Saturday, October 30, 2010

Busy Busy and a trip to the eye doctor

   Running around like crazy.. there just aren't enough hours in the day. I did encounter something that I am allergic to.. just not sure what it was! Whatever it is gave me hives.. like Buick sized hives along the left side of my face and down my neck. Benadryll quickly became my best friend.

 So among the bliss of packing, cleaning and sorting.. we have to squeeze in time for dentists, doctors and optometrists. Our eye doctor is awesome. He's hilarious and the whole office is always happy and joking around. No one is immune to their hilarity.

 So I told him we were moving and he declined the offer to convert the milk shed into his new office if they'd just come along. Bummer. While I had my face shoved into the contraption so he could do the light test thing (which frankly made me think the whole time of Lord of the Rings and the whole EYE of Sauron - yeah, probably spelled it wrong, but I packed the damned books)..  he told me "Well.. what ever doctor you see next, you need to tell them something."

 "Ok.. but you may want to write it down for me so I'll remember."

 "Your doughnut has a HUGE hole."

  "Ok.. that I will remember. I may even feel the need to mention it to strangers."

 He drew it out so as to explain what is seen from his end when looking at my ocular nerve.. He drew a big "O" and inside the big O he drew a small circle.. and the drawing looked like a doughnut. "This is what a typical eye looks like." Then he drew something that looked like a 10 speed tire.. "And this is yours." 

 So while most people have eyes that are "windows to the soul" .. mine are like wide open double bay garage doors. After the exam.. I was still giggling and quietly yelled to my husband across the expansive office (that at the time contained all 6 of us) "Hey honey.. he says my doughnut has a huuuge hole!" 

 My husband.. ever the gentleman.. and completely unphased responded with "Annnnd that's why I married you." 

 Frost has finally nailed the garden and thankfully put an end to the endless array of tomatoes.  It is one of those guilt things.. I could have ripped them out awhile ago as we have more than any normal family could consume for half a year. They just were so happily putting out fruit by the forklift load. 

 I have a very hard time ripping out productive plants. 

 The frost works wonders on sweetening various crops.. especially the Brassicas. So today the last of the kohlrabi, beets, turnips, carrots, kale and the rest will be gathered up. 

 Yep.. roasting yet another turkey today.. the last one.. FINALLY!  We had help finishing the last several birds. My husband packed his own lunch which was big enough to feed several armies.. and used 5 very large containers. He let a coworker buddy have some at lunch and from there it spiraled into my husband and 3 coworkers relishing mini Thanksgiving every week. 

 As much as I get some sort of twisted satisfaction from doing this.. I really really hate the clean up afterwards. Every pot, pan, roasting dish, cooking utensil staring back at me in this mountain of mockery. The boys sent containers so I could pack it up for them.. with little notes like.. "Thank you and could I have extra sweet potatoes?" At least I don't have to clean up the containers.

 Next week the guys will get stuffed pork chops for lunch and the last being a basket of prime rib sandwiches. (I've been sending off big bowls of salad, muffins, cookies, brownies, various soups, sandwiches.. and even berry crisps.) By Tuesday... I should have enough room to unplug the big freezer.. The end is near-er!!!


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

America.. Death by Work Ethic

 Talking to my cousin, who is German/ Spanish, and lives in Germany and completely forgets she is related to "those Americans" often exposes a different perspective on things. Here's a connection I think many Europeans miss.. the American "work ethic" is killing us.

 I'm not putting down being a productive worker, but I see a distinct link between our work habits and our health, and it isn't for the better.

 My cousin got 2 years paid maternity leave. Her work week is 35 hours. She gets 6 weeks + paid vacation.. and it's not based on seniority. Then there is the health care coverage.. but that is a whole different tangent.

 The effect of the changes in our lives can be seen.. if you just look at the waistlines. We are running a race at the expense of our health. Give a thoroughbred enough meds and he'll run himself into the grave. 

