Post-Thanksgiving Weekend

The little indulgences I’ve had with my diet lately hasn’t seemed to be too harmful At least I don’t have weird cravings like I do with the aftermath of eating restaurant food.

My little burst of consumerism has run its course. One of the items I got (finally) is an e-book reader. My place is overflowing with books and I’d like to use it to read books from the library. Without the strain of staring at my computer screen more than I already do. What made this a bargain is that I wasn’t in that spaced-out, glazed-eyes mode that used to generally allow a salesperson to easily get a lot of add-ons in my cart by checkout time. Extended warranties, a cool looking cover, a charger when I won’t use this for travelling and can charge it through a USB cable through my computer. Nope, didn’t get them.

Most of the shopping energy I have these days goes into grocery buying–an area in which I must be careful for health reasons. These companies that began with organic ingredients and quietly down-graded into using genetically modified foods laced with toxic pesticides while charging the same–they can just go down too along with all the other groups lacking in integrity. Greedy and self-serving.

During financial times like we’re living in, marketers can play on our insecurity and manipulate our inner hoarder into buying what we don’t need and more of it. Stuff does not equate with love. Consumerism isn’t fun and being a consumer is not my identity.

I resent being cheated. Well, I won’t look back but I can certainly make different choices now.



The three basil seedlings are still alive. They don’t get enough sun and are spindly so I keep turning them. I plucked a leaf off one that seemed to be weighing it down. I ate the leaf and didn’t get much of a taste.

I’ve watched episodes three and four of Edwardian Farm. (It’s awkward the way I watch them on YouTube.) Alex has learned to repair and make hedgerows. The tool he used was shown being forged. Ruth cleaned and disinfected the privy for use. The walls inside were painted with something white which helped disinfect as well as make it easier to see in the dark. Two floppy-eared sows were brought to put in the pig sty next to the privy to assist in composting. They were painted with a waxy substance to protect their skin. Rooting around, they seemed happy and oblivious to whatever was going on outside of what was in front of their noses.

Peter began a trout hatchery. About 1500 eggs were harvested from one trout and she was released back into the stream. It seemed quite a laborious project, making pitch to coat the wooden hatchery and cutting down trees and sawing the lumber for it.

A tractor was borrowed to plow the field. It is the oldest working tractor in the world. Only 500 were made because they were extremely expensive.

Ruth also prepared toilet paper out of newspaper. She has a surprise secret project going–picking sloe from the hedgerow, mixing it with sugar and gin and at Christmas will have sloe gin to share. That was unusual because temperance was being pushed during the time period.

And if you’re still reading this far–on a personal note, I had a consultation with an expert today who recognized that I’m doing very well with the hand I’ve been dealt. I know this to be true and also that it isn’t apparent to the world. I was told that I’m the “gutsiest person” she’s ever met. True. I know it down to my toes.

Edwardian Farm

A few months ago, I greatly enjoyed the BBC show Victorian Farm which someone posted in videos on YouTube. The DVD’s which are available on Amazon do not play in my regions’s DVD players.

The two archeologists, Peter and Alex, and historian Ruth, lived for a year on a farm they worked as the Victorians did for a year, like a documentary/reality show. After checking back a few times, someone has now posted the episodes of Edwardian Farm which I’ve begun watching. It’s all I can do to keep from staying up into the wee hours of the morning watching more of it.

The Edwardian era in England was from about 1901 when Queen Victoria died to about 1914 while King Edward the 7th was on the throne, ending about the time of the first World War. (This was about six years before my Dad was born here in America). I’m guessing that King Edward was the grandfather of the “King’s Speech” King.

Anyway, it’s fascinating. They’ve already brought in farm animals. Ruth scrubbed the kitchen floor with a brush on her hands and knees and said that women would do that twice a day in that era. (It doesn’t sound like my ancestors would have but never mind that.)

The soil is acidic and the men hauled tons (literally) of limestone to nearby kilns to burn into quick lime to spread on the field. Much of the men’s work so far has seemed very dangerous to me. The quick lime business let off toxic carbon monoxide and if gotten wet could cause an explosion or caustic burns.

A heavy granite rock was carved into a feed trough to keep the sheep food off the ground. It was moved in a very laborious way of the times.

One of the meals that Ruth cooked was a sheep’s head soup and it was gross to see the actual head on the table and later when the soup was done. Most of the meat during the time seems to have been sold and what was left for the farmers were such as the head.

The chimney was clogged up and Alex climbed up on the roof while Peter and Ruth were helping near the stove below to unclog it. Fortunately, Alex couldn’t bring himself to use the chicken–yes, he was holding a live chicken to throw down the chimney to unclog it–and they ended up using a bunch of holly instead. Another dirty job.

Ruth spent hours out in the field cutting gorse to feed the horses. It looked rough but they stomp on it first and eat it.

This is what I remember from watching–me of the not-so-great-memory–and I will attempt to ration my enjoyment of it to make the episodes last. There’s always the chance that YouTube will shut down the account like they tend to do. While I enjoy watching, I am certain I would not want to live that lifestyle after living as I do now.

