Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Different Perspective

I guess I am just one of these people who was born out of time. I believe that hard work pays off. I believe that you should treat people with kindness and respect, not only because God tells us to, but because it is the right thing to do. I believe that the people should support the government, not the other way around. I believe that food and meal time should be a joy, and not just something to keep your body alive. And I believe that every action, every decision, every desire of every person, affects everyone else .

Work is hard. Otherwise it wouldn't be called work. If something isn't difficult to achieve, we just don't value it. For instance, 2 people of very different social classes, decide they want or need a barn. The poorer of the two has to build it himself while the rich man hires a contractor to build it. The poor man saves his money, asks for salvaged materials, plans extensively so that the barn will do everything he needs or might need for the future. It takes him several months to gather supplies, prepare the building site, and build the barn. It rains, it is hot, it is cold, he bashes his thumb with a hammer a few times, but finally the barn is finished. It may not be pretty, but it is dry and will do what he needs it to do.

The rich man only has to pick up the phone and call a contractor. The contractor comes out with his crew, prepares the site and builds the barn. It takes about a week, then they are gone. The Rich man fills the barn with all of the things that should be in a barn, then stops thinking about it at all.

The rich man never lifted a finger to build his barn. To him it is simply a building. To the poor man, it is an extension of himself, something that he provided at his own expense to better himself, his animals, and his property. He works in it every day. He sees the condition of the walls, the floor, the roof. He will repair anything that needs to be fixed. He adds on to it as needed, because you see, it has to last. He cannot afford to build another one. He values the building, not just because he needs a barn, but because his sweat went into the construction. And his barn is probably more solidly built and of better quality than the barn of the rich man who paid someone who doesn't care about it.

Hard work creates value and self worth. It makes you feel good about something and yourself.

Being kind should be a no brainer. There are many admonitions in the Bible to be kind to others. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. The story of the Good Samaritan. Just to name a couple. But seriously, wouldn't the world be a better place if every one were kind to each other? Smile at a stranger. Help someone who is struggling. Take a meal to a sick friend. Do any of these things hurt you in any way? No. But they help someone else in ways that are beyond belief. That stranger you smile at walking down the street may have just gotten fired from their job and has to go home to tell their family the bad news. That smile may just give them the encouragement to apply for a job on the way home. The person that is struggling may be your elderly neighbor who is having trouble getting the trash can to the street every week. Your little bit of help may be the difference that keeps her from falling in the driveway and hurting herself. That meal you take to a co-worker when she is sick may feed her children so they don't have to go to bed without dinner. None of these things cost you much in either time or money, but by simply being kind, you have brightened the lives of others, who will in turn, be more willing to be kind to the people they meet. If everyone was kind to 1 person each day, it could change the world.

This country was created to give the people a nation where individual freedoms were considered an inalienable right. The governments sole duties were to provide security to the entirety of the nation and to provide the structural framework for a free society. And gradually, over the last 236 years, the people have asked the government to do more and more of the things we should be doing for ourselves, mostly because we don't want to be bothered with it.

Your granny is old and sick and can't really live by herself any more. So instead of moving her in with you, you sign her Medicare check over to a nursing home and move her in there. She will get minimal care, but they will make sure she gets her meds and someone will check on her every few hours and you will not be burdened by having to deal with her. You live in a small town where there are not many jobs. You have always always lived there and don't want to move or get the education you need to get one of the few jobs there are available. So you get the government to provide you with a welfare check. It pays the bills and provides you with some money for food. Your children see that you get a check every month without having to work for it, so they don't bother working either when they come of age.

The people in a small town want want to be able to commute to work in the city a little faster, so the contact their State Legislators to get a better highway. The bill passes and the highway is built. But it also raises their taxes, but only a little bit. The tax money more than pays for the highway but the tax doesn't go away. Then someone wants to upgrade the civic center. So the taxes go up to pay for it. But the tax doesn't go away after the building is paid for.

Over time, all of those taxes provide the government with a lot of money to use at their discretion. Some of the money is used for the good of the people as a whole. But a goodly portion of it is used for things that only benefit a select few. Our tax money is being used to support programs that are either not necessary, are beneficial to only a few, or are to the detriment of society as a whole. Our tax burden on the whole is many many MANY times higher than what triggered the Boston Tea Party. And yet, no one complains. It makes me rather sad.