  Currently.. it requires both parents to work full time to raise a family. The "norm" now is we out source family care. Nannies, day care, before and after school programs, camps, clubs.. networks created to take care of our kids while we try to keep up with the Jones' .. or in this current economic climate.. fight the rip tide to keep a roof over our heads. We're plugged in to a system that leaves us no down time to honestly connect or slow down. This detached method shows up in social interactions. Basic social courtesies becoming forgotten.. rude people everywhere.. and just daily movement becomes stressful... rush hour.

Stress.. stress is amazing at piling on the pounds. I know I'm not the only one who has used vacation time so that I could log in more hours at another job. Taking a month long vacation to go trekking is not unusual for my European family members.

 We don't even have time to cook. "I'll just grab something on the way.." you don't even have to leave your car. The concept of having a long lunch.. long enough where you can eat real food, enjoy it... that's a foreign concept. Literally. We need it fast enough that we can eat while on the move. Time is Money. 

 If you get the chance.. watch Food Inc.  We've sold out our health for the perceived notion of a better life. 

 The more insane things get, the worse our health gets.. the more people seem to daydream about escaping to a quiet farm far far away. The hilarious/ romantic part is that a lot of these people also have never lived on a farm. A petting zoo.. or what they see in commercials is the extent of their connection, or base of information that they have to relate. "Modern" agriculture is nothing like what they dream about.. irony is that it is determining how we live and how fat we get.

 The pace we keep running this rat race can only go on for so long. GMO's, fossil fuels, pills to make you happy/ calm/ focused/ numb/ energized/ sleepy/ alert/ easy to handle, superbugs, the list goes on and on and on.. 

 Privacy no longer exists.. a quiet moment to just breathe a rarity.. In all of this that we have around us.. do we have a better life? Do we have better health? Is life easier? Does most of this offer us more time for family or friends? 

 Or is the truth about what we need in the daydream? 

Forgive the incomplete rambling.. how's this for irony.. I am so busy I don't have time to finish a train of thought about hectic life. *sigh*

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Farm Thieves

 Well.. the cop-hunter guys weren't planning to hunt this year, but on a whim some of them took off to go to the farm. One of them keeps his ATV chained up there in the garage so they can go tooling about on the farm from one end to the other.

 Some red necked creep(s) broke into the farm... again. They stole the ATV and the old plows. 1 was an ancient tractor plow that was Emerson's.. the other was a really old horse plow.

 I don't know the extent of the damage.. and this is the last straw. The local police of course are worthless. Never in the past have they located anything that was stolen before.. ever. I don't think they could find their ass with both hands and a map. They were jerks to the Chicago cops to boot.

 Now the joys of a small town is everyone knows everyone.. what sucks about a small town is that everyone knows everything about everyone. I'm not even there.. and already I have more than a small clue who may have done it.

 While I have never been inclined to own a firearm.. that may change. My sister's husband is a cop.. and I may see if he will provide training for my daughter. Before it even is a possibility, she would need to learn. 

 In my family, my sisters and I all have a knack for shooting, moving targets in particular. The extent of our hunting was clay pigeons and straw bales for archery. My maternal biological grandfather was an avid hunter, so when me and my next younger sister were holding our own skeet shooting when we were 7 & 8 years old.. she was quite proud.

 While it is fun to do.. we've never had any interest beyond very infrequent recreation. Personally, I liked archery better.. and got some sort of pin for it in a small competition. Fencing was extremely fun.. and painful. 

 Anyways.. I will be putting up signs on the farm for the first few years. In my evil sense of humor, this is what 2 of them are..

" Trespassers will be shot. Survivors will be shot again."
" I aim to sterilize." 

 When people daydream about being on a rural farm.. somehow I don't think it occurs to many how much of a sitting target you can be. Our farm has been burglarized roughly a dozen times. I am a little scared by that.. but a whole lot more angry. 

 It is a small town.. the few that know me from when I was a kid still think of me as a hot head with a strong willingness to strike back. My husband is the even tempered, level headed, almost impossible to rile up kinda guy.. and I am the complete and total opposite. I have no qualms about sticking up for what is right.. and never been one to stand on the side lines when something wrong is being done. The temper I was known for was demonstrated a few times when I saw "good ol' boys" abusing horses. One was a "trainer" that was almost 18.. he had a young horse twitched and was hitting it.. "teaching it a lesson".. I decked him. Then I called the owner and the vet.. and camped at the stables that night making sure that Steve didn't return.