Colin, My $25 Organic Chicken

For health reasons, I need to eat meat and it needs to have as few hormones, antibiotics and other bad stuff as possible.
Working at being as smart a shopper as possible, I’ve learned that the “certified organic” label is expensive. Sometimes free range chickens, when you know the source, are just as good without paying for the certification.
Usually I get my chicken at the local co-op in pieces. I shop the local farmers market for produce often and also get packaged ground lamb which isn’t really available elsewhere. The farmers market chickens are whole chickens which bother me to handle and don’t fit in my slow cooker, which is my preferred usual method of cooking. I do not want to cut up a chicken.
So when one of the vendors I buy from sent his e-mail list a notice that there were a few cut up chickens available, I reserved one. It was over four pounds of chicken but, wow, it cost over $25. I try not to show sticker shock on my face and the booth salesperson thankfully kept her eyes averted.
This very precious, expensive chicken had been in my freezer for a few months and a few days ago I put it in the fridge to thaw. After two days it was still kind of frozen so I rinsed it off under tap water and put it in the crockpot. I was worried that there might be a neck and giblets wrapped in paper in the frozen center (there wasn’t) and let it cook for a long time so there wouldn’t be any pink surprises to gross me out.
After it cooked and cooled I carefully separated the chicken from the bone and got rid of the skin. Then I made broth from the bones, being way more careful of not wasting anything than usual. By now I had named the chicken Colin.
Colin is a chicken referred to in the pilot of the series, Portlandia which is premiering in a few days although I watched it on Hulu. It is a comedy about the 90’s culture in Portland, starring Fred Armisen. It is clever, but like with many comedies, I didn’t laugh. I laughed a lot during the wonderful King’s Speech film which I blogged about very recently which has way better humor than Portlandia.
Anyway, the main characters go to a restaurant and think about ordering the chicken and are questioning their server about it’s pedigree which she goes into in elaborate detail. They want to know more, like just how many square feet Colin had to roam freely in, etc. The server shows them a dossier with a photo paper clipped to it. (Colin looked like a hen.) Then they wanted to know why there wasn’t a picture of Colin with his wing around another chicken to show he was happy and sociable. Eventually they visit the farm where Colin was raised to check further. Maybe I don’t find the show amusing because I’ve actually met people like that, more so when I lived in Colorado.
Now I have frozen broth with pieces of chicken in it so I can savor my expensive purchase awhile longer and am keeping a closer eye on my budget.

Green Self-Authority

Yesterday, I began writing about my farm.
It’s imperative that the world’s food system change to something more sustainable, humane and more efficiently distributed. You can find plenty of information to support that elsewhere.
I’m interested in organic farming, supporting local, small family farms and being good stewards of the environment. There’s plenty of information around about that also.
That being said, while it’s important to educate people and help them wake up, it’s counterproductive to get in their faces and use shame, guilt and fear to coerce them to change.
Speaking for myself, I’m thoughtful about my choices and do the best I can with my odd circumstances and the resources I have available. I have priorities and values and the self-authority to know what I believe is right.
When I lived in Colorado, my apartment had recycling available and I was a good, careful recycler. Then I moved further west and the building I live in now has only big trash bins available. I am careful about what I buy and bring in but I don’t have a car and I won’t pay a cab or someone else to take my recycling. My resources are going for shelter, food and restoring my health. No one has said anything, but I’ve gotten some looks. (Most of my actual neighbors don’t care–they hang around the building smoking.)
It’s a reasonable, balanced lifestyle even if it doesn’t fit what other people might think is correct.
Having pesticide/mercury/environmental poisoning that’s damaged my organs, central nervous system and whacked my hormones among other things, I must eat the best food possible. I’d like for healthy, nutritious food to be available to all people.
My farm is over one thousand miles away. There is a tenant farmer who planted corn and soybeans last year. Some years wheat has been planted. He has a full time job and works several other farms. They are all small.
Ideally, corn and beans wouldn’t be my choice. I don’t care for what Monsanto is doing at all. I could go on and on about all that. That’s what’s available to me though. There are no organic farmers in the area.
Once when I was talking to some farmers in my hometown, I mentioned my interest in alternative housing, like the straw bale houses that are used in the southwest or the glass bottle houses that have blueprints available now. With some scorn, I was told that around there alternative housing meant mobile homes. O.K.
The money I earn from the corn and soybeans that I don’t approve of is what keeps a roof over my head and keeps me fed. I have not been able to work since March of 2007. I did not get unemployment or disability, mostly because I was care-taking others.
I am appreciative and grateful that I have a means to survive right now and I can live with it without judging myself.
It takes all kinds in the world and that includes activists and change agents and folks getting the message out. I am more low-key, subversive and am also well aware of the need to compromise in my own life. People who are so pumped about their causes and their agendas and don’t care at all about me as an individual totally lose me, no matter how great their cause is now. I have a right to choose what to give my attention to and what to support regarding change in the world.
Most people who have harshly criticized me in the past in order to get me to change something according to the way they wanted things to be were not supporting me in any way. It used to intimidate me. Until I was reminded once again that I can’t live for other’s approval or by their guidelines of what’s right and wrong.
The small farm that is supporting me as it is right now and my continuing interest in the environment, nutrition and the distribution of resources is only one of my passions. I can live with that.
The farm has been in my family for generations. I have a good idea of what my ancestors went through and sacrificed. Irish dirt farmers wanting a better life.