As a society, we have gotten away from cooking meals ourselves. With the advent of inexpensive drive thru service, it is easier and faster to just pick up some questionable food from a chain restaurant or pick up the phone for take out. Our busy, hectic lives prevent us from having the time to spend an hour or so making a good healthy meal and enjoying it with family and friends. A home cooked meal has become a luxury. Is it any wonder the Old World countries where meals are prepared at home look down on us for our eating habits?

I try to cook our meals myself at least 5 or 6 nights a week, health permitting. I know the quality of the food we eat, and can make sure that we are all getting the proper amount of vegetables and fruits we need. I try to grow as much of our food as possible and what I can't grow, I try to buy locally. I generally do not buy mixes and kits for the things we eat because they are loaded with salt and preservatives. My children had rather eat a meal that I prepare than to spend a lot of money to eat out. It makes me feel good to know that they understand the difference in quality that a home cooked meal provides because the secret ingredient is always Love.

And finally...

Your actions make a difference. You work hard at what you do. It gives you a feeling of accomplishment. That in turn makes you feel good about yourself and more willing to feel good about the things and people around you. And the effect is viral. The better you feel, the more those around you want to feel that way as well. If you don't work hard, that good feeling isn't spread around and everyone is simply plodding along. If you treat others with kindness and respect, they return the favor. If you treat others poorly, you will also be treated that way. If you tell the truth, no matter how hard that truth is to bear, you will receive the truth as well. When you want only the things you actually need or already have, then you are not wasting your resources for frivolous things. You can focus on Enough, and not on the media driven consumer driven compulsion to buy, you do not need a McMansion that you cannot afford to house all of your things that you don't need or even really want. You don't have to work every second of every day to be able to pay the credit card bills for all the things you have bought. You have time to actually be a parent and spouse. You have time to do the things that make you feel good about yourself. And you have time to sit down at the table to a home cooked meal, prepared with Love.

Unfortunately, none of these things are very common in the fast paced society we now live in. We do not have time to sit and think about the things we do and how it effects ourselves and others. We have become greedy with our time, our money, and our feelings toward others. We all want MORE, without having to give of ourselves in return.

Well, I for one, will not live that way. I challenge the WORLD to join me.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Years thoughts....

Christmas is over and the New Year is creeping up on us. We generally spend the week between Christmas and New Years trying to de-stress from the frantic gift buying season and cleaning the house for the gathering of New Years revelers.

Last year, we went up the hill to our friend's lake house for the holiday. The wife had to work and they wouldn't be able to attend otherwise. I was getting over the flu, and my poor husband started getting a fever on the way up there. So, I spent the weekend nursing him through bouts of fever spikes and soaking sweats, cooking for the crowd, and taking pictures and didn't get to enjoy myself much. This year, the party will be back at our house.

Our kids are getting older now and while that thought is somewhat bittersweet, it is kinda nice to look back over the past year and see how much they have grown. My baby boy will be 18 in March. My daughter, 21 in June. I know that I don't tell them often enough how proud I am of them. They have turned into the kind of kids any parent would be proud to claim. And I love them very much.

My husbands job is still looking ok for the time being, so we are going to focus on getting the house ready to sell. We still have a lot of work to do around here to make that happen but at least we are not pressed for time or money to do it. We still have to do something with the bedroom and our bath, living room floor and kitchen counters. There are a few outside things that need doing, but they will be easy and inexpensive fixes that can wait until later. I am just ready to get out of this place and into my forever home.

The past year has had it's share of ups and downs. We got the house paid off, which is a major accomplishment, all of the vehicles are paid for, the kids both have good scholarships for college, and we have enough saved to be able to do the things we need to do to the house. On the down side, the garden didn't really do well this year and we are starting to feel it in the lack of canned vegetables that are left in the pantry. I may actually have to start buying vegetables from the grocery store again before the first produce comes out of the garden this coming spring.