 People with no morals suck.

 Oh well.. here's to hoping we get out there the 1st week of November!

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Spread, the Catalog, and Alicia

  My sister called me yesterday right after having her life flash before her eyes. The short version is she got called to go in to work, hopped out of the shower, went to grab clothes from the laundry, dogs charged past her on the stairs (which exit out into the living room), towel went flying, missed the railing, unceremoniously landed in the living room.. only to discover they had company. The small town they are in, several of the police officers are also firefighters. I tried not to laugh, but failed as the evil younger sister took hold and proclaimed "Well now you can say you've been naked with half the cops and firefighters in town." 
   A total exaggeration as there were only a couple of them.. but my sister.. the one who is NEVER embarrassed.. was mortified. Christmas came early for me this year. 
   The conversation took a turn when I asked her if she had any need for "The Catalog of Catalogs" as I was about to toss it in the recycling bin. 

  "Wow.. you still have that?" 

  "Yeah.. I tried getting rid of it but darling husband was entranced and kept rescuing it. It eventually was hidden by him in his sacred stash of 15 years worth of Rock & Ice." 

  The catalog is really old, ancient almost historical in the context that it is a catalog (late 90's). The pages are tagged, marked, written in with notes stating when it was ordered. Everything marked is regarding organic farming.. suppliers, equipment, seeds, etc., natural paints and everything to create a healthful home and toiletries. She had gotten all of these catalogs to help her friends Tony and Alicia with creating their dream.
  I had met Tony and Alicia a long long time ago in Tokyo. They were friends of my sister and her at the time husband Arex Alex. Alicia, ever so graciously, made a huge dinner. My sister read me and my next younger sister the riot act.. "Behave yourselves because your life does depend on it. Tony is British.. while he views burping as rude, the man is oblivious to the fact that passing gas is equally so. Don't you dare make a comment.. I don't care if it is bad enough that it sounds like a flock of ducks have just been terrified. Alicia has spent days making this meal.. you will use your best manners. She just started learning to cook and this means a lot to her."
  Alicia is from Singapore. While we had done a fair bit of traveling and were accustomed to new foods more so than the typical American kid.. to jump into a massive spread of "delicacies" of Singapore is a challenge. My sister was across the table.. and she made sure to wear the most pointy toed shoes in her arsenal just in case we even thought about forgetting our manners.
  Let's just say.. that not one of my friends through the rest of high school and quite a few years after was able to top her menu of challenging foods. One of the highlights being a clear soup with dates and what looked like white walnuts with veins. Yeah.. those were frog stomachs. Any look of fear was immediately wiped away by a blinding shot of pain to the shins.

 Tony and Alicia's dream was to create an organic farm.. which they did in Ireland. Bunalun was the name of the old estate they found. The place was decaying and charming all at the same time. The groundskeeper lived in a small house on the estate.. as did several generations before him. He could be heard at night calling his dog home... " Floooozieeee!"
  Tony and Alicia fixed the place up and got their organic farm running. They are one of the largest organic produce producers in the UK. 
   The difference in taste in organic produce was something my sister always harped about often making people taste various produce to see for themselves.

  My sister told me Alicia passed recently due to cancer. It seems an evil irony. She leaves behind a daughter just 2 years younger than mine.. so Fern should be about 11. I wish the best for Tony and Fern.. and hope one day their hearts mend. Alicia is someone who has the ability to impact someone's life memorably even if the encounter was only for a brief moment in time.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cooking like Crazy.. Turkey

 One of the things that I am trying to tackle is my stockpile in the freezers. I would snap up whole pork tenderloins, turkeys, chickens, hams, and roasts galore. Now.. they are all staring right back at me and laughing.

