Thursday, December 29, 2011

When Are Blueberries Not Really Blueberries?

My family loves blueberries.

We keep a couple of beehives in a blueberry patch near us and part of the deal (other than having bees in a blueberry patch!) is that we get to pick blueberries for ourselves.  We get the exercise and together-time while picking blueberries, and we get to eat great blueberries that we know have grown pesticide free.  

Blueberries have been proven to be fantastically healthy!  

Here's a snapshot from of some of the health benefits of eating blueberries:

Blueberries have been shown to shrink cancerous tumors and prevent the development and growth of cancer.

Researchers have shown that blueberries reverse memory loss, and also improve physical coordination and balance.

Blueberries reduce cholesterol levels.

Urinary tract infections can be prevented by blueberries.

Blueberries help build strong bones.

Blueberries are low in calories, high in fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants.

Mmmm, this really makes you want to eat more blueberries!  

So it's time to look for foods that contain blueberries and get all these great health benefits.

...when are blueberries not really blueberries?

 When they're faked.  This video shows just how the food industry literally tricks us into believing we're getting blueberries in our foods.  


"You ought to have seen what I saw on my way 
To the village, through Mortenson's pasture to-day: 
Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb, 
Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum 
In the cavernous pail of the first one to come! 
And all ripe together, not some of them green 
And some of them ripe! You ought to have seen!" 
~excerpt from "Blueberries" by Robert Frost

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


McDonald's has come out with an ad that makes it look like its potatoes come right from this pleasant little farm and straight to your plate.  It's a new trend in advertising called "Farmwashing" that supposed to make giant companies (Walmart too) appear to just love the local farmer or producer.  Here's the McDonald's ad and you can read the rest of the story from Grist here.

You won't believe what happens to those potatoes after they leave the farm...
... and what is sodium acid pyrophosphate?

(I reposted this from an earlier date because I wanted my readers to have an opportunity to see it)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

A Merry Christmas to all from Fitzgerald's Family Farm!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Cookie Success!

Aren't these just the most beautiful Christmas cookies you've ever seen?

O.K.  So they're not perfect - maybe they're  a little messy, the edges aren't crisp and clear, but we love them.  Hey! They're kind of like me!

I have struggled with finding a good Christmas cookie recipe and when I wrote about it in a previous post, my friends, the Fords, whom I met through this blog because they live close, and they're retired military (like us) and they're working towards living sustainably, sent me their Christmas cookie recipe. 

It was perfect!  It tasted good, rolled out nicely, and has a simple ingredient list. 

Ford Family Christmas Cookies

1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 egg 
2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Beat together butter/sugar on low speed until light and fluffy. Stir in flavorings and egg, mix. Stir in flour/baking soda. Cover & refrigerate 2 hrs (or overnight). Roll dough 1/4" thick on lightly floured surface and cut out shapes, sprinkle as desired. Bake at 375 F for 7-8 minutes or when edges are golden brown. (Dough is best if warmed slightly before rolling.)

I took the recipe for the cookie icing from the McCormick website: 

Colorful Cookie Icing
1 cup confectioners' sugar
3 to 4 teaspoons milk (this wasn't quite enough)
1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Pure Vanilla Extract 
3 to 4 drops McCormick® Assorted Food Colors and Egg Dye

We had so much fun baking and decorating them.  Thank you, Fords, for giving us a new family tradition!  

My next baking project is peppar kakor cookies.  These are the real deal.  My Swedish friend even sent me a bottle of Swedish light baking syrup and a package of bikarbonate so that I can make them properly!  

Happy Baking!   

Don't forget to hop over to the Homestead Revival Barn Hop

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rechargeable Batteries Are The Way To Go

When Christmas shopping, you sometimes find that you just can't get around buying a gift that requires batteries.  

So you see those big packs of batteries are on sale and grab a pack.  


You'll find yourself replacing those spent batteries every time you go to play with your new toy!

Instead, grab a pack of rechargeable batteries and and a battery charger.  

I found myself replacing the 4-AA batteries in my older camera every couple of weeks.  I'm terribly guilty of forgetting to turn it off and it was eating batteries!  So I thought I would kick in the extra money for rechargeable batteries and a charger.  