And our smallest family member, Stuart, a 15 year old house cat passed away the first week of December. He was pretty old for a cat, and had been declining for the past few months. I was heartbreaking to see him getting so weak and know that there was nothing to be done about it. He died peacefully at home and was laid to rest with his favorite things in a spot by the back fence. We will be building a flower bed over his resting place as we did when Katie, our 14 year old Border Collie, passed a couple of years ago. He will continue to be sorely missed for a long, long time.

For the New Year, we will be starting off with a major celebration. Our Alma Mater had a winning football season for the first time in a very long while and has a Bowl Game that will be played the first week of the New Year. We are very excited about it and will be supporting our team in a grand style.

Our son will be graduating from High School in May with very good grades and will be getting ready to go to college in the Fall. Our daughter will be completing her Junior year of college (with perfect marks so far!) and will be starting her Graduate School search.

All of our years of scrimping and scraping are paying off. Our children are moving fully into adulthood as productive, well rounded citizens with bright futures ahead of them and we will have an empty nest. It will be a little odd to not have them underfoot but I think the future they will have will be worth it for all of us.

This New Year, for us at least will be full of new beginnings. And I am actually looking forward to it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

We are all gonna die!

Every so often, I get a bee up my butt about things. Generally, it has to do with the state of our government. Or the Economy. Or Big Agri. Or lobbyists. Or our elected officials. All of which are essentially the same thing, when you boil it down to the bare minimum.

Today, I am irritated by the fact that we are all going to die. Sounds silly, I know. We all have to die sometime, from some cause or another. But what is bothering me today is the absolute staggering numbers of ways to day that no one is telling you about.

Where to begin. Pesticides. That seems to be a given, right? If it can kill a bug, it can kill a person, right? Seems simple. So we all try to limit our pesticide use. Except for Big Agri. See the connection here? To get the increased yields that the GMO (again, see the previous rants about Big Agri) grains and seeds are supposed to supply us with, you have to keep the bugs out of it. So, pesticides are sprayed over the fields. Supposedly, they can't be used within so many days of harvest so that the effective half life of the chemical of choice is degraded enough to be safe for consumption. That all sounds lovely, doesn't it? In reality, only part of those chemicals have degraded enough for the arbitrary levels that the EPA sets to fall within the "safe" limits. The rest of it is still on the product. Well, we all wash our fruits and veggies to make sure we get rid of the rest of it. The problem is that if it has rained at all during the growing cycle, and we all know it has or the crop wouldn't grow, that pesticide gets washed into the soil where it is taken up by the root system and deposited into what ever the crop is. So that beautiful tomato that you wash so carefully, probably has pesticide residue inside it that can't be washed off. So all of that careful washing, while it will remove anything left on the surface, is irrelevant to the overall picture.

And another overlooked fact is the that when Big Agri first started it's boom in the 1950's and 60's, there wasn't a lot of research on the long term effects of some of the pesticides being used. DDT for instance. DDT was wonderful for vector control of insects, like mosquitoes, but had the disturbing side effect of hanging around long after it was sprayed. DDT has been linked to diabetes, cancers, hormonal changes in both men and women, miscarriage, developmental problems and hypothyroidism. And all of that isn't even counting the enviromental effects on wildlife. Thankfully, DDT was banned for use in agriculture in 1972 in the U.S. but it wasn't until 2004 that it was restricted to vector control worldwide. So most of use who are at least 40 years old probably have come in contact with it at some point in our lives.

These days, other less persistent insecticides are used yet the long term effects of these poisons are being overlooked or deliberately withheld from the general public. Even pesticides labeled for use in "organic" crops haven't been sufficiently tested because the companies that make them make billions of dollars from them and will not allow anyone to say they are bad.

OK, Enough on pesticides.

Another way we are all gonna die is from the food itself. Lets say you know about the pesticide issues so you grow all of your food organically, including grains, for your family. You have the 5-10 acres and the time needed to do that. First off, that makes you part of the extreme minority. But lets say you do it anyway. That is Great! You eat a lot of fresh fruits and veggies, eat a hot multigrain cereal for breakfast every day, bake all of your own bread, eat less than 4 ounces of lean meat a day if you eat meat at all. OK, lets look at what you are eating. Look at all the carbohydrates you are consuming every day. All of that cereal and bread. Every bit of those carbs turn into sugar in your body. If you are not a highly active person who actually uses all of those calories you are eating, all of that sugar will do one of two things. It either gets stored as fat or it gets burned as fuel. If you do not burn all of the calories, you will get fat. Seems simple right? Well, there is another problem. If you are constantly, consistently, eating too many carbs, you will run the risk of diabetes. And that is just from all the bread, grains, and starchy vegetables.