 Cooking mania hits about every 3 days. Like last night I roasted a turkey and made all of the trimmings... and I mean ALL the trimmings. My husband gleefully took 2 hours to eat before finally succumbing to food coma. I pried the plate out of his death grip as the dog and cat were circling him and drooling. (The critters are spoiled, but not allowed to beg. Something about turkey makes them completely nuts to the point where these normally well behaved creatures are out of their minds.) I cleaned up the kitchen, which took forever, and the fur beasts got their treats. The cat however was not satisfied with her portion.. so she wandered to my sleeping husband. 


 Seems she was licking his fingers and bit him hard enough to painfully rouse him from his coma.  He's lucky she didn't bite his face. She bit him hard enough that he was now alert and hunting down dessert. The first thing he said this morning wasn't "good morning".. it was "hey.. could you pack up leftovers for my lunch?" 

 20 pound turkey should feed several people for a few days. Not here. There are only 3 of us and more than half of it all is already devoured. My husband could decimate a flock of turkeys in record time. One year, I asked him to pick a few extra up as it was nearing Thanksgiving and they had a HUGE sale, but you could only get 1 per visit for the sale price ($7 for the 18+ pounders). Sanity left him that week.. and when I went out to that freezer to grab something.. I was surprised by 16 turkeys! I didn't even think it was possible to get that many in there!

 The dog and cat will be guarding the kitchen until it is gone. Any mention of the word "cookie".. which to my dog means he is getting a treat.. he will fly at top speed to who ever said the magic word. My daughter finds this hilarious. So she gets bits of turkey and goes to her room.. and quietly says "cookie". He runs so fast to get to her that he uses the walls to slam into to get around the corners more quickly. It is funny.. and he'll do anything to get some turkey with complete and unbridled enthusiasm. That's the only food on the planet that is able to override his selective hearing.

 1 turkey almost down...  5 more to go.. by the time Thanksgiving comes around all I may be in the mood to make is cereal.




Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hunting the Great Alfalfa..

So in any down time from packing, sorting, repairing.. I am hunting down seeds for forage pastures. One of the neighboring farmers used to be our supplier of alfalfa seed. Mystery strain as it was one he perpetuated, but he passed a few years ago. 

 Alfalfa is a lovely forage crop for it's nutritional content and bonus of as well being nitrogen fixing. We'd have the fields reseeded every 5 or 6 years and never honestly stopped once to contemplate what strain it was or even hunt for a source other than the neighbor.We just always used what he sold.. didn't have to think much about what type as we already knew it did very very well in the area.

 The fields are overdue to be reseeded. It fell on the wayside as during these last few years several family members passed away. There is most likely still alfalfa, but I have no idea what percentage is left. Curiosity no doubt will overrule common sense.. and I may leave one of the fields fallow next year to see what pops up.. and if there are survivors to propagate from. The 3rd cutting wasn't done this year, which is fine and no doubt the deer will appreciate it.

 Right now, Round Up Ready Alfalfa is gearing up to make a return to the marketplace. I really do not want to have Round Up Ready anything anywhere near what I am growing. They are pushing to have it back on the market by this coming spring. 

 Although I won't be able to reseed all I want, I should be able to get a fair amount done, just as soon as I find the right seed supplier. I tend to prefer to order from small family owned and operated businesses when possible. One of my favorites being Pinetree Garden Seeds mainly because every time I have ordered from them it has been a very pleasant experience. What killed me is when I was asking about 2 different varieties.. and the girl taking my order admitted she didn't grow that vegetable as she wasn't a fan of it.. so she asked one of her coworkers about the differences in the strains! I was hooked.. super friendly people who can sometimes give first hand information about what they sell. I love small businesses! 

 However much I'd rather order from them, they aren't exactly priced to handle what I am needing. No matter who I order from, I pick open pollinated strains and propagate by various means from that anyways. 

 Only I would contemplate hunting, collecting, propagating various grasses and legumes to build up forage areas with glee. 

 Meanwhile my sister, who wasn't paying attention on the phone, insisted I should just send the seeds to her while we get organized. I can't wait to hear what she has to say when a couple hundred pounds of seed shows up at her doorstep.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Applause for Preppers and (self sufficient) Gardeners

  Right now we are faced with a unique mix of Eco-crumbling. The economy and the ecology are both being nailed on a global scale. 