I'm sure glad I did!  I've recharged this same set of batteries at least 15 times and they're still going strong.  I've much, much more than made up the cost of buying new batteries.  The rechargeable batteries seem to last much longer in the camera and I haven't had to find a way to get rid of all those toxic, spent batteries.  

The charger I have works for both AA and AAA batteries.  You plug it into the wall and when the lights go out your batteries are charged.  I found mine in the big box store back by the electronics section.  Different brands cost between $11 and $15 for the charger and four batteries.  

These rechargeable batteries work so well for me that I plan to never buy regular batteries again!    

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Christmas Card Gets To Its Destination

This is the kind of thing I love about living in a small community. 

I'm pretty sure that in larger communities the post office wouldn't have the time or resources to do this.  

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."
~ the inscription found on the General Post Office in New York City

Monday, December 19, 2011

Russian Teacake Cookies

There are a lot of names for this cookie, but we've always called them Russian Teacakes.  My family has made these cookies at Christmas time for as long as I can remember.  I didn't think my children would be crazy about them because it's not the usual overload of cloying sweetness, but this is one of their favorite cookies!  

It's traditional that we have to chop the nuts with this antique nut chopper that was given to my mother by my great grandfather.  I wrote a blog about this neat little machine a little over a year ago - here.  The kids sometimes argue over who gets to do the chopping!

The batter is quite stiff.  The mixer really groans while I'm mixing it. 

Then we roll them into 1-inch balls.  You can place them closely together because they don't really swell or spread.

The finished product is buttery, nutty, slightly sweet, and oh, so tasty!  

Russian Teacakes

1 cup soft butter
1/2 cup sifted confectioners sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2-1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts (I use walnuts)

Mix butter, sugar, and vanilla.  Blend flour and salt and stir into butter mixture.  Mix in chopped nuts.  
Chill for at least one hour. 
Preheat oven to 400-degrees.  Roll into 1-inch balls and bake for 10 -12 minutes until just slightly browned.  
While still warm, roll in sifted confectioners sugar.  Cool.  Roll in confectioners sugar again.   

Makes between 2-4 dozen depending on how large you make the balls and how much batter the kids eat while you're rolling them!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Uncle Sam Wants You to Raise Chickens

WW I Chicken Poster

Mother Earth News via The Happy Homesteader had an online article about raising chickens in municipalities and suburbs.  

The story discusses how people who want to raise chickens sometimes have to fight for the right.  But, in 1918, everyone was encouraged to raise their own chickens!  It kind of points out how our culture has changed, doesn't it?  

I loved this 1918 poster so much I couldn't help passing the story along.  You can read the entire article here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Steelers Rooster

I ordered 5 Golden Lakenvelder Pullets in March and ended up with 4 pullets and, we suspected, one rooster.  As he grew we suspected he was a rooster.  One evening I caught him testing out his rusty, raspy crow.  Yup, he's a rooster!

We're going to see if he stays gentle... if not, he goes in the pot.  It's frightening to own a rooster that might injure people - especially children.  

If he is a good boy, he gets to stay.... and we've already picked out his name.  He's black and gold, the colors of the Pittsburgh Steelers, our favorite football team.  He has a beautiful head of deep black feathers.  So we've decided to name him after the Steeler's Safety, Troy Polamalu!

Pittsburgh Steelers Logo

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Search For the Perfect Sugar Cookie Recipe Continues...

All I want is a sugar cookie that looks good, tastes good, rolls out and cuts easily, and doesn't have a ton of crazy ingredients.  No luck so far!

I tried making the Sugar Cookie Cutouts from the Kraft foods website yesterday.  They tasted fantastic because they had cream cheese in them.  But even after chilling for an hour the dough was still very sticky and impossible to to lift after we rolled out and cut it.  

We ended up just rolling the dough into balls and flattening them to bake.  The kids didn't care - they still loved decorating them!

Cookies are made of butter and love.  
~Norwegian Proverb

Don't forget to go over to the Great Holiday Barn Hop!

Friday, December 9, 2011

First Deer

About 7 a.m. this morning, my son shot his first deer before school started.  Our little "hunting" dog, Petey, (ha ha) was looking out back and started barking at the shapes he saw moving around.  The next thing I knew, John was yelling for me to "get the gun!"  I told him he had to have his dad help him because his dad has the doe license and our son is being hunter mentored by him.  His dad set him up, they went out, and John shot his first doe.  