Most of us do not get the right mix of vitamins and minerals from our food. We just don't eat a varied enough diet. Even if you think you do, you probably don't. We have a tendency, as a society, to eat maybe 10 different vegetables on a regular basis. Peas, carrots, corn, green beans, potatoes, tomatoes, with a couple of more thrown in on the individual basis. And we have a tendency to load those few up with butter or other fats to make them tasty. Then we eat more of them than we actually need. There are micro-nutrients in things like squash and leafy greens (which most people won't eat) that we just won't get from our normal diet. And if you don't cook or use highly processed mixes and "kits" to save time, or eat fast food a lot, your diet is even more lacking in nutrients.

All of this boils down to high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, etc. and the associated diseases like heart disease, arthritis, gall bladder issues, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, the list goes on and on.

So the food we eat will kill us even faster than the pesticides.

Then there are the environmental factors that we can't control. A little over 6 months ago, there was a devastating earthquake and tsunami to hit Japan. It severely damaged the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power plant and they lost containment. Radiation poured into the ocean because they were having to use ocean water to put out the fires. Radiation poured into the air through the smoke from those same fires. The land around the plant has been so thoroughly contaminated that the people who used to live there will probably never be able to go home. In the days after the accident, people in the U.S. were very concerned about airborne radiation being carried by the Jet Stream. The folks in California got down-right panicked about it. But after the first month or so, the media thought it was a non-story anymore so the coverage stopped. You have to really look to find any stories about it, even on the internet. But there are stories out there. Radioactive iodine 131 was found in milk collected in the South Central parts of the United States. Radioactive rainwater was collected in California that contaminated reservoirs used for drinking water. And again, the list goes on. But the government doesn't tell us these things because it would just cause panic and there is nothing we can really do about it anyway.

Then there is the fact that rice from the Fukushima Prefecture has been banned for export because of the high radiation levels found in the rice grown there. Has no one thought that maybe the world might need to know these things? What about all of the radiation that is falling in California as rain? What will that do to the crop land there? All of those strawberries we all gobbled up last spring probably came from California unless they were from a verified local source. But you know what? It rained here too. Hmmm, makes you wonder, doesn't it? There are places in Scotland that still cannot sell their sheep as meat because the grass they eat was contaminated from the Chernobyl accident back in the 1980's. Kind of a scary thought.

But the big concern here is that the Fukushima Daiichi plant is STILL releasing radiation. They hope to have it contained by the first of the year. So all of that radiation that made the news back in March and April is still floating around us, unseen and unreported. Pleasant thought, huh?

What this all boils down to is the fact that we are all going to die. Not necessarily because we are just old and worn out, but because the Powers that Be either don't want us to know they are poisoning us, don't want us to know what is going on around us, or they give us mis-information so we cannot make informed choices.

None of these things make me trust the media or the government.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Alternative Energy

I have been researching again. Sustainability, off-grid, alternative energy, all of the things that would be necessary if something happened to society as we know it. Want to know what I have discovered? It is really expensive and none of them are good for general purposes.

If you do a web search on these things, you will find millions of pages, most of which are simply common sense things, to reduce the amount of energy you consume. You can use solar PV systems, but they are expensive, bulky, and if you live in an area that doesn't get optimum amounts of sunlight year round, not really the way to go unless you have a huge amount of battery storage and/or another source as a backup. Wind turbines can be a good solar backup, but you have to have open space, a good steady wind, and they can be noisy if they are too close to the house. Micro-hydro is another good source for solar backup. If you have a creek, stream, or spring with a high enough flow rate. Again, you have to have the right local conditions.

