GMO=bad

Genetic engineering: The world’s greatest scam?

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Weekly Homesteading Update

Still searching for a format and style for this site, I am starting a new series of posts beginning with this one, reviewing the week and the latest in our going homestead effort.

We just enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. We gathered with my parents, my aunt, cousins, my brother, their dogs, their cats, and an insane amount of good food. I lost count of the number of dishes. We certainly had all of the traditional ones covered – turkey (three of them), the best stuffing ever (my mom’s), corn, green beans, and so on. It was nice to have a large family gathering. We don’t do that often enough. Hopefully this next year we’ll have more such gatherings.

So, where is the ‘going homestead’ update in that? Well, it is a small start, but it’s a start nonetheless. We had a wonderful mix of different green beans in that meal. All of the beans came from my garden. They were rich with flavors that canned and store-bought beans can’t even pretend to possess. The mix included: Blue Lake Pole Beans, Contender Bush Beans, Purple Pod Pole Beans, Good Mother Stallard Beans, Calypso Beans, and Cherokee Trail Beans. The latter bean was especially poignant, as it was the variety of bean carried by the Cherokee on their forced marched Westward so long ago. This is bitter sweet, considering we were celebrating Thanksgiving, a holiday largely associated with the story of how the early pilgrims and a native American people (albeit not the Cherokee) forged a friendship by sharing food, company, and a spirit of thankfulness for this life.

In addition to the beans, we had a nice salad. About an hour before our meal, I went out to the garden for the lettuce. I walked down the row and selected clippings from each of six different lettuces for the salad. All of the lettuce is doing quite well, in spite of the freeze we had last week. Two of the varieties I chose specifically for their cold weather hardiness. There were deep greens, light greens, and royal to burgandy purples. I took maybe one tenth of what was there, leaving enough on each plant to keep them healthy. They’ll replace what I clipped.

For a separate bowl, I clipped two different varieties of Swiss chard. If I was the only person eating the salad, I would have thrown them in with the lettuces. However, my wife discovered a few weeks back that she is not as fond of Swiss chard. It has a stronger flavor, almost spicy in the case of the Five Color Silverbeet Swiss Chard; the spice is probably because I let it grow so large before clipping (much the same as beets). The rest of the meal was home cooked, but with store bought ingredients. Still, it all was very tasty and satisfying.

In spite of our collective best efforts, we could not eat all of the food prepared for that meal. This, however, is a blessing. After taking a day off from food (we were very full), we drove back over to my parents and collected enough leftovers to last us a week at home. I think turkey and stuffing might be better the second time around. That’s one less trip to the grocery store, which, in light of the massive crowds of Christmas shoppers, is truly a blessing.

As to Christmas, Leah and I have begun our preparations. We bought each of our kids a nice gift online, having found the items in the mailed version of the Back to Basics catalogue. We now are working diligently (she more than I, so far) to craft some wonderful heirloom quality gifts for our kids, as well as for our extended family. We decided to make more gifts this year to save money, but also because we enjoy making them. Certainly a good deal of thought goes into a gift when it is handmade by the giver; isn’t it the thought that counts? For my boys, I am making toy robots of wood and spare metal parts. The contrast of wood and brass color is striking. I am going for a look of whimsy. I’ll post pictures once they are complete. I have some other creations planned for the kids too. I made a deal with my wife. We agreed to buy one main gift for each child, then to make some. If for some reason, our efforts to make gifts fail, we will buy a couple other items. So, Christmas is perhaps materially smaller, but emotionally larger this year. This is a welcome change, and one, I think, much more in line with the occasion.

As another baby step down the path of homesteading this last week, the owner of the local Dunn Bros. coffee store and I have made an arrangement whereby I provided them with a lidded bucket in which they will deposit their daily used coffee grounds. I am to come by regularly (which I already do) to retrieve the grounds, so that I can add them to my compost for my gardens. This certainly ups the volume to my compost, a change that will be much needed come Spring planting.

I’ve a long way to go before I have my little house on the prairie. I am researching more, learning, planning. I received the annual seed catalogue from Seed Savers Exchange. So, I can begin selecting next year’s crops.  Much to do, but none of seems like work when it is so enjoyable.

The Good Life show from BBC Says What I Want To Say

I just came across a television series from the BBC called “The Good Life”. It ran from 1975 to 1978. It starred Felicity Kendal, Penelope Keith, Paul Eddington, Richard Briers, and Reginald Marsh.

Here is what the BBC has to say about the show.

…On his 40th birthday to be precise, Tom Good decides that he’s had enough of the rat race and that he and wife Barbara will become self-sufficient.

Tom and Barbara

The pair convert their garden into a farm, get in the pigs and chickens, grow their own crops and on one memorable occasion, try to dye their own wool with nettles.

Tom and Barbara would just be lone loons were it not for their neighbours, the henpecked Jerry Leadbetter and wife Margot, a social climber who cannot bear chickens wandering the back garden.