It was a quick, clean shot... great job John!

(John took off his orange vest while the picture was taken)

Monday, December 5, 2011

City Fix

I love, love, love, living in the country and raising my kids, gardening, raising animals, hiking, etc. etc.  However, every once in awhile I need a city fix.  I like to shop (not necessarily buy) at the malls and get a look at the latest fashions, sit at a cafe and people watch, eat restaurant foods different than what are offered in my small town (I had a steak and stilton salad... mmmm), and go to a show or other cultural event.  

Our city of choice is the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area because that's where my husband sometimes works.  We know it well, and the free museums, the history, and the beauty at our nation's capital are a bonus. 

Photo: National Mall,

We've just returned from a whirlwind trip down there with plans to meet people from his work (what a nice group of people!), get military IDs updated, see a show, Christmas browse, and go to a work party with my husband's company.  The company party was at Baldwin's Station in Sykesville, Md. -  one word about that - wow!  I'm going to try to make Baldwin's puff pastry wrapped asparagus.  My kids also got to see the top-notch Liberty High School showing of A Christmas Carol in Eldersburg, MD.  The trip was a hurricane of activity in two days.  We didn't even get to see our friends from when we lived down there because we wouldn't have had proper time to spend with them!

Baldwin's Station
Sykesville, MD

One evening, we took our children to see Shear Madness at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.  Shear Madness is a comedy mystery with up-to-the-minute humor (and lots of references to recent news events) that lets the audience solve the crime.  The cast improvises during the play to fit the script to the audience's responses.  The show is "shear" fun and the kids were enchanted and entertained.   


While it's wonderful to live life as a country mouse, I do occasionally love getting a taste of the "fancy" with the city mice!

Without culture, and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle. This is why any authentic creation is a gift to the future.
~Albert Camus

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Giveaway Winner! ... And A Message About Ticks

Today is the drawing for the Going Over 10,000 Views Giveaway Celebration!  My daughter was so happy to put all the names in a hat and draw the winner for me before she ran off to school this morning.   

And the winner of "Carrots Love Tomatoes" by Louise Riotte is ....

hoosier girl!

Congratulations!  E-mail me at my address below to send me your address and I'll get the book right in the mail!

Now, a message about ticks. 
(May I add that simply looking for pictures of ticks made my lip curl)

We've had an unusually warm autumn and the ticks are horrible.    The family went for a walk and we found ticks climbing up our pant legs!  I went hunting, and even with all the necessary precautions, I still found a tick with it's head embedded into my foot.  

How do you get out a tick that's embedded itself into you?  In the past, I've tried the old standbys of putting a hot match to it's rear (didn't work) and putting Vaseline on it to smother it (I don't know about you, but I don't want to wait around for that nasty thing to smother - ugh). 

 I have found that the best way to remove a tick is to grasp the body firmly with a pair of tweezers and rotate counter clockwise (why counter clockwise?  I don't know, maybe because I'm right-handed, but it seems to work) while very gently pulling away with the tick.  You may have to rotate the tick body 5-7 times before it lets go.  Disinfect the site.  

I quickly run the tick to the toilet and flush it down because it seems that you can squeeze a tick really, really hard and it doesn't die!  This method of removing ticks works well with your dogs and cats too - if you can get them to sit still (the pets, not the ticks).     

Be sure to watch for infection of the site and particularly look for a telltale red bulls eye which indicates Lyme's Disease.  See a doctor if either of these things happen.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Deer Day

Yesterday was "Deer Day."  It's the first day of buck hunting season with a gun and a day off from school for the children.  In the past, here in northern Pennsylvania, so many children missed school on the first day of deer hunting season that the schools decided to make it a day off.  

I watched my Facebook and all around people reported not seeing anything.  Of course all the people who come to our area and drive around spotlighting deer, tramp through the woods to find the perfect hunting spot, and spend Sunday shooting to sight in their rifles may have something to do with it.  All those deer ran for the hills! 

I hunted... or rather, I should say I took a very slow walk through the woods while carrying a gun.  All I got was a tick in my foot.  Sigh.   