Then there is the whole biomass thing. Essentially, it all boils down to a wood stove of some sort. Yes, you could rig up a way to use the wood stove to boil water, to create steam, to run a turbine, that is connected to a generator, to produce a current. Is it efficient? Not really. You would have to really, really like cutting firewood, and have a large patch of woods, for this to be a viable option. But...there are things you can burn besides trees, provided your stove can handle the different types of fires and still be efficient. Corn cobs, waste paper(ie cardboard, rolled newspapers, etc) sawdust (either loose or pellets), broken shipping pallets, construction waste, basically anything that is cellulose based and will still burn. A wood stove in the home would be a great alternative to being strictly electric since you can use it to heat the home, cook on, and heat water, but this would be mainly limited to cool or cold weather seasons. But as a supplement, it is a great option.

Lets say you have 5 acres and a small (1000 sf or less) house and it is just you and your significant other. One of you works outside the home and the other stays on the property and gardens, tends the livestock, etc. For this setup, 4 to 6 solar panels with the associated battery bank, a wood stove, and maybe a small wind turbine (if you really use a lot of electricity, like for a separate chest freezer and a small ac unit) would be a good set up. The main problem would be that the equipment would run you over $10,000. Plus the batteries would have to be replaced every 5-8 years and that can get expensive in the long term.

You could go really old school and do without electric completely. Have 2 wood stoves, one inside and one outside, candles or kerosene lamps, and live without an AC unit. Here in the hot humid South, not really a viable option. It can be done but you have to have the right layout on your house or you would just be living in a oven all summer. Good airflow through out the house and a 3 sided wrap-around porch with windows (and screens) facing the prevailing winds. This is how our grandparents lived. And it worked out fine.

So, I guess the bottom line on this is really how much do you want to spend, and how many of the modern luxuries can you give up to do it. If it is a survival situation, I can personally give up a LOT of things. If it is just a sustainability issue, I am not gonna give up my a/c.

So until we have our 5 acres, or life as we know it comes to an end, I will just keep researching options. Maybe something new will be developed that will eliminate the need for multiple systems and battery banks. Maybe...maybe...maybe.

It does give me something to think about though.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Summer 2011

OK, Almost 3 months without a blog post. I know. I keep saying that I will try to do better but it has just been so busy.

I think I am just about finished canning for the year. Hopefully. Peaches, nectarines, apples, potatoes, meat, tomatoes, salsa, soup, beans, corn, jams, relishes, etc. Not enough, but it will have to do.

And I have been hurting. Alot. My rheumatoid arthritis has been giving me fits all summer. I went to the doctor last week and he upped my meds again. Hopefully it will help. Fall will be here soon and the rain and cooler weather don't help my hands and feet at all. Let's all hope that another surgery isn't needed on the other hand.

We got our daughter moved back into her dorm room with minimal fuss for once. She seriously downsized what she took with her this time and that helped tremendously. Unfortunately, that means she left most of it here. But it is all neatly packed away.

The economy is looking bad so we are cutting back on the spending again. We moved some things around and started looking at what all we will need to do if we have to sell the house quickly. We have a lot more work than money at this point so it will take a while to get everything fixed up and sell-able. Sigh. It is always something.

I have started making lists for things that have to be done. Some things are a given. Dishes and laundry are a daily chore, but things like mowing the lawn and sweeping the floors I can pass off to other family members. Why does it always seem like my list is longer than everyone else's? Then there is the long term list. Getting gutters, paint the bedroom, getting new kitchen counters. That is the ugly list. And getting new floors. The bare concrete in the bedroom is really starting to get old. And the dryer is starting to go out. Yet another expense, and one that we can't put off to boot. We are headed back into broke time.

Well, my feet and hands hurt, but laundry waits for no one.

Friday, June 10, 2011

I am scared, and you should be too...

There are so many things going on in the world that we just tend to overlook either because it doesn't immediately affect us or because we are just happier not knowing what is going on in the world. In this age of instant news, we are more concerned about who will win American Idol than who is leading our country. We over look the laws that are being passed in Washington that restrict our freedoms, restrict our rights, and restrict our choices because that isn't as entertaining or funny as the new LOL Cats or a Youtube video of some stupid teenager taking a faceplant doing a bicycle stunt.

