Sunday, July 24, 2011

Exciting Happenings

Someone came knocking on the front door around 6:30 this evening. A family pulling a camper had a blown out tire just in front of our house and wanted to know if they could park the camper in the driveway while they went in search of a tire for it. This was their second blowout in two days on the thing and so had already used the one spare they'd brought with them.

I told them to pull it on up, and I searched the phone book for tire places that would be open that late on a Sunday night. Found out that Walmart Tire Center was going to be open for another 25 or 30 minutes. They pulled up and disconnected the camper from their truck as quickly as they could, got hasty directions from me (they're from Wyoming), and took off for Walmart, which is 15-20 minutes away. They called ahead, and the folks at the tire center agreed to stay open a few minutes late for them.

While Dad was changing the tire, their son tried to run after Princess and play with her, but she was shy and led him "on a merry chase" around the yard. So Mom picked up Son and put him in the camper to play with their dog--there had been some tense moments between Princess and the visiting dog, so Dog got to stay in the camper for the duration.

While they changed the tire, I gathered food from the garden. Got a big basketful--one ripe tomato (several others were ripe but were rotten on the bottom), one green tomato that had fallen from the vine, a few grape tomatoes from a volunteer plant, several cukes, a couple handsful of green beans, and a bunch of turnips that were being forced out of the ground.

We have a TON of green tomatoes, but many of them are already going bad on bottom (blossom end rot, I think, though I'd have to verify with my gardening husband). I'm holding out hope that we'll have a bumper tomato crop again, as these plants are all taller than me and most are taller than M, but after seeing how many are bad, I'm just not sure how likely that is.

Plus, out of the random old squash seeds M threw into the garden this year, we have butternut squash growing with acorn squash and table queen squash, and some other kind I couldn't identify. I think I may have also seen a spaghetti squash in there. I'm not sure if he planted that many different seeds or if we're just seeing hybrids. In a 2' x 3' area, I had a butternut, acorn, and unidentified squash growing. No idea how that's happened.

Several of the tomato plants have fallen over from their own weight. One of our tomato cages has even been bent out of shape by them. And the green beans have bent at least one of the poles supporting them. The squash plants are growing out of the garden into the yard, and the cucumber plants are falling all over themselves. The plants are all ridiculously huge, but only time will tell if we are going to get huge crops. So far, it's a basketful of miscellaneous food every week or two...which is actually kind of nice, because we don't get bored of one thing, but we can't put anything away for winter.

Anyway, as soon as I had finished gathering from the "produce department" of our backyard grocery store, the father of the family came up to shake my hand and introduce himself while thanking me for the tipoff about Walmart and the use of our driveway. While shaking my hand, he palmed some money into it. I protested, following him back to the truck to give the money back, but he wouldn't hear of it. They had got their tire, got it changed in our driveway, and pulled out less than two hours after their blowout, not having to stay in a hotel until morning, so he thought it was well worth it. I had to agree, but I certainly didn't need the money.

All in all, though, I think it was a pretty good outcome for all involved.

* Stringham high: 80 degrees! The coolest it's been in days.
* Stringham low: Blowouts (Brought back memories of our two flats a few weeks ago, one of them on a Sunday night, as well)
* Stringham super-high: Fresh produce and helping others all in the same day!

Friday, July 1, 2011

My Stab at Activism--Educate Yourself!

Any of my Facebook friends will have probably seen part or all of this post, but I feel the need to collect them all together. Over the past couple of weeks, I've been watching the documentary "King Corn." I can't yet pull all my thoughts together about what I'm learning and how I feel about this, but I think I need to post it, so I can spread the word to at least some people. Please, watch "King Corn." (You can watch it instantly on Netflix.) For your own health, for the health of our country, watch this documentary. Below are the facts I learned, in the order I learned them, and my thoughts about them:

Everything I've learned about growing and raising food in the past three years just screams out in agony while I watch "King Corn." And now I know why our land was in such bad shape for growing things when we moved in.
70% of antibiotics in the US are consumed by grain-fed cattle. They're fed antibiotics with their food to help treat the acidosis that they suffer from--and that would kill them if they weren't slaughtered only a few months after being fed a strictly grain diet--at being fed too much grain for too long.

Here's a tip: spend more money on less meat that is of higher quality, and you won't need to eat so much meat--and you'll likely be thinner, because grain-fed beef is much higher in fat per serving than grass-fed.

Seriously, EVERYONE should watch this documentary, "King Corn"--everyone!

