I learned during the last ice storm the biggest problems for us wasn't the heating or the cooking it was the fact that the freezer thawed and we had a limited water supply. After four days we had to walk down to the neighbors to get jugs of drinking water.

This time around I am using what I learned from the last ice storm. I started earlier. I got the laundry caught up and am working extra hard to get other things done around the house. Also I finished my course assignments for the college courses for the week I am taking on line and also notified my professors that I may have a problem because of the ice storm. I'm prepared to fill the bathtub with water later tonight so that we'll have water to flush the toilet and do dishes. I'm also filling recycled, washed out milk jugs of water for drinking water. (I think we have the best well water in the country!)

After supper this evening (which will in part be the fresh vegetables that we still have in the refrigerator) I'll be cleaning the refrigerator and deciding what I might be able to do with the more perishable foods I have in there tomorrow. I'm also going to be taking all the food from the refrigerator freezer and putting it in the deep freeze and taking milk jugs with water frozen in them to place in the refrigerator to help keep the contents cold. If there isn't electricity for more than a day or so, I will put the food from the refrigerator and put them in a small enclosed unheated building. This way I can use the cold weather to help keep the food kept in the refrigerator from perishing.

While the electricity is out I will not be sitting idle. I have some things that I plan to get done during that time. Some of which include articles and blog posts that I want to put online.

In addition I will be playing board games with my daughter and probably my husband and brother. I doubt we'll be staying awake much after dark, it's hard to see much by kerosene lamp anyway.

I'm looking forward to seeing the storm past and life getting back to normal.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Little Bit Of This And A Little Bit Of That

I didn't post yesterday and I almost didn't post today! But that isn't because stuff hasn't been going on. Did I mention that I have some sweet potatoes planted in a pot in my living room? I don't see anything green yet but I'll keep you all posted.

I've continued my quest to get all the old out of the freezer. I took the last of the old apple sauce out the of freezer and made a single quart jar of apple butter. Mmmm, is that good. It's so easy to make too. I made it in my large crock pot.

I also took some canned food that has been sitting on my shelf embarassingly longer than it needed to be there and with a pound of hamburger made a pot of chili.

I didn't mention that I had been growing mung bean sprouts. I like sprouting in the winter because good fresh vegetables are in such short supply this time of year. Oh, yes, you can buy vegetables in the winter but the quality isn't usually what it should be.

I went to visit a friend's restaurant yesterday. The ambiance, the food, everything was fantastic. If you ever get to West Plains, Missouri, you've got to check out The A La Carte Cafe. Susan Lumsden not only is the chef of the establishment but she also created the quilts that are hanging around the place. I highly recommend the fish tacos! Last night was also the first night Jon, her husband played his twelve string and sang at the Cafe. My husband and I didn't get a chance to go last night but Susan reported that the attendance was phenomenal.

The garden is rather frozen at this time but additions are made daily onto the compost pile and wood ashes are dumped on the garden beds almost as often.

Another friend of mine has a greenhouse where she is growing winter salad greens and I saw pictures today. Was I impressed. I had greenhouse envy. Someday perhaps I will get the chance to have my own greenhouse. But in the meantime maybe I can buy some of Mary's greens. Enough at least to go along with my bean sprouts.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Give Us This Day Our Daily Fiber.

Today the sun is shining and clothes are drying on the clothes line. this morning I did yoga and meditation as I resolved myself to do then ate a bowl of cooked oat bran flavored with butter, dark brown sugar and raisins. The oat bran alone has 6 grams of dietary fiber, three grams of soluable fiber. I also ate a whole orange. I know I ate at least 33% of my daily requirement of fiber with this meal.

I plan to do equally as well for lunch. I have made a pot of butternut squash soup and will eat it with crackers and peanut butter. Though I can't tell the exact amount of fiber in my soup, I know that it is chocked full of fiber because it contains carrots, celery and garlic as well as the butternut squash.

According to health experts the average adult needs to consume 25-35 grams of fiber per day. As you can see with the above first two meals of my day, I will already be within range of getting enough fiber in my diet today.

The average adult here in The United States doesn't consume any where near that. The average person consumes about 12 to 15 grams on a good day.

Some people supplement their diets with over-the-counter supplements that contain psyllium but fiber can easily come from natural sources which not only provide the fiber but also provide soluable vitamins and minerals as well. If we would simply focus on eating more fresh fruits, fresh vegetables,(including the skins)and whole grains, we would see a marked improvement in our overall health.

Proper fiber intake helps prevent a host of diseases. It lowers blood cholesterol, improves. It lowers the LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) and increases the HDL (the good stuff) It prevents constipation. It fills up our stomachs and slows down digestion helping keep us from gaining excess weight. Fiber helps to regulate blood sugar thus decreasing the need for diabetic medications. Eating the recommended grams of fiber could lower your risk for colon cancer by 40%!