Margo and Jerry

The Good Life attacked the middle class and the ‘alternative’ lifestyle at once, showing Margot’s snobbishness as blindness, and Tom’s fanatical self-sufficiency as going too far.

I’ve watched only the first episode, but it spoke to me and made me laugh out loud. Toward the end of the episode, Tom Good  makes the case to his wife. I thought, that’s me. That’s the ‘it’ I am looking for too.

I highly recommend watching at least the entirety of the first episode which can been seen here, in three parts.

Episode 1, part 1

Episode 1, part 2

Episode 1, part 3

It also is on the Going Homestead YouTube channel here.

A Case for Returning to Homegrown Heirloom Organic Foods

nutrientdecline

Here is the complete article in pdf.

nutrient_decline

Heirloom organic fruits and vegetables generally are more nutritious and more flavorful. Additionally, there is a huge variety in nearly every type of fruit or vegetable that isn’t to be found on grocery store shelves. By leaving food production to corporations and retail entities who, compared to what is available to the independent home grower of today, offer a narrow range of choices due to logistical considerations and profit-driven motives, people are missing out on the wonderful selection of foods available in nature.

If you are looking for more choices, consider Seed Savers Exchange, for example. They offer 25,000 different seed varieties. Why not grow your own? It isn’t terribly hard.

The Icy Hand! My Beans Hath Perished!

The air was only down to 40 degrees at my house last night. I thought my garden veggies were safe. Unbeknownst to me, just 15 miles to the northeast, a cold wind blew. At the family acres, home to the larger of my two garden plots, Winter made a visit.

On my lunch hour, I drove over to pick some greans. Initially, I wondered if the large recently active burn pile, full of tree branches and old unusable lumber, had burned too closely or too hotly, scorching or choking my two rows of green bean plants. They are nearest the burn pile. It was an immediate reaction. Then, a moment later, I realized that the damage was from the freeze that evidently occurred last night. The leaves and vines of my formerly prolific grean bean plants were wilted, discolored, and sad.

I paused and reflected on the cyclical nature of…well, nature! Far from being upset at the loss of my green bean plants, which had produced so easily and abundantly for me all Fall, I was joyous at having participated in the natural process of the seasons. The experience was as tasty as the beans had been. Besides, I have four large bags of assorted green beans in my freezer, and my lettuces are doing well still.

Here is a picture of the green bean plants, now on their way back to the soil.

green beans after the freeze

Here is the last green bean harvest of the season (and some dill). I picked the small beans too, since they had grown as much as they were going to grow.

last green bean harvest for Fall

Our Family’s Homestead Checklist, Thusfar

We are new to this transition toward a homestead life. We’re in the suburbs, with a small backyard. I work at a desk, instead of on the farm. Still, we are making little changes here and there. To my mind, the going homestead mentality is more than just moving to a farm, though that would be nice. I seek an independence from the corporate/retail/marketing-oriented world. Sure, I still enjoy some of the fruits of such a setup. I go to the bookstores. I like my collection of manufactured tools, and so on. But, the more we do for ourselves – grow our own food, make our own toys and home decor, research our own health concerns, schedule our own lives – the happier we are. Though we have miles to go, incrementally, we are going homestead.

Thusfar…

  • We have a small garden at home and a large garden at the family acres. I am beginning to harvest a measureable amount of food from the latter, even storing some in the freezer. This Spring the garden production will increase by two-thirds over what we have going now. Until we have a larger plot at home, this arrangement is a nice alternative. I garden at lunch.
  • My wife and I each enjoy hobbies that help to fulfill our family’s need for ‘things’ without relying completely on purchases from stores, not that stores are bad. However, as I make wooden toys for my kids and my wife makes sewn crafts for kids’ toys, gifts, and home decor, we benefit. We save money. We know the items are free of toxins. Our lives are enriched. As we have more time to pursue these hobbies, we will bring in a little extra money too. In fact, I just sold my first item on Etsy.
  • Our family’s health has improved over the last few years. Since our first son was born, we have moved to a mostly organic diet, probably about 75% of what we consume. We have offset the added cost of buying organics by preparing more meals at home and beginning our gardens, both of which have made us a happier family.
  • As we had kids, we started paying more attention to medical and dental concerns. We are blessed to have found a wonderful family physician and an equally wonderful family dentist. Both are very holistic in their approach, yet well versed in traditional practice too. Our family physician is supportive in our decision not to inject our children with toxic vaccines. This too has been a blessing, especially in light of the current flu hysteria. I am thankful we made the decision to keep looking for over a year; otherwise, we would have settled, and our family would have suffered as a result.
  • We looked into a homeschooling cooperative nearby. It is promising. We are thankful that we have it as a resource should we need it. We have decided to enroll our first school-age child into a classical Christian private school. It is small and not too expensive. We enjoy the close interaction with the school’s staff. We truly know what is going on at school and how our child is doing, daily. Additionally, we know that our child is receiving instruction in moral behavior and religious practice, which is a good thing. No gangs, drugs, or sex at his school.
  • Energy? We made barely any headway. We keep the thermostat at a more reasonable temperature. I keep the lights off when they’re not in use. Our microwave died, and we thought it was a good thing. I suggested line-drying to my wife. She has not agreed yet. We do buy local occasionally. So, if you are save-the-planet-minded, I suppose that’s good. I’m more focused on decreasing our total need for money. I’ve plans to improve our home insulation dramatically within the next year. Other than that, there is nothing in the works on the energy front just yet.
  • HOA’s make me angry. Of course, I agreed to move into a neighborhood with an HOA. So, I suppose I am mad at myself. Our HOA won’t allow us to keep backyard chickens. Neither will our city. This step will have to wait until we move. Next year? I could get goats then too. hmmm..
  • Canning? Starting with the coming Spring harvest.
  • Composting? I’ve got a haphazard pile at home. I soon will be setting up a larger better run pile at the family acres.
  • There’s so much more to do.