There are things happening in the world that we should be concerned about. Each new piece of legislation that is voted on limits the rights of someone in this country. Whether it be the small farmer who has no choice but to use pesticides and GMO seeds because the government tells him that he must or he can't sell his crops or the small business owner who has to close his doors because he cannot afford to pay the fees, and sometimes penalties, for not providing health insurance and other benefits for his 2 part-time employees that are already covered by Medicade or some other government service.

The news media is being very closed-mouthed about world events. Did you know that a few weeks ago there were riots in Spain because the government could no longer afford to provide the services their Socialist government had been handing out and the Unionized workers revolted? Probably not, because the media didn't want us to know that Socialism is not sustainable in the long term. Did you know that the Bilderburg Group is meeting is Switzerland as this is being posted to decide, well, no one actually knows what they talk about because the meetings are secret. Did you know that your water can be contaminated with "proprietary" chemicals that even the local water departments are unaware of because the gas drilling companies are not legally required to disclose that information to the public? What about the radiation levels from the Fukushima Nuclear plant in Japan? They still do not have that reactor shut down and it is still releasing radiation into the atmosphere. Where is the news on that? And what are the health effects for us?

And the Economy? Well, do you feel safe in your job? The unemployment numbers that are being published are still hovering around 10%. 10% isn't that bad, you think? Those numbers, if you listen closely, are only "New Jobless Claims". That number doesn't count those who have been unemployed long enough to no longer qualify for benefits. Think of it this way, if there is 10% unemployment, that means that of every 10 people you know, 1 of them is out of work. And that isn't counting the people who have taken what ever job they can find just to be able to pay their mortgage and put food on the table. 10% is a very misleading number. There simply aren't any jobs available in this country any more because they have been shipped overseas where corporations can find literally millions of workers willing to do the job for what would be starvation wages in the US.

Public safety is another issue you don't hear much about. Were you aware that in Illinois it is illegal to film or photograph a police officer without his permission? So if you see a cop beating the crap out of someone, for whatever reason, you had better not take a photo or video with your cell phone or you could get 15 years in prison for it. Why would the Illinois Legislature pass that law? They are protecting their power to enforce unconstitutional laws. Did you know that a man in California was awakened a couple of mornings ago, by the Department of Education of all people, had his door broken down, dragged into the front yard in his underwear, handcuffed, and held in a police car for 6 hours while his house was being searched, while they were looking for his EX-WIFE'S student loan papers that she supposedly defaulted on? Does this sound like we live in a free society?

What ever happened to Free Speech? What about the right to be free of illegal search and seizure? For that matter, what about the rest of the Constitution of these United States?

This has got to stop. It will soon come to the point where we will all be living in a society that is wholly controlled by the government, told what to think, what to say, what to eat, where to live, and how to live our lives. All for the good of the whole.

I personally do not think they have the right to tell me what to do.

I fully expect that I will be in jail.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Memorial Day

For most of us, Memorial Day means grilling out with friends and family, going on a camp out, the first dip of the year in the ole swimming hole, or just enjoying a day off. We have forgotten about the men and women who have fought, and sometimes died, so we can have a day of rest.

These people have made the personal decision to protect and defend our nation from all threats, foreign and domestic, to put their very lives on the line, so that others, that they do not even know, can enjoy a barbeque.

We know these people. They are your fathers, and grandfathers. The paper boy. The nice clerk at the grocery store. Your neighbor's kid that used to mow your lawn. The old geezers who sit all day in the coffee shop. And in some cases, our own children.

And it isn't just the Armed Services. It is the police officer who stopped you from speeding so you would not endanger yourself or others. It is the Firemen who saved your next door neighbor from a burning house. It is the Rescue worker who got you out of your wrecked car when someone on their cell phone ran a red light. All of these people put their lives on the line, EVERY SINGLE DAY, so that we all are safe, comfortable, and can live our lives without worry.

When was the last time you thanked a soldier? Or a Police Officer? Or a Park Ranger?

Or even the old geezer at the coffee shop?

This Memorial Day, thank someone who protected you. Remember those who gave everything so we can have our burgers and hot dogs. But most of all, never forget that these people live and die for you. And they should be honored for their sacrifices.Memorial Day

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