Getting fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains can be expensive but one of the best ways to supplement your fresh fruits and vegetables and to a limited extend whole grains, is to grow food in your own back yard. Plant a dwarf fruit tree. Plant a garden bed full of vegetables that you pick daily. It doesn't take a lot. Just grow enough that you'll have something to pick everyday and that you'll eat.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Perennial Herbs

As I looked through my seed catalogs, I have been looking at the perennial herbs and I' thinking that I would like to add several of this perennial herbs to my garden this year. My goal this year seems to be to plant as many perennials as possible. I am especially interested in easy to grow perennials. The problem I've noticed with easy to grow perennials, however, is that when a perennial is easy to grow, it is also invasive. To keep them contained, I think I will plant them in car tires.

At the top of the list would have to be the mints. I definitely will have to have peppermint and since my daughter loves spearmint, that will also have to be on the list.

I would also like to add bergamot. Bergamot grows wild around here and I recently had some in some Earl Grey tea. I had never had Earl Grey tea before and I really enjoyed it. Earl Grey tea is simply black tea with begamot. (Bergamot is also known as bee balm so it will also help draw bees to my garden.

Then there's the traditional cooking herbs that are also easy to grow. I thnk I'll add oregano, parsley, sage, chives and common thyme to the list. All of which are easy to grow perennial herbs.

I will start these herbs from seed first in pots in the house. Sometimes this doesn't work so my first backup plan would be to start them from seeds in the garden. If that doesn't work, then I'll buy plants from the same company that I bought the seed from. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

The garden supply company that I am planning to use this year is: R. H. Shumway's

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Getting Ready For Another Gardening Season

Yesterday I cleaned another cupboard as I promised and then wrote a couple of articles and made an applesauce cake using some applesauce that has been in the freezer a little too long. It's not good for eating fresh but it still made a good cake. I didn't have any frosting to go on it but I guess that actually made it better because we had enough sweets over the Christmas holiday as it was.

I am washing sheets and blankets today and plan to get out the blackberries from the freezer to make the blackberry jelly that I still need to make.

I read an article by my friend Darlene Sabella today about companion planting. There are hundreds of articles that can be written about companion planting and the plants involved. This is an area of writing that needs so much more written about it and needs to be utilized more in the garden setting.

Most of the time in my experience, companion planting works best when you plant in beds but a few years ago I had tomatoes, dill and basil planted together in a row and all of them seemed to flourish. Each one seemed to complement the other. I'm told that often when the plants make good companions, they also complement one another in cooking. I'm not sure about the dill and the basil together but I know that both tomatoes and dill, and tomatoes and basil are very good together. It is definitely an area that I wish to explore this year in the garden.

Monday, January 3, 2011

When the Day Starts Wrong

Today was one of those days. You know what I mean. It was one of those days when everything started out wrong. It started as soon as I went to flush the toilet this morning. The toilet didn't seem to work. I tried the water in the bathroom sink. Nothing! It was cold enough this morning that the water froze!

Usually I set up the coffee pot the night before but last night I didn't so I had to look through the refrigerator and find the bottled water that I had there so that I could set up the coffee pot for my first cup of coffee. I set up the coffee pot and went and turned on the computer. At least the computer was working.

After a couple of minutes I went to see how the coffee was coming. I really wanted a cup. Unfortunately, the coffee wasn't dripping. I made sure that it was on and it was. After further examination I realized that the heating element on the coffee maker was shot. Fortunately I had another coffee maker. Unfortunately the coffee maker needed cleaning and with the water frozen, how was I going to clean the thing?

I still had a little bit of bottled water left so I used it and as best as I could I cleaned that coffee pot. I then poured the water from the first coffee maker into the second and transferred the coffee filter and its coffee. I turned it on. To my relief the coffee dripped into the coffee pot. I was back in business.

My day got back on track when I started doing my yoga and meditation. I got recentered and since I couldn't do laundry or wash dishes. (Both need water of course.) I decided to clean the cupboards and discover what all I have in them and what I need to replenish now that the holidays are over.

The water came back on shortly before I finished the food cupboard. I think I will continue to clean cupboards and the freezer this week. I know I've got some blackberry juice in the freezer that I juiced to make blackberry jelly. I think I'll be making jelly this week too. Sometimes the work and the heat from summer make it impossible for me to do my canning at that time. It is so much easier to put the food into the freezer and then do the canning during the winter.

For a day that started out on a negative note, it actually has already been quite productive anyway. I think I'll go now and clean another cupboard.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Growing what grows naturally!