Now whether or not the world goes to hell in a handbasket is not a sure thing. Regardless.. things happen.. weather happens.. war happens. Long term.. short term.. who knows. I look at it this way.. prepping (to some degree) is logical, and self sufficiency is ethical.. both are acting in accord of being responsible. They make sense to me. 

 This appeals to me because in these endeavors, various art forms are being reawakened. Canning, cooking, gardening, smoking, fermenting, designing, building.. creating. In the insanity it triggered a rip tide of creation. A quest to learn about things that 20+ years ago.. not many would have ever considered. 

 Rediscovery and enjoyment of local and seasonal bounties are now more appreciated in many cases than the act of defiance. It isn't novel anymore to eat "fresh" asparagus in September or melons in January. 

 It inspires me in a time where so much can really feel oppressively smothering. In this unique era we have access to information so easily that it is amazing if you think about it. On the same level, some technological "advances" could also set us back.. but awareness and defiance are keeping options open.

 I have to admit.. the ones that inspire me the most are out there doing it for themselves.. sharing.. encouraging.. helping others. 

 Mini rant... I find it sad when a good concept gets corrupted by self marketing. Even worse when credit is taken, or contemplating selling something that is directly copied from someone else's work ( creator of the no-knead bread and here is the recipe to make it). If you are going to push being eco-conscious... and that is your focus.. you'd share how to make something vs packaging it up in plastic and mailing it across the country. Something that youngsters figure out very early and very fast when living on a farm (or even just experiencing puppies or kittens).. a mammal produces milk after it delivers it's young. As a mother.. heck.. as a woman.. that's kinda something you would think one would figure out before hand. Good concept..good work.. good intentions.. marred by asking others to write in for more face time and contradicting what is being preached by realization of their own marketability. Rant over before I go any further.

 If I know how to do something.. I share the information... especially in seed saving. I marvel at the tenacity and focus of those backyard rebels who work at creating their own strain of plants. They are to me the unsung heroes that get taken for granted. I giggle at the ingenuity and crave more more more.

 So that's just me. I'm the one cheering in the background as someone just starts taking up gardening.. beekeeping.. canning.. seed saving.. etc. I cheer for the harvest tallies.. will hope and good luck when problems occur.. and applaud the efforts made.

 To the preppers and eco-gardeners..( artisans)  keep up the amazing efforts. Even when things don't work out as planned, your efforts are inspiring and what you achieve is amazing.

 ...... back to packing I go.....



Sunday, October 3, 2010

Resistant SuperFungus in Soil

  Everyone seems to have some degree of awareness about the current resistant bacterial strains of diseases and currently nicknamed "superbugs".  Well now convetional gardening practices are creating superfungus strains. 

 Now to most people this isn't really a big deal. Aspergillus is a genus that covers several hundred types of fungus, of which only a few dozen are pathogens to people. Some strains get used to ferment foods, some strains create the moldy spots on your bread and produce. It is one of the major fungi in compost heaps.

 While healthy adults and in general most healthy people's immune systems are able to handle the several hundred spores we inhale daily.. those with compromised immune systems can't. Although it is relatively rare, a big enough dose of spores can mess with a healthy person.

 This is the problem.. by dousing areas with fungicides the results are the same as the planet mass dosing with antibiotics.. resistances develop. While using fungicides is more widely used in some areas of Europe, it is as well done in the States (granted to a lesser degree).

 Aspergillus fumigatus is a strain in particular that has been scientifically proven to be resistant to several fungicides. Birds in particular are susceptible to developing respiratory infections and yes, this is one of the strains at work in the compost heap.

 I actually knew someone who was healthy and contacted this. They think his exposure was from when he was digging a new well for his hunting cabin in Wisconsin. The spores were in such a large quantity that they basically invaded his lungs and set up shop. He's fine the last I heard (he is one of my sister's ex-boyfriends) but it took a toll as he did have damage to his lungs.

 To me.. this is just another reason to garden organically. The last thing we need is another resistant strain to a highly prevalent potential pathogen.