I came across this funny little poem:

Ode to a deer camp.

My wife I fear
Big racked deer
Cold cold beer
I'll stay here!

Tomorrow is the drawing for the book giveaway, "Carrots Love Tomatoes."  Be sure to go back two posts and leave a comment!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Auctions and Ideas

This past weekend my friend and I hit two auctions.  The first one we went to was for farm equipment.  We went to look at the horse trailers, but they were one-horse trailers and wouldn't work for us.  We figured a horse trailer would be handy if we ever get a horse, mule, donkey, etc. and it could replace our hillbilly trailer for hauling pigs! 

The second auction was for household goods.  There were a few things I liked, but I'm not very good at auctions and by the time I make up my mind the items are usually gone.  I picked up a large batch of vintage magazines, though.  The issues date from different months in 1911 until 1919 and the magazine was published in nearby Smethport, Pennsylvania.  Now I'm trying to figure out what to do with them!

One idea I had was to frame the magazines with the front cover showing and with frames wide enough for me to paint a design, a picture, or something else that pertains to the picture on the magazine's cover on the frame.  I really hate to destroy the magazine, so I plan to put the whole magazine in the frame.  I think I could do something unique.  

Don't forget to take a look at my last post.  I'm giving away a copy of Carrots Love Tomatoes!

It's a great day to take a look at the Barnyard Hop at Homestead Revival!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Celebration Giveaway: Carrots Love Tomatoes

My blog went over 10,000 views and I'm celebrating with a giveaway!  

I have two copies of the book Carrot Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening by Louise Riotte and would love to pass one on to a reader.  

You've heard of the Native American planting of the "three sisters" - beans, corn, and squash, plants who all benefit from being planted together?  Carrots Love Tomatoes takes that idea even further.  

Here is an excerpt from the book's back cover: "What Is Companion Planting?  It's just planning your garden to take advantage of the fact that vegetables and fruits- like people- have natural friends they prefer to be with.  And they help each other- like beets with onions or corn with pumpkins."

My copy is not in perfect condition (the copyright is 1975!), but it is in very, very good condition.

Blog readers leave a comment below this post and I'll draw names on November 30th.  I'll e-mail or contact the winner for the address where they would like the book sent.  Good luck!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My Chickens' Eggs vs. Store Bought Eggs

I got down to the very last of my own chickens' eggs and had to break down and buy store eggs.  

There's a bit of a difference!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Michael Pollan: The Farm Bill and Big Ag Robs The Treasury

I received both of these e-mails in one day and had to put them together.   What do you think?


Theft in progress: Big Ag raids the treasury—with help from Congress 


16 NOV 2011 4:17 PM
If the straight-up taxpayer swindle taking place in the supercommittee isn't making you angry, you're probably not paying attention. I'm talking about the attempt by agribusiness and a group of willing farm-state representatives to put billions of taxpayer dollars into the pockets of industrial farmers during the ongoing super committee Farm Bill negotiations.

According to The Hill, the moment of truth is upon us: The supercommittee is indeed poised to rewrite the Farm Bill behind closed doors and with no input from reform-minded congresspeople, let alone the public. Many of us have known this was going on, but the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found some new developments that are nothing short of shocking.

EWG reports on the new "shallow loss" subsidy which would protect commodity growers from small price drops via a "taxpayer-paid guarantee of getting no less than 90%[!!] of their income." This new subsidy is now considered a political hot potato thanks to coverage from sources like like EWG and Grist. As a consequence, only corn, soy, and wheat farmers -- those whose prices are now sky high -- will be eligible. So cotton and rice farmers want a consolation prize. They will get that and much more. The EWG writes:

... The rice growers, who don't like having to pony up some of their own money for crop insurance and don't have to worry as much about yield losses, would instead get higher price guarantees from the government. And cotton growers would get higher target prices and stronger revenue insurance.

Just for good measure, the current annual limits on how much any one farm operation can receive in subsidies would be eliminated. You read it right: unlimited subsidies for the largest mega farms despite year after year of record income [Emphasis mine].
America, land of the thieves and home to the greedy.

Not that Congress is completely neglecting those in need: It's throwing a French-fry and pizza party for low-income school kids across America by almost totally undoing the USDA's long-overdue reform for school lunch nutrition guidelines. Because pizza and fried potatoes are now the cornerstone of a healthy diet -- didn't you know?