Yesterday I was looking over some information about starting the coming garden season's garden. Even though I've been gardening since I was twelve years old, every year I still go back and look over information that I studied in years past concerning gardening. The books that I invested in were definitely worth every penny.

I was also looking over the two seed catalogs that I received last week. One of tools I use to determine what to grow in the garden is to decide what grows without much interference in the area. If it's growing along the roadside wild or if it's grown commercially in the area, you can be fairly sure that you can grow that specific vegetable species in your area.

Last year I wished I'd had some Jerusalem artichokes (also known as sunchokes)growing. So I was looking at possibly growing them this year. sunchokes are a perennial that has naturalized to this area so I know that I can grow it without much difficulty here. I like the taste of it. We've used it in place of water chestnuts in stir fry. That's the best way that I've found to use them.

Yesterday I started the sweet potato slips. Sweet potatoes are grown commercially about 70 miles south of here so they grown easily here in the home garden. I grew them with a lot of success here in South Central Missouri and I know of a number of other people who also grow them on a small scale. The problem here with growing sweet potatoes isn't the climate but the heavy, rocky clay ground. By growing my sweet potatoes in aged sawdust in tires, my results are amazing. Previously I grew sweet potatoes from slips I bought from a local grower but this year I'm trying my hand at producing my own slips.

At the last house I lived in, we grew horseradish and I plan to get more this year for our place here. I know it doesn't take much to get them going. Basically I just need to stand back and watch them grow. They can be rather noxious though. (They can take over) so I'll probably grow them in tires as well, just to keep them contained.

Another perennial I want to grow this year are Egyptian walking onions. My mother had them up north and they came back year after year but I wasn't sure that they would do well here. Last year however I discovered that another person was growing them in their herb garden so I'm going to plant a few this year. Probably in a tire too. If planting in tires seems to be theme this year, I think it is, especially for perennials. It keeps them not only contained but This way I'll know exactly where the perennials are from season to season. There won't be any guess work, I'll know exactly where they are based on where the tires are.

I've read where others cut their tires to use in the garden but I don't really see the point of cutting off the side walls. By keeping the tires whole I will be able to use the tires year after year even when I use them for sweet potatoes and potatoes which are annuals. I don't see any point to doing extra work so I'm just not going to do it.

Recycling is a natural part of my gardening experience and I'm beginning to see tires as being a necessary part of my garden in the same way that I see recycling leaves, grass, garden weeds, sawdust, egg cartons, milk jugs, just to name a few.

As the old Chinese proverb says, the footprint of the gardener is the best fertilizer. I too am finding that I am becoming more and more a natural part of the growing process.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Help Stop World Hunger

Here it is the first day of 2011! Already there is bad news on the horizon. The cost of food is supposed to rise especially the main staple crops of corn, wheat, rice and soy but they aren't the only foods that are going up due to crop failures in Russia last fall and drought in Argentina and Chile. But that's not all. The recent cold temperatures have destroyed much of this winter's tomato and orange crops down in Florida.

The prices are rising but the worst part of it is that many people in third world countries won't be able to afford to buy these commodities because it will cost more than they can afford so many will go hungry. The worst part of it is that the world help organizations won't have the resources to feed them. Many will die of malnutrition.

The actual issue this year is the fact that there will be a food shortage worldwide. But there is something that we can do about it.

The most important thing we can do here in America especially is to eat healthier by eating fewer processed foods. Processed foods have all the natural nutrition sucked out of it. When we eat it, we fill up on empty calories devoid of any real sustenance to our bodies. Our body recognizes that it isn't getting what it needs so it craves more. We eat more of these empty calories and we crave more and the vicious cycle continues as we become more and more overweight and more and more malnourished. By eating healthier foods we will eat less food and we will not only be healthier but there will be more food to go around.

The second thing we can do is grow some of our own food. Even a small backyard garden can supplement our food supply. We don't need a large garden to make a difference not just in our own food bill but also in curbing hunger around the world. Even a small 4x10 foot area can provide enough greens and other vegetables to provide a nutritious salad throughout the growing season.

Another thing we can do is to buy vegetables locally. By supporting local farmers, we help keep the food supply diverse. It keeps them in business and provides us with more nutritional food. When we eat local foods, it doesn't need to be trucked in from all over the world. When the demand isn't there to sell outside the country, the food will then be available to population of the country of origin.

If you've noticed that I haven't included sending money to help organization, I've done this on purpose. I believe that the answer to world hunger isn't in supporting these organizations but is, literally, in our own backyards. I believe that by eating healthier and more locally, we will not only improve our own lives but also the lives of every other human being on this planet.