(Bonus points: part of our little town is shown: US 231, starting at Arby's and moving north past Burger King and the Riviera Motel, up to McD's and Jiffy Lube and Dairy Queen, around 1 hour 8 or 9 minutes in.)

Every few minutes on this show, I'm impressed with an astoundingly retarded fact. I don't know how our country is still going, how we haven't killed our economy and ourselves completely... I knew almost all of this before, but they're showing the connections that just astound me.

Farmers used to brag about a 40-bushel acre. Nowadays, 180 bushels from an acre is average.
Because farmers lose money growing corn and the government subsidizes that, the government is essentially subsidizing all the high fructose corn syrup that goes into all our sodas and baked goods, nearly every food and beverage in our country. And all that corn that goes to animals and leads to their health problems and fattier meat, which all contribute to our health problems. We ARE what we eat.

I support farmers, and corn farmers. But the system that has come into effect since the early 1970s is completely unsustainable and harmful to all of us. It is all done for the almighty dollar. One of the farmers interviewed in this documentary said it best--they aren't growing a quality crop any more, they're growing "crap." But he still grows it, because he gets paid. Most corn in this country is not grown for food--it's for fuel, for high fructose corn syrup (with absolutely no nutritional value and which contributes to greater likelihood of Type II diabetes), for animal feed.

Corn has been modified so it can tolerate the stress of being grown in a much more crowded area--so 180 or 200 bushels can be grown on 1 acre, where 40 acres used to be a bumper crop. That pulls huge amounts of nutrients out of the ground, which means the corn MUST be fertilized with chemicals. And then the herbicides must be sprayed--but the corn has to have been treated so that the particular herbicide it will be sprayed with won't also kill it. The corn is sprayed with herbicide, just not killed by it. And we're not even eating this corn...not directly. But we're eating it in the meat we consume, in the oils our foods are fried in, in the sodas and gums and breads and chips that have high-fructose corn syrup in them.

This all relates to our health--the health of our bodies, the health of our land, the health of our economy. One cattle farmer interviewed said that they grow corn to feed their cattle because Americans demand cheap meat. If Americans demanded grass-fed beef, he said, that is what they would grow. We speak with our money.

It's no accident that the people who typically suffer from obesity and Type II diabetes are poor. It's because they (we) have to eat the cheapest foods, made with the cheapest products. But if you know how, you can find cheap unprocessed foods and be healthier. We did it. When we were poorest, we learned how much cheaper it was to live off of non-processed foods, and NOT "cheap" prepackaged foods. And now we're healthier for it. Be informed. Make informed choices. We can't eliminate all this crap from our diets, because it's so pervasive, but we make the conscious decision about what we are and are not willing to consume, to do.

Buy more expensive food that's of higher quality. You won't need to eat as much, you'll feel satisfied longer, you'll be healthier. Make a conscious, fully informed decision.

I know how hard it is to take someone's word for this. I'm the same way. But if you are reading this, you know I don't urge people to action lightly. My body knows the difference between good food and bad food. If M and I eat fast food, we feel uncomfortable in only a few hours' time. Sure, it's cheap and it's fast, but the way we feel... Try it. Stop drinking sodas for a week. Stop eating fast food for a month. Choose to pass on potato chips. Notice how much better you sleep, how much better you feel...don't just take my word for it. Try it.

So, it may seems like I'm all over the place with this post, but that's because it's all related. EVERYTHING is related. The food we buy now in supermarkets is of lower nutritional quality than the stuff grown just a generation or two ago, because it's forced to grow in a cheap way, which may mean more plants per acre or given a fertilizer boost so it'll grow faster. That means we have to eat MORE of it. And we all know where that leads. You know WHY that food you get at the local farmer's market or from your own garden is so much better than what you likely get in the grocery store? THAT'S why.

So long as we keep buying and eating crap, we're "demanding" crap, so crap will continue to be produced.

And if you have questions, I'm always willing to tell you how we did things, or to point you in the direction of more information. M and I have made all the changes in our lives in the past three or four years through much transition, so please don't think "Life is so crazy now, I can't possibly change this." We've made all our changes through buying a home, transforming our land, both of us being employed full time, one of us being unemployed for a year, my miscarriage and subsequent health problems, 4 job changes and constantly shifting schedules, etc. You want to talk about making purposeful changes during times of transition, I'M YOUR GIRL.

Please, if you're still reading this, do yourself a favor and go watch "King Corn." Then think.