But back to the Farm Bill: Let's put the scale of the misappropriation of taxpayer dollars in context for a moment. According to this story in the Wall Street Journal, income on big industrial farms is up 31 percent in 2011 to $103.6 billion; these are inflation-adjusted levels not seen since the OPEC Oil Embargo of 1973.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Tribune reports that farmland prices are through the roof -- higher than they've ever been, in fact:

U.S. farmland prices in the third quarter surged to the highest levels in more than three decades amid an accelerating agricultural boom that has so far defied fears of a bubble about to burst.

Prices hit record highs in the U.S. Plains, where wheat and cattle dominate production, and jumped 25 percent in the Midwest Corn Belt, where bumper grain crops and recovering livestock markets put more money in farmers' wallets and enticed investors to bid up for the fertile ground, according to two Federal Reserve bank surveys issued on Tuesday.
Things are so good for industrial farmers these days that, as that WSJ piece found, they're buying back outlying suburban and exurban land that had been snapped up by developers for housing and are putting it back into production.

In short, these are the corn soy cotton salad days for Big Ag. And while they're reveling in their profits, they've decided to top it off by raiding the national treasury. And it's a very small group of senators and representatives who are handing over the combination to the government bank vault. In other words, even when we have the chance to "throw the bums out" in November 2012, most of us will be out of luck -- because our lawmakers won't even have been involved.

A 17-year veteran of both traditional and online media, Tom is a Contributing Writer at Grist covering food and agricultural policy. Tom's long and winding road to food politics writing passed through New York, Boston, the San Francisco Bay Area, Florence, Italy and Philadelphia (which has a vibrant progressive food politics and sustainable agriculture scene, thank you very much). In addition to Grist, his writing has appeared online in the American Prospect, Slate, the New York Times and The New Republic. He is on record as believing that wrecking the planet is a bad idea. 

I get SO very angry and feel so very powerless when I read this kind of stuff.  I just hope the move towards more organic and "natural" foods in the stores (even Walmart) is the first baby step towards overcoming our skewed food system.  I would love to get your input.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Zephyr Art: Art for Children and Adventurous Adults

A few days ago a wrote a blog titled Christmas 2011 -- Birth Of A New Tradition about how we should try to make Christmas presents become more than buying a bunch of mass-produced junk made overseas.  Much of what was written focused on using locally obtained services as thoughtful gifts.  

But, children (and adults!) like finding presents under the Christmas tree.  I wrote in Christmas 2011... "OK, you were looking for something more personal. Local crafts people spin their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make jewelry, and pottery and beautiful wooden boxes."  

Then, my friend asked me to "friend" her enterprise, Zephyr Art, on Facebook.  Wow!  I was blown away by the neat stuff on her site and in her Etsy shop!  I love it and just couldn't help passing on the information about her very adorable and very unique handmade dolls, one of a kind doll-making kits, fun and funky earrings, lively watercolor prints, and more!  They're handcrafted, artistic, and distinctive gifts - and they're made in the USA (with free shipping in the USA).  

Zephyr Art
Art for Children and Adventurous Adults

try pic

Aren't these little guys and girls just charming?  

Search for "Zephyr Art" on Facebook and Etsy - or follow this link to the Zephyr Art website.

   Fabric Earrings (Red-Orange/Fuchsia Yarn and White Buttons) Free Shipping                   Ipad 2 Sleeve/Case with Ipod Pocket, Red Floral and Poker Chips         

Epp's face detail 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Veteran's Day

Yesterday we decided to treat ourselves to Appebee's Veteran's free meal giveaway.  The number of elderly Veteran's was amazing and many were wearing hats that identified when and where they had served.  I was particularly moved by one that read "Prisoner of War".  The time period was World War II.  

How can you thank someone enough that has endured that?  Our dear friend lost her husband in the ongoing Iraq War.  How can we ever thank her and her family for their loss?  Veteran's Day is but one day of thanks to our Veterans and the families who have endured the unendurable.  Let's pour out our hearts to them.

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." -John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chicken Power

I'm putting the outside gardens to sleep with a nice layer of compost and then a covering of dried leaves.  In our little town, the borough picks up any leaves that have been raked to the curb and if you call they'll be happy to drop them off for your garden.  