Homeschooling, Unschooling, Lifelong Learning?

booktreasure

We have one child in a private school and two younger kids not yet in school. I went to public school, for better or worse. Looking back, I think I learned more on my own and through interactions with my friends and family than I did in school, though it is difficult to measure such things. As I incline toward a life and a philosophy of homesteading, I find myself more frequently pondering how people learn and what makes a good education.

We have opted for a religious classical private school for our first child’s kindergarten year. Thusfar we are quite happy with our choice. Most days he enjoys school. He has new friends, and respect for his teacher. He exhibits a seemingly exponential rate of growth in his knowledge, including vocabulary, reading, and the general capacity to think more deeply about matters. I do not have a chart or gauge against which he must perform, in terms of learning. However, I do review his work and assess generally his abilities and his outlook on learning. At this point, my main hopes for his first year of school are that he learns to read, to perform fundamental mathematics, to wield a general familiarity with a broad array of concepts, to develop good social skills, and most importantly to develop a healthy and fertile appreciation for the wonders of learning and of how knowledge makes ones life a richer experience. He’s well on his way.

With two more kids in pocket, I look down the road… Will all three go to the school our first now is attending? Will we try our hand at homeschooling? Is unschooling too unstructured? What is most important in life? How can we aid our children to grow to adulthood with ample knowledge and confidence to be happy, secure, and good people? These are large questions, some of which are open-ended.  There are many pieces to this puzzle.

Certainly some of the most fundamental building blocks for our children will be the love and security they feel at home, the moral compass each will hold by knowing God as the fixed point by which to navigate through life, and the appreciation of learning as the key to the joyful treasure that is the creation and the yet to be created.

Ultimately, our children will learn and develop under every circumstance, for good or bad. As parents, we have the privilege of providing them with opportunities, conversations, and examples to be emulated. So, we will share with our children what we know, what we love, and how they can pursue their own interests. We will advise them that the possibilities are without limits, and that hard work’s rewards are worth the effort.

Sold a Homemade/Handmade Letter Opener On Etsy!

I just sold a handmade letter opener on my Etsy site. This is my first sale. Woohoo! I made it from poplar wood and finished it with linseed oil. This won’t replace my day job, but it is a start. Besides, I enjoy the woodworking hobbie. So, if I make a little extra on the side from it, great.

I am shipping the item off today. Perhaps I should put some more time in making some more items. My Etsy shop, MuseAndMake, is now left with only one item for sale.

Here is the letter opener.

letter opener

 

Simplify & Reprioritize

Cezanne still lif

  • less stuff, more quality
  • less busy
  • more self-sufficient
  • less debt
  • less expenses
  • less email/less mobile phone
  • more prayer/Bible study time
  • more family time
  • more teaching of our kids
  • more friends
  • more short family trips
  • more leisure time
  • more reading
  • more gardening
  • more woodworking
  • more writing
  • more music listening
  • more creating art

Notes on moving from toxic to healthy

Just some general notes I had lying around (on my laptop).

  • remove toxic substances completely
  • phase out kids’ plastic toys in favour of natural/safer alternatives
  • need to purify/filter water (sink & shower) to avoid fluoride, chlorine, etc.
  • BPA toxicity in canned foods? check all of our cans
  • assume problem with all plastics (limit plastics)
  • PBDE toxins out gas from plastics in/on electronics
  • no corn syrup, no MSG (aka modified corn starch), no refined white sugar
  • no fluoride (water, toothpaste, etc.)
  • remove all Teflon-type products
  • grow most of our food in our own organic garden, use toxin-free water for plants; also grow plants for medicinal use (ex. aloe vera)
  • no processed foods
  • very limited cell phone use
  • limit wireless internet use (use plug-in connection; turn off wireless)
  • limit tv/video watching
  • use healthy/green cleaning products; change out soap, shampoo, detergent
  • use full-spectrum lighting
  • fresh air and outdoor time/activity, including daily sunlight (when possible)
  • buy natural fiber products whenever possible; avoid synthetics (clothes, furniture, bags, everything)
  • replace laptop plastics with non-treated wood
  • clean house of dust regularly
  • avoid using the microwave oven
  • A great resource is the Environmental Working Group.

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