My paternal grandfather front right, my great-grandmother center


My blog has a tag about farming and it isn’t totally random. I have a farm and I consider myself more of a land steward than land owner.
My farm is over one thousand miles away from where I live and I can transport myself there to the ideal of it. The reality is that I am unable and unwilling to tolerate living in the country where it’s humid and there are so many more bugs and snakes and there’s so much more pollen.
When I was a child I spent a lot of time roaming around outdoors. I had chores but no structure. It wasn’t the sort of life where there were piano lessons and all those scheduled things kids do now. Many of the few books available to read were enjoyed sitting in trees or up in the hayloft of the barn.
It was very difficult adjusting to being away at college. After so much space and isolation, the chaos and intense bombardment of other people’s emotions and thoughts were overwhelming. I thought I was a freak and it wouldn’t be until decades later that I would learn I am an empath and that there are techniques I can use to turn down the volume on what other people are going through and tune in to the fact that I really do exist and that I have a home frequency.
One of the things I chose in an attempt to cope was to smoke cigarettes. I smoked a lot–from two to four packs a day. It took up most of any discretionary income I had.
Cigarettes are considered physically addicting. The odd thing was I could forget about them when I got out of the city. I wasn’t even in a city; it was a town. But when I would accompany someone to visit their family on a farm and we spent time outdoors, I had no desire for cigarettes.
The summer after my freshman year was the last one I spent on our farm. I had worried about my need for smoking (I had to hide it from my folks) but I didn’t even finish the packs I brought with me. The first day back at school in the fall, I smoked two packs. They were harsh and nasty.
It wasn’t just being back with my family, as some suggested. When I went camping for any length of time, I didn’t want to smoke.
When I finally quit, it was very hard to deal with the crowded feeling and waves of other people’s anger, envy and fear. And their boring, numbing focus on objective reality only. This was way stronger than any physical addiction I had.
Oh yes, this started out to be about farming. My farm and my interest in it. Maybe I’ll blog about that tomorrow.
In the meantime who I am now, is someone who must live in the city. I would like to go to the country more often but am unable to do so alone and am unwilling to put up with other people’s lack of patience and understanding. That’s O.K.
What I love now is the proximity to art and coffee shops and bookstores and movies all within a few blocks from me.
For my own peace of mind, I don’t have a car. That used to be considered weird but now people seem to have gotten it that lots of things other folks do is none of their business. Really, no matter what other crap is going on in the world today many people have learned how to mind their own business. Even though there are plenty of obnoxious, opinionated people who think they know what’s best for others.
Anyway, I love my farm and am interested in organic, sustainable farming. Now, I’m a city girl too. I enjoyed writing this and am satisfied with it. If asked what my point is, I’d have to guess. I was thinking about how farming is something I’m interested in enough to write about and I am thoughtful about my relationship to nature?

Victorian vs Smithfield Farms

Yesterday evening I watched the last segments of the British documentary, Victorian Farm. Alex did some beekeeping and collected the honey. Peter made ginger beer and Ruth got into straw plaiting.  When they advertised for harvest help, I learned that there was junk mail in Victorian England after the printing system made it possible to print flyers.

The hay crop was ruined and they barely got their wheat harvested in time. Ruth made cheese and got the necessary rennet for it from a calf’s stomach.  This way of life was going on in rural England around the time my grandmothers were born here in America.  Maybe I should write historical fiction about this time period—I’m so fascinated with it.

The baby farm animals were so cute. One of the archeologist’s, Peter, said he would miss the pigs the most. Princess, the mama, had given birth to nine piglets and eight of them made it. They were funny, especially when they were eating and had their heads in a bucket.

When I got online this morning, the first thing I saw was a video about an investigation that the humane society had secretly done at Smithfield Farms, the largest pork producer in the world. The pregnant sows were placed in gestation cages where they could barely move. They had sores from chewing on the metal bars and slowly went insane. It was horrible and sad to see the video footage.

I’m not a vegetarian. I eat meat for health reasons, almost all free-range, organic meat and pork is one of my least favorite meats. I certainly won’t be eating any for a long time now.

Sure we have lots of improvements over how things were done over one hundred years ago. There are more people to feed. Factory farms have gone to far though. Many of our systems need to change, of course, but food is so very basic.  Paula Deen is the face and spokesperson of this Virginia company.

The contrast between how Princess was raised and the sows in the cramped wire cages is shocking.