I worked all day hauling, dumping, and spreading compost and then hauling dumping and spreading leaves.  My back did not thank me for it!  When I was finished, the garden right outside the high tunnel looked like this.

Then I got to work on the corn and squash gardens.  I hauled and dumped and hauled and dumped and then I got ready to spread the leaves and compost out and had a "a ha!" moment.  I'm going to put my chickens to work!  They're not laying any eggs but the little buggers can still work to earn their feed.  

I took some scratch feed and sprinkled a bit over each of the piles.  The chickens quickly went to work.  Digging, scratching, spreading - and incidentally fertilizing, the leaf piles.  In two days the gardens looked like this and my back gave a big sigh of relief.

“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”
 ~Arnold H. Glasgow

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Christmas 2011 -- Birth of a New Tradition

I know it's waaaay to early to be thinking about Christmas.  But the decorations are in the stores, the ads are on the t.v., and we're getting it shoved in our face no matter how much we try to ignore it.  I often say that Thanksgiving has become a speed bump on the way to Christmas.  

My cousin's husband sent this to me and I had to post it for everyone to see.  There are some fantastic alternative ideas for Christmas presents and what a great way to help your neighborhood businesses and community!

As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high
gear to provide Americans with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods --
merchandise that has been produced at the expense of American labor. This
year will be different. This year Americans will give the gift of genuine
concern for other Americans. There is no longer an excuse that, at gift
giving time, nothing can be found that is produced by American hands. Yes
there is!

It's time to think outside the box, people. Who says a gift needs to fit in
a shirt box, wrapped in Chinese produced wrapping paper? 
Everyone -- yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut. How about gift certificates
from your local American hair salon or barber?

Gym membership? It's appropriate for all ages who are thinking about some
health improvement.

Who wouldn't appreciate getting their car detailed? Small, American owned
detail shops and car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a
book of gift certificates.

Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plonking down
the Benjamines on a Chinese made flat-screen? Perhaps that grateful gift
receiver would like his driveway sealed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or
driveway plowed all winter, or games at the local golf course.

There are a bazillion owner-run restaurants -- all offering gift
certificates. And, if your intended isn't the fancy eatery sort, what about
a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint. Remember, folks this
isn't about big National chains -- this is about supporting your home town
Americans with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open.

How many people couldn't use an oil change for their car, truck or
motorcycle, done at a shop run by the American working guy?

Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a
local cleaning lady for a day.

My computer could use a tune-up, and I KNOW I can find some young guy who is
struggling to get his repair business up and running.

OK, you were looking for something more personal. Local crafts people spin
their own wool and knit them into scarves. They make jewelry, and pottery
and beautiful wooden boxes.

Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave
your server a nice tip. And, how about going out to see a play or ballet at
your hometown theatre.

Musicians need love too, so find a venue showcasing local bands.

Honestly, people, do you REALLY need to buy another ten thousand Chinese
lights for the house? When you buy a five dollar string of light, about
fifty cents stays in the community. If you have those kinds of bucks to
burn, leave the mailman, trash guy or babysitter a nice BIG tip.

You see, Christmas is no longer about draining American pockets so that
China can build another glittering city. Christmas is now about caring about
US, encouraging American small businesses to keep plugging away to follow
their dreams. And, when we care about other Americans, we care about our
communities, and the benefits come back to us in ways we couldn't imagine.
THIS is the new American Christmas tradition. 
Forward this to everyone on your mailing list -- post it to discussion
groups -- throw up a post on Craigslist in the Rants and Raves section in
your city -- send it to the editor of your local paper and radio stations,
and TV news departments. This is a revolution of caring about each other,
and isn't that what Christmas is about?

P.S.  It wasn't mentioned in the post, but a CSA subscription for a summer of weekly fresh vegetables would make a fantastic gift as well!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pig Is Pork

We picked up the pork from the butcher yesterday.  How enjoyable it was to see the culmination of a summer's work!  

On the way home, my daughter and I discussed a passage in Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass about how, when an animal is butchered, our perception of it changes.  A pig becomes pork.  A cow becomes beef.  A deer becomes venison.  And a chicken stays chicken, but in your head it changes from a feathered, clucking chicken to chicken dinner.    

To raise your own meat you have to have this mind set.  I saw an interview where Joel Salatin talks about how, in today's society, most people's only interaction with animals is with household pets.  Because of this, there's a tendency towards anthropomorphism  - an attribution of human motivation, characteristics, or behavior - to all animals.

Does not having the disconnect between field to plate and this anthropomorphic idea of all animals allow the factory farm to flourish?  Does people not being close to their food allow them to not see it as a living breathing animal to which they "relate"?  The factory farm is the perfect tool to allow the disconnect to not occur.  Yes, you know there are animals that are being horribly treated, but how can that reality relate to this  sterile, plastic-wrapped package of pork chops in the grocery store?

Ah well.  It's time for me to get off my Sunday soap box.  But it's something to think about.  

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Michael Pollan Reads Selected Excerpts from the Food Rules, Illustrated by Maira Kalman

I was first introduced to Michael Pollan when I read The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals.  I read this at about the same time as I saw Food, Inc. and felt like I was really getting a feeling for where our food industry has gone and how it needs to change.  I was blown away!  

Pollan next wrote,  In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto.  This book simplified what he wrote in The Omnivore's Dilemma and created a list of simple rules for eating and living.  

Now he has made that list of simple rules even more easy to understand in Food Rules:  An Eater's Manual, a new book beautifully and colorfully illustrated by Maira Kalman.  

I love the directness of these rules.  I have to admit that I printed and posted my favorite rule (one of which I'm terribly guilty) on my refrigerator, Food is a costly anti-depressant: Eat When You Are Hungry, Not When You Are Bored.

Please enjoy this reading of some of Pollan's rules.

P.S.  I'm not selling anything.  I just want to pass along what I enjoyed!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Chicken Musing

My youngest chickens have been roosting on the nesting boxes and pooping in them.  I decided enough is enough and yesterday I spent a few hours winterizing and cleaning the coop really well and I devised a drop down cloth that keeps the chickens out of the nesting boxes.  I'll lift it in the morning and drop it in the afternoon after egg laying has finished.

I usually use straw on the floor, but after reading through a number of blogs I'm going to try to use pine shavings and I bought a manure fork that will sift out the chicken poop.  Hopefully I won't have the traditional spring yuck to clean up next year.

Last night the chickens were all on their roosts and I finally got a count on the number of layers I have... 47 laying chickens.  Am I getting eggs?  No.  Well o.k., about one egg every other day.  Pitiful, isn't it?  I can tell that a lot of them are molting and a number of them are just too young.  I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt.  But heads will roll if I ever have to buy eggs... literally!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass

Clabbered Earth, Sweet Grass by Gary Paulsen is a poetically written nonfiction work that describes four seasons of living on a farm about 70 years ago in an age when tractors are just beginning to be used on the farm and most work is done with horses. 

Paulsen writes this book almost like a continual run-on sentence to give you the feel of the farmer's never ending round of relentless, grinding work - except for short, but incredibly sweet, respites of dances, picnics, or fishing.  

"The garden.
But not one, not just a simple garden, but almost a separate farm, a separate life.  There are four gardens, four completely different plots.  the potato garden, the corn garden, the kitchen garden and the garden garden.  
They are life.  More than the farm, more than the crops and the animals, the gardens are life -- all food.  There is never money, not ever, not even small bits of change, not one extra dime to waste and food from stores --"store boughten"-- is simply too expensive except for flour, sugar, salt and pepper and canning spices.  It is unthinkable to buy meat or potatoes or other produce, totally outside thought."  
~ excerpt from  Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass.

I've written and re-written about how Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass makes me feel and can't quite put it into words.  I love any kind of book about sustainable living and homesteading and this book gives a wonderful hands on account about early century farming.  

Reading this book makes me realize that as hard as anyone in today's time period works, we're really kind of soft and live a life of relative ease - and I thank God I don't have to toil so hard for every bit of food or drop of money!  

At the same time, Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass inspires me to live more simply and closer to how these people lived because they really enjoyed life and relationships, but I won't  take for granted the modern conveniences that make my life so much easier!

I got this book at our local Coudersport Library, but you can get it here on Amazon.